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In First Person: Jennifer Brooke

By Jennifer Brooke

Jennifer responded to our open-ended prompt to reflect on how creating art connects her to her ancestors, her family, and ultimately her human identity.

Forgiveness and Gratitude in Art

The past should remain forgotten. Someone famous said that once. There are so many family members I will never have the opportunity to understand. I only know a few of my relatives now and they live all over the world. So, in truth do I really know them at all? I know of them. I see their art online and their happy Facebook posts.

Memories fill me in on the past. Finding a letter from an aunt I have fuzzy memories of her saying that watching me color on her floor reminded her of her sister, my grandmother. She said that I looked like her. I guess I’ll take her word for it.

An old postcard with the image of my grandfather that my grandmother drew. Spot on. She crushed portraits! Not that I ever met him to compare it.

Today, I give art for gifts to family and friends. If you haven’t received one from me, I don’t like you very much and you should invite me to coffee more.

There are artists on both sides of my family. I see a few of them at occasions, weddings, births, deaths. We celebrate the passage of time together in short bursts. We are fireflies to each other. We have ideas of and about the other, some cemented long ago in a time period with neon yellow slap bracelets. We all eat and breathe and like chocolate cake. Most of us are super creative, make saucy comments and we laugh together. We’re not even sure why we’re laughing, but it feels good to laugh.

We’ve tried woodworking, candle blowing, acrylic panoramas, and of course, alcohol ink. We all make art and music to express ourselves or just play video games a lot like my brother. I interacted with him a number of times growing up, but he kept to his corner and I to mine. He would paint tiny figurines and sell them for boat loads as a kid.

He’s successful today with two video game stores of his own. He paints and his art is a way we can talk to each other. We have at least this one thing in common. That and weird genes. He also takes excellent photographs and he’s single, ladies. This is a legitimate plug as I was told this is a dating article.

Without art where would our society be?

Art comes in the form of gorgeous man-made designs and the incredible beauty of the wet canopy inside trees just after the rain. We need these expressions of life and hope. Art is an expression of emotions. We need this creative progress in a world that news channels will have you believe is very dark.

Our worlds shrink in with the infamous and deadly “artificial fear of everything disease” or AFED. But enough about my positive attitude and medical knowledge, let’s talk about my mother.

Growing up with a mother whose parents made it through the Holocaust it was drilled into my head to “hang my own shingle” by my Grandpa. The idea that if I worked and learned for myself and made an educated life, no one could take the knowledge and skills away. Old fear that people were passing down to me. Generations of it carried in my blood. I wanted a transfusion.

When my Grampa Eli died, he fell down the stairs in his house and my mother’s favorite painting fell on top of him. A painting made in what looked like the 1800s, oil paint with its slick, deep colors. Two women chatting affably across the table from each other. What secrets were they telling each other?

Grandpa Eli wasn’t thinking about how I would grow up to self sabotage in attempts to ruin my soul’s life on earth. As a modern woman, I could do this myself, with negative self-perpetuating thoughts that caused me to feel worthless and helpless which agreed with my inner base belief that I was in fact not worth anything. Thoughts perpetuate themselves. What you think now creates your future.

I did not give up. I started running and doing yoga. I started reading and learning about my faults. Facing them and accepting them. Letting go of the idea that money defined me. I lived for the passion of creating. I often watch my cousin’s Instagram of her incredible alcohol ink work. She inspired me to try a new medium and my world opened with the fluidity and the haphazardness of this method.

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Painting was here to be my salve on my overburdened brain.

My head was so chatty with thoughts of nothing helpful and these thoughts tore me down and spread. These mean thoughts were campaigning to do a brain domination takeover of the bubbly human I was.

The meanies made roads in my head and those roads grew wider and deeper the more the thoughts traveled on the road of my mind. They were digging a grave of circular anger that was spinning me down. They were slowly taking over and the happy me was losing. It was the ultimate brain battle.

I’m not afraid to make mistakes. With a high threshold for risk and a craving for new experiences that are not in my comfort zone, I’ve fucked up a lot simply trying things because I couldn’t see the consequences of my actions before they happened. I could never get ahead of my consequences because I was living in a fight or flight state.

My voice didn’t always help me express myself. At times, I had no voice at all, but I had paint and those beautiful colors one after another seemed like miracles to me. Tears of joy at the truth of this stung into those early works after a manipulative relationship I allowed beat my low self-esteem into a laundry lint sized amount. Here’s a secret I don’t tell people, I’ve experienced PTSD and it wasn’t from war with men it was from war with one man at a time.

Today, I am usually in a wondrous mood with everything and everyone around me.

I can trust again. I am authentically myself and I am happy. It is an unfamiliar feeling to have for long periods of time. I love it. I was afraid for a while that it might go away. This unfamiliar feeling of being grounded after being a balloon. Having direction and purpose and a reason to keep experiencing life. I feared I would lose this spectacular awareness I had gained and fall back into a place where I felt like I was swimming in a tiny bucket that’s in someone else’s house.

To date this hasn’t happened. I’ve stayed awake and It feels easier now in what feels like a clear shift into ‘the other side’. It’s like I flipped upside down into an alternate universe where I’m at peace and in charge of my path, making decisions that benefit the future me. A me and a future I’m no longer afraid of looking at. I have faced death and I’m not ready for it. Future me is fierce and impressive.

When thought patterns break, how you view yourself and everyone around you changes. You take responsibility for your life. You feel new and raw. All the negative switches are flipped to positive. The positive roads start to be built and the developer has funding for marketing campaigns to deter mean vibes.

Today, I’m grateful to be experiencing life in freedom. I have forgiven myself for my mistakes and I appreciate that I needed to go through them to become stronger and learn what I wanted to accept into my life and what could go for a long walk off a short pier.

I’ve always been curious about understanding people and wanting to experience the depths of what humans are about.

I worked in a psych ward for this purpose. Please note I said worked, not attended, but that’s not to say a 72-hour stay somewhere wouldn’t have been a gut check from reality about how great I really have it.

Reality, which I now understand is entirely in my head. I choose how I perceive things. Every day I choose to be grateful to be enjoying the grass and sky. Simple pleasures like Sour Mambas, cheese, and my rescue dog Jackson whom I love so much.

I have love in my life because I allow it in with honesty. I work hard to maintain a healthy relationship and a peaceful and clear mind. I fell for my current partner when he created a system where I could hang a painting upside down and paint underneath it for greater textural effect. This was our second date. My partner’s inherent love of art, which he says I brought out in him, is a strong bond for me. The creative mind is our connector.

The reality of our lives is we must have the strength to face pain, to feel pain, and experience its depths in order to grow and earn true honest happiness. There is no other way to get to inner peace than by unshelving your demons one at a time and punching them in the face. I call some of my demons Cindy (for those of you named Cindy out there this isn’t about you, okay?)

I often think of demoness Cindy in the casket and me kicking her into it and the heavy lid falling slowly shut with the weight. Then I keep kicking into the earth until my demons burns up in the molten lava core. Then, I probably put some paint on it.

After death, is the sweet renewal of new life. Jesus knows. There’s been plenty of paintings depicting his earthly return. With every new art piece, there is my prana infused into these works and when someone takes it home they have a little energy filled love generator on their wall or in a new colorful blanket on their couch filled with residual mana. Believe me, those prints are singing to you, with love like a blue bird finding its mate after a long journey away.

If you want to see more of Jennifer's work- or even purchase some of it- check out her online store!

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This is part of a series called In First Person, in which digital natives respond to an open-ended writing prompt.