I Am Afraid of Monkeys

I have a confession.

Until very recently- I was afraid of monkeys.

That's right, the person who is now painting a gibbon face that's larger than her own head was creeped out by monkeys, apes, and any other vaguely similar being. (Except lemurs- I could get down with lemurs- those tails!) In fact, since starting my gibbon painting, the thing I have heard the most from my friends back home is some variation of:

"Why are you painting a gibbon? You hate monkeys!"

(P.S. I now know a gibbon is not a monkey- but until October of last year- I didn't know and quite frankly, I didn't care to know.)

So, how did I recover from my pithecophobia?

PictureTuk and her baby Howard. Photo used with permission from the Gibbon Conservation Center. I recovered with the help of Animal Communication and Tuk, a pileated gibbon living at the Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita, CA.

Here's the story:

My work as an animal communicator informs my art (and vice versa!) all the time. When I am painting an animal, my goal is to give the viewer a look into the magic that is within that animal. As an animal communicator, my goal is to paint a verbal picture of the animal that gives the animal's person a look into the magic that is within that animal. It's all connected.

Even so...

I never thought it would connect me to a primate in such a magical way.

I was at a weekend workshop with my mentor, Joan Ranquet, and we were scheduled to visit the Gibbon Conservation Center on that Sunday. I was not really looking forward to it, because "ew, monkeys", but I was determined to be professional and put my bias aside.

Before we left, I heard from a woman named Wendy- an anthropologist, a fellow student of Joan's, and a volunteer with orangutans and other primates. She spoke of these beings with such wonder and love (as well as letting me know the difference between a monkey and a gibbon), that it started to crack my resolve to not like them. This was just the beginning.

When we arrived at the Gibbon Conservation Center, we were to speak with a family group of pileated gibbons. We were each assigned a family member and I ended up with Tuk, the matriarch.

As I spoke with her, my defenses fell as I connected with her deeply- as a fellow being and as a mother. I learned that she sees her children in much the same way as I do- with love, devotion, and occasional conflictedness. How could I fear and dislike someone who was so much like me? Tuk taught me so much that day- which is why one of the first of my paintings dedicated to conservation is of her and her new baby. As a thank you to her for teaching me more about myself and about life.

For, in the end, isn't most fear about the unknown? It is easier to remain in fear about 'the other' than to get close enough to learn about them.

I freely admit that if I didn't HAVE to as a part of my workshop- I would probably not have gone out of my way to learn more about primates- or get close enough to see them the way I see all other animals...because remaining in fear is easier.

It was a powerful lesson and one I am so grateful to have received.

So here's to you, Tuk, and to mentors who push us out of our comfort zones- and into powerful transformation.

Have you had an instance where learning more or going deeper with something changed your life? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!