Friday, June 5

The Change of Life


No, not hot flashes, though I mean those, too. Flashes. All sorts.


Leaving space not only for fatigue but for increased liminal space, the space in which ideas blossom and messages slide right in like a lover surprising you by sliding into the airplane seat next to you at the last minute.


Moods that make us hard to live with. Moods that make us inclined to ask what is so hard about living with someone who questions what “easy to live with” means, recognizing it as a smokescreen for submission, compliance, servitude. Personal power is never easy to live with, especially for those who have never felt it.

Aches. Ailments. Anxiety.

A Trilogy of A. Reminding us that we are not here forever, that much is uncertain, that the someday is now.

They don’t call it the change of life for nothing.

I will be an artist of my own making. If not now, when?

There is art in writing.
I will not apologize for writing here when I should be “working”.
I will not accept that writing is any less valid than any other effort that we do not hesitate to call work.
I will no longer flinch in defensiveness at those who read my writing and say “You have too much time on your hands.”. No. I don’t. There isn’t enough time for all the things I want to say, write, feel, do.

There is art in caring for children.
In the strategizing necessary to maintain an emotional tenor that leaves one available, caring, and open, yet not vulnerable to the deeply personal bait that children routinely dangle as they make their way through the maze.
There is art in knowing when to approach, when to stand back, when to hold on, when to let go, when to insist, when to fold.
There is art in talking to children, in answering their questions without answering too much or diminishing their curiousity.
There is skill in this. I am not ashamed of having those skills.

There is art is offering what you know to the world.
There is art in being able to translate from one world into the next.
There is art in finding the words that make someone recognize the alien as if it has lived within them their entire lives. Because it has.

There is art in traveling, in exploration.
What is art if not freedom?
There is art in respect, in visiting new places with a minimum of the egocentrism and privilege that is implanted in us with every group sing, every state of the union address, every parade, every page 72 of our history books.

There is art in argument, in curiousity, in insistence, in analysis.
We live in a country that is not shy about its disdain for intellectuals.
I will not play along, in spite of the onion skin that has never protected me from casual meanness, intentional or otherwise.

There is art in creating
children, jewelry, vessels, rituals, solutions, things never seen before, thoughts, words written on paper or screen, classes, training, tools.

I have told the story.

When I was in my mid-20’s, I wanted to move to Maui. I believed I could do anything, I could strike out, in a classically 20-something kind of way. I packed my bags, and put my belongings into storage. I got on a plane. I rented a sublet. I sought out temporary employment, doing…well, whatever. I went to the beach in Kihei and watched the whales spout. And then I went home, as nearly everyone does who leaps into the water with a foot still on the dock. It’s an uncomfortable stretch that’s bound to cause a cramp eventually. An adventure is not the same as a life.

When I was in my 30’s, I wanted to move to Hawaii. Again. I wasn’t specific this time. I thought about where the jobs were. I researched, I interviewed by phone, I traveled for final interviews. I got a job. A good job. I said my goodbyes, packed my bags, and put my belongings into a Matson shipping container on the dock in Oakland. I drove my car up a ramp to join them. I lived at the YWCA in Honolulu for a month or two, and then rented a house nestled in lush foliage on the side of a rainy valley that was fifteen minutes from the ocean. I kept a swimsuit and goggles in my trunk so that I could stop by the beach to swim on the way home if I so desired, though often I just wanted to go home after a day of work. Even in Hawaii, living is living.

One foot on the dock is no way to leap. Diving is not so good either, as we all know a story of someone who met an unfortunate end trusting the unknown depth of water. Jump. With both feet. It’s the only way. There is no such thing as careful.

When I was in my 40’s, I found myself in a place that was alien to me in nearly every possible way, and which remains so. I set myself on a path to make the best of it, because it was for my career, not for my life. I was reminded that, in a new place, you have to adapt to cultural norms in order to get along. You have to submit. I stink at that. So I continued to speak up here and there, just to remember what my voice sounded like, to remember who I was when I stood, in boots and heavy backpack, on a log bridge across a roaring river in the Sierras, defying the elements, when that same evening I played half of a recorder duet over a desolate lake on the longest day of the year, wondering at the light sky at 9 p.m. The pressure, subtle and overt, to silence that voice was phenomenal and often remains so—people can see you remembering that, and they don’t like it much, even when they don't know it. They have their own reasons, to be sure, but there’s that flaky skin to contend with once more.

I spent my 40’s in the illusion of profession, in the false promise of letters behind a name, and then with the birth of a child. Nurturing a child is as close to the core of life as you can get. I accepted my life in the space created by the intersection of a venn diagram.

Now I am in my 50’s, with the flashes, sleeplessness, moods, and A’s that grace those that are fortunate enough to make it this far. I have devised a machine, a clever Rube Goldberg inspired contraption, designed to extract (with a loud, obnoxious, sucking sound reminiscent of a combination of nursing and the last drops of a milkshake in a large metal cup drawn unselfconsciously through a straw) the power from each of them. It's going pretty well.

And I’m working on that onion skin thing, because I’m done apologizing.

I am an artist of my own making. In the last two months, I have been called “wild” and “fierce”, always by people younger than me. I am putting those on as a cloak. I may even get that purple streak in my hair.

They don’t call it the change of life for nothing.


Heidi said...

Smiling -- and crying.

Thank you -

Anna said...

That is most beautiful. Thank you so much for posting it.