For nineteen years, I was beat and belittled into quiet submission. I was trained to understand I would never measure up. I laughed too loud, I talked too much, I read the wrong things, I didn’t fit in, I didn’t understand my peers. I was chubby and awkward and a weird loner who even the weird loners didn’t get. I walked barefoot in the snow and lay on a sled staring up at the stars in the woods. I stood in the bitter Alaskan ocean up to my neck and felt the shifting sands swirl around my toes. I watched you being you: intelligent, funny, charismatic and unreachable. I loved from afar and wished I was loved in return.
For nineteen years, I learned to keep my mouth shut and don’t share my intellect or my ideas. No matter what my thoughts, no matter what my plans, no matter what my passions or desires, no matter what: I was wrong. It was less important than anything you had to say or to dream or to create. And so your dreams became my dreams. Your hopes became my hopes. Something, anything to hold on to. I molded myself into what you wanted so to keep peace. I stepped carefully and hid away the darkest parts of me. I buried myself in the worlds others had conceived. Fantasies upon fantasies.
I slipped further and further away from who I really was deep inside to become who you wanted me to be. My art became less and less as I was ridiculed and berated. The lack of respect with the roll of eyes and a turning away. A pat on the head and a “sure, honey, sure”. I examined my art. Why was it wrong? Why wasn’t it good enough? Was it lacking?Maybe it wasn’t the art. Maybe it was the artist. The artist was wrong. The artist wasn’t good enough. The artist had too many opinions. Too much passion.
And so the artist slipped away. It wasn’t me. I stayed. The artist, it was she who withdrew, beneath the dirt and the mud and the wind and the waves. The artist wept. The artist keened. The artist fell asleep.
When I opened my eyes again, I saw where 38… now 39 years, had brought me. I looked around myself as if waking from a dreamless sleep. Living in the cold north will do that to you. One day, in the quiet morning, looking out on untouched land with snow all around six feet deep, you wake up. You wake and ask yourself, is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life? I realized then, I didn’t. I still wanted to be loved. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to lift the artist from beneath the snow and dirt and allow her to discover and invent and compose and imagine. It was what she had been created for, after all.
For five years I beget art. Symbols and representations of who I was. Who I am. I let the artist free. I allowed her to express her passion and gave her no bounds. I opened my mouth and I spoke my thoughts and opinions, my dreams and my hopes. I gave my heart freely and often. The artist reveled and entertained. But part of me, the part who I had been forced to be for so long, suddenly became idle. A tussle broke out. A war within. Skirmishes and swearing. Thrusts and parries. The passionate dreamer was no longer content to sleep. The subservient follower-of-rules demanded to stay on top. I fractured.
Clinging to anyone who glanced my way. Reading in deeper meaning than was actually there. Believing in a hope which was stillborn from the start. Listening to liars and tricksters and modern-day witches who spun twisted fairy tales of their own; giving them power. In the end, cutting the soul ties and some days forgetting they even existed. Reaching out again and again. Ghosted. Assumptions made. Rumors stung, having been started by pathetic narcissistic women on social media. Friendships ended before they could grow. Wishing for more, knowing it’s not meant to be.
Wanting just once. Just. Once. To be loved and accepted for who -I- am, not who you want me to be. Coming to the realization only today, nearly five decades in, that this desire is an impossibility. You can say what you want. I know the truth. See, there has got to be a melding of the inside me and the outside me. I must be wholly true to who I was for the first forty years and I must also be completely authentic with the inner, wild artist. I can be both. I must be. Fully one and entirely the other. Perfectly, lonely me.
tara caribou | ©2021
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