Archive for the ‘alone. grace’ Category
A life-long blessing for children is to fill them with warm memories of times together. Happy memories become treasures in the heart to pull out on the tough days of adulthood ~ Charlotte Davis Kasl
I sat down to take a brief respite from the over-stimulation of the museum. Apart from one other guest, I was the only one in there, slowly shuffling through the galleries filled with Mexican masks, European ceramics and mid-century beaded couture. I must either walk through museums slowly – taking my time to stop and digest – or quickly, ramming it down like one might a sandwich on a quick shift break; without really thinking, without really caring.
I was on a leather bench, back straight, legs crossed, coat and scarf in my lap. I stared toward the vase that was directly in front of me, the vase that was encased in glass, the vase that was being illuminated by 100 watts of white incandescent light. What the fuck am I doing here, I thought to myself and the vase… and perhaps out loud. Not at the museum. I knew why I was there – I was there because I had learned that it was their monthly “free night” and who can say no to free art while on vacation? No, I had been in Charlotte for approximately 24 hours and I still didn’t understand why I was there. What the fuck was I doing in Charlotte, North Carolina?
What are you doing? A voice asked me then. It was the voice of the one other guest in the museum that night, the voice of a guy. His question was an appropriate and timely punctuation of my own. I told him the truth, I am wondering what I am doing here … in Charlotte, I said. He accepted my answer without hesitation. Nodded. We all consider what the fuck we are doing, even as we are doing them, don’t we? Even if it seems as if we are doing nothing at all.
I spent only five years in this town as a child, from ages 5- 10, and that was more years ago than I care to consider. Yet despite the fact that this very brief interlude (in the scheme of my life thus far) was so very long ago, I have been inexplicably pulled back here ever since. But why? I did not know. Not then.
It wasn’t until the next day, as I drove silently up the winding and tranquil roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains that I understood. Or at least decided that I understood. Charlotte (and in fact the entire North Carolina region, where my family camped and hiked and day-tripped every spring, summer and fall during that time) holds the bulk of my unspoiled and idealized memories. It is the place where the word idyllic might aptly apply. And so much that occurred in my life after that time (and perhaps even before it) is tinged with chaos and tumult; as life is. Before I traveled here to N.C. from my home in Texas, I had thought that perhaps it was here where the chaos had originated. I had thought that there might be memories locked tight, in search of discovery. And maybe there are. Probably there are. But perhaps, just perhaps … they don’t want to be revealed. Perhaps this short sliver of time cares to remain protected, pastoral … perfect.
And so it is.
I remained seated on the bench while the guy and I chatted for a few more moments, before he walked slowly away from me toward the exit of the museum. I looked past the vase and up at the ceiling and I wondered where memories go once they’ve served their purpose of reminding us where we came from. Of reminding us that at least once upon a time everything was just fine. At the exit, he turned to say that he bar-tended at a place Uptown, I really hope you will come and see me there, he said.
And then, just like everything before, he was gone.
I lie in the tub, the cool air teases my nipples as they peek out of the water. The grey tabby sits on the edge, batting at the surface, lavender-scented drops move from paw to tongue. My daughter appears, sits next to me, softly recites poetry she wrote in class. I relax further into the tub. I am steeped in slippery warmth and closeness, and boundless gratitude for the simplicity I had craved for so very long.
These beautiful, stark moments of quiet I relish completely. Short days filled with tasks of my choosing, organized so that it is I who presides over its delegation. Long nights of documentaries and hot tea, an over-sized bed, alone but for the whiskered beasts that laze beside me – purring reminders that such decadence is necessary; ensures vitality. Occasional evenings with friends, where conversations are dwellings of understanding, where I discover who I am.
Today at least.
Morning workouts with no agenda.
Afternoon strolls along the blue water, remembering my youth.
A midnight guest, come for a moonlight swim in the crisp white sheets of my bed.
Reveling in the ordinary. Because I am tethered only to my own ordinary. It is mine to make.
As is everything else.
I saw him, briefly; wings flapping, nose diving towards, it seemed, the cold blue steel of the hood. His intention was not clear. What was clear was the weight of my little car crushing his bones as I drove over him, before I even really understood what was happening. I gasped, covered my mouth. Issued a silent apology.
Had he done that on purpose? Do birds commit suicide? I asked these questions of no one.
It wasn’t until my rear-view mirror framed a somber vision of sentimentality that my eyes began to fill – the two winged friends my melancholy bird had been flying gracefully along with had circled back and stopped in front of his lifeless little body. They were watching him. Poking at him with their beaks. Exchanging glances, as if to ask of no one – What happened?
Part of me wanted to join them, to ask the same, it felt so very familiar. Grief grasped tight of my insides.
It is a question I have asked of myself and no one a thousand times in the last year – What happened? The death of my marriage and the life that accompanied it lay in bloody ruins right there in the middle of the street before me. I have no answers. Only more questions. I could analyze, certainly. And I do. But what good does that do after all is said and done? Processing the past keeps one stuck in the past. Accept and move on, I respond when the question arises for the 1001’th time. It doesn’t matter, it is over and you are alive.
And I am, after all. My grief will eventually plummet and, when the sun shines just right and my chemistry accepts the change, it will turn into gratitude. Until then I just have to wait out the weight.
Because I know that once I’m stabilized, my wings will be healed. Clipped no more.
I walked into the apartment, looked around for a minute, maybe a trifle longer, and then announced – This’ll do.
I’d never, ever. Ever. EVER. In my life, in my 43-almost-44 years of living … ever made a decision about where I was going to live without consulting/consorting/conferring with someone else. And yes, by someone else I mean the Ex. And before him it was roommates. I’ve always had someone else to consider, and still do of course, because I have a daughter. But this decision? This was my decision to make.
All fucking mine.
Two bedrooms? Check.
Clean? Uh huh.
Washer and dryer? Yep.
A pool to beat this insufferable Texas heat? Yessir.
Fitness center? You betcha.
A place that I can call my own, a place that I won’t share with anyone (‘cept the kid of course, half the time) and in which I can run around naked and scream loudly like a blood-lusty vampire IT’s ALL MIIIIIIIIINNNEEE?
Checkity Fucking Check.
One night I actually did exactly that, sort of. Ran round my house at 2:00 am proclaiming to absolutely no one in particular, except for maybe myself and my cats, that it was finally ME time! Time to do whatever I wanted! My time! Time to do whatever my little Vampira heart desired. So ya know what I did? I ate cheetos in bed and watched the Tudors until my Tylenol PM kicked in, whereby I proceeded to slumber, wholly uninterrupted, until almost 1:00 the next day. Yes … decadence often comes wrapped in packages that may appear rather humdrum to the casual observer. Cheetos and sleep as the definition of decadence? Really? Yes!
Sometimes sticky orange fingers and non-bleary eyeballs are the stuff of which personal victory is determined.
The need to find an apartment appeared on the heels of this announcement by the Ex – We must sell the house.
Well, fuck, was my first thought. Then it quickly turned into acceptance – Okay.
He’s right of course. It’s too much house for just me, the kid and the cats. But it was my house and dammit, I’ve enjoyed living here. But divorce means division of assets (and Cheetos in bed, apparently) and the time has come that we split this one into two remnants and leave the memories that accompany it where they belong – in the past. I will miss it here. There has been a lot of history made in the 3.5 years I have inhabited this home. This is where I quit drinking, where I finished writing my book, and where our daughter has grown so into her own that she is barely recognizable to me (who are you, kid?)
It’s where I have entertained a few lovers. Where my ex did did, too.
This house is where I said, “I will love you forever” as well as, “I want a divorce.”
Yep, inside of these walls is where all began to delicately dissolve between us – where we witnessed the beginning of the end, where we followed its path with purposeful yet frightened fingers until we reached its crucial and inevitable pivot point. We’ve gone as far as we could go – this house bearing witness all the way.
So, we will sell and then I will move – break free from the confines of the past and eliminate the burden of this 2,300 square feet enslavement to it which also continues to connect me to the Ex. I shall soon have my very own place, where I will swim in the pool, run around naked and perhaps even create new relationships – while relishing my independence and freedom.
And yes … how it will play out remains to be seen. But one thing’s for certain –
It will be mine.
She says I migrate towards younger men because I have a “youthful spirit”. I think it’s because -on some subconscious level that is beginning to beckon my recognition- I desire to re-live the days when I was younger; impetuous and insatiable … in all things.
Good therapists, like mine, will oblige us these affirmations, won’t they? The truth is though, that I honestly don’t feel 43, whatever 43 is meant to feel like, anyway. I remember feeling much older back when I was in my 20’s, and I hear my younger friends echo that sentiment regularly – I am only 25 and I feel like an old woman/man. Well, that’s because twenties are the gateway to adulthood, darlin’, and all that such passage entails – supporting oneself financially and emotionally for perhaps the first time ever, negotiating intense relationships that have the potential to be long-term, and finally coming to the deep understanding that life is hard – its difficulty existing on that vast and overwhelming continuum. Learning to operate within the knowledge of that is damned exhausting. I was tired all the time back then. Now I know that being knocked down just means I have to get my ass back up again. And I know that relationships won’t last forever like we think they will.
My divorce was final last Wednesday, and if you follow my Facebook news feed you might have seen my posts regarding it. I surprised myself by publicizing it the way I did, I tend to keep such personal announcements personal – well, until here, of course, where I might air grievances and personal narratives like cool-crisp, lily-white sheets on a breezy spring afternoon. Seeing just what my friends had for breakfast never really trips even the quiet recesses of my brain’s pleasure center, but one of my most recent posts is of a pic of a cup of fucking coffee. I am certain that the number of “likes” I receive at my divorce status updates have little to do with the fact that my friends are happy for the shift in my relationship’s status as it is a reflection of whose offering a show of support for me and my situation. Which is pretty cool to know.
The ex and I had been sitting in the courtroom for a little less than an hour last Wednesday. It was hot and muggy in there, our knees were touching. I was texting with a cute (young) guy from Houston who was coming in that evening and wondered if I was available. I happened to be. We made plans for his arrival – he with a mere 26 years behind him and I with my youthful spirit.
Periodically the ex and I would speak to each other as we sat and waited. The mood was jovial considering the circumstances and at one point he asked me in a whisper if I thought the judge would mind if he read the declaration – the standard announcement of a divorce hearing, about the marriage being irreconcilable and whatnot – in a deep-woods Southern accent. I thought it would be funny. And apt. The ex’s strongest suit is his wit, and was what connected us even in our most vast instances of disconnect. When it was our turn to approach the bench, second to last as it turned out, he began to do just that, beginning with “Your honor, this marriage…” and continuing into unrecognizable sentences until the two of us were hunched over in laughter. “I usually see people crying in front of me” she said with a sideways grin, “How refreshing this is.” And it was. Truly. Not only for her but for us, too. Well, for me at least.
And when we were done, we had celebratory drinks at a local coffee shop near my house, and afterwards I went to the gym and worked all the sadness out of my bones, poured it like liquid concrete; a psychic cast of past. And then that night I had my date with the 26 year-old.
And it is true I have a youthful spirit, yes. And yes, the idea of beginning my life after divorce in bed with a man the age I was before I got married rings very reminiscent of someone attempting to re-live her past. But I am fairly certain, as certain as one can be in such instances, that my past will remain just that, and that whatever the rest of my life holds for me will be relished with the wisdom of a woman of my years and the energy and enthusiasm of … someone younger.
But not too.
I’m off to a good start …
I spoke with someone last week, someone who has faced great adversity in his life, including the loss of loved ones in a plane crash. Yet he, despite having endured abject sadness, spoke to me with a radiance of such depth that I could practically hear him smiling over the phone line.
This is what he said to me ~
We all face difficulties during our lifetime Sadie, challenges large and small, but it is up to us to decide how gracefully we move through them. The more we manage to act with intention, the more wisdom we build.
I have thought about his words many times since then as I’ve pondered the last several months. And I can consider many of the graceless ways in which I acted over the course of my entire life, if I look back even further … while simultaneously attempting to balance those memories out with the ones that recalled me acting in integrity, and with purpose and meaning. But then I remember that it all has meaning, doesn’t it? Every step we take gets us to where we are supposed to be. Even the stumbly steps lead us to right here and right now.
A couple of days after that phone conversation, I was standing in my living room chatting with a photographer who had come over to take pictures of my house. She’s a writer, too, and is about to embark upon an adventure to a faraway land. I am envious of what she is creating for herself in part because her plan is similar to the one I often fantasize about once my little kiddo flees the nest. But mostly I am inspired. By a single woman carving her very own path. One that, I would guess, has also been paved with chunks of clunkiness, tempered by certain gracefulness.
Because that’s how life is.
She asked me how my book sales were going. I wrote a book, you may know. It is about my open marriage. Or what was my open marriage. I told her that the electronic version was selling fairly well on Amazon but that sales on my old website had stalled out. I thought about it for a quick moment and then admitted to her, easily, because she seemed the type of person that I could be really frank with, that I didn’t much feel like promoting the book any longer. It felt disingenuous; as if, by doing so, I was standing for something that I didn’t have the credibility to represent. After all, I don’t have an open marriage any longer.
I don’t even have a marriage.
But, that’s life, right?
We make our way in the manner we know how, and then we get stuck and we back up or turn around or veer off course or stop for a while and recalibrate and then get going again. Sometimes we fuck up in the interim and sometimes we make choices that feel like we are doing the right thing. And sometimes, even if it feels right, it just isn’t. And sometimes, even if it feels wrong, it turns out to be right after all.
And I guess that this is how I am beginning to feel after these two conversations collided – like I am going the right way. Even if sometimes it feels like I am being heaved backwards by situations and scenarios far beyond my control, I am moving in the direction I am supposed to. Being reminded to act as gracefully as possible was simply… a road sign. Confronting my conflict with my book was, too.
And having an open marriage?
Well that was one of my paths to enlightenment – in learning that my marriage wasn’t everything that I thought it was.
But, hey… that’s life.
I have had, deep inside me …
No, my sweet pervs, not *that*
Although, I can’t tell you how much I fancy a deep and abiding thrust of steadfast, unintentional lust within the expanse of me. Inside my body, my being, falling forward toward remote places within me. Long. Fast. Hard. Soft. Slow. Stirring.
No, instead …. I have had, deep inside me, a misery that I could not define. One that I understood, even as I moved through it, was purposeless, feckless, meaningless. It served only to hinder myself and all that I touch.
I understand now that it is not valuable to be attached to emotions that result from situations beyond my control, the outcomes of which often have nothing at all to do with me but are simply behaviors of the other people involved. How arrogant of me it is to think “they did this to me.” How self-serving it is for me to attach a meaning beyond the fact that what happened … just happened.
That is all.
But we do that, don’t we? Take a scenario and make it ours to relate to. We construct a story from it and turn that narrative into a barrier – a barrier to possibility and empowerment within our relationships – and we use the thoughts and feelings that arise from that story to keep ourselves locked into another narrative – “I am right, you are wrong,” and that blame sits in the way of being really focused on what matters and gets in the way of our productivity. Our possibility.
Fuck, I did that. I made it all about me. Yep… I spent the last couple of weeks since the last post I wrote literally paralyzed by, “You did this to me, you motherfuckers.” But there is no power in that, is there? There is only anger and hurt and victim-hood. Sitting inside of that space was, I get now, a waste of my precious time. But knowing where we have let ourselves be derailed is often the key to letting things be what they are, yes? So that then we can get back on track.
I’ve got too much to do in this world to let such a state propel me into the tailspin of inaction. And so today I move forward. I will look closely at every piece of my life that I am not satisfied with and take responsibility for my part in creating it. And I will gain wisdom in letting things be what they are.
In all their infinite complexities.
And perhaps soon there will be a story to tell about me having something less abstract and more concrete (or silcone, or glass or ceramic… or better yet, FLESH!) … inside of me.
I am confronting the concept of boundaries lately and am learning that sometimes I have to draw them out with thick, deliberate strokes. Run my pencil back and forth along the plane -point to point- so that the lines I am asking not to be crossed become the crude illustration of a child.
Sometimes underlining something over and over again is the only way to get my point across.
My boundaries have been crossed time and time again over the last few years. Frankly, it’s part of why I decided my marriage should end, why the hurt had become so very indelible… absolutely impossible to erase. Because when you give the space for something to exist, ample space even, more than enough, really… and the person you’ve given that space to casts an even wider net, arching menacingly over the lines of the agreement and into territory that would have been much better left alone, which is of course why the territory was marked, inexplicably, with the letters KO for Keep Off in the first place… when you give that space and that space gets filled up and even more space is taken?
It pisses you off.
It pisses me off anyway.
And you would think I’d have learned by now. Learned how to set the proper boundaries so that I can keep manipulative, toxic people off of my front porch and the resulting anger such situations guarantee at bay. I haven’t figured it out, apparently. Because it’s still happening.
Perhaps this situation (my apologies for being so esoteric about the details, but this is not an I-got-fucked-over-and-wanna-tell-you-about-it sitch) … perhaps this situation is the teacher I needed to slap me on the hand with a wooden ruler, a merciless reminder to pay attention to red flags. I mean, I know better than to ignore the scarlet harbingers of doom. Especially when I watch them waving, ironically, cloyingly… inside my own home.
Yes. I will remember from now on. Set my boundaries in solid graphite and keep a watchful eye out for the red.
Reminders received and duly noted.
Two years ago I had a dream.
I was standing on a tiny inlet all by myself and there was no one else there. Just me. There was no quaint little boat sitting along the shore, and there were no tools with which I might be able to create a shelter, kill a bird, or chop down a piece of fruit from a tree. It didn’t matter anyway, because there were no trees or birds or fruit. Only rocks. Sand. Water. Me.
I awoke with a start and saw, somehow, into my future. And in that future I had no tools, no boat, no partner with whom to man that boat, and no access to the traditional ways in which some of us go about creating a life for ourselves that is comfortable. Engaging. Rich. Fulfilling.
I knew as soon as I was able to collect my thoughts that I needed to go back to school. I had previously given it the good old college try. My first attempt was at Theater, just out of high school. I was idealistic yet unmotivated, especially after a winter break that culminated in the deaths of three people close to me, quickly followed by a descent into such massive drug and alcohol use that I wonder how I survived.
Attempt number two was in the field of Fashion Design. I excelled at the program; creativity of such aesthetic regard seemed to be my calling. But there was this boy. A boy with a boat. And while his boat was hardly seaworthy, I was entranced – swept away – by it and him. And so I jumped in. But it was not to be. I washed upon the shore, and my design aspirations sat discarded, thoughtlessly, beneath the hollow depths of sorrow.
Attempt number three? Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. The sweet, pungent smell of herbs from faraway lands. The language barrier and an abrupt adjustment to pinyin. The resistance of my already afflicted memory and the challenge of beliefs when asked to retain esoteric material I’d never before considered. But I was older by then. Determined. I ruled it, Ching Yih Saou style, pulling A’s in every single one of my classes. Until I got pregnant. Babies have a way of forcing us to re-evaluate. I dropped out of school when she was six months old. It was the best decision I could have ever made.
Yet ever since, there has been an erosion of sorts, quiet and abiding but present nonetheless, ebbing slowly at the shores of my psyche. My dream was a reminder of this, a reminder to reverse it – You need to finish, Sadie. Finish what you started.
And so I did.
By the end of the day that began with a dream, I was enrolled in college. Again. This time Psychology. Why psychology? Because, above and beyond fashion, performing, and the complexities of alternative medicine, I enjoy studying people and the root causes of their behavior.
Including my own.
And so I built a new boat in order to do exactly that – examine, learn… apply. Where this particular boat will take me I am unsure. But the point is that I stayed in this one for the duration. And in four weeks… I will be done. Finished. My boat will have reached its destination.
Whether or not this particular tool will help me is irrelevant. I’ve anchored. For now anyway.
Until it’s time to set sail once again.
Since it’s love day I am contemplating the word and its meaning. It has been painful to do, since I am in a place where I am re-assessing who was once, in my romantic mind, the person I considered to be “the love of my life”. What did I think that meant? And how do I feel now that this was clearly not true? Certainly I can’t hold on to that particular notion, or even believe in its existence any more. If I ever truly did.
I was the recipient of this particular sentiment just last week~
“You know… I haven’t been in love with you for many years”
These words were delivered, earnestly even, in a conversation held over the phone; the distance between us serving as a delicate buffer of the intentions behind them. They hung in the air only momentarily. I was startled. Although not so much by the fact that they were said, or even how they were said, but why they were. I surmised that they were meant to injure. Or maybe it was his way of taking one final, independent stand against me, a last-ditch effort at asserting autonomy. Or perhaps it was both.
We had been enmeshed, after all. It makes sense that he would want and even need to substantiate some sovereignty.
But these words have been rattling round my head ever since – I haven’t been in love with you for many years – and not in the way that some words do, where they sit and fester, taking up space where too much time and effort is spent extrapolating meaning from them. Meaning that threatens the psyche. No, these words are in there, processing, culling, asking me to analyze, construe, bring healing … they are begging me to unhinge them from their messenger so that I can unhinge myself from him.
The fact is, and I told him this, answering his words more readily than I would have liked after being completely caught off guard by the tone of their insistence… the fact is that I haven’t been either. In love with him, that is. Whatever that means.
I think we do ourselves a disservice by assuming that continuing to be “in love” with someone will sustain a relationship, or that its presence or absence should be noted. Or that such a thing as being “in love” actually even exists. For very long anyway. The feelings of being “in love” are hormonally induced. They are physiological. Being in love is determined by the brain flooding with chemicals, inducing a pleasant and stimulating reaction that we mistake for love. We like how this feels and so we want more. And when it goes away, as it invariably does, we miss it. We call this feeling falling in love, being in love, loving someone.
I was beyond surprised that someone I had shared almost my entire life with had come to believe that because he didn’t have those feelings any longer that he wasn’t in love with me. That the feelings of contentment and respect and the concept of commitment didn’t have any place in his relationship equation as they had been in mine for so many years. And this was a man who had told me just the night before -as we sat on a restaurant patio in the cool-crisp air and ate a nice meal and discussed our separate futures and how we could work collaboratively together to ensure their success- this was a man who said that he loved me. And that he always would. Yet, he wasn’t in love with me. “Hadn’t been for years”.
I suppose that was the point.
And so I am attempting to resist the urge to own that hurt, to assign the fact that I was un-in-loved to my character as an acute indication of my love-ability, or lack thereof. It’s difficult, I must say. I am, without question, in the most raw and vulnerable and strange emotional/psychological space that I have ever been. Ever. And while I recognize that I am here and that it is difficult, I also know that it is serving a purpose, to make me stronger and to give me a place from which to grow, to find wisdom, and develop a higher purpose.
And I also know that there would be no point in hurting me with words if there was no love attached to them to begin with.
*I have been accused, periodically, of “airing my dirty laundry” on the internet. And I understand that by posts such as this highly personal one, I might be fulfilling that particular designation. In response to this, I would like to simply say that I write stories of this nature because I know that some of what I say is relate-able to others, which I believe is important. And also because this is my blog, and I can do and say whatever the fuck I want to.