Have you ever touched a point of pain in the world - pain so sharp, so brittle that it keeps cutting at you long after you’ve moved away from it, having somehow “burned” you with its icy intensity?
These points of pain inevitably stem from people who have been deeply hurt in their lives. Yet often they don’t acknowledge their pain and instead focus on their ego, their self, as a means of running from the pain, while their pain, in a machine gun spatter, is sprayed outward, often injuring others.
I recently met someone who was filled with pain.
I knew from the start that something was wrong when, on being introduced to me, she immediately dismissed me – by repeating everyone else’s name as she was introduced to them and taking one look at me and looking away with no mention of my name. There was something about my energy that “frightened” her. I didn’t see it as an offensive gesture or as being about me, but as the first sign of something not quite right.
As the morning progressed I listened as this woman “held court”, telling us about herself and her work. Words sprang from her mouth as though from a boiling geyser under immense pressure. She had a story to tell and, by god, we would listen!
“My work is an exploration of the free sex, sex for sale, prostitution that’s delivered to our doors each day via the newspaper. And I thought it was illegal here yet there it is, these ads in the entertainment column. “Hot young thing available, with extras. Your place or mine.” My art is my response to them. I snigger, jibe, cringe. Of course, it explores my own sexuality too, particularly given I’ve passed my own sell by date.”
Does a woman ever pass her sell by date, I wondered. A woman is so very much more than just her sexuality. And yet even as she ages, sexuality lives within a woman as part of her essence. Woman is woman is woman. How sad that this woman, who looked eternally young, was petite, attractive and vivacious, believed she was past it, no longer sexually attractive.
I listened as she dismissed or attempted to negate anything I offered to the conversation, constantly misunderstanding me in a way that was unconsciously deliberate. She had clearly taken an instant dislike to me, which was, of course, her prerogative, but which I also realised came from some place within herself that was screaming in rage and agony.
I pondered as she spoke about her creativity, her god-self and the denial of her ego. I mused as she trivialized those “modern gurus” who speak of their journeys towards healing or enlightenment through the experiences of their own pain. “They chose that pain,” she announced, “and won’t let go – I find it so draining.”
She spoke with all the right words of a person on a journey towards wholeness and enlightenment, she had the words of “spiritual speak” but there was a vast gap between her words and her reality. And it struck me too that her "spiritual speak" was very much stuck in the "vital" or physical plane.
I suppose looking at her superficially one might have seen a person who was full of herself, arrogant, opinionated – bloated with her own self importance. But those “traits” struck me as symptoms of something else.
Reaching out to touch her energy was like encountering shards of multicoloured glass – the colours invited you to touch, but the touch cut deeply. Peering beyond the surface it struck me that there was so much insecurity and so much fear - and within that fear, swimming furiously in the maelstrom, the most overwhelming pain, bundles of undealt with baggage. And she was running from it as hard and as fast as she could.
At the time I couldn’t put it all together – because part of her persona included sparkle, energy, excitement – and I like people and I like hearing their stories – and I prefer to see the best in them.
But it was later, when I sat in the peace of my home that I felt the dark sludge that had been left by the energetic encounter clawing at me. And the defining moment, the absolute recognition you might say, happened when I looked at her art on the web. In telling her own story one sees images of anger, sorrow, resentment, rage and degradation. The colours are vivid and garish, slashed and splashed across her canvas like dripping wounds. Each woman’s face depicts a hopelessness or an emptiness, or is hidden, while her womanhood is portrayed as a vivid gash.
But I owe her a debt of gratitude, because my own response to the encounter was to paint, something I’ve not done for a while, to cleanse away the pain that been projected at me. I entitled the piece Heart of Woman.