Today I wanted to talk about dedicated work or relationship, that keeps growing step by step, layer by layer. Maybe you have something in your life that you’re working on like this, that you keep coming back to?
For me, this painting called “Good medicine” is one such thing. I started painting it in the summer of 2014. It’s a part of the Skin of Self-compassion series. In this series I have explored different moments or relationships in my life where self-compassion is needed. I do this by creating layers of color and texture, to create a skin that is translucent, scratchy, soft, shiny – whatever it is that arises from these breaths of self-compassion, of acknowledging that doing my best is enough.
In the painting you see here, I’m compiling layers of my relationship with my mother. Our relationship has shifted many times. Partly in the usual role reversals that happen between mother and daughter. Partly through her struggles with independence, addiction and depression as well as my struggles with boundaries, judgment, forgiveness and love.
My relationship to my mom has molded my life, as has the experience of living in a family with addiction. Often it’s been poison. Lately it has also at times been good medicine, that is, a poison that over time turns to medicine.
Through Sufism, I have found a form of forgiveness that makes sense to me. I have connected to it through the Divine Name Al-Ghaffar. My understanding and experience of this name, at this moment, is that it is a form of recurring forgiveness that is always available to us. It never runs out. No matter how many times we make a mistake, the forgiveness is there, washing over us. There is a mercy in this kind of forgiveness that makes a relationship to my mother possible. We can meet as two mothers crossing paths, as two people who are truly doing our best and who are committed to staying in contact with each other.
I’m a recovering perfectionist and as I feel this forgiveness wash over me, for the hundreds of mistakes I notice myself making each day of my life, the door in my heart opens and I call this name into my heart. I feel soft all over and that softness runs through me to the people around me. Like the white wash in this painting, the forgiveness is a balm that covers all the harsh words and sharp emotions inside of me in a mercy for us humans who stumble our way through life. It is comforting to let myself fall into the experience of this forgiveness. Not as condoning hurtful behavior, but as a reassurance that it is enough that we all do our best, and that “our best” will look very different at various times in our life.
So I wanted to write to you about this stage in my work, in the hopes that it may be useful.