Two young beauties

Posted on 05 August 2006

Last night Gill made a wonderful dinner (starting with a green salad flavoured with strawberries, plums, and goat cheese) for Bedding, Susan, David, Alina – a young Russian violin player who will be studying in Paris this fall – and me. At one moment in the evening, when Gill was preparing caramelized apples, she and Alina were whispering and laughing in the kitchen. A delight to the ears – two young beauties, one light, one dark, excited about life.

Later in the evening, I introduced Mary Oliver to our guests. No one except Gill and I had heard of her.

The evening was more than enjoyable yet when I woke this morning, I was gripped by fear and despair. I see it as self-sabotage. I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see.

Speaking of mirrors, I have had several illuminations over the past few days. I am going to quote from my journal.

If I believe that I am doing the best I can and that every other person is doing her or his best, then I will be happier. I will be more accepting of self and others.

I recall one man who had a happy marriage. When asked his secret, he replied that every morning he looked in the mirror and said to his image “you are no great thing.” In this way, he kept his humility and silently, or not, was grateful to his wife for spending time with him.

In “Enchanted April”, one woman who was disenchanted with her husband one day realized that she was “stingy” with her love and so put all effort into being generous. Her marriage became a marvellous thing.

I pause here. Within my marriage, I have often felt a failure. I thought I lacked the key to his heart. If only I could find the right words or gestures, he would open himself to me, be able to express his love. I wanted to ignite him. I see now that there are no magic words or gestures: I am not a magician. He is who he is. I cannot change him. He does the best he can.

This is difficult for a woman who believes in pushing herself to express all in words, who indeed loves words, who knows their power.

Many many years ago, I met a man who shared my passion for words. After several meetings, he sent me a letter describing our conversations. What astonished me was how well he listened and observed. He quoted me, described my facial expressions and body language. And then he said that he had not asked me to make love because it would have been “too conventional”, a married woman “profiting” from the absence of her husband. I laughed out loud at the word “profiting” but admit that I was pleased: I had never thought of myself as desirable.

I pause here again. How could I not have know? I am a married woman with children. The only reason that I can come up with is that I am no good at subtleties. I need words to know what another is thinking. I hate guessing games. Oh yes, I can project my own thoughts but they are too often wrong and I am seldom generous with myself. Silence frightens me. I have a vivid imagination and within it, I project my own feelings of despair.

At the end of his letter, this fellow lover of words, said that if his words didn’t offend me, I was to write him about my past, my dreams, and fantasies. I sent him a thank you note and thus began around two years of correspondance that can only be described, in Henry Miller’s words, as “a literary fuck feast.”

I cannot even begin to describe the pain and pleasure the letters caused… and the relationship ended badly but never, ever, neither then or now, did I, do I regret the experience.

Two days ago, in the village, after so many years, I saw the man and his wife sitting on the steps of a friend’s house, smoking. My heart started pounding. I swallowed my fear and approached them. They smiled at me. I smiled and kissed them on each cheek. Within minutes, I was calm. We sat and talked, catching up on each others’ lives. At some point in the conversation, I thanked him for his writing and presence in my life. “You woke me up.” He seemed surprised though I really do not know how he felt. We left it at that.

Strange is it not, how a stranger can move us, cause turbulent emotion, force us to assess everything that we have ever believed about ourselves? His letters caused me to expose a person that I didn’t know existed inside of me. I liked that person.

Several years after the “affair” ended, I read Rosemary Sullivan’s book on obsessive affairs of the heart. She explained, if I remember correctly, that such relationships are important. They provide a mirror to both parties – a mirror in which both are magnified to twice their original stature. For a woman especially, this is a gift as she most often thinks of her self – her looks, her talents – as lesser rather than greater than they actually are. And though it is necessary for the mirror to crash, for the individuals to come back to earth, it is always with a more realistic picture of their capabilities.

And so it was good to sit and talk to this couple, to see the attraction, to not feel the old tugs at the heart, to say thank you and bring all to a kinder conclusion.


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