Monday, December 6, 2010
A Heartfelt Standing Ovation to Mrs. Andreadis
She was my art teacher in elementary school. I had two different art teachers throughout my seven years at Ayer Elementary. Both incredible women. Ms. Bellamy (she had to go by mizz) was truly rockin' as well, owning super unique fashion, simply profound advice, great art projects, a laid back ever-present smile and oodles of creativity. Ms. Bellamy was also so gorgeous, it was like watching an ocean sunset to see her lay down a giraffe shape on construction paper with a Crayola and then color it in perfectly with gradients as though she were using fine, professional artist's tools costing way more than that simple box of 24. Everyone loved Ms. Bellamy. But it was something that Mrs. Andreadis said to me that truly stuck in my brain, my psyche and it has been coming back and back to me over the recent days, years and in different snippets throughout my life.
Right now I find myself trying to be a good parent. I found myself being a Mom long before I ever planned it. It seemed to be my destiny, and I embraced it. I am sure most people are not 100% square with themselves and living within the perfect ego balance, esteem and spirituality (wait, is anyone ever this way other than the Buddha or Jesus?) before becoming a parent. But I wished I had conquered some of those demons and learned some of those lessons before embarking on screwing up yet another young soul. Alas, Mirabelle is here and she has no choice but to learn about life right along with me, mistakes, tantrums and all (referring to my own tantrums, of course).
As I go through my (seemingly) never ending library of self-help books and enlightenment goal oriented guided meditations, I learn over and over that who we are as adults is very much created upon the way we were/are spoken to as children. I try to remember this when I am flashing a glare and some intelligent words like "are you insane!!??" at the fragile little three year old who just snatched and flattened out my new, $20, perfectly fine tipped paint brush. And I constantly compare how I am with my daughter to experiences I had growing up. It turns out, it is not all our parent's fault, says Geneen Roth in her latest awesome book, Women Food and God. It is every adult that has ever spoken to us before the age of about four and a few years following, who contributes in, molds and determines our internal dialogue with ourselves as adults, also sometimes known as the ego, conscience or self esteem. And in reading about this, I think of experiences that stand out to me, ways I was spoken to both positively and negatively at a young age that stand out and I can actually recall in detail.
One time in first grade, I had a teacher bug her eyes out of their sockets and tell me that my opinion was horrific and terribly wrong! She was teaching us about famous people who had gotten assassinated (deep subject for 1st graders, I know!). Well, not understanding what assassination even meant, I asked "why would the people with guns just not shoot the victims in the leg or arm or somewhere they could not be killed?" And then her reaction came forth. I will never forget it. She was appalled I even suggested they be shot at all. I didn't understand any of it. And all I knew was that I was standing up, speaking out, trying to understand it all and she made me feel awful, embarrassed, dirty, evil, singled out and scared (ok, I am a little hyper sensitive, but I got that from my Mom). As all adults do, they try to teach us right from wrong and with force and serious feeling so we do not ever forget. I do not hold any hate for that teacher, she didn't know she was negatively effecting a 6 year old and ruining her self confidence completely. But also, I do not recall anything lovely happening in her class either. It really makes me think about the way in which I correct and rear my daughter now that I know these things.
One moment that sparkled for me in my mind's bank of stand out events from childhood, was one statement and really more, a certain smile that felt like a warm hug that I had been waiting on for my entire life that came from Mrs. Andreadis. I have no idea how old I was when she taught my art class. I would guess somewhere between the 3rd and 5th grades. She was not as flashy as Ms. Bellamy. She was much more reserved and quiet. I didn't understand her way of being as well as my other art teacher. Mrs. Andreadis dressed like she was going to be working in a wood shop all day...but with a vest on, that looked like it belonged to a 3 piece men's suit. She was interesting and tame and much more reserved than my other teachers. She was not scary or the least bit cross, but not totally approachable either. In her class one day, we all were on our own doing an art project. I thought nothing of this project. I didn't hate it, I didn't love it. I just did it. Just like all my other school work, I usually failed at or did average with, I approached art the same. I just went through the motions with no passion or excitement. And when I stood up to show the teacher I was done and on my way to sit the wet project to dry somewhere at the other end of the classroom, she stopped me in my tracks. She looked over the news paper mache-type, yellow duck I had constructed and brightly painted with a nice, neat orange beak. She smiled at the duck and then at me. She was in no hurry. She looked at me, taking her time and said with the warmest smile, "you like to do art, don't you?" I smiled and nodded to her and she sent me on to set it down. As I said, I didn't necessarily like art any more than boring Social Studies or annoying Arithmetic. But I told her I did because I thought that was what she wanted me to say in that moment.
I probably did not think about that moment again for the rest of elementary or High School. But where am I now? How did it effect me? I am currently working as a professional, custom Fine Artist and Designer. I realized, as a 31 year old adult, that that was the first really, really, feel good, authentic, I-had-a-deep-connection-with-compliment that I was ever given. And I have never forgotten that moment, like most of my elementary school experience which I have seemed to have blocked out or have buried very deep away. She saw something in my work. And it unconsciously effected me so dramatically, that I moved deeper into the arts in junior and high school. I then chose and knew in my 17 year old bones that art was all I ever really saw myself doing until I got old and then chose a fancy art college to attend and graduate from.
Somehow in the world of a major arts school community, I got to believing that art was never going to sustain me financially and really that I was just one of a million or not good enough of an artist to ever thrive with it professionally. I have yet to uncover where that idea originated, but I don't need to dig up all wounds now do I? Nevertheless, I believed it and at graduation I left art behind like a bad habit and dove into job after meaningless job of "good" benefits, 40+ hours a week, semi-sustainable pay, a ladder to climb and oddly enough, no college degree required...in ANY of the jobs I got and took on. It only took about ten years of aimless wandering, falling into this or that, getting fired or quitting and feeling my soul dry up and crackle more than the Mojave to push me into a deep space of hurt, anguish, soul-searching and meditation.
After many years of trying, trying and trying at different jobs, careers, titles (some of them even good-hearted and decent ones) what emerged without me even knowing it was, my art. Talent. What I enjoy. The only thing I ever enjoyed without trying, just being, and Mrs. Andreadis saw it in me, at a very young age. Her kind spirit was like an oracle in my early life defining the future I never knew was coming.
I have been with life coaches, done hypno-therapy, Yoga out the yin yang, worked with therapists, done meditation and karmic healings-a-plenty, and when I felt at the brink of all this inner work, out came art work, without even my choosing it and after almost a ten year break of not doing anything creative or artistic. I was studying the details of The Secret, a book on CD I bought and listened to about 500 times over the past 5 years. It taught me to focus on; not the journey so much, but the destination. Don't watch the agonizing step by step of the stair case, just believe, KNOW and focus on the fact that you will find your way to the top. You are a worthy body of substance. And I started to have true gratitude for everything and anything, focus on my goals of being a fortuned stay-at-home Mom who made an amazing income and successfully if not fully supported her family. And I had a business plan in mind, a good one, with action steps going forth, underway. And all those plans started to fall away when I met one lady who asked me if I could donate something artsy or crafty to her shop and from there, then another woman who needed an art project done for a loved one, then another, then another, then a man who needed a special painting for an anniversary gift, then a stranger, then another who started requesting and commissioning my artwork knowledge and skills.
Out of the infinite darkness, against all odds, a way was made, but not at all in the field I expected. It was the deepest part of me. My art, my first real compliment in life, that ignited my cellular makeup. And it is rooted in me as my most sacred childhood memory. And it has, without me ever knowing it until now, molded my entire life's legacy. My elementary school art teacher, Mrs. Andredis, you gave me something to have authentic confidence in that shaped the deepest parts of my brain, thoughts and heart. Mrs. Andreadis, you recognized a glimmer of light in a very dark little girl. And for that, I stand up and applaud you for your teaching, your talents, your time you took with me, your quiet smile, your life-altering kindness toward me and all children, and the compliment you gave to me that one day over a lumpy, yellow, flimsy duck. I also humbly get down on my knees and bow to you for all of this. Your kindness to me was the seed that has sprouted my life's tree of abundance while living this recognized joyful, happy, heartfelt path. And I cannot thank you enough.