Often, in our lives, we put on layer after layer. I am not talking here about clothing, (Winter has just about arrived, after all, in the Northeast!), but about the cycles our lives go through, and instead of resolving each cycle before we move on to the next, we simply “skip” over and go onto the next latest thing. Our culture of immediate internet based communication in the past 20 or so years has only encouraged and quickened the emergence of this culture of not attaching or resolving before moving onto the next phase of our life. It could be about a job, a romantic relationship, a family relationship, a friendship or acquaintanceship, or anything that has to do with our interactions with the others in our lives.
Some of this “skipping” could be done not to face any pain that may have ensued during the relationship, an avoidance of anger or trauma (which isn’t always a bad thing). But it also enables the ease of “moving on” without reflection or thinking. These patterns of behavior are also coming out in relationships we do not discard, like our family relationships. Instances I think of are families that can be in the same house together and not speak to each other for an entire day, families that do not eat together, and families who may speak briefly on the phone with each other but do not go out of their way to physically see one another and be together. This is especially true in North American culture, and not all cultures have this mode of distancing in them, although I do believe with the advent of technology change has occurred to all to some degree.
In my own personal form of art making that I have enjoyed of late, Encaustic Painting, involves the use of bee’s wax, Damar varnish and colored pigment to make a wax based paint that is put on in layers. Items can be embedded in the wax like drawings, objects, different forms of papers and more. But you do not only add layers, you also take them off by scraping and burning off wax using tools and fire. The beauty can be found in what is underneath the latest layer and you are “building up an archeology” in your own art work by putting a “history” into the work by adding the foundational early layers of wax in various colors and materials first and then adding final layers which you may leave “as is” or expose through digging or scratching through the wax based paint. The wax lays in layers, much like the rock layers in the picture to your left, where a crack developed and which were exposed through a centuries ago earthquake. Look at the beauty that the “shake up” of the earth revealed!
Using my encaustic painting as a metaphor, how much more of a stable foundation we could have if we were willing to “burn through” the surface layers of our lives to find the beauty of the earlier, foundational layers that existed before? This means exploration and getting to know ourselves, and could be the greatest journey we undertake in our entire lives. It does take courage, as some of us may have undergone trauma, but the end result, validating and empowering, as well as getting to know yourself, is more than worth it. Even if we cannot face “all of our layers”, if others, for example, have moved on or are no longer with us, we can at least explore these layers of our lives, validate them, and learn from them. Building self awareness and self validation can be some of the greatest gifts you can give yourself this holiday season.
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