Sabotage in 3 Steps



In March, I turned into an enormous bull with fire in my heart. The first time I knocked something down, I became enraged that it was in the way. The more hostile I became, the more I swung my big horns, ignoring the glass that cut as it crashed around me. Finally, snorting, tired, broken, I find myself whole again. Thank God I haven’t done much damage — just a little to my ego, which needed a little light and a little air. Redemption is hard.

Now that the worst is over, I have written down the three things I must make sure to do if I ever feel compelled to sabotage myself again:

1) Keep perfection as the ideal.

I’d become convinced that there was no time to question, no room to understand or study — that I needed to be perfect…and now, too. The only thing that saved me from myself was a painting I hated. The one below and to the right:

This is the way it looked as I ran to and from the laundry room during January, February and March.

More Quince

More Quince

It was boring — I’d already done one quince, what was I thinking that the world needed two? It sat all at once calling out for my attention and taunting me with its imperfections. It was flat and cartoon like.

2) Stop listening — especially to your gut.

This rule of self-sabotage is related to the first. Learning begins with listening and when I told myself that I had no time to learn, I had no time to listen.

When I finally said to myself, “Sit the hell down and do not touch anything else until you can breathe, see clearly, and listen to some sense,” I came back to this canvas. I listened to my gut, which was telling me to wreck the painting. So I did.

Air and Light

Air and Light

First, I added a big ugly hand. I added a sky. In twenty-twenty hindsight, it was my hand, reaching for self-knowledge. Boy, did I need air and light.

Then, I added color. I added a lot of magenta — the color of fire, of passion. On second thought — no. I scrubbed it out. Purple! Yes? No. What was it that was wrong?


Forget air and light. Red! More red!

No red?  Purple?

No red? Purple?

3) Let your emotions rule.

Really looking and seeing

Really looking and seeing

What was wrong was the leaf. I loved, loved, loved that leaf (the hours I had spent on it — the blending, the color!) I wanted to keep it, tried to keep it, worried what would happen when I got rid of it. But when I started to observe it without emotion, I could really see it.

Painting over the leaf gave me the gift of darkness and the truth that comes from contrast on the canvas. I began painting the negative rather than the positive, working into higher and higher contrast.

Finally, I let go of perfection. I was seeing and feeling. It speaks my truth. Fulfilled.

In this season of rebirth, what imperfect truth do you fulfill?

From darkness, the truth of contrast

From darkness, the truth of contrast





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