A few years ago I was privileged to take art lessons for several months at Sable River Art Studio in downtown Elyria, which, unfortunately is no longer running. My art teacher was a wonderful woman with a wide smile and a silly habit of sticking her tong out and including the most unique cacophonous sound effects while explaining things. She was full of wisdom and insight and knew so much about the city and the cities in north east Ohio in general, having been born and raised in the area. I took it upon myself to fund my own art lessons when I just turned 17 due to panic attacks I was experiencing. I thought that perhaps fiddling my fingers around with the art projects and goals that once amused me so much as a child, would help calm my tired mind and stop my constant obsessions with the future, death, failure and loneliness. Bad habit soon grew to the ridiculous mark of extreme annoyance. She was quite supportive of me through the months I attended, keeping me busy while also listening to my problems. She wasn’t an art therapist, but I felt very comfortable talking to her and opening up to her and so at least to me, she quickly took on this role.
I was drawn to confiding in her by her natural and casual way of handling conversations. She never seemed surprised or disturbed by the questions I asked and always responded softly, or with a joke that would lighten up any slump I was slipping into. At the time my instructor held a great influence on me. She played part mother figure, part life coach, part art teacher.
While attending sable river I learned to understand my own mother. My instructor would tell me about the mistakes she had made with her daughter. I always imagined my mother to be correct no matter what. I was at the time, very frustrated thinking that I was always wrong. When I realized that parent’s aren’t perfect, I felt better about myself. Realizing that I wasn’t always wrong and she wasn’t always right was really helpful to how I interacted with her, and how I responded to her criticism. My mother and I had a valuable relationship I was able to take note of the things that were important, and let go of the things I did not agree with. I learned so many other things about life, like what to expect out of a first time, high school romance. She would lecture that I had to be realistic about love; I have to trust my feelings and allow things to happen naturally, and not force ideas onto the relationship. She told me I was a bit naive to think that I would be in a relationship with my high school sweetheart forever, but laughed as she stated she knew her words fell on deaf ears.
I learned about sex - no not the technicalities of it, but the emotions surrounding it. That it was ok to have want and lust and feel things. That humans share some of the same sexual impulses and instincts as animals. She also told me; despite the aforementioned points of common human nature, I should always think before I act, realize what consequences sex might have and openly reinforce the notion that it is not old fashioned or boring to wait things out.
What I am trying to say, I suppose, is that I feel like a great deal of my lessons were not art lessons but life lessons. Aside from the learning experience there was quite a bit of healing. I was going through a very low period of my life and had almost constant anxiety attacks. She let me come to her every day with almost the same exact worry or concern as the day before and never stopped me from speaking and never got annoyed with me.
She always comforted me and taught me how to take my fears and emotions and express them in my art. I would leave her room feeling better each time. Eventually with much help from not only her, but a very supportive mother and my then boyfriend (who really went through hell and back with me during that time) I stopped having anxiety attacks. I stopped worrying my life away at every turn or lull in life’s pace. I have not since had a spell of anxiety attacks that could compare to the emotional hurt i then experienced. It took me a few years to learn to simply live, to learn to take on life as an adventure, but this is already long enough and that is a story for another day.