I feel indebted to my parents for the life they gave me. Growing up in Germany taught me a lot (though I was defiant and resistant, and blasted the Beach Boys at all hours, and had “Santa Cruz” stickers on all my stuff, and wore sunglasses in the dead of winter…)
I visited a friend who lived in Berlin, and we went over to east Berlin while it was still a completely walled off, controlled country. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my young life at the time, when they pretended they’d lost my passport, then said they had no such thing, my receipt was a forgery and I wasn’t allowed to leave.I stared at my friend who had already crossed through the narrow wooden tunnel. I remember shaking. I remember thinking I would never get out. I wanted to run, my body was poised and trembling, and I knew I would be shot if I ran.
Then I remembered what I had been taught, and told them to call the East German Polizei, who would then call the Russian police, who would then call the American military police. I mentioned my father worked for the american government. They somehow “found” my passport. A little blue scrap, clutched in my sweaty hands, so fragile a thing, to let me out. out. out walking freely, breathing freely, a girl who would never take her safety for granted again. I saw checkpoint Charlie taken away by a crane. I chipped off a part of that wall myself, with my own two hands wielding a mallet. It was a symbolic thing for young me to do, and it’s still what I stand for…
Breaking through walls of imprisonment is in my blood and in my family line (another story, for another time, it deserves its own story, because it is glorious.)…I still have the piece of that wall somewhere. It horrifies me to hold it, though, so I’ve never known what to do with it.
If people experienced these things, I feel like they would understand how fragile our social structure is.
I feel like some might vote differently, if they realized what it’s like to live without checks and balances.
Even one day behind a wall changed me for life. Even a few weeks in Berlin had me in fight-or-flight the entire time.
If you could see what the true horror of being owned looks like -They had facades of buildings along a main route, and that wide, main route was the only place they’d allow foreign governments to see and visit. Behind the facades was devastation. Despair. Crumbling hovels.
I still have a bag I bought from a seller there, sitting cross legged on the ground. I was standing and I felt far too tall. He smiled at me and cheerily, quietly said “help me,” as we completed our transaction. I can’t forget these things. I can’t forget these people. They infuse my vote. I cast my vote for all of them. In memory of the trapped man who smiled and whispered “help.”
You set the enormous antique mirror down; you know you did, because the cat told you to, and she is the questgiver. You don’t remember why, but you had to do this little side quest before you continued on with the main quest. What is the main quest? You can’t remember. You can’t remember, because I’m writing this, and I haven’t told you yet.
“How does that feel?” The voice is coming from behind you. How can that be? You’re facing into the room; you see the patch of sunlight on the apartment floor, but no cat. Oh. She must have slipped behind you, when you were busy trying to figure out your point of view. You turn,
you turn around
…and that’s when you realize that you were standing inside the frame of the mirror. How could you have been standing right inside it, and not have noticed? Last thing you remember is accepting the quest, and setting down the damned mirror. But as you turn, you see the edges of the frame. As you turn, you hear and feel a strange grating crunch, that sounds like pieces of glass shifting against each other. It sounds like that, because that’s exactly what it is. You look down at your arms, (and no: we haven’t looked into the room yet, because it’s dark, and before you go forward, you’ve got to figure out what the hell is going on in the liminal space.) and if you could feel horror, this would probably (maybe) be the moment for it. But you don’t. Because somewhere inside, where you didn’t want to think about it, you already knew.
You didn’t really set the mirror down, because it is embedded in your skin. Pieces of it have cut you, so you’re bleeding in trickles and stripes, but it doesn’t hurt – much. Or at least, you’re used to how it feels. You feel the same. You’ve always been aware of a pain you carry around; it’s so familiar, it’s just what comes with you when you wake up in the morning, and weaves itself into your dreams at night. You wouldn’t even call it pain, if you weren’t looking at the blood – you would just call it: yourself.
But it isn’t. you can see that, now. It is shards of glass. Some are buried so deep, you can see the scars where your skin has healed over, but there’s an angular bit pressing against it, so it forms a small lump. Some are sticking out- those are new, you suppose – some of them are halfway in, and grating against the ones buried deep.
Here’s where the horror comes: GET THEM OUT! how do you get them out? how many are there? You want to run, screaming, get them out, get them off me, but the moment your blood surges like rocket fuel and you feel your bladder decide in a panic that it needs to pee or something, your brain laughs and tells you that’s NOT how we’re going to solve this, and a calm flows through you. That’s exactly what you always do when there’s an emergency, isn’t it? It’s your superpower. “There’s an unidentified, mangled object in the engine of this plane. We must ask you to stay calm and evacuate.” Your brain switches into calm, doesn’t it, so cool that you spread a pool around you, and the people near you are touched by it. You say something calm, usually something funny, and people laugh. You see their shoulders relax. Good. You did it when you had tried to commit suicide, and you were on the emergency room table; the last thing you remember is them chuckling at what you said, and someone saying “she’s so sweet. I hope she lives.”
They hoped you lived
Tears spring into your eyes, and you’ve accepted that there are various-shaped (Narrator doesn’t even know how many) shards of glass under your skin. You’ve accepted that you’ve accepted it, and now it’s time for us to be able to see the room inside the mirror frame.
This hurts. Writing this hurts, so I hope reading it is a little bit more pleasant.
The room is foggy. Sorry, I know that seems like a copout, but it is. You can tell it’s a room, but you can’t see very far in front of yourself. It’s shifting with fog. You can see that there are people in here – and you can see a large shape in the center of the room, and you make out a glint of gold here and there in the center of the room, but that’s it. There isn’t enough light to even see colors. Where there’s a “glint of gold,” there must be light shining off it from some source somewhere, or maybe I’m just making up the glint of gold part. IN any case – just trust me when I tell you that right now, it’s a weird, foggy landscape. You could be in Sherlock Holmes’ London, if it were contained in a room, but surely if you were, you would hear horses’ hooves and cab wheels on cobblestones, because that’s how you’ve always pictured it. What do you hear and smell? Your ears feel oddly muffled, like when you duck your head underwater. You move your arm experimentally, and you can hear, sort of inside-your-ears, the grating of the glass, and your own breathing. You should be quite proud, really, that your breathing is so even and relaxed. It smells damp. It smells, in fact, like a smell you really love- the damp of the water and the rocks on the Pirates ride in Disneyland. It smells like you’d imagine the spooky hallway smells in the Haunted Mansion, if the Mansion were real (and yes, you’ve really always just called it the Haunted ‘House,’ let’s just admit that, since I’m speaking for you at the moment, and you haven’t got a choice in the matter) as you’ve always wished. Wished it were real. It is real. You’re standing in it right now.
The ghostly forms begin to make a bit more sense to your mind- the large thing in the middle of the room isn’t Madame Leota’s table, as you wish it were; it is, in fact, a dais, a raised platform. There are stairs, so it’s really like a series of circles, one on top of the other. On the platform, in the center, is –
but wait. Surrounding the platform seems to be a sort of glass wall or forcefield or something, because the fog is behaving oddly. It isn’t the same inside the platform as it is on the outside. How can you see this now, when you couldn’t before? Have you stepped into the room without me narrating it? You naughty thing.
You look down at your arms to see if you’ve moved, or whether it was just that the fog was moving so you felt like you moved, and one of the shards of glass flashes (there’s that mysterious glint, again! Where is the light source?) and right when it flashes in your eye, it hurts a bit, because it’s a new kind of pain, and you look up to find-
You don’t have glass in your arms at all. What kind of crazy idea was that? You look down at your arms, and they’re small. They’re smooth. They’re tiny. Someone grabs you roughly by the shoulders, and you look – oh no- there’s a tightness in your chest, and you really don’t want to look, any more than I want to write this – You see your brother, as he was. Oh shit, not this. Not this time, it is over, must we really revisit this?
There’s a scratchy sensation like splinters in your skin when the rope goes around your neck. What is he saying? Can you remember? Oh yes. “Cowboys and Indians.” That was it. You always want to be the Indian, don’t you? Always. You hate cowboys. You grew up believing and knowing that the Indians were yours, their brown skin should have been your brown skin, and you hate your brother’s blond, fluffy hair -HATE it. You’d see it from the back when he was in the camper, in front of you, lounging in the entire window so you couldn’t talk to your parents at all, the butt pockets of his “Tuff Skins” jeans and his stupid blonde hair right in your face so in your mind you wanted to just spank his stupid butt. Instead, you gave in. You let him have your parents, and you turned around to play with the cat. Your real brother, Pooh bear, the cat. He was blocked out, too, so you and Pooh played together. Give up, you don’t want what your brother takes away- you learn to release it all…
Now your brother the blonde cowboy has a rope around your neck, and seems to have decided that the end of the game was that he gets to hang you from the swing set, because you’re the Indian. It’s how it’s always been; the cowboys always win, don’t they, that’s what he’s saying, but you still don’t want to be one. You never, never do. You love your brown hair. You love your brown skin, just like your Dad’s. Just like your Mom’s. Brown in the sun, brown from running toward the ocean waves and rolling in the sand. To hell with him.
Fog swirls in front of your eyes, and you move your hand up to feel for the rope burn. It’s not there. The glass clinks and grates under your skin again, but there’s a clink, and you look down to see that one shard has worked its way out of your skin and fallen to the ground.
How did you escape death that time? You don’t remember what happened after your brother threw the rope over the swing set. You know someone rescued you, because your parents told you. But you don’t remember it at all. You step forward and hear the satisfying crunch as you grind the shard of glass under your trusty adventuring boots.
This is how you’ll get free of the damned mirror. One piece at a time. No matter how long it takes. all right.
I could do this all day.
You hear a squeak behind you, that sounds like a cross between an amused, startled laugh and a cough. You turn again, disoriented, How many times have you turned? Is this some kind of sick game of Blind Woman’s Bluff?
“You’ve turned a few times,” says the new cat, and you’ll turn more before you’re done with this quest.
“I didn’t know what this involved before I agreed to it,” you say, your mind already furiously working on an exit strategy. But the shards of glass under your skin throb the truth before the cat can speak it:
“That’s life. We come in the door, but we don’t necessarily agree to all that is involved. The only thing we can do, really, is let go and be brave – or not – I suppose we could just sit down, give up and whine, but you don’t want to do that, do you. You’ve always been a fighter.” “Yes.” The new cat is smaller, just a kitten, really. She’s got the same grey ears as the first cat. You look around for the first cat, and you see a glimmer of her as the fog shifts. She’s still got an exclamation point over her head, but this time it is drained of all color. it’s as grey as the fog, and you can only see it because the fog parts around it, and it stands out against the darkness. “How many of you cats are there?” “Two,” the little kitten smiles, “Well, three, really, but you won’t see the third one. You may not meet him at all, if your quest doesn’t go that direction. That would be the best of all outcomes, but it’s up to you, really.” She cocks her head, the wisps standing out wildly around her ears, “the only way out, of course, is through.”
This will not transform itself to go into the story, no matter how many times I sift it, no matter how many facets I carve into it, or angles I observe it from. There are some wounds that are too fresh to be made into fiction. They have to heal somewhat before they can be […]
I walked on. Light filtering through the treetops told me it was only mid-morning, but I was unaccountably weary. Exhausted, in fact. Each step dragged. My bones ached.
Up ahead, I saw a strange shadow that was far too regular to be another tree. In fact, it pushed apart the trees around it, as if… yes. A door. As if a door had sprouted up faster than the trees, and twice as strong.
It was red. It had a long bronze handle, the kind that pushed down like a lever, not usually the kind you’d see on a front door at all. It was ornate and lovely, worn shiny in the middle of the scrollwork, as if it had been used many times. But this door hadn’t been here a few moments ago, unless I’d been in a daze and somehow missed it.
I looked around the edges. Trees. There was absolutely nothing behind the door, and yet it stood, ridiculously out of place, and yet somehow unapologetically a part of this forest.
Oh well. I shrugged, and tried the handle.
It moved easily, and the door swung open. I was in a living room that looked like an ordinary, somewhat rundown apartment living room. I peeked back at the doorway. Beyond the open front door, I saw the forest, just as it had been a few moments ago. Well, I was on a quest; I supposed I should expect the unexpected, although I’m not sure that’s really possible to do.
I heard a polite cough – no – the WORD “cough” coming from a room off a small alcove. The carpet was old, and in need of a vacuum. Really, could there be anything *less* magical than this apartment?
A cat framed by a square of sunlight gave me a rather unfriendly look and sighed. She had a gleaming exclamation point hovering over her head.
“Will you accept the side quest?” she said, in a bored tone, letting her eyes drift closed, angling her squashed face more toward the sunlight.
“Uh… side quest?”
She huffed an impatient sigh, and one eye slitted open to peer at me, daylight-blue in her striped, sooty face.
“You know the drill. You’re on a Quest! Hurrah, cheer. There have to be side quests along the way, to take you off your path, or give you a little more wealth, or teach you better skills so you can handle what’s coming at the end. In fact, I’ll tell you a secret,” she looked around with an exaggerated slink, the exclamation point bobbing ridiculously to keep up with her. “you CAN’T HANDLE what’s coming at the end unless you do the side quests. In fact, you’ll probably go insane, lose a few pieces of yourself, or die before you even reach the end, if you don’t take the side quests.”
“Well, if you put it like that… sure. Sure, I’ll hear what the side quest is, and then see if it sounds like something I can do.”
“No. Nope. You hear it, and you do it. You really don’t have any other option.” in the other room, I heard the front door bang shut. I managed not to jump too noticeably, but even so, her whiskers lifted in a smirk.
“Oh.” I cleared my throat. “All right then, lay it on me, I suppose.”
She sat up straighter and puffed her chest out.
Soft light rose in a corner of the room, like someone was turning up one of those cheesy dimmer switches from the 1980’s.
“Sorry. We haven’t had any modernizing done in here since 1986,” she muttered,
but my attention was caught, so I didn’t respond. On the far wall was a dim, ancient-looking, scratched mirror. In it, I saw the cat reflected, with that exclamation point above her head, and behind her…
“What am I carrying? What on earth?”
I was holding a huge mirror of my own. It was warped like a fun-house mirror, and a spider web network of cracks made it appear as though it would shatter at any second. There was blood on my arms, and blood on the mirror. I looked down at my own arms- empty, but still exhausted as though I truly was carrying that heavy, warped mirror that had splintered into my forearms, and cut me with tiny, stinging cuts.
The mirror reflected me, as well, but what I could see of it in the large mirror had twisted me out of all recognition. It stretched the cat into a nightmare shape, and the exclamation point over her head resembled an enormous dagger, or a torch flickering with fire.
“First part of the quest: you must set the mirror down.” “How do I set it down, if I can’t see that I’m carrying it?”
“That’s the second part. First you set it down, JUST SET IT DOWN, and then you’ll be able to see. I should warn you,” she continued quickly, as I opened my mouth to reply, “It’s going to hurt.”
When I was struck speechless by beauty that spoke to my soul,
in words of line and color, patina and composition,
he grew impatient, angry, scornful.
“It is confronting to me,”
he said in the beginning, when he was still making an effort to be kind,
“when you delight in things.”
Never pledge your life to someone who seeks to shame you when your soul expands.
when something in this world calls to you and has your heart lift, gives you wings,
if the person whom you think you love, whom you think loves you,
If you are in such a relationship now,
Do whatever it takes.
The right person won’t tell you that you’re extra, too much, you’re too sensitive, you feel things too deeply.
The right person will not seek to smother the flame burning in you.
They’ll delight in your light and they’ll even add fuel.
“Wonder” was to be engraved in our wedding rings.
He called it his word, but no- it was mine.
It could have been ours- I was willing-
But he shamed the wonder in me.
Wonder was to be “our intention word,” but not really mine. My “wonder” that was allowed in his eyes was a highly controlled substance.
It would be doled out by him; only approved in small drips, in the way I echoed him, admired him, stood in his shadow as his acolyte.
My wildish, Celtic, dragon heart was to be dampened, shamed, caged, silenced.
Then after he broke up, he gave the word to a procession of blondes that followed. I’m sure it was his own version, though – hemmed in with a lot of rules, defining them as “summers” or “springs,” manipulating, “fixing,” and telling them who they are allowed to be, telling them how to be “Queens,” in a trite, dull, petty, utterly shallow way of controlling women, which any thinking person can see through rather quickly – and so it has nothing whatsoever to do with MY intention word, and the way I walk in this world.
Someone who has all the answers, and goes through life giving them, filling the silence with his determinations and taking up space, never leaving a pause for something else to come in, never giving air to something outside his echo-chamber, will never be able to live in the questions, which is wonder. Will never be able to truly discover, without his own pre-conceived definitions, another person. With curiosity, with openness, with … wonder.
I could have shown him that, but he wasn’t interested in learning anything. He was interested in controlling, while he supposedly yearned for wonder. I feel profound pity for him.
But did he ever once feel any remorse for the way he treated me- no. I learned to accept the apology I was never given, so that I could forgive.
Wonder- in the rings that were to symbolize our union- was not for me in his world. Support his wonder, perhaps, but my own? Absolutely not. Too dangerous. Never too much wonder, don’t be too alive, don’t sink into Breathing in the line and color and examining the negative space, shadow shapes and patina like you did with your beloved grandma when you were a tiny girl-
Don’t speak the language you knew before words,
and above all, do not feel too much.
My heart is how I see. The questions are where I live.
I will never again be with someone who wishes to blindfold me in this world, to shrink and stifle my life force, who sees my dragon wings unfurling and throws a net on them to shrink me, and attempts to dominate by silencing my power.
And oh – wonder! – a spirit-igniter that is available to all, and is only the more joyous when it is shared, was to be squashed and bullied, belittled and mocked out of me. And of course, we would both focus on his. Celebrate his, whatever wonder could twist itself into small enough, predictable enough shapes to make it past the security laser beams in his controlling, rule-bound brain.
There was one rule for him, and another rule for me. I could hold him while his emotions racked him; I could hold space without judgment for every one of his emotional and thought experiences, as is my gift, but I was not allowed to feel, (unless the feelings were shame, guilt, and brokenness, of course) or break out of the confines of the little, boxed, polite, beruffled yes-doll he wished me to be, so he could feel powerful.
The great knight, who convinced the dragon to shrink herself and bank the fire of her questioning, limitless, expanding heart, so he could conquer her, but oh, she had to be small, shrinking and beaten, before he could.
I tried to explain to him, over ice cream in Clarabelle’s, after he had told me that people were laughing and making fun of me when I was gazing so long at the marketplace, falling up into that jewel-bright creation, learning its lights and shadows, absorbing the rich colors and soaring, free-
“They wanted to take a picture, and you were standing there, just looking, for the longest time. They were all laughing. I was ashamed.” “You were ashamed of me? For looking at the marketplace?” “Yes.” “None of them thought to ask for what they needed? To ask me to move? They laughed at me instead? You, instead of asking me to move or telling me what was up, stood there by them and felt ashamed? of ME?” “Yes.”
I cried as I tried to tell him, to defend the exquisite joy that he had smashed with his mockery, joining with others to throw stones at the lovely, fragile bird that was my heart in the marketplace, “you don’t know what I’m doing when I do that,”
“No. I don’t.” He said. And, impatiently, “why are you crying?”
“It makes a jagged tear; it is painful, to hear you join the people making fun of me, rather than stand up for me, believe in me, communicate with me, be curious about what ignites my soul. It would have been so simple for you to come to me and say, ‘they want to take a picture of this area.’”
but he never did hear what my grandmother had taught me to see. He never did hear how lovely it was to see, and see again, and see even more deeply, and to imprint things on the heart so I could paint them, later, capture the energy, not just the outward form. He didn’t hear, because he was NOT interested. Not interested in the magic and mystery and – wonder – that makes me, Me.
My ring is engraved with wonder
Because I have a vow that I will honor my heart first. Anyone who shames the expansion of my spirit will be shut out of my inner sanctum.
They will not be allowed to know my heart. They will get only so far as the surface, and no further, for the rest of my life.
there are dragons guarding my gates, now.
If I am too big for someone, too much, “I’m so sorry, but it looks like you’re not on the guest list for this party,” the ever-so-polite guards at the door will say. “Do you have an invitation?”
That person will hold out the invitation they once had, and the guards will look it over.
“Oh dear me,” they’ll say, shaking their heads in sympathy (and warning),
“It appears this has expired. Kindly leave, we wouldn’t want to make a scene, now, would we.”
If something ignites your heart and spirit in this world, drink it in. If something lifts your heart, fly, unapologetically.
This is some of your gift. Take it. Be it. It is your ability to wonder, and your soul’s path to soar above this society where threatened ones would seek to keep us controlled, within their approval, homogenized, mediocre, non-questioning.
Exile anyone who seeks to silence, shame, dominate, own, or control your fire. Shed them ruthlessly. Fall into the limitless sky and soar, and never let anyone weigh you to the ground.
Do what you have to. Whatever it takes, to follow your own wonder.
Her smile was serene, and it landed in my chest with a sharp ache that startled me awake. She slid the thick pottery mug of tea across the table to me. Steam wreathed her in mystery as she poured her own, and finally spoke. “The problem with heroes,” she said, wrapping her hands around her mug and breathing in the warm, clove-spiced steam, “is that they require you to need rescuing.” My tea tasted of autumn; liquid gold afternoon sunshine and a hint of spice, old-fashioned and comforting. “I guess that’s what we’re supposed to want,” I said, “to be rescued. To be shown that there is goodness, that men can be honorable and true, noble and good.” “Do you hear it?” her voice shimmered with amusement. “Do you hear that that is simply an answer to doubt? Do you hear that the opening, unspoken question there is one of harm, of disbelief, that there are good, honest, honorable, brave men, so the hero is supposed to prove himself different, is somehow better than the rest? That to be honorable is somehow,” she gave a rather unladylike snort, “difficult or unusual?” I nodded, struck silent. Of course. It was not too much to ask, that a man be a good, solid, honest person.
“Poor silly butterfly that’s pinned to that flat, dull, card labeled ‘hero’. He has no spark left; no freedom to choose a moral compass to guide him. He must perforce hide all that doesn’t fit the illustration – and then, how can he be real at all? His wings won’t move. How will he cope, then, with all the kinds of weather that this life brings? He won’t. His pretty wings will crumble to dust at the first breath of wind, that needs living wings to bend, move, adapt, stretch, make difficult choices.” She shook her head, and closed her eyes briefly, her smile growing soft. “If you heal too much, a hero will wish you broken again, or he loses the sense of purpose that your need gave him. He loses the sense of superiority. And understand this: there is no stepping out of storybooks to be living, breathing, growing, learning, thriving, curious and evolving people with such a one. Not together. Not in partnership. My dearest, I wish you to put away, once and for all, Once Upon a Time.”
My body echoed hers, now; across from each other at the small, comfortable, worn oak kitchen table, hands cupping mugs, basking in the warmth of the tea and each other. Crone, and – what was I? – for I was no maiden, I was no mother, and not yet crone. Warrior. Crone and Warrior, we smiled our understanding, and wholeness wrapped itself around my heart like a cat settling in to make a new home there. “The quest never was for a hero,” she said, “my brave one. It was for you to find your own limits, and stand firm. It was for you to learn to speak to yourself in the way a true love would. You were speaking to yourself so harshly, you see, that someone came along uttering spiky impatience, and you took it for love, because it sounded just like your inner voice.
A hero won’t want to rescue you for your own sake. He won’t be rescuing you because he sees your beautiful soul. No, he’s rescuing you for himself, so that he might feel, for a moment, proud, noble, invincible, strong. So he might convince himself and the world in his mind, for a moment, that he’s something shining pinned to that labeled card. The truly strong will not need you to need them in such a way, dear heart. The one who can love you, who deserves your love, will wish you to expand. He’ll not speak harm. But you’ve made it to my cottage; the first stage of the quest,” she twinkled coyly. “If you heard harm now, it would sound to your ears like a story meant for someone else.
Oh, he’d follow his script, try to disparage you as he did, to make himself stronger, create you weak, and now, why, you’d think, how odd, and you would keep on your way. You’d nod to him, remote, and keep walking, would you not?”
“Yes, lady, I surely would, now.” And I knew it to be true.
She bobbed her head in satisfaction. “Now, you’ll know goodness when you hear it, and you’ll walk away from curses. There will not be a single moment you’ll need rescuing or saving, so what you’ll find along your way now, perhaps, will be a companion. A bright friend by your side, content to share the path, working together when it’s time to set up camp.”
“I like to travel alone now, lady,” I said, smiling into my teacup.
“Yes. As it should be. What delights you’ll know, and you’ll go much further than you ever imagined possible, when you thought it all had to be so bloody difficult.”
“Forgive the hero, lass. He did the best he could with what he had, poor chap. He doesn’t have eyes to see the riches you carry. Leave him to his quest, and follow yours – your next stage is clear; you carry the Crone’s gift, now, to see you on your way.”
We laughed then, and talked long into the afternoon, until finally, it was time to say goodbye. I walked away from her door with the knowledge of love blooming in my veins, as spicy and mysterious, comfortable and warm as her autumn clove tea.
I was going to marry someone. I had decided, by God, I was going to marry him, and that was that. I had decided that no matter what, I was true. That was it, I had chosen, and no matter what, I couldn’t un-choose. Even though he un-chose me. It has taken me ten months (almost?) to see the problem with that. It has taken me ten months to forgive. It has taken me ten months to understand. It has taken me ten months to find my own true heart in the matter again.
So, in case this can help someone else:
I thought I was marrying him without wanting him to change. We were highly compatible as artists, and as friends. It was the absolute best kind of friendship, in my eyes – we had adventures, and we laughed a lot. We sparked each other to play and stories and silliness. I have many wonderful memories with this person. And! We were not at all compatible in these important things: in the world each of us wanted to live in, and in the life we each desired, and in the way we saw people and our perceptions of what was important.
That, I am now knowing, doesn’t make him wrong or me wrong. It makes us -not people who should marry each other.
My mistake was this. I saw his chosen way of life, the entertainment business and the city and the way of dealing with people that goes along with those things as morally wrong. I saw his perception of people and his thoughts as wrong. As damage. As harm and hurt and negativity. I didn’t even know it; I had blinders on – I simply saw it as a weakness, as something I could cure, and heal. I would think “oh, he doesn’t really mean that.” when he would say something I saw as damaged. I’m now knowing that he meant it. His life choices show me that he meant it. It wasn’t damage, it was *Who he was!* he was telling me ALL ALONG, and I thought I was being kind and forgiving by denying this person his reality! By gently pushing past it, whenever he would declare how he saw people or saw the world; by ignoring it as if it was inconsequential and would change once he became the “good” I saw in him, I was so fully in my own construct of the world, that I couldn’t see I was denying someone his entire reality. I was calling it poison, simply because it was air I can’t breathe!
IN my eyes, this was a man of great integrity and kindness, with a beautiful, idealistic heart. So I thought I could heal and help him overcome his way of seeing people. I thought I could heal and help his life, which in my eyes was full of strife and battles, never ending anger and distrust-stories. I saw him a certain way, and I held him in that.
He saw me a certain way, my potential, and he held me in that.
I thought I could heal that, and bring peace and calming waters. He thought he could heal my gentle introversion, and make me the snow-white-wonderwoman fighting perfect princess that he saw me to be.
I hated when he said my goofy, Lucille Ball qualities were damage I didn’t have to hold myself in. I wanted him to laugh and love my goofiness.
He hated when I said his “tank in a bunker inside a concrete fortress” was damage that could be healed. He wanted to be strong, feeling-proof, and victorious at all costs.
This man doesn’t want “peace and calming waters.” He has expressed that he’s bored by serenity. Those things were a judgment on my part. I thought that universally, all people wanted peace and serenity, and the kind of connection I desire to live in.
They don’t. They don’t!
This realization came about because I was reminiscing about how this man anxiously tried to prepare our future home to be a place that I could stand to live in. He rigged up a surround sound system so that I could play my nature sounds in any room I happened to be in. I was anxious to keep the peace at all costs; my tenderness for this man is as huge and protective as a dragon- so I was preparing to get in my car and drive when I needed space and peace. He needed space to be loud. He needed the kind of sounds I could not live with. I needed the kind of peace and meditation time that was anathema to him.
We both, in our own ways, were desperately, anxiously, trying to force ourselves into shapes that would allow the other partner to be happy. Because we loved. Because we loved, we both tried to “heal” the other person of things we thought were complete fallacies and damage.
My need for solitude and peace. My complete serenity, not in fame or achievement or anything at ALL like that, but in healing. In helping others. My contentment at being “nobody,” which in his eyes is terribly like being “mediocre;” my feeling that there was no hierarchy, no one reached any sort of top, middle, or bottom… that, in fact, there is nowhere to climb at all! In feeling like when I have left this life, I will have helped. I will have brought more love. I will have planted some seeds where there was once angry, damaged, hurt, bitter ground. I will have given laughter and sunny times and happiness. that is ALL. His need for achievement. His need for striving, and striving to make a name and make a mark and change the world.
We both saw each other’s life purposes as damage that needed healing.
Simply because we are different.
If I went to another country in which women lived a certain way, and had no voices (do you see the judgment there already? “had no voices”) I would be all fired up in my reaction, my judgment, my anger, my fighting. What if, in that country, the women saw my way of life and my choices as wrong, and wanted to cure me to their ways?
This isn’t a great analogy (I can hear the arguments now…) but it’s one that we learn in sociology – it’s one that Ahsoka (if you don’t know who I’m mentioning here, just go watch Clone Wars) tries, as a jedi-in-training, to practice, (but fails just as I would…) to observe without attempting to effect change. To accept and observe, even if my mind would call it “harmful” or other words.
Yeah, I would fail just as Ahsoka does, because I tend towards passionate, co-dependent rescuing. So did he.
This is all to say: it is possible to love someone, and love them deeply, and not be able to make a life together that makes for mutual happiness.
This man has now married, I am told, (this is hearsay, I have no idea. it’s not my business…) someone who likely fits into his life far better than I ever did. I am delighted for them – and whether it’s an actual circumstance or not, this has brought me the closure, peace and healing I needed. The understanding that he and I were a tree and a desert plant trying to live in the same container.
I am so grateful he found someone he doesn’t have to change, who doesn’t have to change for him. I am so grateful I am free to expand and be myself in a way I never could before.
I can love. I can see this spirit in the world that used to delight me in his many quirky funny ways. I can see his wounds and wish fiercely for him to have healing of them someday. He saw mine and wished the same. We tried to fix each other.
I think it is enough to have had the deep soul gift of this lesson that I, for one, will not repeat : We can love, and what a glorious gift it is! but we must first live a life that makes us completely happy, and have the freedom to do so. And we must go our own way in order to fulfill what we are here to do. We can’t shrink ourselves to fit into someone else’s world, or ask them to twist around to fit in ours, and still expect to be happy and live the life we are here to live.
I am feeling whole these days in a way I hadn’t in my entire youth-to-adult life. From about the age of nine onwards. I am deeply and richly content and buzzing with abundance. I have a death to grieve, a few of them, but there has been profound healing of that which felt a “lack” and a need for someone else.
I’ve been meaning to write this, to the men who have been writing to me – except for three of you, who seem quite happy. The rest: if you are unhappy and you complain about your life, and you are sad and lonely and you’re looking for “a woman” to fill that, please reconsider.
For one thing, I personally will not date someone who is unfulfilled and thinks “love” will solve it. I have learned that even the most forgiving love- even the kind of love I brought my ex, that strove to make peace at all costs, and strove to be his happiness and wanted to heal his sorrows, IT CANNOT SERVE. What happens is (and if you don’t believe me, just experience it for yourselves and then come back and re-read this!) what happens! is that you will wind up being quite angry, eventually, with the closest person. Even if you manage to find a woman like I was, in my damage, who wanted to be wife and mother and nurturer and provider and healer and just hold you through all the pain and defend you fiercely from every single hurt, and fill your life so that you are finally completely happy – even if you find that! you will wind up resenting it. Her. you will wind up feeling trapped and stifled, and you will wind up fighting like a toddler hitting the soft, yielding mother arms that hold them. And the partner who wants to be all things? that’s damage. That’s a person who is codependent, who derives their self-worth from how others feel, who NEEDS THERAPY and needs, in turn, to find out how to be whole on their own. Because “unconditional love” has no boundaries or healthy limits. It doesn’t value the self – and if you think that’s generous and amazing, just consider: if you can’t value yourself, you have no self to give. You’re removed, dissociated, giving your own value to someone else to decide, and, ultimately, not completely in your own truth.
So. It won’t work, those who think it’s romantic to reach out to someone and say “I’m sad, I’m lonely, I’m lost, I need.” there are many of you. many!
I am writing this to you now, and I’m writing it to me. I hear you. I feel for you. I cannot respond to you all. I have my own life and heart to heal. I am giving you the gift of this story, (this isn’t actual circumstances. It’s my thoughts around the past, and God knows, that is filtered through my own perceptions) This story is how I have reached complete forgiveness and wishing the blessing to everyone concerned, that they find healing and happiness.
I know I will. I know I am. I know I have.
If you find yourself struggling against something, ask yourself if you are trying to change a dog into a cat. Ask yourself if you feel someone is trying to change you. Ask yourself if YOU are trying to change you, being completely flexible around someone else’s opinions. Ask yourself if you can accept, love, release, and go find YOUR own truth and heart and life. Ask yourself if you can take up space, as much as you need, and risk disapproval, until you move gently into a place where you fit.
(and this is not even *touching yet* on limerence, which is probably another article entirely. Creating a fantasy image and pushing all your dreams and needs onto someone else, thinking they’re the answer. Please check yourselves of this, I am exhausted by it.)
Ask yourself what you need. Then go out and create it. Forgive. Bless. Give Thanks. Release. I am so profoundly grateful. I have tried to say it here, but the words still don’t encompass the enormity of the realization, bliss, and love I feel in my life now. Thank God. Peace, Beaver.
… sigh. and again, I am not going to edit this one. I’m not even going to re-read it! 😛 I guess I’m doing too much of that in my fiction work, so this blog is the space I’ll keep sprawling in. skip what you want to skip! xoxoxo
So … people are popping up doing a new kind of “live theatre” .. basically streaming from their homes to yours while we all wait this out.
The thing I have always loved about live theatre is the campfire aspect. Fiona Shaw came and talked in one of my classes once, and this was what stuck with me all these years: it’s embedded deep in our dna, whatever people are your particular ancestors, somewhere wayyy back, we all had a common practice of stories. The warriors would come back and enact how they killed the dangerous animal. The healers would dance about rain, calling in the seasons, giving thanks, or maybe calming the people that abundance would come again, that things are cyclical. We’d gather around fires when the dark seemed too full of dangers. We’d be together, and the stories would teach and bring our hearts and minds warmth and connection.
People did a study and found that an audience’s heartbeats synch up during a live performance.
We need each other – connection – to remind us that it’s not one in danger, defending their resources against a savage world – to remind us that we are united, that we’re not alone when there are harsh realities to face.
We may have gone very far from the village. We may feel more isolated now than ever before, but the village is in each of us, if we choose to remember. Ubuntu – common humanity – I am well because the village is well, if one is not well, and I can help, I help.
There are people who have forgotten, and they’re like feral cats, in instinct and attack. Don’t think they’re all of us. I hope that those people can be healed, but at this time, don’t approach the ones who are out of their minds in fear. Just silently bless from a distance and focus on the good. Look for the ones giving theatre from their homes, or music, or art, or story, or words of hope.
Feed the hope-light in you, not the fear-light. Stay safe but unafraid. There are good people everywhere,
And we’ve gotten through some gnarly times- we can get through them again.
❤️ (Here’s an old photo of a maggid story by the fire, a man paddling a pumpkin – Ludwigsberg pumpkin festival in Germany – and Chewbacca thinking about climbing a wall. Just to remind us all that we are collectively weird and lovely)
Mi ha-ish hechafetz Chayyim, Ohev yomim lirot tov?
Who is the one that has a passion for Life, loving every day, seeing the Good? (Psalm 34:13)
The day Figaro died, I chanted this prayer for him. He sat and listened, purred as usual. Did he know it was his last day? I don’t know – but my boy enjoyed every day to the fullest, regardless. So while I chanted, I wove in this promise: that from him, I would learn to enjoy my own life. I would stop caretaking others, and people-pleasing; I would raze the foundations of my childhood conditioning, and I would rebuild, slowly and carefully, my life from my own center, consulting no one.
This isn’t easy for someone who has lived a life solely based on serving others. If others were at peace and happy, I felt my purpose here fulfilled. I could sense when they weren’t. I drained my essence continually, patching, mending, holding space, listening, sensing, observing, learning – and there was also a profound sadness that came along with observing when someone felt unsafe socially. I wanted to protect those ones; I wanted to give them safety by saying “I accept you. I love you, with all your flaws.” This led me into romantic relationships with the wounded. I could see the little-boy innocence, fear peeking out of their eyes every now and then, and my protectiveness drove me. It was powerful beyond words, the inner lioness who wanted to care for, love, and heal these men. There were three only, because I am monogamous and fiercely loyal, but it was enough for me to see this pattern of self-abandonment in order to caretake others. I over-used my compassion, and brought understanding to the times they engaged in cruel behavior and words toward me. But if a little boy is wounded, this kind of understanding and unconditional love has them lash out even more. Has them grow to despising. Mommy is responsible for all my anger; put the darkness I feel on her, and let her carry it all.
If you understand what I have written thus far, this post is for you.
I understand now why someone would tell the world she is “self-partnered.” This last relationship, and the betrayal that shocked me to my core, has sealed shut any – at all- interest in me for romantic relationship. The idea repels me on a level I can’t seem to explain enough to the opposite sex. I have experienced that my inner conviction, my complete solidity that I am only interested in focusing on my own life now, has drawn men in droves. The younger ones have been, surprisingly, kind and sweet, able to take the word “no,” and remain friends. The older ones don’t seem to be able to really hear my no. They persist. I think somewhere in the ’80’s, we taught men that no didn’t mean anything at all when it came from a woman.
And so, I did a ritual in which I married myself. I made vows. I had still been carrying fear that I would self-abandon and put a man’s needs first, and make excuses for terrible behavior. But since I also know this about me: that I keep vows at all costs, I finally, at last, made vows to myself.
I had the rings from my past intended marriage, of course, and these were resized for the other hand. They represent the biggest lesson of my life. Broken promises, and a love I believed in that was unconditional love on my part, and deceit on his. They are a reminder to me that a man’s word means nothing, and I must observe his actions. Not make excuses for those actions, but observe them with clinical detachment. My heart and life are worth this; I believed a man’s word, and it changed on a dime. These rings he was adamant were mine “no matter what,” and then – since apparently love and keeping his word wasn’t enough – given in compensation for the many thousands of dollars my parents had already paid for wedding ceremonies which were, last minute, not going to occur. Later, he then threatened me for these rings, all words and promises forgotten, saying they were his “Property.” This is what a man’s word is worth. This is how lasting it is. I wear this reminder now on my hand, and will do for the rest of my life. (NO, I am not saying “all men” are incapable of keeping their word. I am saying – to be safe, one must observe actions of men and women. Actions! One day, maybe I’ll marry the man who keeps 98-100% of his word. 😉 )
The rings I “married” myself with and made my vows with belonged to both grandmothers. On my Mother’s side, and on my Father’s. (incidentally, I also wear my father’s wedding ring and my mother’s. Yeah, I love family. I am grateful for them – more than I can say.) I had my paternal grandmother’s ring coated in rose gold, which gives rise to the main point of this blog: the rose gold rule.
When you’re a person who wears rose-colored glasses, seeing the good in the people around you, red flags just look like flags. Your rose lenses cancel out the warning color. This is a beautiful gift to have, because personalities of others and acquired damage during this lifetime are not who that person actually is. We tend to define ourselves by our surface personalities and learned behaviors, but beneath that is someone’s soul-level essence. Being able to see that is a gift I tried to deny and correct, in the early days of my hurt. For a long time, I kept seeing the good in the latest ex, and worked to maintain a friendship – until the disregard of me went too far, and I saw that this kindness was entirely one-sided, and had been for quite a number of years. The devastation of seeing how I was discarded and disregarded had me wishing to change and remove my rose lenses. But dwelling in suspicion and self-protection isn’t my nature. I love people too much. So when I did my ritual, I chanted again “The Sea Lion’s Question” (which is now Figaro’s chant,) and I accepted that I am someone who will always see the good. To stop trying to remove my rose lenses eased a lot of pain in my heart. We really need to accept ourselves as we are, and work with what we have. Yes, as I mentioned, I am razing the foundations of the life I’ve built on people-pleasing, but once you reach bedrock, at the end of it all, you’re still you.
Evven ma’asu habonim ha’y’tah l’rosh pinah
The Stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (Psalm 118:22)
My rose-colored lenses became my cornerstone. Once my greatest weakness, it has now become a strength. I have accepted that my deepest drive is to bring healing to others, to help them accept and love their own human flaws. It is why I became an actor; it is why I write. If we could only realize we are ALL human, and the things that embarrass us, the things we hide from each other, are shared by all, wouldn’t we then be able to stop judging? Wouldn’t we then be able to connect and have compassion for ourselves and for the others we meet along the way? This has been my question since I was a teenager, and struggled with such crippling social anxiety, I couldn’t eat in public, or talk on the phone; I couldn’t do things that other people didn’t even think twice about. During school at Juilliard, I would take my meals up in the elevator to my room. I ate in the cafeteria maybe once or twice my entire first year, and when I did, I was such a mass of nerves that I was sick afterward. So I had to examine this, and I had to learn. Accepting my own humanity, learning to celebrate and shine light on the places that were fraught with embarrassment, was the gift that Juilliard, and RADA after it, gave to me.
“What are you afraid of?” They asked. It was the continual question I was faced with. They threw me onstage naked, and mostly naked, thinking they could expose the fear-places, but it wasn’t in my body. It was embedded deep in my shame of being human.
Lear, IV.VI; 125
GLOUCESTER: O, Let me kiss that hand! LEAR: Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality.
Once we accept our humanity, and all it comes with, we are set free. I was set free of eating disorders, of seeing food as “the enemy,” of the anxiety around smelling like a human (I still can’t stand the stank that happens after a day in Disneyland, though…) of the potential embarrassment around any social gaffes that might arise… all of it. Once I had developed compassion – and even love – for all of that, I was set free to love people. My newfound freedom came at a steep price, as I still was operating with a non-updated operating system. My old OS told me that while I loved and cared for others, and had great compassion for their shadows, it was my JOB to love them, and having boundaries for myself equated to rejection of others.
Every time we deny or ignore our needs in order to please others, every time we fail to create and maintain a boundary, we are whispering to our innermost selves “their needs are more important than yours.” What happens then is our self esteem crumbles a little bit every time. We then become dependent on others’ approval for our self worth. We then, over time, become dependent on their seeing and appreciating how we care for them – because at that point, our entire identity is wrapped up in the value we have in others’ eyes, and that value only exists if we are recognized as a support and caretaker.
So. When I married myself. (haha. that sounds so corny, but try it, it’s so freeing.) I came up with what I call “The Rose Gold Rule.”
We’re all used to the Golden Rule, right? Some of us have been carrying that thing around and living by it so staunchly, we’ve fallen into harm. Treat others the way you wish to be treated Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, Love your neighbor as yourself,
there are quite a few variations. In Hebrew, it is phrased in the negative: Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man.
Regardless – those of us who need to learn what I have spent this entire blog rambling an introduction to, and what I am about to lay out, needed a new ADDENDUM to the rule.
First: the very important distinction. YOU GET TO LOVE OTHER PEOPLE. If you are an empath or a kindhearted person or any of the other words used to describe someone who just plain cares, stop trying to force yourself to remain angry with people you can no longer connect with, for whatever reason. Anger is your armor, your protection, isn’t it. They can’t harm you again, if you keep reminding yourself that you had better not be suckered back into believing the best – so you should remain angry, yeah? OH, HELL NO. Anger is a secondary emotion. Underneath it is usually either fear or sadness. Maybe both, if someone you loved didn’t see your goodness, and discarded you, as happened to me. Anger was my protection, my assurance that I wouldn’t stay tied to that person, or give any more years of my life to “pining” for him or waiting. Anger was my insurance. That I could move on to another relationship.
Do you see the flaw, here? Carrying anger keeps me tied with a toxic bond. Carrying an anger fence would ensure that when, one day, I do open my heart to romantic relationship again, I would still have that old story, and it would be placed onto my new partner. My psyche would still be warning me, and the warnings would just wear a new face. Nope, oh hell no.
When I married myself (haha…that cracks me up so much every time I write it…) Part of the vows were that I love myself completely as I am. I love that I love other people so much. That I see the good in others had me create a vow that protects me. This vow is: I get to love others, but I will not support and enable their damage. I will not carry their baggage, as I have my own to carry. I will work on myself with self-compassion, and with the same kind of forgiveness and tenderness with which I view others’ damage and hurt places.
I believe we are all in this world trying to do our best. I also believe there’s an addition to this which it took me all these years, a shattering relationship, and three therapists to learn: and that is the vital importance of boundaries. I have limits now. They are strong. They don’t need to be enforced in anger. In fact, they *remove* anger. If anger was the signal that my boundaries and needs had been trampled, oh, two miles back, well, if I know I will hold my boundaries, I do not need the anger at all.
for those of you who are still reading ;), to whom this applies, you can go on keeping that golden rule, and good for you. But we need an addition, because we allow ourselves to be treated badly, due to compassion with the damage that causes the harmful behavior.
Rose Gold Rule: I will not allow myself to be treated in a way I would never treat someone else.
yeah, I use the word “never” quite consciously. It’s an absolute, and it’s a word that usually signals that we’re speaking from a very young part of self. THIS IS A YOUNG PART OF SELF that needs to be spoken to, quite firmly.
At times during my relationship, I found myself actually gasping in surprise, thinking, “I would never treat a human being the way he just treated me, let alone someone I said I loved, who was my lover. Never.”
“I would never say such a thing to someone else.” “I would never break my word like that/ gaslight like that.”
Rose Gold Rule: I want all you kindhearted ones to learn it. You get to keep your rose colored glasses. Please do, the world needs them, and soon enough, I think we’ll be able to walk around and just spot others of our kind, as we grow more and more rare. You are rare and your heart is needed here. Now learn the rose gold rule. You can love, and walk away. You can love, and say “I won’t allow your damage to treat me this way. I wish you healing.” Bless and release.
DO KNOW that it isn’t painless. It comes at a cost for hearts like ours. Let it hurt, and let it go. Keep this rose gold rule as a vow to yourself. The pain of closing gates on someone you love, and mourning them as if they have passed away, is far more clean a grief than the pain of daily allowing harmful, disrespectful behavior toward you. One pain allows you to grieve, and then be strong and whole to continue the work you need to do in this lifetime. The other pain diminishes you, and will eat away at your energy until all you can focus on is NOT your work here, but how to manage that other person’s treatment of you.
THEIR BAGS ARE NOT YOURS TO CARRY, dear heart. Put their bags down. Pick up your own. Walk on. Love, and release.
Love, and release.
I’ve heard already from two people who are going to give themselves rose gold rings (and one who already did, just by instinct) to remember this rule. Please let me know if you are inspired to do so, as well, or any variation thereof.
I love you. I believe in you. You can do this. We can do this. We are harming no one by loving ourselves. In fact, maintaining boundaries is an important teaching to give, and we are helping others by doing so.
…and, true to form, I am not editing this monster. Read at your leisure, take sips, skip over the long bits, do as you please. Enjoy, and I hope someone is helped by this.