On being domitable

  1. able to be tamed or bent to one’s will; tamable, subduable

Walking down the hill to Liminal, the new writing space I discovered, I thought about… life. Lives that are lived and lives that are unlived. Lives of freedom and lives of constraint. Lives of fulfilled potential and those that are tamped down. Freedom, and responsibility.

The song Autumn Leaves popped into my head. Why does he love her most of all when autumn leaves start to fall? Is it because when they do, we are suddenly and urgently reminded of the passing of time, that there’s a limit, a hard stop to our time here? There’s a limit to self-expression. A time will come when it will no longer be possible. Death will stop the ears. And eyes. And hands. And mind.

Death will stop experience. Relating. Love, pain, fear. Everything.

This is obvious. But, how often do we actually realize it? Register it?

I’d say seldom.

Most of us live our lives as if we have time. Time to play, to dream, to change course. Time to write our memoir, own our experience, be honest and real. That’s for later. For now, it’s nose to the grindstone. Be responsible. Feed your family. Don’t embarrass anyone.

There was a man in my life. He was a good man, and I often say — and truly feel — I should have married him. I say, “I should have married him. He would have been a great husband.”

The reason I didn’t marry him or get anywhere close to it is the same reason I didn’t marry any of the good, solid men who presented themselves to me over the years. I was afraid of security.

Some part of me feels that security will suppress or oppress me, will muzzle me, will stop my experience, fetter my freedom.

Why do I feel this?

A therapist once said to me, “You have to learn to like the feeling of security.”

I’m sure that’s true. My traumatic childhood left me addicted to drama for some years. That’s no longer true. I’ve learned, well, how to sidestep drama, how to stop creating emergencies, how to stop trying to take care of all the broken-winged people in the world.

But, the vestige that remains is this spooky feeling that getting married will obliterate me, literally. That feeling safe will sap me, steal my center. That it’s a deal with the devil. That I will no longer be permitted to do whatever I may decide I wish to do. Things like move to Spain with no notice. Change careers. Pitch everything, and decide to be an artist. Write porn. Love whoever I want, whenever I want. That sort of thing. In other words, be wild and crazy.

The thing is, I fetter myself anyway, perhaps harder than any husband would.

What if a relationship could actually un-fetter one? Free one’s wings? Give one support, security, and true and utter freedom to be? What a concept.

The man I should have married? He called himself a “work horse.” He acknowledged that he worked hard and earned well to serve others. He served his extended family, his children, his friends. I have the utmost respect and admiration for him. He was the epitome of responsible. A part of him liked being put in the traces. He knew what he had to do and never questioned it.

But, truth be told, when I was with him, I was afraid — afraid of his complacency. He’d never been to a single art museum in San Francisco, though he’d lived in the Bay Area for twenty years. When he vacationed with his family, they chose Hawaii or Club Med-type resorts in other tropical and semi-tropical locales. When I told him I wanted to visit India, he visibly shuddered.

And he drank. I never saw him behave poorly because of it. I did however see him with headaches and glazed eyes more than once. His drinking scared me. On our first date, we shared a bottle of wine (that was a lot of wine for me). He wanted a scotch after. They were closing the bar. It was, like, a Monday. It freaked me out, and I had to wonder why. Why did he drink every night? What edge was he dulling?

I rejected him ultimately because I thought I would die in his world. I thought I would feel like a bird in a golden cage. The idea of not worrying about money (and I wouldn’t have worried about money) was both intoxicating and terrifying. What the hell would I think about then?

When one doesn’t have to worry about survival, what does one think about? Sometimes, I think it’s a privilege to “get” to worry about money. It’s purely logistical. If I’m not worried about money, I might be worrying about death — the real shit. Worrying about money is a luxury. It keeps existential angst at bay. It tells you in no uncertain terms what you need to do. Earn. And earn. And earn.

Of course, my friend was also absurdly, unbelievably kind. And that is what I miss. He once threw a party in honor of my father, who already had pretty severe dementia and was very feeble. He insisted on paying my sister’s dental bill when half the teeth in her upper deck were knocked out in a bar fight. He invited my children everywhere, never once acting like they were a nuisance, even though it meant we could never make out. He never once put his own needs first.

That is noble.

It’s also boring.

What of the man who is a seeker? Who is exciting because he refuses to settle? The man who insists on asking questions, on feeling alive, to the hilt, and to the end?

These men make good lovers. Husbands? Not so much.

What would it mean to be indomitable? “Impossible to subdue or defeat… Invincible, unconquerable, unbeatable, unassailable, invulnerable, unshakable, unsinkable.” Not able to be tamed.

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall