Grace M. Smith Artworks

Grace M. Smith Artworks

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Grey Zone

After Birth - 11" x 14" marker on bristol vellum surface

I remember the day I was born...not the whole of the day. Who remembers what they had for breakfast or lunch yesterday? I remember snippets. While I didn't have the language to describe then what I saw and how I was feeling, I do now. I saw the ceiling. The environment felt white and grey. I heard voices. I must have been picked up because suddenly I could feel myself being wrapped in a blanket. It felt like someone was swaddling me. I felt constricted and unable to move my arms. Then I saw a flash of light (which must have been when a picture was taken of me). I did not feel 'happy' when I was first introduced to this world. There are times I really believe I've been working out this trauma my whole life!

Trying to put a feeling or a state of being down on paper is a moving process for me. It requires that one goes within. You're not simply recalling a moment. Memory is very much tied in to a sense. There are a handful of moments we remember and others we do not. I've asked myself over the years why that is and it must be because we're present to the ones we remember with our entire being. Most of us remember the really good moments and the very bad. Extremes will do that. But, what about all those moments in between? When we're taking out the garbage, washing our clothes, watching television and having breakfast? We tend not to be present to the 'ordinary' or to 'routine'. And the bad experiences tend to jolt us back into the present. I think that's why they're sometimes called, 'wake up calls'. They wake us up from our slumber and our daily automatic state.

It's been argued that a newborn can't possibly remember the day they were born, that there's a reason we don't remember much between the ages of 0 and 7. The brain is wiped clean because otherwise, there would be too much memory to store. 

I remember moments right before I turned 2 years the sun hit my face and the warmth I felt, how the laughter of my mother made me happy, how the dress felt against my skin (I sensed it was a pretty dress), how happy I was while sitting on my father's gold-coloured car as someone took a pic. It was as if I was experiencing or being introduced to nature for the first time. It all felt so new to me...and there was an excitement, a curiosity about it all. I miss that kind of wonderment. I find myself having to 'turn it on' in order to be able to experience consciously looking at something from a different perspective. 

I name this an aspect of the grey zone because I didn't 'feel' colour or rather, the primary colours. The greyness here represents some sadness, fear and a dull kind of ache. Awareness of myself and my surroundings in that moment wasn't a pleasant experience. 

Splashes of colour were introduced a little later which brought so much relief. Here, the colour green is outside of my perceptual view...

Man With Gun - 11" x 14" marker on bristol vellum surface

I combined these entries because they each have shades of grey to them. I experienced a similar feeling the day I was robbed at gunpoint. The dull ache became evident. I was in a fret to get to work and in that fret over nothing, I was forced back into the present by the presence of a gun pointed at my chest. 

It was a spring morning, no one in sight except for me and the gunman. I can't tell you how many times I'd walked down this residential street with construction workers everywhere...but not that day. It was warm though cloudy and overcast. 

A mentor had asked me a little after this episode to try to think why 'this had to happen'. I've thought about it over the years and still have no answers. I've grown tired of platitudes and fake positivity. We add meaning to the things that happen to us. I'm not interested in hearing about how everything happens for a reason. It provides no comfort. I figure it's what we tell ourselves out of fear that more than this, there's 'nothing'. I believe in cause and effect, yes, but if you're going to try to explain to me that there's a divine reason for everything that happens, it doesn't ring true, not in the way it used to. And perhaps, that realization is both terrifying and liberating but that's for another post, another discussion. I just feel that it's minimizing, diminishing and invalidating to have someone else tell me how I should feel about 'my' traumatic experience. Truth is our actions have consequences and every decision we make and every action we take leads to a specific outcome. Everything is exactly how it's supposed to be, though not necessarily how we think it 'should' be.

Having said that, it doesn't mean I didn't feel or sense something in the moment that might be deemed 'divine'. My senses heightened. I could feel the whole of myself. No, my life didn't flash before me. "I" flashed before me. When they say it feels like time is standing still, that's true. A moment felt eternal, expansive, filling up the frame of my experience. I was the calmest I'd ever been. My heart was beating outside of my chest but I was present to every gesture, conscious of every movement I took, conscious of my body, how I stood, how my hands felt, the clothes against my skin...and aware of him and that gun. I was also aware of a presence on my right and my left. The best way to describe it even looking back on it now, is that I felt there were wings on either side of me...long and wide, stretching out horizontally. I could feel them out of the corner of my eye. 

Here again, I use the same colour's my depiction of peace and calm in the presence of uncertainty, doubt and fear. It represents my life. But, this 'life', this 'peace' are being threatened by the actions of another. The fear here is that the entire page will soon be covered in black...that "I" will cease to exist.

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