Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Anne’s Journal Quilt made when Mother Died

It is easy to fill our lives with our “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I suspect that most of us do this at some time or other in our lifetimes.

I was born in an era when women were still struggling to be women who had a lot of choices in life. When I was starting high school, my mother took me to register for my classes. There was a choice to choose a college route or the regular route. I wanted to go to college and become a nurse, likely a military nurse since I had grown up in a military family that went way back. My mother said no. She said I needed to become a secretary and find a man and get married. Really! It is hard to imagine, but that is what she believed. She had gotten married and I don’t think my mother or father finished high school. She had some problem with her mastoids when she was about my age, and in those days, was in the hospital for awhile and had surgery for it. So she and my father got married when she got well.

My father had come home from school one day when he was I think 16 or 17, and his family had moved away and abandoned him. He had other brothers and a sister who had killed herself. I really don’t know the whole story, but he lied about his age, because it was during the Great Depression, and he joined the military. He got his room and board, but in order to be able to join, he had to give all his money to a poor family who never ever thanked him.

That is most of what I know about my mother and father. So I did all the things I was supposed to and hated every minute of it. Secretaries in those days took shorthand, typed letters and used carbon to make copies and a machine I can’t remember the name of to make copies. They fetched coffee for their bosses every day and for meetings they fetched it for all the men at the meetings. And once in awhile, men treated women disrespectfully, touching them in ways that were inappropriate, and getting away with it because it was the times.

Then suddenly women’s lib came along, and so did wearing pant suits, and women were threatened with being fired if they wore those in the office. Gee, no more legs to look at or exposed body parts to be touched. But women persevered. I divorced an abusive husband, but I suppose in reality he was no more abusive than most men who believed their women should stay at home and have dinner ready for them when they walked in the door, raise their children and do their washing and ironing, and stay in the home except to take the children to the playground. Money was given to the wife to get the groceries, and sometimes the woman might get money to buy a donut or small toy for the children but there was no money for anything that might have taken care of things she might like to have.

I DID get to go to a University finally. And I DID get a degree in Archaeology. And I did work at interesting related work in Mexico and Arizona until I became ill with Valley Fever and Paratyphoid, and then I decided to do other less physically dangerous work. But I had a lot of fun along the way. One day somewhere along the way I grew up and became a bonafide human being who could buy things for herself, and who could dream of things she wanted to do and to become, and she could actually do them. She could say no to men who did anything inappropriate, and she could be her own person in general. I got married again a couple of times over the years and had some really interesting and accomplished men – an archaeologist and an anthropologist. And I learned more of the world and who I was as a human being. No more Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda. I grew into a woman who had exciting careers and who had her own businesses. And step by step, little by little, I became a fully evolved human being.

It has not been easy along the way, but that is what gives us strength in the end result. I am now 77, and I have a man in my life – my significant other, Richard – and he is none of those men I married before. He is a human being – a simple man with simple tastes and a really big heart. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, what he says is real. And he has shown his goodness in so many ways without even saying anything about it. He is not a Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda man. He lives from day to day, happy with the simplest of things. I am free to be who I am and he is free to be who he is. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things in this lifetime.

I will never live in the Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda world again. I decided to get another degree at 74 and graduated in 2016, the same year I had breast cancer. It was Criminal Justice. I was going to be a mentor/advocate for juvenile delinquents (and I have worked with them before in other ways) but other things changed all that, so instead I am a CASA court-appointed volunteer mentor/advocate for foster children. I don’t have an assignment currently, but when I am not a caregiver for my Richard, I can do that if I choose. I am who I am and I am happy with that now. I don’t need to blame anyone else now for what I did not become. Perhaps that was never meant to be. Perhaps, just perhaps I was meant to be on the course of life I am now. It is all good, even on its worst days. I will look back on them tomorrow and be glad that I have seen many sides of life. I will be glad for the little things – a beautiful sky, a gentle breeze, a hand that reaches out and holds mine . . .

Something’s Gotta Give . . .

Fiber art piece by Anne Copeland.

Ah, that first bloom of love, when everyone is on their best and each of us seems like the perfect person that we have been looking for. They are, at this point in fact, exactly how we have imagined a lover.

That bloom can last a day, a week, a month, and sometimes even a year or so. But it seems that all of a sudden we are looking at them with different ways. We could not have seen that the male perhaps needed a mother and caregiver more than he needed a girlfriend, or that the female was such a horrible person to deal with – never giving a fellow a break, and expecting too much of him related to sharing responsibilities around the house, and in bringing in money to help with shared expenses.

Relationships are seldom equal on both sides 100% of the time. The scales are often unbalanced for one side or the other part of the time, but it works out fine if the unbalance seems to equal out.

And sometimes unforeseen things happen to all of us – an illness, a heart attack, an accident or some sort of disaster. It can happen to both people at the same time, or one can suddenly have the issue, and the other one has to make a choice to become a caregiver or be in charge of one.

There are people who give the rest of their lives gladly to their mate, taking are of them and helping to advocate for and to protect them from others who might take advantage of them during that time.

Others, the minute the mate becomes ill or has some sort of catastrophic event that is going to require being a caregiver, find it necessary to withdraw their support for whatever reason. Many women who have been dealt the cancer card encounter this situation, but I am sure as many men also have similar experiences with other physical or mental issues.

Those of us who try to follow through and take care of our significant others often run into problems. Sometimes the other person doesn’t really want to get better. For whatever reasons, that person may keep trying to remain an invalid even when in reality he or she could get better with a little effort. Perhaps that person had to take responsibility for others most of his or her life; or perhaps the person just wants to have a form of control over his or her mate. At any rate, this is when one of the other person has to make a decision whether to stay or to walk away. It is never en easy decision in either event; the longer the two have been together the more difficult it can become.

How long should a person stay and try to work things out before walking away? At some point in our lives, many of us will encounter a similar situation. There is no easy answer. But we have to respect and honor our own selves first and foremost. If we allow ourselves to keep doing something that provides no nourishment of any kind for our souls, pretty soon we will not have any soul nor any energy left to support our own selves. And the other person will not be benefiting from this either. Something’s gotta give . . .

The Butterfly and the Circle

Circling Butterflies by Anne

Both the butterfly and the circle carry much positive symbolism. And for me, these symbols are especially meaningful. The little caterpillar moves carefully along branches and twigs, filling itself with green leaves and perhaps flowers, and being careful not to fall or get caught in a spider’s web. Generally speaking, the caterpillar has no real defense system, and it is vulnerable to everything around it from the moment it develops from an egg.

But then it begins to build a cocoon, surrounding itself and closing out all that it has known in its brief life. And in this time, it spends in a form of meditation and growth. After a set amount of time, it begins to beat its newly formed wings (a symbol of its transformation) until it is able to slowly release itself from the cocoon. It is no longer in any sense a caterpillar. This newly transformed creature now seeks the nectar of the most beautiful flowers. Its new-found freedom enables it to travel to new locations, even those far away from where it started its life. It has no fear of going where it has never been before. Often a group of butterflies will begin to circle higher and higher into the sky.

Ancient people throughout the world recognized the circle as a symbol of infinity, and of being whole and complete. Spiritual and Religious cultures recognize the circle as a symbol of the female and the feminine energy , and especially of Mother Earth. It represents a fertile and sacred space. In the U.K. and other countries, there are many circles of stones.

The circle also represents a cycle that can be the cycle of life, death and rebirth. It can represent being complete and whole as well. For the Celtics, the circle was a sign of protection, and may be the reason that many early fortresses, temples, crosses and other sacred things were in a circular shape or contained circular motifs. The circle is found in many other cultures and countries throughout the world as well.

As I have noted, my art often contains images or symbols that are sacred to me. The cycle of life, and of completion belongs with the butterfly and its life cycle and my own life.

Summoning Forth the Boogeyman

 

Boobalala

The Boogeyman is something I think most of us can relate to.  At some point in our childlife, something bit us in the bum, or some other crazy thing like that, and we would get up and start looking under our beds, in the closet, and any other potential place where the Boogeyman might be hiding before we could go to sleep.  Oh, the fear, the tingling, creepy fear.  And yet, night after night, we would go through this ritual before drifting off to sleep.  Was he there?  (Notice that the Boogeyman was always a “he” whether you were a girl or a boy.) And if he was there, what on earth would help us to protect ourselves, or to make him go away? In the end result, it wasn’t about any of this.  It was just about making sure he wasn’t there.  There were probably as many, if not more, nights when we didn’t think about the Boogeyman.  We would climb into our beds, pull the covers up, and drift off to sleep without a worry in the world.

Perhaps the Boogeyman was our way of empowering ourselves over things which we had little or no control.  We were the ones who summoned the Boogeyman, and we were the ones who assured ourselves that he was not going to hurt us. And each time we grew more confident until one day we went to sleep, knowing that the boogeyman was not going to ever hurt us.

Interestingly, in our adult lives, although we had stopped summoning our Boogeymen, instead we began to summon forth our inner demons.  Little by little we called for the Boogeymen to view our accomplishments in life, our creativity, telling us how lame or how otherwise terrible it was. We subject ourselves to endless fears and insecurities about what we so until I honestly think a visit from the Boogeyman would be a welcome relief.

We no longer put our Boogeymen to bed, but keep them out so that we can summon them any time of the day or night. They no longer have to hide under our beds or in our closets. They can appear in full daylight and their power over us is more terrifying than any Boogeyman we ever envisioned. The boogieman was all alone. We could dispatch him pretty quickly and go to sleep feeling as though everything was right in the world. But the demons summon more and more friends until we are absolutely overwhelmed, and there is absolutely no dismissing them. They are fearful even when we are very familiar with them.

Is it any wonder we get depressed when the boogieman no longer is confined to just beneath the bed and in the closet, but fills our everywhere and with not just one, but many demons? And the worst thing is that the demons are difficult to fight because they are so shapeless and nameless. “:He who shall not be named . . .” comes to mind directly from the Harry Potter stories.

Lombada Zombie Man

Try to remember how you put your boogieman away eventually because you outgrew him. You no longer needed him to empower you. Perhaps the demons are there too so that we can empower ourselves once again as adults who are creative and productive. We really know how to do it. Sometimes we just have to remember. And we have to be willing, like Harry Potter and his friends, to do battle with them. As my friend Spencer used to always say to me, “Good night, sleep tight. Wake up bright in the morning light and do what’s right with all your might.” Sometimes we might not have a lot of might to fight with, but we need to remember most of all not to give up in the presence of the demons. They may seem more powerful than we are, but we have something they don’t on our sides, and that is our enduring faith that something we are doing is right, and something they are doing is very, very wrong. They will never be as powerful as us because they cannot be named, and we have been named. Without a name, you are nothing but a shapeless form without meaning, so whatever meaning those demons have is meaning we are choosing to give them.

For those of you who are fighting your inner demons, I hope that you will not only begin to see the demons for what they are, but to realize that you can dismiss them just as you called them forth. You might even want to make some art of all the demons that haunt your creativity as I have done with mine. Sometimes giving them an actual persona can show you just how silly they really are and when you hang them where you can see them, you can deal with them more easily.

The little demons on this page are Boobalala and Zombie Lombada Man, some of my own little artsy demons. Boobalala was made by painting part of my anatomy and then pressing it to cloth in one of those primitive women’s ceremonial experiments artists sometimes do.  He is actually the last remnant of another piece I created.