Recently, I came across an old picture on my phone. Six years ago. A friend, two toddlers in a sandbox, a baby crawling and two Labradors. I am behind the camera and behind the image is my once-beloved mountain. We often referred to that spring day as The Perfect Day and so I could not help but send the photo to her and say, “remember that day?”
“Yep,” she said. “The perfect day.”
And then we laughed and laughed.
Because of course, it wasn’t perfect. Nothing about either of our lives was perfect on that day, in that moment of time, in that cathedral of spring and babies and dogs we created for ourselves. Her marriage was a volatile vortex of abuse and control kept under neat wraps and mine was a chaotic tailspin of alcoholism. Neither of us, at that point in time, had even scratched the surface of disclosing those facts to one another.
So we laughed, I suppose, because of how naïve we were. How helpless we both were, how much more hardened to life we are also, I imagine, with shaky sighs that we’re free now. And then we moved on, because sometimes thinking about those days is crushing. Even when it’s the past.
In the same vein, while searching some things I had written I came across a poem I wrote on May 10, 2017. Its hard to read that journal, and truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have delved but I was looking for a quote that I never found. I don’t often write poetry, but on that night I scratched out 3 or 4, and I distinctly remember feeling that the words were crawling out of me, as though if I did not get them on paper they would consume me.
There was once this girl.
And she loved dogs, and the moon, and dreams and kissing.
She loved words and conversations
over wine and cigarettes
She loved memories and nostalgia and summer
Music and road trips and
She had dreams and aspirations and a build-up of soul
And she just didn’t know how to mold it, how to cultivate her own world
She let someone else take over.
There are always two roads and she, my friend…
She took the easy one.
She cashed herself in with a blind eye
She built love out of nothing more
than a vision
of white picket fences and
She traded herself.
And if I’m being truly, truthfully honest, I can sit and blame PC for everything (which I really don’t do anymore, but I’m making a point, stick with me) and I can talk about how its not fair and I can talk about how he did lots of horrible things to me and I didn’t deserve that. All of that is true.
But what’s also true is that I absolutely cashed myself in. I put myself on hold because I was afraid to be who I really was. I was terrified of failure and rejection. And a future of marriage and babies and a house with someone who was halfway decent and stable seemed the safe way to go. The easy way.
(I got the marriage, the house, and the babies. I did not, in any sense of the word, have a partner who was halfway decent or stable.)
And therein lies the lesson of truth. Truth trumps everything. Truth in your word, truth in your actions, truth in your love. Truth in who you are. Shakespeare said, “To thine ownself be true” and this, above everything else, must happen for an authentic life to occur.
In the simplest of examples, I will leave you with this. The cliff notes version: I was put in touch with the person who bought and now lives at my old house, the idyllic setting of The Perfect Day. In the course of a text conversation with House Guy, it came to light that we share some similar interests, we are the same age, both divorced, blah blah blah. It then shifted to this person asking me out, professing his “attraction to my intellect” and texting me non-stop for days.
There was nothing wrong with House Guy. Nothing obvious over text anyhow. But the intensity of his pursuit made me uncomfortable and the idea of ever being in the setting of my former life again felt…traumatic. No. No no no. In no world do I want to go on a date with someone, anyone, who lives in that monstrosity on the side of my mountain, no matter how lovely it is.
I thought of ignoring the texts, on the advice of of my BFF, because you don’t owe him any explanations…you don’t even know him. I thought of making something up, but lying doesn’t sit well with me. I danced around the idea that he could be a rapist, and axe murder or a stalker. I consulted my psychic-medium homegirl for advice and in the end?
In the end I just told him the truth. That he seemed quite nice but I was not interested and that yes, some of that had to do with where he lived. In the same way that I could never go back to that perfect day…to that person and that life, I don’t think I could return to a place that ended on such a hellish note. Where the lowest point of my life was. Sorry House Guy. It ain’t happening.
And the subject of my poem? She still loves all the things she loved before. She also accepts that responsibility that she danced around 2 years ago…that she did, in fact, trade herself in. And much like the two girls on the mountain, she still revels in the idea of the perfect day, the perfect moment, the perfect life.
The only thing that has truly changed is her perspective. Her definition of “perfect” still might include a dog, a friend, and springtime in the woods. It just also includes her authentic self, her real self. Her truth.