For Emma

Posted on May 11, 2013 by emily


I did this collage when I took the Artist’s Way course in 2009 I think it was. It’s always symbolized for me, my relationship with Emma. A relationship that has been righting itself lately, putting itself back on its initial course, which is of course the celebration of life in all its diversity and absurdity.

I’m the swan on the bottom, with her head in the water. Utterly absorbed in my native water element. And also quite self-absorbed. Emma is the swan on top: alert, poised, watchful, observant. The collage itself represents bounty to me, the richness of a connection when two beings, with no need for words, create a bubble of safety in which both can share and be nurtured, and celebrate.

Above all, it’s the celebratory aspect of our relationship that for me, holds more power than anything else. To lack hope is my tendency, and it is only through active celebration that Hope returns to me.

And with Emma, I have so much plain, damn, fun. Laughter and silliness. Alternating with amazing talks that run the gamut — all the geek stuff, of course, and God stuff, and the infinite range of things in between.

It makes it hard to get off of the phone with her sometimes.

For anyone who I ever led to believe that Emma was “bad” for me, I publicly apologize. And I hope you can look back on your own relationships. You’ll know it’s a two-way street, and a lot more complex than meets the eye, any eye. My issues with separating from my Mom at age 3 intertwined with Emma’s similar background, only in a dove-tailing manner that left both of us frustrated much of the time. Neither of us is “bad” and in fact I think we’re both absolutely wonderful.

I appreciate Emma and talk to her regularly now, and appreciate the gift she is to my life.

I regret pitting my friends against her, getting y’all to “side” with me in this weird war of “poor Emily”. It’s an old, old game of mine, and I’m sorry so many got hurt when I played it. I wish I had spent as much time telling everyone all of the things I love about Emma, as I did convincing everyone that she was the source of my unhappiness.

Imagine my surprise as it slowly dawned on me that I am the generator of my own misery. My favorite poem on earth advised me of this me years ago, but it sailed right over my un-grayed head:

Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
And that its own sweet will is heaven’s will,
She can, though every face should scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.

–Yeats, A Prayer for My Daughter

Naturally, my self-generating misery alternates with self-multiplying euphoria, due to my nature and my upbringing. Perhaps even due to my bipolarity if you want to give it label. One minute I’m on top of the world, and the next minute, I’m calculating how many years I’m likely to live, computing what percentage I’ve completed toward the ultimate Finish Line.

And these ups and downs, this is how I’ve lived my life thus far. I’m working on finding balance. I’m working on this thing called “stability” which has been elusive to me. I think I can find it.

But while I’m out looking I just want it to be clear that I spent some years in Portland pretty unhappy and I blamed it on Emma, and it was just a hell of a lot more complex than that. The world doesn’t spin around nearly that simply.

John Prine is neck in neck with William Butler Yeats for stating universal truths flat out. Actually, John’s a hell of a lot more direct, and accessible to me since a twang always helps the medicine go down, especially if it’s John’s. This song comes into my head at least once a day, and states succinctly what I’m struggling to explain here in a deluge of words.

Heeeeeeer’s Johnny!, singing That’s the Way that the World Goes Round when it was a brand new song, and him a young man in 1978:

And here he is singing it a lifetime later, 2012, hoarser’n hell. This one’s a mystical experience, in a mystical bar. This one, he’s lived it.

It seems to me some Facetime Screenshots will spare me from twitching out many thousands of words trying to express a single John Prine line, huskily sung. If you can’t see the love, you’d feel it if you could hear what we were saying as we talked using the dreamy app magic of Facetime.

Screen Shot 2013-04-19 at 10.48.39 PMScreen Shot 2013-04-19 at 10.48.49 PMScreen Shot 2013-04-19 at 10.49.08 PMScreen Shot 2013-04-19 at 10.49.12 PMScreen Shot 2013-04-19 at 10.54.04 PMScreen Shot 2013-04-20 at 12.01.55 AM

I love you, dear Emma.

And I’m sorry, dear Friends, for never properly introducing you to Emma. For blaming her for my self-affrighting ways. I pray that all hatred is driven hence, in all of my friendships. I dream of a room in which everyone sits in harmony, all of us laughing together, having recovered our radical innocence. I dream that I can, though every face should scowl, and every windy quarter howl, be happy still.

My friends have made it all possible. And I include Emily in that list of friends, she is being good to me now. Those handful of you that I allow to peek into my world via this blog, know that I write to you today in extreme gratitude and humility.

And love, which, the succinctest John ever told us, is all there is.

I know a guy that’s got a lot to lose
He’s a pretty nice fellow
Kinda confused
Got muscles in his head
Ain’t never been used
thinks he own half of this town

He starts drinking heavy
Gets a big red nose
Beats his old lady
With a, rubber hose
Then he takes her out to dinner
Buys her new clothes
That’s the way that the world goes ’round

That’s the way that the world goes ’round
You’re up one minute
The next you’re down
It’s half an inch of water
And you think you’re gonna drown
That’s the way that the world goes ’round

I was sitting in the bathtub
Counting my toes
When the radiator broke;
Water all froze
I got stuck in the ice
Without my clothes
Naked as the eyes of a clown.
I was crying ice cubes
Hoping I’d croak
When the sun come through the window
The ice all broke
I stood up and laughed
Thought it was a joke
That’s the way that the world goes ’round.

  –Juan Prino