One Way to Ground Yourself in Uncertain Times
This is a story of how art can heal a broken heart, with one painting a day.
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by Thea Fiore-Bloom, Ph.D.
The first time I saw the lovely young woman with the harlequin-patterned rain boots my heart jumped out to her.
She seemed overwhelmed, pale, thin and stressed.
I was on my way out for a run and she was walking a short dog in the tall grass near my house.
We ended up talking. She told me she was in the seventh month of a rough divorce set off by a betrayal she found out about.
I could relate. I had gone through the same face down gravel drag myself years ago.
But after that day we talked I never saw her out there again for weeks. At least a month went by before she resurfaced.
And then there she was again on the same grassy knoll except now she was pink, not pale. Slightly curvy not boney, and smiling, not stressed.
Was it the same woman?
‘Okay, I told myself before I waved back to her, ‘It has to be her, that is the same short dog and those are the same tall boots. But what miraculous thing could have happened in just four weeks to transform her into this radiant being?’
What Happened To Ms. Harlequin Boots?
Did she fight for and win a killer settlement?
Or maybe a new love had flown down into her life?
Well, what did happen?
Turns out Harlequin Boots was an artist; an artist who understandably stopped making art when things hit the fan.
But four weeks ago, right after the time I happened to talk with her, she chose to slam the brakes on her downward spiral by following her intuition.
She told me she decided to stop going to therapy because it was making things worse.
Instead, she chose to make some kind of art again, every day. Even if it was a simple swoosh of watercolor on paper. Even if it killed her.
She was hoping it would help her come back home to herself and be more present for her two young children.
So Ms. Harlequin Boots started getting out of bed at 5:00 in the morning instead of 6:00 so she could produce at least one painting before her kids got up.
But it had been so long, what should she paint?
The Eyes Have It
“The first morning, the first watercolor… I just let go and made an eye.
“It was a HUGE eye. And it was REALLY, REALLY angry,” she laughed.
“But that angry eye made me feel better than I had in months.”
“And then every day after that I just made another eye and another.”
The eyes became a kind of barometer for her psyche.
Harlequin Boots painted different eyes depending on her emotional weather. There were thinking eyes, sad eyes, beautiful eyes, and dead eyes.
But when a happy eye slipped in she knew something was shifting.
The eyes began to get taped up here and there. Now the eyes have their very own wall.
Harlequin Boots’ youngest child loved the eye project. In fact, she was so inspired by her mom’s experiment she started a daily painting practice as well.
“But, my oldest kid got kinda freaked out at first – mostly by the angry eyes. I don’t blame him, there’s a lot of angry eyes up there.”
How Art Can Heal A Broken Heart
I share Harlequin Boot’s story with you for three reasons.
1. Because I think she’s awesome and I learned a lot from her.
2. Because she said I could. ( I have changed some of the details to preserve her anonymity anyway.)
3. And three, because it reminded me of something I bet you knew already that I just figured out. And that is this: art can heal a broken heart.
Art can be a balm for many different kinds of devastating losses.
For example, my artist and Charmed Studio subscriber Donna Wocher chose to use art to support herself emotionally after the sudden death of her beloved dog Ketchup.
“I had stopped making art by then,” said Wocher. “And the one buddha a day project allowed me to return something valuable to myself that I had lost — my creative sense of self.”
(Wocher’s post 30 Buddhas in 30 Days explains how she used the 30-day model to help deal with her shock, loss, and grief and how you can as well.)
It occurred to me today that art, (daily painting, in particular) is healing when we are trying to live through any hailstorm of fear and loss.
Like, say, a quarantine.
I think focusing on painting one eye a day, or one buddha a day, or one milagro a day or one space alien a day, for thirty days might be one of the best ways to come home to oneself during an unsettling time like we’re living through right now.
Of course, you need not confine yourself to one painting a day to help you stay grounded and open-hearted this month. Many forms of art can heal a broken heart.
You could do one meaningful journaling prompt a day or even one dance a day.
Imagine how good it would feel to use 15 minutes out of every day, for the next four weeks of uncertainty as a time to reconnect with yourself at the level of soul?
In just 15 minutes a day, you can create some peace within. Which you can then lovingly give out to help folks who depend on you in your family, in your community, and in your world.
I figure I can always get back to spending the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the rest of each day panicking, making hand sanitizer from scratch (oh yes, I have), thinking about if I really need so much toilet paper and generally freaking out.
How To Get Started With Daily Painting To Heal A Broken Heart or Stay Grounded in Uncertain Times
Are you familiar with daily painting?
Hear exactly how making one diminutive, quick painting a day (while her baby daughter napped) accidentally elevated Carol Marine‘s art practice in this episode of the Savvy Painter podcast.
Or peek inside Marine’s book Daily Painting. Find out where this down-to-earth artist finds inspiration for her daily paintings, the techniques involved and the best ways for you to sell your own daily paintings online.
Do you have a daily painting practice?
If so how has it helped you?
If you gave yourself the gift of doing one quick painting a day to help anchor yourself for the next four weeks what might the subject be?
I would love to hear if you relate to How Art Can Heal A Broken Heart or let me know your thoughts on daily painting, heartbreak or the impacts of the Coronavirus on you as an artist in the COMMENTS below.