During one of our phone conversations a few years ago, my friend, the Awesome Big C was revelling in her new-found status as “fiancée”, while I, true to form, remained single.
She said that her and her hubby-to-be, the Sensational Big S, were listening to some music, and one of the songs, Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now, reminded her of me.
It bothered me a little bit, because it’s a melancholy song, and I clearly am more of a Rick James Superfreak kinda gal. Or that’s what I like you all to think. It also bothered me slightly that they were thinking of me, when they should not have been thinking at all.
Both sides now starts with these lyrics;
“Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
When I met my friend the Awesome Big C, I was still looking at clouds that way. Now, ladies (and all of you chivalrous gents out there), I know you’ve been a love-struck fool at some time or another. Remember the teen years when your crush could make your stomach flip and twirl and your cheeks rouge up? We all fell in love a few times, had our hearts broken once or twice, and maybe, like me, ran to the altar with ‘THE ONE’,convinced that nary a human could bury such a strong union asunder.
Enter the present day; A house, two cars, three kids, a steady 9-5 and twenty pounds later, perhaps it is these, the next lyrics in Joni’s ballad that feel more familiar;
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way”
There are very few people I know who don’t relate to the last two lines of the lyrics, “So many things I would have done, But clouds got in my way”. We were all going to be someone, something, successful, courageous, bold and happy. Well, everyone but one of my best pals. All she ever wanted was to be married. And you know what? She’s pretty flipping happy – except for the hectic life of kids, mortgages, jobs and family. Pretty happy indeed.
Some kind of cloud got in our way; athletic talent was poo-pooed by parents, we got rejection letters, we auditioned, but never got the part, our families were poor, we came from war-torn countries, we got old.
I remember my dreams before all those damn clouds got in the way. I was going to be superwoman. I was going to be a writer (or a teacher), marry a wonderfully tall, dark, handsome, well-spoken, sexy man, teach in Africa, and live by the water. I was a reporter for a year before my average-height-red-headed, balding husband and I decided to have kids, and I quit my writing job to take on something with more mother-friendly-hours. I was ecstatic at the time – it was lovely.
Ah, there it goes. Can you see it? Yes, look up, look way up. No, that wasn’t a shooting star, that’s your dream falling out of the sky. But that’s ok. Because we grow up, and our dreams do too. We convince ourselves that we want the big house that we never spend time in. We’re too busy after all, working for our mortgage and car payments, and then oh yah, diapers and car-seats and little wee-shoes give way to braces and high level sports fees for our own little dreamers. I love the-capitalist-love-and-marriage-agenda. It makes me warm in my girly places.
What? You don’t have two cars a house and a cottage? You might want to see a therapist for that – what is wrong with your relationship? Don’t you have any drive? Sheesh! Grow up would ya’? Would you believe that 88% of ‘coupled’ Canadians wished their partner would kiss them more?! We’re too distracted by what we have, what we want to have, and how to get it – more stuff – to kiss our partners for goodness sakes! What’s the poing of having a partner if you’re not smooching all the time? Make love not war my fabulous readers. Giddy-up with the necking.
Joni’s lyrics reminded me of just having read Henny on the Couch by Rebecca Land Soodak. I could both relate to and was repelled by the main character. It’s a book about a woman who comes face to face with her young-adult dream of becoming an artist, and a man from her past whom she desperately needed approval from before she would let herself realize her dream.
Huh? Funny how the books we read come to us at the right time. For the longest time after getting a divorce I thought that I still wanted the marriage, kids, and all of the material trappings that seem to come along with it. It’s a cookie-cutter life that barely breathes, and the most pathetic of participants talk about their ‘passions’ over mediocre wine and big-box gluttony. The average nine-to-fiver doesn’t have time for passion – they have time for hobbies. Enough with the over-used passion bullshit. After being chewed up and spit out by the universe ( I don’t learn lessons easily as I’m as stubborn as a cat), I realized that wasn’t what I wanted at all. Ever. It was what I was supposed to want. Insert man for second-income and obligatory, marital sex. Screw passion.
Recently, like Kara Caine Lawson, I was reacquainted with a lover that had faded out of my rear-view window years ago. He was tall, dark, handsome, mysterious, and I hung off his every word. Meeting him again after more than a few years, I was no longer attracted to him. Granted he is still tall, dark and handsome, he is no longer mysterious. I think I mistook inauthenticity as mystery, and although he’s intelligent as hell (and I do find that uber-sexy), it’s his confidence that gives him an edge. Years later and more experience under my belt, I’m as confident as he is, and see quite clearly through his facade, even after a few glasses of bubbly. Facades just aren’t sexy boys. We want real, and raw and that, my darling ones, is very sexy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a strong, warm man next to me – or whatever position we happen to be in-snuggled up in bed. I love the intimacy and companionship of a lover and friend. Just the other day I met a handshake grip that would make any woman quiver, and when those fingers dial my number, my answer will be yes! Yes! YES! Who knows, maybe he will be the next Mr. BothSidesNow.
And at the same time as having fun dating and holding out hope for my best-friend-whom-I-like-to-get-naked-with, as a working woman and a mother, I cherish the time that I have to create, and nurture my creativity.
My days at the Art Gallery are not just time spent gawking at pictures and sculptures. It inspires my own writing and art. My hours at the keyboard aren’t merely whimsy, it’s compulsive. I have to do it or I feel bound and gagged, and not in a sexy fish-net-necktie-around-my-wrists-kind-of-way. My friendships are all ingredients to that creative stew I call life.
When I travel, my souvenirs are art. I’ve always said that art is an expression of the human spirit that no amount of oppression can kill. In fact, I find that oppression simply adds fire to the belly when it comes to creativity. When the human spirit is distilled down to its purest form the paintings are beautiful, the words are finely edged,the dance is more delicate, and the music more haunting. Speaking of music, back to Joni…
Of all of the verses, this one does remind me of me the most,
“Oh but now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost but something’s gained
In living every day”
Yes, indeed. Something has changed. I don’t want what I’m supposed to want, on someone else’s terms, compromised to the point of suffocation. The last relationship I was in almost completely suffocated my spirit. I was so busy trying to make someone else happy, I had little energy to breathe any life into what sustains my own self; what makes me smile, and what I believe has made me so darn irresistible to the men-folk lately. I tend to think that Ella’s, The Lady is a Tramp is more my style – except the bit about California of course. Who doesn’t love San Francisco?
So, yes, as the song goes, I have looked at clouds from both sides now. I can see the wonder of both sides, the give and take, the sacrifice and triumph, the agony and the ecstasy. It all asks for its own pound of flesh. I’m enjoying my quiet time to write, paint and reflect AND I’m also enjoying the tantalizing temptation of all of those wonderful men out there who are concerned with the way they show up in the world every day – and I’m not talking about whether to wear the brown or black, or whether their t-shirt is tight enough. Oh my God indeed, what happened to me, to you, to us?
I do believe that women struggle much more than men trying to fulfill duties in relationship while balancing their own needs. Ok, bitch, comment, say I’m sexist, whatever you like. BUT, for the majority, I think that expectations for women far exceed those of men today. We are still old maids if we don’t get married. We are still the ones who are whispered about if our houses are not immaculately clean. We are the ones responsible for school lunches, study time, and healthy children. We have the same career demands and expectations that men had in the 1950’s, and get paid less too.
If you’re reading this, male or female, and you’ve lost your mojo, asking, “What happened to you?”, I’d suggest kicking back in the tub with a glass of wine and your iPod. Listen to Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now, and crack open “Henny on the Couch”. You may not have to give up your lover/partner/spouse to get it balanced out, you might just have to get to know yourself a little bit better again so that they can too. Throw in a little ‘Superfreak’ at the end, just to get it, whatever ‘it’ is for you, revved up again.
Take some time to figure out what happened to you.