Can you ever have too much purple? The answer to that is YES! When I was little, my favorite color was purple. I put a lot of thought into choosing my favorite color, it is a big commitment for a kid. You see, I was a well thought out semi-conformist, I liked to be part of everything but certainly in my own non-obvious way and pink was way too obvious a choice for a girl. I also wasn’t an outgoing, center of attention kind of kid, so yellow and orange were eliminated. Also ruled out were green, which in the right shade can be beautiful but also has way too many shades of yucky and blue was clearly set aside for boys. So purple it was. To show my commitment to my favorite color I hounded my dad to paint my bedroom a deep and intense color purple (much like the background of this painting). I love it…..for a good few years anyway. Isn’t it always the way though, that too much of a thing you love becomes a thing you hate. As I approached my teenage years I felt stifled by purple, suffocated by purple, and was very much relieved to move on to a turquoise blue and green room.
So this past weekend I woke up and realized I had completely missed Autumn. I remember at the start of Autumn (when the weather was still warm) I had this fun idea that I wanted to hire bicycles and ride from Manhattan to Randall’s Island (not that far away from where I live) and have a wonderful picnic on the water under the sun. Randall’s Island is a beautiful little area covered with green grass and flower gardens along the water. Mind you I don’t actually enjoy riding a bike, and absolutely hate doing it on Manhattan streets when taxi drivers are actively trying to kill you, but I thought the picnic worth the ride. So this weekend I decided that my husband and I absolutely must do this before the weather got any colder (8 degrees Celsius, 46 degrees Fahrenheit is by no means warm!). So we hired bikes and rode one block to the bike lane on First Avenue which to my dismay was closed for construction. We rode two more blocks to Riverside Park which has a paved bike path….also closed for construction (typical Manhattan). Even having only rode three blocks my ungloved hands were already frozen and I was in no mood for a picnic, especially not on a cold and unwelcoming island where the trees have been stripped of their leaves, leaving an expanse of colorless concrete (wow, it’s incredible how weather can change your mood so quickly!). So we walked the bikes back to the store, sheepishly returning them after only 15 minutes, and went back to our warm home and I sat down and painted Autumn instead.
Here in New York we just experienced a very cold and bleak Sunday which was not worth leaving the house for. This Monday morning is equally dreary, depressing and cold. To combat the Monday morning blues, I want to share the painting I did yesterday. I set out to paint something so ‘hurt your eyes’ bright which could compensate for the lack of sunshine outside, and this pink daisy made my day. I hope it is enough brighten up your Monday!
We are each a Gemini to some extent. Everybody is made up of two people… the person that hides on the inside who bluntly tells us the truth, and the person we portray to the outside world, trying to control others perception of us after we have been heavily filtered. My inner and outer self often disagree, and have a healthy distaste of one another. Trapped to live their lives together, they constantly negotiate my thoughts and actions, my needs and wants. If only it wasn’t so hard to be the person I aspire to be… that carefree thinker, healthy minded, beautiful and intelligent person. But maybe I already am, and my inner self lies to me instead of telling the truth. How will I ever know who is real, and who is lying to me? Maybe we both are.
When I was a little kid, my mum used to take me to the library each week to pick out books that we would read together. For many of them I still remember the story, and I know that I will seek them out to read to my children one day. As a teenager I still loved to read, often choosing that over homework. Sadly since the start of my scientific career, I barely read for leisure anymore, there are only so many hours in a day. I do remember the excitement of curling up on the couch with a soft blanket, hot cup of tea and a brand new book. That new book smell and the crispness of the pages that sadly the next generation might not ever know. I also remember the disappointment when a great novel that I was really enjoying comes to an end. Well, I purchased a new book the other day, written by an author who publishes once a year, and each year I purchase her latest novel. I don’t want to start reading it because then it will inevitably end, so instead I am procrastinating with this painting and waiting for the perfect time to curl up with my book.
Every summer as I was growing up, my family would go on vacation to the central coast, about two hours north of Sydney. Much to our dismay, my dad would wake us up very early to go to the beach. His summer ritual was to spend ten minutes observing the waves, mapping out the ocean rip tides, and finally locating the perfect area of the beach to fish. Mum would sunbake and my brother would play in the sand. I would be mesmerized by the crashing waves, quite thunderous at this particular unpatrolled surf beach, in awe that water alone held so much power. My dad would always and too often remind me “don’t go in too far, because if a rip tide drags you out to sea, I am not a good enough swimmer to rescue you”. Those words, repeated to me too often, haunted me. My childhood was filled with the recurring nightmare about a Tsunami crashing over the land and sweeping everybody out to sea. After getting lost in the vast and never ending ocean, the dream would often reset, and the wave would come again, and again, and each time we desperately scrambled to outrun the water, but always unsuccessfully. Eventually, the panic would become too much, and I would wake up and exhale in relief that I was not drowning, and inhale realizing that I could breathe.
I have never lived on the West coast of anywhere… and yet I dream of sunsets. From my vacations, I have countless photographs of sunsets on beaches – I take millions of them. However, when I get home and look back at them, I am always disappointed. To me, a photograph has never captured the vastness of the setting sky. The subtle changes in color as the sun slowly lowers itself to sleep. The true depth of oranges, pinks and yellows as the sky fights off the imminent dusk. The giant mirror of endless ocean which captures the color of the sky, adding its own unique brushstrokes to the magnificent artwork that is the sunset.
I finally feel far enough past this that I can talk about it, so here is my story. Two and a half years ago I developed a food intolerance incredibly fast, which would go undiagnosed for six months. In those six months, I had quite a few horrible experiences where I was mid-meal at a restaurant and suddenly stuck in the bathroom being sick. It was embarrassing and scary. At the same time I developed an anxiety towards food. Like a weedy vine, this anxiety spread to many areas of my life, to the point where I could no longer sit in restaurants, be at people’s houses, or be around food without incredible stress and panic attacks. I also had one incident where I was sick on a one hour flight, and that was the end of carefree flying for me!
My next vacation involved a much longer flight which was preceded by a week of panic attacks and crying myself to sleep every night in dreaded anticipation. My lovely husband finally coaxed me onto the flight after many tears at the airport. I loved travelling, and was so sad that my life had come to this. On the way home I remember standing on the tarmac hysterically sobbing, looking up at the plane, knowing this was the only way to get home. I spiraled into depression, devastated that I had so quickly lost the life I had been living and all the things in it that I loved so much. I said goodbye to most foods, friends, socializing, and travel for six months. I couldn’t continue to live like this, not for myself and not for my husband. So in true stubbornness I knew I needed to get my life back.
I looked for jobs overseas and was given the opportunity to work in New York. Unknowingly my future boss asked me to fly over for the interview and I had to lie, saying that I was too busy to take the time off and that we would have to do it all by Skype instead. Lucky for me, I was still given the job. Now, confronted with having to fly to the other side of the world from Sydney to New York in six weeks, I knew I needed help. I booked 8 sessions with a psychologist…the best decision I ever made. We talked a lot about positive thinking and reinforcement, coupled with breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. One particular incident during this time stands out. I was instructed to pack a pretend suitcase and take a trip to the airport. I thought this would be a stupid exercise, as surely knowing that I’m not really flying would evoke nothing. I happily went to the airport and thought I was perfectly fine, until jokingly, my husband and I decided to pick the pretend flight we would take. Looking up at the board of flights and seeing the red flashing ‘boarding’ signal was enough to make my stomach sick. I burst into tears – this was beyond logic. I no longer had control of my body, let alone my mind. I knew I would need to work even harder than ever to overcome this, and I had a deadline to meet.
The therapy helped, the relaxation exercises and positive thought patterns got me to the point where I was still very anxious but not hysterically panicked. My repetitive mantra was that ‘if I stayed calm, my stomach would stay calm’ and to this date I must have repeated it a million times over! I made the flight to New York, I reset my life and now I willingly fly all the time, and every time gets a little easier. I will never truly be rid of the weed that is anxiety, it will be with me the rest of my life – I know that. It is, however, now a dormant seed planted in the back of my brain. I work hard to keep it from sprouting into the giant weedy vine that once tried to smother the strong and carefree tree I was trying to become.
I have a friend who talks of taking sailing lessons. To be out on the water, free to explore. With good friends, good food and a full glass of wine, watching the sun setting over the horizon. This was painted for him, as a reminder to one day pursue his dream of sailing.
This painting is inspired by the Autumn colors seen while hiking at Bear Mountain in New York. Late in the season, rich redish-browns signify the last of the falling leaves and the peak of the leaf litter covering the ground like freshly laid carpet.