(Outdated) Survival Instincts
“I won’t have crap like that lying around.”
That’s what they said about my art. We’d just got a new fridge and I’d taken the box and made a house out of it. I’d cut out a door and windows, made shutters, painted the inside and outside… It was perfect. Perfect for me.
Later that afternoon I looked out the window to see it flattened and laying under the truck in the driveway to collect oil spill.
I was six.
That’s what they said after throwing my drawings into the fire. I mean, it was my own fault, I’d left them out on the table. I knew better. I knew I should have everything tidy and tucked away in my room before they got home.
I’d forgot. I’d lost track of time and was still sitting on my knees drawing when they barrelled into the living room that evening. I’d try not to forget again.
I was seven.
“What are you doing?”
That’s what they asked when we were in the truck together driving to the hardware store. I had a book with me—one of those big, 8.5 by 11-inch hardcover ones—but I wasn’t actually reading it. I figured with it open it would act as a shield between me on the passenger’s side and them in the driver’s seat. Tucked inside was a drawing of a dolphin I was working on. I was writing my own book, you see, and this was going to be the cover.
I guess they saw through my plan. “Nothing,” I said as I quickly shut the book and slid the pencil under my right thigh.
Safe. For now.
I was eight.
When we’re little we learn what to believe about the world through the family or people we grow up with. They not only model the world, they are our world. They’re all we know.
It’s through them we learn what’s good and bad, what’s right and wrong. We learn what to be afraid of. We learn what will earn us praise and what will have us shamed.
I was taught to hide. Not just my art, but myself. Being seen—in any way—was dangerous.
I hid to survive.
The funny thing is I didn’t remember any of these stories until a few months ago. I was sitting at my desk staring at my dusty sewing machines (three, I have three sewing machines) and I opened a drawer full of paints and canvases and pencils and sketchbooks.
Why don’t I make anything? Why does it feel like I physically can’t? What am I scared of?
Oh, right. That’ll do it.
I think of picking up a pencil and I feel the heat of that fireplace. My subconscious goes right back to six years old and those survival instincts kick in.
Of course, I don’t need them anymore.
Time to prove it.
A page of pressed flowers from when I was six years old. I loved doing this. I think it was the idea that I could preserve the goodness of one season and carry it with me into another. I could preserve a feeling.