Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On the Fence: Swollen Gates and Skittish Hearts

“Joy to hearts which have suffered long is like the dew on the ground after a long drought; both the heart and the ground absorb that beneficent moisture falling on them, and nothing is outwardly apparant.” Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

When I was a kid, my father used chicken wire and thick, wooden boards to fence in our backyard.  For a handmade enclosure, my Dad did a pretty good job, but, unfortunately, the gates he built had certain quirks.  By which I mean, moisture of any kind made those thick wooden boards swell turning the task of locking the gates into a dangerous mission. With time I learned the trick: Shove the entire structure upward and then slam that sucker shut.  Worked like a charm!  Opening it back up was difficult but such was our plight.  And for the most part, dealing with that old gate never proved more than a minor annoyance, until one rainy day during my mid teens.  For whatever reason, on that particular afternoon, as I hurled my weight against the gate in an effort rush indoors my hand slipped in between the two wooden planks.  To my horror, I realized that the swollen gate wouldn't budge and, despite my best effort, I couldn't pry my hand free.  As I struggled, I attempted to cry out for help only to discover that the pain and shock had rendered me unable to make any noise above a whimper.  I don't know how long I stood there shaking and trying to call out.  I do remember going rather limp at one point.  After what felt like an eternity (though probably not more than 5 or 10 minutes), I managed to pull my hand free and take my injured self inside.  Even now, after all this time, my memory of that day remains quite vivid.  But what stands out isn't the pain.  Its the silence.

As I aged, the inability to speak when hurt or frightened became my trademark. My brother began referring to me as "a bunny rabbit" (a label I disliked) because my response to any surge of emotion was to go quiet, stand very still, and wait for my chance to run.  Despite my irritation, his assessment was a fair one.  Even when I cared for someone (which should be a positive feeling) I stayed silent and avoided that person's presence like the plague. (Better to be safe than sorry) When I knew an answer in class I refused to speak. (Just in case, I misspoke)  When I found myself hurt whether from a work situation or something more personal, I sought solitude before letting anything show. (Stating displeasure only leads to punishment and humiliation)  As I aged, of course, I realized that at least in terms of work and school, I had to speak up whether I preferred to or not.  It was one thing to be man handled by customers, but it was a whole other to climb on top of rickety ladder placed at the top of steep basement steps with only a hungover meth addict between me and certain death.  Shocking though it seems that a woman, just assertive enough to avoid a life threatening fall, still believed silence was the best answer when it came to her heart...until about a year ago.  What heppened?  Well, I watched a hawk devour a bunny.  No, seriously, I did.  After a handful of on campus meetings, I ran into a group of students gathered outside the library.  Like a normal person, I stopped to see what the fuss was about.  And there it was: A Hawk Noshing on a Dead Rabbit.  What struck me, wasn't that the Bird was eating his Prey (that's fair enough).  No, it was that Mr Hawk insisted upon repeatedly beating his mangle victim's body on the ground.  As I watched with a mixture of fascination and horror, I remember my brother laughing and saying: "Way to handle the situation like a Bunny Rabbit."   After that memory resurfaced, I walked away muttering: "I'm not fucking rabbit.  I'm an threatening hawk...or, at least, a pigeon."  Even as debated what sort of animal I was, down deep, I understood that altering my perception would mean breaking the seal of silence I had encased myself in, a challenge I had refused to face.

Listen, Nature and Nurture made me a Class A, Level 85, Black Belt Avoidance Coper.  Asking this Gal to stand still, admit her feelings, and hold on is the equivalent of saying" Light yourself on Fire".  Its tall order! However, I resolved to start communicating even if it meant using morse code.  And a funny thing happened: Not long after, a shift in my outlook (barely perceptible at first) began to take place.  Suddenly, I was noticing things and people who had been there all along.  I started caring and investing in way I hadn't before.  Truthfully, I'm still frightened by future outcomes I can't see and the cost communication might bring.  But, I think, maybe fear simply comes with the territory.  When I was small my parents made me memorize I Corinthians 13:1-13 (yes, in the King James Version), or more simply put the love verses that get so overused at weddings.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, it not puffed up.  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil:  Rejoiceth not in inquity, but rejoiceth in truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

"You know, you don't talk much....I like you!"
To be honest, the real meaning of those words illuded me for most of my adult life.  Love, I believed, came down to reciprocity and a fixed outcome.  In my defense, for the most part, my theory has proved correct and worked well.  Then something happened: I ran across someone I couldn't let go.  That realization was not a pleasant one.  I melted down.  No, no, no, no.  Suddenly, Jennifer Nicole's Fortress of Solitude and Love based upon the Exchange of Material Goods and a Predetermined Level of Affection was thrown out the window.  I've YET to recover.  Everything was so well decorated in my Fortress, but what can you do?  This caring no matter the outcome boggled my mind and upset my apple cart.  In hopes of finding an answer, finally, I went back to that chapter in Corinthians.  Here's what I concluded: 1.) the verses are an ideal not a reality 2.) love is about not knowing the future and still caring.  Love depends on Faith.  Faith in the character of others.  Faith that no matter the ending, that someone else is worth investing in as person with needs, hopes, and fears.  Hebrews 11:1 "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."  That's it: It takes faith to start a story when you haven't read the final page.   Despite the risk, I think, once you begin caring about someone outside of your own desires or expectations, push back the fear, and loving itself becomes easier.  That's daily the choice.  Either cling to memory of the fence and fear or care without knowing the future.  Some days I still do the former, but, at the moment, I'm working on the latter.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Security Breech and a Plan of Nothing

“We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

“Is there anyone who has ever written so much as a love letter in which he felt that he had said exactly what he intended?” ~George Orwell

“It was not the passion that was new to her, it was the yearning adoration. She knew she had always feared it, for it left her helpless; she feared it still, lest if she adored him too much.” ~D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover

I John 4:18: There is no fear in love; but perfect love castesth out fear: because fear hath torment.  He that feareth is not made perfect in love.  When I was a little girl, my Evangelical Parents marched my Ass into Sunday School on a weekly basis.  Each Sunday Morning, the Teacher told us story, taught us to make a craft, and then forced us to memorize a Bible verse.  I John 4:18 was one of favorites.  My young mind romanticized its meaning.  In my childish head, love conquered all, like that Knight in Sleeping Beauty.  And I knew that when I fell in love, I'd strap on my oh so cool Rainbow Brite Belt, Fluff my Naturally Curly Hair, Adjust my Skirt, and then walk up to the Man I adored, place a kiss on his lips, and lead him away. Done deal. In my defense, the Bible, My Parents, and a Handful of Nearly Illiterate Sunday School Teachers assured me Love was the Antithesis of Fear.  It never occurred to my naive brain that I was misinterpreting the Scripture's meaning, and no ever corrected me.  As you might suspect by now, adulthood presented me with a number of harsh reality checks.  

Maybe he wasn't scary enough?
With Age, Education, and Experience, I came to understand that falling in love was equivalent to pointing a loaded gun at my own head.  In an effort to protect myself from playing Russian Roulette yet again, I allowed my personality to undergo a Mutation, the Once Chubby and Open Child became a Guarded Young Women, and then a Closed Off Thirty Year Old.  Oh, I retained the hospitable and overly warm manners my upbringing instilled in me, but those gestures were simply a performance.  While I smiled and nodded at people by day, I went home and constructed my Impenetrable Doom Fortress by night.  That safe haven, I believed, would save me from the trapping of love and caring, two deadly pursuits.  Then, despite all my precautions, the unthinkable happened: Someone Slipped inside my Castle of Death.  Even now, months later, I'm still floored.  How the hell he made it past my Foaming Three Headed Dog, Cthulhu Monster, Poison Darts, and, last but not least, my Disgustingly Annoying Jar Jar Binks Security Guard, I'll never know.  Does he own a Tardis, Sonic Screwdriver, and Pair of Ear Plugs?  Its the only reasonable explanation.  Now look at me, standing here with another human running around my Fortress of Solitude.  That completely nullifies the Solitude aspect of my Creation.  I've no clue how to handle this.  Perhaps the best thing to do is Nothing.  Yes, that's it, I will sit still, pray, and continue with my plan of NOTHING.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Coffee Spoons: Love and Michelangelo

Let us go then, you and I, 
When the evening is spread out against the sty
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The mutterings retreats 
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotel
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo 

For I have known them all already, know them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons; 
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, on that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two
Advise the prince, no doubt, an easy toll, 
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous---
Almost, at times, the Fool.

T.S. Eliot published "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in 1915 and since this poem (see a few select stanzas above) has become one of the most widely recognized works in Modern Literature.  Because Eliot writes his dramatic monologue in stream of consciousness, many first time readers find the poem nonsensical, but with a more careful analysis we see a beautiful and articulate description of feelings of: inadequacy, morality, weariness, regret, and longing.  The poem opens with a quote from Dante's Inferno, suggesting Prufrock is one of the damned.  He only speaks because he's sure no one is listening. As the reader, we gain insight into Prufrock's gloomy existence and sense of despair.  He attempts to have an intimate conversation with the woman he loves, but fails to make her understand him.  He devises plans of action, but remembers past disappointments.  Prufrock reminds himself that he's attended parties before and the ending is always the same.  He is defeated before his pursuit begins.

So what's the point?  Why am I delving into T.S. Eliot?  Well, because at the moment, like Prufrock I have "measured out my life with coffee spoons".  My inner dialogue repeats the same questions and fears over and over.  How dangerous is moving beyond polite conversation?  Because while its true that I have come to believe the only thing worth saying is what one feels (Virginia Woolf).  I also comprehend the devastating consequences of allowing someone to see you without your armor.  Once you show your hand, all the cards are on the table. You can't pick that back up.  There's nowhere to hide. What if those feelings aren't return?  How can we know?  Like, Prufrock, I remember past losses and failures, wonder if I'm understood, and despair over the future.  As I spiral downward, everything becomes crystal clear: I am, "almost, at times, the Fool".  All the unanswered questions, all the unfilled silences transform from uncertainty to damnation.  I admit defeat, crawl into a corner, and cry.  Of course, that sense of defeat, in my humble opinion, is what makes Eliot's poem so heartbreaking.  At least in my mind, Prufrock IS lovable.  He has simply had a rough go of things.  Maybe what he needs is an Allie Trufrock to come along and remind him someone not only understands, but longs to hold his hand.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Storm: Dandelions vs. Roses

“I have learned now that while those who speak about one's miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.” ~C.S. Lewis
"Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again.  I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times.  And I shan't recover this time.  I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate.  So I am doing what seems the best thing to do." ~Virginia Woolf

“Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonised as in that hour left my lips.” ~Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Every once in awhile, a storm sweeps over me.  You'd think, by now, I would be able to read the signs but each time it happens I feel shocked and overwhelmed.  In my defense, whatever triggers that special brand of meltdown is unpredictable.  Oh, there are normally a few contributing factors, like today's version: Crippling Insecurity.  In hopes of warding off the demons, this afternoon, I settled into cleaning my apartment.   Reordering my belongings in an effort to reorder my mind.  But tonight, the plan backfired.  After I spent hours hauling books out of my study, filling my new shelves, and rearranging my old ones, I sat down to admire my handiwork.  My personal favorite is my Science Fiction/Graphic Novel Bookshelf, that Sports all my Board Games neatly stacked on top.  Its delightful.  But as I stared at the shelf, I began think about the things I hope for, the whispering in my heart, and then, of course, my own inadequacies.  The longer I sat there, the more my fears mounted.  Suddenly, it was clear that nothing I want will happen because it can't.  "Miracles don't happen in my neighborhood."  As I shifted from Satisfaction at a Job Well Done to Self Loathing for Personal Shortcomings, Despair took hold.  Life seemed so long.  There are Years, Weeks, Days, and Minutes that I have to Live and I kept thinking: "Its just so long".  Then I broke down.

The Storm, as always, was horrible, but, at least, the crashing was short lived.  A measure of Calm is settling in now.  Oh, yes, I'm still Frightened and Self Loathing Jennifer tonight but not lost in the way I was earlier.  And, I think, rather than slipping back into despair, I'll listen to my brother who preaches patience to me on a daily basis.  He assures me everything takes time.  That I must pray, stay calm, and carry on. He's right.  If I'm honest, my leap toward despair hinges upon my assumption that whatever my heart wants most will come up Weeds instead of Roses.  But come to think of it, I don't care for Pampered Roses.  Weeds are more my style.  Take Dandelions, for instance: They are hardy enough to push through concrete sidewalks.  Weeds endure, my Darlings, where Roses cannot.  Better, yet, in my opinion, us Weeds recognize each other.  And if You're anything like me, I could only love another hardy Weed.  I simply couldn't relate to or admire a Prissy Little Rose.  For tonight, I think I'll pray and remember to be patient.  Because that's the thing about Weeds.  Over time, we're forced to adopt innovative strategies to survive.  In my opinion, those strategies (some might call them scars) are what makes them so beautiful.  But those same innovations take time and love to understand.  Or in other words, Being and Loving a Weed, requires both giving and receiving a lot of patience and a little grace.  Maybe miracles happen in my neighborhood, too.  We'll see.

Wilco's "Patient With Me" is one of my favorites: "I should warn you, when my tongue turns to dust, like we discussed.  Oh, but blessings get so blurred at the sound of your words.  You're gonna need to be patient with me."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Purring: Lessons from Mrs. Dalloway

“Mrs Dalloway is always giving parties to cover the silence”
“She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very, dangerous to live even one day.”
“Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely? All this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely?”
“Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame”
“To love makes one solitary.”
“Peter would think her sentimental. So she was. For she had come to feel that it was the only thing worth saying – what one felt. Cleverness was silly. One must say simply what one felt.”
“They went in and out of each other’s minds without any effort.”
“This late age of the world’s experience had bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears.”
“Her only gift was knowing people almost by instinct, she thought, walking on. If you put her in a room with someone, up went her back like a cat's; or she purred.”

Virginia Woolf wrote Mrs. Dalloway, one of her best novels, in 1925.  With a tight writing style, complex themes dealing with mental illness, feminism, and suicide, and a biographical tinge, it no surprise Woolf's masterpiece has gained such notoriety.  For me, its Clarissa Dalloway, a character Woolf modeled after herself, that draws me to the novel.  Like her heroine, Woolf suffered from severe depression, questioned the meaning of her existence, and struggled to retain her hold on life.  Perhaps it is true that we "read to know we're not alone". Thus, on days when I am frightened of the future, worried about my heart, and uncertain of the proper course of action, Woolf provides me with comfort.  Just take a moment and read the quotes above which deal with all those emotions.

My reaction to caring, breaking my routine, or strangers.
Like Clarissa, I often believe a "the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame".  In other words, on days like today, when the crazy is spilling out, tears are welling up, and my self esteem is shot to hell, my Rain Man type routines hold me in check.  God forbid the Maple Syrup come after the Pancakes and K-Mart Sucks!  More importantly, similar to Virginia, I often find myself unable to hide my heart.  Oh, don't get wrong.  Nothing is easier than masking my emotions with most of the human population.  It doesn't matter if they care about me or not.  No, for this Routine Drive, K-Mart Hating Gal, the problem comes with those who hold my heart. Listen, sure, I grasp that the issue here is, on some level, my own fault.  In terms of attachment style, for most of my adult life, Yours Truly scored as "anxious" for cognition and "avoidant" for action.  What does that mean?  Well, I'll tell you.  It MEANS that the moment I felt anything close to love or desire for another human being, romantic or otherwise, I stopped talking to that person immediately.    Its too risky.  What if that person hates me?  What if I say something stupid?  That would only increase the loathing.  What if I love that person and the feeling isn't returned?  No, no, no, better to never care about anyone than take that sort of nose dive. Confession: I still fight those emotions on a daily basis.  But with age, I learned that Life isn't worth much if I never admit I care.  Or as Virginia puts it: "Peter would think her sentimental. So she was. For she had come to feel that it was the only thing worth saying – what one felt. Cleverness was silly. One must say simply what one felt.”  Of course, being so sentimental and feeling so much is dangerous in and of itself.  Why, you ask?  Because I can't float from person to person.  For me, real Attachment is rare, but felt deeply.  And because handing off the keys to my heart is such an unlikely occurrence (just not in my nature), when it happens, I find myself terrified.  The questions and fears surround me.  There really isn't a moral to my story tonight.  What?  You're disappointed?  Well, too damn bad.  My advice is just let the crazy spill out, admit when you care, and then pray...because if You, like Me and Clarissa, have the mentally of a cat, You might be screwed.  Are people suppose to purr?  I dunno, but I do and it worries me.

My favorite love song: "I'd Love You to Want Me" by Lobo (Top of the Billboard Charts in 1972).  Yeah, I'll admit it.  "Now, it took time for me know what you tried so not show.  Something in my soul just cries.  I see the warmth in your blue eyes."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Radiance: Evidence of Things Unseen

“What being in the War and being in the Army had shown him was that people tend naturally toward light, toward its source, as sunflowers do in a field. People lean, either in their dreams or in their actions, toward that place where they suspect their inner lights are coming from. Whether they call it God or conscience or the manual of Army protocol, people sublime toward where their inner fire burns, and given enough fuel for thought and a level playing field to dream on, anyone can leave a fingerprint on the blank of history. That's what Fos believed.” 

“Maybe there are moments between any two adults in love when the age of one of them dissolves before the other's eyes, when the first refuge of the soul at its creation is laid bare and skinless as a sunbeam through a window. Innocence and vulnerability, two unmeasurable quantities, rose from her and Fos felt their qualities flow through him like an electric charge. He longed to spread himself around her as protection, but the magnitude of his emotion made any gesture he could make seem small.  Perhaps that is the essence of the protection's intimacy, that it dwells in camouflage and justifies itself in stillness.” 

I ran across Marianne Wiggins' Evidence of Things Unseen during my first semester of graduate school when an eccentric professor assigned the novel to cap off her historiography course.  That class was a fiasco.  Grown women cried.  Men descended into hysterics.  I sat in the back of the room minding my own business and scribbling in my notebook.  Outside of the three ring circus, Wiggins novel was the only element of that class that left a lasting impression. Maybe it was because the book's title referenced a Bible verse I like or because during that period I began to wonder what faith meant or maybe I'm a sucker for tragedies.  I dunno.  But I never forgot the book.  Despite this fact, for six long years Evidence of Things Unseen sat on my shelf collecting dust until about a month ago when I sat down with Wiggin's work. A more careful reading (in other words, analysis that involved more than a handful of reviews) revealed an intriguing story.  The author uses the lives of Ray Foster, 'Fos' a World War I veteran with great faith in science, and Opal, his pragmatic wife, to produce both historical fiction and a love story.  In the book, the "evidence of things unseen" refers to Fos' fascination with "radiance": X-rays, Atomic Radiation, and Opal.  

The two quotes above explain why I enjoyed the work then and still do now.  Like Fos, in my opinion, most of us are looking for radiance.  When we find it in another person we "lean", either in our "dreams" or in our "actions" toward the source and long to protect it: "the essence of protection's intimacy" is "that it dwells in camouflage and justifies itself in stillness." To me, what makes radiance beautiful is that it comes in so many forms.  Illumination is defined by what we value, who we are, and how we love, by our hobbies, pet peeves, and sense of humor.  When we find someone with compatible hearts we produce an electric charge.  Maybe that is what love is: Electricity.  A spark that simultaneously frightens and entrances us.  Something or someone we cannot turn away from, no matter the fear.  At least, that's what I think, but, then again, what do I know?  Maybe falling in love resembles using liquid nitrogen to freeze off a wart.  Of course, my mental image is more pleasant.
Because I can't help myself here is Manfred Man's "Blinded by the LIght"

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sigh No More: Losing the Costume

“Scar tissue has no character. It's not like skin. It doesn't show age or illness or pallor or tan. It has no pores, no hair, no wrinkles. It's like a slip cover. It shields and disguises what's beneath. That's why we grow it; we have something to hide. ” ~Susanna Kaysen, Girl Interrupted

“Yet, I didn't understand that she was intentionally disguising her feelings with sarcasm; that was usually the last resort of people who are timid and chaste of heart, whose souls have been coarsely and impudently invaded; and who, until the last moment, refuse to yield out of pride and are afraid to express their own feelings to you.” ~Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground
“Why do you wear a mask and hood?"
I think everybody will in the near future," was the man in black's reply. "They're terribly comfortable.” ~William Goldman, The Princess Bride
Yours Truly spent a good portion of last January contemplating both the usefulness and drawbacks to wearing costumes.  In case you don't recall, I mentioned the tragic loss of a certain Rainbow Brite Belt which I loved more than any accessory I have ever or will ever own.  During grade school, that Fierce Magnet Belt made me feel invincible.  I'd strap it on like Armour and march through the doors of Vigo Elementary School like Warrior ready to face any Playground Battle.  Sadly though, over time the Belt became Garage Sale Fodder, and I was forced to find a New Disguise, some other Shield that would keep me safe.  Of course, like everyone else, my Persona became my Armor: Smart, Friendly, but Completely Closed Off.  Self Sufficiency was the Key.  That meant forgoing any lasting attachments.  Without my Rainbow Brite Belt, I took great comfort in the fact that I could lose almost anyone and not mind.  Of course, age along with a couple History and Economics classes taught me that Self Sufficiency was not the most Efficient means of Survival.  If hoped to thrive, I was going to have to take my goods and services to the Marketplace and make an Exchange.  But Knowing the Right Step and Following Through with it are two different things.

The truth is we all wear costumes whether they are professional or personal, the Roles we play with our friends, co-workers, and family members.  In reality, those Hats are both useful and necessary to navigating through life.  But despite their utility, disguises can be dangerous because they are "terribly comfortable" and because over time we learn the consequence of walking around without them.  A costume is protection.  You see, that is where this Hysterical Gal stops.  The conversion always goes the same way.

Counselor: Why is letting someone in so frightening?

Me: Because caring leads to loss.  If you don't care then you can't be hurt by the outcome.

Its hard being Harley Quinn without your Mask
There it is.  I understand that logic is faulty, but it does nothing to ease my fear.   Yet, I know that the benefit of taking the costume off outweighs the cost.  With that knowledge in mind, since last January, I've been working on removing my disguise.  Being honest rather than playing it safe. Stepping back and holding on rather than lashing out and letting go.  Are you hoping for a success story?  Sorry, I have no idea what the conclusion of my tale will look like.  Listen, I'm the kinda Gal who buys Kittens only to have them die on me.  While I'm praying for success, my personal history suggests otherwise.  Then again, more General History shows Cultures which cling to Self Sufficiency tend to die out. So for now, here I stand, no Belt, no Mask, no Rubber Boots. Completely Exposed.   This caring thing is terrifying.  But maybe its worth the risk.  We'll see.

"Sigh No More" by Mumford and Sons is one of my favorite songs.  The lyrics "Love; it will not betray you, Dismay you or enslave you, it will set you free.  Be more like the man you were made to be" reminds me some things and people are worth the risk.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sunbursts and Marble Halls: Anne Shirley and Me

“People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven't you?"
“Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps . . . perhaps . . . love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.”

"I don't want sunbursts or marble halls.  I just want you.  You see I'm quite as shameless as Phil about it.  Sunbursts and marble halls may be all very well, but there is more scope for the imagination without them.  And as for the waiting, that doesn't matter.  We'll just be happy, waiting and working for each other--and dreaming.  Oh, dreams will be very sweet now.'
“Do you know, Gilbert, there are times when I strongly suspect that I love you!”

In 1985 and 1987 CBC, released a television adaption of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables book series starring Kevin Sullivan, Megan Follows, and Colleen Dewhurst.  In Montgomery's novel, an elderly brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, send off for an orphan boy to work on their farm.  To Matthew's delight and Marilla's dismay, a talkative, melodramatic, bookworm named Anne Shirley is delivered to their home instead.  The rest of the series focuses on Anne's life and adventures in Prince Edward Island.  So why am I bringing up old Anne? Because she's awesome, that's why! Alright, I'll admit it.  As a child, I was obsessed with the series.  First, I begged my mother to tape every episode for me then, at the age of eight, I dove into Montgomery's books attempting to model myself after Anne.  She devoured books, faced trouble with "gumption", embarked on adventures, and met every challenge with a good quote.  Even Anne's insistence upon the correct spelling of her name delighted me.  She was Anne "with an e" and I  was Jenni "with an i".  Yep!  I was part of an entire generation of young women who wanted nothing more than watch their beloved suffer from scarlet fever.  To my young and addled brain, if a man really loved me he'd fall ill in order to fulfill my fantasy.  As he laid dying for my benefit, my beloved would hold my hand and say: "There could never be anybody for me but you."  Gawd, I was sick. Of course, I completely missed the point of Montgomery's novels: "The dreams that are dearest to my heart are right here."  In other words, its not fairy tale moments that make us happy.  Rather, its holding the hand right in front of you.

“I've been feeling a little blue - just a pale, elusive azure.”

“I am well in body though considerably rumpled up in spirit.” 

“She looked like a head-on collision between a fashion plate and a nightmare.”

Perhaps because its been a rough few months for Yours Truly, I've returned to the book series, whipping out old Anne Shirley quotes left and right.  On almost a daily basis I repeat: "My life is perfect graveyard of buried hopes" and "no amount of plum puffs can cure a mind diseased and a world crumbling into tiny pieces."  Of course, those are the wrong lines for me to be quoting.  They represent a short sighted and immature Anne who still romanticized loss and failed to value the gifts right in front of her.  In Miss Shirley's defense, age and experience does quite a bit to alter one's desires.  Because “It's all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it's not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?”  Yes, indeed.  Real life strips sorrow of romance.  Loss is nothing at all like what I read about in drippy, day-dreamy books.  There is nothing pretty or enviable about it.  With that knowledge, like Montgomery, I've come to believe that "romance creeps to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways." And perhaps, its a fault of my personality, but I prefer the peacefulness of day to day life over grand adventures.  The "nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens, but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” Reading books, playing board games, and maybe someday knowing my heart is safe.  As always, my post lets everything show.  But my Friends, “I know I chatter on far too much... but if you only knew how many things I want to say and don't. Give me SOME credit.”

Anne Shirley portraying the Lady of Shalott