This past weekend, my sweet friend from university days gave me a bunch of letters I had written to her around 1984-86. Fascinating look into my “reality” then. I put reality in quotation marks. It is so painful and funny (and relieving that I survived) as I see “through the sunny cellophane of which not very appetizing frustrations can be readily distinguished.” [Nabokov] I was wearing a mask of perfection and hope.
I recall my friend once confronted me- a few years after this collection of letters- (though it wasn’t confrontation- it was actually care and concern) regarding my relationship. You’re not happy, she said. In my naive, young, anxious, perfectionist self in the 80’s, I heard you’re not happy as a judgment, as coming from someone who couldn’t possibly understand how happy I actually was.
She saw something I couldn’t/wouldn’t see. I was in self-preservation mode. She called me on it. But it took many 20+ years to understand that. To understand what she saw that I didn’t. Thankfully, she and I have connected deeply since then, and indeed the friendship is building profoundly and significantly. And so the gift of these letters is very moving. And thankfully, I am happy how my life (the blood and guts and pains and joys) have unfolded.
My letters read so positive. But my heart aches for me as I read between the lines and fall into a black hole of the past. I recall my choices towards freedom were always questioned. When I gave myself to a relationship against the wishes of my family, I took a huge risk. Then I experienced the heartache of betrayal- but needed to keep the mask of perfection. I found myself out on my own, young, naive, frightened, then pregnant [a story left for another day], then back to that relationship, withdrawing from university when about to start med school, then trust, then the beautiful child, about to marry, then more betrayal, more masks, then married, then another beautiful child, and art school, awakening, more masks- but oh- oh OH— there was such beauty and joy!
Motherhood and the children- so GLORIOUS, and art- GLORIOUS. And in the midst of extreme heartache there was also deep love and laughter and family and life. LIFE LIFE LIFE!
I can’t, won’t change it. So I sit here now, surrounded by the words of my early 20’s self. I am all about un-peeling the layers now. Taking a closer look at the hints and reasons. To forgive that young anxious woman I was, trying her absolute best to be a good mom- caught between two other people- two extremely strong personalities- pulling me apart at the seams. As I forgive myself, I forgive them.
I am not a broken heart.
I am not collarbones or drunken letters never sent. I am not the way I leave or left or didn’t know how to handle anything,
at any time,
and I am not your fault.
― Charlotte Eriksson
I was going to type out some excerpts. In fact I did type out a bunch. But highlighted it all and pressed delete.
More than kisses, letters mingle souls.― John Donne