When I was about 14 years old, I heard about Hotei, a kind of happy Buddha with a fat belly that one rubbed to have good luck. I asked my father to find me one, and kind man he was, he searched high and low. Not finding it in any gift shop, he happened across an old figurine in a second-hand store, a little worse for wear. He purchased the little figure, and repaired its cracks and broken bits, and finished it nicely with a new coat of paint: pale ivory for his body and teal and gold for his robes. It is a treasure to me.
Fast forward to more recent times, and the day came when my body was seemingly as round as the Hotei’s, when chemotherapy had made me as bald as an egg, and maybe I was feeling a little sorry for myself. So I sat down to draw myself, and it became a form of the Hotei. Through painting, I found calm joy, acceptance of my fate, and a path to the life that was. In that acceptance, I found more fulfillment than my shallow expectations had ever hoped to reach.