Beautiful Words, Pt 4

I’m reading The Mothers by Brit Bennet at the moment.

There’s a beautiful quote about loss in there.

“But Aubrey just squeezed her hand because she too understood loss, how it drove you to imagine every possible scenario that might have prevented it.”

And man did this quote strike a chord with me.

Though with time it’s happening less and less (which has been turly fulfilling to see), I still catch myself wondering what went wrong with Pete. What we could have done differently. The past few days there’s been one memory I keep going back to. Strangely it was during a really wonderful time for us. Pete’s family was visiting Portland for the first time. We went south to Crater Lake for a weekend. It was all of our first time.

We were exploring the park. We had visited the lodge and done some shopping. We went to the visitor’s center and saw the movie about Crater Lake. And then we were told the hike we planned on going on was still snowed off. It was June. But we were quickly redirected to another popular and not-too-challenging hike. Now we were going to climb down to the lake instead of up to the mountains.

The climb down was easy and fun. Pete, his brothers, and I went ahead.

I’m starting to realize now how much ease I find when hanging out with people younger than me. It’s like all this pressure I constantly find myself under is suddenly lifted.

Anyway, us younguns were ahead. The lake was beautiful. Truly the most beautiful site I’ve ever seen. The lake is an astounding shade of blue that’s almost hard to process as a natural color.

When we got to the bottom we saw people were jumping off this cliff into the lake.

I think Pete’s middle brother went first.

Then Pete.

Then his dad.

Then, after some cojoling and convincing, his youngest brother jumped in accompanied by his dad.

Pete and his middle brother each went in again.

His middle brother may have jumped in a third time.

Something Pete always kept telling me when we were together was that he wanted us to create memories together. He was always urging me to do things that kind of scared me. And by always, I mean this summer. And any time I asked him why he was so persistent, he’d say “I want us to have shared memories.”

A couple days ago, for the first time I found myself thinking not about our fights or our misunderstandings or our quiet, tense evenings. I found myself not longing for our first few months together, or the first time we made up after a fight, or the ease of the comfort we forged together. I found myself, rather, thinking about Crater Lake. And wondering what would have happened if I had jumped in, accompanied by Pete, the way his youngest brother and father had done.

I let myself linger on that, dreamily, and then I let it go, thinking, maybe next time I’m at Crater Lake, I’ll take that leap.

Be Cliché this Valentine’s Day

Ever since I moved to the US 18 years ago, Valentine’s Day has fascinated me. I think I immediately started using the day as an opportunity to hope that my crush would reveal their undying like (not love…guys I was 8) for me.

It’s easy to see where I always set myself up for disappointment. And I can’t say too much has changed. I mean, I’m older now. A few guys have actually told me that they like me (even loved me! I’m 26 now so that’s more acceptable). And sometimes I was even in a relationship on Valentine’s Day. But I don’t think I’ve ever not been disappointed.

After years of absolutely hating this day, this year, after by far my saddest separation ever, I’m finding a lot of peace with it. Don’t get me wrong, the week leading up to this day has been HELL. And now that the day is finally here, I’m a little sad, and I can feel some low grade anxiety just chilling in my throat, but I’m also not catatonic, I’m not angry at the universe, or scared that I’ll be alone forever.

One reason for my sadness is that it took me until yesterday to realize that for all the pressure and stress I put on February 14th, all I ever wanted was for the guy I liked/loved to give me something cheesy/cliché/romantic. Just some chocolates and a rose (or a red carnation in high school). A teddy bear maybe. Just something.

I think I started feeling ashamed that I bought into this holiday. Ashamed that I wanted something so silly and cliché. But as Pete is wont to say “Clichés, as banal and superficial as they might seem, always express a great unbearable truth.” (and yes, I texted him on Valentine’s Day so I could quote him. So sue me).

I’m just sad that a year ago, when I was with a man I loved who loved me too, I didn’t have the knowledge to say “I don’t want anything big, but I would feel so special and loved if you bought me something cheesy for Valentine’s Day.” Or even the strength to just go and buy them for myself. Because that’s what I ended up doing yesterday. And it didn’t feel sad or desperate like I worried it would. It felt good. And kind. And loving.

Instead, I tried to hint about Valentine’s Day. I asked if we would do something. And when I didn’t know what I wanted, what to ask for, and therefore didn’t get it, I planted a tiny seed of resentment in me.

So much of a relationship is learning to ask for what you need and want.

So much of self-love and self-care is learning that you are capable of providing most all of those things for yourself. That’s not to say it’s not nice if someone else also provides them for you, but it’s not necessary.

So if you love Valentine’s Day, that’s amazing. Be open about it. Shout it out for the world to hear. Ask your loved one(s) to celebrate it with you. If Valentine’s Day is just another day for you, that’s great too! But don’t bash on someone who does love Valentine’s Day and finds this day hard. Don’t stomp on their truth just because it isn’t yours.

Please find love and empathy for each other, every day, but today of all days. And never feel bad about using a cliché or two!

Beautiful Words, three

The two books I’m exploring this week are very different from each other. Looking for Alaska by John Green is a young adult novel about a heterosexual teenager and his young love for his peer, Alaska. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin is about an American gay man living in Paris in the 1950s and struggling to find his identity. Though so different, they both seem to find a way to explore identity.

Looking for Alaska

Spoken by Alaksa: “You love the girl who makes you laugh and shows you porn and drinks wine with you. You don’t love this crazy sullen bitch.”

Spoken about Alaska: “Do you remember how she could be a selfish bitch? That was part of her and you used to know it. Now it’s like you only care about the Alaska you made up.”

Giovanni’s Room

David: “But I am not a housewife–men can never be housewives. And the pleasure was never real or deep…”

Hella: “It does seem–well, difficult–to be at the mercy of some gross, unshaven stranger before you can begin to yourself…I couldn’t be free until I was attached–no, committed–to someone…From now on, I can have a wonderful time being a woman. But I won’t be terrified that I’m not one.”

Hella: “There are women who have forgotten that to be a woman doesn’t simply mean humiliation, doesn’t simply mean bitterness.”

Hella: “But if women are supposed to be led by men and there aren’t any men to lead them, what happens then?”

Obviously these books speak on different level and thus what I take from them seems to me to be on different levels of profundity. And still, as I sat down and found the quotes that most spoke to me, I felt an instant connection between the two.

I looking for Alaska, there is a clear conflict between who Alaska is and who she is perceived as being. Though Alaska has a deep need to be known for her true self, including the “…crazy sullen bitch,” I also sense a fear in her to share that side of her. She fears that if she does show her true self people won’t love her. So then we see how Alaska is remembered by a boy who does love her. Apparently he has “…made up” his own Alaska who doesn’t ever act as a selfish bitch. But was that because he was blind to this side of Alaska? Was he not willing to accept it? Or is part of love remembering only the good parts of a person? And if you do only remember/love only half of someone’s identity is this real love of a real person, or just love of a character? Is true love despite of someone’s flaws or because of someone’s flaws?

In Giovanni’s Room what I found so interesting is how both these characters struggle with their identities because their identities are entirely defined by their relationships. Specifically, they both believe they must be in heterosexual relationships in order to have an identity. When David tries to actually be in a relationship with another male, he finds himself in a serious identity crisis playing a housewife. For Hella, her entire identity as a woman is entirely dependent upon having a man. Interestingly, David shares a similar sentiment in his struggle to choose between his two lovers. It does seem that Hella cannot allow a true self to even form until she has found a husband.

Giovanni’s Room is honestly a fascinating exploration into gender roles in general, and I highly recommend it as a next read.