My House

My House

(Master Bedroom by Andrew Wyeth)

My House-is a very very very fine house. Two stories that tell so many more.  The stairway to the top is made of 12 steps because I qualify for enough 12 step programs to build a stairway to Heaven. Which goes well with the fact that at my age, I have a doctor for every orifice.

I came in through the kitchen window and then I fell into the bar. Food and alcohol were what kept me alive in their time. The food is supposed to do that, but not in the way those four slices of Wonderbread covered in Hellman’s did. They filled a love-shaped gaping hole in a 7-year-old girl with a toothless grin and long, stringy toe-headed hair. I had just lost my date to Saturday morning cartoons when my dad and only friend died. We were supposed to meet in his giant red leather chair at the top of the stairs. The chair sat next to his smelly pipes on a table in the family room looking down into the kitchen where the mayonnaise lived. Instead, I was greeted by the minister and my mother who told me that my dad had gone away in an airplane and wasn’t coming back. “We interrupt this episode of Tom and Jerry to bring you the first big lie in your life.”

The bar wasn’t that messy but it still needed clean up in order to stay alive. I was groomed for that one.  I instinctively knew that no was a complete sentence and I used it at age 12 when the drunk man in the bar where my mother had taken me asked me to dance. My mother took my no away from me, making me dance with him anyway. That started a boundariless tango with alcoholic partners who I seem to attract still today, whether they are drinking or not. I was only at the bar for a little while, but long enough to lose my car and my virginity and a baby and my pride.

The bedrooms of my life tell many stories beyond their unspoken law to be used for sleep and sex only. I truly hope I’ve heard them all, but they say you can only say “yes” or “I don’t know” to a certain question about what or who may have gone down in that room.

I keep a king-sized bed in my bedroom today even though I live alone. I am holding space since the universe is going to bring the person to share it with me in due time. I end my days and take my naps there with room to spare for me and my one-eyed cat named Atlas. Besides, I need the extra space so that my mother’s shame for having a vagina with feelings has a place to sleep too. I carry that for her like a dutiful daughter even though her box that was shared with the others’ husbands is in a box in my living room with the rest of her.

The dogs need a place to sleep too. They were my only source of love in Connecticut after the household on 2 acres lost its head. Throughout my life, the dogs have been welcome to sleep with the humans. The smell of a wet dog could go under the aromatherapy label of “Unconditional Love” if you ask me. There were 14 dogs total over the years, who took turns sleeping and playing in shifts,  leaving their fragrant mark on the beds and my heart.

No day today ends until I strap on my CPAP mask. I am a top gun pilot call sign Luna who flies top secret night missions that must be really stressful because I grind the shit out of my teeth and often wake up sweaty and exhausted.

The office has been neglected. That is where the business of living is meant to be managed. The files for taxes and divorce decrees live there. As do the unreconciled numbers and untold profits and losses. Currently, there is a “to be filed” pile spilling for attention and it is getting that.

I went reluctantly into the big room upstairs just last fall. Pain and the pattern of my feelings of abandonment that far outweighed the current day cause were screaming for attention. In my house, this is the room that knows the story from its beginning. Where the family and the disassociation originated. I have known about this one for many years but been too afraid to go all the way in and take my rightful seat. 

I visited there half my life ago, but I heard people sharing their pain of origin and mine was quite happy hiding under the stories of pizza and booze binges I used to survive the war zone inside of our house down the street from the yacht club.

I don’t know what I was so afraid of. The unknown, I guess. Much like the Wizard turns out to be no more than a blow-hard little man behind a big curtain, this room is just a room that needs love, gentleness, humor, and respect. To get in, I had to push against a stack of busted up mismatched brown wooden chairs that were blocking the door. I didn’t put them there, but it is up to me to move them and find my seat. This room has cobwebs in the glare from the big window whose light comes through in spite of the yellow film from neglect. The light is so important you know. Without it, there is no life. And I want all of what is left of mine.

I am using the manual that tells me what to do to get that attic room in order. It starts with washing the window in three steps in order to let the light in. Then comes the decluttering. I am not there yet in this room, but it served me well when I  cleaned out the kitchen and tossed that old crusty green white bread in the trash.

Hey, did you know that even spices have an expiration date? I digress.

Writer’s Block Party

Writer’s Block Party

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is graffiti-typewriter-young-woman-sitting.jpg

“The women in my small group at the writer’s workshop were writing about trauma and stuff. I tried to tell them that there was a lot of that.” This comment from a man I met at the beach who is a fellow writer. The difference being, he writes fiction. I don’t. His inference was that there was already enough writing about trauma. I say write that shit because there is so much trauma to be written about and the writing and the telling will heal the writer and some of the readers. The message I want to convey in my stories about the things I have survived is that of survival. And you can’t hear enough about that. This is a tough world. And survival is part of living in it.

We met because he was talking about an annual writer’s workshop here in the Florida panhandle that happens every year. One that just wrapped up and that I was thinking of attending next year. Several things I heard him say provoked me. To be fair, I think he was coming from a place of wanting people to succeed, and by that I mean sell books, but I heard some rules around that and I am not sure that I want to plug into a formula to sell. I want to write what I am meant to and then let the results or any monetary success happen. Or not. “I tried to tell them in our sharing group that their writing was a little manic.” What does that even mean? Do I really want to go to a workshop to be told what someone who writes about sea monsters thinks of my work? Aren’t my opinion and that of the source of my words the ones that really matter? What is my motive in going to a workshop anyway? Don’t I already have a style of my own? Or am I looking for a magic formula to sell, sell, sell. And maybe get my ego stroked to the tune of $1000 to me. 

I am a creative person. And a bit of a rebel in that. What I mean is, when I paint, I resist “rules”, like complementary colors, proportions, blending colors. I like to paint what is in me, which, so far, is two-dimensional whimsical, bold, and colorful, whether on furniture or on canvas. It sometimes happens that my instincts for what colors and patterns to combine fit some of these formulas. But it is not because I set out to do it. It is because I am true to my own creative expression. Most of the time. I just want to leave my mark of happy colors or inspiring words in the hope of brightening up the places in the world that need it. Like maybe your home. Or your heart.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 93647466_719363195267757_7355357907895975936_n-2.png

The same is true of my writing. And I have been moved to write a book because when I share with others the good side of the things I have survived, they thank me for sharing. Say I give them hope. That I say what they want to in a way they can not find the words to express.   

When I shared this with my fellow writer standing in the parking lot with the Gulf of Mexico playing back up as its angry waves crashed upon the shore, he was a bit dismissive, as if to say, “It’s already been done. And too much at that.” He also noted that these were women he addressed. Not sure if that was significant to him, but I wonder if he would have noted if they were men. 

He challenged me to go home and write a story for an hour. Then put a bunch of stories together in a book. I entertained that for a minute thinking I probably should because, after all, the suggestion is being made and if it is true that there are no coincidences, it must be true for me. If I use that logic though, then the gallery owner who looked at my paintings and said that I should go online and practice to get good at mermaid bodies and faces so I could sell would have been the right thing to do. If I wanted a career cranking out paintings for Kirkland’s or Home Goods, I would do that. But I don’t.

The good news is that I have my own relationship with my work. And allowing others in needs to be done selectively when I am holding tight to my own convictions. Maybe I won’t sell any more art furniture or canvases. Maybe I won’t have a bestseller. Maybe there won’t be a book at all. I have only been able to write eighty-some pages so far because the subject matter is tough.

Here is the real truth about the block I have entertained up to now. Telling my story could potentially be cathartic, so that would mean parting with some of my baggage of grief and loss. Even though shlepping these bags gets old, it is what I know. It is in my muscle memory to remember that I grew up in a home bereft of nurture and rich with neglect, suffered from alcoholism and anorexia, marital abuse and mental illness, lost a baby, a house, two breasts, and two husbands, and more, I think I fear what I will do with my hands when I really let them go. But all of this is possible if I stay true to myself and what my instincts move me to write. Paint. Create.

There is also the possibility that I do sell a book. That there is abundance beyond belief in so doing. Just typing these words is a challenge because I am owning the very real possibility that my life may one day no longer be small and as I write, my hands want to grab that baggage instead, like a security blanket, but I refuse. 

There is a movie called Finding Joe on Youtube about the influence of mythologist Joseph Campbell on our culture. In it, are testimonies of Deepak Chopra, Mick Fleetwood, inspirational author/teacher Allan Cohen, professional skateboarder/entrepreneur Tony Hawke and others about finding your bliss and living it. The message here is one of how we are all tigers and that there is an abundance of food for sheep that we are offered, but very little food for tigers. I intend to feed my tiger and encourage you to do the same.  Whatever you do that you love, that lights you up, that makes you feel young again, that brings you joy, DO MORE OF THAT. Bake the cake from scratch. Try the new recipe. Take the pictures. Plan the trip. Write the poem. Play the instrument. Make the move. Life is all about practice. The only thing stopping you from practicing yours is you.

And now I am going to take my own advice and get back to my book.  This time, I will put my trepidations and hesitations in my suitcases under the bed so that I can get on with letting go. I suspect it will be awkward at first, but I am confident I will find something to do with my hands.