For me, letting go of things has always been tough. I’m the kind of thoughtful, hyper-educated woman who would play things over and over in my head. Like the three-year relationship, the one I gave everything I had to, that didn't work out. How could I have missed that he wasn't The One? The heartache and fear of getting hurt like that again stuck for a long time as I tried to figure out what went wrong so I could save myself the next time.
Of course, no two situations are the same and thinking about something doesn’t let it go! Laughing at my own quirks makes it easier, but truthfully the replay was killing me.
Then one day something miraculous happened: I learned to let go through painting.
It all started in Rio, on a trip to celebrate life (which I'd dubbed my "live life tour") after my beloved 100 year-old stepfather had passed away and a year after the relationship ended.
Of course I brought paints; I had been painting since middle school, but the corporate MBA world had sucked me in and the act had become rare, too dreamlike for business, but now sorely needed.
Sitting by the corner window in our hotel room on a cloudy non-beach day, I pulled out the paints and immediately felt out of practice. My brush strokes were rough, child-like. The more I painted, the cruder they got.
So I started playing. Pages and pages of quick abstract lines, blobs and other shapes flowed out with no beauty or traction to them. It was like skimming off the froth to get to the cream.
Then one painting stuck.
What appeared was a heart with a blue seam down the middle, split, sewn back together and surrounded by rich green life. It was healing, a way to move forward with hope.
For the first time in a year, I felt freer.
Interesting. I had never painted like that before.
Comically, my “live life tour” ended up being anything but as I got an infection that was unfortunately misdiagnosed, leading to kidney failure, a near death experience getting back to NYC, and an 8-month process to heal. Not my year.
Throughout it all, I painted. I painted red waves of anger at going from being the healthiest person anyone knew to being in diapers. (Side note, it is impossible to look cute in double Depends. I tried. Imagine hailing a cab on Columbus Avenue with your bum sticking out like a bustle. That was me.)
Expressing without judgment, just noticing what’s there and honoring it, softens the tension and creates space around it. This space allows a new perspective to emerge, which I believe is my inner guru guiding me forward. In this case, while I had classically held the anger for months, when I finally sat down to paint it quickly gave way to light dancing swirls and humor. From then on there was no catch, no tension when I told the story, only laughter and love. I had let it go.
Unlike knowing what you need to do, but being unable to do it, when you paint a healed heart, you begin to heal your heart. When you paint lightness, you become light.
I invite you to try it. Get a brush and paint whatever is stuck. Use different colors, play with your brush strokes, describe it with paint.
Be patient. Sometimes it takes 19 pages and it seems like there’s nothing there. And then suddenly it leapfrogs and the 20th page changes everything. When that happens, it’s unmistakable. Your blobs and colors speak to you in, telling you new story, perspective or feeling. Many of my workshop students feel lighter the first day. For more guidance, please join us at the next Paint Transform Workshop on August 4th in NYC and you can learn more about it here.