You know that thing when you suffer an unspeakable family tragedy and you recognize within moments that it’s the kind of thing that changes the course of your life and others forever? And you start feeling unsettled as you watch things and people changing and slipping away from you? And then you receive more unthinkable, unbearable news and for the first time in your life you suffer from depression and anxiety? You start therapy. You lose 35 lbs.

Yeah, that.

Andrew Wyeth said, “Really, I think one’s art goes only as far and as deep as your love goes.” And really, the depths of my own has been tested, compromised, doubted, dwindled and currently only exists as a faded shade of something I once carried around like a comfortable belly full of oatmeal. These days there is a swarm of bees living in my chest: Anxious. Doubtful. Not of myself.

I can’t bring myself to paint.

Many days, I retreat to the quiet of my bedroom, sink into the pillows and wait for sleep. Every day, I put on a dress and some red lipstick and present a portrait to the outside world of the person I am trying to be again. It’s difficult, being one thing and being perceived as another. It’s lonely.

To the clients that are still waiting for their paintings, I will come out of this. The last six months have proven, poignantly, how my art is so directly linked to my psyche. Creating art for a living can become mechanical and rote, but when your heart is broken your art is broken as well.

Know this: I will fix both. I am asking for understanding while I navigate some of these very delicate personal issues, and I hope that making art will be a part of that healing. I think maybe it will even change a bit. There are concepts knitting themselves together in my mind, picking up the dropped stitches of my brokenness and making something new and stronger. Different. Better. I can feel it though it is still raw and unsettling.

I hope you’ll be patient with me, and gentle. My art and my heart will be the better for it.


8 Responses to “Absent”

  1. Laura Says:

    Oh Rachael I’m so sorry for whatever heartache you’ve been going through. Of course your life and art would be affected. I don’t know you personally but I have one of your paintings. One that helped us come to terms with our own grief. Your fans understand that you need time and I hope time helps heal the wounds you have encountered.

  2. mtmanor Says:

    So sorry. Once, when it was really overwhelmingly sad, and it seemed like it was just waves of awfulness, I got the advice to stop praying for strength, and to pray for mercy. God already knows how strong you are, now he needs to be merciful.

  3. Janette Balogh Says:

    Hi Rachel,

    That took a lot of courage to write. I’ve been a fan of yours since I first “liked” your facebook page. Believe it or not, about a week ago I did a search on you because I didn’t remember seeing anything posted by you for awhile. Sure happy to see you resurface. You’ll find yourself out of this place of darkness and will let yourself shine again. ~ janette

  4. Nina Jones Says:

    Yes. I know. It’s been 14 years and I still cry daily.

  5. Thea Snyder Says:

    I appreciate you sharing this part of your life. You are a creative type, of whom anxiety and depression seem fond of smothering. Other creative types will understand what you are going through, no matter what the origin of this disturbance.

    It sounds as if you have been shaken to the very core. At times like this, when possible, surface and float near those those who care and are honest with you. Make hard decisions and don’t second guess what your gut is saying, even if you don’t like what it has to say.

    The work you need to do, with your disturbance, and with your art demands every. Therefore, every day I will focus some of my energy in your direction so you don’t have to work alone.

  6. Christine Says:

    I am so sorry for what you are going through. I am also an artist (I still have my day job) and a mom. And I, too, am wading through the quagmire of grief and unchartered territory, as my father passed away in October. Between becoming a mother, losing my father, and turning 40, I can’t paint either. I’m closing up shop on my pet portrait business, and praying for guidance as to what to do next as far as a creative outlet…and for the inspiration to actually DO it.

    I emailed you once, and you emailed me back. You were very kind. I am a blog–what do they call it–“lurker” (yuck! I’ll go with “reader”), not usually a commenter. But this post moved me to say that you are not alone. Hang in there.

  7. Shannon Williams Says:

    I hope I am intruding by leaving this response but I feel compelled. I am not an artist, a writer, or anyone that you would think of as poetic or deep but I am a mother of five and survived more trauma in my 38 years than most can fathom. Dark days will be in all our futures. Those moments when we cannot see beyond the fog of our own sorrow is but the pathway to all those beautiful moments that paint the canvas of our lives. Dark cannot exist without light and I truly believe red lipstick is the ticket to the train headed our of the darkness. Every women has put on her best, pinned her hair, and forced a smile to portray a level of fulfillment when there is just emptiness. I live by the motto to fake it until you make it. All things pass for what they seem and we are all doing our best to be happy. Your poise inspires me and I happy to know you.-Shannon Williams

    Your Friend,

  8. Shannon Williams Says:

    I meant not intruding. 🙂

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