Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
After I found out, he abruptly cut off all communication with me, became someone I instantly did not know, and never, ever showed a flicker of remorse or sorrow. I fell apart in ways I am embarrassed to think of now. I completely lost my footing and my confidence.
A great deal of my sorrow was just over the fact that one person could do such a thing to another. Especially to someone who had shown them only kindness and love. And WHY? Why had he drawn me into his life, made these plans, while LIVING with someone? How could I be so stupid? What signs had I missed? Why would someone treat me this way?
I needed answers, and never got them. I wanted to understand how this could happen, but there was no explanation.
For almost a year now, I have felt like someone had pushed me off of a cliff, and I was continuously falling, falling...dreading the impact at the bottom, but never hitting it. Just staying in this never ending, horrible free fall, waiting for it to be over.
When I came home from that trip, my last trip to see him, I put my suitcase in my extra bedroom and ignored it. I felt that if I opened it, the pain would be too much to bear. Seeing the things I had packed for what I thought would be a wonderful, special trip. The things I bought while I was there, before it all came apart. I couldn't bear it. And day after day, I let the suitcase sit there, haunting me.
I replaced all the toiletries, my curling iron, and an electric toothbrush just so I wouldn't have to open it. Weeks went by and then months, until I was in another season, and didn't miss or need anything inside it.
And then, a few weeks ago, I moved to a new apartment. As I carried random boxes, lamps and other items out of the spare bedroom, the suitcase stood in the corner. I realized it had been almost a year since I left it in that same spot, in that same position. My heart hurt remembering how it felt coming home that night.
I looked at this bag, and thought of just adding it to the trash pile outside. But I remembered a few things inside it that I had loved. The French shoes I had bought in San Francisco that made me feel as though I was walking on cobblestones instead of concrete. The little black and white dress that made me feel beautiful, even sexy? The journal that I had kept for years before meeting him, knowing him. I took the handle in my hand and loaded the suitcase in the back of my car.
A few nights later, I finally screwed up my courage and opened it. The first thing that greeted me was the scent of the perfume I had worn, that I loved, but hadn't worn since then. I was determined not to cry, but it happened before I could think. I wept. For a moment, I thought again of just closing it and trashing everything. But I made myself keep going. I found the French shoes, the little black and white dress, my favorite bathing suit, my journal, jewelry I adore that I had almost forgotten about, clothing I feel my best in, and some writing I had done-some short stories- that are some of my most excellent pieces. I sat there with these things all around me, still in tears.
And slowly, I began to replace the things from the suitcase in my life. I wore the shoes to work, brought the perfume out of hibernation, and washed all the clothes and returned them to my closet. My necklaces, bracelets and rings returned to my mirrored jewelry box, and the writing to my desk with my other work. I performed the suitcase cleaning ritual I used to do after my business trips, vacuuming the whole suitcase, spritzing some Febreeze and returning it to my closet.
I was fine with the contents out, but the suitcase itself bothered me. I couldn't look at it without thinking of the pain of that last trip, the pain that took me a year to open. So, I tossed the suitcase in the back of my car, figuring I would happen upon a dumpster while I was out.
And then, while driving around for work, in a shopping center where I was visiting a potential client, I saw two women behind a table with containers and stacks of odd items surrounding them. A sign read DONATIONS, and listed the name of a women's shelter. I returned to my car and pulled out the suitcase and quietly added it to the stacks of donations. As I walked away, I thought of some woman, starting her life over, exiting from pain, heading somewhere new and safe. I thought of her packing things in this suitcase, beginning anew-- associating this suitcase with happiness. At least that's what I hope. It seemed to clear my head and my heart.
I also know that during the time I was in love with him, before the heartbreak, that I felt more beautiful, more amazing, more everything than I had felt in a long time. And the betrayal took that away from me for awhile. During the last year, and especially in the last six months, I have realized that I was not stupid or blind, and I was not part of the betrayal. All of the things I felt --love, excitement, happiness--were all true and real. So the way I felt because of those things- beautiful, worthy, confident--had to be true, too. The only part of the equation that was false was him. I have finally separated myself out of it all, forgiven myself, stopped punishing myself, although it seemed to take forever to get to this point.
And it's funny, I think in a way that the suitcase in my house, however hidden, was almost like he was still around. Breaking it open, taking the parts that were the best of myself out of it, and then doing something positive with it freed me. Maybe it sounds dramatic, maybe no one can understand, but it makes perfect sense to me. And it's been almost a year since I could say that about anything.
Artwork by Paul Compton, for this and more of his work, click here.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
by Reginald Shepherd
out of this room's air, I'm reading suppositions into
summer's script snarled on a varnished floor.
It looks like a man. That knot's his hand
waving good-bye, that stippled stripe of grain's
the stacked-up vertebrae of his turned back.
Small birds (sparrows or finches, or perhaps)
are cluttering the trees with blackened ornaments (burning
in the remnant light of August eight o'clock), and noises
I can't hear. Chirring there, chittering. The window's closed.
in this locked box, and dotting all the i's
these floating motes present (my composition), I am not lonely
for the palpable world (midges I dap hands for
and kill), shivering into darkness underwater outside glass:
what's left of light sinking from zero down to less,
cobalt down to zaffer, deeper to purple-black
where divers drown. The swimming landscape's
all mistake (one world that shuts air into
my submerged terrarium), and I am luck.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite pastime is reading. It is something beyond a pastime actually, it is probably one of my greatest passions. I love to read, to talk about books and what I have read, and I simply adore recommending books to friends and even strangers. I am that somewhat annoying person you see in bookstores going up to store customers and putting a book in their hand, when they are contemplating something else in a particular section. (I can't help myself).
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I subscribed to Real Simple magazine last year after reading a piece in the magazine devoted to a married couple, taking a look at their lives together. The whole piece consisted of two letters: one from her to him, and one from him to her. The letters were honest, raw and beautiful and the most real thing I had read in a long time. So while I love the organizing tips and recipes, it is articles like this one that make me a subscriber.
This month, as I read the essays within a section entitled What Makes Me Feel Beautiful, I was again touched in a way that only perfect words and sentiment can touch me. The honesty from these essays is at once a breath of fresh air, a confirmation of some of my own doubts and fears, but also of the things that make me confident. They are all beautiful in their own way, but the very first one was the one that snagged me, that made me smile through teary eyes. Enjoy!
"My Late Husband's Words" by Anne Roiphe
It was mid-December of 2005. I don’t know why he said it. I don’t know if a shadow had fallen across him, something appalling he saw out of the corner of his eye. I don’t know if it was just coincidence or intuition that prompted him, but about a week before my seemingly healthy 82-year-old husband suddenly died, he emerged from the kitchen ready to go to his office, his face clean-shaven, his eyes shining, smiling shyly, holding the copy of the Anthony Trollope book he was rereading, and said to me, “You have made me very happy. You know that you have made me a happy man.” There I stood in my work outfit, blue jeans and a T-shirt. There I stood with my white hair and my wrinkles and the face I was born with, although now much creased by time, and I felt beautiful.
“What?” I said. I wanted him to repeat the words. “You heard me,” he said and put on his coat and drew his earmuffs out of his pocket. “Say it again,” I said. He said it again. “You’ve made me happy.” We had been married 39 years. We had held hands waiting in hospital corridors while a desperately ill child struggled to breathe and thankfully recovered. We had made financial mistakes together. We had spent hours out in fishing boats. We had raised the children and then second-guessed our choices. We had stood shoulder to shoulder at graduations and weddings and were well-worn, but still I had made him happy, and I was proud and flushed with the warmth of his words.
I know I looked beautiful that morning. Perhaps not to the young man holding his toddler in his arms who rode the elevator with me; perhaps not to the friend I met for lunch, a true believer in Botox; perhaps not to passersby on the street; but I knew it for a certainty. I was beautiful.
I don’t believe that inner beauty is sufficient in this cruel world. That’s the pap one tells a child. I don’t believe that positive thinking improves your skin or that loving or being loved changes the shape of your nose or restores the thickness and color of hair, but I do know that there is a way of being beautiful, even as age takes it’s toll, that has something to do with the spirit filling with joy, something to do with that union with another human being, with the sense of having done well at something enormously important, like making happy a man who has made you happy often enough.
Ten days after that morning conversation, my husband and I returned from a concert and dinner with friends and walked down our windy block towards our apartment house when suddenly he stumbled and fell and died within minutes. As I waited for the ambulance, I remembered his words, a beauty potion I would take with me into the rest of my life.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I have a small print of the piece above, sitting above my kitchen sink, something I see every day now. I just finished moving into a new apartment, or rather a really old one, but with lots of character and a fenced-in backyard for my dog. There are hardwood floors throughout, and the neighborhood is close-knit and fun. It is a wonderful place for me to live.
It has made me understand why people stay together when they shouldn't, and after the light of a marriage has gone out. The day-to-day struggles of life are hard to deal with alone.
And tonight, as I sit here worrying over finances, job stability, and the ants that are invading my kitchen, I know these worries are silently, fiercely my own. And the mistakes and choices that got me here are my own, too.
And those "words of comfort" referenced above are a little hard to find.