When I was in my mid-30s, I looked at my life and could find no place that felt good and right. My relationships were not particularly satisfying, I was unsure of how to manage my work life so that it was stimulating but not completely anxiety-ridden, and I was tired of the relentless ruminations in my head about the whole thing. So, I went to a therapist. I had been to therapy briefly in college, but it was like going to a movie that I was too young and uneducated to understand. This time, I felt ready—to listen and to work.
I was lucky enough on this round to find Dr. Nina Krebs, whose office was in an old Victorian flat in midtown. Our first session began with her asking me what I wanted from therapy and me summarizing the whole huge mess by saying, “I just want to feel more comfortable.” For more than a decade, we would sit across from each other in that high-ceilinged, oak-floored room and talk about that anxiety, and so much more.
The most remarkable part of the process was that she could see me, and she knew how to help me navigate my inner workings. She heard me, and she understood me. All of that while maintaining a brilliantly professional distance that allowed her to share her knowledge of psychology, families, women, fear, anxiety, and depression and to help me see those things in relation to my own story. And, she did it in the quietest, wisest ways imaginable. When she retired and I headed out on the next part of my journey, I wasn’t a different person, but I felt a million times more comfortable, mostly because she had helped me to craft a whole satchel of tools to take with me to manage my own discomfort.
The same authenticity and sincerity that permeated my experience with Nina is what, no doubt, has helped her create her own new path as an artist after retirement. Part of her lifelong story has been a resonance with art and creativity. “Art always held a kind of magic for me,” she says, remembering admiring a young classmate’s renderings of pictures that adorned his lunch box. Even through many years of education, work, writing, private practice, and raising a family, she maintained an interest in creativity, eventually finding herself participating in classes and workshops in drawing, painting, and graphic arts once she was retired.
“Art always held a kind
of magic for me."
For Nina, like many of us, there is so much more to creating than just making something. A big part of it is letting ourselves do it, taking the leap into a world we long for, and trying to ignore the self-doubts that urge us not to. “I love seeing art, making it, thinking about it, learning about it, reading about it, talking about it, hearing about it, even dreaming it,” she says. “When someone likes what I do, I enjoy the feeling, but I don’t care much about that and don’t make things to please people.”
Her art has taken many forms since she retired from her career as a psychotherapist, from painting to photography to large-scale installations. Her work is rich in color and symbols and I can see, in every piece, that same gracefully placed insight that I felt when I would sit in her office and tell her about my struggles. She brings life and experience to paper, to panels, to raw materials.
"When I retired and finally had time to step into the art world," she says, "it was an amazing gift--a brand new journey. Not only is there the whole process of learning to draw and paint, but there are many dimensions related to those activities: art history, learning about materials, artists then and now and their psychology, exploring art in the world, lots of different media and art forms." As she says this, I know that it was her ability to see connections and deeper meaning that helped steer me through the intricacies of becoming an emotionally responsible adult all those years ago.
I love watching her now as she wends her way through the maze of life experience, self-concept, family obligations, connections with nature, and an oh so open road. Who knew I would still get to learn so much from her after so much time has passed? It is a reminder of the gratitude I feel for the paths I've gotten to travel, and for the endless opportunities to dream of more.
To see more of the work of Dr. Nina Krebs, go to www.ninabkrebs.com