For obvious reasons the “Gregorian Chillout” playing on my headset is a perfect accompaniment to this early and dark morning. I’m sitting on a sturdy, immaculately carved chair with a bronze or brass inlay in the high back at a small circular wooden table that has been in existence since the late 16th century. The chair is older than God. The Christian one, anyway. I keep marveling at the quality of something created so long ago. These seats, literally THE seats of the chair are some sort of intensely heavily cured leather. The stamped design and the dye used to give it color are still bright in spite of countless butts. I sat on this Spanish tiled floor and gently lifted one of the chairs so I could see the underside. Surely it couldn’t be real? I mean c’mon. Why would someone have these incredible pieces that belong in a museum in their salon? I asked Peter, and he shrugged, “For people to use? We take care of our shite out here, honey.” The underside of the seat was a canvas horse hair netting that was so tightly woven it could have probably held water. Who knows.
An electric lamp lights the room behind me but a candle also burns just to my right in a five tiered marble and bronze wonder that must have belonged somewhere grand for a couple of centuries before I began lighting it. I lit only one white wick. It’s the same one I light each morning when I do my required three morning pages Julia Cameron insists all artists in recovery do. This little ritual has been both a cumbersome discipline and a strange comfort. In 19 days I have managed to follow through with my pages 18 times. Yesterday I shrugged, “meh, fok it.”
I don’t think I’ll be doing THAT again. One does not realize the importance of “taking out the trash” until it begins to stink. I noticed a strange mental stench following me around yesterday and I’ve attributed it to not following through with a personal agreement.
I am not doing this endeavor alone. By “this endeavor” I mean the work outlined in “The Artist’s Way”. My companion, best friend and cohort in all things insane is doing it with me. The guy who had enough balls to marry this four time “I don’t” loser. He tenderly says, “Five is the number of the Goddess, all hail Discordia, I do” and pats my butt with a silly grin.
Yes, I’m probably the luckiest woman in the world. I’m not stupid. Which brings me to the piece I last threatened; that “letter to the editor”. I avoided this part of my process for longer than Ms. Cameron suggests. My excuse was that I was “getting ready for my first transatlantic jaunt”, that I was “on my first transatlantic jaunt” and no one tells ME what to do, dammit.
I do what I want.
And what I really want is to recover. I want to recover the artist I covered.
In order to get from point aye to be, one must follow the rulz. And the rulz say that you have to face your monsters. You have to identify them and name them. You have to call them on their shyte. You have to shine a torch on them and tell them to “come out, come out wherever you are” and stare them down. You must go eye to eye with them and stick out your tongue. Wag your finger and say, “Ah hah! I see you!”
It’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone. I’m the High Priestess of naming monsters and proudly waving my banner of High Monster Basher. Or at least I thought I was. I was always very proud of my ability to bravely point my finger and exclaim “that man raped me”. Or, “that person beat me”. Or “that person starved and abandoned me”. Yeah, I was always good at pointing out the horror of humanity and how that humanity had harmed me. I have been through hell and have the handful of ashes to prove it. I was so good at comparing ashes.
Let’s face it; no one wants to look at the slides of your family vacation from twelve years ago. Who is interested in refrigerator art drawn by the grandkids except for grandparents? Everyone is most interested in the ground zero shots of your personal 9/11 though; so why on earth would I want to “go back” and find the trail of breadcrumbs leading to all that devastation? BOOORING. Too much work. Too … painful.
I present to you the first batch of discovered dust-bunnies that left me blowing snot bubbles a couple of weeks ago. I began the work and I trusted the process, you see. I did exactly what was outlined and the end result scared me so much I found myself sitting in the middle of my living room floor weeping bitterly. Thankfully my cohort knew to simply sit across from me with a box of Kleenex and didn’t say a word. He didn’t demand an explanation or insist that I pull myself out of it.
I did not go back to that pile of underestimated detritus until I arrived here in this foreign land. It is foreign. I’ve never lived here in any lifetime although I know the outline of The Rock. I have seen THAT, the amazing Gibraltar. The clouds and birds circling the top were evocative and compelling. But this land … I have never lived here. I have always been a visitor, a traveler. It is safe to say that I don’t want to live here in dust-bunny hell either. I want to travel through this pain, catalogue it, name it and move on. There may be other dust-bunnies to conquer.
Sotogrande, Spain. 1-14-11
To Whom It May Concern:
I’m not sure who I’m writing this to, but I know who I’m writing this for. I’m observing her through memory. She’s standing on the playground at Chevy Chase Elementary wondering why she is suddenly friendless, the last to be picked for kickball and in a few days she is going to be spit on, rocks will be thrown at her and worse; she’s going to have a nic-name that will follow her through her young life – it will torment her to the point where she will legally change her name when she turns 21. Once more, I’d like to point out that I never once observed this child falling in to victim behaviorisms – sure she got a little quirky, but she was creative in her endeavors to survive. I think she was and remains a remarkable human being. I suppose I’m writing this to the director of the first act: Mrs. Giraldi of fourth grade hell.
Honestly, you famous cunt, what were you thinking?
So the results were in from the mandatory IQ testing so relevant back in the 70’s. Allow me to take a moment to stroke the ego of one Ms. Deborah Ann Thompson and say, “Bravo for being smarter than most humans on this fucking planet.” Now allow me to slap the shit out of Ms. Giraldi for pointing it out to the entire class one sunny afternoon. Not, as one might expect, in a delightful commentary; but in a condescending, derogatory manner designed to (almost) forever undermine the endeavors of one Deborah. We don’t know the question she asked you, you heinous cunt, but you stopped all classroom proceedings – looked at Ms. Thompson and said, “Why are you asking me? If you’re so smart, you figure it out.” AND THEN looked at all students assembled and winked.
Because children are so impressionable, so delicate and so swayed by the forces of educators, this moment marked a six year odyssey of hell for our protagonist. From the age of nine to fifteen our Deborah became “Debby The Dog”. Sure, she escaped the name when she moved far away to a different state, but the shadow followed her. It followed her like a perpetual black cloud hanging over her head. She never knew when the storm would happen. The poor kid was always waiting for lightening to strike. She wondered for years what she’d done to deserve the constant rain. But, each morning she got up, put on her shoes and slogged through it. She was smarter than you, Ms. Giraldi. She knew it then however unconsciously, and she knows it now. She will never thank you for “giving her a foundation” to build on, because you didn’t. Your cloud does have a silver lining, but it goes to others who saw in our child not a threat, but a joy. A gift. You, Ms. Giraldi, are one of the chaos makers, a back breaker, the enemy. Sincerely Ms. G, you stunted the growth of an incredible human being and there is no telling what she may have become if you had not pulled the rug out from under her when you did.
What we do know and point out often is that SHE SURVIVED. So she’s a late bloomer? She’s BLOOMING! A lotus of grand proportions! She is too kind to tell you to suck it, but I am not. The delicate flower inside this remarkable woman is so colorful and amazing and precious that she might find the grace to forgive you someday because she has always known your greatest fear: that you, Ms. Teacher, are stupid. Dumber than a box of rocks, although that does a disservice to rocks. The lotus we speak of hopes that you didn’t crush the worlds of other intelligent children; and she sings the praises of the people, the other educators who recognized her brilliance, her talent and her gifts. For the record we’d like to acknowledge and thank Mrs. Callahan for giving our lotus a giant fucking break in sixth grade and telling the class, “Debby is the best dancer. Shut up and follow her lead” in the modern dance extravaganza. They did shut up and she finally made some goddamn friends. Mrs. Callahan we love you for eating your lunch with our Debby and talking to her as though she was (gasp!) intelligent. We would like to thank Mr. Kirk, English teacher of ninth grade who said, “Wow, you write the world like Hemingway. You’re brilliant.” Then you nominated our lotus for the Jr. Honor Society. She was accepted. Thank you.
Mr. Murphy, Mr. Longnecker, Mrs. Lacrone, you all contributed as educators in tremendous and encouraging ways. You saw what Ms. Giraldi also saw but were unafraid and supportive. You helped to lift a dark cloud. The cloud that said, “If you’re so smart, you figure it out.” Fuck you Ms. G for that. Fuck you for trying to destroy and diminish the inherent, wonderful gifts of our lotus. You did not succeed. The bitterness is dissipating, but it will never be forgotten. We hope that “forgiven” is in your future so this karma will be cleared – but we cannot be certain. Sarah is too decent to want to cause you any lasting pain but the Observer would delight in nothing more if your offspring were to come home one day and say, “Mother, I don’t understand why they make fun of me at school.” The Observer would find a great sense of justice in watching you unravel the mystery of your child or your children’s source of anguish. Unlike our lotus, I’m guessing that your progeny were fed well, decently dressed and had something of a middle class life within the status quo.
The Observer knows that your careless words, your insensitive behavior probably went unrecorded in your memory. You should not have been a teacher because what you taught was intolerance, fear and judgment.
Sarah survived. Each day she unravels her own mystery and is more whole than the day before.
You are fired, Ms. G. Go find a job as a rainmaker in a desert. Perhaps you will understand when you are with other rainmakers and they say “Go figure it out if you’re so smart” – when you honestly ask – “How do I do this?”
Fuck you and the dark dust bunny cloud you rode in on. Sarah found her magical umbrella. No thanks to you.
With Sincere Loathing,