Fourteen years ago, I took an art class at the Israel Museum for a year.
I learnt a lot in that class, including how to paint and draw.
But even more than that, I learnt a lot about myself, as how you express yourself in creative forms can tell you a huge amount about what’s really going on, under the surface.
So, August rolled around, and I started to have that familiar worry that I needed ‘something to do’, after the chagim.
I checked the Museum website – and decided to take the plunge, on the ‘advanced art class’.
No masks this year….no young kids at home…. time to develop my drawing and painting a little more.
I’m up to my third class, and just like 14 years ago, I am learning a bunch of new stuff.
Mostly, about myself and how I’m currently ‘reacting’ to life.
Today, the teacher set up some weird, complicated still life in the room, and told us we had to draw it in charcoal.
I’ve never really used charcoal before, although I can draw pretty well.
So, I didn’t know what to expect. I put my easel fairly close, sat down to draw… and after 15 minutes I started to feel totally overwhelmed and like I just wanted to run away.
I stepped out for a breath of fresh air, stepped back in and took a new sheet of paper.
I realised that I was having a subconscious niggle that my proportions weren’t ‘exact’, and that the teacher was going to start critiquing me.
(What?! I’m 49…. since when do I care what the teacher thinks?!)
But…. I did.
So, I took the new sheet, started trying to measure the proportions with the charcoal, the way real artists do, and to put connecting points and geometric lines all over the place….
And after 10 minutes, I felt like running away even more.
I stepped out again for some fresh air, and I started to catch this voice inside telling me this, over and over:
You can’t do this… it’s too hard. You can’t do this… give up now….You can’t do this….you are just wasting your time…
What on earth?!
I felt like I’d regressed 35 years and was back in my horrible art class with my horrible art teacher.
I took a deep breath, stepped back inside, and grabbed a third sheet of paper.
I’m just going to draw the cardboard box all the weird still life is sitting on…. I thought to myself.
How hard can that be?!
Five minutes later, I was so deep in the pit of despair, I had to go and sit outside for a bit, and cry.
Probably, it was an emotional ‘flashback’, where some unresolved trauma from the past gets triggered off by a similar sort of circumstance in the present.
But again, I was just having very strong urges to run away, and just give up.
Stupid, stupid, why did you leave your bag with your car keys by the easel? I started berating myself. Now, you can’t get out of there without making a scene…
Just then, a classmate passed me by on the way to the toilet, and I realised I had to stop ‘reacting’ to this situation like I was 14, and actually deal with it like a grown up.
Can you please ask the teacher to step out for a moment to talk to me? I asked her.
She nodded, and a couple of minutes later, I was trying to figure out what was so upsetting me about the art class – together with the teacher.
You are trying to draw it the way I’m teaching, instead of the way that comes naturally to you, she told me, after a minute.
Stop doing that, and everything will fall back into place.
I felt instantly better.
As I worked on the weird looking still life, doing my best but no longer getting so hung up on the outcome, I pondered on how many of our kids are getting totally and utterly crushed by a school system that expects conformity.
I did OK in school only because I read really fast, and I’m good at regurgitating material in exams.
But the whole way along, I was getting into serious trouble with my teachers, because I literally couldn’t stand most of what passed for ‘teaching’ in the classroom, and I was fighting the system every step.
(One of my kids had the same problem…. thank God for Covid and home learning. It meant she actually came out of school with a bagrut.)
School just doesn’t seem to be set up for anyone who has a tendency to think for themselves, or to do things their own way.
A few days ago, I was talking to someone ‘chareidi’ about a possible shidduch with one of my kids.
This kid prays from the heart three times a day; she’s been to Uman a lot; she visit kivrei tzaddikim for fun, with her friends. And she dresses very tzniusly, albeit with her own unique style.
But apparently, none of that matters so much.
What REALLY matters is, does she want to send her children to Beis Yaakov?
I sighed a deep sigh.
Because really, what thinking, sensible person who really wants their children to have an authentic relationship with Hashem, would WANT to send their daughter to a ‘Beis Yaakov’?
Or to a ‘frum-robot-producing’ yeshiva?
For once, I don’t have a neat moral to tack on to the end of this post.
There’s a general theme going on, that while rules and guidelines are useful and helpful in some way, as soon as ‘the thing’ gets totally wrapped up in all that red-tape, and totally smothered in all those ideas about ‘the right way to do it’ – it totally kills the creative, alive, joyful spiritual impulse.
Also in drawing, and also in shidduchim.
And that brings me back around to this theme I keep writing about, that I feel so strongly that Hashem is inviting each of us to JUST BE OUR AUTHENTIC SELVES, in order to get to the next stage of geula in one piece.
And that is way, way harder than it sounds.
ZOOM CLASS DETAILS:
Thanks to everyone who expressed an interest!
We will be doing the class at 8pm Israel time, this Sunday, Nov 20th.
It’s a one off, and it will last no longer than an hour, and I hope it will give us all a lot of chizzuk and some useful information.
I will email the login details to everyone who got in touch – and if you want to join, send me your email via the contact form on the site.
Bottom line – we have to start doing the things that Hashem has created us to do in the world.
Whatever that really is.
And even if it’s totally not the way that everyone else is doing it.
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