The Transient Nature of Feelings
– Nonfiction by Megan Schmid –
I am on the second floor of the De Young Museum in San Francisco, California, sitting on a marvelous curved, but slightly uncomfortable, wooden bench facing windows looking down onto the porch of the museum café. I was moved this morning to visit the museum, visit the Gaugin exhibit, something I have been wanting to do, but have been too busy with a life full of friends and obligations and writing. A visit to the museum inanely deemed unimportant.
My first and only previous visit to the De Young was more than two years ago, just after I had gotten sober. I was a bundle of raw and exposed feelings, distraught and overwhelmed by sadness and angst, in the very depths of my darkest depression, resuming care under a psychiatrist, and plagued by an existential crisis of faith. The recurring thought of the day, really of my life, was: what is the point, why am I alive, is there a purpose to my suffering?
I came to the De Young seeking solace, looking for beauty. I remember being absolutely underwhelmed and feeling disappointed in the experience. I viewed all the paintings from a distance, a place of miserable cynicism, until I passed one painting of sky and fields. A California landscape. It stood out to me among the entire collection. The shape of the clouds drew me in and I became captivated by a single brush stroke. One stroke that captured the force and essence of the ethereal clouds. I could feel the motion, the sweeping force of the wind across the scene. It brought me to tears. Real tears. Not the tears of self-pity, of desolation and isolation, but the tears that mean connection and belief, if only for a moment, in the divine. A direct connection to the forces of the universe, of forces much greater than myself. I left the museum with an impression of hope. If the beauty of that painting could bring about the experience of deep and pure emotion, unadulterated by fear and loneliness, then maybe I might one day feel better.
Remembering that moment now, I can feel the hopelessness that plagued me. Once again, I am crying but this time in absolute gratitude for the change that has happened in me, for relief from the crushing weight of my depression, for recovery from the self-loathing and hatred, for an ability to tap into inner resources and find peace, for deep profound joy and love for my life as it is today.
I spent time this afternoon looking for that painting of the sweeping tumultuous sky over California’s rolling hills. I can’t find it. Maybe it’s on exhibit elsewhere, loaned out to another museum. I suspect it’s still here, but that particular painting no longer has the same pull. Today, I am in a different mood and mindset, and I am moved by entirely different forces.
Today, it’s Richard Mayhew’s vibrant purple woods, Salvador Dali’s deep blues and crisp lines and Thomas Moran’s quiet still sunlight on the great expanse of the Grand Canyon that bring the tears. Tears which mean connection to the divine resonating in me, a reflection of the calm I feel in this moment in time.
About the Author – Megan Schmid
Megan Schmid is a writer and art enthusiast who currently lives in San Francisco, CA with her dog Jack.
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