This may well be miraculous
I have no idea how
I turned a single long piece of yarn
into the head of an elephant.
The body is in progress.
show details 9:06 AM (10 hours ago)
My wife has constructed several racks of overhead lights in her studio. Sometimes (when she is down in S.A.D. (The Saltville Arts District) at some meeting or gathering, silent in the back row or standing stone still, almost an exhibit herself) well I peak in there and wonder about the piles of wheels, the papers askew like a callous over the desk, the pens and pencils laying like spines – looking apt to roll over the edge at any given moment.
She is very particular about the light by which she works and I sometimes watch, in the dim early evening, the bright rectangle on the ground shift and flutter, dimmerdarkerlessdark, as she tries to find the suitable degree of illumination.
The light on the ground is like a moth.
Well, here we go again. I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus. A bit of a rip in the seam. But, stitching is easy. I’ve got plenty of thread.
I am not sure what I will do about my job. To leave the museum would be frightening and sad. I have a strong relationship with the place. It has been my friend.
The first time I ever visited the museum was in early spring 2005. We were visiting Asheville on a whim. My husband had decided that the family was in need of a weekend trip. We were going to go the South Carolina upstate, but saw a sign for Asheville on SC Hwy. 64.
“Wow! We’re really close to Asheville!”
The boy was two, I was six months pregnant with the girl. I felt happy and hopeful as we decided to drive into the mountains. I hadn’t been to Asheville in years! I was getting excited, my husband: irritated. We got a room at a hotel off of 1-26 – not even really near Asheville. I sat in the car and waited with Leo while he got the room and steered us around to the backside of the building.
“Oh! It’s so nice that things don’t look like they’re about to burst into flames. It seems so dry and hot in Charleston.” I was prattling along, peering into the back to seat to talk silly to the boy, who was tired and rumpled and red-faced from the afternoon spent in the car with the windows rolled down.
Pulling into the parking space, my husband let out one of characteristically stinging exhalations of exasperation. His teeth a little clenched, lower jaw pushed out a bit, eyes wide as if he is going to jump out of his skin if I so much as say another word.
I shut up. Sighed, “Okay,” suddenly tired. “I’ll get the stuff out of the car if you want to go take a break.” I am sure I felt that feeling of wishing he would go away, because I didn’t know how not to bother him. Everything I did drove him crazy. Even when I did the right thing, like be pretty and cheerful and compliant – I did it wrong.
I am not sure what led to me sitting on the edge of the bed in the shades- drawn hotel room. The boy was bumbling around on the beds, the two beds – because my husband and I never really shared a bed. I don’t really remember why. We just didn’t. I shared my room with the boy and the girl and even when they both had their own rooms in this big, old Asheville house – well, my husband and I did, too. Four people, four rooms. The children and I moved pretty freely among the three rooms we shared, my husband’s room was a space unto itself. He seemed to want it that way.
I was looking at the phonebook, blathering on about: “We could do this, we could do that…oooh! I want to see the big rock! There is a big rock! And it has an elevator! Oh! Let’s go see the big rock!”
“Eh, a big rock? Sounds sort of boring.”
“Yeah, but — it’s like really really big!”
I was very excited about Chimney Rock. I liked the idea of it, not to mention it’s location on the map appeared to be east of a town called Bat Cave. Yes, I recall being excited.
“I was thinking we’d just go into Asheville for a while.”
“Okay. Yeah, that’d be fine. We can go see the big rock tomorrow.”
I don’t remember much of the afternoon in Asheville, it was during the landsweep of Hurricane Ivan (?) There were so many hurricanes that year! So many! Our street in Charleston was almost always flooded, the air was always wet, the mosquitoes were primeval.
In Asheville, my husband refused to come to the museum with us, ended up dropping Leo and I off at the corner of Biltmore and College. We went to the museum and the ladies at the front desk were nice to us, seemed actually happy to have us around.
show details 10:42 AM (8 hours ago)
Ooh – this not good! It took SO much effort to email work this morning to check-in. I don’t know if can ever show my face around there again. I totally blew off SFW! (Inside reference, sorry.) Oh my gosh! What have I done!
The thing is: I can’t. I just can’t show my face around there anymore. I am deeply ashamed. But, the thought of Biltmore Avenue right now makes me want to flinch. The thought of walking up to the front doors of the museum make my breath seize up and my brain just sort of goes: “lalalalalala” – can’t even conceive of my life two days ago as being remotely accessible. And that is how I know there has been a break. Not a bad one, I’m totally okay: at home. I have been trying to recover from this decade by covering every spare second of my time with heavy mental engagement and a schedule routinely uncomfortable.
I think I must know somehow that I am going to be slower on the bounce back this time. I need to own the fact that this is no longer sustainable. If I have to do this alone, and I do – well, I will just have to do a lot less. I am only one person and I have a lot to maintain. My own sense of sanity and balance got lost in the shuffle and drowned by the mantra: “Just keep going. Do what you have to do.”
And then the damn thing reared back on me. This horse won’t go anymore.
(“Mom! Can I have two more quarters?”)
My children are too old for ride-y rides now. Already they have learned some pretty tough lessons about life, death, and love true and false. I could kid myself and say, “Well, shit’s shit and they’ll be fine.”
I know, however, that they – like me – need something solid in their lives, immutable. We will be poor, but we will survive.
My parents – the people who, for me, started all this mess…well, they’ll help. And I will gather myself and set my home on a course smoother sailing and I will be okay.
Sorry, Mom. I won’t blab any more of your business. Facts is facts, however.
Just like it was a stated fact that my father had intended to marry another and did not, because his family did not like her.
(My parents don’t read this, noone really does…so – who cares?
I am just saving words
well, I just don’t know what else to do.
I am trying to keep a good record.)
And isn’t it remarkable how convoluted our lives become and how the errors of the human heart tangle into stories.
These people had a baby girl on July 20, 1976. That person is me. And me, well – I’m just trying to make the best of it. I need to be an anchor for my children. I need, actually, to pave myself into the ocean floor! Tough, when I am so adrift myself.
“Oh, you’re right.”
“Email is kind of a contract.” Someone said this to me recently.
I think I understand now. I needed this big break, my kids need me more than they need all the crap a steady paycheck will buy. They have health insurance through their father. Me, well – to die for health insurance would be a silly thing to do, now wouldn’t it. So, this project – my anchor project – will act like a contract. Or something like that? Do emails to oneself really count for anything?
I do know that the thought of trying to go back to where I was two days ago is, right now, just nuts.
It was so hard to keep going and it hurt badly that I could see in people’s faces that they knew I needed to stop, but nobody would tell me that it was okay to.
I feel hungry for the first time in months. I am going to go have some cereal.
What all of this means is that I have to be very clever and solution-oriented. Perhaps going to the goddam grocery store and folding the laundry will help.
It was just this time, a solid decade ago – that I had my first big grown-up break. When my brain unspooled from my body in ways quite traumatic and I couldn’t even think straight. When the profound pointlessness of it all seeped stinging into my bones and stole my breath and I didn’t even know if I could make a sound. Stunned. Could’ve quite easily simply sat quiet for the rest of my life. The blips of aphasia and the unseeing stare at a point on the wall. Almost like relief. The brain finally tangled into numbness. Well, I’ve really done it now, huh?
I am trying very hard not to let the shock and awe shock me into a long silence.
I have to keep going. And so, I have to figure out how. I have to use every talent I have ever fostered for every cruel human being to whom I was trying to prove my worth and use them like a fuckin’ arsenal to save my ass and structure my life in a way that helps me to be amazing and healthy and not crying in front of parking attendants or bruising my children with my bones as they hang onto to me, a tired and staggering piggyback across a darkening field. It is a testament to my strength that I did not slip down the hill.
Nor will I slip down this one. But, I am really on unsure footing here and I need to find something solid quickly.
This decade of mine is done
I have wondered, at times, during some of the hardest weeks this past Fall and Winter, if this project would end up being the record of a woman losing her mind.
This has been an extraordinarily cruel decade. Extraordinarily cruel. However, it’s not been all cruelty…there has been an immense amount of beauty, as well. Poignant and precise and, ultimately: pointless.
My children keep me here. Bottom line. I would give up the possibility of any further beauty or wonder in exchange for some simple relief. However, my children keep me here.
At first, it was my parents who kept me here. And then, after a couple of pretty close calls – when it was clear that their anchor effect was dragging…well, just in time (!) I had Leo – unexpectedly, conjured almost, the original black swan. And it felt like that, as a mother, I found a lot of good reasons to try to live my life well – joyfully and aware and peaceful. And fun! I want so much to feel fun again! This year and the nine preceeding it have been a real, live fun-suck. I am really so over this decade!
I am ‘grateful’ (?) (bound?) to have two small lives that are bigger than my own. I have to do everything I can to stay alive for them. It feels like I have just been trying to stay alive for so goddam long. To just keep going. And, of course, I will. I’m doing it for the bipeds.
Of course, what I am doing seems quite insane, but it is the sanest possible way for me to maximize my efficacy as a human being with a way of being in the world that is, it becomes increasingly obvious, wholly my own. I absolutely refuse to let this stupid fucking millenium bring me down. However, I have tried very valiantly to be amazing in conventionally accepted ways. To maintain respectable employment, to offer my sparse spare time to adolescents in DSS custody, to be pleasantly creative and present myself as a conscientious human being who rises to the occasion again and again and again.
I felt most at peace when my world was smaller. Much much smaller. And now the kids are twice the age they were when things really started to unravel and their mom had to try to be extra amazing in sad attempts to make their father recognize that she was (is!) a human being worthy of respect and love. None of it worked: not the garden, not the paintings, not the part-time job to prove I could it all, not the pumping of breastmilk for a solid year to prove that yes! I can be a good mom! My husband told me, while Leo and I were still in the hospital, that he felt sorry for our newborn son. Felt sorry that I was his mother. Shit. I just remembered that. And so I tried so hard to prove I could be amazing! But, none of it worked and he hated me anyway and still to this day thinks I am a despicably pithy sort of person.
I still, to this day, have no idea why. I try so hard to do good and be good and live well and I am just flat-out fucking exhausted. I have no game face left to put on. A lot of my current state of crisis is likely due to the diversion of creative energy. I didn’t make shit for almost eight years – something here, something there, enough to prove I still had it in me, but a lot of my creative energy went into house and home and maintaining appearances in the big big world. Drawing everyday has pretty much screwed up my life royally. I should probably stop.
I have, I am just now realizing, been through some sort of hell that was crafted solely for me.
And I need to take some time…and I need my world much smaller. I need to be a mother and an artist and a gardener, I need to not already be feeling the press of sending my kids off on summer mornings and knowing that I won’t see them again for hourshourshours. I spend so many hours delighting other people’s children, I am racked with a dull guilty despair by the time I get home. I tried it. It’s not working.
This morning after I pulled into the parking garage and started crying when I saw Scotty, the parking attendant – I pulled over into a first level space and collapsed a little. God! How to get through this day? I cried a little and then, disgusted that Scotty – who made me cry by asking me to smile – hadn’t bothered to even holler out an inquiry into my okayness…drove up to the work level and went into work, carried forward only by my plan to ask my big boss to fire me, please. Let me stop. I need to stop and I just have to keep going.
Well, my boss didn’t fire me, wouldn’t. I could tell he was thinking about it when I told him about almost asking Scotty to come upstairs with me and ask for my immediate termination from the organization. Ha! I just really have no game face left and that, my friends, can cause all sorts of trouble.
I need to be solid and at peace in whatever way I can, or I will – quite literally, it seems – waste away. I can see my own heart beating in my chest, I have gotten so thin. And there is nothing so true as that, is there?.