Thursday, April 15, 2010

A trip to exposure...

Yesterday I awoke with what felt like someone sitting on my chest. Of course there wasn't somebody there, just panic, pressure, constriction.... breathe, Erica. I stumbled out of bed and attempted to manage the swirling of panic and tension while attending to Madison's morning routine, un-noticed. It's always hard to tell if she is aware of my mood shifts, other than the obvious days when i finally cave and let her know that tonight will be a floor picnic night, 'cause mommy's just not having a good day. I struggle with this alot. On one hand, I feel like my parent's don't ask don't tell policy led to a lot of confusion. Intuitive by nature as most children are, I was able to pick up on the incongruency between what was being acted out and what I was feeling and it only led to a mass of confusion. It can also be argued to have majorly contributed to my inability to get angry or the plaguing guilt that keeps harrassing me unwelcomed when it begs to be entertained for just a moment. So in that way, I don't think I am doing her any favors by plastering a fake ronald mcdonald smirk on my face and pretending that life is peachy behind these rose colored glasses. Sadness, grief, pain, loss and depression are also a part of every human life is it not? I've spent thousands of dollars on so many self-help books and the best of spirital, philisophical and existential literature that also say so...But some of them also say, that it doesn't have to be painful, that it's really my attachment to things that cause me pain and so i work hard at non-attachment which i suppose is really attachment afterall and everytime that sluggish blood sucker of an emotion rears it's head, I begin to feel like i have failed again. Of course there are all those triggers that remain from my own childhood with being unable to make my own mother's ills go away and always coming up short. Gone were the days of laughter and standard were the days of me trying to mastermind a plan for her cheer. And in the meantime, I lost my own happiness and I don't want Madison to carry that responsibility. But at the same time, I, like my own mother, despite my best efforts to put things right, feel a constenance of pain with short interludes of bright. Theres that split amongst realities again making things complicated. If i could just decide which way of thinking was more aligned with the truth of the universe, than i could decide what was the best teachings to pass on to Madison or better yet make a decision about how to proceed from here. The day had not gotten off to a good start.

This was also the day I would be heading to the local community college with the dude to check into the potential of doing some work as a life drawing model. Shortly after the divorce, I began sleeping with an artist. I remember feeling magical and warm inside everytime I looked at his hands. Just as he brought characters, personalities and stories to life with the simple strokes of his hand, the way he moved his hands across my body from dragging it across the curve in my hip to the enclave of my inner thigh felt as if he was creating a masterpeice. To him, it was suculent, picturesque and awe-inspiring. The first time he drew me, his hand effortlessly moved along the white page, his eyes focused on my contours with the excitment commonplace to a little boy at Christmas welled within him. "I understand now, why artists have their muses" He said quietly. When he made love to me, he never lost that curiosity, exploring the shapes of my body with the reverence of a traveller quieted by the depths of breathtaking landscape. My experiences with him, made me question the ways in which I had disowned my body, making every effort to punish it, hide it or change it instead of celebrating the mystery in every crevice, every curve, stretchmark or blemish. For it was mine, it was beautiful, I was woman, she who brings forth life.

In an effort to break the shame, I talked a lot about posing as a life drawing model, but other than doing a quick google search, had never really taken any action towards it. The fact that i was moving across the country in four months, seemed to bring just the right mix of apathy and lethargy to drive me to break through the cocoon I was in. So yesterday was the day. The dude and I were going to go to the college and enquire. How does one become a life drawing model anyway?

By the time we got there, my anxiety was in full force. Not the deadening pressure of panic that I had woken up with, more like this feeling that everyone around me could see this broken, confused and fragmented person hidden behind this mask of togetherness. Raw, vulnerable and bruised. I'd been carrying this for a long time, I suppose also one of the reasons I yearned for the exposure that life drawing would demand. Standing naked in front of 40 pairs of eyes focused on all the parts of me that I worked hard to modify, bury and hide for 26 years, just might liberate this persistent fear that won't let me unveil myself.

When I finally found the information counter, I stood awkwardly in line, the dude lingering behind me, practicing the line within my head. " was just wondering where one would go to enquire drawing modeling?". Although practicing the normality with which those words would roll off my tongue, I couldn't help feel like what I was about to ask was just about as shameful as a corner street hooker offering up a blow job. My logic informed me they weren't equivalent but it seemed the good moral standing of my Christian upbringing still relentlessly reminds me when i should be heading to confessional to admit the sinful nature that plagued me. I suppose another reason, why everytime the shame came to visit in her pushy, overbearing manner i rose to meet her instead of cowering to her domination.

A petite, red haired young woman with pin-striped pants and a curt vested top approached the counter, gently pushed her sign to the side and gave me a shy smile. Sure, I thought, I get the virgin girl next door as my priest stand-in at confessional, I am officially a prostitute. In a calm collected manner I approached the counter "Yeah..hi, I just had a general enquiry" I said as if asking which way to the cafeteria. "Do you know where one would go to enquire about life drawing modelling?". "Hmmm.." she said non-chalantly. "A good start would be to go to the program office of animation and design", proceeding to give me instructions. I thanked her and went on my way. If she was thinking a line of dirty thoughts concerning my motivation for being there, what kind of person I might be, or what elequent adventures I'd already had in my life that would lead me here she never let on. Maybe she wasn't a virgin after all.

The dude and I made our way down to the office and found an empty chair at the program assistant's desk. "This way to program officers" marked the sign on the desk pointing up to a large open space full of cubicles and small gatherings of people chattering. There was no way I was going to invade one of these circles and ask for assistance with numerous people listening. The dude suggested we wait fifteen minutes and try the program assistant again.

As we wandered down the hallways of the art school, the dude shared the memories that being within these walls provoked in him as I carefully studied the youthfulnness of the students, the nature of the art work displayed on the walls and tried to imagine what they would think when i took off my robe. "Why do animators need to study life drawing" I asked him. "In order to animate, artist's need to know how to draw people and the ways in which they move" he responded. Would I know how to move? I thought to myself. It seemed my questions about my capabilities weren't specific to social work.

On our way back to the office, a serene looking woman wth greying brown hair walked past in her blue bathrobe. I tried to avert my eyes and gently nudged the dude. "Look" I whispered..."a model". "Yup" he said casually. "They just walk down the hall, naked, in a bathrobe and slippers?" I said trying to come to terms with the terror and panic beginning to swirl again, asking me if i had officially lost my mind. What kind of honorable woman walks around in public in a bathrobe, only to walk into a room and completely disrobe and be reproduced in different ways, different styles and on many different canvases? I thought to myself. The model had a peacefulness about her though, the ebbing of a natural wind moving silently through the world and deep down I yearned half excitedly for that kind of liberation.

We returned to a stern, conservative woman still packing away her lunch into her bag at the program assistant's desk. No longer as nervous having muttered the question once and still slightly exhilirated by all of this boundary pushing, I asked her about the process. In a short snappy voice she muttered "I'll give you the model coordinator's number and you can call her". This woman, was not impressed with me, the actor in my shame monologue had successfully cast her well-deserved judgement, I was a failure, a kid from the streets of poverty, abuse and abandonment that once thought she could show everyone up by establishing a successful career in social work, not only then would she not be fucked up, she would be a voice of reason for those who were. But instead, I had failed at that too and was here instead, wanting to feel the carefree liberation of complete exposure that honored me as a masterpeice, as my own masterpeice regardless of all the things the voices imprinted from those i had met along the way persistently screamed at me. I am a daughter of the Goddess, how could I truly be any other way.

I was quiet the whole way home attempting to hear out the warring parties within me and picked a fight with the dude in an effort to distract me. After he dropped me off in a fury of frustration and our usual routine of he said she said, I thumped into the house, drained of enthusiasm, the dread of my self-hatred looming and tried to call anyway, praying for the Coordinator's voicemail. "Hello, Joanne speaking" came a confident sturdy voice. I hesitated, placed the phone in my lap for a minute and then hung up. It would have to wait till tommorrow, with hope that then I would feel stronger.

The crushing lethargy returned, I felt guilty about not having the free wherewithall to upbeatedly usher Madison home. "I'm Sorry Mads, mom's just not having a good day. Let's get some movies and subs and have a picnic on the living room floor". "Okay" she said excitedly. "But do you think mom, that soon on a nice day we could picnic outside?" she asked in her sweet little manipulator voice. "Sure we can" I said admiringly, secretly wondering if that energy would ever return.

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