It was time to register for my fall classes. I chose to opt, again, for an elective in studio art. Art was one of my great passions. I enthusiastically poured over the course selection and decided to mix it up from my usual drawing classes. Animation 101 was offered from 12-2, three days per week.
Here was my logic. First, who doesn’t love Walt Disney? Second, and more importantly, the class was held at noon. Translation: it would not interfere with my sleep schedule.
Very quickly I learned that Walt Disney had the patience of Job. Aside from watching paint dry, animation was the least fun and the most tedious art medium I could imagine. It was just another challenge to my perfectionism.
One afternoon, “Professor Animation” assigned our final project. We were required to create an animated flip-book themed “Rites of Passage.” I just wanted to pass the class. I decided a ballerina dancing and morphing into a beautiful butterfly would be easy enough. Boy, was I wrong.
You create a flip-book by subsequent images that are connected by the slightest changes. It’s a grueling and tedious process. It felt like my recurring dream in which I cannot arrive at my desired destination. It took me longer to draw this flip book than it did to write a 20-page paper on D.H. Lawrence.
Finally, my ballerina danced and twirled herself off of the dance floor and then fluttered herself right off into the sunset.
I earned my lowest grade of all time-C.
Like traditional animation, change can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. Change can be excruciatingly slow and scary. Changing is stepping into the unfamiliar.
I had much in common with that ballerina, except, I never studied ballet.
It just wasn’t in the cards.
I was only eight years old when “The Thief” robbed me of my innocence and chastity. At that young age, I was unaware of sex. I did not know what it was or what was happening to me. He clearly defined it for me. It was about dominance and power. And it has held such power over my decisions, specifically relationships throughout my life.
Little Me. Age 8
My baseline for relationships was poor and defined by disregard, disrespect, and abuse. My baseline was at the level of the bottom feeders.
Let me give you an example.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I met “Finance Boyfriend” at a happening bar. He was handsome in his Armani suit surrounded by his buddies. He was loud and overly confident, drinking his Maker’s Rocks. He put the full court press on me to go on a date with him. He made me feel as if I was the most beautiful and special girl in the whole smoky place.
It did not take me long to agree.
We started out with a bang! We talked endless times per day, and we saw each other every chance we could. He told me that time was irrelevant when we were together. When he met my parents in our THIRD week of dating, he brought my mother a bouquet and my father, a devout Catholic, a book on Pope John Paul 2. He was too self-assured and too good-looking and MOST CONVINCING.
And I fell for it.
One night we dined at an expensive, hip new restaurant. It was crowded, loud and full of the beautiful people. He ordered an expensive Cabernet and the Kobe. I stared at him adoringly. Ah. Bliss! Then the bill came, and I pulled out my credit card and I paid.
I ALWAYS PAID.
A show followed dinner. I was excited to surprise him with the best seats in the Colonial Theater. I paid more for those tickets than I did for my new fashionable outfit and “6 hour-new” auburn highlights. We settled in said best seats. He turned to me and told me that it was not working out.
He told me about Brandy.
At first, I thought he was joking. I thought that he was changing his beverage choice. Then, it hit me. Brandy.
He dumped me third-row center. Again I felt disregarded, disrespected and abused.
I remained in those seats. I did not get up and walk away from him. I sat there and just watched the show play out. I did not change frames. On stage, the men in blue pounded on drums and splashed paint.
The audience and Finance Ex-Boyfriend delighted in the show. I sat quietly. Then I went home and wept.
Another month lost. Another heartbreak.
A few weeks later, at the same loud, smoky bar, I saw Finance Ex-Boyfriend. He was with the same buddies and wearing a different Armani suit. He had his Maker’s Rocks in one hand and Brandy in the other. He introduced us. They told me how happy they were.
Get me a bucket.
Just like that ballerina, I stayed stuck in this pattern, frame after monotonous frame. It was a perpetual ride of hurt and disrespect and disappointment. Sadly, the feeling was so familiar. And that is what kept me there. It was my comfort zone.
At last, I reached the denouement.
“Other Boyfriend” and I had just returned from an indulgent Caribbean vacation where we enjoyed the sun, delicious food, and caloric tropical beverages.
One night we got into it. He predictably said something snarky, and I unpredictably retorted. He stopped, his face contorted, and he said, “Why don’t you do some sit ups you fat cow?”
I left the room and stared at the wall with eyes filled with tears.
Ten minutes later he entered the room, set a wine glass in front of me, filled it with Chardonnay and said, “I don’t want to fight, ok?” He walked out.
Shortly after that, I mustered up every bit of courage possible. I threw my shoulders back, stood tall, and I joined him in the kitchen. I poured the wine into the sink all the while staring at him. I said, “I am done.”
I reached my breaking point. I had been at the bottom of the sea in the company of the bottom feeders for way too long. I desperately needed air. I had to surface.
I raised the white flag. It took a long time.
My best friend, Clare has always loved me unconditionally, respected me and had my back. She held my hand through all my breakups and answered calls at all hours. She was steady as a rock. It dawned on me that if I could have that steadfast and loving relationship with my dearest girlfriend, why could I not have it with a man?
I did not believe that it was in the cards.
But then, I met My Michael.
He adores and cherishes me. He loves me for who I am and who I am not. He believes in me and shows me every day that I am a gift to him. He respects me. In my wildest dreams, I would never believe that I could marry a man like My Michael.
He threw me a 48th birthday party.
Here I am showing my appreciation.
After My Michael and I met we tested each other over and over. We had our ups and downs, but we both knew that we were meant for each other. Finally, I emerged from my cocoon. We married. Our marriage is full of mutual kindness, unconditional love, and respect. He is my miracle. I am blessed. And he feels the same way that is wondrous in itself. I broke the cycle.
And we are living happily ever after!