There was one point where I felt funny, and I looked over to see his face flash this weird face-video of emotions. I couldn’t read it, it went so fast. But I felt alarmed….
Right after George W. Bush the very junior got elected, I left the country. His idiocy during and after the event of 911 made it very clear to me that he was Not My President. You may disagree with my views, but that’s neither here nor there — the end result of his getting into office was that I left what I considered to be the not-good-anymore-good ole USA.
I’d ‘met’ a guy online who lived in New Zealand. A fellow sculptor, artist, and, a labyrinth maker. We had plenty of those long, drawn-out, I’m-in-love phone conversations. I decided to leave New Mexico, go down to NZ and find out if we were a fit.
The reality was that we had both fallen in lust, not love. But we sure thought we were A Thing.
So I packed up and threw away and gave away all my stuff, and stuck what I couldn’t part with but couldn’t justify shipping all the way around and under the globe into a storage locker.
I left near the end of the year 2000, stopping to see my younger son and his family in Hawaii, and from there, jumping to NZ to meet M. Sorry, not going to share his name. I respect his privacy.
So I land in ChristChurch on a lovely afternoon, and we jam on over to a local motel to ‘rest up’ before we start our adventure.
We traveled in his van up to visit his siblings in Nelson, and then down the (spectacular) west coast, over chilly Arthur’s Pass to Dunedin (dun-EE-din) on the beautiful east coast. Then down to Gore, Invercargill and the island’s most southerly point, and eventually back to Gore, where his good friend, Freda, was waiting for us to come visit.
If you’ve never been to New Zealand, go. It’s a beautiful country. The people are nicer than you can imagine.
I wish M and I had been able to stand each other long enough to have been able to do more sight-seeing.
Alas. He snored. Pet peeve. I get pretty irritable if I can’t sleep well.
By day 5, he angrily declared that I was an ‘American bitch.’ Well. That didn’t bode well.
We did continue down to the most southern point. There was a handy, well-worn path through a fallow field that took us from the road to a wooden rail fence, where you could look out over the vast reaches of the ocean ending in the frozen lands of Antarctica.
I climbed and sat atop the top railing, enjoying seeing the enormity of all that water. After living in New Mexico, I missed the ocean terribly. This was a nice fix.
He took a picture of me under one of those signs that point everywhere, with miles indicated. 3000+ miles across an unbroken stretch of salty water to Antarctica. Cute.
I was unhappy, but still trying to put on a happy face.
We had been arguing about some stupid thing in the van. You could probably have lit a light bulb from the tension between us. I was so sad. I’d come all this way, hoping to find at least a fellow artist, friend, maybe even boyfriend. Not gonna happen. I was 55, but felt 105. Too late for me, I supposed.
There was one point where I suddenly felt funny in my bones, and I looked over to see his face flash this weird face-video of emotions. I couldn’t read it, it went so fast. But I felt alarmed, and jumped down from the fence and started walking back to the van. Race-walked.
I didn’t know what was going on, but something sure was, and I didn’t want to be sitting on the top rail of a wobbly fence at the top of a 300-foot cliff as it was happening.
M must have cleared his head by the time he got back to the van, because that feeling of urgent alert had disappeared.
We got fish and chips in a nearby town, and headed for Gore.
As we pulled into Freda’s driveway, M told me he’d had to talk himself out of pushing me over the cliff.
Talk about a mood-killer. I ended up staying with Freda, and he left.
This revelation of how I’d just barely missed being a bloody flat broken batch of bones on the rocks overlooking the route to the Antarctic paralyzed me.
Was I really so much of a bitch? What was he so angry about? He never said exactly what was going on with him, how was I to know what I did wrong — or maybe it was him who was fkd up, not me?
There was nothing specific I could pin — other than my complaints about The Snoring — which, poor guy, he couldn’t help.
M was not forthcoming in his brief phone conversations with Freda saying goodbye, he was going back to Nelson.
I was devastated. How did I keep attracting these so-terribly-wrong-for-me men? (Oh, I haven’t even told you but a fraction of the others…just wait….)
How did I keep being so incredibly unacceptable?
A couple of years before I left Santa Fe, I went through an IQ test, given to me by a psychiatrist. I’ll tell you why in another book, but for now it was what that test revealed that matters.
See, I had always thought I was stupid. Solidly convinced, in fact. Otherwise, why did I have such a hard time in the world? How come I just couldn’t make my life work?
I went in for the test results. She said, “Sit down, Angela.”
I shuddered. I just knew I was a dunce, and there was no way out for me. I hoped she was going to be kind. Might as well go back home and dig out that bottle of pills I’d stashed just in case.
She must have seen where my mind was headed, because she very sharply ordered me to “Stop it! Sit down! Right now!” Made my head jerk up and fall back on my shoulders, it did.
Do you know what ‘99th percentile’ means? I didn’t. After I left her place, I went to the library and looked it up. I discovered that if you say ‘it’s in the 99th percentile of something,’ it means ‘the top 1 percent.’
If that something is in the 99th percentile, then it means it is higher than 99% of other things.
She told me I was in the top 99th percentile of those who’d been IQ tested. In all of the country.
When she said that, even not knowing what percentile meant right then, I still knew it meant that my assessment of my own intelligence was way out of whack.
She had to sit there and drive it into my now-exploding brain that I was not only not dumb, I was not stupid, I was not useless, and not even close to being a failure.
She said failure means giving up, and I had certainly not done that — instead, I kept trying to ‘make things work.’ And not just makes things work, but work in new and odd, innovative and intriguing ways.
“That,” she said, “smacks of genius.”
Genius, she said.
I snorted to myself, “like being a genius has helped me any.”
I couldn’t handle the news. I shot out of the chair. No way could I sit still.
“You mean to tell me all these years I’ve been smart?” I demanded.
“Well, maybe not the smartEST, but yes, you’ve been smart. Your intelligence is off the charts. So quit it right now if you’re still thinking you’re stupid.”
I was dumbfounded. Speechless. Stupefied. Look up as many synonyms to stunned/shocked/amazed/astonished/gobsmacked as you want. I was frozen in my tracks, standing in the middle of her office with my mouth hanging all the way down to the floor.
She came over and gently guided me to sit back down. Over the next hour, she gave me some simple pointers to how to get along in the world.
Pointers that I still fall back on. Because apparently, I don’t see or respond to many of the social cues people give. And I don’t much care about most of the things most people hold dear.
I’ve had to train my brain to be relatable. Nice. Say kind things — and mean them. Reveal my heart without fear. Stop hiding behind a ‘being-acceptable’ mask. Let my real emotions show on my face. Practice responses to scary situations so my brain doesn’t shut down
It didn’t mean I wasn’t kind or loving, I just didn’t do life the way most people did, or the way people expected.
So my genius, no matter how cool it was, didn’t save my relationship with poor M. I felt terrible that he had put so much time and energy into our ill-fated trip all over New Zealand, only to escape as fast as he could from Freda’s, just to get away from me.
And I still had no idea what I’d done wrong, or how I’d been wrong, in order to fix whatever it was. Or maybe it wasn’t about me at all!
In truth, it was just a very bad fit, and neither of us had the relationship skills that would have made it possible for us to have meaningful conversations about what was going on, and why, and how to feel OK even if we weren’t a fit.
To say the incident of the South Point caused me to do a whole hell of a lot of deep introspection might be a bit of an understatement. That was 23 years ago. Lots of water under the bridge since then.
What was really good about that foray into love and lust in a foreign land was that I got to be more aware of things I do that piss people off, that make them feel good, that help me get along in the world. So now I‘m able to be aware and make adjustments better.
I still really don’t much understand how people can be so mean, greedy or nasty, or just downright evil.
But I do know there are four things a person can do when presented with a tough situation:
1. You can change the situation.
2. If you can’t change what’s going on, you can leave. You say, “no, this isn’t for me, buh-bye.”
3. If you can’t leave, you must try to find find the safest place possible, and wait until you can leave.
4. If you can’t change the situation, leave, or wait safely, the only thing left is to trust in the Mystery of your own highest intention in life, and be relentlessly patient as it comes to you.
I’ve found that the waiting for the Mystery to come through must be done from a sense of adventure, not desperation.
If you come from desperation, you engender low-level energy, which just attracts and generates more pain.
Instead, learn how to slide your mind into, “I give up trying to control or navigate this impossible situation. I’m going to ask myself, what would I prefer, instead? What would be more fun? What would be more loving? Smarter? More valuable to me and the others stuck here with me?”
Then, as you gaze upwards, thinking about how life is such a complete weird miraculous mysterious adventure, invite the Mystery to come to you.
Say out loud (if you can), “Come, Mystery, bring us all some fun and some love here!”
And now you wait, and when things change, then you receive what is given to you with an open heart.
Thanks so much for reading my story. I hope it lit you up. Or maybe it inspired you, or gave you a new perspective with which to view and appreciate your own life. That’s my wish.
More info in my profile — my art, writing and book-coaching/publishing work (I guide you to write your manuscript easier and faster, then I design/build and format your book, and help you indie-publish it).