Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Happily Never After

ife is a funny thing, you know, an ironic leviathan, full of unusual twists and flicks of its tail (tale?)

For example, this space was originally meant for all my unusual journeys and mischief on the road, but I find that lately it is much more about the INWARD road, the one within myself, and perhaps the heart of my own humanity, that I seem to be writing, and which hopefully resonates outward.

As such, I had NO IDEA that my LAST POST about something which seemed so small--trivial, even--would produce such a reaction as it did, making me almost embarrassed at the many kind words online, and phone calls, and general good words by friends and even strangers.

However, I am also aware that the writings on that subject--the strange subject of love, might have the affect I had not intended: the other person involved might be made out into a monster. He certainly is not, but was misguided as to what love is, and is not. In fact, I could say my own flaw was to believe that love could save everything, when certainly a romantic relationship, or partnership, is so much more complicated. Who is to say that my own views were not equally as flawed, an anxious woman whose own staunch ideas of living might be too rigid to apply to a coupledom?

Certainly, from afar, some of the things that I've done may seem interesting: a theater and dance director for nearly a decade, a beekeeper, a folk artist, a traveler for several years...perhaps that is fantastical to many, but how does that excitement translate to anything predictable?
I've known women of great accomplishment--living entirely in the1800s, moving to India and starting their own Indian dance school, and even running an entire country, and while I don't consider my accomplishments anywhere near these levels, I recognize that NONE of these women had men anywhere in their lives as they created these dreamscape lives. Indeed, there is some part of me that supposes that it would be impossible to create these feats whilst being the "wife" or "girlfriend" or "mother."

And yes, certainly there are women who also accomplish astonishment whilst being wives and mothers, I am wondering who these mystical partners are, who can love a fierce woman with fire in her soul, who is creative and determined and simply not "yes-ing" a man at his own accomplishments? Who is the man actually willing to work in conjunction with a woman so that both souls expand and grow?  Why are so many "wild women" desired by men from afar, but considered "grating" when they state their own dissent, tell their opinions? Are they shackled and called derogatory names because they are feared? Can they not have their own projects, their own way of seeing things, and be true partners to someone, other than "playing their parts" in the kitchens and bedrooms of households?

Similarly, I say, in my case, I simply may not be right for love. Is love all sacrifice? Is it binding? Limiting? And if so, how much is the limitation? I find myself utterly confused. Why, you ask?

Really, I am no ace in the art of love. I have spent much of my life pursuing my own projects. College educated and encouraged to have my own voice and imagination (by my conservative, foreign-born father, no less!), I have spent my days creating my own little world. Indeed, I often feel out of step with the rest of the world in many aspects of life, locked forever in an idealistic or perhaps old-fashioned view of how life could be. It is a weird concoction within me, a certain optimism, but a deep sensitivity, and so while I wholeheartedly put out trust, and  value the many different people I have met and dealt with, I lately find myself on a tightrope as to exactly how much trust I should give, and to whom.
I am no professional of high wire acts, and find myself shattered into a million pieces when betrayed.

Further, there seems to be some sort of unspoken phenomenon amongst the culture; the strange "game" of love, where hearts and lives are played to, and played with, on a whim. I am not a random-date sort of person, I can count on one hand the people I have been in strictly long term relationships with, and I am no Spring chicken. The random "hook-ups" and "break-ups" and multiple marriages and shuffling of children of these marriages, and falling out of love with someone because they gained 10 pounds or got 10 years older or because they didn't like their attitude on Thursday  is something that absolutely shocks me, and makes me sad.  Certainly, one should not be unhappy in a relationship, but it seems that even happiness is something fickle and short-fused in this part of the world.

So what is love? What would it take for such a thing to flourish properly? Do we say it is difficult because we must lay ourselves bare, choosing be vulnerable? Do we risk ripping our hearts out, gambling loss either the love of another rejecting us, or staying with us but leaving us through death?

And truly,who is to say we are owed love. Is that a modern belief, courageous or flagrant as it is, to stipulate that everyone will find love? Is it a notion we create for the sake of hope or goodness? Who gets love? Do beautiful, rich people stay in love forever and ever? Do broke-down, sick people get love? Do couples who have loved for decades and decades get love after one or the other dies? Do we risk losing husbands, wives, partners, parents, children, siblings to war and sickness and accidents? 

At the end of the day, I am astonished that we keep putting our hearts out there, hoping for a light signal back, in the dark. At the end of the day, are we all just here, as simple as 5 year olds, offering our hearts on our sleeves, trying to share our best toys and desserts in our lunch boxes, and hoping someone will just like us--love us--back?

What is love, Friends? I would love to know. And what have I, now, here at this point? I may say I will pick up the pieces and move on, but there is a danger in that, you see. For I simply move further and further within myself. Certainly, I will be content, happy, even adventurous, but I already feel that I move too far within myself to understand the heart of another, to the point I don't see them. At times, I already feel as though the person for me is some concoction of a person with such fantastical reference points as to maybe not exist. Even at its most stripped down form, I suppose a person who may match my own interests and life is something made from a spell-book, a fairy tale or fictional story of a man.  It is so absurd as to warrant this story:
My wise mother, as all wise and loving mothers do, keeps insisting there is a "man for me out there." I keep saying he is likely in Siberia, and eighty years old, wondering where in the world I am, as well.

Until--or if--that time comes, I know that I am loved by many. I will focus on these friends and my funny little life, and art, again. I will mourn a good man and the good parts about him, and the life that could have been...ghost children and phantom farms and my Happily Never After. I will continue to live by the rules I understand, though I desperately am trying to understand the rules of love that "civilization" seems to hand out.

So Tell Me Friends...What is Love?

Friday, October 21, 2016

LOVE, And Loss

To understand this story well  would be a travel back to my childhood, where I created a self-fullfilling prophecy. Convinced, and knowing then, that I would have an unusual life, my ten-year-old-self told my mother:

                 "I am never getting married and I am never having children"

To understand the next part of this story, you would have to travel to another part of my life, four years ago, where I sat watching the life literally seep out of my father. When he drew his last breath, his face gone limp, something in me shattered. What little understanding and confidence I had about this fragile world seeped out of my own soul, along with his.
           "I am never getting married and I am never having children"
 I had already become too sensitive to the world around me; having left the world of performing arts, with it's heavy agendas, false friends, and jaded competitiveness, I also was tired of the rat-race of New York. It didn't help that I would suffer a series of losses not long after my father's death, that made me feel particularly vulnerable and exhausted. One by one, I would lose things that I felt mattered to me: I left my performing arts life.  I was shockingly let go from my dream beekeeping job by it's director, who traded good-heartedness for ego. I left a man whose mouth lay full of lies, after a decade of loyally trying to save something in the name of love. I lost a coveted job possibility at my favorite magazine.
           "I am never getting married and I am never having children"
   When my mother became ill, I traveled back to a place I couldn't love, and though people encouraged me that it might be different, when I started several businesses there, I relearned that this place could not or would not support the arts. It was all lip service, smoke and mirrors. Maybe all of it was....

          "I am never getting married and I am never having children"
    As much as I believed, wholeheartedly, in ideas of magic and hopefulness, I was starting to wonder about my own fortitude, question my own ideas of what life was, and what it could be. Certainly, not everything went well, and life was not without pain and struggle. But I was starting to feel like my own level of idealism was a fraud, my anxiety on any number of issues growing--life, death, money, responsibility, sickness, failure. It would seep into my everyday thinking, making me too cautious and too somber on any number of journeys.

   The unexpected bright spot in this story came in the form of a long time friend, the roots of our friendship over a decade old, when I still lived in the world of dance and theater. He had impressed me, then, as a decent person. Intelligent, smart, caring.  But we had lost touch, and for a time, found reunion through the electronic world, though he was in New England and I, far, far south. But we spoke, and spoke, and found we had much in common. And so it came to be that when all the world became twilight, he was a light source of hope and happiness. Our friendship blossomed into love.

    And such a love. He was romantic, and thoughtful. He sent sweet messages, always. Sent little gifts, called to say goodnight. He was constantly helpful, even in my worst despair. I was restless, tired of simply not doing, not knowing what would happen next. He always seemed to be there, tried to be encouraging. And he loved, even encouraged, my unusual whims. Independent woman, trying to live on a 17th century farm? Growing our own food? Building things ourselves? Hobbit houses and building laboratories? Yes, yes, and YES!
Who was this magical person, who loved all of the things I loved? It seemed to good to be true.

And it was.

It started slowly enough. There were things he did that I had never witnessed in an adult person, much less a person that seemed so poetic and kind. If he didn't like what was said--a simple statement, sometimes--he would HANG UP THE PHONE. I was puzzled at it. When asked, he admitted it was so he wouldn't say something offhand because he was ANGRY.  Angry? I couldn't believe it. Who was I loving?  But there was more. His analytical brain would not stop over thinking about how I said words, what I said, and what tone I said it in; I found myself often flabbergasted to spend 20 minutes unraveling what felt like trivial conversations about using words like"okay" in place of the word "yes" (as in, "do you want to go to the movies?" "Okay.") or other phrases that he didn't understand, when used by me. Other times I was chastised about the tone in which I was speaking, something I'd never remotely experienced. I started to feel horribly self conscious about simply speaking.

   I found we did not speak the same language, both literally and figuratively. As a single woman, I was fiscally extremely conservative. How did I manage these crazy journeys and adventures on my own, with my own money? By being ridiculously frugal. He, paid better, had an entirely different view of money, and it clashed with mine. My view of life and time planning was different, too. Knowing how short, fragile, and fleeting life was, I felt it was a race to get to where we wanted to be. He found this grating, determined to enjoy life without the frenzy. Any sort of convincing I would try to do to make it seem more structured made him absolutely upset. At the same time, I found it confusing when, during my own indecisiveness, I would retrace my steps, he considered me to be the sluggish one, "wasting time."

    It slowly felt as though this was becoming a macabre dance: how does a  fearful person learn to trust a person who was so angry, or so rigid? At times, I didn't know what to say or do, or how to say or do a thing  in order to please some inner monologue he was having about how people should behave towards one another. How could an independent and usually solitary woman learn how to talk to such a person when most of her inner monologues and decisions were within herself? I often found myself biting my tongue, my anxiety at its highest just thinking about how to talk to him, how to keep him from hanging up or turning off his phone or-- worst of all--dealing was his temper, another shocking surprise I had never known.  He seemed threatened when simply being questioned, viewed  every disagreement as an attack. I could not tell him about my concerns about these things either; I suspect he viewed them as illegitimate. He used language that stunned me and, despite my constantly dismissing it, trying to love him and trust him in the name of love and hope of our long friendship, it was absolutely too much. Worse yet, everything was my fault, due to my extreme fear, according to him.  It could not be about him, his own anger, over-expectations, control, or shortcomings. Maybe we were both stubborn, locked in our own ways of being, not used to the daily push-and-pull of being with another. It felt desperate, tired, and difficult. The whole thing was something out of the saddest of lovelorn tales. I mourned the man I had loved and didn't know how it had gotten to be so difficult.
It wasn't love, but a perfect illusion of love.

And so, my heart wears caution tape around it yet again. And I am tired, and very alone feeling, and tired of being a casualty of trust, trying to live a life somewhere in civilization, somewhere in the arms of someone who could share my crazy life. The irony here is that I had trusted enough to believe in ideals I had never prescribed to: marriage and children.  At some point, I had loved this person enough to consider them, but they presented their own anxieties, excitement, and complexities. Still, I want to believe in him, and yet his own actions could not alleviate my own fears about living with him. I wanted that-kind hearted person who was good to his friends and seemed to be good to me.

                          "I am never getting married and I am never having children"
And so here I was, mending myself, yet again. But baffled, shocked that someone I COULD trust so much, someone I had known so long, could cast such a shadow. I am maybe too inexperienced in this field, unused to casual mores about love. I mourned all the small--or big--dreams I could have had, a farm with horses and chickens or a nice house with art, or a place where we could learn to build things and become self-sufficient.....childish seeming ideals, it seems like, now.

Friends offered solace, but their advice seemed madly foreign to my steadfast heart. "Just go out there and find someone who you can love." But what the devil did that mean? In a country where 2 out of 3 marriages ended in divorce and where a marriage that lasts for decades is seen as stunning news, while no one bats an eye multiple marriage in a person's past...what chance had I? And what did it say about felicity, longevity, generosity, and good-natured desire to live with a person for "as long as we both shall live?" Is this the stuff of fluffy movies and long-ago poets and poetry?

   And who, exactly, did love belong to? What right had I to ask of it? Did it belong to faithful widows and widowers, who had love ripped from them too soon? Was it something for people in war-torn countries, whose entire families were viciously ripped from them, through no fault of their own? Was love really about picking up the pieces, in the end?  Where did it really belong? Who in the world was I to think I had any right to any of it?

    All I know is that I am here. But I have no agenda, utterly lost but for hope, and dreams and perhaps my art. What is next, I don't know, but as always, I feel I live somewhere just outside of civilization, peeking in, and hoping to find a place to call my own. And perhaps, someone to call my own, as well.