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Posts tagged ‘truth-telling’

Girl Meets Boy

 

“We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust’s jar of preserves in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and recategorized with every act of recollection.”

Oliver Sacks, Hallucinations

Girl Meets Boy (At a Disco)

For B.G.

Saturday night at a popular disco/bar in a small California college town a boy asks a girl to dance.

The next morning, the girl’s ears still ring from the deafening beat and volume of the music. She recalls the gyrating bodies on the cramped dance floor, the patterns of light racing around the walls as the disco ball spun overhead and the sharp sour taste of beer in the plastic cup she clutched in her hand.

She also thinks back to the tall lanky boy with a head of dark curls who appeared out of nowhere and asked her to dance.

The girl must have told the boy where she lives because, a couple of days later, he strolls down her tree-lined street and finds her reading quietly in the shade on her front porch. They talk, make a date and their love story unfolds from there.

They both will go on to live other love stories, but for the girl at least, this is her first one.

Over the next few years, the boy and the girl learn about love and share wild adventures – and some tragedies. During summer breaks, the boy makes heroic long-distance drives to see the girl. He is there to support her when her father dies. The girl always stands patiently by the side of the road while the boy grabs his collection of tools and disappears under the hood of his beloved Bugeye Sprite to make the mysterious repair that puts them back on the road again.

They get to know each other’s families and the girl often stays with the boy’s family during holidays. A few things she remembers from the boy’s house are the thick perfectly folded guest room towels she was afraid to use, sneaking into the boy’s room when the house was asleep, the boy showing her how his father folded the Land O’Lakes butter packaging so the Native American Indian girl’s knees looked like breasts, and the soft raspy sounds made by the three big white fluffy (debarked) dogs in the backyard.

The boy’s mother teaches the girl to put a dish towel in the bottom of the sink when washing crystal by hand, so the glasses won’t crack against the hard porcelain. She shows her how to make a pie crust using lard and how to pile that pie high with huge California strawberries which shrink while cooking.

There’s much much more, but this story does not end with the boy and the girl living happily-ever-after, however.

Over time, a divide grew between them about religion. They cling together for as long as they can until the girl meets another, leaves to make a life with him and resolutely locks away her memories and feelings for the boy from the disco. The boy felt love-lost for a while, but eventually made a happy life with another who shared his faith.

Girl Meets Boy (Again)

One day the girl, now a woman in her 60s, receives a surprising message. The boy, now a man also in his 60s, has sent her a text.

Four decades from their first meeting at the disco, the boy/man and the girl/woman connect again — this time through the magic of the internet. Suffice it to say, they are no longer shiny and new. The man is grieving the profound loss of his wife of 31 years. The woman is numb and exhausted from the effort of tying up the loose ends following her divorce.

Now, a few mornings after the surprising text message, the woman sits quietly sipping her morning coffee at her kitchen table. She looks up and reflects on the story she has been writing about a girl and a boy meeting at a disco. The ending is eluding her – shifting and changing like a cloud on a windy day. It is still being played out and she doesn’t know how she wants it to end.

She can’t remember the last time she cried, but now her tears start flowing like a river as she begins to unlock the feelings, stories and people she shut away so many years ago.

She cries because she desperately misses the boy she knew, so joyously and vividly alive. She cries because this boy has had to walk a difficult and challenging path through life as a man.

She grieves for their family members who have passed away – her father, his mother and father, his sister.  She even cries for the dogs, the house, the safe familiar rooms, the cars in the driveway; the trees, leaves, flowers, blades of grass in the lawn. And Bugeyes? Is Bugeyes gone too?

She grieves for the pretty girl she was, and for all that is now finished for her – romantic love, touch; being cherished and desired.

The girl who learned to never let anything in has become the woman freely welcoming all that arises.

Perhaps the boy/man and the girl/woman will meet again someday.  Perhaps they won’t. Still, for as long as they live, they hold within them the remembrance of their youthful love, the unique times in which they lived, and the people they loved who are now gone.

The woman now knows what she did not know as a girl when, 40 years ago, she so easily and innocently took the risk to love the boy:  That there is no love without grief and no grief without love. That grief and love are as intimately connected as lover’s hands entwined.

And that, although there is no end to grief in life ….. there is also no end to love.

 

 

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A calamity threatens the walkabout

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I spend a lot of time worrying about things that never happen, so when a real calamity strikes; it is unexpected and feels like a surprise attack.

My walkabout threatening calamity struck just before Christmas (and a day before the predicted end of the world.)

First I came down with the flu. Following that, I received a call about my pension. In a bullying way I was informed that the company had made an “administrative error”  10 years ago and I really wasn’t entitled to what I had been receiving — and I, in fact, owed them thousands of dollars. This was news to me!

Someone reminded me that compared to drastic health news; this was nothing — which is true.

But this pension was funding my dream!

I also panicked as I saw security in my old age slipping away.

And it was at this point that I hoped the world really would end the next day.

I hate it when someone suggests that I re-frame terrible things as “opportunities” or calls me “courageous” in these situations.  I started to tell myself these things too . . . and then I shut myself up pretty quick.

When calamities happen to me, I just want them to go away. This is childish I know, but I would really rather be the lucky girl who doesn’t get the chance to BE “courageous”, or the one who doesn’t GET “opportunities” over and over again.

Heaven help me … I want to be Paris Hilton!

Calamities like this knock me off my high horse and bring me down to earth pretty fast where I have to face all the dirty, grimy, frightening . . .  and real things in life.

I am sharing this because I want to be a real person in this blog, including all the good, bad and ugly parts of the journey. There are many beautiful spiritual aspects to taking a walkabout  . . .  until there aren’t. And if I am staying in integrity, I need to incorporate the calamities into my story.

After the phone call, I spent two sleepless nights and two full days in my pajamas — sick, panicky, sniveling and mourning the loss of my dream. Visions of sugar plums turned into visions of bag ladies in my head. Some dissociated part of me watched as I cycled through shock, grief, fear, anger and then back around again.

In a lucid moment I also contacted a good lawyer.

On day three I took a shower, got dressed and went for a walk. I felt clear-eyed, grounded, and determined. I decided that, at all costs, I had to hang on to my dream. So I will.

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I doubt I will ever validate this thing as an “opportunity”, but I will admit to arriving at a new plateau in awareness of the inner demons that were pouring out of me. This thing was a surprise attack, re-traumatizing me in my most vulnerable spot.

As a pre-schooler I experienced my first life changing surprise attack. I was molested and terrorized by a relative when my mother was out of the house. This was not a good start to life. I compare it to the sound of a gong. There is the strike of mallet to metal (the abuse) and then the impact radiating out like sound waves for the rest of one’s life. There is no turning back the clock to innocence or safety. Hopefully you heal, but meanwhile there is this subterranean force of trauma impacting your relationships, your health, and your happiness.

With this recent calamity that’s where I went – the place where terrible things can happen to me — where I will be hurt, abandoned, left alone, not heard, not seen; I will die. These are the places from my childhood of loss and abuse.

I let this wound “speak” for awhile and now I have to put distance between it and I. I am ready to move on and tackle this most injustice pension matter as an adult.

I am only one person (and her lawyer) against a large multinational corporation with retirement fund coffers in the billions.

As I have done my whole life, I will do what I can to bring about justice in an unjust world – both for the outer world and for the inner world of my wounded child.

“There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion”
― C.G. Jung

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It’s never too late to be happy

“Claiming our own lives creates fulfillment and joy. We don’t need to be controlled. We don’t deserve to be repressed or stifled. We don’t have to let anyone convince us that we do. We can trust ourselves. We know what we need, we know what we yearn for — we long to be set free.” Melody Beattie

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I started my walkabout 3 months ago with a powerful, but somewhat vague yearning to be free. I wasn’t really sure what freedom would look and feel like.  I feared I might just be running away. The ensuing months have convinced me of this one thing:

My walkabout is a proactive act of claiming my life for myself, which is resulting in a slow shedding of my own freedom-repressing patterns. Here’s one that is on its way out:

Striving for happiness.

Most of my life I have striven for one thing or another — hoping to finally be happy. But no matter what I achieved, there was always more striving and more plans for being happy in the future.

A friend called  the other day to ask me how I was. I answered “happy.” What a surprise!

But there it was.

I was happy.

I had arrived and didn’t know it.

There wasn’t really anything more I needed to do, be, or acquire to be happy.

Happy didn’t look like I thought it would either. I didn’t  have the conventional trappings of happy – a lot of money, a large house, a new car, (or  thousands of Facebook fans.) Happy obviously didn’t mean I wouldn’t have problems, worries, fears, or aches and pains (I still do.).

The difference is that anything else I do now or in the future isn’t going to make me any happier than I am now.

There is only doing what I am doing — and then doing the next thing.

I just finished reading the novel “Breaking out of Bedlam”, by Leslie Larson. The main character is an unhappy elderly woman named Cora. Her family puts her in assisted living because she has become a danger to herself. She loses everything familiar and her world comes crashing down.

BOOBpbkHer granddaughter gives her a blank journal. Cora considers it useless at first, but in her misery, she decides to do something she has never done before – she begins to write, and what she writes about is her own true story. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of her journal:

“I’ve got a plan. I’m going to write down everything I ever wanted to say. I’m not holding back and I don’t give a damn what anybody thinks. Most people don’t tell the truth about their lives, including me. I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I lied to keep myself alive because life is hard and there’s things you got to do. But now I got nothing to lose. I’m going to tell the truth, once and for all.”

By the end of the book Cora has filled three blank journals, starts living a full (and rather lively) life in the assisted living home, and transforms herself. She claims her life, gives it a voice through writing and “breaks out of bedlam”, in her own way, to freedom. I won’t reveal the details, but the story has a happy ending!

It might have been nice to have allowed myself to be happy sooner, but even a moment of truly taking in happiness is a gift beyond all others. I have a friend who often says, “I can die happy now.” That’s what I feel too.

And Cora’s story is a reminder that  claiming our lives and giving it a voice — at any age and in any circumstances — can be transforming and freeing.

And that it is never too late to be happy.

Finding my voice through art

The Original Walkabout Woman

During my walkabout I am submitting applications for artist residencies along the way. Below is the artist statement I included in my submission to the Millay Colony of Auusterlitz New York, which offers 1 month residencies to visual artists, composers and writers.

If you were born into my family you were — by default — an artist.

All my relatives were wildly creative people. My father was a designer and solar energy pioneer. One uncle was a photographer. His work is in the Smithsonian. The other uncle was a celebrated architect. My grandmother and  aunt  found  socially acceptable ways to be creative with textiles and music.

Dinner parties were interesting in my family. Some poor child would be recruited to hold still under pain of death. The guests would grab pens and paper napkins, and highly competitive portrait drawing contests would ensue.

So what do you do when you show early promise and everyone expects you to be an artist . . . ? Well, I rebelled. I didn’t want to be an artist. I had other priorities.

I wanted to save the world.

And back then I did not understand the sublime power of art to tell the truth and be a force for change.

So I worked for causes and learned how to recruit, organize, lead and tell everybody’s story but my own.

Fast forward to 2003. ART decided it had waited its turn long enough. And although I had been artistic in “unofficial” ways for most of my life, it wasn’t until then that I began to call myself an “artist.”

In the end I’ve turned out to be a rather well-rounded artist. I can create the art, hang it, organize events and shows and get the word out.  I can make a decent website, Facebook Page and blog.  I call myself the Jill-of-all trades, and I help other artists with all these things too.

So what is my artwork about?

It’s about finally having a voice as a woman and a human being. It is about the truth telling that I did not have the guts or wherewithal to do until now. Longings that I put on my back burner for too long are slated to be lived and shared through art — both my successes and abject failures, past and present.

I give a voice to my art through my blog, “The Walkabout Woman”, and I am hoping to build a web-based social network of women who will be doing the same.  Through “The Walkabout Woman Project,” women will be invited to live their longings and share – virtually– their own unique journeys through art, writing or other creative means.

So what kind of artwork do I do?

I create mixed media collages. My work is very intuitive. There seems to be a direct conduit from my insides out and sometimes I don’t even know where I stand on a particular issue until I do the art. My art is the worldly container for the color and drama of my inner world. It gives me information and in many cases it makes the unconscious conscious. (For more on consciousness visit the website of my friend Marla Estes!)

Making art has been life-saving.

And it is not just me who is watching and listening. Through my blog, other women see what I am creating and tell me they feel validated, comforted, and sometimes inspired to give “a voice” to their own experiences through art.

At the Millay Colony I would like to continue my walkabout by creating a body of work of mixed media collage portraits of the walkabout women of my life — both past and present —  women I have known and women I have admired. The first in my series of portraits is in the submitted work sample images and is called “The Original Walkabout Woman.” It is me at 7 years old — at my most brave, adventuresome and hopeful.

I draw strength and inspiration from her lively innocent spirit as I continue the next stages of my walkabout!

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