Tag Archives: community

thoughts on white picket fences

new amor mio

I read a post in this morning’s The Elephant Journal newsletter and felt moved to write. (This post actually started as a message to Waylon, but I’ve now rewritten it as a blog post.)

I was approaching 30 and felt much the same way about time shrinking. Back in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s I think maybe a woman’s time clock ticked a little faster than it does now (although in my case my mother was my example of what was possible – she had been an anomaly as she birthed me, in 1964, at the age of 45). I was intent on finding someone to share my life with because I felt that my real life – the one we’d build together – wouldn’t / couldn’t start until that moment that co-creative union occurred.

Well I’d finally met someone who I thought would make a good husband and a father some day – I’d scrutinized his family and how they related to each other (because much can be learned from family dynamics) and marvelled at how few vices he had (because I’d dated far too many pot smokers and party animals in my time). The fireworks weren’t going off gangbusters but I always figured that sex was something that improved with knowledge and intimacy (and I was right).

We married in April of 1993. I moved from Montreal to California, not to L.A. as I had initially expected, because my new husband had taken a job up in the south South Bay and he’d found us a place to live in Gilroy, garlic capital of the world. The truth was, I wasn’t prepared for the shock of marriage, for the trauma of moving away from the place I’d lived in for 29 years (which was so familiar that I could almost navigate it with my eyes closed), where my family (though dysfunctional) lived and for the loss of the friendships that I had, which had begun long ago and still thrived (the distance would make it much more difficult to maintain).

I think I knew almost immediately that we’d made a mistake. Although he was a good man, my husband and I couldn’t seem to communicate in a way that we both heard each other, in a way that we both felt held and safe to speak and listen, and we both lacked the ability to come up with mutually beneficial solutions. We were both intrinsically selfish. I had a long ways to go with growing into myself, and I really can’t speak for him. We plodded along; marriage was a life long commitment, to my mind, and I was determined to figure out how to make it work even if I had no idea what I was doing or how to achieve success.

My husband became a workaholic. Perhaps he was always one, but the initial distraction of having a regular sex life had come to wane and with other issues encroaching (financial ones, because money is one of the greatest sources of marital discord, probably right up there with sex) he threw himself into work even when he didn’t have to. I felt abandoned, mostly, and he became more emotionally distant.

Despite that, we decided after a couple of years that it was time to have a child. I’d turned thirty-one and by the time I got pregnant (it didn’t take long) I would be delivering right around my 32nd birthday. My son was born in 1996 by c-section, one week earlier than his due date because the doctor felt he would grow too large. We’d bought a home even farther away from my place of work; the house was in Hollister while my job was in Sunnyvale. Back in those days family leave was perhaps three months, from start to finish. My heart broke every day that I drove away and left my son with my very reliable neighbour, who had also recently become a new mom and my $100 a week for having her watch my son was helping to supplement their income. In many ways I felt envious of her, that she was able to be with her child (and mine) and have a husband who would step up to the task of supporting the family.

The gruelling commuting, heavy and demanding workload, nursing/pumping, care-taking eventually undid me. I held in until another move elapsed (this time back down to Southern California, where I had merely traded one long commute for another one and 500 more square feet of house to clean), and our financial stress (because I’d taken on being single earner so that my husband could try getting a freelance photo business off the ground without having any savings to supplement the lack of a regular second income) shattered what little composure I had left.

I had a ginormous meltdown. I was contemplating suicide, and admitting this to my husband was tantamount to saying “I don’t care about you or our son” and he thought I was the most selfish human being alive for even considering it in my thoughts. And there was the matter of dropping the financial ball and pushing our house into potential foreclosure (we sold before it got there, for a profit, but it marked our credit with a big black X and it was something that he never forgave me for). Things weren’t looking good. We split up shortly after and were apart on a trial basis. I think if I had not lost my job nine months in, and teetered on possible homelessness (because I couldn’t afford a decent place to live on unemployment), we may never have gotten back together, but we did.

My mother died shortly after we had moved back in together and I felt truly orphaned (my dad had passed away in 1991). I did a lot of self-exploration. Spirituality had always been of huge importance for me, but when death comes knocking, especially with the loss of significant people in our lives, we are compelled to re-examine our own.

I grew… the situation made it so. For several more years our relationship ground along, like metal to metal. I held out the hope that perhaps he would come to see me as an asset rather than a liability, but I felt intuitively that his feelings toward me had changed and he had lost interest in rekindling them. Our relationship finally ended seven years later when I finally had the nerve to ask him whether he still loved me, to which he said “I care about you, but I don’t love you.” I think maybe that was the crux of our relationship – we had become friends with benefits – and had created a child together.

After a 16 year hiatus, I returned to Canada with my son. I tried dating for the first couple of years. It was never a simple thing to do, but at this age I find it even more complicated. I’ve learned more about myself. The learning process is endless, but relationships are interesting beasts.

We want different things at different times of our lives but at their core, when all the other things are stripped away, we want only to be heard, understood and loved, despite our flaws, despite the angers and disappointments that come and wash over us when the expectations we have set for ourselves and each other fail to reach acceptable levels, when the kids are tucked in or are growing hair on their face and looking to launch themselves into their own lives and we find ourselves alone with each other or ourselves… that is all we want.

It is the most difficult thing to find, even if you are looking. For the most part, I think, the only way to find it is by selectively looking – or not looking – because looking too closely will surely show the things that you don’t want to see. The inevitable failings of every human being that is so much less than perfect.

I wish all you brave ones who soldier on luck, though…. from the heart. I hope you find that impossible love. I’ve yet to see it… I’ve yet to see others find it. Relationships take work, no matter how we cut it. They gain an aged patina and must be polished every once in a while to keep them shiny. Love is sustainable only if two people lean in to each other’s wholeness and pull each other through failings and triumphs with appreciation, kindness and compassion.

The picket fence vision was a far different experience from what I thought it would be. I had to factor in myself – who I am, at any given time – and the Other… who for so many reasons is unquantifiable… the “unknown” in a math equation.

I have learnt a lot about myself though. I’m at once humbler and more full of myself than I’ve ever been.

I know that gentle persuasion works better (with me and others) than does passive aggression or outright aggression. I can learn and lean in and feel safe even when exposed to someone intimately (not only in a physical sense).

I’ve learned that many people have a similar reluctance to allowing that breach to occur. And it’s probably the cause of most of what ails humanity – breaking down of a sense of community, and of having differing visions of what that entails. A distinct need for autonomy and self-actualization.

I entreaty you to enjoy your walk in this world… I know you do… but anxiety for something other than what you have is inevitable… we humans are always desiring things, even if what we have is awesome and once one desire is met another emerges. It is our duty to ourselves to visit these desires and determine whether they serve us well, whether they fit into the core of what we want from our lives, holistically.

I am fifty now and I still don’t know shit. After several attempts at dating I’ve given up on it – for now. I think I have more figuring out to do in relation to how I fit into the world before I want to explore that some more. It gets lonely, sometimes. And even peri-menopause doesn’t alleviate the longing for intimacy. But that will have to wait a little while longer until I grow up a little more.

Happiness to your heart and blessing on your feet…
Adriane xo

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feeling and artifice…

A dear (not local) friend of mine commiserated with me about how it is common for people to not understand us even when we think they do. I know most people don’t understand me… parts, maybe, but all? Probably not. Many, though, are still accepting because they see my big glowing heart through the wyrdness. (cue: laughter)

Community… that’s always a tough one, especially for an introvert (which is what I am). Occasionally I reach out but mostly I don’t. Some journeys are not meant to be taken with others.

I think, sometimes, (well, no, I don’t think, I know…) I’m too raw and I share too much… people feel burdened by me, perhaps. I don’t want to be a burden, and I certainly don’t expect people to “fix” me or offer a fix… in fact, I really don’t want them to even try. Mostly I just want someone I can be in a space with (a creative one, if at all possible) and co-create with our hair down. I tire of the artifice.

I get that people are many-layered. I am no exception.

One of my former coworkers texted me this morning, chatting and then we got off to the topic of my going for job interviews (it was a gentle prod) and asked whether I was depressed.

Well… depression doesn’t ever leave me, really… it’s a blanket that I throw off to the side every once in a while, but it’s never too far from reach. I swap the thinner blanket, occasionally, for a thicker one, but it never truly goes away, ever.

It also doesn’t mean that I don’t find joy in everything – I do, daily. So very much wonder and gratitude… it’s an odd dichotomy to live with, and yet I do it.

I put my best face on for the world until I don’t, and then you see all of what creeps beneath the surface – always there but disguised. Perhaps that is the wrong term. I’m good at assimilating it into everything else. Otherwise I’d be the guy with the needle in my arm, looking for release from the pain that is an inevitable part of being in the skin I inhabit. All the time, to greater or lesser degrees. I’ve just found another way to cope with it that makes me able to function – and sometimes thrive – despite of it. Amazingly without addiction, though I can be prone to overindulging in things when there is a lot of a good (or sometimes not such a good) thing.

And it leads me to this: people who feel deeply either embrace what they feel (and often make good art as a result of that) or they evade it by medicating it or drowning it out with other things that distract and detract from feeling deeply. You either skim the surface or you dive below it.

While I’d like to think that we are unique in this, we all have the capacity to go that deep; it is a choice or perhaps a predisposition (but still something that can be cultivated if the curiosity and daring is there). It’s plush and richly pulsing in this place, drawing no distinction between what variables constitute the richness of an experience.

It’s scary, to be that sensitive, but also incredibly powerful. The world is experienced to such a deeper, greater, degree than that of most others. So we write about it, or make art to communicate it, and they get to vicariously experience what it felt like.

onward march…

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(close up of a new hand bound journal cover I am in the process of making)

Another year begins. It never ceases to amaze me how life moves along and the unexpected always happens (and somehow surprises me, because I expect things to remain constant despite knowing full well that they never are).

I begin the year with the knowledge that how things flow is largely dependent upon my own actions.

Some observations:

  • I become disconnected from myself when I neglect my urge to create.
  • Working with colour gives me joy and feeds me in a way that only it can.
  • Meditation is not an option but a requisite.
  • Discipline is the only path to accomplishment.
  • Bliss is to be found everywhere, all the time.
  • Shiva Paintstiks will rub off on your keyboard if you don’t wash your hands before typing.
  • Ideas are like popcorn kernels; store them in a jar until you are ready to make them pop.
  • Community, whether real or virtual, feeds the soul just as well as solitude; both are necessary to thrive.

Giving thanks to Effy Wild who went live on Ustream today and inspired me to create a new journal.

To a joyous, blissful, productive and enlightened new year.

first step to joy: (doing) nothing

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The title prompt is what Martha Beck suggests as the first of ten daily practices for a happier life (as outlined in The Joy Diet). I have been doing a whole lot of nothing for a while now, and feeling guilty about the lack of productivity. I do “guilt” well.

The truth of the matter is, I haven’t drawn or pulled out my art supplies for quite some time. I think it has to do with the emotional/head space I must be in to create – I must be quiet and still to hear where the medium wishes to take me, or to write out what my internal dialog is saying, neither of which seems to be my natural (or indeed self-induced) state lately. Frenetic, maybe. Despondent, maybe. Hugely dissatisfied, maybe. Listless, maybe. But definitely not quiet nor still. Certainly not both at the same time.

Lately I have been embarrassed by my inner dialog, as it touches on things that I haven’t wanted to consciously address, contenting myself with acknowledging that things were not right and good yet not yet prepared to attend to righting them. Somehow those things have a way of catching up to you, and if you don’t make the choices that very obviously need to be made, the universe urges them along on your behalf. More than once in the recent months I have asked It to be gentle with me; to bring change but in a gentle and less painful manner than in the past.

Hence the unexpected (though perhaps largely overdue) boot out of our old place into a new one (which, though more costly, is also a much better space in more ways than I can enumerate – feeling extreme gratitude for this) and a small claims court notice that arrived this week from someone who I had buried deep within myself in an attempt to heal myself from the sharpness of what transpired between us, much like an oyster does with the grain of sand that eventually becomes a pearl.

Unfortunately his patience with my process was not as generous as my own need for it was, and so I am having to look at finding a resolution to something I had not yet been prepared to address.

Such is life, and here I am, examining the wound and finding a way to heal myself of its cause. While I understand that the wounding and how I chose to participate was of my own doing, I also feel that acknowledging that another person’s actions did not have my best interests at heart even while holding their own interest out for my consideration. While what occurred was done with my consent, it was still inconsistent with right and honourable action, even within his own paradigm. My lesson here is in my choosing and accepting terms which did not sit well with my deepest self, the resulting fallout being a feeling of self-betrayal – so not once but twice betrayed.

This is one story of many other stories which have collectively shaped who I am today, and many more will come before the last and final story comes. I know I am not alone in the making of poor choices, and while they are uncomfortable and make us squirm they also sharpen and hone who we become (for the better) once all is said and done. If nothing else, they certainly provide much in the way of creative fodder for my written endeavours.

All this also happens to coincide with my taking part in a group reading (rereading, in my case) of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run With The Wolves, which is facilitating this self-examination in what will hopefully be a gentle and supportive manner. After listening to Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability this weekend, I realize that I am not alone in my struggles; that what I wish for most from those I reach out to during my most difficult moments is empathy vs. sympathy and that should the same be expected of me, that I am wise enough to extend the same in kind.