"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Friday, June 4, 2010

Soft Eyes

We love our house and a day doesn't go by that one of us doesn't tell the other that simple fact.  The house is not fancy but it is solid, well laid out and just right for us.  There were very few unexpected things we "had" to do but in the past two years we've had the roof repaired (minor); the plumber out several times (minor); the fences repaired (minor); bought two new refrigerators, a dishwasher and a built in microwave oven; repaired the barn roof; put up new siding on the barn (not minor but well worth it!); added guttering; replaced the kitchen counters; and retiled some of the floors.  My in-laws also removed the dated wall paper and we had a painter come in to repaint the interior.  But we expected all that stuff when we bought the place. 

Last week, however, the fifteen year old wall oven went out and the appliance man couldn't get the parts because they quit making them, years ago.  We didn't really expect that.   And you just try finding a thirty inch white built in gas oven, sister.  Other than the $3,000.00 and up fancy schamncy ones, all we could find was a Jenn-Air and everywhere we checked, they didn't have it, anymore, because it has been discontinued.   We debated having the kitchen rewired to electricity (there are tons of electric ovens that size) and we also discussed getting the expensive, $3,000.00 one since we have no intention of moving unless it is in a hearse.  Husband made a last ditch effort to locate a Jenn-Air and miraculously snagged one on Ebay that just happened to be in Tulsa, still in the box, the exact same dimensions as the last oven, being sold by a reputable dealer for $550.00 (regularly $1,200.00).  Okay, then. 

They could have shipped it but I was in the mood for a road trip.   This morning, I drove up along the Turner Turnpike, listening to the radio and enjoying the need for sunglasses.  The Tulsa skyline is very different from the one in Oklahoma City.  OKC has more buildings and they are a mishmash.  Tulsa's look like they came in a set.  

I picked up the oven, ate a cookies from a plateful they'd set out, and drove back through Sapulpa to stop by the Water Street Gallery, a little art gallery where a friend of mine exhibits her art.  I was dumbfounded at both the quality of the art and the low cost.  I am still struggling with reverse east coast sticker shock. 

Then I hit the road to try to make it back in time to take Husband out for a late lunch.

And while I drove, my mind wandered the way it tends to do and I thought about my life and my future and my kids and my friends and all  that.  And I thought about the first (and last) time I ever had a broken heart.  I have decided I will never, never, never, ever, EVER go through that, again. 

As a young woman, I struggled in my first marriage to someone with whom I was not really suited but who I adored and who was a good father to our three children.  A combination of being too young, too proud, too hot headed, too willful, too busy, too stressed, etc. caused the relationship to be frequently loud, painful and frustrating.  But even at the time, I knew I'd never come close to having a broken heart.  I would look into the eyes of women and you can see it - some of them have soft eyes, some sad, some dancing, some happy... and some hard.  I never wanted to be one of those women with hard eyes.  You know the ones I mean.  They look so brittle.  They tend to be angry at their life, disappointed in men, unhappy with their path. 

I married very young and as I grew up, I was like a pieced quilt top made up of me, my children, my family, my hopes, my fears and dreams, my husband, my life experiences, etc.  All of them contributed to who I was.  When my first marriage broke up, I spent some time emotionally mending the rent cloth of my life but even in my darkest hour, my heart was intact.  It never took a sucker punch and when I looked in the mirror, my eyes were weary but not hard.  Darkened, but hopeful. 

The second time I fell in love was different.  He was smart, funny, first a co-worker, then a friend, then a chum, and eventually a confident.  I understood how his mind worked and thought I knew his heart.  He made me laugh.   I trusted him, completely.  I certainly knew he was off limits but I was in a vulnerable place in my life, living alone for the first time with a heart still as tender as when I was a young girl. 

Imagine, if you will, a vat of crimson dye.  Imagine, further, bright, white cotton being plunged into the vat to absorb the red, becoming blood, imagine the smells that arise, the chemical changes that take place, and the dramatic changes not just to the surface, but to the very weave of the fabric at the molecular level. 

That was my soul, permeated with love, emotion, devotion, trust, hope, faith. 

You can see where this is going. 

Of course, there was a trainwreck.   To my heart, it seemed like overnight I went from being in a loving relationship to being an emotional widow.  He'd made few promises but broke them all.  For my part, nothing had been more real in my life.  In contrast, he said he had made a mistake - what we had was only a fantasy.  My emotions reeled.  I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep.  I fled to the Pacific coast to be alone and stood at the top of a waterfall thinking that not hurting would be a very good thing.  Then I slipped - not on purpose - and slid nearly to the edge.  Looking down, I could see where I would fall a good thirty feet onto rocks if I didn't crawl back up the hill.  So I set about doing that.

It took about ten minutes to crawl back up to where I could hold on to the barrier set up to keep fools away from the edge.  I took it slow for fear I would slide and not be able to stop, the next time.  Once I got to the barrier, I rested.  It was summer and I was sweating.   A family arrived and looked at me curiously so I scrambled over, muttering that I had lost my camera (which was true).   I worried that I would become the topic of "Stupid old lady tricks" at their dinner table, that night, and hoped that at least I could serve as a good lesson in what not to do. 

I stayed at the waterfall after the family left and considered my next move while the adrenaline ebbed away.  I didn't want drama.  I didn't want to hurt anyone.  I counted myself ten times a fool for falling in love with him, and him twenty times a fool for being an idiot.  I forced myself to repeat, aloud, that he wasn't coming back.  I forced myself to actually believe it, although that took years to really sink in.  I wrote him letter after letter after letter and burned them all.  I actually burned them because I felt like the fire would make me feel better, notwithstanding the melodrama.  And it did.  And then I wrote more letters.  And I burned them, too.  And when I went back home, I took everything of his, every keepsake, every token I had hoarded that was connected to him in anyway and threw them away.  I even erased his number out of my address files.  I even washed my car.  All I kept was a little rock that I picked up on a beach, once, when I was thinking of him.  But I put the rock away.  And that was still more than I should have kept. 

I had the sense to realize that my brain was affected - the very hardwiring.  We'd been good friends for years and I was used to consulting him on anything from gardening to child raising to work to fishing.  I lost not only my love, but someone who I considered to be a dear, dear friend.  My family and friends didn't know how to help - they hated him when they saw me grieve.  And they all wanted me to say he was horrible and I hated him but I wouldn't.  I didn't.  I just hurt.  I think they wanted me to say I hated him so that I wouldn't be tempted to go back if he asked. 

They didn't have to worry.  Never, never, never, never, would I have put myself through that, again.  Never.  The very thought took me back to that moment at the waterfall, just before I slipped.  Utter misery.   Overwhelmed with pain and anguish.   I don't think I could survive such a thing, again.

Sometimes, after all these years, I awake suddenly in the night and realize I have seen him in my dreams.  There is nothing I can do about it.  My cloth is now crimson.  But when I look into the mirror, my eyes are sadder, but no harder.  When my family and friends wanted me to hate him and blame him, I resisted.  I was battling for my soul,  I believe I won.  I'm sure I did.

If a new baby is a common little miracle, a broken heart is a common little tragedy.  So here's to all my sisters who have been there and never want to go back.
Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl


Stephanie D. said...

This feels like it was meant for someone in particular. I hope she gets it, but even if I'm way off base, I appreciate your sharing this.

Thearica said...

This is very thought provoking.

We all deal with things differently and I am one who found it was easier to mend if I allowed myself to be mad as hell. In the beginning I asked for a friendship to exist but the other party wanted no part of it....so be it.

I find my self thinking about him occasionally but as soon as I realize I am doing so, I put him as far back in the recesses of my mind as I can get him.

I know I need counseling....

Carol said...

Oh my - I read our blog through tears. It is good to know I am not alone. Thank you for sharing.

Florida Farm Girl said...

You preserved your own soul in your way. That's a hard task but to succeed is one of life's greatest joys.

Tootles said...

thank you...your blog caught me off-guard but welcomed. i need to start a campfire...

SisterOfTheDivide said...

I love the analogy of your life being like a quilt, so spot on. I can relate, and it's a beautiful image.

SisterOfTheDivide said...

And through out our lives, what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger...you seem like an amazing woman, full of strength...as I read your blog, I thought you were writing my life from somewhere inside my head...we have traveled a very similar path.