Last week I attended a writing workshop – not the hard type, more the holistic type, between group-therapy and mindfulness meditation. I didn’t get to choose, I took what was offered during that week, but it was perfect for vacation.
One of the prompts was the following: A time you felt one way but acted another.
So that afternoon, I went to the lake, and wrote:
“I have a memory: I was 8 years old and the five of us (mom, dad, my brothers and I) were visiting a technology fair in town. There was a cotton-candy stand: the man was twirling the cloud-like fluff around a magic wand and I saw magic and pink unicorns in fairy dust. I had never had cotton candy before. It smelled of wonder, vanilla and sugar. I asked my dad if I could have one.
My father said no. No reason, no excuse. In my head I tried to understand why. It surely was not about the money. Maybe the sugar? Maybe it was too frivolous and pink? I had to be more serious and eat green beans instead? I couldn’t see what the lesson was, apart from some petty expression of power-over.
Today, barely on the other side of fifty, I swim a slow breast stroke across the lake, up to the podium facing the sunbathers on the beach. I want to say “See, I crossed the pond, braved the seaweed, and I did it! because I fucking felt like it!”
I feel a sense of elation, of liberation. I feel like flexing my arms to show my biceps and yodeling like Tarzan.
To feel something and to act accordingly is more precious to me than the opposite, which I am more familiar with.
But why on earth, would you ask, didn’t I do what I wanted?
Let me count the ways:
At home growing up: you can’t have that book, I’ll give you another one; don’t have cotton candy, we don’t eat those things.
You can’t do this.
You can’t do that.
Go to school, do you homework, do your piano.
Go to confession, be a good girl.
At eighteen I want to study philosophy or literature: nope. You can’t do that: no outlet.
OK, then, I’ll study English.
I accepted the assistantship in a college in Ohio because it was offered to me.
Maybe I escaped my family that way, the smothering, the dictatorship, and landed across the ocean where they couldn’t reach me.
But then I got married and I tried (how else did it happen?) to recreate the familiar pattern:
No, we can’t go South, we can only go North: Nova Scotia, PEI or at least Maine.
You feel like going to that restaurant? I am too tired. I don’t like it. It’s out of the picture.
You feel like going to a writing workshop? What on earth are you smoking?
You feel like buying an armchair? I do not support this idea.
So please do not judge me if I decided one day that, hey, I was tired of the constant, daily restrictions, the frustrations, the everyday vexations that made me old and dull and dead.
After twenty-two years I divorced.
Am I a bad person? Maybe.
But now, when I feel like going to this retreat camp to do a writing workshop with my girls, I do it.
When I feel like swimming to the floating raft in the pond, I do it!
Emancipation. Liberation. Satisfaction.”
A time you felt one way but acted another – The story of my life. The constant incertitude, questionings, the should I write in French or in English? Should I stay in the marriage or should I go?
What do I feel at Omega? I feel in the right place, relaxed, well-fed, free, spoiled, spoiled rotten. For one week. Peaceful, as if I had died and gone to heaven.
Like this morning, when I walk to breakfast right out of bed. I know that I won’t shower until I had coffee. I walk out to a freshly washed-out, clean outside, after last night’s showers. Lush leaves sprinkle me on the way and you can see God’s fingers from the clouds above. Birds of paradise (not literally, we are in New York state) are singing softly.
I float to the dining hall and pour myself several cups of Shark Bite. Then walk out to the porch where I feel like Eve on an untrodden earth. Nobody’s here yet. I beat the crowd. Past the edge of the balcony is a jungle still dripping drops while God is still spreading his fingers.
I have a book, my journal, my sunglasses just in case, and my phone-camera, so that I can capture the moment.
And I sit there, blissed out. The Shark Bite does its job as well. Now I am able to consider showering and getting dressed.
On these vacations at Omega, heart and mind are aligned. The left hand shakes the right hand. I know my kids are in the right place as well, absorbing vibes from evolved adults, soaking in the crunchy granola goodness and even the woo woo tie-dye colors that I hope will stay with them as they grow up.
A word that kept ringing in my ear recently is this one: compass, moral compass.
That’s what I want for them and for some reason I feel I didn’t screw up.
And yes, I bought myself a cotton candy many years later. It was OK.