Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Phoenix

The hands of the clock kept on running at their steady pace.

I remember praying. Incoherent thoughts filled me up. Nothing happened to ease my discomfort and I felt the inkling of anger brewing. Surrounded by a void that was separating me from all hope, I was left with no choice but to surrender myself to the abysmal abyss of defeat.

EMPTY- I leaned against the wall and thought of nothing at all.

After hours of lying with no sense of what was happening around and in me, the miracle occurred. It woke me up from my stupor. Like a sudden shock of epinephrine to the system.
It pleased me- The sound. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. So sharp and crisp. It was in sync with my heart beats beating so loud and clear. Time seemed to move slowly. Maybe it was for the first time that I was listening to my heart beats- giving them attention. Suddenly, so simply, I became Aware. Aware when my mind was blank and aware when it witnessed and observed. I could pick the threads of these deliberations as and when I chose. I was the observer to my own strands of thoughts now!  I was conscious of the burning in my eyes (the tears had stopped long ago leaving their stained trails) and of how tired I had become: the aching knots in my shoulders, the throbbing head ache and the sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach. I was sentient of the coldness of the wall against my back, the hardness of the floor and the ragged breathing that caused me insurmountable pain because it was an effort I was making to be alive. With each breath I took in, my chest hurt. I persisted nevertheless. I concentrated on my breathing and then by chance my vacant eyes beheld the looking glass that covered the wall in front of me. 

Was that hollow-eyed girl Me? Slowly and steadily I neared myself to the mirror and looked till I no longer wanted to see me as I was at that moment, as what I had turned into but as I have been created by God-A human being bearing my own  ‘Cup of Life’.

‘I’ AM ‘My Life’.

This was all I needed. I stood up and facing that very mirror I stripped. Removing every vestige of what I had on me I saw that I was Beautiful. From the red welts across my belly and shoulders to the purple yellow bruises on my face and arms, I took in every detail and realized that all this was an integral part of Me. Every mark I had, Made Me and added to my character, added to my Life.

My mind made an instantaneous transition. That heavy and suffocating veil dropped and I ‘saw’ for the first time. Going to the windows, I forced them open and let the bright afternoon sun light stream in. I soaked in that warmth for like a couple of minutes and noticed how the shadows seemed to be shrinking in the glare of the sun. Armed with this knowledge, I knew what I had to do. Next thing I remember I was striding to the cupboard and taking out a blank notebook and some pencils- some with dull and others with sharp pointed ends. I went to the bed and sat on it comfortably nude. I held the pencil tightly, a little too tightly as I started stroking the paper with charcoal. Soon my grip relaxed as I watched shapes and shadows emerge. An hour passed and for the first time my countenance bore no frowns and creases. 

Now that I had a rough sketch in hand, I needed energy for the big picture I had in mind. Suddenly hunger was functioning as a ravenous bird that needed to be fed to fly. It was as if for the first time I was coming to terms with the purpose of hunger. Coffee seemed like such a welcome relief. I got up and went to beat some with renewed vigour. After putting the milk on a boil, with a practiced ease I chopped and grated vegetables and made a sandwich. (We never realize but we must acknowledge how much do these simple and mundane and routine tasks help soothe one’s frayed nerves.) I never got to know when the coffee got ready. I just know that when it did, I put in my favourite red mug, took a hot sip, washed down the sandwich and began The Work of battling my demons on canvass. 

Courtesy: Deana/Creative Commons/Flickr

Sashaying into the room, I took hold of the brush and made my canvass a minefield of rich and dark colours which exploded in a profusion of flaming crimson, orange, brilliant yellows and burnt sienna. The logs of wood burnt and crackled with every stroke that fed the fire. Soon the canvass was consumed in flames which leaped higher and higher. Next I gave rise to five Shadows. The shadows never rose- they lied smothered under the flames, having no power to get up. This painting had a vertical progression. The next part was a little tricky. The tips of the burning flames gracefully transitioned into the fiery tail feathers and then soon followed the rest of the body in its magnificent hues of gold, purple and red. Even as it was being born, I could see it was innocent and beautiful. Its strength and power could be seen in its very structure of the integrated whole. It was ready to soar so I cut across night sky making the dawn break.  As I stifled a yawn, my eyes looked outside the open windows- a silver line streaked the dark sky.

Now the shadows would be no more. I was leaving them all behind. When I saw what I had made, I knew this was the beginning.

With a quiet smile on my lips I closed my eyes and let Sleep’s benign mantle slip over me.

Today as I look back at the five year interim between what I was and what I made of myself, it is a sense of stability and calmness that I feel. I am not a millionaire or a very wealthy person (fiscally speaking) and this isn't my success story to the Hall of Rich and Famous. There will be few who would even know my name but those who do think and regard me with fondness for everyone loves and respects a teacher. Yes, I am an Art teacher. I draw and sketch and paint and teach it to so many. I work for no one and so I’m bound to none. I find joy in this Art form where colours and shades express what you want. I respect my work for it is what sustains me.

I believe that ‘We are defined by what we do and how we do it’. No work is menial or grand. Every work is an art and contributes to the movement of the world in its significant way. Five years ago I learnt this lesson:

‘My first responsibility is towards myself and it is to just be HAPPY.’

My happiness lay snuggled in the arms of my work. So, I embraced my work with love and it hugs me with gladness today. 
One more secret of my happiness:

“I work for just what I need. Nothing more nothing less.” 

I was The fallen once but I am The Phoenix now.

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