This world is far from small
And her heart is the center of it all
And there’s a river that runs through hills, and it’s never still
Listen closely to the sky
And it’ll show you how to dot life’s I’s.
And don’t be afraid if the girl decides to run
It’s half of the fun
This song by the Josh Abbot Band hit me right between the heart-strings.
In a hotel parking lot in Aspen, Colorado I met a man who made me feel beautiful and ugly. We had exchanged a few sentences two days earlier in the hotel jacuzzi and now as I was leaving the hotel and loading up my car, out he strolled rolling his suitcase. He asked where I had been, we chatted about our Aspen experiences, he told me I am beautiful and asked for my phone number in case we should ever cross paths again.
Little did I know that it would be in less than 24 hours in Durango, CO. John (not his real name) was from Miami and vacationing in the Rocky Mountains as I was. The chemistry between us was palpable and it was fun to share a bit of tourist time with him, exploring the town of Durango and Ouray, CO. We did a short hike to a waterfall, ate some tasty meals together, had people take our pictures and call us a “cute couple,” got stuck behind each other in road repair, and shared daydreams. I was happy and conflicted.
John is a devout Christian of the sort that believes that the man is the head of the household, very macho. He needed to be the one to purchase everything when we were together and be in control. In walking down the sidewalk he insisted on holding my hand in such a way that his hand was on top so that “he was in the lead.” I did, at times, feel honored and spoiled but mostly I just felt consumed. My freedom was cut off and I sensed the more time I spent with him the more I lost myself and the crabbier I became.
It made me realize just how much I have changed and how strongly I will defend my independence and how I cannot let myself be consumed by a dominant male. I want equality so badly that I will not abide anything less, even if princess-treatment is involved.
Reading the following Rilke letter written in 1904 I am struck by how forward thinking he was and how completely on the right track…
“…Someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer mean the mere opposite of the male, but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit but only of life and reality: the female human being.
This advance (at first very much against the will of the outdistanced men) will transform the love experience, which is now filled with error, will change it from the ground up, and reshape it into a relationship that is meant to be between one human being and another, no longer one that flows from man to woman.” Letters to a Young Poet-Rilke
The time spent with John was so romantic and yet so hurtful. He admired my physical body and made me feel gorgeous. But he also caused me to devalue my soul and undermine my confidence because he was very powerful, jealous, rude and opinionated. It was a quick friendship that was filled with extreme emotional reactions within me, highs and lows.
After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
… And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn…
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure…
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth…
And you learn and learn…
With every good-bye you learn.
~ Jorge Luis Borges
I am still learning with every hello and good-bye, what I want to be, who I am, what sticks under pressure, and what is blown by the wind of infatuation. At times I feel like a steel ball in one of those pinball machines being batted back and forth by flippers, bumping into bells and lighted noisy things, manipulated by some unseen hands to keep me in the playing field.
I know my life is not a game, no one is keeping score if I win or lose, but it is tempting to evaluate my success on how many lights I can illuminate. And I admit that at times I succeed and sometimes I completely bomb, missing any target within sight.
And she will be free,
Like the leaves floating in the wind, and the stream.
She will not be bound, by anything that tries to drag her down.
Oh, and all that girl wants to be is loved.
And her heart is a river in my blood.
The song takes me back to the name of my blog and the Thoreau poem it was based on. I will keep on flowing in and out of blood streams, touching and changing and creating a life that is happy and free for me and hopefully for those around me.
I was born upon thy banks, river
My blood flows in thy stream
And thou meanderest forever
At the bottom of my dreams. -Thoreau
(Post-script-I wrote this post as a first draft last summer and sent it to “John” to make sure he was ok with me using photos of us together. He wrote a scathing email back, refusing to let me use any image of him or write anything about him. After thinking about it for 6 months I decided to publish this post anyway, changing his name and hometown and not including pictures of him. I do not want anyone to control my writing, especially when veiled threats are used to stop me. My life is my own, my insights public, my experiences to be shared as I see fit.)