I had just spent four hours at a tiny, Western-themed, BBQ saloon in a NH summer lake resort town - that was shut down and boarded up for the winter. (The town was boarded up, not the BBQ saloon). I'm not sure if any of the adjectives in that long sentence really go together... but, well, that's where I had been.
It was the kind of dinner where you start as sort-of-strangers and end up completing each others' sentences! Honestly, the only reason we stopped talking and went home was because the saloon closed. And turned out the lights. Then we got the message and left. :-)
We talked about art (all four of us are artists), and work, and ex-husbands, and then... labyrinths, quantum physics, manifesting... you know, the usual dinner chatter. But all of this is still new to me. The whole idea of going out to dinner and meeting new friends - especially other "square pegs" - seems so out of my comfort range. But as the evening evolved, I realized that wasn't true. I USED to be more social. I USED to have friends and actually liked leaving my house. I USED to crave adventures and ideas...
One of the ladies asked if I have always felt out of place or did I ever feel like I belonged somewhere. No. Nothing has ever felt permanent or rooted. When I bought this house and renovated it, painted it, mural-ed it and studio-fied it - then I thought it was "mine." But the divorce showed me just how impermanent people and things are. Although I am currently still living here, I know this house is just borrowed.
As we all hugged, climbed into our cars and drove off into the freaking cold, dark night... I kept thinking "did I ever feel like I belonged?"
I was in a good mood though and didn't want sad thoughts bugging me so I turned up the radio. I found myself singing along to "Red Red Wine" and that's when I had the Vision. It was so strong I knew that if I closed my eyes and then opened them again (too bad I was driving a car at the moment!) - I would see the canals of Venice in front of me. I was seventeen years old. Just graduated from High School. I had my left arm hooked with my friend Christie's elbow. We were sharing a Walkman, dancing over the Rialto Bridge. We sang "Red-red-wine you make me feel so fine..." as we twirled around tourists. I could feel the sun, the blisters on my feet from walking around Italy for weeks, the blush on my cheeks when an Italian guy smiled at us... my absolute joy in just being alive and in that particular moment.
|Me and Jen and Jen in Venice, Italy. Age 17.|
And then I was driving along I-89 again. In the dark. 44 years old with two kids and 27 years of later experiences that are not nearly as vivid as that one moment in Venice. It hit me that one of my kids is almost the age I was in that vision. And then, weirdly enough, I suddenly understood WHY vampires are usually around 17 years old. All these Twilight stories and Vampire Diaries I've been reading have characters who are struggling with the idea of being "frozen" as a teenager. In Twilight, besides the whole issue of becoming a soul-less, blood-sucking monster, Bella's big dilemma is if she becomes a vampire as a teenager, she will stay that age forever and never get to experience a normal, human adulthood. But when she becomes a vampire (sorry to spoil it for you) not only does she stay young forever, but every sense becomes heightened. She sees, hears, tastes... experiences life in a way mere humans can't. Huh. Maybe "adulthood" is overrated? I think I had done most of my forming and "becoming me" by the time I was twenty. Everything after that seems like just check marks on a "to-do list" for adults.
|Christie and Me in London. Age 17.|
Now that I am on my own again and trying to figure out who I want to be...
I want to be the person I was when I was 17. I'm not saying I want to give up all the experiences I've had since then, or my kids, or any of my life. But I want to be that person who felt anything was possible. I never felt like I had all the time in the world, as some teens feel. Doctors had put an expiration date on me. But maybe that added to the sense of "nothing to lose" and "do it now or never."
When I got home tonight, I went looking for my scrapbook of my adventures to find a photo to show you. I haven't looked at them in a long time. I was stunned by all the other places I went that year and the next... besides Italy, I went to Japan and Egypt and Mexico... and Brown University and School of Visual Arts and RISD... so much packed into one scrapbook (and there were at least 6 other books on that shelf I haven't looked at!) Time and stories whizzing by!
I had another memory of being on a train hurtling through the Italian countryside. Windows wide open because everyone in my car was smoking. It was so hard to breathe - I had my head out the window. A station sign flew by that read "POMPEII"! And with all my soul I wanted to stop the train and explore Pompeii! How could we just pass by a place I had wanted to visit all my life? But it was gone, and I still have never been back there.
And now time, like that train, feels like it is moving so fast and I don't know where it's going. I see things flying by and wish I had the courage to scream "stop the train" or the courage to just jump off and explore. I get glimpses of things I want to do or try, even knowing they could be big failures, and I do think I am brave enough to try... but the prescribed steps or the acceptable way of proceeding - especially at my age - are highly distasteful to me. And while I am trying to reinvent the wheel... the train keeps moving...
"Did I ever feel like I belonged...?"
Yes. The vision of Venice reminded me that I DID once feel like I belonged. But it wasn't in a house, or a town, or even with a group of friends. I belonged in a moment. In myself. In a feeling. All these years of "trying" to fit in - as a wife, a mom, a board member... whatever... I managed to forget who I was.
Last year, my focus for the year was on "learning" - I overdosed on taking classes! This year, my word for the year is "Excavate." Like the archaeologist I intended to be, I will use my training to spend this year excavating the layers, the stratigraphy, of my life and my art. Some things may be better left sealed in a tomb! But it seems worth the risk to me, now, to see what jewels may still be buried there. Besides, "excavate" sounds so much better than "regurgitate," don't you think?