Friday, June 20, 2008

lives not ordinary


I have always been drawn to eccentric and interesting people. When I was a child, there were many of them who came into our lives and we were encouraged to seek out and value these encounters. One of my favorites was Billy McWayne.  Billy was a heroin addict who met my dad in the emergency room one night. He was a handsome, soft-spoken Southern  man in his thirties with impeccable manners, articulate and polite. He stayed with us for awhile, to the consternation of community members who knew his history and doubted my parents' judgement in allowing a dope fiend around their children.  He certainly was about the farthest thing from a fiend that I ever had met, and we were sad when he left.  Billy never did stay clean and wound up on a chain gang somewhere, but for awhile, he was part of my life, and my world got bigger as a result of knowing him. Another favorite was Jimmy Daggitt. He also had a rich dad and a substance abuse problem-his was booze. He had a cute little house by the beach that was loaded with antiques, including a cool old ladderback chair which he fitted over his toilet, hinging the seat. The towel bar was a huge old sword in a sheath. There was baby grand and I swear it was painted gold. He had a jeep, and he always kept Koolaid in the fridge for us kids. He had wavy hair and a big nose and I thought he was so handsome. Jimmy eventually went to law school and practiced in DC, where he overdosed on some combination of drugs and alcohol and was found, legs twisted under him, unconcious several days later; it is a miracle that he survived. He suffered physical and cognitive damage and walked with a cane and an even more eccentric point of view from then on. Very gay and sort of Truman Capotesque, he has faded from my life, but I did get to see him at my brother's wedding, where we shared memories and his stash of Xanax. 
I am blessed with some pretty colorful friends now, people who have never shied away from putting themselves out there, stepping into life with both feet and making some noise. I am learning every day from them to have the courage to be who I really am.  One of them seems to be running at a higher voltage than usual, leading her loved ones to wonder if a little lithium might be in order. Being less than practical and very artistic, she takes risks, makes dramatic moves, lives outside the box and walks on edges that would make many of us a little woozy.   And my response, to my dismay, is only too often one of thinly veiled disapproval and an urge to "help" and advise. As if. 
It is a spiritual axiom that those things that hook and irritate us about others are the very things that we reject in ourselves.  Maybe this is why cultivating compassion and understanding in relationships is so hard; we have to do it for ourselves first, and that critical voice that lives in our heads gets loudest when directed inward.
So, a poem from Edna St. Vincent Millay for my impractical, dramatic, beautiful, wild friends (I include myself among them):

My candle burns at both ends
it will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends,
It gives a lovely light.

If you are reading this, dahling, you know who you are. 
sleep well, if sleeping is on the agenda tonight.
I loved your assortment of weapons last night:)

1 comment:

organicsyes said...

Wow...you really live it and know it, Claudia. I so appreciate your words and learn much from you each time I read your blog.

That urge to "help" is soooo strong, and I, too, need to back off at times and let things go on as they will...taking the time to go inside, and see what about that "help" can I offer and take for myself...why is that always so difficult? It pisses me off....

So Degas...I agree, time for some art viewing! We will be gone until mid-july...how long is the show running?