When I was first asked to participate, I considered what frightened me.
My brain works like a kaleidoscope and I saw a swirl of colours (I recently discovered I have synesthesia – for instance I see vowels as the colour red and I hear a sound and I see a colour – you can go here if you’re interested in knowing more. Many artists have it.
So I saw (in my head) all these colours swirling together representing tangible and intangible fears.
I thought I’d start with tangible fears first.
I’m afraid of rats (and mice to a lesser degree) but rats… seriously, I have to say it boarders on paranoia! Don’t believe me? Try this for a fun fact. Some time ago I owned and lived on a farm. I had cattle, a few goats, ducks, chickens, geese, guinea fowl, even pheasants.
In the winter time, I would have to walk about ½ kilometre, cross a running creek, up a hill, to the hay shed so as I could feed the cattle.
Did I mention I hated rats? Right good. Here’s how much. In the hay shed lived a resident tiger snake. I would see it sometimes, in the summer, wriggle it’s way down from the hay shed to the creek and then head back ‘home’ to the shed. Now tiger snakes are seriously dangerous. They are in the top ten of the deadliest snakes in the world:
“The Tiger Snake… Death from a bite can occur within 30 minutes. This wide, yellow-banded snake is feared for the accuracy of its strikes. Without treatment, the fatality rate is generally around 70%. Like most other snake venoms, Tiger Snake venom causes paralysis, which may lead to respiratory failure and death.”
Got the picture?
Well I was happy to have my resident tiger snake and risk a snake bite, because this little old snake meant there were no mice or RATS in the hay shed. Like I said, fear boarding on paranoia!
So that’s a tangible fear, but the real fears are the more intangible ones.
I genuinely fear getting old, not because I fear old age; I couldn’t care less about age! But because my Nana got dementia and I saw how it began to destroy who and what she was. Worse she saw it too and could do nothing to stop it. But at least Nana had us. Mum, dad, myself and to a lesser extent, my brothers. We all looked after her – no institution for Nana! I fed, bathed and dressed her, as did mum. The thing is, I don’t, and will never have, children. So when I’m in my 70s there will be no one to feed and bathe me.
I fear one day discovering my cancer has returned; only this time, I’ll have to lose my breasts, as my mother did.
I fear I will never have a real ‘identity’ – I know this sounds bazaar, but I also know this is very common with adults who moved countries, and cultures as toddlers, as I did. I am neither truly Croatian, nor Australian and yet I am both – it’s like the worst kind of fence-sitting imaginable – does make it interesting when Australia is up against Croatia in say… The World Cup. Up side, I love being able to relate to both worlds and cultures and as far as sport goes, Australia vs Croatia – my Team always wins!
Sometimes I fear I made a mistake in giving up full-time work to pursue a full-time career as an artist/author, (with little or no financial return thus far).
I had a very well paying job. Six figures, plus bonuses and benefits – I gave it all up at the end of 2012 so I could work full-time on my art and my writing. Most of the time I don’t regret it. I love my freedom, my ‘right’ to express myself as and when the moment or inspiration strikes.
But there are days, such as when the electricity bill is so high you’re sure the decimal point is in the wrong spot, when I question my decision (and no I can’t ‘just go back to it – I was an accountant – almost three years out, basically I’d be going back to school to relearn and re-starting at an intern salary).
I’m quite straightforward and always have been. I’m very open about my bi-polar for instance. However I do have a fear people will judge me based on that, as though this one thing defines me, which it DOES NOT. I fear it because I have already lived it. “oh, really? bi-polar? So you’re… like… a schizophrenic? What, do you hear voices and stuff?” (Actually said to me from someone I’d known for almost 12-months. Someone who I thought was neither that much of a social bigot nor that ignorant. I wasn’t hiding my condition; it simply had not come up in conversation).
I fear I will be mistreated again by a (romantic) partner so therefore I fear intimacy and love. I’ve been hospitalised from domestic violence. I’ve been robbed. I’ve been mentally abused. I’ve been left penniless, and in debt. All this and more, from more than one partner so I have resolved I’m a terrible judge of romantic/sexual partner character, hence why I have been single for … years!
I fear depression.
I can handle my bi-polar swings.
I am great friends with both my ADD & OCD
I have come to terms with my scoliosis, hell! Sometimes I think my back plays up just for attention!
I have my psoriasis under control (most of the time)
But when the ‘blues’ turn to the ‘mean reds’ and they become so debilitating that I literally cannot drag myself out of bed, it is both confronting and terribly frightening. It’s like I fear life itself and nothing can remove the darkness. I have been there more than once and I truly fear that place more than anything else.
And I fear I have likely said too much here, but I know I am more fearful of ignorance. If we share our fears, perhaps we can help each other when the blackness comes.
It was suggested we could share photos or poems. I’ve decided to share two poems (and two of my original artworks that I felt represented the paintings).
Both poems are about fear and were written about 12 months ago, but the second one has a happy ending…
of one lie after another
of believing the lies; day after day, year after year
The Sting of Pain
of facing one’s fears only to discover physical fear
of a slap, skin burning, face trembling, ears ringing
of salt running down tender reddened skin
The Sting of Shame
of never ending denial
of hiding; doors closed, windows shut, body covered
of knuckles tattooed into tender skin
The Sting of lost Love
of dreams shattered and days yet to come
of thorns and thistles, inside and out
of once believing in us
— by Nikola Vukoja April 2014
My Tree, My Forest, My Fears
I stand at your gate, fear is what I feel.
I stand a moment in time, memories are what I fear.
I stand within an arms length of freedom & capture.
I stand on the edge of safety or love.
You: a tall tree.
Me: a small bird.
Within the darkened forest, you tunnel my light.
Within humming woods, your heart beats my march.
Within each stride, hope and devastation mix.
Within devastation comes rebirth.
Me: your voice.
Each: living alone.
Neither: desiring loneliness.
Among the forest of trees you stand unique.
Among the uniqueness we will thrive.
Among us will solid ground sway to our will.
Among the clouds is where we will live.
You: my shelter.
Me: the moss to keep you warm.
Each: working together as one.
Neither: complete without the other.
I walk through the gate.
I walk into the sunlight as fear frees its grip.
I walk to where frost cannot touch me.
I walk toward our future.
You: reaching for the stars.
Me: your one true star.
Each: at last free.
Neither: alone evermore.
Secure in our entwined futures.
Secure in what we share.
Secure in the past on the other side of the gate.
Secure in an endless spring of daffodils and violets.
— by Nikola Vukoja April 2014
(© All works of art in this piece belong to Nikola Vukoja and must not be reproduced without her written permission.)