Friday, April 07, 2006

Art of Gracious Living # 17

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Writing a bio this week caused me to consider what we choose to share with the world at large. Bios tend to be a recitation of facts, but have very little about who we really are.

To really connect with others, we must give them enough information to know something about us as a person beyond where we went to school and what we do for a living.

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The bio that got me thinking:

Patsy joined the Hutchinson club in 2003 and was the Retention Committee co-chair in 2004-2006. During that time she created an event that resulted in more than a dozen new members. She has attended all conventions and conferences.

Patsy�s BA is from the University of Kentucky in Communications, with emphasis in journalism and telecommunication and a minor in psychology. She is Executive Director of the Mental Health Association. Previously she worked as a journalist, broadcaster, editor, writer, and public relations and marketing professional, which encompassed being a graphic designer, special event planner, ad designer, webmaster, and public speaker. Her experience includes radio, television, newspapers, ad agencies and foundations.

She currently serves on the boards of Horizons Mental Health Center, Arts and Humanities Commission and Community Health Coalition. She also serves on the Kansas State Suicide Prevention Task Force and the National MHA�s Branding Committee.

Patsy can often be found creating art in her studio, working on her 100 year old home, researching genealogy, collecting rocks, studying ancient Egypt, journaling or cooking. She loves to entertain and hosts regular gatherings in her home. Patsy also loves to travel - finding American roadside kitsch or treasures abroad. She creates two weekly podcasts, writes a monthly magazine column, helps organize an annual family reunion, and does occasional voice work, freelance writing, web and graphic design. She also chronicles her life in a blog at

She has worked on projects for the Kentucky State Oral History Commission, CBS and NPR and been published in The India Times as well as various newspapers around the U.S. Her photography and other artwork pieces have been in a number of exhibits.

Could Be the Last Time

I had a very full day today and at 12:05 a.m. it's still not over, but I'm taking a little break.

I had to go to Kingman this afternoon/evening for a Horizons board meeting. It's about a 40 minute drive and I arrived just in time for the meeting. I intended to leave earlier, but just couldn't get away.

The drive is pleasant enough. I've lived in Kansas a long time, but I'm still struck by how desolate it is in places. I live in an area that's considered very populated by Kansas standards, but the entire state has only about 2 million people. More than a quarter of those live in Sedgwick and Reno counties, where I live.

When I saw these cows this afternoon I realized how rare of a scene it is anymore to see cows grazing in a field. Instead they're usually in a feed lot where there is no vegetation left because they're all crowded in together. It was pastoral.

At the same time, I was shocked to realize that something I took for granted - cows grazing in a field - is something that's largely gone.

The meeting was a bit intense and driving back I decided to take a little jaunt up to Cheney Lake. Because of the time change, the sun hadn't set yet, so I decided to wait for the sunset over the water. Why are they always better over water?

Whenever I watch a sunset, or have any other similar experience, I always think it could be the last one I ever see. I guess most people don't go through their daily lives thinking this way, but there has never been a tomorrow for me - there's always just right this second - and that permeates my existence.

I always think every phone call with someone I love could be the last time I hear their voice. I always think a kiss from a lover could be the last time I ever feel their lips. I always think a beautiful sunset could be the last one I ever see.

I guess it may seem morbid to some, but I never think of it that way. I just think it keeps me in the moment, appreciating what is happening right then.

I don't know why I'm this way, but I always have been. I don't remember, even as a child, ever thinking any other way. I can remember closing my eyes tight and covering my ears and trying to imagine what it would be like without someone I loved in my world. It was so horrific that I couldn't stand it but for only a few seconds. But at the same time, I always knew the day would come. And it did. With every person I did that with as a child.

I was writing to my friend, Jim, recently, that it's hard for me to remember that people do not understand grief because it has been part of my life from a very young age. I lost the first person I really cared about when I had just turned 6. My great Aunt Ann had been a fixture in my life. She was only 58. My father died when I was 11, my only grandparent - my beloved Mama Myatt when I was 13. My great Aunt Carrie died the next summer, my Aunt LaVerne the next year, my other favorite aunt, Audrey, less than three years later, and my great Aunt Tina the year after that. All those people were gone before I turned 20. I grew up with the idea that every year or two brought a significant loss. It has stayed with me, I suppose.

So I always look at every event, every occasion, every meeting as potentially the last. I try to burn every sunset, every painting, every experience, into my brain to carry it with me. I never wave goodbye, say goodnight, or whisper I love you to someone that I don't consider if it's how I'd want them to remember me for eternity. When I part from someone I always take one last look at them, in case it's the last time I ever see them. Because sometimes it is.