Monday, November 3, 2014

LIFE PENTIMENTO – I CAN’T FORGET YOU (and maybe I shouldn't)

     Life sometimes resembles a painting on a stretched canvas. Certain scenes and people are so vivid and have such a strong influence that they may profoundly affect us for years. In an actual painting, if the scene doesn’t go the way the artist intended, they can paint over the scene, people, or gestures with the new layer of white gesso and then paint a new scene over the top of the old one. On some paintings the surface becomes built up with a layer of thick pigments. You can tell the painting was altered even though the original scene is hidden and can’t be seen directly. Artists call the technique of painting over scenes: “pentimento”.
     I have found that experiences in my life have been painted over with a thick, opaque “gesso” of time and space. This has all but obliterated certain memories of people and things which happened – at least the intense memories which lingered for a long time are now not so powerful. They have been covered with thin coat which diminishes their power. The people and incidents beneath still influence my day-to-day life though they are not foreground.
     But the question is, who is the artist which white washed these events long past? My “wiser” self? Or, my “less wise” self?

     Would my “wiser” self wish to hide my failures? Lessen my fears so that I seem stronger to myself? Or help me forget how my mother’s fears affected me? Would I really wish to my self-knowledge of my shortcomings be bad for me to acknowledge? Should I only feel good about myself? To always only see painted on my life’s canvas, my successes? Am I so afraid of being ashamed of some action that I avoid anything approaching shame? Do I really need a “draught of forgetfulness” in order to get through my life?
     In truth, it is the “wiser” self who actually brings challenges directly to meet our shortcomings. In this way you can change and grow. It must’ve been my “less wise” self who painted over those scenes and people and gestures.
This is the pathetic me - the self that wishes to be happy all the time. That does not mind sitting alone in my perfect self-delusion. That likes imaginary perfection and thinks that I’m “one heckuva guy”.

     As I get older, these life pentimento layers wear thinner and the events which were once hidden begin to affect the present. I have occasions when I see someone, and just for a moment, I am not sure if it was you. You know, the person from that time long ago, or not. A word prompts the layer of my longing or regret, long past, the covering thins, and the feeling is “boom” suddenly there.
     Rather than pentimento, my “wiser” self is starting to apply new brush strokes of forgiveness. We are even can intensifying the darkness beneath the white gesso and blending indigo with other colors to create some amazing shades that change the incidences into new experiences and opportunities. After all, those intense moments from the past did change us. Hopefully when we revisit to them we are much different - stronger. If not, it just means that we still have some work to do.

© Copyright 2014, Jean W. Yeager
All Rights Reserved

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