In painting portraits, one of the greatest joys for me is the process of letting go of the preconceived ideas about the person sitting before me; and discovering, or experiencing deep love for this person.
The experience of loving others is a powerful and defining force in my life. The love I feel for my children leads me to work, sacrifice and change my plans in order to benefit their lives and needs. This love I have for them brings me wonderful pleasure and profound memories. I find great fulfillment in loving others. The love of a place or country, of beauty or for a cause, are other ways in which I find energy to live, and the essence of meaning.
On the other side of this experience and force in my life is the experience of receiving love. I find it very difficult to love someone - as opposed to receiving love from someone. In fact, I think there are times when I love or give to others in order to avoid receiving love from them. If I can give first, or most, then I will be protected from actually having to receive love myself. Or, if I do receive from them, then it is felt justified or earned because I have given them at least as much. And yet I harbor a deep longing to be loved, just loved (not an earned love) all the while fearing the actual experience of such fulfillment.
It is great to take someone’s picture or paint them; but, to have my picture painted or taken is much harder. I am a great critic of my own looks, the way I sound on tape, or the way I appear on film. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that someone could truly love me. I can more easily accept criticism than praise, and this, I feel, comes from the fear of having to receive. I have more power when I can be the giver. But can I really give when underneath I am longing to receive myself?
I am coming to believe that this struggle to be loved, this difficulty in probably even being able to love myself, is why I have trouble changing my diet and losing weight, or exercising as I should or caring for the way I look. So often I struggle for more will power to gain control of my life, and then fail again and again. It is dawning on me that perhaps it is the openness to be loved and loving my self, and experiencing the undying love of God that is the root of finding the power to change myself.