Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein
Woman with a brilliant mind
Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Avoiding me

I like a view but I like to sit with my back turned to it.

Gertrude Stein

I haven't visited with my Gertrude in awhile, and I can't really fathom why I've been staying away from her place.

It's not that I haven't wanted to see her--I have. I think there started to be barriers--little snarls in the flow of emotional connection. Maybe it's the way she smiled at me weirdly or didn't smile. Maybe there was just a little gap in what one of us said and how it was understood. Or maybe my ego was not flattered as it was before--we lost our charms.

Or maybe one of us got "needy," to where just a hello was not enough. Maybe one of us was seeking validation from the other beyond what can really be expected, like the cat that won't let you push her off your lap when you're tired of her.

It's not that I have stopped loving Gertrude. I always do love her. She's just this funny, unique, gray-haired person with her own proclivities. She doesn't fit into any stereotype. Maybe the closest thing I could compare her to is Maude, in that old movie, Harold and Maude. Maude liked to find what was unusual and she found beauty in all of her senses, but she was too destructive! If ever there was a stereotype for a nutty old lady, that's Maude. Gertrude, on the other hand, is over that sensibility and she just wants to do what's giving and meaningful. I appreciate that, and yet I had to hold back.

Well, today I felt lonely for her and I went and saw her. She still had the dry leaves on the rug beneath her plant stand that have been there for a long time. And there were still the shoe marks where we'd gone looking for something. There were still the candles burning in the colored glass holders, and as always a cup of tea--jasmine. I looked into her face, and she looked into mine too. And I could tell in a heartbeat that it was okay, and that when one of us could finally put our feelings into simple words, we'd be free to say anything that might clarify the muddle.

Communication is always better than avoidance. Always? Probably always. There we were, two flawed individuals, caught up in realities we couldn't fully explain. But it was nice to go and visit her just the same. I did get lazy and maybe she did too. We ought to think of something we could do together, such as go on a sailboat ride or to a museum when we've got the energy and the will. Or we could cook a meal together. And most of all we could appreciate that we were together visiting again, as if there would never be another visit, not saving the expensive china for some other occasion but appreciating it right now.

guest Gertrude of the Day:

Her name is Harriot. In her family she had a sister who was "the pretty one" and she dealt with that by going out and doing great things. She joined the women's auxiliary of the military during WWII and learned leadership. Met a great guy and married him, raised a family of ordinary kids who have done some great things, had a career in cosmetic sales and always kept a really nice home. Now her health is a struggle and yet people still come to see her and help her, thanks to her personal capital built up over the years. And she's still refined--except when she gets a little angry you hear it come out as steely firmness but otherwise politely. There's nobody else like her.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The heart of friendship

There ain't no answer. There ain't gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer.
--Gertrude Stein

...And you know you'd love to find happy ending to your unhappiness and suffering, but how will you handle it if there never is one?

Gertrude had gotten to where life felt empty and sterile. She didn't want to blame anyone for that, realizing that what she was all her life up into her forties couldn't be helped, because she didn't know any better...and that her younger days were indeed emptier because she'd never been cared for particulary well, so she didn't know the depths of caring about other people.

So later on when the social situation altered, the party times were over and personality was desperately needed, she found it hard to adjust and start to open up to the fact that she was just like everybody else. So she spent quite a few years alone and fallen away.

All of that changed when she began to examine her attitudes and what about her life had left her so lonely and empty. And she realized, at turns, that first of all she hadn't liked herself very much at the outset. She'd somehow gotten the idea that there was a way one ought to be, and she wasn't it. And second of all, she'd become a bit of a narcissist, trying to fill out her lack of self with talk about herself. That left little room for friends to come in. She started caring about others and being interested in them when she stopped judging, comparing and grading. After that, friends came to her and she had a much better life.

I love Gertrude because she's colorful both in style and in the way she responds to the dumb things I say. She doesn't care that I don't like a lot of the same things other people do--she doesn't expect anything like that.

Plus, she learned something important about the suffering caused by her life:

There are two kinds of pain. One is suffering, which is bearing your burdens and learning your lessons. You realize there are problems and you aren't necessarily comfortable but you have a working attitude about things.

The other kind of pain is unproductive, self-pitying and a waste of time, and that is when you have a problem and you just lay down under it. Now, you wouldn't know it to look at her but Gertrude did plenty of this latter kind of suffering. Then one day she learned the truth--that one way or another you're going to suffer.

She even had episodes of depression and they were serious. After each episode got over, when the antidepressant was no longer prescribed and after therapy, she felt fine but then, by golly it would happen again, until she no longer wanted to tolerate life if it meant feeling that way. Like, older depressions laid the groundwork for newer ones--that is until she got a new attitude about the burdens she had to carry in life. Then she gave permission for her troubles to teach her great lessons that beat down that ego of hers.

I had a hard time understanding what Gertrude was talking about when I was in my thirties but later I really, truly came to see that she wasn't kidding about all that stuff that happens between your ears as you grow older.

Now Gertrude seems happy enough to live the rest of her life. Which is funny because I know some of her problems and they're not nice ones!

Guest Gertrude of the Day: Kathy Najimy
Born in 1957 and still looking great, she's a comedica actress and voiceover artist. I like her because she's a character actress, which puts her closer to having some character. I guess a lot of my guest Gertrudes are character actresses because they're all different, where there's something alike about lead actresses, in the way they all want their hair, eyes and teeth and figures to look the same.