What I Learned About True Love and Courage from a Bucket Of Paint

Nothing feels as amazing as being in the light of true love. Right? I'm not talking about love. I'm not talking about like. I'm talking about true love. Something that feels true, beautiful, and meaningful, baggage and all, and I mean baggage and all. And what's amazing about true love is that no one can tell you any different. My relationship with light, color, and true love started in Puerto Rico in the back seat of my parents' car. It was a black Chevrolet Impala with Naggauhyde red leather seats. 

This was a time when you didn't have seat belts. So you could slide from side to side and look out the window, these beautiful silver chrome windows. We drove from my mother and father's house to my grandparents' house and back during sunrises and sunsets. I got to experience the world every day during sunrises and sunsets when I was a little kid. 

Imagine seeing light everyday transform life before my eyes with color. For me, that color, that light, was true love. Being in that car was true love. I remember seeing other cars and going, wow. Those are other people going somewhere else. I don't wanna be in that car. I wanna go home. And that is the color baggage I brought with me when I moved to the Pacific Northwest, the land of gray skies and hunter-green. 

The funny thing about true love is that you don't even know you carry it in you and with you everywhere you go. 

 You don't know it's something you create with, not find

I didn't understand this until 1990, when I became a mother. I was so driven by true love that I took that color baggage, opened it up for the first time, and painted every inch of my walls and ceilings with colors nobody else was using. With these colors, I created an entire universe that didn't look like anybody else's. 

And guess what happened? Like a beautiful sunset, people looked at me and went, okay. I want this feeling, not with your baggage, but with mine. 

I made it a mission to help them do it. Over the next 30-plus years, I helped thousands of people unpack their color baggage and create a feeling of true love with a bucket of paint. 

Fast forward to 2020. 

Not only did we have a pandemic, but our house was sold unlisted, and we had six weeks to evacuate to a luxury penthouse apartment. It was modern, beautiful, and had white walls.

I grew up with two kinds of white walls. One was my grandmother's. Her white walls were true love through and through. She loved white. Her walls were white because all other colors honored that white. You couldn't deny the fortitude of that white atmosphere when you walked in. You walked into her space, and it felt like a lighthouse. 

My mother's white walls were different. They were all about fresh starts. She got married four times. Those walls were her escape hatch because she was always searching for true love and would never quit until she found it. 

I walk into the third kind, the loveless, The echoey, impersonal; anyone can live there; it is just creating space because it needs to be a bigger, kinda white wall. My baggage felt like rubble. Nothing was grounded. 

I was in color purgatory. 

Thinking I couldn't paint my apartment walls, I started dreaming of an old wood table I could paint and bring back to life. One day, I'm walking about and I see her on the side of the road with a for-free sign. Just imagine Ted Lasso's boss as a sofa table. She was big and beautiful, with long legs, heels, and a scallop skirt. 

I took her home, and she sat in my apartment for nine months because the only color that that table could be was red, which came with a lot of baggage. 

Red was my mother's color baggage. 

A woman who wore red lipstick all the time wanted me to wear red lipstick really badly. It was a hard no for me all the time for decades. And here I was about to paint a table that would become huge red lips in my entryway because the only color I could imagine it to be was red.

Then, one day, I woke up and went, okay. Red it is.

Four days later, the apartment walls were painted in colors I had never painted before because of that red table.

Two weeks later, my neighbor across the hall texted me. My dog had been barking. She walked into my apartment, and it was pitch black. Thankfully, she stayed with him until I got there.

I flip the breaker, the lights come on, and, like in the movies, she is transported into my world of color. She is crazy about the red table, so I tell her the story and how much I had to trust myself to paint it red when I knew it was the only color it had to be!

As she walked out, she rubbed the table from side to side and said she needed to take this red energy because she was signing her divorce papers the following week. 

The red table had spoken, and she left two hours later. We talked about trust, courage, and true love. 

A week later, she texted me and thanked me. She took a step she had been afraid to take and would not have taken had it not been for the red table. 

That's when I knew why the table had to be red.

At sixteen, my mother took a secretarial course instead of college. She went to work to help her family financially, and that red lipstick gave my mom the courage to act like an adult and forge a new path ahead. This is the courage she always wanted me to have, and I did not understand until I saw a young mother asking a red table for that same courage. 

From then on, I began to wear red lipstick. 

Today, my mother still wears red lipstick. She has lived happily single for thirty years in a home lit up by yellow walls that feel like a warm Puerto Rican sunrise every time she walks in through the door. Her home expresses who she is, reminding her of her independence, resilience, and the better life she made for herself and her daughter when she came to America to start a new life as often as she needed. 

It's not an accident that red is associated with courage, willpower, and affection. Every color, except red, can be lightened and still be called by its name. Once lightened, red turns pink because it can no longer live up to its reflection or true nature.

Every color in the rainbow has an extraordinary truth and teaching of true love for us that is beautiful, meaningful, and true—baggage and all. 

As I reflected on my journey from those red leather seats of my childhood to my mother's red lipstick to asking a red table for courage, I was both struck and reminded of the need we all have to claim true love for ourselves as the ultimate source of courage and step into the life we envision creating. 

True love isn't something you find; it's what you create. Anyone can create true love for themselves, others, and the world with their baggage and a bucket of paint.

From my bag to yours,


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