Jessalyn Wakefield - Dallop O Dallas (ALAK Cover)
Jessalyn Wakefield - Dallop O Dallas (ALAK Cover)
Carl Mydans - Horace the Irish hare in midair, 1956.
Anyway, that’s all to say, it’s been a dead time. From an email several weeks ago to M: It’s funny. This is perhaps the most devastating break up I’ve ever had, I’d never tried to ACTUALLY be someone’s partner before, in a lifelong kind of way, but the sorrow is much less drippy, much less dramatic, than I’ve ever experienced. It’s very sober. Stark. It allows me a lot of functionality, but when it comes around again, it is very heavy.
And, curiously or not, it has been the quickest for me to move through. There is no story in the guise of hope to cling to. There is nothing romantic in genuine unkindness.
This morning, watching a flock of dead oak leaves drift on a barely perceptible wind, this the first truly cold morning: the sensation of a green frond unfurling in the center of my chest: a physical buzzing, resonating with an unknown frequency.
In January I began taking voice lessons. Every bit of instruction has been metaphysical, from the way to breathe to discovering the upper registers: Jessalyn, you’re encountering a new part of your personality and you are getting to know it. Or, Jessalyn, I want you to give 25% less effort. Or, most importantly, and over and over: Your body knows how to do this. Trust your body.
Your body knows how to do this. Today I am restless and activated. It’s been five months since I impulsively left for Philadelphia and New York. Five months in one place. This might be a record for me. Over a bottle of wine on my studio floor, Rachel asked me, ‘Do you think you’ll be in Portland for a while?’
And it seemed kind of silly. ‘Of course I will. I love it here. I mean, unless I have to leave.’
‘Why would you have to leave?’
‘I don’t know. It just happens. Circumstances.’
She asked for examples. The kinds of circumstances. I floundered. There were no stories. I changed the subject. Because there is never a story. I just feel the pull in my body, and I say yes. Why New York. Why Taos. Why Los Angeles. Why Portland. Why San Francisco, or Chicago, or Nashville, or Newport, or Sacramento, or the 101, or Lone Pine. Why anywhere.
In C I had a partner who would say yes to my motion, and in motion we were our very best. My reaction to our split was to cultivate as much security and stability as I could muster. Four corners. A place of my own. A full time job. The RV in storage. New dresses. A houseplant. Markers of ordinary adulthood. Like the compulsion to swallow dirt when your body is desperate for iron. And then to wake up, in wonder and horror, at what your body needed you to do.
Two daily spells I practice: the first goes: if it feels like something is happening, then it is. The second goes: just because it feels like nothing is happening, that doesn’t mean it isn’t.
S.P. once said to me, What do you tell people when their anxieties are because of capitalism? I believe she said this in the context of teaching people with low income stress management techniques, like deep breathing and self-care. But at the end of the day, she said, there’s only so much you can do, because the reality is that the stress of capitalism is inhumane.
What do you tell women when their psychosis is because of misogyny? During our long separation process, and afterward, I felt enormous guilt for not being lovable enough. That because he would not offer the care and affection I desperately craved, it was a failure of mine to present myself as someone who could be loved. Telling M: I became obsessed with preparing meals, this act of care he could not refuse. That there was physical evidence. That I needed evidence that care of any kind was happening, from anyone. The tops of onions. Stems of kale. Glasses of water. Dirty bowls.
Lately, memories of the desert in the winter, and the autumn, and the spring. How you evaporate, how your lips crack and bleed. Cartons of American Spirit Blacks. How I’m too old to smoke those now, without getting sick. Whiskey. Altitude drunk. I don’t remember there ever being much laughter. Walks in the arroyo, walks on the mesa. Sitting very still and watching the horizon. The practice of watching nothing.
The essential thing about private lives is not that everyone has one, but no one knows if the other person has this, or something else.
The sense of permission that comes with living alone has been an ongoing surprise. Every time I remember that I live alone, that I am allowed to do anything I can imagine doing, I feel warmly mischievous, on the border of some mild taboo. Recently: remembering that I can dance. That I can wake at 5 AM, and turn on my lights, and dance.
There is a great deal of processing that immediately follows a separation, because it is necessary for your survival. And then, there is the other kind of processing that needs to happen. The art of pattern recognition. What it means to be able to make choices. Discovering what it is that I cannot choose.
Chloe came to visit and I started feeling sorry for myself the day after she arrived because I knew she’d have to leave. When she left she said ‘Don’t cry.’ And I said ‘I can’t promise that.’ And then I walked to work and I cried and cried. I could not believe how gorgeous autumn in Portland still was. And I thought about how I would like to start practicing having. I have spent a long time learning how to want: learning how to want in kinder ways, learning how to want more accurately, learning to want at all. And it seemed obvious at that moment, crying, loving autumn; that learning to sit with what you’ve called to yourself, learning to care for something you have longed for, is what happens after you get what you want. Learning to love responsibility. This understanding was physical. I had never understood this before.
Rules are ways of imagining what to do.
I have some rules.
I was expecting to fall ill, I mean physically, but this illness surprised me. Shocking in its swiftness and severity and location in my body. I was expecting an illness of the lungs. I was prepared for that. I had made a list of everything that has happened since June. Everything that has changed. It was lengthy. That shocked me too. So I understood why I had slept all winter, had slept all spring.