The Queen always wins
My dad was born in England but never liked it, so as a little boy he would tell everyone that he was going to America. He met my mom when he was 19 years old, they got married and had 2 children. My dad did not give up on his dream, and when he was 25 years old he took his young wife and 2 children to America. They settled in Pennsylvania where my dad secured a job as an engineer. My parents had 4 more children there, and I was the 6th and the youngest. When I was 1 year old we moved to Southern California.
We moved into a large 5 bedroom Spanish Style house with views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. My dad installed a pool in our rectangular backyard that faced the golf course. He would soak in the sun and swim in the pool for hours. This was a long way from his days as a boy in rainy England. He had made his dream come true. He did it through hard work, determination, and the help and devotion of my mom.
I spent the early years of my childhood in that house. I remember my mom taking me to the beach and feeding me saltine crackers. I remember my oldest sister learning to drive. I remember my dad would call my mom when he was on his way home from work, and my mom would hold up the phone and all us kids would yell, ‘Bring home candy!’
When my daughter was 16, she wanted to visit UCLA as part of our college tours. I hadn’t been to Los Angeles in over 25 years. I thought we were going to land in smoggy LA, drive in all the traffic, visit the overcrowded and over priced UCLA and high tail it out of there. But, that didn’t happen.
We stayed in a cheap Best Western in Redondo Beach and I walked down to the beach every morning to get coffee for us. Those walks to the beach stirred something within me. This was the same beach my mom used to take me to when I was a child. That was one of the few times I had her to myself. She was kind, and gentle to me as she took crackers out of her purse and handed to me as I played in the sand. I remember her kindness, but I also remember her sadness. In those moments I saw her vulnerability, but when we would get back to the house she would put on her brave face again. I felt a connection to her in those moments, and maybe that is why when I walked down to the beach every morning I felt like I was home. I felt like I belonged.
My daughter and I fell in love with everything about Southern California. We loved the constant warming sun, we loved the endless beaches, we loved the smiling people, and we even didn’t mind the traffic as we blasted music and sang along with the windows down. I hadn’t felt this happy in a long time, and I didn’t even know how unhappy I was, until I felt this pure joy and connection with my daughter.
When I came back to the rain of Portland I fell into a deep depression. I could barely get through a day at work. I started looking up apartments to rent in Redondo Beach. I told my husband that we could afford it, and I could transfer with my company. We could do it, we could live there! It became an obsession, and also a way to escape the reality of my life. And that reality was that I was losing my grip on it. As my daughter was preparing to fly the coupe, I had a strong desire to fly with her.
In my 20’s, I lived in Denver. I had an SUV and I used to take road trips through Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. I did this for a couple years, and then I quit my job and decided to take some time to travel. I left all my belongings with my friend in Arizona and flew to Boston. I didn’t know anyone in Boston, but I had always been curious about it. I ate by myself, explored by myself, and even went to see Phantom of the Opera by myself. A few months later, once again, I put all of my belongings in storage and traveled to Italy for 2 months.
After Italy, I moved back to San Francisco, where I had worked before moving to Denver. I was ready to work and stay put for a while. Within 3 months, I met my husband. He was stable, predictable and routine, and proclaimed his love for me after knowing me for 2 weeks! He grounded me, and I loved it.
I was excited and ready to be married and start a family. He matched my sense of adventure and we decided to move to Portland Oregon to start a new life. The happiness at having a baby girl overwhelmed me, and I didn’t want to work or travel. I just wanted to be with her. Being with my husband and daughter filled my heart, and satisfied me.
So, my urge to fly the coupe and ‘find myself’ when my daughter was 16, was exciting but also confusing to me. After feeling a sense of purpose, and feeling so grounded for the last 16 years, I felt like I was starting to float above my life. I didn’t feel grounded at all, and it started to scare me. If I followed this feeling, what did that mean for me? For my marriage? For my daughter and our family?
The next few years before my daughter decided on going to college at Seattle University were tumultuous ones. I was too scared to follow my feelings but not following them was destroying me. It was hard to get through the day without feeling like I wanted to run screaming. Everything was changing. My marriage was in transition. My husband, who was known as ‘Disneyland Dad’ because he took my daughter and her friends to the amusement park, playgrounds, and nickel arcades, found himself with nothing to do as my daughter wanted to be alone with her friends. And there was no need for me to spend my time planning birthday parties, Easter Egg Hunts, or shopping trips as my daughter wanted to be dropped off with her friends, and didn’t want me tagging along.
What was my purpose now? My career had run its course, as I had been demoted from my managerial position and I knew there was no upward movement left for me. Now it was just a job. And with my daughter leaving me, I wonder what was left for me. I was sad, I was hurt. I was the type of person that believed that if I worked hard enough that I could solve any problem, but I found myself spinning my wheels. All my efforts were getting me nowhere but exhausted. The gym became my home away from home, as I expended all my energy in lengthy workouts. I started working out at 5 AM, and going for walks in the afternoon. My days were filled with movement and motion, but I was getting nowhere. My depression, my sadness, and my feeling of being lost clung onto me like a wet blanket, weighing me down no matter what I did.
My daughter went off to college, and that same year my mom passed away. These 2 thing combined set me over the edge. My husband and my disagreements turned into full blown fights. Everything made me mad! I was spinning out of control, and I couldn’t grasp onto anything to bring me back. I felt so alone, but at the same time I craved solitude. I would go to dinner by myself, the movies by myself, and long drives to nowhere by myself. Then I started to take trips by myself. I was looking for connection, but running away from everything. This isn’t how I thought I would feel at this point in my life. I started questioning it all.
I remembered the feeling that I had when my daughter and I had gone to Los Angeles that first time, and I longed for that. I didn’t ask for this journey of self exploration, it came to me. I knew that I couldn’t run anymore. I had to begin right where I was, and start to rediscover myself. Where did that girl go that needed nothing but a passport and duffel bag? She was still in me, and she had something to say.
Having ambition and drive is a double edge sword. When I have no where to focus it, I turn it inward and self sabotage. This is what my dad did. He had achieved his dream but he let a few setbacks destroy him. I was there, I witnessed it, and it was the most heart breaking thing to be around. I couldn’t do that to myself, or my daughter. I had to find my way out. I had to take those very hard, very small steps into the scary unknown.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done. But, I made a commitment to myself to stay the path, to feel the pain, to blindly move forward into the unpredictable future. In the beginning, I felt like I was walking away from connection and a sense of belonging. I felt that ending certain toxic relationships and protecting my boundaries was going to leave me alone and even more sad. But, the opposite happened as I got to know myself again. I started to find the connection and sense of purpose that I had been longing for by listening to myself and being around people and situations that resonated with me. I felt myself slowly start to come alive again, to feel joy again, and to feel that there was another chapter of my life waiting to be lived. This journey presented itself to me as one of many options, but now it is the only option.
On my first trip to Los Angeles I had predicted that I would hate it, but I fell in love with it. When I started this journey, I thought it would lead me to loneliness and self-loathing, but instead I fell in love with myself again. I am doing things that 5 years ago I never even imagined possible. One of those things is going back to Los Angeles in 2 weeks and having an art show. I am going to share my paintings of Queens at this show with women who understand my journey.
My paintings of Queens represent our true selves. A Queen will not let you ignore her, and she sees right through your weak excuses for playing it safe. I tried to resist and fight my inner Queen when she spoke, but I know better now. She is very powerful and when she doesn’t feel heard, she will try to destroy me.