I sat on the patio of a coffee shop over the weekend, meeting up in person with a woman I had only previously met online, watching her feed her blueberry muffin crumbs to the tiny birds. Her parting words to me were, "Keep your mystery!"
* * *
When fellow artists ask to meet with me me, I'm never entirely sure what they want to talk about, and I often, as happened in this case, just start talking. It is an on-going conversation I have been having for years now (11 years), though the people on the other side of the table rotate as the wheel of life turns on. I keep talking and the chair goes empty and then filled again by another kindred soul. I can tell emotionally when I am safe with a person, and with these lovely humans I feel no need to fill them in on the details of the years of conversation. I figure if they are willingly there in that blessed hot seat then they must know something of the subject I keep circling around. I just press play and keep on talking. There is always a new question I am asking myself. Which one is it today?
I am one long run-on-sentence of passion. Each person that comes on my radar is a clue. I am on a mission to figure this out, though I've been told it's not my job, or it's not possible, or it's too tiring, or it's never-ending work, or it's not necessary, .
It is necessary for me. So I'm going to be the one to do it. And I believe I'm almost done (with this chapter.) By the end of writing this post, I will be done. That's all there is to that. I'm tacking a good ol' "And She Lived Happily Ever After" onto THE END of this particular choose-your-own-adventure story. I love the finality I give myself.
* * *
That day I clenched the edges of the table giving it a little shake because GAH! I just want to get on with my life already. What the hell is still, still, still after all this time, standing in my way? I'm 38. I can't be stuck anymore. I won't be. I could't believe I was saying the same things, still, after all this time. It was as nauseating as it was cleansing. A final dry heave? Enough.
* * *
Last week I composed three letters to a friend and threw all three away. I have become strategic in counting the costs of my words. Careful. Guarded. Paranoid. Protective. It wasn't always like this. I used to not think twice about blogging under my real name instead of a pen name. I used to throw words out fast before I could think about their consequences. It was messy and exhilarating. I used to dream big never counting the cost.
* * *
That day at the coffee shop, as words fell from my lips, and the purple-haired woman nodded, and the birds kept fighting over the crumbs, I realized how closely I have found it necessary to hold my cards. How precious my mystery.
* * *
Was I freer back then or now? Hmmm.
Here's what I know:
- I can grant or refuse access to different parts of me to different people.
- I have to be willing to do that for myself without chastising myself for not being carefree enough to not give a fuck what others think.
The word FREE is morphing these days. I love how words do that to entertain our own growing. It is becoming something other - FREE to know who I actually am, not who I wish I were. FREE to know that I am the sort who doesn't want to lay all my cards on the table, ever, because it just is not pleasurable. It doesn't feel good to me. For now, I don't trust people to have my best interest in mind. Not anyone. I accept this about me and know it is my precious gem to care for and treasure.
I am not FREE to tell everyone everything anymore, but I am FREE to make that wise choice based on who I know I am and what I know I want.
There is a deeper, underground river of me that I never share. I have tried to get as close to this as possible, supposing I'd really arrive as an artist and as a human on the day I struck oil and pumped it out for the benefit of all. I felt that then I would be fully known and fully loved, and felt I owed that to people. It was the least I could do to make living with me more manageable...to package me up and make a bite-size edible version of me. Oh to be one whole person in all venues. The same me for the masses. One artist evenly portioned out yet undivided.
Now I don't feel drawn to share the depths of me anymore. I know from experience, from trial and error, from firsthand, I can't share it all. Not because a piece of it is so horrific (it isn't skeletons in the closet that would haunt the bravest souls.) Rather it is so individual, so unique, and SO MUCH of me that it can't possibly be held by any one person. I am too much to be fully received. My fullness is mine to carry. Mine alone. My mystery. Its essence permeates everything I create and all my personal interactions, but it is not necessary for me to explain it or translate it, let alone warn someone before I approach and summarize before I depart.
I currently do not think as a brave human I need to be the most vulnerable. I currently do not think as a brave human I need to divulge the most for the sake of the most. I currently do not think as a brave human I need be the one who undresses word by precious word in front of another, attempting to prove myself and backing that proof up with self-sacrificial and apologetic words.
No one is responsible for holding the entirety of my truth. That's a pleasure I reserve for me.
Why prove myself vulnerable? (Why prove myself at all?) As a means to emotionally hook my reader? To level the playing field? To make me small enough to fit in the fold of "US?" Because I'm afraid my confidence will overpower or taste bitter to another? Because I don't yet believe I am really something? Because I have been taught it isn't polite to love myself out loud? Because my greatness might make another feel small? Because my greatness might cause another to become combative?
I've been publicly confessing my whole life, through my art and through my relational interactions. Who is going to hand me my absolution if not me? My public confession is no longer necessary. That saga has ended. I choose me and my comfort.
The sugar skull art has been ideal to me this November as I've been having scattered thoughts here and there about my own death. It feels close. Maybe not close in years (although who can know) but certainly close to my heart. I am dying, and so I will rise to the occasion of my living right now.
It is pressing. So pressing to me. Of utmost importance. Where all my extra umph is directed in today's pressing of the keys on my keyboard. <<<GET ON WITH LIVING>>> This is what I type today. <<<NO MAN, NO WOMAN, STANDS IN YOUR WAY..>>> <<<NEVER EVER A VALID EXCUSE AGAIN.>>>
I am human and so my end is inevitable, my mortality is the great adventure, the great unknown, the lovely period on my final paragraph. It's Mr. Magorium's final pair of shoes - "I may return as a bumblebee."
These days I get sentimental about that Dia de los Muertos piece of my story. I think it is because I know how much care and attention I am giving to being alive. I am so proud of me. And when it's time to stop it'll be a shame because I am really good at living, but it will be a relief because I've done all I can do. Death feels like the one choice I don't have to make. It will let ME know when it's time, and I will settle in.
When the veil feels close, my heart is all a flutter. Someday it will be in honor of my death, but currently it is honoring all of those final things that are getting slashed so that me, in all my mystery, can live. And so it is.