Monday, December 31, 2012

The Long Reach

I found this quote at the beginning of one of my journals from 1979, attributed to George Duke.

“Life is one long reach for self and relationship.”

I chose love and relationships as guides along my life path when I was 20; I have been faithful to that reach these 33 years. I’ve formed every genre of relationship with all manner of folk: BFFs; friends I occasionally have sex with; friends I never want to have sex with but with whom I am just as honest (maybe more so). Some strangers I've had sex with knowing we will never be friends; some lovers I know, once the romance has passed, will be touchstones throughout my life. Most of the people I meet I will never see again, but we share small truths  - at a party, next to each other at the bar, in line for the restroom – as if it matters.

Not a few of these are soul mates, whether we cross paths many times or only once. We attract each other to learn something, to see ourselves reflected in each other, to be reminded of an insight that has been doused and needs a spark to reignite. Some I can love and release, drifting happily into their orbit now and again. With others, I'm powerless against the gravitational pull of their company, acceptance, affection.

Lying in bed with my pets curled next to me on either side, it occurs to me that their personality types make good analogies for me and my newest relationship - or my Accidental Divine Spark, as I prefer to call him.

He’s the cat. One minute he’s sweet and soft, rubbing up against me, purring in my ear, kissing me, nudging my chin. The next he’s biting me a bit too rough, pushing me away with his back feet while he’s grabbing for me with his front claws. Then he’s elusive, ignoring me, my existence forgotten. When he catches sight of me again, he’ll saunter over for a scratch on the belly, meowing, “Oh yeah. I remember you. You’re that girl I like who treats me so nice." When I call him to me, he'll flick his tail and sprawl out on the floor, just out of reach, eyeing me with detachment. Shrug him off, and here he comes, installing himself across my chest and nuzzling so close I get hair in my mouth.

I’m the dog. The dog never wants to leave my side. If I suggest we go out for a walk, he will lazily roll over, indicating he’d rather just lie there in the warm sphere of my attention. He will gladly gaze lovingly into my eyes for hours, or lie in the crook of my arm in an altered state of euphoria, occasionally stealing a kiss if I turn my head his way. The dog is greedy and selfish with my affection, nudging my hand to keep me stroking him and chasing away his brother (the cat) if he dares come near. He is incapable of deceit, unable to conceal his joy at our reunion after any time apart. When I try to shoo the dog out the door to do his business, he looks forlornly over his shoulder at me several times before resigning himself to his obligations. When I call, he’s back in my arms in a heartbeat.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Love is a Mystery

Love is such a mystery. It has so many personalities, it's schizophrenic. Joni sang, "love is touching souls." That touch, however, can be a tap or a slap, a caress or a knee to the groin. Love can be tender, easy and warm. It can be fierce and fiery. It can be selflessly generous. It can be insatiably greedy. Love can feel like a long-lost friend, or like a kick in the gut. And it can feel like all those things in turn.

It's fascinating how, with one person, it can take years to build a foundation of trust and loyalty, and with another, a few hours of intimacy can leave you wanting to tell them your darkest secrets. It's usually who you least expect, too. A guy who escaped notice one day is suddenly on your mind so much that you can't focus on anything else. Another guy who has been a good friend, confidante and lover gets taken for granted.

I've had the privilege of sharing time with a group of art students in their Vonnegut and Kerouac years, which has ignited this spark of reflection. They are at the edge of that precipice with the bulk of their lives open and ripe with potential before them. It is inspiring and unsettling to me simultaneously.

When I was about their age, I realized that love and relationships were my raison d'etre. It was 1980 and I was 20, in full existential angst mode, believing that life in capitalist America was meaningless. I was such a downer to be with that my group of friends dumped me. They told me they could no longer tolerate my gloomy company. I do remember it as a turning point in my life, one that would shape me from then on. I don't remember how long it took me to come to the resolution, but I can remember where I was.

It was during my second or third year at Wazzu (those years are a blur and do not run in chronological order in my memory -- maybe none of my life does). I was living in a language community called The French House. It was a typical campus four-square, white with a big front porch, lots of bedrooms and a large dining room where about 8 or 10 of us shared meals and company.  My room was on the second floor, with its window looking into the branches of a big  maple tree and the street beyond. I often crawled out that window to sit on the roof and write in my journal or daydream or stew. Across the street was a frat house, from which I first heard Meat Loaf's "Love by the Dashboard Light" blasting from 4ft speakers propped in a window on an early spring day.

One of the residents was a gentle dancing hippie with a slight frame named Brian who sang me David Bowie songs and read me poetry. He lived in the small porch-cum-bedroom at the back of  the house. My bed was pushed up against the window, where we spent many hours there reading and talking and making love. But I digress . . . Brian has nothing to do with this story, just a fond memory.

I was having deep conversations with myself about the meaning of life and the nature of death and the evils of money. I contemplated suicide, but I think I was too non-committal to really be serious about it. Along with Kerouac and Vonnegut, I devoured the complete works of Anaiis Nin, Henry Miller and Tom Robbins.

Reviewing my journals from that time is cracking me up! Where did I get all those pithy quotes, written in calligraphy, like this one from Richard Shelton: "We who care most, who are most ruthless, go for the heart." I was always quoting romantic or lusty poems or lyrics, and writing poems about emotions and relationships. I wrote several "odes" like "Ode to the real" and "Ode to the 19-yr-old." Here's a poem called "Speaking to my heart."

When night trips and 
flat on its black leaden behind
and you can no longer distinguish
the wide grin of the horizon
mocking your very existence,
I search for the words to
express what I'm feeling and,
as usual,
the words knee the emotions
right in their 
bulging crotch;
My throbbing feelings lie assaulted
behind the 
concrete structure 
of a sentence.
Like reaching out into the 
to touch something 
I can't see,
I grab for a hand, 
a heart, anything
to wrap my
forlorn fist around
to let me feel myself, that I am truly real.
As I stand in the darkness 
the noise of wind and traffic
ripping past my chilled
Spanada ears, [WTF??!!]
I know myself,
I know I
and that I am part of everything that is around me.
And still I feel
My existence seems only
partially complete, as if
a body walks with no legs, or 
a heart loves with only one ventricle.
And I will reach even for the 
dimmest star to find
what is missing
in my heart.
And should my heart be still 
then I will give up.

So melodramatic! But after a while I thought, shit or get off the pot. I can kill myself, or can find a reason to live.

I chose life and love. Duh.