The Long Way Home

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Silky_Oriental

Lady Sylvia Ashley & Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. with a Kabuki actor in Japan, 1930s

In an effort to remove some of the frantic hecticness from my life, I’ve been making fewer plans. It’s amazing how much more time and space one has when every minute isn’t accounted for! As a result, I’ve been flying solo more often. And taking the scenic routes.

I’ve always felt this time of year–summer fading into autumn–has a particular circumspect flavor to it. A natural turning inward as the weather cools and the days shorten, like some sort of weird inherent hibernation drive left over form our Paleo days.

This combination of introversion and slowing my pace have conspired to give me a new perspective: savoring. I’m no longer a worker bee flitting from flower to flower, never tasting the nectar. I have time to notice things and be more present. I have the chance to ruminate and feel my feelings and make selections from a more centered place. And I find I’m making different decisions on how to spend my precious time and with whom. Now it’s not out of obligation but by authentic choice.

I get Sylvia on a new level. I better understand her desire for a leisure-class lifestyle rather than endless toiling just to make a living. We all strive for better lives, but I think she was really onto something. If all your basic needs are met (and then some, in her case) you have real riches: the gift of time.

By the time you read this, blog followers, I will have embarked on the journey of a lifetime: a three-week tour of Japan with my best friend. It’s the longest trip I’ve taken since backpacking through Europe in the 1980s. It is certain to be adventuresome, altering and enlightening. And it is lavish in it’s generous length of time.

Dia De Los Muertos

Tags

, , , , , ,

DiaDeLosMuertos

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The dead are speaking to me. Sometimes when I am drifting off to sleep, my uncle Gene calls my name. In the shower or washing dishes, I hear Gam call me, “Shir.” Perhaps it’s because of this time of year, when the veil between this world and the next is as thin as the lace curtains in my kitchen.

The Mexican culture celebrates their departed, remembering them in tangible rituals and temporary altars decorated with memories: photographs, sugar skulls and dusty marigolds. It’s so civilized.

As a child, we are the sum total of the adults in our lives. As we mature, we meet peers who influence our tastes and preferences and paths. They teach us, shape and form us into the people we become. How can we NOT honor those influences just because they no longer inhabit bodies?

So I commemorate:

Gam, whose love never wavered, who gave me big band music, who taught me the names of flowers and how to be generous and kind.

Gene, whose cleverness developed mine and whose charm set the standard.

Gamp, whose laugh was silent and whose nature was gentle and who, by example, showed me the importance of exercise.

Marce, who taught me everything I know about antiques and collectables and who shaped my tastes as well as my sense of humor.

Austin, whose individuality, style and overt sensuality gave me permission to embrace mine.

And Sylvia, for her glamour, grace, confidence, humor and fabulousness…and ultimately with trusting me with her story. I haven’t given up.

Gone but never forgotten, I will continue to speak your names and tell your stories.

Identity Theft

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Silky and Marquis_wm

Biarritz, France 1953

As Halloween approaches, I am reminded not only of the princess costumes and pillow cases full of candy from my childhood, but also of the distant past, of All Hallow’s Eve. Originally, it was celebrated with bonfires and costumes of decoy to ward off spirits who traveled from the other world back to this one. Getups were worn in order to camouflage oneself and to confuse the spirits so as not to be haunted. Somehow it has morphed into becoming someone else: a character or a celebrity, like roll playing.

It’s a subtle shift, but it seems to have bled some of the creativity out of the celebration. Now prefabricated, prepackaged outfits like super heroes or sexy pirates or imitating a well-known person as vapid as a Kardashian is the goal. It’s rare to see something as avant garde as a Picasso painting or as imaginative as a season.

Playing dress up was also not limited to just one evening annually. For most of the 20th century, costume balls and themed parties were common throughout the year. Revelers from the past came up with occasions such as New Year’s Eve and birthdays to don the vestiges of alter egos–the chance to be somebody or something else for a night.

This week’s post shows Silky curtsying as “Flora” for the Marquis de Cuevas (dressed as Louis XIV) at a ball in France in the 1950s. It was reported that a thousand guests attended the soiree, all dressed in costume…in September! I think it’s time to get out my lederhosen!

Birthday Blues

BirthdayBlues

Born under the sign of Virgo, I lean a tad toward perfectionism. And Mercury being my ruling planet, I have a hell of a time when it turns retrograde. In the last month, I feel as though I’m going in a million different directions, like I’m spinning out of control. And I seem to be getting nowhere and not doing anything terribly well.

The real wake up call was when I hurt my back. There’s nothing like an injury to force you to slow down the pace and reassess what’s really important…and what you can let go.

In that spirit, I am taking a break from Silky and from posting this blog. I simply have too much on my plate right now and need to take care of myself before I do some serious damage. Happy Autumn!

Fairweather Friends

Tags

, , , , , , ,

GloSylDougElMo

Gloria Swanson, Lady Sylvia Ashley & Douglas Fairbanks at El Mocambo, 1930s

(WARNING: This posts contains extensive self-help quote-bombing)

Your value does not decrease based on someone else’s inability to see your worth.”

I’ve been grappling lately with boundaries. It seems as though while I wasn’t paying attention, some of the people in my life have gotten sloppy with their love. I’ve been feeling unappreciated and disrespected lately.

An unintentional litmus test came to me in the form of some sad news. The agent that was interested in Silky and seemed so promising has passed on my manuscript. This has been particularly tough to bear–not just the rejection of it, but the journeying so far, only to start back at the beginning again after 15 years of effort.

People’s responses to this news have been eye-opening. Mostly I have received empathy, understanding and support. But many folks–who aren’t writers and are ignorant to the grueling process of submission and publication–simply don’t know what to say. And I get that. Some people aren’t artists and take my news as though I’ve experienced a minor speed bump in a nice little hobby. I get that too. But empathy and kind words go a along way. Not so, dismissal. Or even just not listening because this has nothing to do with them personally. Can you say narcissism?

You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce.”

I am reminded of the situation Sylvia faced when meeting her husband, Douglas Fairbanks’ ex-wife, Mary Pickford, for the first time. Gloria Swanson staged a comeback party for herself and invited the two women–without their prior knowledge as they both certainly would have declined–in the hopes of creating a Hollywood gossip sensation. It was fairly common practice at the time for hostesses to manipulate their guests and friends this way in order to have their party “talked about.” A kind of early form of P.R. Just plain catty and disrespectful to my mind. It was the end of Sylvia’s friendship with Miss Swanson.

You can’t force a person to respect you, but you can refuse to be disrespected.

And so I’ve been doing a little emotional housekeeping. Cutting away the fat. Separating the men from the boys. Maybe these so-called friends have always treated me this poorly and I’ve just woken up to it. Perhaps it has nothing to do with their behavior and more to do with realizing my own self-worth and what I require in a true friend. Or maybe I’m just getting older and don’t have the time or patience for this bullshit.

Take heed, readers! Self-respect precedes respect from the world around you.

I’ll leave you with one last quote:

Sometimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength. We walk away not because we want others to realize our worth and value, but because we finally realize our own.”

Crushing

Tags

, , , , , ,

Glenda

I’ve recently discovered that someone I’m sweet on doesn’t return the feelings. It makes me wonder: am I not pretty enough? Young enough? Clever enough? We’ve all experienced rejection–either the giving or receiving. And while most of us would agree that rejecting someone rather than being rejected is preferable, either way it’s a tough business. The sort of thing in need of the touch from a fairy godmother’s magic wand.

It’s funny how it gets both easier and harder over the years as we accumulate the romantic disappointments. Harder in that each fresh let-down weighs a little heavier and we wonder if we’ll ever find a partner, someone who GETS us. Let’s face it, we all want to be loved and desired and seen. It gets easier in that, as we mature, we have a stronger sense of self and (hopefully) take it a little less personally. 

Haven’t most of us had at least one friendship where the other person hoped it might turn into something more and we didn’t feel the same? It’s not that there is anything particularly WRONG with the admirer, just that we aren’t attracted to them physically. It doesn’t mean they’re unattractive. I’m trying to bear that in mind even though my ego struggles with this one.

Silky had a world of admirers, a plethora of lovers and five husbands and, even for her, making a relationship stick wasn’t effortless. So my pathetic notion that beautiful people have it easier is pretty much null and void (as well as ego-based!).

If a person I admire is on the fence about their feelings for me, I’m taking that as a “no.” Next. I have absolutely no desire to try to convince someone to choose me. Promoting myself and arguing my admirable qualities has always made me uncomfortable–I’m not a sales person. It sounds torturous and futile.  Either they’re “all in” or we’re done. Game over.

I understand that deep, developing feelings for a person can sometimes take time–I can be a little cautious and slow with the process myself. But I want someone who thinks I’m the cat’s pajamas. The bees knees. I am enough and I want reciprocation. Until then, It’s just crushing. Because there’s no place like home.

Connecting The Dots

Tags

, , , ,

DecoDetail

Art Deco building facade, Oklahoma City

I recently got a job editing a friend’s novel. For me, editing her book is a complete joy—it doesn’t even feel like work. And besides being a great financial boon towards my Japan trip, it has sparked two epiphanies for me.

Firstly, the friend that hired me planted the seed that I should become a professional editor. She’s got me thinking about it. I’ve been in a writing group for over ten years–critiquing and giving notes–and I’ve been writing for more than twenty years, attending classes, conferences and workshops. I’ve written copy for websites and products, I’ve composed bios, edited a dissertation for a Pacifica student, done copious amounts of line editing and proofing. I have a natural talent for organizing, setting things in order. Clearly I’m capable. Besides, it’s something I can do from the comfort of my own home, at any time of night or day…in my pajamas…with my kitties!!! Heaven!

Secondly, having had an (amazing) editor myself for Silky, I have the perspective of how it feels to be on the other end of receiving notes as a writer. I understand the importance of another set of eyes to smooth out the rough bits, to capture the parts that didn’t end up on the page, to carefully carve away the superfluous. And to encourage and support a fellow writer!

My belief in reincarnation includes the notion that we must each spend many incarnations in an infinite configuration of lifetimes in order to become one with universal consciousness. To understand the interconnectedness of all things, we must play all the parts: once the mother, we must experience being the child; once the victim, we must fill the shoes of the perpetrator; and so on. Having been the writer receiving critique, I now have the experience to be the editor who can compassionately give notes.

My gift is with words. I am detail oriented and have been blessed with the knack for “noticing.” It’s something I enjoy and something I’m good at. It may be the thing that I’m the very best at in this life, in this incarnation. So why am I not making a living at it? It’s time for me to have the courage to embrace it. As Sylvia would say, anything else is just “toiling.”

Healing Wounds

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

SylGableRanchHoldHands

Lady Sylvia Ashley & Clark Gable on his Encino Ranch, 1950

Just so you know, you will always be the hardest thing I will let go. Driving past your church and all the houses in a row, the feeling in my chest is fire. Broken glass and wire.                      –Ryan Adams (back up vocals, Johnny Depp)

Last week I had a small procedure done and was instructed to care for it by cleaning and dressing the wound twice daily. Ironically, it was on my chest, right over my heart. It got me to thinking about the internal, emotional wounds we carry.

It’s funny how resilient the body is and how it can heal. The same is true of the human heart. Just a couple of years ago, mine felt sharp and jagged and my feelings were raw. But I have since gotten past it, grown into my future without the pain. Now it’s more like embers and beach glass, the edges rubbed soft by the salty tides.

Bittersweet is what I would call this experience now. I find it is absolutely possible to feel joy and sadness all stirred up together. There is a scar, but no longer a bleeding cut. How fickle the human heart. The person I was so desperate for at one time, I no longer even desire.

I wonder how Sylvia coped with each failed marriage? I suppose it’s hope that keeps us getting back up, dusting ourselves off and getting back on the horse. Or hopeless romanticism. Or insanity.

One of the many things I learned (in retrospect) about romance is summed up in this formula: real + real = true. One-sided real does not make an authentic connection, no matter how one of you might try.

Bittersweet does not mean bitter. I might even give my heart again some day. But for now, I’m holding it close. The sweet fire within.

Ages & Stages

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

AboardLurline

Clark Gable & Lady Sylvia Ashley on their honeymoon aboard S.S. Lurline, 1949

Turn and face the strange changes...”   –David Bowie

I can no longer deny it: I am experiencing shifts in my body. At the risk of being ostracized, I’m going to use the “M word.” I am peri-menopausal. There. I said it. I’ve been feeling like an irritable narcoleptic with early onset Alzheimer’s and hot flashes like mild anxiety attacks coupled with a sudden high fever. And I’ve got it easy compared to some women.

In our youth culture, to be labeled such is the “kiss of death” and I’m encountering quite a bit of shame in women around this issue. Why does society deem us no longer valid or sexy or fascinating just because we can’t bear children? Seriously? It seems we have an expiration date.

Comedian Amy Schumer recently did a skit called “The Last F#*kable Day” that addresses this strange phenomenon. In it, a small group of Hollywood actresses are gathered to celebrate the expiration date of a fifty-something and some ridiculous truths are exposed. The character of Mrs. Robinson from the movie The Graduate was played by Anne Bancroft at a mere thirty-six years of age! And in our pop culture, she has become the quintessential older woman!!!

Sylvia never let age stand in her way. She was in her forties when she snared the most eligible bachelor of the day, Clark Gable. She was in her fifties when she married her fifth husband, a Georgian prince. And she continued to be the life of parties, traveling the world well into her seventies. Coo coo ka choo!

Every woman knows how distasteful the average man finds “female problems.” How their eyes glaze over when a gal tries to express her experience–whether physically or emotionally. And yet the fairer sex usually exhibits a high level of compassion when it comes to men’s issues. We women don’t exactly enjoy the effects of male pattern baldness or Viagra ads featuring sexy women discussing penile dysfunction. But there it is. We all grow older. And eventually we die.

Our culture has such an odd denial of aging and death. As if ANYONE gets out of here alive! Why can’t we simply face the inevitable decline of the body? Why do we have such shame around the natural aging process? It seems to me a little honesty and humor would serve us far better. Please pass the Botox.

Travel Bug

Tags

, , , , , , ,

SilkyonPlane

A widowed Lady Sylvia Ashley arrives at La Guardia, 1941

My new passport recently arrived. While it’s not my best portrait, there’s travel in my future!!! I’ll be going abroad–not once, but twice!–this year. It’ll be my first international travel in eleven years!

In August, I’ll be going to England for business and pleasure, then in November I have the opportunity to visit Japan! I realize this post is filled with exclamation points, and I don’t mean to yell, but by golly, I’m excited!!

Silky went to Japan with Douglas Fairbanks in the 1930s when he was still married to Mary Pickford. They both enjoyed travel immensely and spent much of their time globetrotting together, before and after they were married.

The last time I was in England was to begin research fifteen years ago and I’m thrilled to get to be going back. This time will be spent in Sussex visiting friends with a couple of days in London.  And just about the time I return home, I should be hearing from the agent to whom I most recently submitted my manuscript. Fingers and toes crossed!

I can barely wrap my brain around the idea of Japan. I’ve only ever experienced Europe and the Bahamas, never anywhere in the ancient Eastern world. I am fully prepared to have my mind blown!

I can feel a shift coming. I sense my life is about to undergo a fairly sizable change. It’s been fifteen years in the making and I feel ready. Let the games begin!