Saturday, March 31, 2012

That Party, is Never Going to Happen

    But I have an outfit if it does.

    I have a lot of clothes, this was an easy thing to admit in my studio apartment which was converted, year after year, to house the clothes, and other wares, that I picked up for “That Party”.
    I have too many clothes has come to mind continuously since we set out the 10 wardrobe boxes and assorted others of my belongings, clothes, shoes, makeup, scarves, even gloves, so many that I became afraid of my closet, of the boxes that hadn't entered it and of why all these boxes existed in the first place.

     Clothes are the journal upon which my skin writes. I can pick up a shirt and remember songs I danced to while wearing it, underwear and the man it first met (upon reading this to my husband he has informed me that those undies had better be thrown out), hoods and gloves meant for cold that never happened and then, just that beautiful thing I wanted. I have, physically, grown out of most of them. Emotionally, I've grown out of some. I still have the tank top I was wearing when my husband remarked about how beautiful my skin looked against the color red (it was 2001). I wore red every time my mother saw me for nearly two years, as I believed red represented healing. Eventually she went into remission and the red faded to pink, which has, (3 years after her death) softened to green, my husband's favorite color. One friend recommended that I make a quilt of these valuable items, that I keep a square and let the whole go, but I need to let a lot of these clothes go completely. All the shoes that I've never worn, the dresses that still bear price tags, the crazy fuchsia Guess sweater jacket with sparkles that belongs back in the single girl closet and that pair of size 2 jeans that never should have fit in the first place. But each have memories, strong, seemingly important memories that I need to keep so that I keep me.

    I am a kept woman. Kept by a man who loves me, worked for our future and has given me every opportunity in the world to be anyone I want, even a clothes hoarder. I don't want to disrespect his intentions by holding on to everything I have ever been, afraid, me thinks, to embrace what could be-bereft of the need for


Holding on, the head says.

Holding on, the heart says.

Sometimes its just holding on to knowing those memories will remind me of my Mom, others to the time before she became sick and life seemed so easy.

    It was effortless to be me back then, what a feeling.

    Don't misunderstand, I had all the angst and the traditional doubts but I didn't have the burden of being emotionally responsible to anyone other than myself. I knew that bad boyfriends expected me to be emotionally responsible for them but I just got more angsty, it didn't really make a difference. With my Mom, I had to be aware, so that my family would survive. Someone has to stay awake in the dark or no one sees the light and that dawn has come.

    In 1986 my Mom was packing up my closet and said, “I didn't realize how many clothes you have.” So it started long before she got sick. I write my days in clothes, actions, memories, the smells the fabric collects, the years stay untouched, waiting. Waiting for me to take the time to heal enough, to accept the choices I made, and let the garments go. I don't need a quilt of my past but an understanding. Every day that I go through the boxes I take steps to put the red clothes away, the club years, the Jack years, the first trip to Paris and the pair of Dickies that I bought for a dollar, never washed and wore every day for more than a year. By the time I threw the Dickies out I hadn't worn them in 12 years, but I remember what they felt like, who I loved, met and became, in those pants. 

    What I have ultimately learned is that if the pants are gone and there is no quilt, the journals are still written. I can still share every memory for I am the canvas, the parchment, the great internal hard drive of my own history.  I choose to accept myself clothed or unclothed and there is no need to forget, hide or throw away (but one must for hygiene's sake). When we allow objects to become our history we lose our own role in its creation, what ought to be effortless, yet is often, a fleeting understanding of all that one knows of one's self.  Tomorrow you will put on another outfit, and maybe, like me, have a whole new experience of who you are becoming.

    As an aside: On our trip to New Zealand/Australia I was allowed to carry 40 pounds, total weight, for 5 weeks and it was liberating. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Eloquence, Divided

Eloquence, Divided

for Zeena

The Author turned and spurned a page

tickled by that fickle Mage

known to some as muse or thought,

by which artist's dreams are wrought.

And here it seems the author froze

bereft of any worthy prose,

each note salt upon the tongue

and so the choice, to utter none.

Watch now as the flowers die

watch the clouds consume the sky,

every beast withered there

in the winter of the Author's fear.

Waiting for the faintest spark,

a dim delight to break the dark,

but not sublime enough for She;

all art loses its magesty-

So sing!

A brittle song is praising still

if joy has stirred its ailing will-

Give in, give in!

Forget to correct,

surrender instead to the whim of the imperfect!

The Author sighs, no sign of relief,

“Leave me to the peril of my wordless grief.”

And with that muttered, painful plea,

the Mage is surrendered to humanity.

Within Her, beauty never sleeps,

it hides and teases, often weeps.

The moon knows best your Author's fight

let it rest,

that You, may write.

     I believe that at the heart of many a fulfilling and successful friendship, is admiration.

     I met Zeena when she was “Going on Eighteen” with a personality as fiery as the red, satin BCBG skirt she was wearing. I challenged her in an online forum and a friendship was struck. Our friendship has been tumultuous, with tantrums, silent spells, gorgeous music and lush dances and lots of long nights in brilliant conversation. Sound a bit daunting rather than nourishing, well, there has never been anything boring about our friendship and I treasure that. But back to admiration, she is an amazing person, that's all very well and easy to say, especially if you've met her, what I admire most is her persistence toward a very imminent grandness. Now, she would smack me while blushing if she were reading this in my presence but its true, the woman is just that talented in so many diverse ways, one of which has her quite frustrated as of late.

     This poem is about the struggle that many artists encounter along their path, an Artistic Identity Crisis if you will, AIC. The AIC is characterized by feeling the need to be one's art, to be a photographer, a writer, a dancer rather than someone who takes photographs, writes novels or does ballet. What's the difference rather than a play on words? Its an extremely important event for an artist to recognize, as the AIC is resolved, that they are of value, not because they are an artist or someone who makes art, but because they have something to contribute simply by existing. Sounding too existential, I believe there are lots of other identity crisis to explain it by, like the MIC, the Mothering Identity Crisis during which women who either have no children, or their children leave home, experience a sense of worthlessness because their purpose went off to college and they've forgotten they have hobbies and friends and kids who still need them but in a different way. When my Mom was rushed into surgery eleven years ago she had to sign a waiver that it was okay by her that she receive a full hysterectomy, reason being, removing a woman's ability to have children can also initiate the MIC. I had an FIC, Female Identity Crisis, when I left my job and home to get married and move in with my husband, so we're married, now what? That was a confusing time.

     Anyway, the poem isn't about resolution, its to soothe, encourage and remind-each of us will feel lost at times, even in the midst of our greatest accomplishments and so, sing, give in, go mad, you are loved and admired regardless.  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sheri in the Suburbs

    My husband and I were having dinner in a casual restaurant when I noticed that I was becoming increasingly irritated by the noises surrounding us, most notably, cackling women and screaming children. I then realized, feeling rather tricked, that somehow my husband had gotten me to co-sign an apartment lease on a lovely little place-in the suburbs. Oh the horror! I looked all around, nothing but families, married, silent couples, older, sober people. Living downtown for the past 14 years I was not accustomed to this sight, I was used to flirtatious students, homeless nuts and women with dogs in their purses and I preferred those folks over the maddening throngs of the procreating. Its not that I'm against the ideal of the nuclear family, I just don't identify with them, I think of them as the Ticky Tacky Families of Malvina Reynolds anti-establishment song, Little Boxes. Perhaps I am insecure and am struggling with losing my individuality to the all consuming Unit, when one becomes so and so's wife, and so and so's mother, and other feminine pronouns, slowly losing the privilege of having an actual name. Or maybe its the fear of succumbing to common suburban afflictions such as the need to leave the house with every human being you are legally bound to, crowding yourself, and strollers as large as your SUV, down grocery store aisles, across parking lots and squeezing into booths and highchairs in every chain restaurant on the South Side. I am exhausted simply looking at a grocery store, one has to have a strategy to get in and out without being accosted by the average suburban zombie and their apocalyptic spawn. Parks are for children, please take them there, leave them with a parent and do your shopping like a civilized person.

     Was life downtown really that different or is it all perspective? I didn't see many children on a daily basis, there were a few in my neighborhood but they weren't screaming down the street on Big Wheels. I ate in restaurants that did not say “Family Friendly” on their Yelp reviews, I watched movies at local theatres, attended yoga at facilities that had separate family classes. I lived in the land of boutique grocery stores, 40's era architecture and the best used bookstore in town. Those days are clearly over. I now live in a gated community, if I leave the house I see multiple children, there are no independently owned anythings over here except a fast food sushi joint that has saved my craving for the gourmet more than once. We have a garage and really, that's when I should have figured out what was going on, when we looked at a place with a garage. A garage is a sign of comfort, of modernity, of the fact that you have a lot of stuff and need a place to put it. I like our garage but I miss my old neighborhood.

     Truth is, I am going to have to adjust without blending in. I don't have to become a recluse or a chatty housewife to survive, I can continue to sneer at the hoards of humans blocking my path in the freezer aisle of Trader Joe's or I can time my shopping for later, earlier, not a weekend. Just like the movie Zombieland, there will have to be rules, one of them being to remember that I'm not the only one not having fun. Approach the chaos with a smile and watch it all go down while maintaining a sense of inner tranquility and share that peace at every opportunity to do so. Pick up items knocked off of shelves by unruly brats, compliment a stranger, avoid honking at people unless they really screwed up. Investigate what the suburbs has to offer-we had an impromptu Sunday afternoon picnic in the park and my husband's friends and dogs and children actually came out, it was nice, it was not something we could have done living downtown.

     Ultimately, feeling tricked or not, I need to remember just how happy my husband is to live here, we are literally in his old neighborhood and he feels the same warm sentimentality toward the suburbs that I feel toward my downtown haunts, its Home. Though it sometimes reminds me of an X-Files episode titled, "Arcadia", where inhabitants in a community are threatened with death if they don't conform,  I'll admit it, I live in the suburbs and am learning to call it home.