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March 2011
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Anxiety and Oil Paint

I woke up this morning in hard-core problem solving mode. This means that I am impatient with emotional reactions. I just want to brush emotion aside and pick the most likely path to success. Kiki has an art project this week. She decided to use oil paint for the project despite the fact that she has never used oil paints before. She doesn’t know how they work. I don’t know how they work other than the fact that they are harder to clean up and they take a long time to dry. She base coated a board yesterday and it was still tacky this morning, despite having sat in front of a warm air source last night. I desperately wanted to say “I told you so” and make her use water color instead. She went off to school with all her oil painting supplies and the board.

My problem solving mode was triggered by anxiety. For me anxious thoughts often break loose from their specific causes. It becomes a free-floating feeling that seeks to attach itself to whatever passes by. There are many responses to anxiety. One of them is to pull back, to play it safe. This reduces anxiety by staying comfortably in a place where risk is minimized. The response I prefer is to stare the Anxiety down. I’ll look it in the eyes and say to myself “I see you, but I’m going to go do this thing I want to do anyway. I’ll curl into a ball and cry later.” Yes I do have to curl and cry, but by that time I’ve already accomplished something.

I really wanted Kiki to play it safe with this art project. I wanted her to switch to water-color which is familiar and predictable. My head is a-swirl with many anxious thoughts and I wanted to reduce the count by one. A Kiki art-related meltdown is guaranteed to rearrange my day. The teacher doesn’t care what medium is used for the project. I care that my daughter learns the things she needs, and she needs to learn oil paint at some point, but it could be a different week. I would love for it to be a different week. Except, Kiki wants to face down her fears and meet this challenge now. And so I let her, even though it makes me anxious.

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