Monday, May 8, 2017

Laughing While Crying

I've always had a bit of an artistic side, it just doesn't get out much. I honestly didn't know I was an artist. Sure, I've enjoyed painting abstract murals on my walls for the last 10 years, but I never thought much of it as anything else than an outlet. It wasn't until I met a man who was a well-known painter, brought him to my home, then he took a look at my works and said "I didn't know you were an artist" until it occurred to me that I did, in fact, belong to the illustrious crowd. Oddly, I'd always thought that artists were trained, and frankly, far better than me.

One of our earlier meetings, Pete had his phone up and showed me the works of David Shrigley. I fondly remember him showing me the works and seeing the colorfully drawn "Big Fancy Room Filled With Crap" picture. Afterward, Pete's Facebook postings were often different pictures from various artists, as well as some of his own work. I enjoyed the pics, and I was careful not to like each one he posted (didn't want to look like a stalker and all), but I saw each and every one.
As I've approached this transitional period for myself, I've found myself looking more at art. At first just Pete's. Then there was art at the internship, done by residents of the organization and others. Soon more art followed. As I've embraced more art, I've also started to embrace different people overall. I was in my local Kroger recently when I complimented a woman's colorful socks. She responded that she'd gotten them online. I told her that I wanted to be like her when I grow up, and in turn, she invited me to her home for an art showing she was having. I assured her that I would show up.

Saturday arrived, and as promised, went. I was kind of nervous, but not by much. The woman was older, as well as white, but I figured, why not? A good thing about my transition is that it has allowed me to get to know new people and experience new encounters. I arrived and was immediately greeted by the woman, Mavis. She and I laughed as we explained to others in the room, her other artist friends, how we bonded over sushi in the deli area. I went on to work the room and was in love with how expressive and open her friends were. They happened to attend spiritual services close to the Buddhist temple I meditate at and they asked my experiences there and said they'd hoped to attend as well.

Coincidentally, one man started telling me about his heart attack that happened just 6 weeks prior. He explained that his aorta exploded (what now?!) and that his doctors explained that he should have undeniably died in 10 minutes after the rupture. Yet he made it another hour and a half until he could call his girlfriend and she  was able to get him to the hospital. I could even hear his pacemaker. The man was 46-years-old. A year younger than Pete. In some odd way, it made me feel better. Like no matter what, maybe it really was Pete's time to go? Only 2 weeks prior, Pete was living in a single room with 4 or more more men. I've though often how if he'd been still living with those men or if he and I managed to hang that weekend how he'd still be here (I learned CPR from the internship) or how I'd have at least called the ambulance. But clearly, those things didn't happen. Pete's body was positioned in a way to make us think he tried to go out of the room where he had the heart attack. But alas...

As I left the group, I felt rejuvenated. While alone with Mavis, I explained to her that I'd been going through some things and needed this time with her and her friends so much. She assured me that we'd get coffee soon. Another friend of hers made me promise to commit myself more to my art. Anyone that knows me knows that I take my word seriously. So I guess we all know what that means.

My cousin Jarronn wasn't just a good guy. He was great. Its hard to follow Jarronn. He and I were the same age, but he was the golden child. We graduated the same year from high school, but he graduated with honors and scholarships. I barely got my diploma. He graduated from college in 4 years and followed it with a wonderful job at Johnson & Johnson. It took me 9 years, I got pregnant my last year, and struggled to find a job that paid me decently. Jarronn's brother Theo was a lot like me- emotional and troubled. Yet in Jarronn's death, Theo went back to school and has blossomed. He once told me that he feels that when Jarronn died, part of his spirit moved on into the Theo. Coincidentally I happened to read something this weekend over the internet that said the exact same thing regarding people dying and their traits transferring. I'm feeling that.
That same night, I lay rejuvenated, yet continued to miss my dear friend. It was also the night of my failed online date. I decided that perhaps I needed some time with a person that more understood my feelings. I reached out to Adriana, widow of Frank Barham. Frank died suddenly nearly 2 years ago when the wheelchair he was in was struck while he was rolling to Savannah to bring awareness to people with disabilities and raise money for wheelchairs for people that needed them. (                                                                                                                                                 

I only knew Frank in passing, but he was always such a super spirit. Honestly, you'd forget he was ever in a wheelchair. He was so strong and positive, you'd seriously forget. I also followed his journey on Facebook and was floored to learn of his passing. I remembered seeing Adriana mentioned somewhere and I decided to send her a friend request on Facebook and I'd occasionally check in on her through her grieving process. Now here I am. I'd never even met Adriana personally. We'd just chat on Facebook. But now I needed her.

We met in my favorite coffee shop. Warm hugs immediately. She smiled and was so bubbly. She spoke warmly of Frank and started to cry. I teared up as well. I told her about Pete. I began crying at the hourglass I'd purchased for him, and how it was in my trunk, when he died. At some point she made a joke that resulted in both of us laughing manically through our tears. It was nice to be with someone that really got it. It was crazy to me that she spent 19 years married to Frank, and I only had 5 months to get to know Pete. So she grieved the life she knew. On the other hand, I grieve the life and friendship I'll never get to see go further. And unbeknownst to me, Adriana is an artist as well. She showed me the beautiful ring on her finger that she'd managed to make herself via blacksmithing. Adriana also invited me to some of the art classes she attends to meet a friend of hers that can further help me through this process.

So yet again, I'm taking steps to follow this process. I don't know where it will lead. But I'm enjoying this. New people, new interests, new locations, new laughter. The fact is that I will graduate in 2 weeks with my master's degree, but truthfully the ceremony is the furthest thing from my mind. Sure, it will be nice to see my colleagues and embrace them. And to see my dad and step mommy beam with pride as I cross that stage. But I'm more looking forward to making art, meeting more new people and following a passion of art and beauty. I guess tears aren't always a bad thing.

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