This is for a friend who is struggling with something scary and for whom I have no words . . .

 

 

 

blessing the boats

BY LUCILLE CLIFTON

                                    (at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back     may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that
Advertisements

Comfortably Dumb

--Edward Hopper, "High Noon"

–Edward Hopper, “High Noon”

Suicide.  It’s been over six months since I’ve had this urge to google it.  Six months ago, I put that urge away. . .put it in a strongbox and swallowed the key.

This is the last time you haunt the house of my brain .  Here’s your hat . ..don’t let the unlocked door hit you on the way out.

And  here, I hesitate to say,  it is six months later and he’s back, Jack. That asshole with the hobnail shoes, exhausted, nauseous, spent. Stomping around in the kitchen again. . .rummaging through the produce drawer, looking for palpable courage.

The long hallway with all the family photos: every last one of those faces emaciated, expressionless.   You want to save them. . . load them all into boats, bound for anywhere

but here, where the hurt is.

I mean it is one kind of unholy to go there yourself, but you look into that sea of faces. . .so far from shore.  Hands and arms aching all the way to umbilicus that keeps you tethered to heavy heavy heavy.

Holden Caulfield in a Coast Guard boat, waving a white flag.  Enough already.  Uncle.

Uncle uncle uncle.

Here is Your Handbook for Heartbreak: A Springback Survival Guide for Single Girls When Ice-Cream is Not Enough

Ophelia, oil on canvas, size: 49 x 29 in

Ophelia, oil on canvas, size: 49 x 29 in (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But you know, the most perplexing part of this is, it  I could barely tolerate him upon our first meeting.  And then as fate would have it, the moment I rearranged my thoughts about that, he began to back away.

All of a sudden it was me working to keep him instead of him trying to woo me and win me over.  I mean as if I couldn’t do a thing for myself anymore.  I spent all my free time looking for  ways to make sure he was happy and confident in knowing how much I loved him.  And now I”ve done that, he’s moved on to the next conquest.

Why did he try so hard at the beginning just to let me go like this?

Last week I found myself listening as a friend let go those words in the sauna at the girl’s gym, her eyes rimmed in crimson, tears making rivulets that dripped on her terry cloth dress and neck; meanwhile, as I groped to find the right response, I felt my own sense of longing and loss grabbing at the hem of my heart.  After all, it wasn’t so long ago I had found myself saying such things as well. And in the throes of that full-throated aftershock of agony and insecurity, it also occurred to me

how ill-equipped we mortals be in the face of heartbreak.

It would seem that biology prepares us in oh so many ways to fall in love, but sadly does nothing whatsoever to help us fall out of it.

And so in light of science and lack of knowledge about the actual anatomy and physiology that supports such insanity, here I humbly offer this virtual handbook for heartbreak, something I’ve been trying to do for myself for quite some time as well.

To begin, I thought I would start with a to-do list for you, (but also for her in my groping, I am pretty sure I only said something to make it worse, not better) something printable and easy to carry around in your purse.  Because coping with the loss of love can be exhausting.  Especially when it seems all you can do is obsess  over and over to the point of neglecting the most basic need for sustenance and sleep.

Let alone tend to the needs of a battered and abandoned psyche.

So here it is, something to focus on after the (much needed) first crying spell passes and you start to get some perspective back:

Number one and most important of all:  Let go of the urge to make contact with someone who’s not going to appreciate it and write a love letter to yourself instead.

The fact that you were able to open your heart to him like a rose in winter speaks volumes about the way you view the world in general.  And chances are you didn’t break that mold on him either.  You are a bundle of love and cuddles no matter where you go or who you meet.  There are a bazillion creatures out there who appreciate that trait in a person, from the homeless guy you bought that sandwich for to the baby bird you scooped up off the ground and climbed that tree to put her back.

You are the embodiment of love and kindness.  And what’s not to cherish about that?

Time to pull your petals close to keep your heart safe from someone who doesn’t love himself enough to open up to you. .. so that later you’ll be able to open them again for someone who loves you just the way you are, unabashed lover of the ones who are hardest to love in the first place.  You touch a lot of lives with that stuff, Honey.  And the world will never forget you for it.

2. Now that you have written that love letter to remind yourself how precious and special you truly are, it’s time to do a bit of triage and bandage-rolling.  Time to focus on helping your heart to heal again.

Make a list of cons to avoid.

Jim Morrison's Mugshot - Florida 1970

Jim Morrison’s Mugshot – Florida 1970 (Photo credit: SongLyrics)

And do it first thing in the morning before the light of day hits the empty dent on the other side of the bed. ..and the tears begin to fall again. (Ordinarily I would suggest a pros column too, but let’s face it.  If you have read this far, it’s a good bet you have that one down ad nauseum.)   The truth is, we already spend a lot of precious reality hours fantasizing and assigning all kinds of unearned adoration to the objects of our infatuations.

 

Ask yourself the hard questions now and don’t be afraid to let the fritos fall where they may.  Among the beercans and roach clips that your once beloved left lying all over the house as well.

Is it really all that cute when he burps the words to “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” ?   Or is it cuter that  you were able to overlook it and laugh with him. .. the unconditional depth of the way you let yourself open to a dope who didn’t deserve you. .. like a magnolia or a lily of the mountains?

Get real, Girl.  And give credit where credit is due.

Continue reading

Who’s Sorry Now: A Godzilla Apology

So what to do when you’ve had a huge fight with your bestie in forever

and the thing has snowballed to the size of Argentina in a heatwave. ..

and you have been ridiculous and he has been insensitive. . .

and  hammered at each other to the point of senselessness. ..

each too stubborn to give an inch, but especially HIM?

You take it to the mattresses for a godzilla apology!

Listen, you reptilain toad fart! So I don’t have to say this again:

I am sorry for being such a three-headed she-beast..

Now stop brooding about and give me a hug, please.  You know you miss me already and the feeling is mutual.

What do you say we go a couple more rounds in imaginary Japan?

xoxo  Kisses and Hugs from your bestie who can’t imagine a minute of madnees without you.

Letting go of heartbreak songs

In matters of self-education and scholarly pursuit, I can be honest and say for the most part, there has always been motivation enough to make me wise and willing to learn.  In matters of the heart however, I have been remiss with myself and sorry.  And, in looking back all I can say is: Man am I a sap and a moron.

I almost never listen to mainstream pop or country so this song is new to me. ..and it’s coming at a time when I could use a reminder of what really happens after having let yourself be stupid to the point of laying face up on the floor like a golden retriever: here ya go, trample my guts and eat my heart out.

And sad songs are OK when you want to cry, but if you want to get angry and get over it so you can get on with it. ..I think Reba says it best.

Watch this one.  Even if you have to click the link and wait for the advertising.  It will be worth it!

Losing my Religion: On Finding the Divine on the Road to Learning

Yesterday in my creative writing class, I gave an assignment that asked students to write the wordGod” at the top of the page and freewrite on it.  No rules.  No boundaries.  Just an exploration of that word.

And when I ask something so big of them, I think it only fair that I ask myself to do it too.

(In the past I learned  the importance of participating in those  free-writing assignments from my department chair who cheerfully passes along a good many lesson plans and classroom strategies. And for this most insightful advice, I am truly grateful.)

As a result, I found this inclusive student/teacher exercise to be a most gratifying experience for a couple of reasons.

Number one first and foremost, freewriting is  fun-time  and I find  that if I model some kind of industrious task-oriented behavior during this period, then I’m more or less contradicting myself by setting a hypocritical example.  🙂

And that’s no way to get on with the business of sharing the joy of learning.

But lately, I have been a lot pre-occupied with thoughts that just take me to a place that I ought not go.

William Blake, from the notebooks

So I’ve been shirking my responsibilities a little as mentor.

And in this transgression from my duties as well forgetting that no matter what transpires between the two of us, the bottom line is that the student is internalizing this from experience, which, up to now, has always been the best teacher:

“Do as I do, not as I say.”

And when I think of my own learning experiences, that is how it always worked anyway.  I mean, I loved being taught.  Loved my teachers, all of them, even the ones still struggling with themselves to be patient and such, because they taught me other things I needed to know as well.  Things like being organized with numbers and keeping to a schedule.  I mean, these are respectable behaviors that must be tended to as well.

Sadly the point was often lost on me as I always picked up on some other kind of unhappiness in that exchange and it usually made me run from any kind of discomfort that might reinforce it in myself.  So the lesson got lost on me a lot.

I always knew they meant well though.  And I loved them just the same.

I don’t think there is any such thing as a bad teacher.  Just some in need of a bit more love and support themselves it would seem.  I mean, if you look past that sometimes inscrutable and unforgiving face, you can and will see a softer one.  It’s there if you’re willing to look.  The little girl at three years old, her hands having just been slapped for putting them in the light socket.

She knew that Mommy meant well in doing it, meant to save her from the ultimate separation between parent and child.  If anything ever happened to elicit such a misalignment of the stars, then Mommy would fight like a tiger to stop that.  Even if it meant seeing the tears of disappointment on on the face of someone so close, so innocent and vulnerable.  Those words we all wish to avoid at any given time in our tenure as parents.  “Mommy, why?”

Alas, there was a second lesson in that interaction, one that Mommy in her infinite longing to understand, might never have anticipated and that was “If you explore too much, then you will get punished.”

And so it begins, the cycle of learning and punishment.

Followed by rebelliousness and breaking away.

Which in turn leads to more of the same.

And where on earth could we have gone so terribly wrong as to keep that inefficient system alive for so long?

After all, we came into this world, every single one of us, with two very basic means of understanding and those were

A. To love and be loved.

And B: To learn and share what we have learned.

And so I offer up for you this other kind of scenario to ponder, one in which the child’s learning experience leads her to a pile of excrement in the back yard, the one wherein the dandelion is sprouting up so proudly beside it, and in her excitement to share, she just leans down and kneels to it.  A supplicant in awe of the innerworkings of this earth.  That for every pile of shit, there is a rebirth that follows and flowers after it.

It is the way of the world after all.  Birth, Death, Rebirth.

And without all three of these elements, there simply is no way to understand the divine.

So now I sit here before the laptop and freewrite and let the words fall where they may.  No beginning or end to speak of, just being.

Heeere’s the Weirdness: New Work with Lovecraft Today

Marginalia (collection)

Image via Wikipedia

So a couple of weeks back, I told you about my friend in Sweden and our gift exchanges across the miles.  And that most of what I send is work he’s inspired in one way or another.

This time I was working to incorporate the various facets of weirdness that make him so endearing, but also to include the one I keep overlooking, one that’s nevertheless an important part of who he is including fascinations with the dark side that I will always try my best to understand.

So here is the work/Christmas and birthday gift I’ve done for him; a mixed media incorporating some 3d feathers, photo collage, random design and glitter. . . and I’ve added/collaged/embellished a found monster  head from Lovecraft, just to show I’m a good sport.  And you know, by placing him in a nice garden setting with lots of flowers and romance, am reaffirming for us both that there will always be room in my world for weirdness.

Cthulhu Angel Embracing the Muse

http://www.etsy.com/listing/90510932/lovecraft-inspired-cthulu-angel-embraces

Eben Oben Gleeben Globen Swedish Glogg: Drink it up Yum!

So a few posts back, I told you about my friend in Sweden  and how we make art for each other. ..he writes, sings, plays guitar . . .and I paint, poem, and mix media. . .but not to worry: I haven’t forgotten my promise to show you the unabashedly creepy new work I whipped up for him. . .after he sees it!

But this week he sent me the happiest Xmas parcel already, all boxed up in the man way with duct tape to smash the wrapping paper on. . .

And I am not sure what I liked best about it: the pink and white Lovika mittens, knitted by his mom’s friend. . .

the fragrant and leafy Gavle tea, which has a nice orange spicy taste to it. ..yum!

or this sweet and spiced bottled glogg, which is a traditional Christmas drink in Scandinavia as well as just a whole bunch of heaven in a glass:

http://www.explorechicagotourism.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/glogg.jpg

According to Meathead, the Barbeque Whisperer:

“Samuel Johnson, author of the first English dictionary, wrote “Claret is the drink for boys, port for men, but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.” By that definition, Scandinavian glögg will make us saintly.

Glögg, pronounced more or less like glooog, is a sweet, high-octane, mulled wine, which is to say it is made with a potpourri of spices and all three of the above: Claret (red wine), port, and brandy. Because it is served warm it is especially popular around Christmas. It is the perfect cold-weather drink, warming the body and soul from the inside out.

How does it work? The warm liquid raises the temperature of the mouth and stomach slightly, and because alcohol is a vasodilator, it forces blood to the skin, making us feel warm and blushing on the outside.”

http://www.amazingribs.com/recipes/drinks/glogg.html

The mittens are warm and soft and the beverages are fragrant and tasty, but I do believe my favorite part of this package was the sweet little drawing he included, a pencil drawing on graph paper. ..one he’d fashioned as a little boy.  The drawing depicted a little animal rock band. . .so sweet.  There was also a postcard, with a nice little description of everything with a pic of his town square, home to this crazy Christmas goat:

So anyway,  here’s a pic of the pastel I made for him a couple of years ago:

which used to have too many flowers in it to suit his taste so I lopped them out; Johnny has the original, but I also made prints of this, which you can get at my Etsy shop. (at this point I must also explain that he is adamantly allergic to the color pink, something he once let go. . .after I’d shown him one of the flower paintings I did. . .”It’s brilliant,” he said, ” but I just wish you’d give that color a rest.”  I think he said it was too disturbing or loud maybe, which I just think is endearingly quirky and silly.  It makes me laugh remembering that story.

Meanwhile, here is a link for a recipe for glogg from Meathead Goldwyn, Hedonist Evangelist:

http://knol.google.com/k/gl%C3%B6gg-the-ultimate-recipe#

From the Vagina Monologues to Mass Marketing: Healing These Wounds that Hold Us Together

Much to the chagrin of a strict and Puritanical Catholic school upbringing, and with no apologies whatsoever to Sister Madeline,  the nun who educated my third grade class on the horrors of war,

but also ironically taught us to accept the shame that follows “attention-seeking” episodes of histrionic post traumatic distress,

here I sit at this desk composing a post on a topic I can’t even say without having to put a hand over my mouth and mumble .

And in the interest of helping you understand why I chose to do such a thing, especially with someone like the ghost of Sister Madeline looking so disappovingly over my shoulder, I will first explain that I was never really one to surrender to the conventions of conformity.  And by this I don’t mean to say I actually chose the path less traveled. . .instead I am saying that I more or less had noplace else to go.

And so consequently, and despite everyone’s best efforts to mold me into someone who looks and behaves like this:

Queen Elizabeth I by Evelt of Greece

Image by mharrsch via Flickr

I ended up a person who makes art that looks like this:

And tragically somehow, I suppose you could say I seem to have managed to evolve into this embarrassingly

unquiet person who writes and makes art about taboos, ones including but not exclusively limited to: mental illness, feminism, sexuality. . .

and as I type, the one thought I have spinning upstairs in the lost attic of my brain is,

“Oh, man my priest is gonna kill me in the confessional with a buttload of  puragatorial “Hail Mary‘s” if he ever finds out.”

I felt the same way about my seventh grade journal though.  The one I kept under lock and key.

And in admitting this, I am not really looking to cast aspersions on any of our formative oppressors; it doesn’t help anyway. . .  just leads to more defensive arguments about how we need to do as we are told and soldier on.  Besides, we are people whose ancestors were schooled by the Great Depression, persecution, what have you. . .so if we start pointing a finger of blame, we just end up having to point it at ourselves too, if only for the modicum of conformity we embrace just to keep peace at times. ..to protect ourselves from further pecking and scratching at those open wounds trying to heal themselves. ..

At any rate, in light of the knowledge that every role model and scholar in this journey has had something to offer, and out of my own need to honor them for trying to keep us safe from harm, I am just going to embrace that part of my past for what it was, a learning experience.

To be fair, I also feel a need to acknowledge that silence and lying was the way of past generations, men and women who had no idea for themselves how to heal from their own awfulest of traumas.

And in spite of it all, we manage to find ourselves in an age when the boundaries have been stretched a bit; even so, it’s still there, that little dark cloud that envelops our private parts.

And if I had the hours to write a paper on the negative effects of puritanical shame and other abominations committed in the name of religion, and how that shame has ultimately led to the abuse of innocent victims of all ages, shapes, sexual orientation and sexes, I would gladly go there, but to save space I will just try to make do with the time I’ve got.

But back to what I was saying before, let me just reiterate and remind myself that sadly and tragically here in America, girls are still implicitly taught to walk a wide path around impure thoughts, unfresh scents or anything else remotely connected to normal and healthy bodily functioning and perception,

not to mention overall good health and normal development.

It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to tell us keep our butts out of   the gutter, right?

Bad things happen down there and maybe if we keep our mouths shut about them, they will just go away.

And what about those cliches that people said to us, the ones that made us so creeped out we slipped on three pairs underwear each day to keep it bottled up inside.

“Knees together please.  Nobody needs to see what you have in there.”

“Don’t sit like that.  People will get the wrong idea.”

“Pull your skirt down, for Chrissake.  You are adverstising something you do not want to sell.”

And to that, you just know we all wanted to scream:

“I am eight years old.  I have no idea what that means.”

It has taken years and years of invasive therapy to even begin to process this stuff for a very large segment of the XX population, but there you go.

And if reading  words like “therapy” and “private parts” makes you feel uncomfortable,

I am sorry for that. Sorry for your discomfort, a discomfort that has become the default for all of us when people bring up sexual violence and/or exploitation taboos.  I am sorry for such discomfort, but not sorry for the words.

And please know that I am not trying to embarrass anyone. I write for a lot of reasons, but mainly towards the end of a universal healing process, language passed from hand to hand to hand,

and nurtured by beloved teachers, one in particular who let me bleed and bleed all over the pages of my fifth grade looseleaf, bringing fists and fists of fresh pages, which I was also asked to read to my classmates.

It’s funny how the title embarrasses me still.  “Laugh at Me if You Want.”

I wrote it the year I also pushed my head through the window glass playing outside. . .my rabbit fur hat bloodied a little and the shard of glass plucked proudly from my forehead, its indent as prelude to parting my hair to the opposite side and barretting it to make sure everyone saw the scab.

It’s been a few years since I saw “The Vagina Monologues,” and I remember being incredibly moved throughout.

It inspires me still.  Not only for the narratives that were so engaging and validating, but for giving me permission to write and make art that challenges the status quo for exploratory works.

This is the place where our stories come from.  Here is the light that shines from the center of us, the entranceway through which we all must pass.

First I am going to share something to make you laugh perhaps, and that is a little gem found on a friend’s facebook page this morning, the link attached to a site that advertises something called a “vagisoft blanket,” which in theory is something we need to wrap around ourselves anyway although perhaps not commercially.

But still, I feel the need to point out the advertising and marketing is really quite genius, with slogans saying things like:

“soft as the marshmallow womb of a mermaid”

“the cotton fields of heaven”

“the **** of a silkworm”

And can you imagine the impact of that kind of advertising on the minds of a next generation of independent sexually empowered and safe men, women, transgendered and transexual folks from all over the place?

**************************************************************************************************************************

So anyway that was the part of my blog (with thanks to Charles Colyott, sci-fi fiction and horror writer, for posting it on his status today)

that was for the sake of making light of a difficult topic. . .

and here, dear friends who have stuck with this awkwardest of topics thus far, is the end of this journey, but for many of you, the beginning of another.

As a precautionary measure, I must warn you that it’s not my style to set something up so playfully and then switch to a serious topic, but these are the layers of who we are, all shades of the rainbow in healing ourselves.

This next passage is called “My Vagina is My Village.”  It is a very short film of Eve Ensler performing a piece from her book, “The Vagina Monologues,” and it is not easy to watch, but  validating of universal struggle and suffering I promise you.  If this doesn’t break  your heart and make you wish we could change the shame and insanity that leads to such tragedies, tragedies that also occur outside of wartime, then nothing will.