“Facing my Dragons”
I sat down at the table in our little Italian restaurant with my Dad and his friend Brian. Brian is very handsome for a man in his sixties. There is a Sean Connery look in his dark eyes and bushy eyebrows. We have said hi to each other over the years when Dad was going on a bike ride or fishing with him. He is also the lawyer who recommended I get divorced if I didn’t want to go into debt. He was very sweet and careful about how he went about suggesting it. Today was the first day he acknowledged me as an equal, and it was rather exciting for me. I’m currently supposed to be out to dinner with family as I'm writing this. However, I am rather peopled out right now and needed to write for some therapy. I also wanted to tell you about my conversation with Brian before it was gone. It was just the kind of conversation which included all of my favorite topics and philosophies and helped me understand myself better. I think you will also enjoy me showing it to you.
I began the conversation with my directness and looked over at dad and asked, “So, why am I here?”
Dad looked a little surprised I started so direct. He replied, “I simply thought you would enjoy having lunch with the two of us. There was no specific intention on my part.”
It was my turn to be surprised. I figured Dad was going to have his friend advise me in some legal counsel. This meant my dad had intentions which were less direct. I suspected the less direct intent was he simply wanted me to able to bounce things in my life off the intelligence of his friend if I was comfortable with him. He thinks he is one the smartest people he knows. It also interests me that they are good friends because Brian is not Christian and very liberal. My dad is not a typical conservative Christian in this manner. He doesn’t make his close friends based on religion or politics. He primarily forms his inner circle of friends based of a combination of success and intelligence. Intelligence being the most important.
I think my Dad’s friendship group reflects more political and religious diversity than your typical Christian person can sometimes because he is educated and believes in continually learning and increasing knowledge. I had recently shared with my Dad how someone at Bible Study had asked for prayer for one of his friends who was suicidal. Everyone was shocked to find out he was Christian and suicidal as Christian’s are expected to be joyful. I privately thought everyone there was acting stupidly to be surprised. My opinion was Christians deal with the same amount of depression and mental health issues as anyone else, but feel they have to hide it so they aren’t judged. I could really go off angry on this subject because I don’t think this attitude reflects Jesus’s welcoming of everyone the way they are… but, I need to focus on the story. I told Dad about the attitude of the adults there, and he was also angered. He said, “Honey, the depression and suicidal statistics are the same for Christian as everybody else. Our divorce statistics are also the same. In fact, in more oppressive branches of Christianity, the statistics are worse for divorce and suicide. People are people everywhere.” This is one of the reasons I feel comfortable bouncing things off my Dad—he thinks it is stupid to pretend things are one way when they are not. My mother approaches the world differently. Her friends are primarily mainstream protestant Christian or Mormon, and almost all of them are republican.
Dad opened the conversation by directing it toward me, “Honey, why don’t you tell Brian about how you price the used cars?”
I shrugged, the topic seemed boring. However, I find it interesting and figured the conversation should begin somewhere. So, I launched into sharing how it is fun to price the cars because the market is always changing. I genuinely enjoy comparing our prices with the other dealerships and with the books and coming up with a competitive number. He seemed mildly interested, I decided to change my approach a little, and said “Yesterday was really fun because the Acura manager has a hard time assigning things for me to do. I have to look for them. Yesterday I researched and found three of his cars who had very little customer or internet interest and printed off some information to show him why the prices needed to change. I was able to get him to change two of them and was proud of myself because the cars should sale quicker now. The problem with the third car had been because the previous owner was a smoker, and they needed to bomb it to remove the smell.” He looked considerably more interested. Consequently, this told me Brian preferred conversations which had a more personal and vulnerable touch over statistics and facts. I continued to redirect the conversation to a more personal level. “I would have liked to have been at work earlier today. However, with my aunt and cousin in town, I’m back to not sleeping again. It took me five months after leaving to sleep more than four or five hours at night. I just started getting seven consistently, and then my aunt asked enough questions to make me relive the whole thing again. So, this last week I have been back to four hours a night again.”
My Dad looked visibly surprised, “I’m sorry.” He said. I shrugged again.
Brain’s dark eyes turned another shade of dark—so dark it was almost like the light began to bounce white into it as emotion crossed his face, “Hopefully, you will not have to deal with that eventually.”
I laughed and lifted an eyebrow, “That is certainly the hope isn’t it?”
He nodded and added, “Or perhaps you can get to the point where you are comfortable simply telling the person you made this decision based on what you felt was best for you. People can’t argue with a statement phrased in that manner because you can’t debate emotion.”
I nodded. “Yes, I feel like typically I have approached people with a middle finger if they think I should have to convince them of my decision. I would rather have them think the worst and accept me anyway. However, that position is a little more unreasonable with family.”
“I think even with family it is okay to say you made the best decision for you and leave it there. Also, anyone who actually knew you during this process would have watched and known you considered this decision over a long period of time carefully before acting on it. I certainly know you did.” I was touched; I didn’t know he knew any of that.
I smiled. “I think there was a good aspect to it nevertheless. Re-living some of why and how I came to my decisions was not enjoyable. However, it also allowed me to come to a deeper peace with it.”
Brian seemed surprised I had realized this and shared, “That is one of the treatments for PTSD. They have the person re-live the memories until the mind comes to peace with what happened and accepts it.”
“Wow, I didn’t know that.” This furthered my belief it wasn’t a bad thing to have to relive what happened even though it was difficult and emotionally draining. It also interested me he compared me to someone with PTSD. My dad had obviously shared with this particular friend at a fairly deep level. That, or he has my ability to read people’s body cues at a hypertensive level and had seen it on me as I began to heal.
Brian then smiled conspiratorially. “They also recommend LSD.”
I laughed, “Maybe I should try that next. I’m kidding…”
I decided I trusted Brian so I got out my phone. “It is funny you should say what you did because I have thought my paintings going through this process looked like they were on LSD. I want to show you how my art reflects where I was at during each stage of this process." I began with letting him see my most recent painting in the redwood forest, then I showed him a painting I had done closer to arriving with my parents of my friend’s book cover, then one of my friend I had completed just before leaving my husband. I finished with a Dragon I had drawn as I was emotionally coming to the decision I wanted to leave.” I did not explain the meaning of any of them to him. I wanted to see how he would respond.
He looked at me deeply in the eyes. “I think had you shown me these out of order, I would have been able to put them into order of your process of coming to the decision and then healing. The dragon looks like it wants to escape the water, but is stuck. The painting you did of your friend is extremely dark and moody. Finally, your painting of the redwood forest is remarkable. I love how it is looking upwards and it is like there is purple hovering above the trees reflecting the new release of joy you have found. I think you should print off mini versions of these and the next time someone asks why you left—just hand them these.” I was so touched he read into my paintings all of the feelings I put into them.
“It was really funny looking back through my artwork and realizing how much I painted what I was feeling in everything I did,” I responded.
He had a very caring smile, “You put so much feeling into your work. You created an emotion with each of the pieces you showed me. You also have a more impressionistic style, and the impressionist painters wanted to convey emotion on the canvas. You did so successfully.” It was such a sweet thing to say. It rocked me with how much he understood me.
My Dad interjected, “She also writes poems which convey her feelings. She tried to show a few of them to her grandma to help her understand and all she did was turn on her.”
Brian nodded as if understanding Dad also needed to work through what happened, “Some people do not have the ability to understand the emotion conveyed in art or poetry. It was probably lost on her. Also, it can be harder to convey what happened in the form of her poem.”
Dad thought and said, “Her poems are a little different than conveying an idea. They tell a story.”
I added, “There are some literary critics who consider the poem to be a short form of the short story.”
Brian titled his head and thought, “Yes, some poetry today includes considerably more prose. Especially if you don’t follow a specific from like iambic pentameter, it allows you to blur the line between a short story and a poem.”
I nodded, “Right, my poetry is like what you described. Many times when Dad asked how I was doing, I would send him a poem because it was easier than trying to tell him orally.”
Brian looked at dad, then at me. “She also may have not been ready to see. There are any of number of reasons for that possibility. Your grandma may have been unhappy in her own marriage and wished she had the strength to leave herself and what you did makes her feel bad she didn’t. I am certainly not saying she had a reason like I described. Rather, she wasn’t ready to see because she didn’t want to be able to see.”
I thought and said,“You know, this makes me think of my decision to not believe in aliens. I remember this moment when I was wondering if there are aliens somewhere which are real. I decided the possibility of that being the case made me uncomfortable. Therefore, they are not real. When I realized I had made a conscious decision based on my own comfort; I decided I need to look at other places in my life where I may have ostirched my head in the sand versus see something as it actually is in front of me. I think anytime we are talking about people who mature into more complete individuals; it is because they have made the decision to face their presuppositions. It is extremely uncomfortable to remove a blindfold and deal with truth as it is.”
Brian seemed very pleased I followed what he was saying, “Yes, so it was no fault of your own your grandma could not read your poems or understand your decision. The fault was in her not wanting to deal with something about herself. You don’t know what she didn’t want to deal with, but she would rather remain immature in her thinking than deal with it.”
I got even more excited because we were discussing a combo of psychology and philosophy and I simply love this stuff. I smiled with enthusaism and added, “You just described the Allegory of the Cave!”
Dad laughed. Brian looks stumped and said, “I don’t know this allegory.”
“I will explain it. It was written by Plato. Essentially, there are people in chains down inside of a cave. They are chained facing a wall. Behind them is a fireplace where puppets of different things pass in front of a fire. The shadows of the puppets are cast on the wall of the people chained. The people all have names for the shadows of the things they see passing in front of them. However, one of the people gets out of his chains and leaves the cave. Say, he sees a bunny for the first time. He had previously only known it from its shadow and at first did not recognize it. However, he realizes it was the form the shadow was reflecting. He goes out and views the rest of the non shadow world outside of the cave and even finds the sun. Eventually, he goes down into the cave and tells the other prisoners they are only seeing shadows of the real thing. However, they all declare he is simply crazy.”
Brian looked thrilled with my explanation, “Yes!” He declared with excitement. “You have come out of your cave of oppression and people from your old life think you are crazy. However, you got rid of your chains. It was like you were but a shadow of what you could be living in the cave. However, you are fully alive again and the others who were in the cave with you do not like it. When you come out of a situation like that—there are often people you have to remove entirely from your life because they do not want to see their own chains.” He showed so much understanding of me it could almost make me cry.
“I don’t know what your political beliefs are—but there is a movie about a young gay man who came from an extremely conservative Christian home. They tried to send him to a camp to get his thoughts straightened out in his head. However, he realized they were only asking him to repress who he was. People who love you do not repress who you are, but accept you. A man cannot love his wife perfectly, however I try not to suppress who my wife is.” Although I am still Christian, I was kicked out from my very conservative church that believed in absolute submission when I left my husband. In submitting; I had lost myself. I prefer the term respect now instead...
I nodded. “I have found parallels with my story and the example you just gave. Actually, I recently watched a youtube video on women and education and why the educated woman is not content living in more absolute submission to her husband’s rule like the woman of the fifties was. I think education is one of the things which can free thoughts to think past the small area of the world we have in front of us.”
He smiled like he was so proud of me, “You are doing so well. You have chosen to face your dragons like the one in your painting. It will make other people uncomfortable whose ideas you challenge.”
Dad added, “She is going to school for her masters.”
Brian swallowed as if surprised and then smiled. “That will be very good. You cannot understand how to properly run a business or even how the world works without taking some business classes.” Then he chuckled, “Having you with a master’s at the company will make even more people uncomfortable as you challenge people’s general opinions on the role of woman in a more male dominated business. It will also add to your credibility past simply being your dad’s daughter.” He had a look like he was totally amused I would be shaking things up and would like to see it.
This was one of the last statements Brian made before Dad declared it was time to head back to work. We did briefly discuss electrons and how scientists had discovered some people view them as particles and some people view them as waves, and it was realized the definition of what people found electrons to be was largely based on how people viewed them. The point was that even in science, we bring our presumptions to the world around u,s and it effects our view of it—but, that doesn’t necessarily make the view the whole picture.
I felt so very encouraged by Brian I wanted to give him a ginormous hug. It is rather encouraging meeting anyone who smiles and says to not be afraid to take flight being you—and making people uncomfortable is not always a bad thing. He called me a little later at work and asked me to research a car for him. I think it may have been a test to see how well I could research it. I’m not sure, but I enjoyed talking to him one more time. Our lunch conversation was one of those life conversations I will probably never forget entirely.
@ellowriting @ellowrites #writing