I live a truly blessed life, even if lately the blessings come in contrast to the background of my existence. Much has happened since my last post here, which was about the experience of living through Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Well, it seems the winds came home with me.
Just a few weeks after I arrived, and a couple of days after coming into my building and thinking "nothing bad happens to us here, we are well" and feeling quite safe in my everyday life, we received news that our building was in violation of several city rules, and had been for years, even before we bought it. It seemed amazing that nobody, not the banks, the lawyers, the appraisers or any of the other agencies that have dealt with us for the last 20 years found these problems. We now have to make so many changes to the building that it will be like buying it again.
In the meantime we had to move to my mother in law's place and begin the slow task of dismantling our apartment. Literally tearing down whole rooms of the structure. And we had to tell some of our tenants to move and lower the rent for the remaining tenants to make up for the inconvenience of living in a building in construction. And then, the even scarier part of finding the money to do all this, since the rents are our main source of income. The base of our economic life was collapsing...
In January, as all this was happening, I sat down to plan my year. I had no idea what to plan because it is really hard to plan anything if you don't know where you'll be or what you can commit to doing. But there are at least some events I do yearly that I would still like to try to do, and there are some projects that I can do or have to do even if I don't have a studio. It was also an exercise of faith, believing that I can continue to be an artist and continue to dedicate my day to my work even through this delicate situation.
I almost lost faith, but the moment I applied to a teaching job (more out of obligation and frustration than out of passion) I was unable to sleep for a week. I didn't get the job and I was able to sleep again. The whole house situation has not made me lose sleep, so that shows me how difficult it is for me to give up on the life I have fought so hard to live.
When I came out of the stem cell transplant in 2003 (for stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma,) I was scared. I didn't know how to deal with the fear of death. So I changed my life. It was difficult and a process of surrender that lasted many years. I exchanged economic success as an editor of educational textbooks and college professor for life, health and creativity.
I am too sensitive. Negative environments hurt me. My need to pursue a life of spiritual creativity is the part of my life that truly keeps me going now that my son is all grown up. But I guess I needed a little challenge to make sure I still appreciated the fact that I life a beautifully blessed life.
At the time I was planning 2018, one day I felt particularly defeated in my thinking, and in an effort to fix that thinking, I wrote: "My ideal existence includes a sunny studio to paint Mary Magdalene and create beautiful things. I spend my days working quietly and leave behind all anxiety and worry, desire and obsession. My days flow without interruption. I have healthy meals and go for walks." The rest of the writing was not as visionary, but this little part was the wish I held in that moment.
Just a little later, a friend asked me what was happening and I told her about the house situation and she said: "I want to help you" and offered to lend us the money we need to do the repairs. I couldn't speak or think properly for about three days. I was in a shock of gratitude.
Then it seems my mind started working again and an idea occurred to me. Back in December my father had mentioned that he might lose his house. He doesn't live there at this moment, but it seemed to me it was a great loss because he basically put everything into that little house. And I thought, why not save it and use it as my new studio? Since I don't really have a place to live and work right now (I'm still at a worktable in my house but it will very soon have to go...), I could just move there with my equipment to paint a show titled The Dark Magdalene that will be exhibited at the Bronx Music Heritage Center in mid May. (And then go back in June for a longer stay.)
Once I thought about that idea and started acting on it, the little miracles began happening. My dad was very happy to accept my offer to buy his house "without money", so I'll be covering the expenses to fix the situation worth a couple of months of rent in NYC. Since I didn't have the money because I invested everything in my house in NYC, I wasn't sure how I was going to do this. But Mary Magdalene helped me.
A man, Martin, contacted me through 3 different sites asking about a painting of Mary Magdalene. He bought Surrender (above). He wanted to give it to his wife for their 25th anniversary. It was not a lot of money, but it put a lot of joy in my heart to be part of such a beautiful gesture.
Then, a woman from Spain, Inma of Instituto Badia in Barcelona, ordered Mary Magdalene's Heart through my Etsy store. I don't know Inma, but I am so grateful to her! And to Martin!
And to Marianne! Because a few days after Inma, I received a message from PayPal telling me that Marianne, a school principal in Long Island, New York, ordered Mary Magdalene Holding a Sunflower. She said that the painting will be placed where the children can see it. I am so happy and grateful for this opportunity to have my painting of Mary Magdalene in a school.
I have to say that it is always amazing and a great joy when I get this kind of order. I am so grateful to the person for their trust that I will come through with my promise to send them a painting they have not seen in person! So with this 3 paintings I was able to pay for the taxes on the property. I am still amazed. And I am hopeful.
Since then, collectors and friends (and friends who are collectors) have helped by buying pieces they like. Little by little I am putting together a small fund to paint Mary Magdalene in Puerto Rico. By New York standards it is very small, but it will be a great help in Puerto Rico.
I will go to Puerto Rico to paint my new exhibition dedicated to Mary Magdalene. I hope people will like it and I hope I can continue to honor Mary Magdalene through painting her and that she will continue to guide me and help me in this path. It is hard to trust that everything will be well, but I see these experiences as miracles that remind to trust and provide what I most need, faith, space and the peace I need to stay healthy.
If all goes well, I will leave at the end of March or early April, once my entire apartment is cleared and ready for continuing the construction. I look forward to painting Mary Magdalene in the way my words wished for. I look forward to living in a quiet place, and I look forward to a new life. Even if it is just temporarily!
I send all my love and gratitude for your presence in my life! (For Mary Magdalene and for YOU!)