I showed them to her last week when she stopped by in between appointments. She was excited, as always, about these things. She showed me a new essential oil she purchased (called "moon goddess" or something like that. Something I would have scoffed at not long ago. Something I still scoff at, because it's funny). And as she scrambled out the door, endearingly a few minutes late to her next gig, she said, "Because these are the things you need to know."
These things. These everyday things we share and know about each other.
I fingered a tiny silver necklace I was wearing as I watched her leave. This thought, these "things" lingering in the air like the essential oils body spray she showed me. The necklace, one she made me, is the shape of a small pelvis with the sweetest fleck of gold. It sits ever so delicately in the crevasse connecting my collarbones. She made it for me entirety unprovoked and pro-bono.
This necklace is my source of power.
I'll tell you why.
But first you need some backstory. Some vulnerable, embarrassing, she-doesn't-even-know-the-extent-of-it backstory.
She is one of my soul connections. An easy and deeply necessary friendship - for us both. She is an artist, finally making a real living after years of trying. We hit it off one night at a party. I asked her what she does. Her husband, close by her, reminded her that what she does isn't who she is! For some reason, we all three teared up. We've been soul bound ever since - but in the best way possible.
I both love and hate being close to a popular artist. I will tell you why.
In 2007, when we first met, I didn't have to share her very much. She had a small following on her blog and Etsy and would sell things often, but her income from these sales wasn't sustainable. She and her husband worked full-time as apartment managers in their building, and she was painting at her studio in Pioneer Square every chance she got. She was showing at galleries and making textiles. She was teaching me how to paint with watercolors and introduced me to blogging. She was starting to take photos and stomped around Capitol Hill like it was her catwalk. (It was.)
She wanted to grow her online business, but hadn't yet pinpointed exactly how. Her business was in gestation. I knew just about all of her fans, and most of her online friends were connections we shared or had found together.
But a few days after her 30th birthday, she found out she had breast cancer. I was living in LA with my sister for a few months at that time, and by the time I had returned, she had moved back to California. She got better there.
But then she moved back.
And then the cancer returned.
At the same time (and because of her time in California) she was making new Internet connections rapidly, opening care packages with gifts and amazing words from women I never met. She taught herself how to silversmith and was selling goods like hotcakes. She was exploring something she called "journey work" and tarot cards became a part of our ladies' gatherings, much to my confusion.
It became harder to keep track of her new life. I began to feel rejected by it. Her actions never changed toward me, but some small seed of fear inside of me was planted. She'd made thousands of new Facebook friends whom I didn't know, her Etsy sales skyrocketed, and suddenly, she was conjuring forth her dream, and it was beginning to appear. The dream of making a livable wage from selling art.
I secretly housed resentment and panic, scared our time together was coming to an end. Scared I could easily be replaced. Scared that she was finally fed up with my skepticism and found my darkness unhealthy for her - at a time she needed light.
Disgusted with myself, I had thoughts that "a good friend would always, always be supportive." Chiding never actually changes anything, but I sure felt like shit - and that was the goal, most likely. After that second cancer scare, I began to withdraw. It was good timing because I could hide my retreat under the guise of being busy with a baby and going back to work full time.
In short, I sensed I was loosing her and ran away.
This schism filled my journals with angst - entries examining my frustrations, beating us both up, all the while wussing out on actually talking to her. Instead, I did what I counsel people NOT to do. I relied on blind attempts to decipher how she really felt, made assumptions (which were never flattering for either party) and read too much into every little thing she said and did. She doesn't know this, but I even had to unfriend her business Facebook page at the time. Who the eff were all these women appearing on her feed?!
It was like every success and new connection of hers suddenly stabbed me, every new friend an elbow shove to the corner. My irritations came up in therapy all the time. Many months of work revealed something simple. My inner child, the one screaming after my father's car as he left, was begging for a voice. A voice I long denied her. She wanted to know the answer to a most basic human question.
"Am I necessary?"
Was their room for me in her new life? I knew every relationship has these junctures. Would we find a way to continue walking the same path? Or was this the fork in the road that eventually separates two souls?
Needing people, in any capacity, feels deeply shameful to me. It's part of my life work - to allow places to grow where I rely on people deeply. In over eight years of friendship, I had never once doubted my place in her life. Not.Once. I am so proud of that in myself, too proud.
What was happening now that I was so lost in my feelings of rejection? Feelings I could usually love myself right out of. Was my power diminishing?
While the confusion nearly drowned me, one thing was clear. I needed to confess my feelings of neglect, take a risk and admit,"I need you."
But how? I couldn't just come right out and say it - not with her. That's not what she and I do. We don't really talk about 'us.' With other friendships, maybe. I didn't want either of us to lose face. I wish I could describe how scared I was, how anxiety wound me up at the thought of initiating such a conversation, how deeply I wanted to preserve our sacred space, how fiercely I fought with myself, afraid of relinquishing my power, annoyed that she would later think of me as a desperate, clingy friend.
Maybe you can't relate. Maybe confronting people is easy for you. But maybe you are like me, and you would rather never be in another relationship again than make people feel that their love isn't good enough. That you need more than they are giving.
And truly, I'm unpracticed at this kind of vulnerability. I don't often have to ask this of my friendships because I intuitively know, and I trust that intuition. But also because it's humiliating. Not to mention unattractive, desperate, and off-putting. It just is. It's the dynamic of human attraction. In fact, the sure-fire way to get me running from any relationship is to cage me in a conversation wherein I must assure the other party of my affection. I can't help it. It's the bird medicine inside of me.
Trap me, and I will flee. Free me, and I might stay.
So I didn't want to do that to her. I had lost the deep knowledge of her love, but I knew our friendship was going to perish if I didn't ask her. And that would be on me. Totally on me.
Before long, my courage and need outgrew my fear and after nearly one year of housing this angst, I finally invited her to get a drink.
Adrienne Rich said of Marie Curie that "her wounds came from the same source as her power." These wounds being, of course, radiation poisoning. Curie was working to cure something that ultimately killed her. Her power, that which she created, gave her these wounds. Yet, she didn't know it; she carried test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pocket, not then knowing the negative affects of prolonged exposure.
I study women artists who push deeply into their pain, on purpose. Tap into it, see it as their muse. They find the most grotesque, detestable flashbacks and write them into the present, thereby purging those memories of shame. What remains is only truth and gold.
I tried it once. Several times, actually.
It's the scariest, most nauseating thing I've ever done.
To need her was to lose power.
To need her was to gain power.
Both can be true at once.
She says that all the time.
Once I finally stopped babbling and back-peddling my way from the outright asking,"Where do I fit into your new life?" she grabbed my hand from across the table. I was painfully embarrassed, avoiding eye-contact. She told me what I wanted to hear, but it still stung that I needed to hear it. I couldn't forgive myself for being human.
As it was. I barely told her a fraction of all I'd felt. But it was enough to let out some pressure.
She teared up, assuring me that I was needed, and better yet, that I was wanted.
Her words both deeply pierced and healed me. But they were the "things" I needed to know. Instead of our normal "things" like every day shopping purchases, the health of a strawberry plant, where you got that tarot deck or what color you painted the kitchen walls, the "things" were assurances of friendship.
Since then, the feelings have assuaged significantly, but will never go away. I've stopped judging myself for needing her. Stopped berating myself for doubting our connection. Stopped being irritated for getting hurt. Stopped trying to squelch the feelings of jealousy when they arise. I let myself feel the feelings because, if nothing else, they indicate how much I desperately need her to stay alive.
The shadow surrounding our connection, where the jealousy hides, is love. Every time I feel it now, I read it like a love letter. I let it soak into my bones like a prayer. Jealousy reminds me that we are connected and that I don't want to loose that connection.
I still don't like sharing her. I don't get a say in how she relates to anyone else, if she is being her "real" self (whatever that means), or how she represents herself online. But it's up to me to love myself enough, not her.
This is the pain and privilege of any relationship.
But especially of being close to a popular artist.
Locating my wounds, that's never been a struggle. I am a bloodhound, sniffing out pain like it's my only life-force, knowing that wounds can reveal versions of myself I've never met and lead to more self-awareness. But seeing those wounds as a source of strength? I couldn't wrap my mind around it - for me.
Turns out, I didn't have to.
She did for me. She found a source of power and bottled it up into a necklace for me.
When the second cancer came back. It broke her bones. Lots of bones.The symbolism of bones and skeletal structure, the idea of what lies beneath, examining what holds us up that we can't see, has always permeated her art. Even more so now.
How can we survive walking on broken bones? How can plenty come from scarcity? Power from wounds?
I never put myself in the same category as she was in. The brave born from the broken. Maybe emotionally, even psychologically - sure. Never physically.
Until one day, she showed up with the tiniest necklace adorning her long neck. A necklace she made for herself, a necklace of bones and blood and truth and gold.
|(photo used by permission from umberdove.com )|
Then she told me that she was making me one.
"Me?! But I've never broken any bones!"
She looked at me sideways. "Um, your tailbone?"
"Oh right. I forgot about that."
Images of my birthing experience flooded my mind. I had pushed for over five hours, rocking back and forth on my tailbone every 1 minute or so. I couldn't sit on it for weeks, but figured it was all part of the netherly healing happening slowly. But when I was still in immense pain eight months later, it dawned on me that I had probably fractured my coccyx.
My bones, as she pointed out, had sustained a birthing wound.
I immediately felt ashamed that I hadn't seen it. That I had so undervalued my body. This vessel who carried life, who bore down with strength and brought forth a baby star.
She crafted my broken bones into a talisman of power. This necklace reminds me daily of my physical capability, but also unlocks the shame that I couldn't at first see how my broken tailbone made me a force to be reckoned with. Me, a seer! I couldn't see how my wound was a deep wellspring of power, a bow in my quiver for battles I would come to face.
I was blinded.
But she saw it.
She saw power in me that I never recognized.
And THIS, this is why we need people.
What if all our self-care, awareness, anagnorisis
Doesn't have to rely 100% on our own self-care, awareness, and anagnorisis?
What if the very space where my resilience and imagination fails,
Is where people come in to fill in the gaps for me?
What if needing her has made me more powerful?
What if my power isn't my power alone but the collective power of those surrounding me in love? What if I can use her skeletal structure to reach out and look farther.
What if, like she always does, I can go forth and trust my motherfucking bones.
These are the things I need to know.
Please, help us fight the 3rd round of cancer. Donate here: http://www.gofundme.com/morekellyclark