A Beautiful Painting

beautifulpictureTonight I am a beautiful painting. I am a woman in a window whose kitchen lights shine brightly against a waning July summer sky. My blinds are open and all of the evening sun’s rays pour into my world, setting a backdrop of myself on canvas, a single woman sipping wine. I am wide open for the world to see.

I live in a village of older homes with older trees, surrounded by many people. We are sea-side against a river and a bay and the views can be so beautiful and overwhelming on a nightly walk that the very questioning of a God becomes ludicrous.

Lonely. A pretty blonde jogger rushes by my window measuring her moments in breaths. She is thinking, “I forgot that I am strong. I can do this.” Someone made her doubt herself today; probably for many days. I’ve had those runs. Running hurts but it makes her stronger than the person who is steadily trying to break her down. She sees me in my window, alone, sipping wine and thinks, “How lonely. How awful. Some day that woman will be me. I will try harder.” And she pushes herself against the painful cramps in her legs believing that no pain is greater than being alone.

My neighbor takes out his trash and glances up in time to see me looking back. A polite nod and he is back inside. The sky darkens more and I look up to see a full moon opaque against a pale blue sky, almost not discernible without the cloak of night to bring out its beauty. Look up, I say to no one. There is a full moon looking down. It is stealing applause from the sunset and taking the breath from the wind.

In my mind, I am twenty-five again, sitting by a kitchen window. Young and beautiful, hated by the man I mistakenly chose to give my heart to. Whirl-wind. Crazy, yet no one stopped me. He loved me with every bit of his being until he hated me with every bit of his being for nothing I had ever done. I was a placeholder for rage he had otherwise never been able to express. I was a young woman sitting window-side, afraid to leave my kitchen because he had been drinking. My home was wrought with tension. He was angry and I never wanted to step out of the safety of that brightly lit kitchen. One night I did, only to find myself on a garden bench in my community after having escaped the house, still reeling from being screamed at, his breath hot and rancid in my face. My body ached from being thrown into a wall and then a shower stall. A stranger walked by and said he would pray for me.

As the evening darkness circles about me tonight, my colors brighten within my tiny world. My kitchen walls flourish with yellow tones. My body becomes an outline more pronounced and apparent. The blue of my eyes pierces my pale face. I am a silhouette of a dying day and an awakening night.

When I was 36, I watched my mother die in front of me in a hospital room. My father had passed away seven months prior. I held her hand while she slipped away from an aneurysm and a stroke. She left to go be with my dad. My best friend. My rock. I was a mother with a three-year old at home and I still needed her very badly. I went home that night and fell into a place so dark that I never believed I would climb out of it. My second husband sat by me on that horrible night and built me a fire while I cried. Two years later, there was the miscarriage of a baby I hadn’t planned. Five years later, my husband left me with an eight-year old child and a big house to sell. He wasn’t leaving his family, he said. Just me. He wanted to be with his son. Just not me.

And then came the grief in waves so torrential I sometimes stopped breathing altogether. In this new house, in this village by the bay where I moved to escape the last decade and the insurmountable loss, I tricked myself into believing that I had grieved it all away only to learn that grief is evasive, hidden and insidious. I heard myself saying, “I am strong. I can do this.” Until I couldn’t anymore.

Building a new life felt like climbing a mountain I couldn’t scale.  There was no more energy in me to try. I remember a 4th of July night when my sister took my son to fireworks and I sat alone on the kitchen floor, leaning against my stove and sobbing into a bottle of wine wondering if I could actually keep going. The mourning of every loss grew exponentially as I let myself feel the weight of it all.

The loss of dreams unrealized can feel like hell. There is a fine line between becoming a victim and bearing down to find the strength that lives inside of you that keeps you going when nothing else can. At that point, loneliness becomes fortitude and strength. Grief is a journey that you can only hold on to and ride.  Acceptance makes it okay to let go.

As the days pass in my village, perspective has taken over despair.  The pain once so unbearable to face has flowed through me and out.  I realize now that the love I miss from my mother has been inside  me all along. The baby I lost makes me love the child I have so much more. The men who didn’t work out have become standards against which I measure my future love’s worth. And those standards are set so much higher.

Now time has passed. I am a beautiful painting in this window tonight sitting alone but not lonely. I am chalks and oils, water colors as light as the glowing moon. Brightness and clarity against darkness. The loneliness that runner girl perceives as she runs farther away from my window against the darkening sky is actually my light flowing from within. I am not lonely anymore. I am no longer afraid. I am grateful for the peace and love and fortunes around me, despite the fact that they will never look like the picture I had once created in my mind. I hug my son with all my strength. I take in the sunsets of my seaside village and breath in the calmness I have needed for so long.

Look up, I say to no one. There is a full moon looking down. Stealing applause from the sunset. Taking the breath from the wind.