Art: The Greatest Version of Ourselves


Contributed by Aimee Hofmann

Gold at the End of the Rainbow
The scariest yet most exhilarating thing about life is waking up in the morning.  We actually never know if we’ll have an ordinary day, or the type of day that changes our lives forever.

I’ve had so many ordinary days in my life.  But, one day in October of 2006, my day became anything but ordinary. Within hours of waking up I found myself lying in a hospital bed unable to feel or move my legs.  I was diagnosed with sudden on-set Transverse Myelitis -- an inflammation of the spinal cord -- that paralyzed me from the T10 vertebrae of the spine.  The doctor said, “You may never walk again.”  

It stabbed me in the stomach like a knife.

When a person is not born disabled and then suddenly becomes disabled, they go through stages of grief similar to the death of a loved one. There are moments of anger, some panic attacks, any number of meltdowns, fears like you’ve never felt before, shock, denial, numbness…you name it.   

Visitors try to make you feel better, and while you’re thankful for the flood of support, it often becomes overwhelming.  Well-meaning advice and comfort were often inadvertently filled with Shoulds: You should be feeling grateful.  You should stay positive.  You should be strong and hopeful. You should be looking towards the future and concentrating on getting better. You should be adaptable. 

Thirteen years later I am proud to say that I’ve achieved all those “should” attitudes over time – but it didn’t happen overnight.   It took years of hard work, processing, a lot of internal work, and believe it or not… a lot of painting!

"Canvas has no judgement ." 
The NYU hospital where I was a patient for two months, ran a therapeutic painting program for long-term patients who were traumatically injured.  Anyone could go to a quiet room and just paint. One day I figured, “Why not?” Art had been a huge part of my life as a favorite form of expression growing up.  I was known as the “artistic kid” in the class.  I was that teenage girl who sat for hours in my room drawing and sketching portraits of the people that I knew.  As an adult I became too busy with work, marriage, and socializing for my art.  And now, here was art, coming back into my life by being stuck in a hospital room with nothing else to do except, well…paint.

Aimee at Work
I celebrated my 30th birthday in the hospital as I began the process of learning to adapt to this new life with a disability.   I relearned how to do simple daily tasks, to pick up where my husband and I left off in our marriage, and I learned how to take care of and adjust to my new body while finding the courage to get out into the world again.  The journey was as overwhelming as the floods of visitors and the emotions that come with sudden acquired disability. 

That’s where the canvas came in.

One of the first things I did when I returned home was buy canvas   -- big, clean, bright white, blank canvas that stared back at me.  The canvas had no judgment. The canvas didn’t talk back telling me what I should be doing or how I should feel. The canvas accepted anything I felt like expressing that I couldn’t put into words.

Suddenly I just let myself go, pouring and mixing all sorts of colors, then brushing and blending them away.  I spent all my free time painting.  I began to feel pure joy again.  My soul was finding peace -- yet I was on fire!   I felt gratitude - gratitude that I had found something I was good at that I truly loved.

Painting keeps me in the present moment. I can’t change what happened to me in the past, and I can’t worry about what will happen to me in the future.  We can’t control what happens in our lives, but we can control how we embrace the present moment.

Violet Sunset Kiss
Each time I finish an art piece, I look at my finished work, and feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. When I see the bright, bold colors in vibrant patterns I’ve created it becomes evident to me that, while paralysis may have taken away my ability to walk, it did not take away my ability to express myself with the color and zest of my spirit.

Over the years there have been a few major life events that have made me have to pause in my art work (having and raising children), but I always return to painting.  I share my passion for art with my two children, especially my 5-year old son, who has proven to be quite a little art prodigy.  Every wall in our home is filled with artwork, making it a home full of love, happiness, and positive vibes again. 

After receiving great feedback from friends and family, I felt the need to share my work with the rest of the world.  The desire to bring vibrancy into the personal space of others eventually grew strong enough for me to start my own art studio, Art by Aimee Studio.  It took some time to gather the courage to debut my paintings, which had been sitting on my bedroom floor for so long. 

When you wake up in the morning, not knowing if you’ll have an ordinary day or an extraordinary day that will change your life, may you have the courage to face whatever may come.  Like the swirls in my paintings, life may bring you through many twists and turns.  But, eventually, life will lead you back up and around again to the place where you were meant to be. Through all of this, it is courage that reveals the greatest version of ourselves!

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Aimee Hofmann
Note: Aimee lives in Westchester with her husband and two children. Other than being the founder of Art by Aimee Studio.  She is a disability advocate and has been a guest writer/contributor for mobileWOMEN.org.  When she’s not painting, she is swimming or cooking yummy meals for her family.
 Prints (on various media: canvas, metal, wood, paper or framed in 7-9 different sizes) of her artwork can be purchased at Art by Aimee Studio.  Please contact artbyaimeestudio@gmail to inquire about
purchasing original or commissioned pieces. Follow the @artbyaimeestudio page on Facebook or Instagram

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