Landing in a Familiar Place


“The Call”…Ex-voto painting by Joyce Hayden 2012/oil and acrylic

Black Mesa, Sanctuary de Chimayo, Tesuque Village Market, Jackaloupe, Maria’s, Santa Fe Plaza, Marliss, huevos rancheros and sopapillas…..  I’m grateful to be back in Santa Fe!!!

In 2012 I began creating ex-voto paintings…paintings done in gratitude of a tragedy averted.  The above painting refers to the many times in my life when I’ve found myself having to dig out of deep darkness, an ability many of us have cultivated by necessity since childhood.  One of these times of darkness occurred when I lived in New Mexico in the 1990s and felt stuck in a tragically unhealthy relationship.  With the help of books, friends, and the endless New Mexico horizon that offers every possibility, I was finally able to end that relationship and move forward on my own.  Leaving my abuser has probably been the most pivitol choice of my life.  Everything I wanted became possible after that.

I’m back in Santa Fe now to finish the memoir I’m writing that focuses on the last year and a half of that relationship….the story of how I landed in that life and how I was eventually able to leave it.   Returning, now, after over 20 years, has allowed my heart to soar, the way it did, way back when, as I first moved here, hoping to turn my relationship in a more positive and loving direction.

For years I wrote my story as a novel.  For years I revised it as fiction.  It wasn’t until I broke my collarbone, followed immediately by my wrist, that I had time to step away from the writing and realize that the reason I was having so much trouble making all the pieces work, is that I needed to tell my true story.  To own it.

And I am so grateful I did.  To not have done so, would have been a tragedy.  I am still in the process of transforming the novel into a memoir.  In the process I have learned to forgive my abuser, to own my actions and hold myself accountable for my role, and most importantly, to forgive myself.  None of this was happening when I treated the material as fiction.

I haven’t been at peace as deeply as I am now, in a very long time.  I know that nothing can stop me from finishing this book by my March deadline.  Nothing can stop me, not even myself.  Because the forever horizon; because the comfort of close friends; because the Sangre de Cristo mountains; because the snow and mauve canyons; because my feet planted on terra firma…in a way they never were when I lived here in the ’90s.

These days, instead of ex-votos, I’m working on Ad Astra paintings….paintings that celebrate the difficulties we endure and for which we give gratitude.  I have nothing but gratitude at the end of this year, nothing but hope for a future built on the bricks of acceptance, the bricks of truth, the bricks of clear-eyed vision, rather than my old bricks of denial and wishful thinking.

Landing in a new, but familiar place is bringing closure to a wound I’ve carried deep inside for decades.  And this new, yet familiar place is also opening a deep interior canyon to light and love and everything possible.





4 thoughts on “Landing in a Familiar Place

  1. This is lovely and I am so incredibly pleased for you that you found your path to the memoir instead of fiction. It is your story and I’m sure that it flows with the intensity that you have felt all of these years. How very powerful it is to release the pain to flow wherever it may go. The most important thing is that it has found an exit.


  2. You are courageous to share your life’s journey in a way that encourages hope and change. Thank you for sharing Joyce.


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