Feeling Small in Awe and Vulnerability

Sunset Teardrop, Acrylic on unprimed canvas, 60 x 80 cm

I feel so excited to share my new style of painting with you! Sunset Teardrop is an amalgamation of my non-verbal responses to childhood trauma and to the awe of sunsets. How strange that these two should come together in one painting. Or perhaps it’s not so strange…

The awe I feel when I gaze at a sunset could well be one of the many things that heal my psychological pain. Without awe, where would we be? Life would be just mundane, although I can find beauty in the mundane too. Noticing the way light moves through a glass of water can stir fascination, curiosity, and yes, wonder. It’s not quite the same as awe though. That sense of majesty that humans are not able to embody lets us know how small we are.

When I was small my dad sometimes came to my bedroom and did things to me that dads should not do. I wrote about this in social media posts whilst sharing Sunset Teardrop as a work in progress:

Sunset Teardrop before adding purple and green

This work in progress is teaching me how shame works. When I was a child my dad used to wake me in the middle of the night and do disgusting things to me, sometimes in the day too. Of course I felt enraged! That’s the red, which I used my fingers to pull across the unprimed canvas. But it wasn’t safe to express rage, not least because my mum couldn’t deal with others’ anger and would punish me with violence so I had to suppress the rage. Enter shame – the cooling blue rushing in to shroud the rage and keep it contained. But it’s not my shame. It’s my dad’s and my mum’s. So they can have it back and I’ll express my rage. I’m not sure what the gold is yet but it’ll come to me.

Sometimes I feel moved to tears by the arrangement of colours in the sky. I wanted to catch something of this in my painting. I cried as I brushed strokes of cool blue near the red – I felt both senses of being small – shame and awe. I felt that I was not alone in making this painting; that something was working through me. Each time I turned up to paint I felt joy and even ecstasy as I applied the paint. I had not experienced that before.

I was small in a different sense as a child. I was vulnerable and my dad took advantage of my vulnerability. When I stand and gaze upon a sunset I am small, yet safe, enmeshed in its utter beauty. As I shared the work in progress, I received some beautiful responses from strangers, acquaintances and friends. I know now what the gold is: it’s the light of awareness that heals, and the beauty of empathy from community. I feel such gratitude.

Detail of Sunset Teardrop

Now it’s finished and I am in that void of not knowing what is next. I’ll prepare by ordering materials – stretcher bars – and making up a new canvas so that it’s ready for me to show up to paint. I’ll meditate and continue the psychological work to open myself to what wants to emerge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *