The other day I picked up the phone in my office, “Yes?”, I said.
“Mystery solved,” announced the gentle clear voice of our staff Spiritual Care provider.
“Heck, I’m going home then.” We both laughed.
The reality of it is we’ve all been plopped in this classroom called life for a reason. We just need to figure it out. The mystery of human experience and its meaning will exist so long as we live.
But Cowboy wisdom in it’s simple complexity boils it down a bit. Kinda like a buddhist koan, but now quite.
There have been many things that I thought would bring me joy. A good education. Nope, didn’t quite fill the void. It was nice, but I was still hungry fior more. Then I thought it was to have a family, complete with 2.4 children, a high-income earning hubby and a home with a two car garage. Nope. The new dress I bought last month? Zippo, that wasn’t it either. Sheesh! You’d think that one thing would be a bit easier to find.
Hmmm? What on earth is that one thing?
Watching a City Slickers clip pulled me back to my buddhist training. It’s the clip where Mitch and Curly are riding alone through the sparse landscape of the American Midwest. Curly asks Mitch if he knows what the secret to life is and Mitch, looking bewildered, answers, “No.”
Curly holds one gloved finger up in the air and says it’s this. It’s one thing. For a second I thought about all of those things I’d thought of before, and of my son, and my closet full of clothes and gadgets. Then it clicked.
Joy. Joy! That’s it, that one thing has to be joy, because we all have the capacity for joy. Joy leads to crazy things like compassion and peace. Holy schmoly, imagine that!
Oh yes, I hear you snickering as you read this, thinking about your job, your bills, your less-than-perfect-relationships. You’re thinking, “Joy my ass.” I need twelve more hours in the day and a bunch of extra zeros at the end of my paycheque. Trust my oh wise and wonderful women. I have studied and tried to realize the 4 noble Truths by following the Noble 8-fold path. It’s not a smooth path, and I’m pretty clumsy, but it’s an aweseome exprience, and I have found joy in more abundance than ever – that one thing that makes it all ok.
Ah yes, another Saturday, another edition of my favourite newsrag; The Globe and Mail.
There were two articles in the Globe that caught my attention, the first, in the main section of the Globe, written by columnist Elizabeth Renzetti. It was about the interview questions put to British female volleyball players as to whether they would wear their bikinis even if it rained.
The second article by Leah Eichler was about the workplace majority of primary breadwinners being women. Trust me and keep reading, I’ll walk you through my thoughts.
Renzetti waxed philosophical about all that is wrong with the question aimed at figuring out just exactly how much taught volleyball playing flesh would be seen during the Olympics. She commented on the hell that society puts us through as women, dictating that we feel guilty and worthless should we not be the photoshopped stick figures that plaster the cover magazines.
Perhaps this dickwad disguised as a reporter needed to know how much tissue to have on hand for his Olympic wank fest. The end of the conversation with the titty-infatuated reporters should have come from the athletes being interviewed, or whomever was vetting those interviews. I imagine it going something like this; “Who let this wanker in? Next question.” There is nothing more that needs to be said really.
The second article, The Emergence of the Richer Sex, caught my attention because it outlines the increasing percentage of women who are the primary breadwinner in their household. But we knew that already didn’t we gals? After all,for over 15 years, our post-secondary educational institutions have been filled with a majority of female students.
I direct you back to a quote from one of my recent blog entries;
Our modern, western culture has done one hell of a good job of dividing the sisterhood. Once we recognize that, we’ll be a lot better off. I love this quote from Eva Burrows, “We have to be careful in this era of radical feminism, not to emphasize an equality of the sexes that leads women to imitate men to prove their equality. To be equal does not mean you have to be the same. “
As soon as women redefine, “ALL”, we will have it.
I think it was Madonna who said that women don’t get what they want because they don’t ask for it. It’s time to ask for what we want and what we need. Do I want to make more money? Hell yes.Do I want to have hours that allow me to do my work and be a good parent? Of course I do. Do I want special recognition in the way of golf vacations and large bottles of whiskey? Are you kidding me? No way! I want spa trips, champagne, and soft, pedicured feet.
You know what else I want? I want all of us – yes you my fabulous, luscious, juicy, female readers – to find our voice and ask for what we need.
Do I demand fair pay. Absolutely. Do I carry myself in a way that represents my professional abilities and god-given strengths as a woman as I carry out my job? I try my hardest. Do I need a man who makes more money than me? or a man with more letters than I have behind my name. Hmm? Ummm? Now that’s a good question…
To be honest, that’s stumped me for some time. But in my heart, I know I don’t need those either. I provide for myself, even though I was raised with some fairytale myth about being taken care of by my man.
What we don’t need ladies are the men that are competing with the women who are trying to imitate men in their roles and measures of success. That’s just too messed up, and frankly, it’s what created a culture of couples who need therapy to figure out what the hell is going on in their relationships.
In a Shambala Sun article discussing mental illness, Shoken Michael Stone, leader of Centre of Gravity in Toronto says, “Through language, we cast judgment on people, lock them up, treat them, hide them, group them, exclude them…” Through our language we have created feminism, the upper class, the lower-middle-class, working-moms, single-moms, and stay-at-home dads, just to name a few.
What we really are, are people, men and women, trying to re-negotiate our relationships with one another in a post-industrial, gender-annhilated, capitalist workforce.
Ok, enough big words ladies. After all, our big, strapping, love-making gents might not understand. Ah-hem…
What I think that all of us women need is someone to nurture our feminine side. Someone who allows us to be cuddly and girly and weird and funny, and all of the wonderful things that we are without feeling weak, without apologizing for being educated, well-employed and just all ’round blazing fabulous. That’s the kind of man who makes us want to bump in the night.
I pondered the two Globe and Mail articles this morning as I lay in my sweet lover’s arms after being woken by kisses. He’s younger, lacks a couple of the letters that follow my name, but boy oh boy, does he ever let me be cuddly, girly, weird and funny. Don’t let anyone tell you who you should be with. Just listen to your heart…AND keep your addresses separate…
Journal Entry April 16, 2012…in a sun stroked, Havana libre analgesia haze, I wrote my final thoughts.
Today, I serendipitously made the acquaintance of a much older Canadian gentleman. We met poolside as the sun began to climb in the Cuban sky, turning it a brilliant blend of amber, mauve and pink.
This gentleman had been out for his morning run, and I was getting ready for mine. In an effort not to go back and wake his wife too early, he engaged me in conversation.
Sizing him up quickly before our conversation started I assumed he was athletic, married, and well-employed. I was right on those three counts. I had not, however, pegged him as the stereotypical pig who travels to poor, foreign countries to take advantage of their women. As it turned out, he was married to a woman my age (he was old enough to be my grandfather).
As he spoke, I had a flashback. A few years ago I stood agog on a street in Camaguay, witnessing the scene of a newly married couple. It was a very young woman having been wed to another, much older Canadian gentleman. The bride was weeping, while her mother shoved her off to a classic Cuban car, and her new husband groped under her bright dress. Ugh.
As it turns out, the gentleman I was speaking to was in the December of his life and had married his May bride three years earlier. He had not since managed to import his souvenir/care-giver/housekeeper into Canada and as a result travelled to visit every six months.
I let him ramble on and on about the reasons why he chose to marry a Cuban woman. He said that she understood him because of the politics of their native countries (originally he was from a communist country). As a result, she had been well-educated in a communist system and was a wonderful and intelligent companion. “And,” I wanted to say, ” a much better fuck than an eighty year old“.
Later on today, as I painted my toes, taking shelter in the shade of my porch, I caught sight of their backs, walking up the hill from my gazebo. From that vantage point, they were fairly unremarkable. Benign. But later tonight, the truth was told from a different doorway.
As I munched away on fresh-from-the-sea lobster , in walked a very overdressed woman in a form-fitting black satin cocktail dress. The dress had rosettes along the entire length of each wide, shoulder strap and had been paired with stiletto heels. “Satin,” I thought to myself, “in this heat? Is she loco?”.
She was looking down one side of the restaurant as if she were lost. It wasn’t just that she was over-dressed that made me take a second look, it was because, although she wasn’t thin by any stretch of the imagination, the dress fit perfectly and flattered every curve. It was not a cheap item of clothing that she was wearing, nor were her shoes.
This woman’s hair was twisted in a small knot on the top of her head, and she had applied enough make-up to make my pores weep just thinking about it. She was Cuban, and likely looking for the wedding party that had come through and was settled in the courtyard, I thought to myself as I nodded to the waiter who was pouring more wine into our glasses.
Wrong again. On queue, in walks Mr. Canadian Pervert. He was wearing a white and black short-sleeved shirt with a yoked collar. His shoes were actually short boots with a heel. You know, the kind that went the way of Saturday Night Fever and unprotected sex. His pants were black and tight enough that I had an unwelcome image in my mind of how thick his 80-year-old trouser snake might be. I drank deeply from my wine glass hoping the booze would soothe my traumatized imagination.
The old pervert placed his gnarled, arthritic hand on the black-dressed-beauty’s back, looked around to see who was watching him claim his property, caught my eye, winked, and then guided his wife (hand still on her back) to their table. I squirmed thinking of how uncomfortable the weight of that hand must have felt against the sweaty satin. I took another drink and motioned the waiter back for a top-up.
Flashback to earlier this morning; Mr.Canadian Pervert had really worked at convincing me of his status as a respectable gentleman. Was it his fault that I had made assumptions about his personal integrity? Should I have been alerted to his perversion by the trifecta mention of how exercise increases testosterone levels and how important testosterone is to maintain as a man ages?
Perhaps I should adjust my judgement of the matrimonial transaction that has taken place between these two consenting adults.
Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe they are really in love, or maybe they’re just both realistic about the benefits and drawbacks of the currency they offer one another.
Perhaps this marriage left me feeling like it was a lop-sided bargain in favour of the man. Or maybe, in my heart of hearts I really wish that I could meet an intelligent, fit, man who could protect me as I made my way to a table in a restaurant, wearing fine clothing that he had chosen and paid for?
Nope. Not my style. But I felt terrible judging this other woman who I didn’t even know. Hell, maybe she could tolerate his sweaty old body pumping away on hers for a few nights a year in exchange for regular injections of money into her Cuban purse. I hope for her sake that she has a real lover somewhere out there in this humid and sensual country, keeping romancesex love alive for her.
As I sat at my table, enjoying the company of my age-appropriate and companion, eating the food that I paid for and ordered for myself , I knew, from the inside out, from the root of who I am, that I will never be anything but the gale, nor do I want to be any other way.
Journal Entry April 21, 2012; As I portered my own bags at the airport, I watched Mr. Canadian Pervert usher his bride of three years into a cab, with bag upon bag of clothing and shoes and other ‘stuff’ he had purchased for her.
At the airport, I sidled up to Mr. Canadian Pervert, slid my hand way up his saggy thigh, brushed my soft lips across the wrinkled skin behind his ear and cooed about a Michael Kors dress that had my name all over it. Not.
Journal Entry April 13/12; A reflective entry written on my balcony watching the sunset and couples dressed for dinner walking on the sidewalk…
It was during my first trip to Cuba when I really began to understand the conditionality of human relationships and the possible survivalist mentality of bartering.
Following that first experience in this communist/socialist (you choose your weapon) country, I reflected on the experience that I had had years previous in Venezuela.
At that time, I was smart enough to know that I was not a particularly beautiful woman, and that beyond being blond and single (aka free-game-to-bed), it was not another notch-on-their-I-tapped-a forgein-chick belt, but what was in my wallet and passport that was truly prize-worthy.
Behind the bright, wide, white-toothed smiles and pressed linen service, there is an undercurrent that ripples and swells to white cap proportions when you’re making any kind of transaction here. And that bright, wide, white-toothed smile is reflected back with our own.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s getting another bottle of champagne delivered to your room, an extra towel, or a reserved seat on the beach. I have spent days trying to get a newspaper, although state-sanctioned, that is published for the citizens and not the tourists.
I have been asked for items of clothing instead of tips. I have been hustled on street corners by people trying to sell cigars, seafood and themselves. I have calculated in my own head how much I have to sacrifice to get what I want, all the while my counterparts doing the same.
There is a very minute difference between eyes smiling to draw you in and eyes disguising calculation. It is this undercurrent of how-much-can-I-get-from you without causing discomfort or loss to me, which forms the unspoken bond of transaction. How much can you spend/give without risking your own comfort?
The beautiful mystery of this visceral knowledge of bartering works both ways.
The fourth installment of my Cuban reflection coming soon…..
April 2/12 Journal Entry – in an open air cafe listening to cuban jazz musicians work their magic…maybe a mojito, perhaps an espresso…whatever the case may have been, I share my thoughts with you;
I’m always stunned by women who can dress in the heat. I mean really dress, so that to those of us watching, they seem like a cool breeze whilst we melt in the skulking humidity.
Myself, I prefer living in the heat. I like loose-fitting clothing and to have my bobbed-hair tied back, screaming out wildly from behind my ears. I would love to look like the women who appear as a breeze, but I like to to swim, to fish and to feel the ground under my feet when the heat is so powerful that it begs us back to the earth and sea.
Rather than being the kind of woman who spends energy dressing like the breeze, I am the type of woman who creates the breeze. Perhaps I’m more like gale across the Great Lakes? Yes. I am more like the energy that creates a blustery gale.
I much prefer to break a sweat than to wait to be waited on. Although, being waited on especially by a man would be lovely. I have had men in my life deny me the pleasure of being in a committed relationship because of my love of doing and knowing for myself. In other words, I failed to make my potential love interests feel like I needed them.
What the hell were they thinking?! I do not and will likely never understand that. Of course I need someone. In that way, gale-women and the breeze-women are alike. Because I am strong does not mean that I feel less. I believe, in fact, that people who emote strength, especially strength of character, feel more deeply, intuit more sensitively and have a deep knowledge of the need for love in order to carry on despite adversity.
Often men get confused when I engage them in conversation about fishing, camping, baseball, business and global politics. First they think I am engaging them in conversation because, as a single, middle-aged female, I (of course!) am on the hunt for a man. Wrong.
I am hunting for meaningful, intellectual conversation and camaraderie. Once a newly acquainted man realizes that I am not going to turn my intelligent conversation into any one of the following;
1) Why I love chocolate and wine
2)How large my breasts are
3)Asking what their favourite colour and astrological sign is
…they get extremely uncomfortable speaking to an unmarried woman and head for the door, or, and this is rare, they relax and actually engage in civil conversation. Perhaps our ability to dress like the breeze and need the opposite sex is powerful currency?
…To be continued in my next post – Cuba – I’ll Trade You
The first of two, perhaps three, maybe even four posts about my love affair with Cuba.
When I’m away from it, I wonder about its harsh beauty. Everything about it holds a kind of tragedy waiting to be witnessed; the supple bodies of a people accustomed to physical labour, the once-beautiful architecture turned ragged, over-taken by cement tenements, and the beautiful, sharp, call of the music that reminds everyone of a haunting past; a yearning for a kind of freedom that has no words.
Before I ever set foot on Cuba’s soil, I had been fascinated by the rich history, political fortitude and the primitive ceremonies cloaked in the guise of modern Christian saints. It was like a slow falling-in-love with a long distance lover whom I’d never met. I had read his letters, heard whispers through the telephone line, and fallen asleep with a contented smile remembering the gentle promise of sunshine, sea-water and the sweet, high call of a trumpet tempting the people to make love on earth that they dance upon….
April 1/2012 – Journal Entry -Driving into the Countryside from the Airport
There is something about this island that feels like home to me. I’m not sure why, it just has always been that way. Perhaps it has something to do with the way the landscape lolls out from the tarmac into instant country-side or, that the sun-baked simplicity of the houses and buildings mimic the isolation of our vast Canadian landscape.
There is a certainty about the earth here that grounds a person’s sensuality in their own body. I see a man leaning, left hand in the door frame, arm stretched high. The rest of his bare torso bends easily to the weight of his lean body, his lover standing beside him, underneath his up-stretched arm. Her silhouette binds easily to his, in a way that leaves no doubt that he has just had her.
The inspiration for the name of this post came from a collection of modern Cuban Poetry; Island of my Hunger.
A few weeks ago I read a very powerful statement, “Our bodies come from a place of health. Our bodies want to be healthy.” But don’t you just feel like pulling the covers over your head some mornings? Don’t you just want to stare off into space for a few weeks because you’re feeling so drained?
All people of a certain age suffer from some sort of apathy and fatigue after years and years of doing the necessary day-to-day, functioning like robots on an artificial clock and calendar. We no longer connect deeply to cycles of harvest, abundance, abstinence or the waxing and waning of the moon.
We look for reasons that we feel dragged down and tired. Can you check my vitamin B doctor, and maybe my sugar? We start thinking of ways to increase our energy, “I should exercise more. I should buy a light that gives me extra vitamin D at my desk. I should buy vitamins. I should pay for a fitness class and massages and yoga pants and an iPod and shoes for running and biking and hiking and getting the groceries.
We need to pay for these things that we think will magically make us feel better. We become our work to buy these things. We become a cog feeding a beast that was a parasite on our mother’s womb. We are balanced on the side that favours order and rejects spontaneity, which has admittedly given us a nice cushy safe spot on the global political landscape. But the plates of this landscape are shifting, and we need to rethink how we are in the world.
As you know, I’m madly working away, writing a novel that has the potential to change the world. Ah-hem…no comment on that please. It’s been a quiet, rumbling hunger of mine for years and years. Finally I’m feeding it with untold hours of ink, fingers on keypads and ponderings that saturate so many levels of space and time that I need bottles and bottles of bubbly and lengthy sojourns to galleries, pubs and prolonged dinner conversation to bring my powerful mind back to the physical world.
Did you know I’m an artist too?
If you ask the people who I bump into every day you might hear them describe me in different ways. She’s a mother and a friend. She’s a neighbour and colleague. She’s a bitch and hard-ass. She’s this and she’s that. None of that stuff matters, because that’s their opinion. That I know I’m a writer and an artist is all that matters when it comes time to put pen to paper or splatter paint all over my floor.
Perhaps it’s my hormonal intuition kicking in as some folks believe. Perhaps I’m just fed up with the labels that get stuck to us when we’re all grown up. Perhaps I just started living and breathing what I love. Yep. I think that must be it.
I’m a frequent visitor to the AGO. I can spend hours and hours in there with the paintings, taking in the beauty of the work. I can also be knocked flat by some of the beautiful graffiti in our city, and by simple sketches I see my client’s draw. Art – all art – written word, visual art, music, dance…it’s all an expression of the human spirit, and since we are all indeed human spirits, I believe that we are all artists.
Tracey Chevalier gave one of the famous-for-putting-you-to-sleep TED talks about viewing art today. I enjoyed her novel Girl with the Pearl Earring and I love Vermeer’s painting, so I thought I’d listen during my lunch break. The essence of her talk is about viewing art, and the stories that we can create for ourselves about the paintings. It’s a personal experience, and unless the artist is so narcissistic to write a tome on how to consume his/her art, it’s there for us to take in. It’s there for us to process, and make meaning of for ourselves. It’s there for our deep contemplation and spiritual growth.
Having no formal education in visual arts, and being a solid ‘C’ student all the way through public school, I spent years feeling like an-art-challenged moron. I could write, I could sing, I could act, but draw anything resembling anything – forget about it. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I felt compelled to create. I bought some canvas, some paints, some brushes, and had at it. I think I frightened my son and the cat. No one was more surprised than I was when the emotions I slopped on the canvas turned into images reflecting my desire, despair and dreams.
It felt wonderful when my son pulled at my shirtsleeve and said, “Mommy, hang that one on the wall. It’s so pretty.” The pretty one was my dreams. We tapped a new nail in the wall, and hung my dream painting . It came down shortly after, replaced by a painting that I bought in someone’s living room in Havana. My dream painting came with us when we moved. “Don’t give that one away Mom, ” my son said, ” I love that one.” That painting even did a brief stint on my office wall during a particularly dark period in my career. Now, I think it may be tucked in my storage closet behind cases of champagne and my leopard print shirt that I save just for hard-core rock and roll soirees.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have talent – I merely have freedom about my spirituality and a lack of giving-a-hairy-rat’s-petunia about anyone else’s opinion. The first time I ever felt the impact of great art, was when I was a little girl sitting in church. The way that the sunlight boldly sang through the stained glass and the way that the stained glass told a story gave me hope. Hope that whatever I was in church for wasn’t really the judgemental arse at the pulpit, but something more, something happy, something inspiring and good.
I travelled to Paris in my twenties and fell in love. Perhaps my academic background in classical studies, religious studies and literature influenced my reaction to art in that city, and maybe not. The light captured in original paintings has no equal. The beauty of sculpture in the sunshine of the Rodin garden left me speechless. I sat on the grass and spent hours just taking in the curves and form, letting my imagination run wild. I imagined Rodin reading Blake and wondering about the same great mysteries that I had contemplated.
If there is an emotional connection to a piece of art, it is automatically a masterpiece. It doesn’t matter that a glutted corporate foundation hasn’t recognized it, it doesn’t matter that the artist is only four years old. It only matters that the work has connected you to a deeper level of yourself.
We are so busy making ends meet, paying bills, feeding the machine that our economy and consumer values have created, that we’ve lost ourselves. The way we communicate today in short messages, using cave-man like language in our texts and tweets is robbing us of our voice. The corporate world is demanding that we silence ourselves with truncated, efficient messages devoid of emotion and original thought so that we can continue to produce, produce, produce.
During the 1960’s, our national committment to post-secondary education changed in Canada. We got behind the well-known idea of, “If-You-Build-It-They-Will-Come”. And we did come. By the tens of thousands. Now, our post secondary education has been digested by the powers that be. It has been spit back at us as something to be consumed at a high cost in order to sustain a false economy rather than to be experienced.
The failure of consumerism is written on all of our post-industrialism DNA. What to do?
Why don’t we built art; Paint, create, write, fill the city alley-ways with art, gather and read and write and perform and give our ideas breath? Transform our suburbs into expressions of the human spirit on the huge roadways that make way for our transport to the office. Guerilla art I know, is much more powerful and long-lasting than guerilla warfare. Sorry Che.
As much as I am all of those things that people may say I am, I am also a writer and an artist.
Be who you want to be. Don’t get stuffed and squeezed into an identity that serves only to pay the bills. You know who you are. You’re the runner. You’re the writer. You’re the guy who does a mean Roy Orbison impression and makes the kitchen come alive. At the core of you, there is that steady-heart-beating-deep-breathing-animal that wants to stretch and yawn and make you come alive again.
When you feed that deep-breathing animal, when it stretches and struts, it makes you powerful. It makes you anything but apathetic and tired. It helps you see things more clearly, makes you more compassionate as you recognize that same animal in your peers, and offers you perspective. You will be energized, inspiring and you’ll make better decisions for yourself and the rest of the world.
I. Am. A writer and an artist. These two ways of being make me a better, more powerful mother and friend than any title or professional designation could ever bestow.
Just be who you really are. I promise you, every cell in our body will thank you for it. Just be who you really are.