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.


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