With Or Without Paper

This week I received some rather rattling medical news and although the biospy results are not back yet,it is possible a lesion on my arm was a form of skin cancer. Most of my life this sort of information would only have been shared with a few close friends and family… but I am changing. I know that more than ever the painting process is helping me to navigate through deep,strange waters and I want to share this with as many people as possible. I want to share because I know how this process is impacting my life and maybe it could help someone else too.

Lately, it would seem, I have been repeatedly asked to sit with not knowing what something is, where it is going and seriously NOT liking how that feels. How funny (?) that this is EXACTLY what is happening in my current painting. The images coming this time have felt murky and heavy. They are less familiar to me and so there is a feeling of discomfort whenever I disengage from the process. It has been a great challenge just to show up in front of the painting and be with what wants to come. I would much rather tear it off the wall and start something new and familiar. But I don’t. I stay. I feel and I paint. The times I am fully engaged in painting and choose to breathe with the moment and the color connecting from brush to paper are what keep me coming back. And these moments are what get me through not knowing what is going to happen next in my life when I’m not painting.

Sitting in the exam room at the doctor’s office,I remember the studio and how it feels to be fully present in my painting with the sun shining through the window and the feel of the brush in my hand. I understand again that life can be like a painting. I may not know where it is leading or even what it is. The images may be unfamiliar and scary to me and that’s ok. I notice everything in the moment and decide to practice not getting caught up in thoughts about things that haven’t even happened yet. I take a deep breath and notice as I exhale.

This process has helped me through the toughest times of my life. Painting has taught me how to stay and remain present through my mother’s five year fight with Alzheimer’s disease and my father’s rapid death from cancer. There were times I would worry about the next step of the disease with my parents wondering if I would be able to make it without crumbling. When I chose to be present with what was unfolding, miracles happened. Laughing with my father as we all sat on his bed the night of my birthday 4 days before he died, I chose to be present. I found true joy in our conversation and realized maybe for the first time how brillant and blue his eyes were.

There is a sweetness that happens when you let go and surrender to what is. I know for a fact without painting in my life I would have missed  some of the most important moments with my parents in their final weeks and years. Painting has given me a tool I can use with or without paper. Painting has taught me courage and peace in present moment awareness.

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