“…Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”
One of my favorite classes as an IAD major has been Art History. I can’t say the earliest art spoke to my soul because of its primitive nature (though I have a much better appreciation for it now). I loved it when we got to the Renaissance. All of these amazing thinkers that were combining science and architecture with fine arts. The jump in detail and realistic qualities was astounding. We progressed through a few more periods and I was getting very excited about coming up on the Romantic era.
My vision was that of beautiful gowns on the women with porcelain skin. The luminous qualities I was coming to enjoy during the late Renaissance would surely find a way to express itself in a new way. Gorgeous figures and concepts entwined with each other in various expressions of love is what I expected.
What I got was almost macabre. I felt like I was on a Sunday drive and the passenger randomly reached over and pulled the E brake. What was all of this dark shadows, blood, grief, and demons? Then there were images done in such loose strokes I thought perhaps we were revisiting Impressionism again. What was going on?
The reality of Romanticism was nothing like I had imagined, not the bulk of it anyway. It had its moments. A great deal of it was about internal struggle and the somber side of humanity. Images were often distorted, shadowed, and dealt with heavy subject matter.
Although Romanticism wasn’t anything like what I expected it to be, it was a very real part of the human condition. It was an unapologetic and unveiled look at very real fears, insecurities, and circumstances that we grapple with as humans. With no disguise much of the subject matter is a slap in the face. For those of us who are unwilling to accept the uglier side of truth…we often return to what we find to be…beautiful, saccharine if necessary.
Living in Domestic Abuse and Violence is much the same way. So many victims romanticize what they are living in, trying desperately to make the appalling palatable, beautiful even. We tend to try to adopt this Hollywood version of “stand by your man” attitude. If we just try harder, dig our heals in deep, this monstrous reality will someday be the resplendent life of the American Dream. If we throw enough of our illusions at the facts of our existence we won’t notice; the holes in the wall, the shut off notices from the utilities, lack of furniture, emulsification of self-esteem, violent threats, worn and limited clothing, or the children cowering in the corner. Perseverance through the filth and destruction of what is, so that we may gain the promise of what could be, is our drive. Victims cling to this deception like it was the last plank keeping them from drowning in the ocean of failure.
There is nothing romantic about it. Stop. Stop thinking it will ever be anything other than what it is. There is nothing “Do or Die” about this particular cause. It is just die, emotionally or physically. This hopeless daydream that we try to manifest into reality is an act of futility. All that truly occurs is we grow into a distorted and crippled version of what we could be. If there are children involved we nurture them to follow in our footsteps.
I say this with deep compassion and understanding to victims, stop feeding your illusions. Try not to romanticize the abuse and violence you live in. Clean your canvas. Paint a new life as beautiful, peaceful, and inspiring as you have dreamed it to be one brush stroke at a time.