If you’ve read my previous blogs or know me well enough, then you will know that I have spent much of my life working to overcome the negative and unkind narrative that for most of my life I bought into. That’s what happens though, right? We believe what we are told about ourselves when it is said enough times? At least that is what happened with me, and while I still struggle at times to shake the negative voices and false narratives about my own self and abilities, I proudly recognize that I have come a long way. It is through my darkest times that I have been able to find much of my inspiration, though I never had the confidence to materialize it. It was not until I met my beacon of light in the darkness, who taught me to channel the dark and use it to pull me out of the muck of self doubt, despair, and discouragement. Let me introduce you to this beacon-her name is Patty. She is my beloved brother Mark’s wife, and is a woman who has been my biggest cheerleader, supporter, and the most positive voice I’ve ever had in my life. I call her whenever I’m down and it always turns into laughter. She is a creative force in this world, who brings joy to all those who have to have the great opportunity to know her. Not only is she a dancer, writer, and artist, but she is also one of the most fun, free, and hilarious people I have ever encountered. She always has some kind of project that she’s working on, whether it’s cooking, creating, exploring, you name it. She’s the voice that I wish I had in my ears all along, prodding me to chase every single one of my creative ideas.
There are endless wonderful things that I can say about Patty and she is deserving of all the recognition I can give to her. But out of all these things...one of them is especially profound for me-for both of us. All my life, I wanted to learn how to paint-so when Patty came to visit me in Portland in 2011, we took a trip to the art store. Being inside, I felt like I was a kid in a candy shop. I could have easily spent an entire day walking up and down the aisles, drooling and intimidated by my surroundings-a world I only ever dreamt about. As we perused the painting supplies, she pointed out some decent starter brushes and a tablet of canvas paper to begin with and we headed back to my house to play.
Back at my house, we covered the kitchen table with newspaper and the art lesson began. She ran through the basics with me, which essentially boiled down to…squeeze some acrylic paint onto your palette, dip your brush into water, and then into the paint. “And here comes the tricky part…are you watching?” she asked facetiously, as she swiped a streak of paint across the canvas,“That’s painting.” And with that, Patty left me to my painting for a little while. A short while later, she returned to check in on my progress, curious to see what I had created. I had painted a bowl of fruit and she was blown away by it. I was taken aback by her reaction. She watched in fascination as I painted and wondered, “How have you never done this before?” Her reaction to what I had created brought me so much joy, because it was the first time that anyone had taken the time to not only notice my talents, but also encourage them. Experiencing Patty’s affirmations, praise, and support produced a feeling unlike anything I had experienced before. I absolutely ate up her positive feedback, rolled around in it like a happy puppy in the grass, I relished it. After that, I couldn’t stop painting. I would paint flowers, fruit, plants-I took over the whole kitchen table with all of my paintings. I started buying canvases as large as I could get and painting huge lilies, feeling inspired everywhere I went, everything suddenly became my next painting. Patty believing in me, made me feel unstoppable!
Patty is the reason I began painting, I’m not sure whether I would have ever started if it weren’t for her. She has brought a part of me to the surface that maybe would never have seen the light and I am forever grateful for that. Over the years since Patty first taught me to paint, she has taught me a lot about myself, but also some very useful tricks of the trade. One of these tricks was not to waste any left over paint on my palette once I had finished a painting. Instead, she taught me to always use it to make something else. I really like what this symbolizes; taking what you have left over and making it into something it wasn’t originally intended to be...something unique and beautiful from scratch. The first time I created something using the leftover paint on my palette, she bought it.
Patty once expressed to me, “The freedom that you seem to have when you paint is something that I wish I could find too-it’s amazing but it’s difficult to get to that state.” I do find freedom in painting and in creating anything for that matter, but I have to give much of the credit to Patty for being able to find this level of freedom. I admire Patty for the solid gold heart that she has and the way that so many things appear to come effortlessly for her. I remember one time, Patty wanted to paint something together, and while I enjoyed every moment laughing a collaborating on canvas with her-it was a strange feeling, sharing my vulnerable creative space with another person. I am not sure that I could ever share that side of me with anyone else. Patty is on a whole other level of comfort and safety for me. I had a pretty great initiation into the world of painting, which has opened me up to so much more.
Years ago, I became very ill and took respite at Patty and Mark’s straw bail house that they built from scratch on an air strip. Being a pilot, this suits my brother well. While I was there, I was able to enjoy so many moments with both my brother and Patty. One of which was getting to experience a celestial show of falling stars against the pitch black November sky, something my brother refers to as “the cockpit of the starship enterprise.” During my visit we had bon fires every night and shared many great moments as I took the time I needed to heal. It was easy to heal at Patty and Mark’s home. Not only is Patty’s presence a safe haven; but so is the home she and Mark created. I call it Patty’s Beautiful World (PBW). Her creative and loving touch is on every inch of their home, it is a warm place that has a way of making anyone feel welcome.
Patty doesn’t call me her sister-in-law, she calls me her sister. That’s what I am to her and that’s what she is to me. I believe that Patty was put in my life on purpose. When you find people who love, respect, support, and accept you for exactly who you are...keep them close-they are gifts. I truly hope that everyone has the opportunity to find their own Patty; someone like her to lift them up when they need it the most, just as she has done for me and continues to do. I am forever grateful for her.