*Lyrics from Lately I by Faith Evans from her 1998 album, Keep The Faith (I can’t believe I actually own the record this song was on, and that I’m admitting it), not to be confused with Faith Hill, who is a completely different kind of artist (I do not own any of her stuff). Do you ever wake up with a song in your head that you haven’t heard in years and years, and suddenly it’s all you can think of? Well, this song has been ruminating in my brain for weeks. A combination of serious winter blues, fruitless and tedious house hunting, and maybe some form of mid-life crisis, and this song has pretty much nailed my mood of late. Depression, party of 1… as usual (insert Eeyore emoticon here). And, speaking of a completely different kind of depression, I stumbled up on a different song with the same title – Lately I by The Maldives from part of a No Depression festival. I’m not an alt-country fan per say, but I definitely would have rather had their song in my head than Faith’s (sorry, Faith).
If you’re anything like me, or if you live anywhere in the north eastern United States (or perhaps just all of North America), you’ve had a rough winter. Like, maybe the roughest ever. The sun never seemed to peek out long enough to get a decent dose of Vitamin D, and the cold, ice, and snow (and lack of shoveled sidewalks!) trapped us in our too tiny apartment for too many weeks. Add all this to an east-facing apartment and you’ve got yourself a tiny, dark dungeon for a home, and nothing but remorse for the lost glory of the home that once was yours. It hasn’t been easy, so I’ve been trying to lay low, and busy myself with anything uplifting that I can think of. Sadly, that hasn’t been much lately, but I did think of one thing to get me eager to get out of bed in the morning: art.
If you follow me on instagram then you know I’ve been working on some process art. I say process art because for me it was a therapeutic endeavor, done solely for the pleasure of doing, and not with any real thought as to the visual outcome. I mean, naturally I wanted it to look cool, but I had no real vision for what it should look like. I just knew I need to do something repetitive, something that would take time, and something with paint. So I drew a grid on a blank canvas, divided a 12″x16″ surface into 1/4″ squares, and began mixing, painting, and hunching over my makeshift workspace for the better part of two weeks.
I think it was actually 12 solid days of painting, which meant that for all of those days, and the ones in between – perhaps the dreariest and darkest days of winter, you know, the ones that you think are surely over but have no intention of being over, calendar day or not – I had a reason to get up, and get working. And so I did. One tiny square at at time I worked my way across the canvas, obsessively painting for 3 or 4 hours in a row, only to stop when my back just couldn’t take it anymore. And sometimes I would go back for more. The mixing of colors – color! what a delight for my eyes! – and endless discoveries as to which colors would work where helped take my mind of my mood, and let me just exist. Man, I needed that like I can’t say.
And so, exist I did, and continue I did, until, finally, I felt done. And, naturally as soon as I was done I hated it. I think that’s normal for art. I love/hate everything I do – please tell me it’s not just me – but then my husband said a curious thing… he said, “I think you’re just too close to it.” Now, he meant physically too close (flaws are always easier to see up close), but emotionally I was too close as well. It’s been a week or so, and I’m back to appreciating it for what it is, and for what it was. It was my life raft during a dark few weeks. It was a source of joy during days when joy seemed impossible. It was my companion for many days, hours, and even during my sleep. And it was my medicine when my usual self-medicating wasn’t working (cookies, I’m looking at you). Color as medicine. Note to self: remember that for next time.
Now that the days are brightening noticeably, and the weather is warming up, and there isn’t as much to impede my free movement (hipsters on bicycles don’t count) I’m beginning to feel a sense of hope. And if not hope, at least not despair, which is a HUGE improvement from a few weeks ago. I don’t usually talk about my depression here since it’s so, well, depressing, but I figured I might as well be honest with you. And besides, maybe you’re not ‘depressed’ but you could use a little brightening, too. Try color, in any form you like. It works.