In the very beginning of our marriage we discovered how difficult it could be, to be two people in charge of the same thing. With two different personalities and sets of ideas it could be hard to cooperate if the issue seemed equally important to both of us. We talked this over again and again – both wanting to work things out so that the other one did not end up feeling ignored or overruled. But often the result was dissatisfying.
One day my husband came home with a large canvas and some paint and paintbrushes. He said he had an idea that he wanted to try out.
He set up the canvas in the study and explained his plan. He said that our problem seemed to be that we had difficulties making room enough for two in decisions that had limited “space”, each one of us taking up so much space that the other couldn’t fit it. Now, he said, this canvas is a physically limited area and the idea is that we paint it together and see if we can make a painting that is OUR painting but at the same time leaves room for both of us as individuals.
The rules were that we took turns painting and that we weren’t allowed to comment each others work except to other people if we wanted to.
When painting you had to paint until you were ready to hand over the turn, but the other person had the right to wait as long as wanted until starting his turn, so that there’d be time to look and think and get ideas.
We each had a little notebook to write down thoughts, ideas and comments about the painting.
The project lasted for half a year and was both a learning experience and fun. None of us are artists, but that didn’t matter. In the beginning it was very clear who had painted what – the choice in colors were different, the shapes and patterns were different – one tried to paint figuratively and the other one was abstract etc. But as time passed the painting slowly transformed. We got better at seeing the potential in the other persons work and try to work with that potential instead of just focusing on what we had in mind earlier. In the end we had a painting that made us both very proud – not because it’s a sublime piece of art, which it isn’t – but because it’s a painting that proves that two sets of ideas and thoughts can fit together perfectly when you try.
The painting is now hanging on the wall next to our bed, reminding us to not stubbornly hold on to original views and ideas, but to listen and work with what is already there and what is provided along the line in a discussion or conflict of some sort.
The notebooks were fun to read when we switched them and read each others comments – not surprisingly they showed the mental process – from being filled with plans and ideas about what to do next (in the beginning) to being comments that showed sensitivity for the other persons work and possible ideas.
It was a speechless conversation on canvas that brought us closer together and we have found that sometimes creative expressions talk louder than words.
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