A Laborious Mosaic

 

“She was very aware that it was temporary. She was not defensive about it; she was offensive about it. She would say that it was an attribute. Everything was for the process–a moment in time, not meant to last.” Arthur C. Danto about Eva Hesse

I have been accused of being a perpetual boyfriend-chaser.

I have also been labeled a love addict.

Tis too true — I love falling in love, being in love, feeling love. Although, I must admit that I do not truly know what it is to be a participant in mutual, building, sustainable love. I love helping people and I love loving others. I love feeling them need me; I love attention.

owl-horizontal

That being said, I choose the wrong partners almost every single time. OK: every single time so far. I choose partners who are selfish, who cannot really love another person. I choose partners who are emotionally unavailable. I choose partners who are artistic and aloof. I choose partners who are needy and manipulative. I choose partners who see me as someone, as one someone, and I change into that person. I am a chameleon for men. I have written here earlier that I am the Queen of Running, and that I can adapt to almost every situation. Maybe my spirit animal should be the chameleon, or one of those amazing walking sticks that look like leaves, or a black panther or the moth that has cobra heads on its wings. I have changed for whomever comes across my path and shows interest in me. I am natural nurturer, and if someone lets me take care of them, I will. I will care and nurture and support until I am left, hollow and exhausted, usually about two years later.

5675513-md

The exception to the two year rule was my husband, who I was with for almost seven years. We made it those seven years for various reasons. We split because we had never learned to communicate, could not disagree in a productive way, he had no motivation to really be a partner to me, he depended almost entirely on his parents who were always going to be more important than me or us. We had become roommates, friends, not lovers. Our life had become routine, so routine. Our life was managed by me, nurtured by me, maintained by a series of expected movements and dependable, predictable routines cultivated over the years. I worked the stable job, I managed the money, I organized our life: I was the one that held it all together. We could have kept that life going for a little while longer, maybe another two years, but the progression of life was not there: we had stagnated. There is a saying about relationships that they are like sharks: they have to keep swimming or they die. Ours was a sleeping shark, drifting downward into the depths. I simply cut off its fins and forced it to sink faster when I asked, after months of painful deliberation, that we separate.

Camouflage - Find The Animals - 8

The other exceptional thing about my ex-husband is that he was easy-going and meek. He was artistic and creative, but not passionate. He didn’t possess the animation, the mad energy, the lust for life, that many other lovers have possessed. He didn’t spin in mental and rhetorical circles, or live in a house that was crumbling and had no refrigerator. He didn’t have long hair and love to go backpacking up the sides of mountains with no map, he didn’t write me poetry and weep in my arms, he didn’t ride bicycles until 7 in the morning and come home drunk and angry at something inside himself. He didn’t live in a foreign country in a beautiful house, separated  from what he really wanted but with enumerable possessions, and he didn’t pretend to be someone he was not by dulling himself with alcohol or drugs, spinning records on weeknights, using philosophy as a tool for avoiding people and experiences, but he was, in the end, like all the others, a liar.

When my friend asked my other friend if I was a perpetual boy-chaser, she was referring to my seemingly endless pursuit of the passionate man, the man whose madcap dash through life is something akin to a drug for me: something that I will seek and find, even unconsciously. Put me in a city of millions or an island of a few thousand, and I will still find this man. I find him everywhere, even when I am not looking. This spirit of chaos, this spirit of degradation, of manipulation, of skewed love, of lust, of power, of personal disaster will be rooted out, as if there is a magnet or a hidden sign emblazoned on my spirit, heart, or soul…..here I am, it says.

camouflage_animals_19

Another friend of mine says that it is like I have two minds: one that knows what I should do, and one that tricks me into torturing myself, into the painful place of this type of relationship. I can tell you where it comes from, but it doesn’t really matter, and you can probably guess, anyway. Many of us have these same issues, coming from that man that we grew up with. Suffice it to say, my father suffers cruelly from what David Foster Wallace called The Terrible Master, and I look or act or sound or remind him of someone from his past that recalls the painful terror that echoes through his inner dialogue. Since I was about thirteen, I was a fairly easy target for his frustration, his failure. I listened, I internalized, I began to question if what he said was true. And almost every person I choose as a partner reflects those questions back at me and I end up telling myself the same thing: if I can just stay here a bit longer, then he will get better/happier/more stable/more successful/more loving/more open/more motivated and will be able to show me what I need. I know he will. And of course, he never does because he was unable to, all the way at the beginning.

leopard-camouflage I read a beautiful article today about an artist named Eva Hesse, a woman that previous to today, I had never heard of.

“At this point,” Hesse wrote, “I feel a little guilty when people want to buy it. I think they know but I want to write them a letter and say it’s not going to last. I am not sure what my stand on lasting really is. Part of me feels that it’s superfluous, and if I need to use rubber that is more important. Life doesn’t last; art doesn’t last.” 

Born in Germany but who lived a short time, part of her short life, here in the United States, Hesse was a 1960s modern artist, a sculptor who sought to navigate through her world and interpret it through her sculptures of industrial materials, anatomical forms, and repetition. She named her pieces with coy names, or ones that reflected scientific discoveries of her age, or her opinions on the direction of the movement she participated within.

eva hesse

One of the things that I love about being a woman, and especially a woman artist, is our ability to craft work based on our experiences and our lives. All of us, man or woman, has a life whose path is fraught with pain and difficulty, as I said before, Life can be Suffering. (I have amended that Buddhist belief for my own devices.) Woman artists have a unique capacity, I think, to craft and exhibit that pain and make it remain beautiful. Look at Frida Kahlo‘s self portraits, or Georgia O’Keefe‘s flowers, or Eva Hesse‘s sculptures, Annie Leibovitz‘s portrait photography, Yoko Ono‘s drawings and sculptures, and, more simply, the huipils of women in Central America whose embroidery communicated the stories of their culture as the Spanish decimated their people with disease and domination.

frida

Traditionally, women are seen or expected to take on this role of nurturer as if that means that they are to bend, to be flexible, to be willing to support no matter what. I believe that one of the great gains of feminism is an understanding of how those roles can be both male and female, and that women, too, can be ambitious, business-like, healthily selfish, and strong. I believe that the women’s movement is about choice, and that men, too, can gain from an understanding that feminism helps men break out of their codified existences of cold, emotional distance or “strength” at any cost. Feminism is all-encompassing, if we let it be.

OKeeffe_Georgia_Rams_Head

To get back to my original point, of being the boyfriend chaser, the love addict who seeks the wrong sort of love in place of the real thing, I am seeking to combine the understanding that it is time to find self-love and then real love, it is time to create art out of the understanding and final comprehension of these experiences, to channel the spirit of other woman artists who have broken their patterns and found their inner artist. As one line from one of my favorite poems says: it is time to eat my last meal in my old neighborhood. In many ways, the tiger trap I found myself in lately, was a gift because all I had to do was look up, grab those pieces of bamboo, and begin climbing out.

Climbing out, for me, as a woman artist, as a person whose own experience and own Terrible Master has clouded her judgement for so long, involves speaking to other people, and sharing these experiences. Today I read this article, and found it gut-wrenching, so I am linking to it. Today I spoke at length with a new friend and she opened my eyes in ways that others had not been able. Today I recommitted to being a woman artist and making this journey work, whatever it ends up being, wherever it ends up going. When I get into that boat of my dreams, every morning as I wake up, and make the conscious decision to do this, to really do it, to being the artist that I am, it is about looking these fears and decisions and successes and challenges in the face and moving through them, slowly. It is about taking moments to savour the beauty of everyday experience, like ice-skating alone today down a creek bed. It is about standing up with a straight back and liberating the self from years of patterned behavior. It is about writing, and looking, and creating, and melting metal into new shapes and forms. It is about trusting others, but trusting oneself most of all.

Being a woman is being “of fierce delicacy and passionate fragility,” and of recognizing that those two aspects are not weaknesses, but beautiful pillars to share with the world through art, or writing, or speaking, or however else you choose to communicate.

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successful developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.”

Anais Nin

crane heart

Advertisements

In Fertile Fields of Long Ago..

sieur de monts1

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.”

Anais Nin

Tonight is a night of clear skies and twinkling stars, of descending temperatures and the promise of snow.

sieur de monts7

In fertile fields of long ago
I’m sure I had a mistress though
Her face fleet footed flees recall
And aught remains save winter’s pall

In fertile fields of long ago
When I knew all there was to know
I set my hopes on happy days
And borrowed joy which time repays

In fertile fields of long ago
Where fruits once ripened gloom does grow
In fertile fields of yesteryear
I lost the ones that I held dear

In fertile fields of long ago
When summer lulled and days were slow
Youth concealed the freeze and frost
That settle in when all is lost

Author Unknown — it was sent to me in a letter long ago

sieur de monts2

I have kept diaries consistently since I was eleven years old, since 1992. My first diary is The Dahl Diary, and is one of my all time favorites since it has pictures from Roald Dahl books and snippets and quotes from him sprinkled throughout. I have journals with fancy covers and simple ones, journals that are tall and some that are short. My favorite journals are Moleskines with gridded pages. I have a shelf on my bookshelf dedicated to four things: my flower press, my Prismacolors, my Grandpa’s old Minolta camera that he used to photograph my parents’ wedding with the lens cap still on, and my diaries. The diaries take up over half the shelf.

My diaries tell me stories from my past, and without them, I would forget all the things that have happened. When I got divorced and immediately afterward got into an abusive relationship with someone with a mental illness, I stopped journaling, and when I discovered this at the end of that relationship,  I made a promise to myself to not do that again. I said to myself that I would always keep writing, if not every day, then almost every day, so that I would never again lose great chunks of time.

Time passes so fast: I blink and six months have passed. I blink again and it’s the middle of January in 2013. I realized tonight that I met my best friends 11 years ago and how it feels like I have known them forever but that the intervening years are a blip: they passed us by so quickly.

sieur de monts6

Self determination is a quality of life that we all possess, especially here in the United States, a place where we are so lucky to be able, within limits, to do whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it. This is a powerful aspect of our culture, and one that can create a sense of being crippled by choices. As a woman in 2013, especially a woman who has an almost 10 year career behind her and who was married for almost that length of time, those choices are even further complicated by the questions of children and marriage and partners and the social pressures still placed upon us despite our abilities to forge career paths and live by ourselves, out of our parents’ houses.

sieur de monts5

I grew up in a house probably similar to yours: my father worked and my mom stayed at home until I was in seventh grade when my father lost his job and our family collapsed around what I recognize now was a very tenuous existence based on materialism and status in 1980s Houston. My father suffered an emotional crisis, my mom went to work for the first time, and my brother and I continued living our suburban life. My parents worked hard to keep our life as much the same as they could. We always had a roof over our heads and the power was always on, we had clothes and food. My father never really recovered from this time and steadily has passed his time (this was 1994) growing more and more angry at something or someone outside himself that doesn’t really exist.

sieur de monts3

For the last several years, I have been adjusting to the fact that life is full of tragedies; as is said sometimes, Life is Suffering. I realized the other day that this year is the 10 year anniversary of the death of a man who was very, very important to me for a time. Love,  I have learned, is rather uncontrollable and inconvenient and sometimes you don’t even recognize it, and sometimes, when you do, it can be so scary that you run away from it as fast as humanly possible. It is hard for me to believe that it has been ten years since I last spoke to this friend and since he left us in the way he had nightmared about for months before his actual death. One of the things I loved about him was that he was always open and honest; speaking from his heart, he was brash and eloquent and challenging.

you and i have not the strength,
compassion, or centered-ness to shake other humans
loose.  the delusion is just too strong.  for the most
part, penetrating the oceans of bullshit in which we
swim requires WILLINGNESS–the unprepared, the
unwilling just don’t get it.  you know, you tell
someone, yo.  yer living in a nightmare.  please, WAKE
UP!  and they say, huh?  like that.”

I have come to realize that our faults are a factor of our daily lives. Our faults are yes, what make us “human”, but they are also the things that make us ashamed of ourselves, and less likely to be honest with others. I believe this is what makes it hard to sustain meaningful relationships. For my whole life, I have been afraid to be honest lest I disappoint someone, hurt someone, or make someone feel that I am not “good enough” or perfect. This is real, this is me. This is hard to admit because it means that others will know that I am not perfectly capable in any given situation, even though I may appear to be.

sieur de monts4

“The moving finger writes, and having writ
Moves on.  Nor all your piety and wit
Can call it back to cancel half a line
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.”

from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam

“Now all the truth is out
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat…
Bred to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away
And like a laughing string
Whereon mad fingers play
Amid a place of stone
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult.

W.B.Yeats


The passages above, as well as many others, were things written to me over the course of a very intense time of communication and mutual love. These writings and their intensity I recognized as love, I knew that we were in love, that we loved each other, but the danger of the other person’s decisions at the time made that love not a realistic possibility. His intensity too much, I, as I am wont to do, ran away and into the arms of someone safe but great, in his own way: the man I married. Of course he wasn’t the right person, and of course the marriage dissolved, and here I am, ten years later, re-reading the letters of one who loved me as I loved him, but he was not the man for me. It is hard to recognize love when it is flat in front of your face, when it is complicated and scary and one person is too young and the other too…something that I do not have a name for.

Tonight, as I enter my 33rd year on the planet, and am able to look backward very far and forward just a few steps, and am beginning to turn a corner on this life that I have been stuck on for years now, I have to remember that love is the spirit of the universe, and that understanding the place of others in this life, and that they may be fucked up, or confused, or upset, or perfect or seeming to be, or strong, or weak, or whatever it is that they are, that our loved ones are what create meaning for us in the daily stew of this confusing life, this rolling, pitching ship on which we all find ourselves. This is the sentiment I get from this letter, received well over ten years ago now, but apropos at this exact moment:

“i see you in my mind with that sly grin on your face,
that flash in your eyes, and i hear you laughing.

which is not to say that you are always happy, rather,
that you make ME happy when i find you again after
long and hazy journeys of many months, wiping the dust
and sweat of all that horseshit striving and yearning
from my eyes and thinking how TIRED i am of this
cycle, this dance that goes on and on and on and i’ll
probably be reborn as a cockroach, and there YOU are
and i hear that brilliant laugh of yours that starts
as an amused giggle and soars, lifting me with it, and
i feel better for a time, knowing that you are in the
world.

you know, i feel this way about you, and i’ve the
sneaking suspicion that i always will.  it makes me
happy to know that my feelings are not the result of
delusions and striving.  you don’t have to BE
anything, if you know what i mean.  you’re just you
and that’s special enough.  ah, P…if you could see
yourself with my eyes, you wouldn’t worry about
anything pretty much ever.”

“and in my mind you are poking shit at the patent
absurdity of the world and laughing like the
mischief-crazed madwoman you in fact are.”