Self Portrait

For the past several months to a year, I have been haunted by an inescapable vision. Today, I painted it. The painting of it helped me to process the emotions and experiences behind it, and being a writer, more so than an artist, I feel the need to write out what I’m learning through this vision, and its painting.

Let’s start with the canvas. When it was time to finally paint this vision, I needed to paint it on something that’s already been colored, long before I got my hands on it. This used canvas represents the story behind my story. For better and worse, the canvas upon which I paint my life was painted before. It is fitting that I started with a messy, multihued canvas. This is my background. My parents’, grandparents’, and others’ choices pre-painted my canvas. Over the course of my life, I choose what to make of that canvas.IMG_0932

The pop bottle lids peeking up from the bottom of the frame matter, as well. When it’s time to paint our lives—our selves into the canvas we’ve been provided—we don’t always have the “right” tools. Sometimes, we have to improvise, to take advantage of the opportunities and objects at hand, in order to become.

Now, to paint.


The first thing I painted was a crushed, broken dragonfly. For a large part of the past year, this was me. Those who are close to me know that I have considered dragonflies my totem, my sign, my symbol of transformation and transcendence. This is because a dragonfly nymph molts up to 12 times during its development. I love, and have always loved, the miracles and hope communicated to us through nature. Dragonflies teach me that change and growth are good, they never need to stop, and that someday, I’ll fly (or, the “arrived” human equivalent).

But, why is it broken?

Because dragonflies are fragile. And, I’m learning how to not be okay. I’m learning how important it is to admit that I’m not okay, in order to create space for healing. You can’t pursue healing until you admit you’re sick, or wounded. And guess what? I’ve been wounded.

Which brings us to the dragon.


This is me, hoping that the dragon looks like it’s emerging from the broken space in the dragonfly. I’m not sure if she’s done, yet. She probably isn’t, but meanwhile, she’s here, she’s strong–mythic, even–and she’s ready to fly, and to fight. Notice that the background, the pre-painted canvas, shows through, but doesn’t define her. This is important, because I have spent far too much of my life pretending that my background doesn’t affect me in any way. That simply isn’t true. The colors represent the pre-existent people, circumstances, and events who color the canvas upon which I paint my life. The colors shine through, but don’t determine the dragon’s shape or action.

Finally, my dragon is lit by the Sun. The sun, and the bit of a glint of its light on her, is a reference to my name, and to Hope. The woman I thought I would be (the dragonfly) is broken, but the dragon rises, and light shines down.

So, what am I learning? I’m learning that, in order to become all I was intended to be, I can’t merely molt, and transform slightly. Death and resurrection are necessary. Deception must die for Truth to emerge. I’m not who I was, and I’m never going back.


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