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  • Today in painting class, I stood before the easel like a bear trying to clasp a brush in its paw, totally dumbfounded, lumbering and awkward. We were painting outside and my "assignment" included a view of a million leaves and a bunch of mulch. Mulch! The more I painted into the scene, the muddier it became. More paint, more mud. I was so frustrated with myself that at one point, I wanted to break the brush in half and jab it through the canvas or a fellow student's head. But I haven't jabbed a sharp object into anyone's skull since I was 6 and drove the tip of a pencil into the scalp of the new girl in my class. She was annoyingly Heidi-like with long blonde braids and a goody-goody demeanor that made me want to shake up her perspective on life a little.

    Flash forward many decades and I was shocked at the rage I felt toward myself and the questions crowding out rational thought. Why was I trying to learn to paint at my age? What's the point if I'm not going to be the best? Why was I wasting my time when I'd always be an amateur? All the old subterranean "you're worthless" graffiti that I think has been erased but has a shadow life in my soul pulsed in neon colors. That's when I got a grip on my brush and my Grendel-shaped id and asked for help. Help in being patient with my unwillingness to be a beginner. Help in being tender toward my ignorance. Help in remembering that when I screw up I can always start over. Simple little lessons that I will no doubt have to relearn every time I stand in front of an easel.
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