Sunday, September 11, 2005


When autumn comes
It doesn't ask
It just walks in where it left you last
You never know when it starts
Until there's fog inside the glass around
Your summer heart

--John Mayer, "Something's Missing"

People keep asking, 'how has your summer been?" I know they're just making conversation, but I find it confusing. It's not like I did any thing differently "for the summer." Except turn into another person--there was that. Just in time, too. The old one was simply not a sustainable proposition.

Last year for my birthday I went to Canada. For a pile of bleeding nerve endings I was outwardly functioning fairly well--I made the 12-hour drive up to Toronto without mishap, was a neat and considerate houseguest, delivered up cut-rate massage therapy on cue, cooked and washed dishes. On my birthday I wanted to see 'Vanity Fair.' It had just come out, starring Reese Witherspoon, and I had been looking forward to it for months.

When it was time to leave for the theatre, my hostess looked me in the eye and snapped, "Well, I'd rather see 'Collateral.'"

So on my thirty-seventh birthday, in Canada, I watched Tom Cruise shooting people in cold blood, rather than the peerless Reese wrapping nineteenth-century aristocrats around her little finger. It wasn't such a big deal, which is why I didn't make a big fuss; a fuss would have been petty and embarrassing. It just sort of happened that I didn't feel like calling my Canadian hostess again until March. Of course, she wasn't calling me, either; over time and distance I could practically feel her seething, 'Serena hasn't called me in months, after I put her up for four days over her birthday, and listened to all that crap about her stupid broken heart.'

Over time my gradually healing mind began to pose the question, "Is this, then, friendship?" And the answer emerged, serenely and kindly, "No."

Which is, to this new person I've become, okay. The old me would have felt guilty, as though I were the one who had been selfish and petty, and envious and unforgiving. But that person is dead, killed by codependency. I've been thinking of making a T-shirt, or a bumper sticker: Codependency Kills. Maybe that sounds melodramatic. It's been running through and through my head.

It still surprises me when people don't get over it. My ex-friends are not horrible people, most of them--they can be generous and loving and fun. We've had a lot of wonderful times together. But over six months it has never once occurred to Neneng-girl, "You know, maybe it was a little childish of me to expect that Serena would include me in all of her projects, no matter how tentative or unsuitable, and unwise of me to force the issue when she was already under stress. I've been a bit spiteful, these last six months, failing to return her emails and phone calls, blowing off her exhibition and disinviting her to my events. Maybe I should call and apologize."

So, in peace and in gratitude, I am Letting Go.

This year on my birthday I had, at last, a reception for my show. Art receptions are a bit like college keg parties--people who attend them act like they are bestowing a bigger favor than people who throw them. I am not a trendy person at the moment; my art reception was not mobbed. Nobody was there who had the potential for being able to afford my work, at any time in the near or distant future. Not only did John Mayer fail to pop in and spontaneously perform acoustic renditions of "Clarity" and "Something's Missing," but H. couldn't even make it with his accordion.

But neither did I have a second to stand around wondering if anyone was coming, and for this I am grateful. Some Arts Circle people came, and one of them gave me a little jade frog, which is currently residing in my favorite plant. One of my clients came, the one who wrote a few months ago to say that I had 'inspired' her. A friend of my ex-boyfriend's came, the one who made a point of attending all of my openings even though we were never close; she is now separated from her husband of a year and a half, and looks as though a 16-ton weight has been lifted off of her head. "Last time I saw you I was such a mess," she said. "You are talking to someone who was a puddle of jelly for a year," I replied. "I would never judge you and I'm so glad you're here." Some of my less flashy and more dependable friends were there, and a friend of my mother's, whom she met at a knitting convention, and who turned out to be the retired executive vice-president of MOMA, in charge of publicity, marketing and fundraising. We all had a lovely time, and by eight-thirty I was ready for bed, and not at all interested in enabling the gentleman who followed me and Mom to the train station, hoping for a dinner invitation. Hint: social cheek kissing is not supposed to be damp; and I do not date men over fifty, particularly if they are still renting.

The gallery extended the show. They are renovating and don't want to change the art until after it is done; thus my show will be up until they can book a contractor, which means that it could very well stay there all season. I can't afford to hope that anything more will come of it, though. I did the best I could, postcards and emails and website and urging friends and family to push every remote contact button they could; the fact is that the gallery didn't help, I haven't reached critical mass, and it's time to ratchet up my massage practice and turn off the air conditioning.

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