As I look at my very first oils from two years ago, I find myself reflecting on change, grief, letting go and then opening up to the present. What I imagined would happen during my move to New Mexico and what actually came to pass are very different. I both underestimated the challenge and the joy this whole process would bring.
Moving to New Mexico, with all its hype and “glamour” was also filled with grieving my past life and letting go of being near family and friends. More than anything, that classic dream of taking off and seeking your own fortune in “foreign” lands is not necessarily as easy as it sounds. Well, at least for me it was not. I had never lived further than two hours from my family and lacked the foresight, in spite of it appearing pretty obvious, to truly understand how different being 26 hours away (4 hours by plane) would feel.
The truth is that letting go of the past is the only thing that frees us to fully engage in the riches of the present.
Now, two years later, after spending a glorious week in Florida visiting friends and family and then returning home, I was caught by surprise by my own grief about having moved away. The strange thing about grief is that when you think you’re finally over it, something triggers it, and you can feel the exact same sadness you felt the very first day you were grieving, as if nothing has changed. The good news is that over time, these recurrences lessen and become shorter for most of us. The truth is that letting go of the past is the only thing that frees us to fully engage in the riches of the present.
By immersing myself in the things I love, like painting, I was able, in part, to paint my way through the process. So I enrolled into a painting class at the University of New Mexico and learned how to paint with oils.This was really the thing that pulled me out of my sadness over leaving home, getting back into art and into painting. It is impossible to paint without being present.
One of the things that has helped me the most with this is letting go of the old stories. We all have our stories about our lives…”oh poor me, I had to move away from home, or I only paint with acrylics, or I have this terrible job, or I have to (fill in the blank). So being present with what feelings bubble up is essential but letting go is equally so. Part of my learning to paint with oils did depend on my letting go of the comfort of using acrylics.
The funny thing about oils, is that unlike acrylics, which are synthetic, oils are organic and thus, their feel is much more organic as well. It is much more like working with clay in that way. Oils flow much more easily than acrylics and in a dry environment like New Mexico, that is definitely an advantage. There is a sheen to them that suggests life. And in part, by relishing in the beauty that oils bring into a painting, I was able to let go of the grief, open my eyes once again to the beauty around me and truly begin the adventure that has been New Mexico.