Archive for the ‘independence’ Category
“See Me” it read, once it was finished. I hated how it looked aesthetically so it later went in the garbage. The process had been the important part ….
It was a mixed media piece that I created Christmas Eve 2011, naked in the loft, candles burning a circle around me, canvas stretched out underneath my feet. Paint dripped down my leg and glue bits dotted my bangs. The cat pushed paws around ripped up pieces of printed photos – muted memories clinging to tomorrow.
I conjured up this particular desire, the desire to be seen as I worked on the painting. Not as a woman whose marriage was failing, whose Christmas Eve was the first she’d spent alone. Not as a blogger who had for years sought attention from whomever might pay it by divulging intimacies generally reserved for close friends. I wanted not to be seen for what a google search would turn up or a rushed conversation after a BedPost show might indicate about who I am … or who I am not. Perception is a squirrely area, a place within whose walls we hover with calculated trepidation. Social media asks us to present ourselves. And we do, while continuing to hide who we really are. We want to control those perceptions.
And as a woman who writes about sex, speaks about sex, produces a storytelling show about sex and sexuality, I understand that assumptions and perceptions don’t always match the person being perceived. And I have come to terms with this. Mostly. Until that Christmas Eve when the craving was white-hot and the need to be understood was deep as black night. It was so intense a desire that I mistook the advance of a lover the very next night as witness of the Sadie who is. I was certain that the many hours of sheet-swimming that had ensued meant my asking to be affirmed, seen, had been answered – and so quickly! But I was too mired in denial to be astonished at such a serendipitous Universal turnaround.
Because, in truth, he hadn’t really seen me. No, not at all. He didn’t see the Sadie who feels so deeply that the pain often transcends the physical, leaving a cold quiet nothing in its place. Or the Sadie who cries often – because she has to – the release of it bordering on orgasmic. Or the Sadie who is still capable of feeling the sting of rejection just as she did when she was 13 and every last one of her friends ostracized her the entire summer. Or the Sadie who likes nothing more than to curl up on a comfy couch and watch really bad television with someone she loves, who likes to nap there, nuzzled in sweaty cotton and warmth. Or the Sadie who is quite afraid to go on a roller coaster but will do it anyway, just because her kid wants to. He didn’t see these pieces of me.
Because he wasn’t supposed to.
And, it seems, I didn’t know how to be seen. Until now.
Now …. I am being seen, bit by bit, piece by piece, by someone entirely new. By someone entirely different from (yet strikingly similar to) me.
By someone entirely awesome.
And even more importantly, I am seeing. Seeing him for who he is, seeing me for who I am, and seeing how we can fit together while remaining separate, individual pieces.
Because that is ultimately how we see people, isn’t it?
When we are just far enough apart to be able to look their way.
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 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.
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 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.