The Anti-Ode: Letter To My Paint Brush

You’re Awful and I find it hard to utter any words of even affable appreciation. We’ve never seen eye to eye, I’ve had a history of hating you, and in most cases the best idea for such a toxic relationship would be to end it. Simple as that. Cut and Dry. But, walking away from you would mean quitting it all. Giving up on fighting, on pushing, on loving, on faith, on family, on surviving. It would mean tossing in the towel completely on hope, turning my back on sacred vows I made to the man I love, and letting your failures conquer my spirit.

As a society we OBSESS over you. Are you skinny enough, toned enough, flat enough, round enough, plump enough, tan enough, long enough, lean enough, will you ever be ENOUGH? You’re like this never ending homework assignment, a constant project that we are never ready to turn in. If we could just make one more tweak or one more tuck- when really you’re supposed to be our vessel, our instrument. With you we compose our opus, with you we traverse across our lives. You enable us to reach each destination, to encounter every individual, to witness the good with the bad, the miracles along with the mundane. You are our paintbrush and it is with you that we paint our masterpiece. Our life is this giant, beautiful blank canvas, and our BODY is not a project but a paintbrush.

And yet like I said, you’re awful. You’ve never worked. You’ve never painted one decent stroke. I don’t even know if you have one decent ass bristle. It is like I ran downstairs on Christmas morning with all the rest of mankind and under the Christmas tree, down on bended knee, Santa Claus presented every boy and girl with their custom paintbrush. In mahogany boxes, there lay, on a bed of the finest silk, the most beautiful paintbrushes. Made with natural bristles from the hair of a horse with a sterling silver ferrule collecting all the bristles together, and a hand carved handle formed from the finest wood, etched with each owner’s name in gold.

And then I saw mine- it was sitting in a red Solo cup in the corner of the room. The cup filled with a mixture of dried up Elmer’s Glue, cheap finger paint, glitter, scraps of construction paper, and my yellow plastic paintbrush with a slit down the middle. The synthetic bristles, made of polyester (not even nylon), were hard as a rock because the brush had been left to dry up with the remnants of that plastic cup. I tried to pull the brush from the cup, I had to yank it so forcefully that the plastic cup ripped and now a piece of plastic is stuck to the end of what remains of the bristles. Half are stick straight, the other half have dried with red paint in them and are sticking in every which direction- like the paintbrush either stuck its finger in an electrical outlet or got struck by lightening. However, gaging by the crack slicing through its plastic handle, I’ll go with the latter and say lightening had it’s hay day with my paintbrush.

My paintbrush bothers me. While others are painting strokes of genius, creating families, dipping their toes in the sand while jet-setting here and there, and quite simply maybe just doing the 9-5, my foul paintbrush struggles to take a shower. We are not painting a masterpiece. We are not even putting brush to canvas. Right now, no art is being made. While in theory, I like the idea that we make our bodies our paintbrush and our lives our masterpiece- my paintbrush has failed me, way too many times to count.

With everything in me, I want to quit you. I want to walk away and be done. You are painful. You are way too much work. Even when I force a smile or briefly open up to someone about how hard you make my life, I still downplay how hard you are to be trapped in. There is no one who understands how much I despise you more than me. As women we are told to praise our bodies. For our hips that allow us to carry babies. I’m barren. For our arms that cook and feed our families. I’m too weak to stand up that long without passing out. For our chests that give our children a soft place to be comforted. Wrong again.

Yet, here I am and here you are. We are still here, against all odds. Here is what I can say- You are merely my frame. I give you no credit for my heart and for my soul. I am stuck with you until Heaven and I pray that in the time between now and then, my eyes will see enough beauty, my hands will hold enough grace, my feet will stand on enough truth, and my ears would hear enough laughter to balance the tears. This is the anti-ode. The only accolade I can give you is that you’ve won many battles, but in my mind I think that’s a toss up between the one who’s fighting and the weapon that soldier chooses to bring into the war- and between me and you, I’m going to grab my heart and soul before I reach for my paintbrush any day.