I go bravely even though all my cards are played, my house has fallen, my love is broken, and I stand here naked as a babe in the snow. I am blue with the cold of my vulnerability, yet I stand head held high before my demons daring them to come and take me. Is this bravery, this slow suicide we women face because we dared to say no, take a stand, and then find ourselves alone in the elements with no place to turn? If so, I’ll choose this death over the suffocation of your fine cage. You were master, punisher, withholder of love, but no more. I have freed myself and in going free I have taken flight into the chasm of the vast unknown, knowing only that my heart still beats and tomorrow will come whether I have the strength to join it or not. Though my parachute will catch no air and my wings have lost their feathering I will take this fall believing it is better to break and be reborn then to remain whole and unchanged. I go bravely into this world without the insurance of a good life, but with a life, my life, held, captured, grasped tightly in my own two hands.
Just like me, cotton has its own personality. I like the way it breathes against my skin. I like the way it smells, my perfume and natural scent mingle with the finely woven threads. I like the way cotton feels when it glides onto my body. It fits like a second skin the moment I slip into it. At first it’s strong and cool but contact makes it soft, warm and sensitive to every curve of my body.
The dress lies pressed and pleated across the worn back of a kitchen chair. None of my chairs match. Like me, they’re second hand, a little worn but amazingly beautiful; graced with an elegant patina that comes with experience. Pink, turquois, the third is red while the fourth is a green so worn it’s really just the memory of color pressed into oak.
I dress next to the ironing board. It’s old too, but not as old as the chairs. The board lies across the top of my kitchen table, only feet from the 50’s aqua colored fridge that never dies. Glancing at my reflection in the darkened window I see my silhouette; a nude strapless bra and panties glimpsed for a moment before the cotton dress drifts over them.
The dress slides, slipping towards my knees. My arms shimmy through the green and white spaghetti straps that add youth and elegance. I face my reflection, still and ghostlike in the dimly lit kitchen. I smile. My Laugh lines grow through the black and silver curls that frame my face. My body is strong. Long legs look out under the knee length hem; well defined shoulders give way to arms that have held and loved many people.
This is my night. Tonight I’m forty-nine, strong, happy, at home to myself, to my life and ready to celebrate the day of my birth. I pick up my bag and walk through the front door to the waiting cab that will take me anywhere I want to go.
Society is centered on money and prestige. It’s that simple. Even if you were born a happy hippy kid raised on granola and kisses, by now you know that money=prestige=success in western culture. Our cultivated egos value expensive cars, big houses, designer clothes, and exotic destinations. From the moment we mature to the moment we die, the framework of our life is corrupted by the idea that material achievement is a necessary component of happiness.
We are the wealthiest society in the history of creation. This fact alone should ensure our happiness, and yet we are stressed and depressed because we place our values on things that will never love us back. We cultivate riches instead of enriching the relationships that heal us.
Western culture’s definition of mental health coincides with the dominant values of our culture: autonomy, independence and wealth. We are raised in this isolated society to stand alone, be rugged individuals and to be capitalist ground-breakers. A healthier way of being productive would be to move, work and create within relationships. I am reading the book Silencing the Self, Women and Depression by Dana Crowley Jack and I agree with Dana that it is natural, not needy, to look for intimacy in relationships; to cleave to a lover, friends, family and community for support.
Women are far more injured by our western role models because a woman is raised to seek intimacy in relationship, to communicate her feelings, to trust in and nurture others. A man is raised to strike out on his own, to keep his feelings subdued, and to be strong, decisive and courageous. This male role model does not mesh well with the intimacy seeking communicative female model. The sad truth is that men need intimacy just as much as women do; they just aren’t raised to know it.
All of my manuscripts are based on the importance of relational intimacy. As a writer of woman’s fiction, I am constantly looking for new ways to show the beauty of deep sustaining love; between friends, lovers, brothers-in-arms, or sisters of a common cause. Nothing we do in life is more important than the people whose lives we touch with care. Intimacy unearths pain, supports healing and is more valuable than any amount of gold. You cannot take your riches with you to heaven, but you can take the love and compassion you’ve invested in others.