Everyone’s life is a series of interesting stories. Mine is defined by the before and the after. I’m sure many of you are defined by this as well. You can remember the day it all changed; the time, what you were wearing, the thoughts you had and the exact surroundings. It doesn’t matter how long ago that defining moment was. Life is unpredictable and we don’t like to think of this until it all changes. Why would we? It’s much more comforting to think that the way it is now is the way it will be forever; what should I make for dinner, which Netflix series should I watch or who will take out the trash? It’s amazing to me though how so much of our lives are filled with those kinds of days, weeks, months and years. The ones we don’t remember until that one day. The day that becomes frozen in your brain forever, and never, ever leaves.
I would have rather not had a defining moment, but I didn’t have any choice. My husband and I had just bought an old house and moved from Boston to northeastern Connecticut where we had family and the real estate was cheaper. We were both freelance illustrators at a time where faxing sketches and sending jobs by Fedex was new. I was in my early thirties embarking on a new journey and a new place. These early days were filled with a combination of hope, fear and excitement. I had taken the painting workshop several months prior to our move and the turtle image (see March 18th blog post) and the other paintings remained in a drawer. One day I took them out to have a look, to really look. I had remembered that over the week they had progressively become dark and unsettling and had taken on a nightmare appearance. There were strange creatures chasing me while I stood on the edge of a cliff, a ruined picnic and a ghost creature coming out of a window towards me while I ran down a city street, as well as a painting of a vicious, gigantic red dog behind a house on fire with me blindfolded. What was so interesting about them (looking with fresh eyes several months later) was that I recalled that while I was doing them, I was having a great time. To an outsider, one might think that I was going through a difficult time in my life, or that I was depressed. Neither of those were true. So what was going on?
Now, years later I look at them and can see that they were a premonition, a subconscious voice within me trying to tell me something. Little did I know that several months after I painted that first painting in that beautiful place, my mother would unexpectedly take her own life.
Back in the 80’s, suicide wasn’t talked about much. Somehow, over the following weeks and months I went about my life, neatly picking up where I had left off. But inside I was totally and permanently altered, as if someone had suddenly pulled out the ground beneath me. Now I had two lives; the inner and outer, the before and after and I hardly ever talked about it. But inside I was screaming.