I completed a painting this week. I have normally done very moody, atmospheric and even melancholic. But I got to the point where I was feeling trapped and stuck. I’ve never been able to do abstract because it seemed against my nature. I had to apply thought to what I was doing. Mostly. But with this abstract, called “An Articulated Repose”, I never thought at all. I just painted in a sort of unconscious flow. I was terrified. It was fun. I like the painting.
Many people would say to me, “You’ve changed!” But have I? Have I really? Or have I just changed clothes?
I am still me. You are still you.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. I have kept a journal for over 30 years now. Needless to say, but I have scores of black journals taking up shelves in my bookcases.
It is often alarming and depressing for me to read them. I’ll tell you why. I read entries from, say, 20 years ago, and even though I feel I’ve gone through significant changes, I am still same person I was back then. I totally recognize myself and exactly the same person. It’s true! Even though I have gone in and out of the church, into and out of ministry, gained and lost friends, moved hither, thither and yon, changed my mind and changed my theology, lost a reputation as a pastor and gained a reputation as a shit-disturber, I am still, surprisingly, the same guy I was 20 years ago, 25 years ago, 50 years ago. I’m still me. WTF?
My reaction to this realization used to be: “Goddammit! I’m still struggling with the same old issues!” And then I’d ramp up my efforts to finally rid myself of them. But after a while I caught on to the trick my mind was playing on me. I had to accept the fact that what I was writing in my journal now would be read by the new and improved me 20 years from now whereupon I would exclaim in frustration: “Goddammit! I’m still struggling with the same old issues!”
So now I’ve adopted a new way of reacting to this realization that I’m still the same old me: “I value this person who refuses to go away. There is something resilient and worthwhile about this person who has survived intact all these years. I will love and respect him.”
Of course, we are all changing on the surface. We adapt. We tweak. We compromise. We evolve. We even undergo dramatic transformations. But the “we” that experiences these things is somehow still there, in all his, her or their essential life.
This is why I love reading your stories. Most of you have been through incredible experiences from as far back as you can remember. And still, the you that was thrust into these experiences is still here and talking about it with a ravishing self-respect and even love.
You are sharing your resilience with us. And we thank you for it.
Tomorrow is my birthday but Lisa is working a 12 hour shift, so we’re celebrating it today.
Much love my friends!
(***ps: If you’re not in the secret Facebook group, please let me know. You don’t know what you’re missing!)