Painting is something I have done just for myself.
For no one else.
I’m struggling to think of many other activities where I’ve done that on a regular basis.
I expect you know just what it’s like to spend a lot of your time doing for others.
Partners, children, families. It’s in our nature (especially for us women!).
In fact I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the relationship with my ‘starter husband’ became really unbalanced.
By the time it ended nearly 6 years ago, I was doing virtually all of the chores, had taken on responsibility for almost everything in the relationship and felt totally and utterly emotionally unsupported.
Without going into the ugly details, things had deteriorated so that I was regularly being put down verbally and my confidence had been really dented.
I struggled to admit this to myself (it would have meant admitting failure), so I couldn’t bring myself to end the relationship.
But then one memorable evening I discovered a secret phone and evidence of an affair.
Alongside the obvious feeling of betrayal, my overriding emotion was actually one of… relief. Finally I felt justified in leaving.
And just hours later I did leave. I moved back in with my parents.
I left everything.
As well as my husband, I left my home and all my possessions except for: Dexter the dog, my computer with my scanned artwork, my painting stuff and my clothes – in that order!
I also left my beloved garden and, for a while even my teenage stepson (I’m happy to report that we see each other regularly again now).
Despite the feelings of relief, there was also lots of pain and sadness of course. And I know this is something lots of people have been through and can relate to.
It felt like the rug had been pulled out from under my life.
All the energy I had spent doing things for someone else felt like such a waste.
But it was an experience that helped me realise how little I really needed: my health, loving family and friends to support me.
And another thing I realised I still had, that was ‘mine’ and hadn’t been left behind, was my creativity. And specifically my painting.
Both the pleasure of doing it – which was a very helpful distraction through a horrible divorce (as it had been when I had had cancer a few years before).
And also the very real sense of achievement from looking back at the portfolio of all the paintings I had completed in the 5 years I’d been painting regularly.
So it was the thing I had done for myself that turned out to be such a huge source of comfort and joy in the face of loss.
Of course I’m not saying you should neglect your partner or your caring responsibilities. Giving to others is an important and rewarding part of life.
But I did want to share that developing a skill that you can lose yourself in and thoroughly enjoy, ISN’T totally frivolous.
And that keeping a digital portfolio (even if you give away or sell the actual paintings) can be seriously satisfying.
Painting is something that with regular time devoted to it, can be nurtured and developed over the long term in your life.
So that you come to treasure it as something that has helped shape you in positive ways and is truly YOURS.
It’s shouldn’t be dropped to the bottom of the to-do list, because you can’t experience that pleasure in the future unless you give it time in the here and now.
A big achievement really just comes from a series of small steps taken NOW.
So I’d love it if you’d get out your calendar and schedule in your next me-time painting sessions to do something for yourself.
It’s NOT a waste of time!
P.S. In case you don’t know, I do have a happy ending to this story as I got together with my soul-mate Phil soon after I ended my old marriage. All’s well that ends well 🙂