Tuesday, January 16, 2007

up from the depths

It took a trip to JC Penneys to make me realize I've been slowly dying, and I couldn't see it. Like a person falling under water, disoriented and unable to swim up to the light as it grows dimmer and dimmer, I stopped fighting and began to breathe in liquid, growing less and less conscious of how it feels to be alive. The descent happened over a long period. Our home had been chaotic for years, and somehow the chaos began to seem normal, and no peace the way things are supposed to be. Our home was stampeded by police, twice, and my son led off in chains-first to juvie, then prison. He was living a double life, and that life encroached upon ours until it was impossible not to be affected by it, even though we were all along and I accepted it. I've heard that kidnap victims who are captive for long periods begin to adapt to their lives. At first it really is for survival's sake, but then, it becomes the norm, and the most inhuman ways of living and being treated seem right. Or victims of sexual sadists-the first thing that happens is the perpetrator begins to push the boundaries of accepted and normal just past what they ought to be until the victim accepts deviant behavior as normal. The mind is a funny thing and will protect itself until the self-protection mechanism is no longer needed and is either cast off or clung to unnecessarily.

It was the sudden realization that I need clothes that led me to Penneys. I drove there after my Friday meeting, just wanting to look. I began to feel I needed some nice clothes for church and in general. I actually wanted a pair of pin-striped pants. Now I know this sounds like a silly thing to be an epiphany, the most normal impulse for a woman in the world. But then I got inside and looked at the racks and racks of beautiful, new clothes. Dance music began to play over the intercom into the store, and I felt a tremor go up my back and my fingers begin to tingle. It felt like I hadn't been out to a store to look for clothes just for me in years. I didn't even know where to start. Earlier in the day I had a similar impulse to get my hair done. Again, it's the most normal thing in the world for a woman to want, but this time I wanted something new and different. It mattered to me, not just "the same, only shorter". I began to look hard at how I've been living, and I haven't. It feels like someone's hands are reaching frantically into the water to drag me out, and muffled voices are becoming more clear the nearer I come to the surface again. The following day I grabbed my plastic and headed out again, this time for a whole new wardrobe, not just one pair of pants.

I haven't wanted to breathe the air for a long time, and I'm still coughing out water. But somehow, feeling the sun again, seeing the brilliant colors around me and all the activity-I want to be a part of it again. I want to live. I've passed too many days not wanting to at all. At the very worst moments, little things would happen, that like oxygen would put the color back into my cheeks and bring me closer. The days I wanted to stay in bed, letters would come. The days I couldn't stand the thought of another thing, the phone would ring. Pretty soon this was happening more and more, and the better I felt the more I reached for those things, the normal things, being with people, going out, planning fun things, until now I'm breathing and wanting more and more to run. Whatever happens from now on, I don't want to die until it's my time.

I did start drawing today. As I looked around my studio I realized that what I thought was such a long run is only a short jump. I can see what I could not before, the similar threads joining my work, the uniqueness of what I do. I guess the clothes and hair were another way of saying the same thing-find out who you are and live that out with a vengeance-let nothing stop you. I will now decide to sail the waters that would have taken me down.


Blogger jules said...

Good for you, girl! Keep on!

7:17 PM  
Blogger joannie said...

Thanks! You, too!

5:07 AM  

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