Warning: this long post has nothing to do with the drawings, which consist of a self portrait and the usual BART passenger as I travel to my dance class. Anyway, it’s kind of a bummer post, but it’s the first time I’m publicly giving voice to the weight I’ve carried.
It’s been a while since I did a self portrait drawing, so there it is… the first one using my left hand. I look kind of old here, even with that barrette. That’s because I kind of am old. I turned 40 years old a few months ago. For my 40th birthday I told no one. My family knew, of course and thankfully they did not broadcast it on facebook. It was around that time that I thought it was time to seek therapy to deal with a friend’s death and my divorce.
My friend died over 5 years ago, in December 2009 from AIDS although I did not know it at the time. I only knew she died of a brain tumor. She told only a handful of people, and I was not one of them. I came by this fact after I joined some other friends, whom she told, to clear out her storage space. At the same time, I was also helping my now-ex-husband with his first divorce process, so that we could join together in matrimony as soon as possible, and process his permanent residency papers, so that he could find a job and become a productive member of society. In other words, I was also planning a wedding. A simple one, but still, a wedding. And I had to deal with my siblings who took my sarcastic comments about what to wear, to heart, so it was more fires to put out, because honestly, the last thing on my mind was what the color theme was. Just wear whatever wedding appropriate clothes you have in your closet. We were on a low budget and I paid everything out of my own pocket, which wasn’t much. Anyway, I felt I didn’t have the time nor was it practical to allow myself to grieve, or ask myself the question: why did I want to marry my now-ex-husband? If I’m really honest with myself about my own answer, and not with an answer I’m supposed to say, I have to say that getting married was one step in a process to normalize his life, and it was all about him, and not about me. I was a mechanism for the means, a cog in the wheels, which I allowed, enabled and encouraged. I’m not innocent in this. It was on a checklist I had to check off, but that is not a good enough reason, as I’ve come to find out a couple of years ago in couple’s therapy.
Back to the original story: In August of 2010, I went to the beach with some of her friends early in the morning. We wrote down things that we wanted to say to our friend and then we burned the paper and we hugged, cried, and it was really cathartic. After that, I stopped crying at random times in random places. I thought I could check off grieving, too, after the wedding, and after counseling my then-husband about his career choice. My therapist now tells me that I was conditioned to being a caretaker of other people that somehow I forgot to take care of myself.
Fast forward 5 years. Talking about my dead friend still makes me cry. Most of the time, I still cannot talk about her and recall the memories of her when she was alive. When I think of her, all I come up with are feelings of guilt and sadness about her absence. I think about going through her storage space after she passed away. I think about how selfish I had been not to have been more communicative when she was alive. I still have her things from her storage space, but I cannot bear to look at them, so they’ve all been shelved and storaged away for more than 5 years, but at the same time I cannot bear to donate them. I feel responsible for where they go. But I really need them gone. I really want to make space: emotional and physical space for myself. That’s why I’m in therapy. Today I like to see that therapy is my gift to myself. So happy 40th (a few months ago)!
PS. I hope no one who knew her reads this.