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Giving Yourself the Gift of Becoming Who You Are

by Suzanne O'Neil

fill the spach

Suzanne O'Neil

When Donna Gail suggested I might author this column (only six a year, she promised) with the title “Becoming,” I agreed without hesitation (was it without hesitation, or did I hem and haw, bluster and blather?). I may be lying when I say I jumped at the chance - I probably tried to talk myself (and her) out of it, but she is and remains persistent.

And besides, I think of myself as a writer, among other things, so I had a bunch of ideas about how to write on the topic of “Becoming.” I wrote the first article, The One That Got Away, about how I became the man of my dreams…or more to the point, I became convinced that I already was the spiritual warrior with the heart of a poet I’d been looking for all my life, and what’s better than that?


However, at what is perhaps the busiest time of year, I suddenly found myself without a single idea in my head with a deadline looming and wondered why I ever agreed to this.


Unfortunately, Donna Gail reminded me that when you are a columnist, not writing your column is simply not an option. She had suggested I write about why we chose to title the column "Becoming." Days turned into weeks, and still no column.

Donna Gail and I had discussed it all: how the word "becoming" was suggestive of the process of metamorphosis and transformation; how another of its definitions involves appearance and behavior deemed attractive or appropriate (how many times have we heard about behavior unbecoming for a lady?); how it connects to personal growth and development. It's just what we do everyday. We are constantly becoming...something. But I didn't want to write about that.

I kept wrestling with the deadline and finally decided what I wanted to do was tell you how I became an artist - because it becomes the story of how I became myself.

For years while I was married, I tried over and over to be creative while being frugal (and playing small, have I mentioned playing small?). These tactics - both the frugality and smallness - did not serve me well. Artists need a kind of abundance, even if it’s only in their own soul and spirit, a kind of
lush room to grow in order to thrive, and neither of those were part of my marriage, sadly.

Besides, I didn’t wholeheartedly embrace any kind of artistic path, or even really identify with being an artist. It wasn’t until years later, after the divorce and after I did some major internal overhauling of my psyche, that I picked up artistic tools again.

The knowledge that Wow-I'm-An-Artist kind of snuck up on me, in the form of paintbrushes left in the bathroom and kitchen sinks, or idly drying on the counter in the kitchen rack. One day I just saw them (as if the canvases and easel in my bedroom weren’t clue enough). A little voice inside said, “Oh. This is unusual. Most people don’t have paintbrushes just lying around. Hmmm…yeah, I guess I’m an artist.”


It took even longer for me to say “Yes!” when someone asked if I’m an artist.

It was as if, for weeks, maybe months, I was secretly embracing this new identity on a subconscious level, and one day I just kind of woke up to the fact that it was ME leaving these things around, ME who was painting and cutting and glueing, ME who was making these fun projects that were bold and bright enough to hang on the wall. And although I’m not making a
living as an artist, I am making a life as one, and I think you can tease out the difference. I have to live in a way that is authentic and real and lush and abundant and colorful and energetic and FULL. Art gives me a way into all that, a kind of freedom I never had before.

Once I finally relaxed into the idea of being an artist - and started becoming who I was and really had always been - it still took awhile to really know what kind of artist I am (besides a messy one). I now realize I am a mixed media
artist (not to be confused with a multi-media artist). I use paper, fabric, paint, ink, beads, found objects, lettering, pastels, colored pencils, markers, leaves, seeds, twigs, moss, hornet’s nest. In short, anything and everything has gone into my work.


Because it is in my nature to do this, the work of my art feels like play (when you find work that feels like play, I believe you've figured out a part of who you are and what you were born to do. I feel truly blessed to be fully myself, to be able to express myself without fear (most of the time) and just to PLAY.

And I feel even more blessed because when I moved in with my carpenter boyfriend a few months ago, guess what he built for me?

Suzanne lives with the love of her life in Bedford, Massachusetts (the Little State That Could). I like to joke that she is our token blonde, but she says she's not technically a blonde anymore. Suzanne loves laying on sun- warmed boulders by the sea, yoga and hot tea first thing in the morning. Suzanne adores her sons and granddaughter. She is a mixed media artist, a trained Soul Collage facilitator, a poet, and one of the God-mad. She has a real job. She is one of life's frequent miracles and is absolutely convinced the best is yet to come. 

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