by Angeliska on November 11, 2013
A year is come and past, 11.11 winking bright and then gone again – and here I am, whole and hale and maybe a tiny touch wiser? There are certainly more silver threads in my crown now. Today, I feel remarkably at peace. Everything is changed, and nothing has. My life fell apart so spectacularly, it seemed completely insurmountable to even imagine how anything would ever knit back together. And yet, astoundingly, by infinitesimally slow increments, it has been doing just that. Not by accident, nor exactly by design – but by necessity.
Seems like all the same pieces are on the chessboard, just at different removes, and not at odds anymore really. Just living, turning in our own odd orbits. Getting on with it. We fall apart, tumble together, some smash to smithereens and reform in unfamiliar patterns. Everything turns, and time brings with it a slow mending. I didn’t believe it a year ago, no matter how many times I was told: that time heals all wounds. I still don’t. It’s not just time, the accumulation of sand in the glass that makes our memory of the sharp shock of it hazier, more bearable. The lines of those rough edges may have grown indistinct, but the outlines of the scars are still there. Just like any other injury – the way you take care of a wound matters. A dirty, unchanged bandage leads to infection. Ignore it, let time do its work, and you’ll end up with something nasty under that old rag. It’s not enough to let dust collect there, sticking to the scabs like gray pollen – not enough to just leave it up to the passage of days to do all the repairing. The work is ours to do, assiduously; the careful cleaning, a thorough scrubbing off of dead skin, the hardened eschar. Thick layers of illusion and denial slough off after repeated treatments. Daily, we must inspect for putrefaction; we try and stop telling ourselves the same bleak bedtime stories, to stop the spread of those poisonous narratives (my life is over, I’m going to die alone, no one is ever going to love me, et cetera et cetera ad nauseam.) Application of various salves, unguents, balms of gilead; in my case, these most often come in the form of long baths, puppy kisses, and dedicated headlong escape into the realms of fantasy fiction. Licking at the wound frantically like a scared animal, alone in a dark cave won’t do any good. To properly heal, you have to stretch that old scar tissue, rebuild the muscle memory, not let it all go slack, curl in on itself. This is the emotional equivalent of regular physical therapy – talking with good friends helps, especially if they are patient and understanding enough to listen to you tell the same tale of woe over and over, and particularly if they are wise enough to ask you the hard questions. Going to an actual heart/mind/soul therapist is a good idea, if you can find one that you really connect with – preferably someone who is smarter than you, can see through your crafty guises and pretenses, and who will call you out on your bullshit. A year of changing the bandages, going through the motions, spooning oatmeal into your mouth in the mornings, washing your face in the evenings, and somehow, we begin to heal.
The heart naturally leans towards forgiveness, acceptance. A mending. Amends. When we are all turned to dust, it will matter that we were kind, that we let it all go.
People come to me every day, holding their broken hearts out in their hands, red and raw. They want to cards to tell them all about how their lost love will change their mind, come back to them. They want me to make it all better, to tell them that it’s not over. I tell them what I learned from one of my teachers: that relationships don’t end, they just transform. It didn’t seem possible, to me then, either. At the time, I remember being incredibly skeptical that I could ever feel anything but complete devotion to my relationship, that I could ever not be in love with my partner. I resisted it, railed against it. Because honestly – it terrified me. I hated thinking that an undying love can just one day fade away. That someone you felt so passionately about can eventually melt into the background of your life, or ebb away completely. What does that mean for true love, enduring love? I’ve been forced to examine why that version of love has come to be the gold standard for me – the only one worth considering. Seeing an elderly couple, still in love after decades together, always just kills me. They’re crossing the finish line together, winning the black belt of romance, sticking it out and eking every last drop of time they have together. Making it count. I know we all die alone, but the things I love most are built to last: houses, furniture, friendships – and love.
A letter from my grandmother to my mother, in her amazing spidery script: “I suppose your Daddy and I are two of the most happy persons in the world! We have each other! We love each other! We love our four good lovely offspring, and their sweet spouses; and oh! How we love our darling grand-children. The best thing that ever happened to me was marrying your Daddy. He is so good, and so sweet – so industrious, talented and helpful. So dear!”
I was lucky enough to have two sets of grandparents who loved each other fiercely until the day they died. Maybe it was seeing my dad lose my mom to cancer; learning from a very young age how fragile the promise of a lifelong bond really is. So often, it’s not a choice. To be able to choose to be with someone, to stay by their side for as long as you possibly can – seems like such a gift, such a luxury. To me, it’s this kind of love, the forever kind, that I’ve always hoped to find. But I wonder now – does that make every other kind of love invalid? I think of myself often as being unlucky in love, because my relationships eventually ended. They didn’t make it, didn’t survive the heart’s cruel vicissitudes. Does the lack of longevity render those affections meaningless? Or is it because I was young and dumb, because it was really lust, or infatuation, or because we don’t talk anymore, or even think about each other, ever. What about the people you fall madly in love with, for the span of a few blocks, on the bus or the subway? What about your best friend who you had a burning crush on but never told? Well, I guess that I just don’t know.
A friend of mine told me a few months back that thing about how some lovers are for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. It stuck with me, that thought, kept me awake and thinking, until I flung off the covers, turned on the light, grabbed my magical information device, and tracked down this:
“People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person…
When someone is in your life for a REASON,
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty;
to provide you with guidance and support;
to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.
Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.
Some people come into your life for a SEASON,
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.“
I guess that I do know some things now.
I know that I’m still just a fool on the hill.
I know that you can always be surprised.
I know that you just never know.
I know that these words have helped me, immeasurably:
“The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you. Now I say, I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.’”
– Jim Rohn
“I spent my life learning to feel less. Every day I felt less. Is that growing old? Or is it something worse? You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” – Jonathan Safran Foer
“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
“There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.” — William S. Burroughs
“Ninety percent of the people in the world end up with the wrong person. And that’s what makes the jukebox spin.”
– Willie Nelson
Words of wisdom from folks I wish I could claim as my friends, but also I think of the truths from friends, the wise things they’ve told me to get me through. I’m so grateful for them. Even today, a perfect gem fell from the lips of my girl Nicole, quoting a song I’ve never heard, “just because it’s real, don’t mean it’s gonna work.”
And this precious diamond from Bridget Lanterna Magica via papercutting wizard Jack Wittenbrink in New Orleans:
“‘How fine to think the thing that’s coming will make this calibre of good look so shabby and impoverished. You’ve seen nothing of love’s riches. And what second best for you will be richer than the likes of me shall ever see in this life. You are destined for a love that is so rare and fine, few ever get it. I wish you were a rich woman and doubted me, that I would be rich when I won a wager with you on the fortune that awaits you. You have only to choose what chocolate to first eat from a rich assortment. Only your aching heart forbids you to see this. There is nothing holding you back.’
I hope you too take these words to heart, because they are true, true, true.”
“When things fall apart, consider the possibility that life knocked it down on purpose. Not to bully you, or to punish you, but to prompt you to build something that better suits your personality and your purpose. Sometimes things fall apart so better things can fall together.” – Sandra King via Bean
It’s kind of strange to think that it took me so long to get around to getting tattooed, especially when I had wanted these particular symbols and placements for so very long. I was just waiting for the right time, and the right person, I suppose. Kai Smart at Chimera Tattoo Studio in Santa Cruz was just that very person. She did an amazing job with the white ink (which many tattoo artists eschew), and is an amazing artist, and lovely friend. It was the right time. I felt so much stronger than I had in a long while – but also ready to embrace everything I’ve been through as part of the journey. Full circle. Sitting with pain, finding a new path, a measure of grace.
First tattoos. I’ve wanted these fervently since I was about 15. They are the alchemical symbols for glass & eggshells. These elements have always been powerful materials and sigils for me. Honoring what is fragile, yet strong. Both are vessels of transformation, capable of containing a multitude of possibilities.
Glass. Earth made liquid, mutable, transparent. I think of the wonder of Greek amphorae, the precious vessels that have survived here and there, at the bottom of the ocean – somehow, for centuries. I think of windows. I remember when I first saw this symbol, it made me think of the vévé for Ayizan Velekete, the Vodou loa who serves as archetypal Mambo, or Priestess. She rules over initiations, the marketplace, divination, and herbal healing. She dresses in white, wearing an apron with deep pockets, where she keeps candy and coins for the children who flock around her in the market. Her face is hidden by palm fronds. Her name means, “Sacred Earth”. Ayzian’s veve is comprise of her initials, the “A” and the “V” intersecting across each other. It also resembles the Norse rune Ingwaz, which represents harmony, fertility and sacred marriage – with the specific message being that love, harmony or peace may be hard to achieve, but to persevere!
Eggshells. The Romans had the proverb — Omne vivum ex ovo / All life comes from an egg. The egg is an ancient symbol for the universe, for creation – it is the seed, the nurturing capsule for new life. Eggs has always been sacred to me. It is the ultimate beginning, the zero, ouroboros, tabula rasa. An egg can protect an embryo, nourish the hungry – it is fragile, and yet can withstand immense pressure. A potent symbol of fertility and promise, the egg is featured in Spring resurrection festivals. Is it any wonder I love Easter so much? There’s a superstition that instructs children to crush up their eggshells, so that witches would not be able to use them as boats, and bring tempests to the sea to drown sailors. In witchcraft, crushed eggshells are mixed with salt, and used for protection, for the drawing of circles and sigils. This is commonly called cascarilla powder, or peace powder, and is used in Santeria, Haitian voodoo, and South American folk magic.
“The present was an egg laid by the past that had the future inside its shell.”
Zora Neale Hurston
On 11.11.13, I didn’t go out to the woods. I didn’t build a fire and throw things into it, or light candles. I wished on 11:11, though, yes. I woke up early, and met with an old and dear friend. I attended to my neglected feet, and had my legs massaged and toes painted by a smiling stranger. I remember how crushing it felt last year, to go through these motions of self-care. I can recall so clearly sitting in the parking lot of a deserted shopping center in my cold car, a thin sliver of crescent moon high above, observing. I rested my head on the steering wheel, wondering if that horrible hollow feeling would ever go away. It felt like my chest was caving in under a great weight. Today, I sat in the parking lot of a different shopping center, feeling something totally different. Not riotous happiness, per se – more like a sense of being reasonably content (as well as unseasonably hot). I shopped for food for my animals, and food for myself. I bought a package of rainbow colored pens, thumbtacks and a red rosebush. Also some pansies, a cyclamen and later, a bouquet of nearly black roses. I romanced myself in mundane ways, and took care of business. I ate supper, and read movie reviews in the paper. In the evening, I sat on the porch in the gathering dusk and talked with the man who I once shared a life with, about this and that – hard things and easy things. Mosquitoes danced around our heads in thick halos. My heart did not hurt in a huge way. His face was full of shadows, clinging to his fine bones like moss, his eyes bright in the twilight. He left, after a bit, and I planted borage seeds, the air grown dark, my fingers pushing into the earth blindly. Earlier today, chatting over coffee about the all the stupid shit of life that sometimes births wonders, I said, “No mud – no lotus.” Later, I opened a gifted book (thank you, Elly…) at random to this poem:
The day lay like a pearl on her lap
she licked at it w/ the edges of her brain
The day shone in her lap like a promise
of lotuses sprouting from warm worm-eaten mud
– from LOBA by Diane di Prima