The Sandbox

Amnesia, Art, Healing








I woke knowing that I could finally grasp losing my mom when I was very young. I do not remember any feeling associated with it. I only remember a conversation where she told me she was going away. It appeared to be serious, like a talk you might have with a child about dying, their dying or yours. She lectured me on sex, how it works, wanted me to know that if I kissed a boy I would not get pregnant. She showed me in a big thick book the human anatomy, explained how it would be impossible to happen. 

She showed me how to heat up a can ofsoup for lunch. How to get up on a stool as I could not reach the knobs on my own, and turn on a burner. She showed me how to open the can with a can opener. 

She said she wanted me to be independent, something her mother had not done for her. 

And then…she was gone. 

I do not remember anything but the conversation. I do not remember any tears, any feelings at all. I remembered what, I suppose, I was told to remember: that kisses can’t get you pregnant and how to work a can opener and stove.

I was five. 

In the middle of the night I am thinking, considering that I must have felt not just something but, perhaps, everything. My time with my motherwould be ending. She warned me she’d be leaving and she made good on her warning. 

She never wanted kids. She wanted to be a writer, wanted to make her own way in the world. We were four weights round her neck but she was not going to let it get in the way of her living her life. 

The churn last night was focused, not chaotic. It was direct and clear and sad. In fact I am not sure I’d even call this churn. It was more like waking up in the middle of the night with truth sitting in your lap like a cat. 

I then fell back asleep and dreamed I was in Haiti, wondering why I had not called Lorraine. But I hadn’t. I was at a conference, the only white person. I felt like I was in the middle of a collection of these creatures that I now make that are made of the blackest clay I’ve ever worked with. I thought to call Lorraine, knew I should, and eventually I walked out of the auditorium to do so. As I was looking for my phone, before I even dialed, I could already hear Lorraine talking to me.  She sounded angry, demanding “Where are you? I’m in San Francisco!” she shouted. 

I guiltily told her I was in Haiti. 

She asked if I was committed to Peter. 

And I hedged. 

Despite her rarely calling me and then demanding without notice that I be available to her when she did, I still hesitated, still could not, at the end of the day give her up, still in my mind went rounds and rounds of how to make it work, how to maneuver so that as little as it was, I could still see her. 

It felt familiar, my past where I would fall hard for some woman and move mountains to be with her. In my relationship with "N" I negotiated a third party and slept openly with her for three years. I remember how urgent it was for me to do this—and this phone call, in my dream, was bringing me back to it all. To how I used to lead my life out of blind, desperate need. 

Despite the miserly terms Lorraine offered, for me to change my life for her, for me to open up my relationship with Pete and cause cracks and fissures in it for her, for me to be available at her convenience and not my own, still…I could not give up the one woman I’d dreamed of for most of my life and all the unrequited, undeclared, love and pain that came along with it. 

I stayed in the dream, on the phone, struggling to figure out how to make it work until an alarm woke me, the alarm I now set to make sure I go swimming early, a nod to myself that I own this process—this process does not own me—that I can swim in the mornings—that I do not have ropes and chains around me forcing me into patterns that no longer make sense. 

I wake and see the dim sunlight leaking through these green curtains in front of me. I reflect on the dream and I feel like it was trying to tell me that I never had any kind of choice in the matter, that there never was a phone call to negotiate terms. I never had a choice in my reflexive urgent desires. I realize that what I’ve been chasing or what I used to be chasing was something I needed and was denied long ago. I see with more clarity each day, as I weed through my chaos, that my life has been about reaching, the deepest, bloodiest parts of my heart reaching and aching endlessly, subconsciously, to undo an abandonment I could not remember, let alone understand or feel or come to terms with. 

Although things are less murky now I wonder and doubt if I will ever come to terms. If it takes this long to begin to remember and feel, how long off must those terms then be. I’m not sure about terms and peace and acceptance; I’m not sure I’ll be able to remember everything that sliced me into a million bits or even enough tounderstand it all. 

I breathe deeply, in and out, and acknowledge that there is only so much I can hold and handle—in this moment, in this day—perhaps in this life. But I do seem to begin to grasp something small, a sprig of sorts, but extremely important; that with clearer understanding I could begin stepping away from unconsciously hating myself—that I could instead feel compassion for why my wiring has been so messed up. I’ve hated myself for years, a hatred so part of my DNA that it is only in the consideration of releasing out of this position that I begin to see how long I’ve been in it. 

It’s a nothing date today: September 14, 2016. Or maybe not. It’s a date that I may be beginning to make a fundamental change from unconscious self hatred to conscious compassion. 

It’s just the beginning, I think—new clothes I’ve not even really tried on, let alone bought yet or worn. 

But, as Monkey always says, barely is the beginning of…everything. 

So I try, today, to stop hating myself so much. I daylight the reflex and as I do I can begin to change.