Wednesday, November 21, 2012

protection from cynicism

I rub my finger callouses along the table.

These old fingers peck and strum and emote. I always sing, even though I am a terrible singer. Gilda Radnor took singing lessons in the last year of her life, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She always wanted to sing and so she went to a teacher. She didn't do it for a role, or to sing for anyone. Just for herself. Some weeks, I sit and fantasize about that. Would singing be my wholly selfish indulgence? How self-conscious I have always been about my voice, but how deeply satisfying it is to sing loudly. And in the end, I think I sound fine when I'm alone and no one is listening. It is an ego koan.

What is the sound of Angie singing alone in the forest? Beautiful.

In the time before mirrors and you tube and the eternal quest for self on the internet, did we judge what we looked like? Were we wrinkled and hated it? Were we too fat? I look at myself without mirrors and feel beautiful, fine, goddess-like some mornings, then I have a conversation with an angry someone about fat people, and realize how susceptible I am to the mirror of other people's words. Frankly, I'm embarrassed about that too.

I took my guitar with me to my mother's and unself-consciously sang songs with my daughter, or alone. It felt delicious. My family was emotionally tender and my daughter and I made the room cry. Even I cried. Grief singing. I couldn't go on. It had been ten years since my mother heard me play and sing. Back when I could only play Doll Parts then Jane Says on an unplugged electric guitar, and I whispered the lyrics, if I sang them at all. I admit now my punk rock roots have morphed into songs by Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, Leonard Cohen, Stones, the Velvet Underground. 

These rough fingers run down my husband's cheek and he smiles. 

I love when you play guitar.

You do?

Yes. It feels like home.

My soul callouses are worn down, softened. It makes hurts more hurt-y, but it is for the best. I'm not going to work on those cynical chords that recreates the hardness I wore proudly. Sam comes out of left field right after the dude and the conversation about fat people, just when I am feeling shitty and isolated, and says something amazing. He kisses me and tells me that I am gorgeous. Then he asks me if I feel lucky that I am not married to that man.

Oh, you are a mean old daddy, but I like you.

My husband is growing a beard for me and took next week off. After months of sixty hour weeks, I will scratch his whiskers and sit on his lap and call him our Old Man. I keep singing these songs about heartbreak and none of them are about what I think they are about. They are about something beautiful and hopeful.

We wanted to take a trip during his time off. Iceland, we begged. Then just to drive west. To California. The sequoias that swallow cars. Or into the cold rain forest, bed down on some mossy nook, make a sad fire, and sing songs about how we are each other's sunshine. I guess it is kind of square to talk about Joni Mitchell and making a fire. I don't care anymore. I gave up feel self-conscious about squareness when I turned thirty-eight. It didn't work out. The trip, I mean. Travel and gypsy campers, but the thought was enough. We have bills after all, and Christmas gifts. We have this home we built with its strange long horns and collection of small dead insects.. 

I pull a talisman card and it says, "Protection from cynicism." I need that more than any prayer. Maybe that is the prayer:

Help me release cynicism and cranky irony and sarcasm.
Help me let go of the bitter ennui that is the bedfellow of the eternally cool. 
Let me release the cynicism about where I fit in. 
Help me remember that I fit in here. With the bearded man and his barefoot kids dancing to Joni Mitchell's love songs, the ones that sound exactly like break-up songs.

I bought a horn pitcher at an antique shop. It was for my husband's birthday, but on the day, I didn't give it to him. It seemed a little strange, and besides what will we do with this thing? I put it on my altar, and today I had the strong urge to give it to him. So I did. He told me it was perfect to have in our collection of weird antique things. 

I didn't start out writing about my husband. I read the Shack this week. I cannot tell you how many times it has been recommended to me, the pluralist babylost gypsy. I'm not sure what I think of it, but forgiveness and love and the ideas of judgment were more than appealing. And yet there was this deeply cynical part of me that felt self-conscious reading that book at all. It is the wanting-to-be-cool part of myself. Can I divorce that from what I felt about the book? As I read, that part reared up and wanted to tell the book to Fuck off, and throw it, and listen to music that no one has heard of yet. And so I am still parsing out what I think, but I keep the talisman across my chest.

This week I began meditation paintings other than jizos or about grief. It felt strange and liberating and fulfilling. In that space of letting go of cynicism, it made me feel like I was finally be authentically me. And a year ago, painting angels would have felt like anything but the me I thought I was. I am working on releasing cynicism, and non-forgiveness, but it is a long hard road. I keep singing California, even when not at the guitar, and it makes me miss a place I never loved, and a woman I never looked like.

1 comment:

  1. I love how much your husband loves you.
    I totally get the self consciousness about what you look like. I always say that it is just our shell. We didn't choose it. It is all we have, so we should love it and take care of it. I wish I didn't care if I looked good, or was thin....mostly I just wish I felt strong and healthy...both of those are not how I feel right now.
    I think it is great to fantasize about trips. Even if they are never taken. A dream is lovely, I do it a lot and hope some of them come true someday.

    If you miss California and a woman you never looked like, maybe I can be that reflection.

    strum on my friend.


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