Friday, October 29, 2004

The awful truth

For those of you who know my identity (and if you don't know my identity, why are you reading this boring blog?), go check out my web page. I've spent most of the last four days on it. Surprising how little it seems, now.

So I'm officially out of the gallery, the healing space, my ex-boyfriend's building and his life. The last moments produced a torrential meltdown, as the ex-boyfriend distinguished himself by chatting casually and in a self-congratulatory manner about who he was going to rent the space out to next, and for how much, and by bringing out the bicycle he fixed up for me--the one I rode on all those times we biked across the bridge together for coffee and bagels in Manhattan, in bitter winter weather, and through the parks around the waterfront in summer--that bicycle, which for some reason he locked down in the basement last winter without consulting me--he brought that bicycle out and proceeded to discuss how he was going to readjust it for Jean, his friend's wife, who just had a baby and who came over to pick out the plants I was giving her for a housewarming gift. Not that I begrudge Jean the bicycle, but how tacky and tactless can you get?

Anyway, thank God for Neneng-girl, who literally hauled me back from the brink of hysteria, got my desk home, helped with all the heavy moving and forced me to go out to dinner with her afterward. I had plenty of groceries in the fridge, and no money to go out with, but it was probably for the best.

Looking back, I see clearly that I never wanted to be running a fucking gallery. Does this surprise you? It shouldn't. Looking back, I see that all I ever wanted, all I needed, was a better workspace and a partner who loves me enough to commit. I should have realized it, in fact I DID realize it, after we'd been together a few months and things were still blissful and rosy, and my landlord threatened to evict me in May. Boyfriend led me on with the idea that HE wanted more space, *I* wanted more space, we both had some money to invest, why not go to Staten Island and look at real estate? Then when we got there, suddenly he was looking at APARTMENTS for me to RENT by MYSELF and get ROOMMATES, and I said what the fuck? I am not renting an apartment in Staten Island by myself, one year after moving to New York, what are you thinking? And we nearly had our first blowout argument in front of his friend Roy, who I'd just met, and quite liked, and didn't want to drag into things.

There is always a convenient caricature for men like my ex-boyfriend to impose on women like me--the desperate thirtysomething with the ticking biological clock. So I shut up. I said, "yes, you're right, we don't have to hurry, of course it's too soon to move in, what was I thinking? Sorry." And I continued doing my impersonation of Superwoman. No, he didn't charge me rent for running a business in his building; he just got free massages, free labor toward capital improvements, and a whip over my head. "The business will be financially viable if you're doing 15 clients a week, if you're not doing that by May we'll call it quits," he said.

And I would agree, without thinking--is that what this man WANTS for me? Three clients a day, five days a week, when three massages a day brushes my limit of physical endurance? Plus running the gallery, answering phone, designing web site and publicity and curating and installing? And commuting across town daily because he has a phobia about living with me? When am *I* supposed to paint? Doesn't he believe in me as an artist? Do I believe in myself?

The fact is, being an artist, a real artist, the kind I have always wanted to be, is a full-time job. I have just finished re-organizing my portfolios for the last few years, and I can see that they are not there yet, they are not good enough. This is partly due to lack of maturity, and partly due to me not taking it seriously enough, not on the inside where it counts. Because I do everything else first.

But anyway, of course the business was never going to work, because boyfriend with his fear of commitment would freak out and sabotage things every time it looked like I was investing enough energy to actually succeed. Who can forget the Valentine's Day episode, when I was throwing a party to commemorate the closing of the best-selling show yet, with performance art and film screenings and dancing, and the day before he screamed at me, "We don't have a RELATIONSHIP, I'm not ATTRACTED to you! We think very DIFFERENTLY!" What does a person say, what does a person do, in that situation? Bring out a list of dates, times, locations, tapes of direct quotes and ecstatic noises? Suggest therapy? He would strangle me! I suggested "mediation," and a two-week "break." He didn't find a "mediator," he just came in sheepishly on Valentine's day, hung over from a vodka binge, and said, "I'm sorry. Thank you for being my Valentine anyway." And thank YOU for these grey hairs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming the ex-boyfriend for my lameness as an artist. I'm blaming my parents for that. No, no. I'm blaming my own erroneous habits of thinking. I was waiting for some sort of definitive, external confirmation of my talent and worthiness before I got behind myself a hundred percent. I believed in myself, sort of--it's just that I didn't believe that the world at large was going to agree with me.

Now, all my three faithful readers, I'm not looking for strokes, here. This is MY problem, and I take full responsibility for it. I have started to make the shift--I am a full-time artist, now. I get up, work out, make breakfast, then I paint, and paint, or apply for grants, or work on my web page, or think and make sketches. If I don't get the grants, my plan is to apply for them again. Repeat until successful, dead or bankrupt.

So really, what was the hideous thing I tried to do to my ex-boyfriend? Oh, it was terrible. Secretly, oh, deviously, I wanted him to be my partner. I wanted to help him fix up his two or three or four empty, decaying rental units in prime real estate territory, make them beautiful, rent them out, and find a building that both of us together could buy. He would make it functional, I would make it beautiful. We would rent out still more units, live in the best and biggest and brightest one, I would have a big beautiful studio and make big beautiful paintings all day long. I would run a small healing practice, too, and he would do whatever the hell he wanted--design electronics, design buildings, fix up old computers, go to school, go climb Everest, whatever. This was the living hell I had planned for my boyfriend--the love, I thought, of my life. I'm so ashamed.

(You might ask, well, what were two or three or four rental units doing, decaying and empty, in prime real estate territory in an unmortgaged building? Oops, do not look too closely. The state of the building mirrors the state of the soul.) The state of my ex-boyfriend's soul is none of my business, now. And the more the days go by, the more glad I am of this. We desperate biological clock women, we tend not to take phrases such as "fear of commitment" seriously. We think, "he's probably just never met someone as wonderful as me." And it's true, he hasn't. But that makes no difference. When a person runs their life in fear, the thing they fear most is a person who runs it in love.


Barak said...

Hi. I like your website redesign.

Ex-boyfriends do tacky things during or soon after breakups. I've done it myself, I don't know why. (I decline to give you any details under the 5th amendment while we still have it.) I can speculate that maybe it makes things easier if there is a reason to be really disgusted with the new-ex.

Bob said...

I concur with Barak, on both your website and on being an ex-boyfriend. Sometimes I think, in life moments like this, for men there is no higher learning. As for your comments on being an artist and self-worth: yes, and yes.

Liz said...

"they are not there yet, they are not good enough. This is partly due to lack of maturity, and partly due to me not taking it seriously enough, not on the inside where it counts. Because I do everything else first."

Oh, god... me too times a milliion.

I have total faith in you!

chrissie said...

Thank you for being a writer, too! And what an especially elegant, yet shrewd ending:

When a person runs their life in fear, the thing they fear most is a person who runs it in love.