Friday, September 28, 2012

Forgiveness Tastes Like Chicken - a Blog Post in Which I Use the Word Fvck

You can't stay angry with children, puppies, or Sarah Silverman.
Sarah may break things, pee on your carpet or say something inappropriate, but then she will go on to hug you, lick your face and say something insightful. Children and puppies might do those things, too.

The anger of being treated unjustly has the potential to devour your soul.

This week, I've learned so much about forgiveness and acceptance.  Tomorrow is the memorial service of a friend who died because there was something more powerful in this world than his will.  Poor Friend Of Mine drank himself to death.  I believe there is a point (read about it somewhere in some article - was it The Times, DeLisa?) when a person who drinks heavily loses the ability to choose.  The alcohol takes over and you lose the ability to understand that it will kill you, that it will rob you of tomorrow - that day when things will get better - that day when you're really going to try this time.  Poor Friend Of Mine died alone, the night before checking in to rehab.  Poor Friend Of Mine left behind a most precious daughter, a lovely woman, and many beautiful pieces of photography.  I can't stay angry with Poor Friend Of Mine Who Drank Himself To Death.  What good does that do me?

Just as I cannot stay angry with him, I cannot stay angry with anyone, including my own self.

And here it comes - the Daddy Issue Blog begins, folks.

I've come to accept in the last few weeks the reason I fell in love with Earl and stayed loyally glued to him through all the hell that was his sexual addiction and our marriage.  Drum roll please, in case no one has figured it out . . . I wanted my father's love, something I will never have. As a cheap substitute I sought (and found in every man I ever fucked) the roguish qualities of my dad.  Smart, funny, entitled, cruel, distant, manipulative, charming in public, cold in private, and the world's biggest under-achiever.  Finding Earl was the Daddy Jackpot.  He fit the bill perfectly, and I fell for him hard.

I was so angry as a child.  My father was very cruel to my mother and indifferent to me.  He was a bastard to my sister and a bully to my brother.  Every night he would shout at my mother for hours, and my mother would sometimes fight back, sometimes take the haranguing in silence.  Whether she spoke up or not, I would sit listening, perched like a little bird on the banister at the top of the stairs.  In my mind I would formulate arguments against my father.  He would yell at my mother for some ridiculous, trumped up nothing.  My mother's response was never adequate in my opinion.  I would think to my self, "Tell him THIS, Mom!  Tell him THAT!"  I was Burgess Meredith to her Rocky, urging her on in the ring even though she was the underdog.

My parents divorced when I was 13 and I could not understand why my mother was so miserable; I could not understand why she wanted my father back, why she said she still loved him.  I was so relieved to have him gone from my life.  And he was gone.  I don't think I saw my father more than 5 times over the subsequent two years.  But those two years of transition and relative tranquility went by quickly and then BAM! Universe.  BAM! WHAM!SMACK-UPSIDE -THE- HEAD! My mother died.  Relatives swooped into town to hold the children together.  My father showed up for the funeral and put on a bit of a show about how important his children were to him.  The whirlwind of grief overwhelmed me.  All I could do was eat and sleep.  I can't remember much else except the freezing cold winter weather and the relatives who said they'd be there for me.  But as the weeks went by they disappeared one at a time.  My father went back to Ohio never to be heard from again.  My sister went back to college. My uncles flew home to their businesses and wives.  My aunt and grandmother stayed on a little while longer, but soon my aunt had to go back to her own brood of teens.  And no one was left behind except my grandmother  One month after my mother had died, the last standing grownup went home, too.  So there we were, my brother and I, 15 and 17 years old.  And we stayed in the house that had never once been a loving home.

Another day, another blog, I may be able to write about that grief, but right now I can only say that the two years I spent alone after my brother left for college were indeed lonely and sad.  And all I could do was pretend that I wasn't.  If anyone knew how alone I truly felt, how scared and sad I was, they would leave me forever.  So I just kept telling any grownup that asked how I was that I was okay.  After all, that's what they wanted to hear.

I thought that everything would be all right if my father was gone.  I struggled as a child and a teen to forgive him, but I couldn't come to any conclusion about how to forgive someone that didn't think they needed forgiveness.  I didn't know how to forgive someone that wasn't sorry.

So instead I forgot him.

And that is the foundation on which I tried to build a life.

Friends, you cannot forget people.  They will fester inside of you and poison you.  Instead, you must forgive. Now that I've gone through all this crap with Earl and Ashley's affair and the demise of my marriage, I can tell you that I cannot simply forget these people.  I must accept and forgive all of us.  Because if I don't, I am doomed to repeat the grief and anger of my childhood once more. I would be destined to be consumed by my anger.

The anger that I carried around all these years devoured bits of my soul.  It took away pleasure and potential and joy and left me with doubt and fear and emptiness.  So I must forgive and I must accept everything that has happened to me.  The pain is, in part, my own making.  It is, however, the way of human beings to make mistakes with one another.  Sometimes people will be sorry and work towards making amends, and other times they will not.

Here's the trick - It doesn't matter what the other person does.

Forgiveness comes from you.

Forgiveness is FOR you.

Poor Friend Who Drank Himself to Death could not find forgiveness, and pretty soon the poison that killed him felt better than the life he could potentially achieve.  The switch got flipped and the booze was more important than the life.

The same thing can happen with anger.  I lived for my anger with Earl.  But luckily he wanted out.  And now I can see that all that anger and grief tasted the same.  It all tastes like chicken.

I want to feast on the other feelings of life.  And to do so I must accept.  I must forgive.  Forgiveness is the only place in which I can find my own freedom.

Congratulations.  You've made it to the end of this very long blog post.  Here, have a cookie.  (It tastes like love.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Something Fun

Lately I've found myself saying that I am tired of being the topic of conversation.

Yes, I gotta' get it all out, deal with it, parse, process and all that jazz.  But tonight?  Tonight we have fun.

Here's one of the first movies I ever made, and I had the best time working on this with my friends and family.

Enjoy.  It's five minutes of real fun.  I wrote, directed and produced this film for a 48-hour challenge.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Actor's Nightmare - Letting Go the Fear

Lesson number 286, how to let go and get divorced:  Let someone who is better at the job do the job.

I hate it  when people tell me about their dreams,  rambling and droning on about the mental equivalent of navel lint.  However, I have learned that there is personal value in what we dream.  We narrate the stories of our lives in our sleep.  As a writer and a filmmaker, the craft of narration is important to me. Dreams are a way in which we try to make sense out of the confusion of life. They are riddled with odd details that are clues to our personal stories.

I had the actor's nightmare featuring my husband's mistress who sincerely tried to help me find a copy of The Taming of the Shrew so I could carry it on stage. I was to star as a last minute stand-in for the lead. Ashley and I searched desperately for a copy of the script while my old roommate, DeLisa, went on stage for me instead.  No one bothered to tell me that the part had been re-cast.  As I tell you this, please know that I am sparing you the details.

The life lesson I got out of this dream is to let someone who is better at the job do the work. I woke knowing that I need to let go.  I need to remember that my life is better lived as my life, not a branch of someone else's experience.  DeLisa is a far better actress than I ever was.  It was only right that she should be out on stage in the role I was meant to play.  I was unfamiliar with the part, didn't know the lines and couldn't even find the script.  When I figured out that someone had put DeLisa in my role and that I could let go of the fear that gripped me, I wasn't relieved.  I was disappointed.  And a little bit mean.  I let Ashley keep looking for the script. What can I say, schadenfreude is a guilty pleasure.

But it's all a constructed metaphor - thank you very much sleepy brain.  The metaphor tells me that Ashley is a better partner for Earl in many ways:  they both love Shakespeare, science fiction writing, and meat.  Although I appreciate those things, I am not a connoisseur of any of them. It doesn't matter if they stay together forever or are a fling that fizzles and dies out, he is spending some time with someone who appreciates the same things he does.  She's better at those things than I am.  She's better at being with him in terms of the basic things that he values.  So have at it, Ashley.  I'm supposed to be focusing on my own areas of interest now.  I'm supposed to be focusing on my personal growth.  So be it ALL.  Maybe we'll all be happier in the long run because we're shaking things up a bit now.

And maybe I'll stop crying at the drop of a pin soon.  Maybe the heart break won't be so heart breaking after I've allowed myself more time to explore my own interests.


The above was written over a month ago, but I did not publish at the time for a variety of reasons.  I'm glad to share that I do not cry at the drop of a pin anymore, although today I struggled with sadness and anger.  That's to be expected.  Grief is a petulant thing -ebbing and flowing in a most unpredictable manner.  I am glad to say that I truly believe I am better off without Earl.  I think he will be better off without me, too.  It's just...sad/hard/difficult...divorce.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Love Is All There Is...

The Beatles sang it best when they said, "All you need is love, love is all there is."

In 8th grade music class, Mrs. Allaman taught us that every pop song was about some stage of love: 1) the longing for love 2) the joy of love 3) the pain of having lost love.  At the time I couldn't disagree; every experience in my 13-year old life was framed within these three categories.  I had a huge crush on a bespectacled soccer player who didn't even know my name, and every movie I saw was about the joy of love and the pain of losing it (Blue Lagoon, Endless Love, Doctor Zhivago - my mother had good taste in films even if I didn't.)   Every sitcom TV show was about a woman who loved her husband and was tortured by his idiocy.  At the end of every episode, whatever misunderstanding had served as the conflict of the plot was swept under the rug with, "I looooove you!" and the applause track played.  So yeah, I thought the Beatles were right - it's all about this romanticized thing we call love.

But now I am understanding something new about love. There are shades, degrees, and various types of love.  Somehow I had missed this in my emotional education.  I knew I loved my daughter differently than I loved my husband, but it was still love at the core.  I had longed for my daughter for years before she blessed me with her presence, just as I had longed for a man to love me long before I knew Earl.  And yet, in this separation and pending divorce I am learning so much about the different types of love the world offers up.  There's the love that strangers and new friends have offered -compassionate, wise, patient and caring.  There's the love of old friends - full of the knowledge about me that I didn't possess, doled out in Goldilocks increments that are best for my maturation, not too much, not too little - just right.  And there's the love of self that is expressed by acting in my own self interest.  I have to make tough financial decisions (It's called comparison shopping.)  I have to do the work now, not wait for someone else to do it (I really hate taking out the trash.) And most importantly I must seek and find people who inspire me.  Different people offer me a variety of love, and I don't have to love them like a lover to call it love.  Love is not a tortured affection for an unreachable or difficult-to-love soul.   Love comes in the form of people who offer Art, Compassion, Community, Kindness, Independence, Self-Knowledge, Laughter, Shoulders to Cry On, Patience, Wisdom, and qualities I have yet to recognize.

I can say that today, even though I weep at the lost potential between Earl and me, I am  grateful for the lessons offered to me by the Universe - lessons I would not be learning if Earl and I had not lived every moment of our lives together exactly as we had.  I am learning that loving Earl doesn't mean that I have to have a romantic attachment to him.  As a young woman, I fell in love with Earl and thought that the emotional attachment was "all there is." Now this middle-aged woman is learning that love is so much more than the magnet between two hearts.  I am  grateful for having had the experience of romantic love, a love that lasted for a very long time.  I am also grateful for the chance to widen my emotional scope and love many people, exercising muscles I didn't know I had.

I love Earl, but I love him in a way I never did when we were together.  I love him for the chance he gave me.  I need to learn about the other possibilities for love in the world.  That's a chance that wouldn't have come along if I had stayed in the emotional zone of our marriage.

For those of you who think it's crazy to say you love someone who cheated on you, I ask you to understand that a person must learn from life; there is no controlling the actions of others.  In the Beatles' words - there's "nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you, in time."

When I say I love him, I don't mean I want him, I mean that he was the person I was supposed to be with and now he is the person I need to get over.  He was exactly what he was supposed to be for me to learn how to be me.
"Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.
All you need is love, love, love is all you need."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tattoos As Personal Archives - You Are Not Alone

I met a woman the other day who is studying tattoos as personal archives.  I thought this was a beautiful and untapped vision of our culture's obsession with ink.

When I left Arizona for California this summer, my lovely Ginger painted my toenails and left me an encrypted message - "Y A N A" spelled out on my toenails.  Anyone who is a Dr. Who fan, as Ginger and I are, knows that this is an important theme - You Are Not Alone.  I certainly felt very alone as I was dealing with my husband's infidelity and desire to extricate himself from our marriage, but the message from my daughter stayed with me.  I didn't remove that nail polish; I let it chip. My toenails grew into monstrous, adorned claws.   I wanted the message to stay with me.

I'm back in Arizona now, in my own home; Ginger is with me three nights a week.  I spend a great deal of time alone, and yet I am not alone. I've made many new friends, done things I never thought I would do in the restrictive confines of marriage, and continue on a path of self discovery.

Last night a new friend went with me to a tattoo parlor. I relied on Han's expert advice to go to my safe place as the needle etched it's ink into my flesh.  Deep breathing, a rocking chair on a wooden porch overlooking reeds and a dock.  Deep, deep breathing.  That doesn't hurt so much, oooh, oooh, deep breathing, cool salty mist blowing on my face.  A sailboat in the distance. Twenty minutes later, I have my eternal reminder that even as I live in my own space, I am definitely not alone.

YANA designed by Andrea Tripodi Matthes
Etched by Chris at Living Ink in Tempe, AZ