Love, Vaginas & Cockroaches

And so we have arrived: the day of love, V-day, torture, whatever you want to call it.

I know, there are some of you who are happy in love, and that’s a beautiful thing. And then there are those of you who are just indifferent about the whole thing. I guess I’m somewhere on the spectrum between tortured and indifferent, leaning more toward the latter.

Valentine’s Day used to be my favorite. I was always fortunate enough to get a teddy bear or box of chocolates out of the whole thing. And who doesn’t love teddy bears and chocolate? Now, I admittedly find more pleasure in stripping the day down to its historical, not so romantic origins, which are a bit different than our present-day version.

Historians trace V-day back to the pagan festival Lupercalia: “A lovers’ holiday tracing its roots to raucous annual Roman festivals where men stripped naked, grabbed goat- or dog-skin whips, and spanked young maidens in hopes of increasing their fertility.”

Um, yeah.

feature-d-8-lupercalia-thong-whipping

Christianity, of course, replaced the pagan interpretation with its own version. As the story goes, Roman Emperor Claudius II banned all men from marrying in an attempt to strengthen his army. But Valentine refused to comply and continued marrying couples in secret.

It was a lovely gesture and a heroic effort in the name of love. However, the ending isn’t quite as sweet. Claudius eventually hunted Valentine down, arrested him, beat him to death, and cut his head off.

So there’s that.

Now there seems to be a resurgence of death and destruction attached to our jour d’amour. A zoo in Texas (appropriately enough) is celebrating Valentine’s Day by soliciting jilted lovers to assign their ex’s name to a cockroach, and then feed it to a meerkat. No joke.

Not gonna lie, I was tempted. Okay, no I wasn’t, but I might have thought of a name or two.

The abbreviation of the name, V-Day, has also been adapted over the years to pay tribute to other deserving honorees- one of them being our vaginas. Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, declared February 14 “Vagina Day” as a campaign to end domestic violence and sexual abuse of women.

I’m sure this made St. Valentine do a somersault in his grave, but I’m all about it. I’m getting way more pleasure from the star of Eve’s show than from Valentine’s. 

And then there’s V-day/Victory Day, of course- a day to celebrate a final military victory, which I’m also all about. 

So here’s my proposition: for those of us on the tortured/indifferent spectrum, let’s designate today as 3V Day – a day to celebrate our love of love, our vaginas (and the protection thereof) and victory over anyone who comes within 10 centuries of our derrieres with a whip.

Don’t worry, guys, we will forbid death by execution (or meerkats) for any wrong-doings. But it might behoove you to utilize the whole “love, honor, cherish” approach just in case…

——

And for all of you, regardless of gender, who have also lost love, or just forgotten what it feels like, you are not alone or forgotten. And although it’s not as cute as a teddy bear or as good as chocolate, here is a Valentine from me to you:

Love doesn’t always look the way we want it to, come from whom we want it to, or unfold when we want it to. But it’s still here, like water, always changing forms, sometimes flowing freely and sometimes evaporating into something we can no longer see or feel.

But it’s still here, filling in the cracks of our broken heart and infusing every breath with life. We just have to keep trying to let it flow freely and trust that, in time, it will return, revealing itself in ways we never expected and replenishing what we thought we had lost, to overflowing.

heart.sidewalk

 

 

 

 

Texas

I truly believe that people come into our lives for a reason, at just the right time, to enrich us in some way- to steer us in the right direction, help us realize our potential and remind us to live and love fully.

But there are also times when these lessons are as painful as the reasons are unfathomable. And their messengers, more menacing than we thought humanly possible.

I might never understand why he came into my life and what lessons I was supposed to learn, but I do know this:

These messengers can try to strip us of our dignity, shatter our hearts, and reduce us to ashes.

But they will never steal our fire.

TEXAS

Texas II.png

 

 

Naked Guise: Poetry Undefined

We need to talk.

I don’t think this is working. It’s, I just, the timing is bad. We’re both in different places…

But I swear, it’s not you, it’s me.

Okay, I, for one, don’t need to hear that conversation again…ever.

So instead of torturing you with a dramatic exit (when you know I’m just going to come back when I start to miss you), let’s try this.

This isn’t goodbye. We’re just going on a little excursion, an adventure of sorts…and you know how I love an adventure.

It’s not as mysterious as it seems (probably less so for you, than me). And, they say there might be magic to find, summoned by a girl...hiding behind a naked guise.

If you need time to think about it, I understand. But when you’re ready, I’ll be waiting here, where Poetry’s Undefined.

IMG-3141

One stop at a time.

So, here I am, back in Denver, one of the last places I thought I’d end up. But I honestly didn’t know where else to go.

It’s not a bad place to be, Denver. I just never felt like it fit me. But nowhere seems to fit. Paris maybe, but that’s not really an option right now.

A dear friend offered me a room in a condo she rents out until I get my feet under me. It’s cozy and I have a warm bed to sleep in, so it’s a start.

But it is a bit further removed than I’d anticipated, which wouldn’t be an issue if I had a car. Let’s just say Denver isn’t famous for its public transportation.

I actually don’t know anyone who has taken the bus by choice…and now I know why. I avoided it as long as I could, but my neighborhood has little to offer – one coffee shop a mile away in one direction and a handful of bars and stores a mile in the opposite direction. I don’t mind the walk so much, but the destinations don’t feel worth the schlep, especially when it’s freezing outside.

The bus I have to take is ‘the 0’. Fitting, since that’s pretty much where I’m starting from. I’ve tried to put a more positive spin on it, but all I came up with is it will be a hard one to forget. (Or an easy zero to remember for that ‘positive spin’).

My first experience was…interesting. A trip that used to take me 15 minutes to drive took over an hour. But it wasn’t terrible.

The way back, however, was a bit of an adventure.

The 0 was delayed by half an hour, so I hopped on the first bus headed south. This seemed like a logical choice until I realized the route ended way before my stop, which meant a transfer at “the station.”

 

bus

We pulled off the main road to what was basically a huge, empty lot. It was darker than it should have been, which made it feel like we were in the middle of nowhere.

The bus drove off, leaving me with three other men, each sitting on a separate bench.

I’m not the paranoid type, probably to a fault. And yes, I have put myself in some questionable situations. But I’m not reckless either, and I know when I need to stay vigilant. I didn’t feel like this was one of those situations. However, my phone had conveniently stopped working, and I had no idea when the next bus was coming. So, not exactly ideal.

I paced back and forth, trying to stay warm. I caught the three men looking my way a few times, but they seemed harmless. And I’m sure they were curious about why I was there. I don’t think I qualified as a typical passenger on this particular route.

The youngest of the three finally approached me. He wasn’t threatening at all,  more concerned. He asked if I knew which bus to catch. I assured him I did.

I had no idea.

After what felt like hours, a bus finally pulled up. I didn’t care which direction it was going, as long as it was going.

My next trip after hours proved to be…I guess “animated” would be the best word to describe it.

It wasn’t that late, but the bus was almost empty. Two younger girls sat huddled in the seats lining the wall, facing toward the aisle. A very talkative, somewhat obnoxious man sat across from them. He was trying to interact with them, but they kept their heads down, doing their best to ignore him. I couldn’t help but feel protective, so I casually moved over to the seat closest to them.

We came to a stop. The driver got up to lower the ramp for a man in a wheelchair. The obnoxious man hopped up and lifted the bench to make room for him, which made me feel bad for thinking he was obnoxious. We started to pull away, then jerked to a halt when a woman began slamming her fists on the door.

The driver knew her and they began chatting as the woman made her way down the aisle. She sat in the seat directly behind me and continued to yell up to the driver. “So, did you hear that so-and-so from the center just got thrown in jail for murdering his wife?”

This abruptly transitioned into her announcing to everyone, “You know what happened to me last night? Four policemen jumped me and tried to take me to jail.” She rolled up her sleeves and came over to show me her hands. “See the marks from the handcuffs?”

The man in the wheelchair and the ‘not as obnoxious’ guy teamed up, laughing at her, saying she was crazy.

She jumped to her feet and screamed. “I am not crazy! They ran all their god damned tests on me that proved it. I am not fucking crazy!”

I pulled the cord, exhaling when I heard the words, “stop requested.” Cold and dark for a couple of miles seemed preferable to murder and abuse.

I decided to sync up my bus outings with the light of day for a spell…and never leave home without my headphones.

The next morning’s ride was a short one, no more than 15 minutes. Odds were good I could make it to my destination without incident.

I was just a few blocks away from the coffee shop when the man next to me requested a stop. He started making his way to the door but stumbled backward when the driver hit the brakes. Something fell out of his bag and I instinctively reached down to pick it up.

I did my best not to react as I handed him back his knife.

It wasn’t a menacing knife, necessarily, but it wasn’t a pocket knife either. I don’t believe this man had the slightest intention of using it on anyone. And given the direction he was coming from, I get why he had it…just in case.

I’ve never really felt like my life was in danger. Everyone, for the most part, is harmless. But I have realized I don’t exactly blend in, as I seem to be the one “the man who had a few too many” gravitates toward.

I also see the curious side glances when I sit down or the blatant scans from head to toe. Maybe I’m just paranoid, not because I think their looks are threats or advances. They feel more like judgments, as if to say, “who the hell are you?”

I usually ignore it, but sometimes I just want to look them in the eye and assure them…

I have no fucking idea. I lost her quite a ways back, and I can’t seem to find her.

That’s what I want to say. I want them to know that I don’t think for a second I am better than anyone else who takes a seat on Bus 0. We are all doing our best to navigate our circumstances.

But no, I don’t want to be here. I actually couldn’t be further away from where I want to be.

Yesterday, I missed my stop. But instead of getting off and working my way back, I just sat there, staring out the window. We headed downtown, making our way closer to where I used to live. We passed the place I used to take Biscuit to get his bath, then the place ‘E’ and I went the year I decided to like football, then the gym I used to drag him to, the place I took dance lessons, the coffee shop where I used to study during grad school…

This was my world, where I no longer belong. What used to be home, now feels like a warped cassette tape. The same song is playing, but it doesn’t make sense anymore-the the words are garbled, the melody distorted. And there is no way to fix it.

I feel like I’ve been exiled, still able to roam freely, but imprisoned by boundaries I can no longer cross and memories that have been hollowed out by regret.

The bus stopped and everyone got off. It was the end of the line.

I was mad at myself for wasting the morning searching for a place I wasn’t going to find and ending up nowhere close to where I needed to be.

I finally found the bus I needed to get back and waited impatiently as everyone boarded. The driver closed the doors and headed out, then stopped abruptly to let someone else on.

I was annoyed, tired of waiting, of feeling isolated and lost in a place I used to call home.

I knew I was spiraling, so I forced myself to revisit my ‘gratitude list’.

I’m grateful for my friends, for my warm bed…that I have all of my limbs. 

But it wasn’t working. I wasn’t grateful. I was angry.

The woman slowly made her way up the stairs and stopped to greet the driver who seemed genuinely happy to see her.

He smiled, “How was your day?”

Without hesitating, she responded, “Well, no one I love died today, so I’d say, all and all, it was a good day.”

That sounded much better than “I have all my limbs”, so I added it to my list.

I’m grateful that no one I love died today.

The woman sat in the seat across from me. Her face was hard and soft at the same time, her demeanor firm but gentle. She seemed familiar. Did I know her?

She caught me staring at her and I tried to smile. She nodded her head slightly and made her way to the exit, disappearing into the crowd of people waiting to get on.

She had only said a few words, but her voice lingered, filling in the words taking shape in my head.

Hold on, love. You’ll get to where you want to go. But you won’t find it back there. You’ll have to take a different route. You’re headed in the right direction, though. Just keep moving forward…one stop at a time.

 

A Call to Disarm

Untethering

I resisted posting this one, but it wouldn’t relent. So here goes…vulnerability in all its glory. A writer’s cross to bear, I suppose.

This is my surrender- an offering up of the thoughts that have been lodged in my chest, swirling around in my head and robbing me of sleep.

It’s time to let them go, to let him go.

In essence, this is the final spark, the one you see when the wick of a candle reaches its end, just before the flame is extinguished.

I’ll warn you in advance, there’s nothing revolutionary here. Just a girl, laying down her arms…with the hope of finding peace.

 War & Peace

    boy.girl.heart

I woke up thinking about you.
Brushed my teeth,
Thought of you.
The cream settles in my coffee…
It never seems to stop,
This thinking of you.

I wait.
For the light to filter through the blinds.
I wait, for you.
To open your eyes and whisper, boo.

You gravitate toward her, dimmed, craving light
Exposed, you retreat.
Love, truth…she is no place to hide.

That moment she realized,
she felt closer to him when he was 10,000 miles away.

r.dautremer.swings

You’re too colorful for those who live in black and white.

She loves more than she’ll ever get back.
…and still, she loves.

 

I woke up thinking about you.
Brushed my teeth,
Thought of you.
The cream settles in my coffee…
I wonder when this will stop,
This thinking of you.

You wanted a distraction, wild, beautiful,
But not to be kept.
You lost a treasure, rare, extraordinary,
Impossible to forget.

Untethering
/ənˈteT͟Hərˈing/

When he doesn’t ask you to stay,
…and you love yourself enough to walk away.

L'Amoureux20

* all illustrations by Rebecca Dautremer

Finding your Soulmate 101 (or whatever the prereq to that would be)

“Do you believe soulmates exist?”

My friend asked me this as he was telling me about his impending breakup.

“And if they do, how do we know we’ve found our actual soul mate vs. just a deep connection or fleeting love? Is it really worth the energy and potential pain if we’re not sure?”

I answered the first question without hesitation. “Yes, absolutely.” But the second one gave me pause. How do you know, especially in the beginning, when it all feels magical?

But yes, there is definitely a distinction. Putting it into words, however, is the equivalent of trying to explain how it feels to be loved or to have faith.

Love feels like your soul has been kissed. Faith feels like love in its purest form.

But that’s hard to conjure up on a whim, especially while trying to avoid saying all the things that made me cringe when I was in the thick of a heartbreak.

My enlightened response? 

“I don’t know…you just know.”

If that doesn’t make you cringe…ambiguities and sweeping generalizations are the last thing you want to hear when your heart is being ripped out. You want fucking answers.

So I decided it best to keep my mouth shut, nod my head empathetically and refrain from rattling off reasons why it’s for the best. All I really wanted to do, however, was encourage him to memorize how he feels right now so he’ll remember the next time this happens: the pain really doesn’t last forever…I think.

Thankfully, I opted to keep my mouth shut.

I saw his relationship unfold from the beginning. There were obvious warning signs, but he couldn’t see them, of course. We rarely can.

We’re too immersed in the present moment, relishing in the excitement of discovery. We finally found someone who fits, who can finish our sentences, celebrate our quirks, shine light on the beautiful parts that get lost when no one’s there to name them. We found someone to play with, to laugh with, to make our hearts fuller, lighter. We found our soul mate…

Or did we? How do we know for sure, if what we found is real, if it’s worth the gamble when the stakes are so high.

We don’t, I guess…until we do.

Full Disclosure:

Okay, I don’t really know that “you just know.”

It makes sense that you would. I’ve heard that’s how it works. But I honestly can’t speak from experience. I’ve never met mine, not that kind, I don’t think. I thought I did. But, I would know, right?

The whole thing got me thinking. Not just about ‘finding my soulmate’, all of it- the different shades, degrees and patterns of connection, love and relationships.

But seriously, I’m still here? 101? I should have a Ph.D. in this shit by now. Or at least be making substantial progress. So why do I still feel like I’m learning how to spell?

Y-O-U  A-R-E  D-O-I-N-G  T-H-I-S  A-L-L  W-R-O-N-G

No, this isn’t where I want to be- sifting through relationships that are frustrating and unfulfilling. And truly, as much as it might appear to consume me, I’m not on some mad quest to find the one. I’m fine with a break from it all, knowing that I’m still a bit fragile and borderline calloused…not a good place to start from, I’ve discovered.

Yet they continue to surface, and I continue to play them out: these impossible scenarios that turn into an insidious dance- one that gets replayed over and over, making sure I stay a little fragile and increasingly calloused.

So time for a bit more self-reflection (which I assure you, I’m super excited about).

However, I have additional incentive this time; my friend needs some answers.

So I’m doing a little research…

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Picture courtesy- KosovaLive360

Next week: No assignments. Attendance encouraged, open-mind required.
Extra credit for any shared soulmate encounters.

A Love Story of Sorts

In keeping with the theme this week, I’ll offer up a love story of sorts.

Okay, it’s not really a “love story”, in the traditional sense. But it is a story, and it does involve love.

In the romantic sense, love has proven itself to be a fickle companion. I’ve lost myself in it and also found myself. I’ve sworn it off completely, and then blindly plunged back in. I’ve felt it with a force as powerful as breath, and now find myself wondering if it even exists.

But I’m a romantic and seem to be incapable of giving up on it completely.

So Valentine’s Day. I admittedly get seduced by it all: a day dedicated solely to celebrating the person I love and being spoiled by the person who loves me. It’s a subject I believe worthy of its own holiday.

But I’m also acutely aware that this day can place loneliness and heartbreak at center stage, making the absence of the person we love as consuming as their presence used to be liberating.

That’s the side of it I was on, once again. There was no lover to spoil. And besides the sweet guy at the coffee shop, I wasn’t the object of anyone’s affection.

All to say, I expected to be in the same place I was last year: front and center.

I am, in fact, front and center, but not in the same place.

It feels more like equilibrium.

There was no huge revelation that occurred. I didn’t even realize anything had changed until the sweet boy at the coffee shop gave me a chocolate heart. It made me happy. And I didn’t want it to be from anyone else. And I was completely content with the fact that I had the whole day to myself. And there wasn’t anyone I was missing (not entirely true. I miss perhaps the true love of my life, my Biscuit, terribly but subject at hand.)

It seems I unknowingly declared a truce.

Despite the fact that I desperately wanted to move on, I kept looking back. I’ve recycled everything possible- memories, relationships, behaviors- all of which kept taking me back to the exact same place I was before…which was the last place I wanted to be.

This isn’t to say that my mind has completely stopped revisiting what’s lurking beneath the surface. But I finally understand its tactics. I can catch it now, reel it in and release what has clearly been sustaining my demons all along.

But there is admittedly one last relationship I’m trying to rekindle. It’s risky to be sure. It was extremely messy before and full-on destructive when we parted ways. But I really do believe it will be different this time.

I think she’s finally realized she had something special that she came really close to losing.

and-suddenly-she-found-herself-grateful.