The Messy Middle

Day two... or should I say, when I’m in the middle of a painting, I sometimes feel some sort of emptiness. It’s blank. Closed.

I doubt how to move forward. Feeling insecure and worried that I might take the wrong direction. Scared to destroy what I have recently started. And I have this sensation of it’s never ever going to be ready. The impatience in not knowing. 

In this moment, there is no given. I know that the painting is not finalized yet. I need to continue. But the immediate risk of a broken painting can block me for weeks. What I used to believe was laziness or lack of discipline. 

What I now identify as fear. 

Is this good enough? Am I on the right track? The paintings I did last year are so much closer to my real style. Am I moving backwards in my artistic development? Who likes what I do, really? Did I put enough time into this? Is this important? 

I’m not really afraid of destroying the painting. I can always start a new one.
No, what I’m actually afraid of – and this took a lot of soul searching – is to fail. To fall and never being able to rise back up again. I’m scared of what others will think. I just want to be loved. I don’t carry that hard-bitten skin. Rhino skin. 

Let’s zoom out slightly. 

The beginning, the middle, the end. It’s no longer a painting. It’s right in the heart of what I’ve been doing lately. My current and ongoing journey. My personal journey. And stay with me on this; if we zoom out even further, it seems as if this is also the operating manual for life. 

Yep. The Messy Middle. Could it be so simple that it is related to turning 40? To question everything. From job situation, to relations, traditions, interests, habits… who am I? 

At first it feels like falling, face first into the dirt. Then it turns into a spin-dryer where it’s impossible to get hold of a single thought, and nothing is substantial. It can be a little dark. Finally there’s a phase of rest. Where the ideas shall only be marinated, not performed. Like farming. The soil also needs a time of rest. Meanwhile you are doing other things. More rest, planning, reflection. 

I sort of understand now that I’m still in the middle. And I will be for many years to come, but in different chapters. Where each part of this personal journey has a similar flow. So, while I’m almost done with this last chapter, it’s only likely that the next will soon come with a new Messy Middle.

I’m longing and dreading. 

One of my wise friends argues that you need to create space for the middle. To back down for a while. Because if you don’t take the time for it, you will never know the meaning of it. Later you can look back with a new perspective. So, if you are curious, let the middle play its part and just see what happens. You will know when it’s ready. You will sense it. 

Beyond rest comes wisdom and courage. The courage to move on. For even if it in the beginning did not seem to be any solution or right path, there will come a day. When you know.
Brené Brown, one of my household gods says: 

If I jump and leap,
I do not jump for the landing.
I jump for the experience through the air. 
Because I cannot predict the landing.