Friday, September 23, 2011

Mauve Ribbons

I realized too late that my ex loved me. Not because he said so, but because the week before I moved back to Colorado his voice got shaky and panicky as he said "you're not going to be here are you?" Then there was the message on my answering machine, left the night before the morning my sister and I pulled away from Golf Village Loop onto US 98 N, headed towards I-75 and Gainesville. And the constant messages on my cell phone as we drove across the country asking me to call him back and let him know where I was and if I was okay. He was good at concealing his feelings at times, like the stereotypical male who isn't sure if it's okay to breathe.

There was the parking lot outside my apartment building that overlooked a golf course and an RV park. Damp rain hung in the air. Stuffy and full, like most Floridian mornings. Like the thin, sticky film of a spider web that you can't quite get rid of because once it sticks, it's home. We said what we thought was goodbye. There was the extended embrace. My tears. His strong, silent, empty eyes that fooled me into thinking that my absence wasn't going to matter. He was trying not to feel too much. I don't think he realized that if he had let himself do that, the scene would have probably been rewritten. When I mentioned it gently over the phone months later, he still thought that expressing himself wouldn't have made any difference. He didn't understand that sometimes I need the obvious to be spelled out to me. It isn't always easy to trust and believe in a formless feeling.

Some might say that one of the dangers of being sensitive is that we can be a little dense at times. Nothing makes sense in the moment. Whether it's good or bad, we may not realize it until it's too late to backtrack. We think that others couldn't possibly be sly, manipulative, cunning or out to bring us down. We don't operate that way, even if we sometimes imagine that we could be.

Love is a tricky enough minefield without having to navigate it with mauve colored glasses. That's what a side of us says right? The omniscient third person voice that sees things from the outside. But inside it's quite a different story. Mauve is everywhere.

When I was 13 and my mom decided we should remodel my bedroom, mauve was the color I chose. For the paint that we brushed on the walls and the carpet that got laid down. For the phone that got plugged into the new jack in the wall for my own private number. Every early 90s teenage girl's dream. See my childhood wasn't all bad. Nothing ever is one or the other. I'm sure the bedspread and sheets that went on my new waterbed had some mauve in it too. But who knows, I don't exactly remember that little detail. Memory is a sort of fiction, as one well-known writer likes to say.

An objective, third person voice has its place when it recounts its version of history, but it's the part of ourselves that doesn't believe. The part that doesn't get lost in the heart of the matter; the dream. Inside is the first person voice that gets lost in the smell of lilacs, the magic hidden between the cheesy scripts and the overzealous, sometimes dry performances, and the visions of a golden coast full of red sunsets and sparkling blue waves. Because you never really know when you might open your eyes and see your heaven shining right in the middle of what everyone else calls an ordinary scene.

A stanza in one of my favorite songs from that year we know as 1990 says "is it so wrong for us to love so much, to feel so much?" Back then I knew a lot more than I thought I did. And what I knew, I felt. I felt deeply as I fell in love with more than what could be seen and heard. If only my 14 year old self could fully realize how accurate those unspoken voices in the summer winds would turn out to be. But she hoped and she believed. Now she gets to see.

And as she still stops to admire and smell the lilacs, she realizes that it was never wrong to love, to feel and to hope. Miracles can work their magic when you're not looking. Anything really is possible despite the wounds and the scars. Buried or not, the first person voice is alive, strong, dancing and twirling with ribbons of mauve, spinning her story.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.
-The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich

There are very few novels that I find myself seduced by. The kind that grabs you from the first line and you can't put down. Or the kind that stir something within you. The kind that make you feel. The kind that you find yourself connected with and whose words and characters are blurred between their identities and your own. The Painted Drum is one of those.

My writing mentor (whom I listed as my first choice because of one of those "feelings" of intuition) suggested that I read it. The author fluctuates between first and third person point of views and that's what I'm trying to do with my own novel. The strange thing about my mentor is that she's one of those subtle intuitive types that seem to address more than just what may be going on with your craft. To say that she knows me completely would be a lie. But it would also be a truth.

Someone once told me that it takes a very strong person to survive what I've survived. But there is a line between strength and self-containment. For me it's not about fear or courage. It's a matter of not making a mistake. Who wants to do that? Who wants to admit that the sun didn't exactly set like the postcard showed it would?

What Erdrich writes so eloquently is true. There is risk in living. There is the chance of falling when you take flight. There is a real possibility that you may have to rewrite your lines, repaint your dream, or perhaps keep dreaming until you wake up in the picture that feels like home. If you're alive, you feel both good and bad. Sorrow and hate. Disappointment and failure. Abandonment. Triumph, joy, and ecstasy. Love. Commitment. Compassion. Connection. Wholeness.

That's why we come here to be human. To become whole. To experience what we could not otherwise. To risk what could and should be. To listen and learn not to resist that destiny we planned before we entered our bodies. To feel the dreamer's firm answer that says go and pack up what you think you know.