Checkpoints

We all make our choices, and I thought I’d have more to show for mine by now. But that doesn’t mean they were the wrong choices, or that I’d necessarily want the things I thought I’d have to show. Or the things I see other people showing.

I am on the road as we all are, but I don’t need to hit the checkpoints that other people have set. I’ve set my own. And they may take longer to reach, and it may be a more tiring journey, but that’s okay, because that’s the path I’ve chosen. And for that path I am right on track. It may just be that my journey requires more faith, because the checkpoints are further away, or there aren’t so many people up ahead of me to validate the route I’m taking.

We have the right to choose our own checkpoints. And perhaps the responsibility, depending on how you look at it. The world doesn’t make it easy, but it’s important to remember that that doesn’t make it wrong. Our internal compass is a far more accurate method of navigation than following the landmarks that others have decreed.

Wordgame: Anselm

I’m not the type of person who can walk into an major art gallery and name all the artists. I appreciate art. I have, to a very limited extent, studied art. But I’ve never been very pro-active about the whos and whats and wheres.

Anselm Kiefer, though, left an impression.

I saw a piece by Anselm Kiefer on a school trip to London and I was awestruck. I couldn’t articulate why, exactly. I just was. In love, and in awe, and in pain. I didn’t know anything about the artist, or have any clue of what the piece was, but it didn’t matter. He had me. And follow-up research confirmed my bias. But I didn’t honour the connection; I left it at that.

Ten years later, in Forth Worth, Texas, I entered the Modern Art Museum, and as soon as I rounded the first bend, my feet glided, hastily and of their own volition, across the gallery floor, toward a large canvas on the opposite wall. Anselm Kiefer, my entire body whispered with reverence. I’m gonna feel really fucking stupid if it isn’t, just a tiny little part of my brain warned with trepidation.

It was.

And the date I had left standing at the other end of the gallery, with no explanation, was enamoured with the display.

Do I think that might have been why, the next day, as I was heading to catch my train, he asked me to stay with him, despite the fact we’d met only three days ago? And do I think that might have been why, for months afterwards, he sent me messages to tell me of his plans to improve himself and his life, in what seemed like a desperate attempt to win me over? Well, yeah, actually.

If humans can project emotion – and they can – what I was projecting in that moment was profound. Vibrant, intense, ecstatic, pure. It was beyond me as much as it was within me. And if he caught it, well, that would be it. It’s the kind of thing you would chase.

Wordgame: Split

I have had two memorable experiences of a visceral split in my life. I’m not referring to a mere change in external factors, but rather a feeling deep within me of being torn asunder.

The first, when Polaris disappeared, was abrupt, catastrophic and incomprehensible. The only way I could describe it at the time was as the Universe being split in two, and I felt desperately stranded on one side of the chasm. The second, when I was embarking on a relationship with the father of my child, began as a bizarre and uncomfortable stretching, until eventually I felt that I, myself, had split in two. I could choose where to place my consciousness, but I wasn’t fully present on either side, and the halves were irreconcilable.

I hypothesise that this splitting was the sensation of disconnecting from my true self.

When I met Polaris I was very disconnected. I was broken and beaten from a lot of toxic situations that I had, to a large extent, willingly endured. I was exhausted and disillusioned; living in the aftermath, in a world that had become desaturated. Polaris brought colour. He wasn’t the only one; I was experiencing a pivotal moment with or without him, but he was a significant catalyst. He mirrored to me the parts of myself I had mistakenly disavowed, and highlighted the parts I had carelessly betrayed. He confronted me with all the things I wanted to be.

And he started doing this, it must be mentioned, unknowingly, before we’d even spoken, because of the way life delivered him to me. I was incredibly resistant to the very idea of him at first, despite also being inexplicably compelled. There was even an aspect of revulsion. But he kept being presented, and the resistance developed into curiosity. When we finally did speak, it didn’t take a lot. A floodgate was opened within me, and the ensuing torrent was thrilling, terrifying and confusing in equal measure. And it carried me. To a different place. To a beautiful, fantastical place, drenched in power and possibility. And I resisted that too.

Until I didn’t. And the moment I fell hook, line and sinker for the fantasy, he was gone. Presumably, because his work was done.

But mine was not. Because I had attached him to the fantasy. I had attached him to the power and possibility. I had attached him to the sense of wholeness I had found. And when he left my life, I felt suddenly bereft of all the beauty I had so recently discovered. I had no idea how to reclaim it.

I spent the next years trying diligently. Learning, and working to accept, that all of that beauty was actually within me.

By the time I met Babydaddy I was in the best place I’d even been, and I’d gotten there on my own steam. But I was still fragile. Untested. Unweathered. Babydaddy presented a challenge to my healed chasm. He still lived with a rift whose magnitude rivalled my own in younger years. At first, the challenge was fine; it felt like an opportunity for growth. Intimate contrast. An exercise in holding my ground in the face of his fear. And that was the stretching. I was dubious about living that way long term, but it felt valuable and instructive in the moment.

When I got pregnant, though, the scale tipped. The challenge was too great. I let my own chasm gape once more. I knew how to vault over it now, so I wasted much of my energy doing so, in order to avoid the real work. I wasn’t bereft this time, just exhausted from straddling incompatible worlds. I had to make a choice: disconnect from the beautiful, fantastical place I had worked so hard to recover, or leave the relationship and heal my chasm once again. It wasn’t a choice. But I still took too long to make it.

During the second, incremental split, I had been aware that it was happening. But I didn’t trust myself to know what was best. I didn’t trust, in the face of opposition, that I could live in beauty and grace. I conceded that I must be wrong about the world. That I needed to let go of the fantasy, and this was the way to do it.

It wasn’t. Because that wasn’t true for me. I was living a life that wasn’t true for me. I was out of integrity. Denying myself wholeness. Denying myself a sound structure. I made myself unseaworthy.

I’d like to think I’ll never make that mistake again. But life is long, and full of twists and turns. Who knows what calamity could emerge to shake my very foundation? And every new day is an opportunity for microfissures to appear. All it takes is a little complacency, and I’ll be splitting down the middle all over again.