If you haven’t read the first or second post of this series, scroll down and read those in order beforehand so this one will make sense to you.
I woke up on the fourth morning of my little “me retreat” feeling very refreshed. I showered, then made my way down to breakfast where I shared a table with some new-found friends from my painting workshop. After we ate, we walked together across the property, over the bridge, and into the dome tent once again.
I made my way over to my station, stopping in front of that blank piece of paper I had put up the evening before. I was feeling safe, happy, and protected, so that was going to be what fueled my new painting. I started with mountains, then created a stream which carved through the base of those mountains with no plan of it having a real ending. I changed my mind and decided to have it end as a pond down alongside a cabin. As I started to add the cabin, I thought “This is the house that Anne built.” Odd thought, but okay. I filled the mountains and areas around it with redwood trees, then stood back to get a good view of what I had just made. The mountains felt like my protection and all the trees represented the people in my life who are there with me, and for me. The “house that Anne built” really felt like it was the life I had created for myself and what I put around it felt very satisfying. I added cattails and flowers in and around the pond, with green grass and pink, purple, yellow, and orange wildflowers carefully filling in the vacant space throughout the rest of the painting. I finished it off with a walking path up to the door; a door I could open and invite people in if I chose to do so. I completed the finishing touches later that afternoon, taking it off the wall to set with my other paintings after it had dried.
We weren’t going to be painting that evening and on Friday, we only had the morning session and then our weeklong workshop would be over. Since it was my last night there, I grabbed a cup of tea after dinner and made my way down to watch the sunset in the same spot I viewed it from on my first night in this place. I thought back on my week there and the emotional journey I had taken myself on and was really proud I’d chosen to make the most of it, even when it wasn’t always easy. As the sun dipped further into the ocean, I noticed a baby whale jump in the water while its mother swam alongside it. (The jumping happened several times which I tried to capture in a photo, but never did. I did capture a really pretty sunset though, so I made it the header photo at the top of my blog). Several guests had also spotted the whales so we stood together, watching them as they made their way up the coastline toward the setting sun.
Friday morning after breakfast, I packed up my belongings and put them in my car so I could head home as soon as our final painting session was done. I knew the drive would be long because I’d be approaching Los Angeles during rush hour, so I wanted to get on the road without delay. I turned my room key in to the office, then walked alone across the property and through the garden, going over that bridge one final time. As I made my way into the dome tent and up to the blank paper at my station for one last painting, I felt happy and at peace, so I painted this tiny island in the Caribbean Wil and I have been to a few times. It’s simple and beautiful, and on every visit, I’d cannonball off the side of the little boat we’d chartered to get there, swim to shore, and do cartwheels on the beach. The sky and the water are both a blue like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else. I added palm trees on the island, and a single wooden boat, anchored in the water near the shore, which turned out really well because I had finally figured out perspective.
At the end of the workshop, I collected my paintings and walked alone to my car. I set them down carefully in back then hopped in front to drive off the property, and down the winding highway toward home. I spent a lot of time on that drive thinking about the relationships in my past that had negatively affected me so much, most of them causing sadness and resentment that I’d held onto long after those relationships had come to an end. Looking back, they were all with people who had many of their own issues that had nothing to do with me at all. I felt, in a way, that I had stepped into their emotional splash zone and absorbed the aftermath. I had never dried off, allowing myself to leave their burden behind me. Over time, that’s a lot to carry, and I didn’t need to do that anymore.
In the years since removing those toxic relationships from my life, I have chosen to focus my energy in people who are positive and uplifting, who constantly make me want to be a better person, and not allow myself to get close to anyone who brings me down or affects me in any negative way. I have always had a lot of empathy for humans (almost to a fault) for as long as I can remember, so this wasn’t easy. We can’t always cut out people we would otherwise not have in our lives. Sometimes we’re exposed to these types of people in the workplace, in our own extended family, and for some, in public social media platforms we choose to be on. But when I think of these people having their own issues that have nothing to do with me, I feel a lot better knowing I can choose not to absorb what they may throw my way. I am not responsible for their feelings, only for my own. Doing this workshop gave me a way to express myself and provided inspiration for other ways I can do this at home in my daily life. I no longer feel like I’m on lockdown or trapped by those feelings. I finally feel free.