Requiem For Lantana, 36.50" x 48", Acrylic on Canvas
Why I Paint During the Pandemic
Every day I write the list
Of reasons why I still believe they do exist
(A thousand beautiful things)
And even though it's hard to see
The glass is full and not half empty
(A thousand beautiful things)
How is it possible to get lost in painting when so many are suffering? When I talked with other artists, this sentiment would always come up somewhere in the conversation. I knew I was not alone. So I began searching for ways to understand. I couldn’t write to you without resolving this struggle for myself. As I searched, it became clear that this is what I needed to share with you.
The most helpful was an article titled, That Discomfort You are Feeling Is Grief, in, of all places, the Harvard Business Review. This article helped me realize that I was struggling with was grief and guilt. David Kessler and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross worked together to initially identify five stages of grief. In the interview with Scott Berinato, Kessler gives examples of what those stages would look like in current conversations:
“There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally, there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.”
This might suggest a hierarchical progression, but Kessler points out the stages are non-linear. So, it is possible to experience acceptance yesterday but denial today. What is so unique to this situation is that we are seeing this globally. It’s not just our family or our nation, but a world-wide experience. We are grieving collectively.
After the book was published, Kübler-Ross suggested to Kessler there was another stage of grief, which she named “meaning.” They had been talking about it and were going to co-author another book together, but she died before that happened. Getting permission from her family, Kessler wrote a book just about meaning, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. This stage of the healing process focuses on finding enjoyment within the limitations of your circumstances. I see this in conversations with friends who are weathering the isolation well. They relate some of the playful ways they are finding joy: the simple pleasures of going for walks, cooking, holding a zoom conference with family or friends, or learning something new.
My meaningful moments happen while I am painting. I don't have to struggle with guilt in light of this new perspective, yet, that doesn't eliminate the fact that people are still suffering. I am aware I find more meaningful moments, because I don’t have to struggle with how to pay my bills, or that a tornado took down my house, or that I’m homeless or sick. This is where compassion comes into play. Compassion is the desire to help those in need. Now I consciously look for opportunities to help. Local news, Facebook postings, and checking in on friends have all helped me broaden my understanding of how our community is being impacted. By fully sensing and acknowledging our grief, we are capable of deepening our experiences and responses. Please, let yourself experience the grief from this new perspective, find ways to cope with it, and find your compassion.
Follow this link to the original article.