I feel like a Jewish Catholic at confession. Except the only one I’m asking for absolution is myself.
I miss my alone time. Artistic input into my body. My head feels foggy. Squeezed. Heavy and thick. As if there is no room…no room for anything more. No room for anything at all.
I am daydreaming about when and where I can get my fix — my dose of solitude and creative sustenance.
I didn’t expect this, didn’t expect to be “hooked” when I entered into this commitment a little more than two years ago. I didn’t know what to expect. Only that I needed help.
I was newly divorced. My biological mother — who I had only met just four years earlier — was dying. And the relationship I wasn’t having — the one with a handsome southerner who lived some 900 miles away, who I kissed for two nights like a horny but innocent teenager — was effecting my relationships.
My friend S. told me in no uncertain terms she could not, would not, hear his name again.
I was on my knees, desperate. The humbled position where all change grows from.
On Christmas night 2012, a voice I’ve grown to know — my wise-self voice — suggested I work through The Artist’s Way again. Adding that this time I go on weekly Artist Dates — a once every seven-days solo sojourn to fill my creative coffers — as is suggested in the book.
I went to lectures, museums, opera. To pottery classes, dance performances, walking tours. Movies, thrift shops and book stores. All of it, alone.
On occasion, I miss a week — choosing to spend a final day with a friend before she becomes a mother or sharing my artsy outing with another — but it is rare. And I’ve never gone this long without…until now, at the Davis Theatre — Artist Date 99.
My therapist in Seattle was the first to suggest Cheryl Strayed. “I read her before Oprah,” she insisted, imploring me to pick up Wild, as well as Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar — the best of Strayed’s advice column from The Rumpus.
Queen Anne Books placed a special order for both books. They arrived the day after I left for Chicago.
I mostly forgot about them until this past summer — two years later — when my friend Lori insists I buy both books. She tells me “writers read,” and drags me into the Book Cellar where she puts a copy of each into my hands and guides me to the cash register.
Both are dog-eared now, and tear-stained. Sentences underlined, entire pages bracketed. Words resonate. Lessons I do not want to forget. Whispers from the universe reminding me where I came from, where I am today.
“Unique as every letter is, the point each writer reaches is the same: I want love and I’m afraid I’ll never get it.” (Tiny Beautiful Things)
“…for once it was finally enough for me to simply lie there in a restrained and chaste rapture beside a sweet, strong, sexy, smart good man who was probably never meant to be anything but my friend. For once I didn’t ache for a companion. For once the phrase a woman with a hole in her heart didn’t thunder into my head.” (Wild)
I still fear the possibility of not finding romantic love again, but it doesn’t drive me anymore. It doesn’t dictate my every action. My every reaction.
I can be in “chaste rapture beside a sweet, strong, sexy, smart good man who was probably never meant to be anything but my friend.” Lying next to one another on my couch following morning meditation, the Reluctant Shaman’s lips pressed to my forehead — my third eye.
I no longer ache for a companion. The words, “I do not wish a man were here,” crossing my lips as I cross the Seine last October, alone on my 45th birthday..
Strayed took to the Pacific Crest Trail — alone — to learn these truths. To feel them in her bones. Mine was a different path, made of clay and dance and music. Of film and paint and spoken word. Of pasta and gelato and nearly three weeks in Italy. All of it, alone. But the truths, the same.
“So write…,” Strayed writes in Tiny Beautiful Things. “Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”