The year 2020 tested our humanity in so many different ways. There were a lot of us who felt that 2020 was a painful year full of sadness, disappointment, and uncertainty. Even I found myself wondering when things would get better after my company of nearly a decade let me and thousands of others go. There were deep insecurities that came with losing my job. Was it something I had done wrong? Was it that I didn't work hard enough? And as these thoughts and insecurities surfaced I found myself falling deeper and deeper into despair. I wouldn't go out, I would sleep long hours. I wouldn't eat some days.
And the world seemed to move in my same direction. As the crisis around the globe grew, I felt myself feel worse and worse. About the world, about myself, about everything.
I knew I had to find a way out of this low, but it felt like there were no options. No options, until, I started to seek the wisdom of the past and the hope of a future.
I remember walking through my house and seeing all over the walls, my father's paintings. Paintings created in a time in his life when everything seemed hopeless from a place that resembled a hell on earth.
I never really understood why he painted, or his need to send these paintings to me. They were beautiful, absolutely, but that he would make so many and so often puzzled me.
Yet, in my despair I started to look at these paintings in a new light. I saw the vibrancy of his colors. I saw freedom, hope, and love eternal. All made from circumstances that I could never even begin to imagine surviving.
I figured that I may as well give it a shot. After all what was there to lose?
I began to paint. Alone at first. And while it was wonderful to see myself complete tasks and finish a painting, there still felt like there was something missing. That nagging despair persisted and a tie to a greater purpose wasn't there.
That changed when my grandson wandered into my room and asked me what I was doing. When I explained to him I was painting, he asked if he could join me. I finished a painting while he watched and asked after I was done, "What do you think?"
His response will stay with me for the rest of my life, "Wow, that's amazing!"
We began to paint together. First we would paint on the same canvas and soon he was doing his own, screwing up his face into focus and doing his best. Both of us using my father's paintbrushes he'd sent to us.
And in the midst of my darkness I found a way to self-heal. Art saved me. I prayed everyday for God to heal me and take away the inner sadness I had inside. He answered my prayers. I slowly started to pull myself out of this place. My grandson and I would paint for hours. There were days I found it so hard to get out bed but my grandson would knock on my door and say to me "C'mon grandma. Lets paint."
I needed that push. He pushed me to paint. When he finished his first painting he turned to me and asked, "What you think?"
It was the most beautiful thing in the world to me. To see him work hard, to see his pride in his hard work. To share that moment with him. To see him form a love of art that he could take through the rest of his life. It filled me with such joy to hang up his painting on the wall next to my father's work.
It suddenly became clear to me.
It became clear why my father would send me his paintings and asked what I thought. It became clear what it all means to a wounded heart to hear someone say they liked your work. It became clear what it means when you see that you've inspired another to go forward with something they'd never done before. It became clear what the meaning of hope in dire circumstances was as I looked at my grandson's painting next to my own, next to my father's.
After hanging up the paintings, I called my dad to tell him what his great-grandson had accomplished, using his paintbrushes, with his grandmother by his side.
The wheels started to turn in my head. With time and the help of this outlet I began to heal. Perhaps there was a way to bring this same healing to others. I started to also paint with one of my former Casa kiddos. I started to paint for grieving parents and giving them my work. I felt like my art could, in some small way, be a part of the healing process. I felt that bringing others the happiness art gave me, would perhaps help others climb out of the despair created by this turbulent and trying year.
A great writer once said that it was easy to create. You just had to bleed onto the page.
In my early days of despairing I found myself agreeing. It felt like the bleeding from my injured heart fueled so much of the work when I began to paint.
Now, I'm not so sure. I'm not so sure in the need for pain with my grandchild next to me leading the way toward a bright future. I'm not sure of despair being the way toward a more hopeful tomorrow as we held my father's wisdom in his paintbrushes, guiding our hands toward creation. Perhaps the wound can be the catalyst toward creation. It could be the first paints to a canvas, certainly, but as I go further along my journey, I've come to see the act of painting less as blood pouring and more like a salve on the wound. In that way, art doesn't have to be a continuation of pain or letting a wound continue to remain open. It could be the passing of tradition from one generation to the next. It could be that meeting point of past and future coming to our present to heal the wounds of sadness that can cause us to succumb to the worst of feelings and thoughts.
And with each stroke of that healing brush, we might see a better future for ourselves, and for this world. I hope I can deliver that healing brush that pulled me out of despair to all of you.