“I worry about you,” my neighbor said when we both opened our doors to the hallway at the same time. “Well, your worry doesn’t help me,” I replied. She commented on my lack of makeup, my dour demeanor. Who, exactly, would I impress with face paint, false cheer, and feigned functionality? I’m not a liar. Making other people feel better by hiding my sadness is not my job.
I’m in mourning the past three months since the loss of my significant other. A dog, in fact. My associate, assistant, best friend, buddy, pal, and companion. Five fab years with the dog of my childhood dreams come to life, now, unexpectedly, over.
True to myself and my need to lick my wounds, I consider myself a liberator of the sad. By crying freely on the streets, I model honest human behavior. We’re not all ready for prime time, our close up, or a reality show. Some of us are just living our lives.
Our culture is obsessed with facades. Appearing “together,” dressing for success, and looking sharp. Putting on a happy, game, or poker face. But who’s beneath the mask?
Mourning, because it packs such a punch, gets me in touch with my real self. The one who is not interested in making nice or playing along. I’ve achieved a purity of existence by cleaving to my emotions. Grief helped me to mine deeper depths. When I smile again, it will be because I feel it, not because I force it.
Stripped down as I am, I really don’t care how “polished” I look these days. I’m not dressing to impress. I’m not feeling social at all, frankly. I leave the house as little as possible, to get food, and to stretch my legs every few days. I’ve accepted offers to see shows and gone to a couple of tap classes to get the blood and spirit moving. However, for the most part, I’ve honored my sadness and simply kept to myself.
“This loss reactivates every other loss I’ve already survived. They’re all the same.” I said to my neighbor as she shook her head and walked away. “Don’t worry,” I shouted after her, “Time heals all wounds.”
I miss my dog. That’s all there is to it. Well, there’s more to it than that, but let’s just leave it at that for now.
When venturing out of my aerie, I discovered I craved sunlight, due to my vampire like existence. I found patches of sunlight and stood still, eyes closed, absorbing the light like a flower, while Manhattanites rushed by. New Yorkers see stranger sights than someone standing in the sun. One lady disrupted my reverie to tell me I wasn’t allowed to do that. She was joking, of course.
I went to the doctor and discovered I was vitamin D deficient. I didn’t realize the sun produces D in the body. My body knew what I needed before my head did.
I’ve decided not to be wary of the sun anymore, despite my pale skin. Spiritually speaking, the sun wakes us up and helps us grow much as it does the plants. The energy electrifies and activates us. We are coded to respond.
On a particularly sad day I meandered down to Scandinavia House on Park Avenue to see their exhibit of Danish paintings. The art was just stark enough to match my mood, with one or two renderings being of slightly more optimistic mien. (This feel and look is captured in the brilliant Danish film, Babette’s Feast.) On the mile long walk down and back to Scandinavia, I hungrily followed the beam of the sun like a wolf on the hunt.
Given my love of Scandinavian sense and sensibility, it’s perplexing that I’d never been to The House. We’d both been in New York City for a long time. Better late than never. The free exhibit was the perfect activity for a depressed, fairly unmotivated person who needed a reason to leave the house. Danish art it was.
The exhibit was lovely, the walls painted a muted, matte burgundy to offset the grays, whites, blacks and blues of the paintings. The odd nude stood out (1800s Denmark was a pretty puritanic place. Again, I refer you to luminous film Babette’s Feast, which is about a sensual awakening) as did a lush green painting of two people sitting in the woods under dappled sunlight.
Three purple nuns (painted in Impressionistic style) also received my approval, for the painter, a woman, had integrated violets, yellows and blues into the scenario. Another painting of blue sky and blue shore adorned with two women wearing pastel dresses and hats, feet in the water, skirts lifted, was light and airy.
The gift shop was filled with salted licorice, pistachio flavored marzipan dipped in dark chocolate, and colorful Marimekko trays and ceramic mugs. Bright pink and orange blankets and lime green glass cheered me up on the spot.
I departed and basked in the sun once more, standing on the sidewalk to take in my environs on this global warming November 2, with a temperature in the 60s. A New York “character” stood nearby, and while we were both planted there, she decided to pipe up. “Excuse me. Can I ask you a question? You seem a very well put together person.” Tell that to my neighbor Shirley. She had long white hair, glasses, a bright blue floral top, jeans, sneakers, makeup, a good amount of jewelry, and a purple purse. She was short, stout, and smoking. My “weirdo” radar was on.
“I just bought this purse,” she continued. "You see how it hangs here?” It hung off of her shoulder. Being a shoulder bag. “But I like to wear my bags across my shoulder, diagonally, like this.” She gave me a demonstration. “But you see, it’s not long enough, since it has to go over my big tummy. And well it should be big, since they’ve opened it up twice!” Her tummy, not her purse. I edged back just an inch or two. This woman liked to talk. I wondered if she was ever going to ask me a question. What in god’s name could she possibly want from me besides my time?
“Did you have a question?” I queried. “Well, I want to know how you would suggest I wear this bag.” Oh dear. This gal was in her 50s at least, probably her 60s. What woman doesn’t know how to hoist her own purse? I had a small, simple handbag with me, on the crook of my arm. Her shoulder bag had handles as well as a shoulder strap, so it could also be carried like a handbag. I suggested that she could do the same as I had. “Oh! Put it over your bicep so that you can do your arm exercises?” “Uh, no. I don’t use my purse for working out. It’s in the crook of my elbow, not on my bicep. But mostly, I hold it in my hand. It’s a hand bag.”
She showed me the “logo” of her bag. It looked like the Puma logo. But not really. “I couldn’t resist the label,” she announced. She stood there with her white hair, cigarette, and shoulder bag slung awkwardly across her large expanse.
Still not in the chattiest of moods, I decided it was time to push on, and catch the rest of my roving sun bath. I bid her a good day. As I did, she shouted after me, “My hair used to be the same color as yours. Red!” I wasn’t aware my hair was red. While I’ve been dyeing it of late, it’s still brown, though with reddish highlights. But the actual tint was called “plum.”
This was a character, whoever she was, wherever she was from. The exchange cheered me up a bit, put me on my toes (flight or fight!) and ultimately amused me. She was an amiable oddball, complete with purple purse, biceps, and stomach surgery.
When I crossed the street I couldn’t help but look back at her (a tourist?), still trying to figure out who, and what she was. She was gone. Nowhere to be seen a mere ten seconds later. Is it conceivable she popped in oh, say, Scandinavia House (land of the lanky, measured, Marimekko clad) or the fancy hotel next door? Sure, it was. But she didn’t seem to “fit” either tableau.
I entertained the thought that she was not of this world. That she was a cosmic clown, a comedic Angel sent to cheer me up from the higher realms. A spritely, spiritual amusement. Cigarette and all. I like that conclusion the best.
It also hit me that I was participating in a five day Arch Angel “fest” at home (involving ritual and an altar). Perhaps this was part of the set up, their contribution to our communion? At least the Gods know what kind of Angels to send me.
Another day I was walking grimly down the street when a portly Puerto Rican man, resting amiably on the steps of a nearby Chipotle spoke out as I walked by. “God bless you, ma’am.” I took him in, and smiled gratefully, my sad a little smaller. He shook me out of my reverie. Angels come in all forms.
Last but not least, I was returning late night from some bullshit new age event (the screening of a dull documentary) when I waited for the bus on Sixth Avenue, right across from Macys. Always a garish sight, Herald Square is, not the least of which because Victoria’s Secret’s huge street side videos of their “angels’” (yeah, right) flaunt their saucy smirks, bobbling boobs and sashaying vaginas right by the bus stop.
I was cold, tired, and wanted to be home. There were no buses, either uptown or crosstown, in sight. Should I descend the depths of the subway? Warmer, for sure, faster (sort of), but bleak. Fluorescent lights bring me down. My eyes kept flashing from Victoria’s brazen video parade to the hustle and bustle around me. I wanted solace, and found it neither in the event I’d just left, nor in relief from my chariot with white horses, otherwise known as The Bus. Indecision and cold froze me in place.
When out of nowhere, zipping up the avenue came a young, lean, mocha skinned man drinking a cup of coffee. While riding a bicycle. Backwards. Fast. The bike faced forwards. He sat backwards, and glanced coolly over his shoulder as he breezed through uptown, late night traffic. In the cold.
That put perspective on everything for me, from dead dogs to quirky angels, despair, Denmark and “God bless you, ma’ams”. This world is not to be understood.
There is magic.
There is magic.
©2013 valerie gilbert
RAVING VIOLET the book is available in print, e-book and audio (recorded by me!) from Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, KOBO, SmashWords, Sony Reader Store, AllRomanceBooks.com, and Black Opal Books. MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion will be released by Black Opal Books January 14, 2014.