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  • michellelisenbee

Sometimes Life is Just a Beautiful Mess

I’ve been working on this painting for months. It started out as a tribute to nurses and I planned to have it done by Nurse’s Week in May. I didn’t have clear vision for the finished product when I began, but I often don’t. These first few layers were easy and fun. I wrote words, collaged words, added paint and paper, stencils and stamps.

At the stage in the last picture above, it felt like time to start trying to bring it together...but the more I tried to "finish" it, the more complicated and frustrating it became and the more I just didn’t like the whole of it.

Then I had the inspiration to add MORE texture by gluing on a draped piece of cheesecloth and I thought it looked really cool. I accented the edges of the cheesecloth, added more drips, etc. I found I liked some parts of it a lot, but overall, still not loving it. It kept feeling almost finished. Like if I could just figure out the one thing to add, subtract or change, it would suddenly be “something” and it would be DONE. But for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what that one thing might be. I kept auditioning different things and none felt quite right. Lots of times, I was tempted to pour white paint over the whole thing and start over. A few times I even considered just dumping it in the garbage.

But not really. Deep inside, I knew all the work I put into it had value. I knew the layers added meaning, texture and beauty to the piece even if they weren’t visible anymore. And I knew there were parts I really loved. One day last week, I stood there once again staring at the painting, struggling with what to do with it. Mason, my 17 year old son walked in. He asked what I was doing and I told him. He looked at the painting for a moment and then said the most profound thing:

"Why is it necessary that it become something?

Why can't you just let it be done?"

I stared at him for a long time. "Umm. What?" He said it again. More staring. I told him how profound that statement was. He shrugged and walked out to get something to eat. I turned back toward the canvas. Why couldn't I just let it be done? Why did I feel I had to keep fiddling with it to make it "something"? What would happen if I let go of that and just let it be what it was?

And so, I grabbed a small paint brush and added the words, "Sometimes, life is just a beautiful mess."

Honestly, I still don't love the painting as a whole, but I sure do love the story it behind it. It IS kind of like life. There are definitely parts that feel messy and unfinished, dingy and unlovely. Moments of hurt and anger, frustration and anxiety, sadness, grief, misunderstanding. They are all here.

But when I look closely, there are parts I adore...moments that are pleasing and beautiful and bring me great joy. Moments like this one, where I am sitting on my front porch on colorful furniture my neighbor made for me, surrounded by bright blooming flowers and birdsong, with hot coffee and my journal. Or the ones where I’m walking by the river and spot the Heron silently fishing. Or the ones where I wake in the night and stand in the hallway listening to my family breathing and giving thanks for each of them. And so, here it is.....the beautiful mess painting, and the beautiful mess of me.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end. "Beautiful Mess" is for sale and will be up in the Etsy shop soon. You can see more of my artwork and visit the shop here.

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