Kate exuded the elusive (to me) quality of self belief. I was secretly fascinated with her and just as equally terrified that being around her would expose my lack of same. As much as I tried to hide it, it was there to be seen that I was a woman full of impossibility, perpetually limited in my ability to believe I could possess any value. I hadn't an ounce of belief in myself.
I didn't know Kate very well, we very briefly worked together sharing the role of customer service liaison in a hotel. I'd say in all, we spent about two whole working days together over the course of three months, the accumulation of 20 and 30 minute hand overs between shifts.
At this time, my marriage had just ended and I was a little shell shocked. My self esteem, which, in truth, had always been on the floor, was gone. I had no sense of self at all.
The only self respect I had to draw from at that point lay in the fact that I had finally admitted I was fucked.
I was attending counselling and about six months in to the deconstruction of my faulty self concept. What I didn't know then, was that I was also on the precipice of reconstructing an identity that would continue on through a process of true self retrieval.
I'm remembering Kate now because of a very simple, casual but profound exchange we had one day while talking in the hotel reception's back office.
She had brought in with her some of her own art and showed it to me. I remember thinking how simple it was, but yet so pretty, carefree and uplifting. I didn't realise it was her own work until she said she was going to ask the manager could if she could display it in the hotel.
I recall being aghast with the idea and simultaneously fearful for her confidence in making such a request. She was (in my mind) leaving herself wide open to ridicule should she be rejected, or even if he approved, that she display her paintings and expose herself to people's opinions on it's artistic merit.
She was an aspiring artist..self taught. Her work wasn't fine art, it was the kind of newly, self discovered artistic ability that I had discovered in myself over the years. I stood there looking at the paintings and struggling to believe that she would be so brave as to put them out there. I was also a bit crushed knowing I can do that kind of art too, but wouldn't EVER have the confidence to 'out myself' as having such aspirations and as a consequence, I didn't bother... what was the point?
Here's the crux, by way of my then twisted logic, this meant, if even I could do this... that meant it was shit and oh my GOD, she's going to be crucified.
Imagine.. this is where my mind was at, I would NEVER in a million years have had believed anything I was capable of producing, had any value whatsoever, it could only be flawed and therefore, must remain hidden. In my ignorance, I deemed this logic as also being applicable to Kate's art.
I wasn't to know it then, but this was a golden moment.
Either my face said it all or this girl had been confronted with my kind of thinking before or maybe she was just that tuned in, that astute... but she addressed the critic standing in the room with us in that very moment. Here's what she said:
"You know, some people might look at this and think 'that's not 'art', shur I could paint that myself and just slap a price on it'; but that doesn't bother me because I know the point is that they didn't paint it and probably never will... but I did, and that makes it art"
Wow... did she just drive a wooden stake through the vampire that is my fear?
With that addressing, invited I would guess, by the fleeting terror in my eyes betraying my truth, she so gently but confidently assassinated an unsuspecting part of my critic that day. And she did it with such style... She didn't knock as much as a piece out of me, I was still intact, but she stood up to my inner bully; for herself, for me and in doing so, taught me something about how immediately effective that was. I'll never forget that.
I had been living my life in fear of judgement and ridicule all my years, to the extent of never truly expressing myself and as I stood there with her, still being afraid.. she saw it and modelled for me how to hit back.
That moment was a marker for me. I never even got to know Kate very well, but she gifted upon me a little bit of confidence and courage that day and slapped the bully of fear I had been completely oppressed by.
That was 4 years ago.
After that, I started to apply that practice myself and you know what? It has never failed. I love that move. I wasn't applying it to the context of art making, because at that time it wasn't on my radar of priorities... I had other important inner work to do first.
The reason I think of her now of course, is that I have arrived (finally) now to the point she was at then. When I started painting in April this year, I had to slay this same vampire, but this time in the same context it was meant that day.
Tomorrow morning I head off for to Bantry to attend my first art retreat; A Space for Dreaming. And for me, it really is about dreams.
Am I brave enough now to, GULP, put what I create out there regardless of how it will be received?
To my surprise and delight, the answer is yes. Of course I still have to keep my eye on the vampires, because they still lurk, just waiting on an opportunity to pounce. I'm sure they always will, but thanks to Kate I can say:
"It's not about my creations being good, it's about my creations being here".
This is the mantra I am going to Bantry with tomorrow.
Okay, deep breath... I'm about to tell you something I've never told anyone before...
For me to sign up for this retreat is big, it is the allowing of something in me that has been denied too long. I have dreams for Daisy Jane... I want to give her a chance. I have been holding her in since I was 19 years of age... she has been a logo on my business cards when I was a beautician, she was the name of my band when I played music, she was the logo on another business card when I did nail art parties, the artist name I signed on books, journals, the backs of bathroom stall doors when I would doodle and draw love hearts and flowers... she has been waiting all these year, just wanting to exist. This retreat is for her <3 ***watery eyes***
Here's the strangest thing of all. I told you in this post about our upcoming move, we're moving up north to a house that's sitting right in the mouth of a forest. When I first conceptualised Daisy Jane, I imagined her as a pixie and although I never manifested her or wrote her story, I did know that if I did, her home would be set in a forest. Hello! ***Goosebumps***
So, in the words of another Forrest...."that's all I have to say about that"
I'll keep you posted on the retreat as much as I can during the week... please send me positive vibes and do loads of believing for me and for Daisy Jane <3 <3
Always, Amanda xoxo