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.
My daughter and I were watching a program recently where one of the characters pledged to love the current object of her affection, her partner, forever. My daughter inexplicably paused the television and turned to me to ask, “But you can’t commit to an emotion for the rest of your life, can you? I mean, it’s an emotion. You can’t control your emotions like that, can you?”
She’s not quite twelve and the girl is already questioning the dynamics of love, the language surrounding it and the meanings that such language creates. And I have to say that I adore her for her capacity to challenge such established notions.
The characters on TV -who were perhaps 20ish- symbolize the cultural narrative (in which monogamy is the prevailing precept, which is, I dare say, subtly inferred inside the statement I will love you forever,) and their love-pledge illustrates the concept of everlasting love and the assumption that it exists for most, regardless of the level of its participants’ emotional intelligence, which I think informs the possibility of everlasting love. Emotional intelligence is grown, acquired, through relationship experience, and by questioning relationship dynamics and learning various ways of operating inside of them. I also believe that acknowledging the very real truth that most relationships end or at the very least change/shift/morph into something else is part and parcel of acquiring it. One learns through experience exactly what love means inside of long-term relationships – in all of their beauty; tinged with adversity, jealousy, longing, tension and communication mishaps that are sure to make even the most passionate of us ask, What is all of this love business for, anyway? But that is the nature of love, isn’t it? It makes us question who we are. What we want. Provokes us to procure a value system with this particular notion firmly embedded - I truly believe I will love you forever. Therefore I will.
But on some level she’s right, my daughter. We cannot know with absolute, unfettered certainty who we will love tomorrow, just as we cannot now with certainty that Magic Mike will do well at the box office. My guess is that it will, simply because the opportunity for women to objectify men in such blatant regard doesn’t present itself often enough – and we ladies, yes, we have sex drives too – we wouldn’t dare miss the opportunity to objectify a hot guy in our patriarchal society. Especially when the simple observance of Channing Tatum’s abs is the equivalent of eating two pints of Cookies and Cream, but without those pesky calories. Deliciousness.
But she’s also not quite correct. Because the truth is that we do have the capacity for long-term love. I hope anyway. I posed this question the other day on Facebook and was inundated with many thought-provoking responses. My question was this,
Do you believe one can sincerely, authentically commit, in real-world application, not metaphor, to loving someone else for the rest of their lives? Is futuristic love predictable? Or is the phrase “I will love you forever,” simply a symbolic statement we use to convey the emotional weight that we feel presently?
I entered into the conversation with an admittedly cynical attitude. I know, personally, that my own emotions are, or at least can be, fleeting feelings. They are part of my body’s machine, integral to its mechanical process, but not something that has to drive me. I possess them, endure them if I have to, revel in them when I feel so inclined, and perhaps I occasionally avoid them. But can I commit to the emotion I feel at any given time? Can I predict its occurrence? Can I say, I am going to be mad as hell next Thursday at 1:15. Whoooo, My ass is going to be chapped right then.
No, of course not. So can I say with certainty, I will love you next Thursday at 1:15 ?
Of course it’s not quite so black and white. Generally, anger requires provocation in order to manifest. But what about love? Does it need to be cultivated? I thought it did. But I learned -or was perhaps reminded- through my interaction with my Facebook friends … that love is different that way.
Love is a choice.
And it is inside of that choice that makes love have a power, a power that other emotions do not possess, and never will. Love is acceptance, in every sense of the word. It does not require reciprocity, nor does it need to be redacted as an act of vengeance or ego-preservation. Like choosing to love, taking love away is a choice made by the person who has offered it. It is my choice to love someone. And within that space of loving, truly and honestly loving someone without ego or expectation … I am given a gift.
Sounds new-agey, I know.
Because really? Love? That is a power that resides in me. It’s free, it doesn’t cost a thing – not my self-respect, not my self-worth, nor my vitality, well-being, satisfaction, fulfillment or by ability to self-express. In it, with love, I sacrifice nothing. It is unlimited. And it gives back immeasurably. Fills me up, nourishes my spirit. Reminds me that I am not alone in this world. To give love is to get it in return. Even if the object of my love does not grant his or her love back to me, I will still get it in return – from someone else. I believe that.
I have to believe that.
I tell my daughter I will love her forever, and I am certain that I will. I cannot imagine not loving her, you see, and this is where the idea of loving forever, and the sentiment attached to it, might very well originate. The sheer unfathomable-ness of such a scenario is so weighted, so impossible to construe, that I avoid even contemplating it. I see that this is where the power lies – in loves ineffable nature.
This is how big love is.
So big that we don’t ever want it to stop.
I certainly would never say to my daughter, I think I will love you forever, although don’t quote me on that, because I don’t know how I will feel in the future. That would just be mean. And inaccurate. And it would do nothing to help her cultivate the emotional intelligence I know she has the capacity for, and it would leave her muddled to the possibilities that loving can create.
We want to be loved. We need to be loved.
And we need to love.
So, to my daughter I say this – “No, Babygirl, you can’t predict your emotions or where and how they will show up down the line. But love? Love is different, which I guess is why it is so very special. And I promise you, I PROMISE you, my darling love, that love is something you can count on me for …
“It isn’t possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.” ~E.M Forster
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 …
Sometimes I glimpse my mother inside of myself; I might see her face in mine when I round the corner into the bathroom, my lips fixed just so. Sometimes I’ll hear her in my voice, inside the very timbre of my words, and marvel at how they echo the sentiments I once considered fatalistic – those cars are driving way too fast down this street, the music is awfully aggressive, isn’t it? do you really want to wear that out to dinner, honey?
Mothers have a way of turning into their mothers in at least one way, if not another.
My mother might offer advice to strangers, even; if she happens to have first-hand knowledge of a sort that they appear to lack. Mothers enjoy being helpful after all. It’s one of the things they do best. Nurturing spirits long not only to provide care.. but to educate.
But my mother would not have poked her nose into the business of four teenage girls riding the Express A train from Brooklyn to Manhattan. At least not the four teenage girls that this mother (that would be me) encountered last week. No, I am pretty sure Mom would have been a tad bit mortified by their conversation, or at the very least bemused. And surely she’d have kept her mouth shut (if it weren’t hanging wide open, that is) — the certainty with which I say this has its basis in the assumption that their conversation’s topic is not in her area of expertise.
But it is in mine.
I couldn’t help but listen in. Two of them were sitting right next to me on the bench so the access was easy, the other two sitting across on the other side, legs draping the floor of the train. They were all wearing skinny jeans, tight tees and low-top Converse, and carrying little purses, the contents of which I could probably guess – lipgloss, money, metro card, gum, cell phone, condoms. The short-haired girl sitting on the other side of the one sitting next to me was up in arms about some boy she liked, or at least did like, until she decided he must be gay…
“Do you know what he told me?” she hissed at the girl sitting just beside me, “He said that Molly stuck a finger in his ass and it made him laugh! Can you believe that? I mean, he just let her do that and he thought it was funny?”
I looked over at her and I swear I saw fire flames dancing inside her pupils. Her friend responded, “What’s the problem exactly?”
“The problem? The problem is that that means he’s gay! Any dude who lets anyone put a finger or anything else in his ass MUST be gay!”
Her friend, the one sitting next to me, just shrugged. I looked toward the other two girls across the width of the train and their glassy-eyed, teenaged stares pulled me backwards in time – the faces of friends who either have no opinion or have no inclination to offer it. These other girls know their place in the hierarchy, I thought; the short-haired girl is obviously the righteous ruler in this particular pecking order.
“God, I can’t believe it, I mean, can you believe it? I can’t believe he’s gay, I like really liked him, ya know?”
This is where I interrupted. And I interrupted her not in order to save this poor boy from being unduly railroaded in the middle of a westbound train, but more to save her poor little friends from having to endure any more of her insistent whining, whining which had no foundation in fact.
Plus, I have been known to offer advice to strangers. You know, whenever I have first-hand knowledge that they apparently lack…
“Um, excuse me. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation and I just wanted to say something. There are actually a lot of nerve endings in the anus and it’s because of this that the ass can be a great source of pleasure for men. Women too.” The short-haired girl just stared at me, but her friend piped up, “Yeah, I heard that!”
I continued, “Think about it, we have pussies, because we are girls, men have cocks, since they are guys, but we all have assholes. Why would only gay men’s assholes like to have fingers, or anything else, in them?” The short-haired girl cocked her head at me, squinted her eyes. I kept on speaking, “I personally know quite a few straight men who love to have their asses played with. Dildos, fingers, vibrators even!”
“Really?” she asked. I peered over at her friends across the way, both of whom were smiling. I suspected they knew all of this already. They probably had encountered a few ass-centric straight guys too.
“Yep, really! And I know a lot of chicks who like anal sex. And I also know gay men who don’t like it at all. So, ya see, just because this guy let someone go there doesn’t mean that he’s gay. It just means he might like having his ass played with.”
She had one more question, “But, but … I know straight guys who won’t let anyone get anything near their butts! They get really mad about it even, because they don’t want anyone thinkin’ they’re gay. So, if it’s fun and all, why are they getting mad?”
“Well, that’s simple, hon. That’s because of the very false assumption, the one that y’all were actually furthering with this conversation, that butt play makes a dude gay. But now you know that is not necessarily true, right?”
“Wow, yeah. Yeah, I do. Thanks.” Her friends heads nodded in unison, “Yeah, cool,” as the four of them walked off the train.
With that, my motherly duty had been done.
And I am certain that my own mother, had she been there sitting beside me that day, would have been able to conjure up some pride for me and my nurturing, sex-educational spirit… that is after she had picked her jaw up off the floor of the A train.
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.