Sunday, January 24, 2016

Who Are We, and Where Are We Going

a Spiral Dance essay

It's pathetic, I suppose, that I'm now more comfortable in anonymous hotel rooms than anywhere I'm supposed to be living, I have a place to live in Madison, now, with a very positive and even supportive roommate, but sometimes I still prefer being alone. That's really why I stopped at a hotel last night. Too tired to deal with people. No spoons left for social graces. Too much effort to even talk to people I like and want to be with. I just wanted to be alone and silent. I don't know how to survive without silence and solitude, anymore. Happiest out there driving alone on the road, in the desert, or forest, or wherever there aren't many people, or any.

I've been kicked out of every group I've ever belonged to. It keeps happening. I should accept it by now, but I keep fighting it. Every group I've ever given my loyalty to, I've been forced to leave behind. I keep getting kicked out of the nest, before I'm ready to leave on my own. Either I've outgrown them, or the gods want me to move on, or it's time and I don't want to go, or fate moves the pieces on my board and I have to leave.

It keeps happening. It's happening again.

Madison, WI, isn't supposed to be where I live. During the crushing end of times in Beloit, when I was having to see everything I own, including my home, the only home I've ever owned, I dreamed that I could give Madison a chance. After all, I used to live there, and had and have many friends, and musician partners, and so on. I've given it a good try, but everything, literally everything, has told me not to make a hime there. No signs of inevitable placement. I've been prevented at every turn. That's the usual sign.

I went through the hell of trying to rent an apartment in Madison, only to be confronted by the unsolvable Catch-22 of: 1. You can't rent an apartment unless you have a job, or credit, or income source. 2. You can't get a job unless you have a street address of a place to live, like an apartment. That paradox is what me onto the road in early November, where I spent almost two months out West; two months, I must say, that were almost the only happy times I had in all of 2015. Everyone noticed. Everyone commented on it. I was happier out West than I had been all year. Less stressed. More positive.

Then I came back to Wisconsin. And the stress immediately got worse again. And then I got bullied, and had to flee a situation where I had been staying. And that pushed me back out on the road again. If only for more healing via travel.

Then I came back.

I'm exhausted, right now, because after two weeks on the road, to Ann Arbor then down to Tennessee and Kentucky to check out another possible living situation, which did not pan out, I had to immediately go back to Ann Arbor for a job interview. I sucked at the interview, and I don't think I'll get the job, but the more I thought about it the more clear it was: I am being invited to live anywhere except Madison. It's time to go.

I got really clear, driving back towards Madison, although stopping short at a hotel before getting there, that Wisconsin is hell for me now and I just need to leave it behind. I got really, really clear; it's so obvious that I should have seen it before, that all my remaining time spent in Madison will be about preparing to leave. It's true, there are details to finish up of this life. I won't rush, if the gods permit, and I know I won't be staying much longer. A few months, probably.

Wisconsin has been very hard on me for the past decade, and it's never going to emotionally neutral there. All that suffering will always leave an aura of sour apples behind. Maybe not in the greenwood per se, but everywhere there are people. So it's time to go. I have more Stuff to get rid of, from the storage locker, and I have time to say goodbye properly to some long term friends, but then I will be gone. These past few months were offered to me, in the words of a friend, as a Farewell Tour. And that's how I am treating them. I won't say de ice what kind of Farewell, just yet. It doesn't have to be that final one, although for awhile that too was in the cards. But it's definitely a Farewell to the life that used to be, that I have now outgrown, and need to put behind me, so I can actually live and thrive, elsewhere. That's the truth of this. That's also why hotels feel better than what used to be "home."

I've never been able to "go home again" in my life. (Cue Thomas Wolfe.) I've never really been able to go back, and stay, anywhere I used to live. I've always been required to live in a new place. I know that on some level that the gods park me in a new place, to be of service there, so that my frequency of light can be used to brighten up a dark place. I'm really tired of always being alone, of never finding a loving partner, although I accept this as part of my path. You're getting a lot more honesty from me, tonight, in this hotel, than anyone is probably prepare to deal with. Well, deal with it. This life path I am on is nomadic, is lonely, is demanding, and has its powerful rewards that sometimes make it all feel like it's been worth it, although not that often.

And I have to keep going.

Caroline Myss, one of my spiritual directors this lifetime, says: Loyalty is a beautiful tribal quality, especially when it is conscious loyalty, a commitment that serves the individual as well as the group. Extremes of loyalty that harm one's ability to protect oneself, however, qualify as a belief pattern from which one needs to free oneself.

That nails it on the head. When I first give my loyalty to a group, I am very conscious of it, and very aware that service is the key: serving others, we serve ourselves. Yet I tend to give my loyalty a bit too fiercely, and it does come back to bite me. Because I make the mistake of thinking that others also give their loyalty as I do. That's one reason I've been kicked out of the nest so many times. People change, and I find myself alone in where I gave my loyalty, with no reciprocation anymore.

I don't really want to die, anymore. I'm not really suicidal. But I do still have days when I just don't care, when I'm too tired to care, and don't want to go on. Lots of honesty, here. Days I can't face anything normal or socially typical. When I'd rather be out there talking to the Green Man God of the Woods than any human. When Dionysus has my love, and you don't. Days I just can't deal with the superficiality, the inanity, the shallow self-regard. Days when I could cheerfully be a hermit in the desert, and talk to the coyotes more than people. I'm half wild as it is, I guess I always was. Maybe that's why I keep getting kicked out of every nest I've ever tried to build. It's happening again, right now. Let me just pull the knife out of my back, before I continue. There. That's better.

The last year has been about getting rid of or being forced to let go of everything I owened, everything left to me by my parents, all my money, my condo, my belongings, my whole life here. Another nest just taken away. Apparently I'm just a drama queen for ever mentioning it, or for it affecting my mood, or for being so exhausted that I'm not perky or cheerful enough, for it giving me a "bad attitude." I guess that's true. Never mind that it's been the most horrific decade of my entire life, beginning with the deaths of my parents more or less in my arms, passing through almost dying from chronic illness, and finally culminating in the Year I Lost Everything.

Well, so what.

Time to move on. Time to start over somewhere else. Time to go back out to the desert, or the woods, and start over elsewhere, with a lot less baggage, including the physical. Since that seems to be the pattern of my life, I might as well embrace it. I don't know if I will ever live with people anymore, I'll just drop in for a visit. A good visit. With some people, a very good visit. But love and sex? Probably never going to be a permanent thing, for me. Always moving on. I can accept that, too. It doesn't hurt too much, tonight, to embrace that. After all, being pansexual or an omnisexual mystic means I've had sex with the sky and the mountains as often or more than sex with people, men or women or both.

I like people. I really do. I just can't build permanent love relationships with them. I mean, other than as family of choice, which I do love and am grateful for. I just seem to be the wanderer, the warrior, doomed to be homeless, rootless, and so on. That's not self pity talking, that's just acknowledging the archetypes that rule a life.

So, here I go, again. Writing this out in a hotel in the middle of the night after collapsing into sleep upon arrival. That's why you get so much honesty, at the moment, no point in lying to myself. No need to pretend anything other than what it is. And we go on.

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Anonymous Mark L. said...

Dear Mr. Durkee,
I really enjoyed your poem, "Tenderest of Gifts", in QDA; the queer disability anthology. And I resonate with a lot of what you write in this post.

My family's from Wisconsin, and I didn't know you were a Madison guy. I went to library school in Madison, for the happiest 2 years of my life. They were happy years because they were exploratory; I joined a Jewish community, I started dating as a gay man, and on and on. I still have many treasured friends and family there.

But my Madison time was bittersweet. I got fired from my first real job there, I lost a friend to suicide there, I had a horrible breakup there, and as much as I liked the Jewish community, I didn't like it enough to join it, at least not then.

Here's why I think Madison sucks for a lot of people. It sucks because it's, on some level, not a real town. Yes, it's anchored by the university, but otherwise it's a bubble. It shimmers like a mirage in the desert to draw me in, but then, in my experience at least, it always promises more than it can deliver.

I feel like I belong in Wisconsin. I've been living in Arizona for the past 2 years. And that has been, in many respects, incredibly freeing. I love my job, I love the weather, I love the food, I love my graduate program here. But it's incredibly difficult for me to get around in Arizona as a disabled man who doesn't drive, and the people here are standoffish, difficult to befriend. I just don't have the support system that I would in Wisconsin. I could never settle here in Arizona.

For the next adventure, I think I will live in Milwaukee rather than Madison. Milwaukee's a bigger city; more culture, more and better restaurants, more Jewish people, the art museum, the lake... And I've never lived in Milwaukee before. I've passed through it on the way to elsewhere in Wisco, and I have relatives there, but I've never lived there or spent any significant amount of time there.

Anyway, I'm sorry things have been so hard for you lately. I get it, I hope they work out, and I hope we can be friends.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Hi, Mark, thanks for the thoughtful comments. I think there's truth in a lot of your insights here. Madison is indeed a mirage. The one thing that really makes it toxic for me, sometimes, is the smugness. The overt or covert attitude so many Madisonians carry, that this is the best place in the world to live, obviously, so why would you live anywhere else? Oddly enough, in recent conversations with some good musician and artist friends who I used to work with a lot in Madison in the 90s, they are all saying similar things, either about leaving Madison, or about not moving back here.

I don't think I'm supposed to be in Wisconsin. I have thought about Michigan, where I am from originally, but I don't know if that's any better.

It's true, though, what my friend who moved back to Ann Arbor after being in Berkeley, CA, for several years has said, She says, lots of her California friends where asking why the hell she would move back to Ann Arbor. She said, "the weather might be colder, but the people are warmer." OI think that's true. The people are the only things here that keep me here. There are many good people here, who I will always love.

But I can't live in a place where I can't find work or a place of my own to live in. That's still not happening in Madison, and I no longer believe it will ever happen in Wisconsin. I have a lot of years here, and a lot of good memories, and many good relationships. And that's not enough, anymore. I have to consider my health, my mental health, my well-being, and my prospects. None of those look good here.

I wish you very well in Milwaukee. I hope it works out splendidly for you!

1:11 PM  

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