Thursday, July 29, 2010

we shared a similar fragmentation of ourselves

Dancer Before the Light by Foto_By_Messina


I am Paris, and I am a string of beads on a hot dancer.
~quote from this scene in Julia (1977)



The movie Julia, starring Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave, is close to my heart for giving me courage a long time ago. Looking back on it now it seems as if I'm recalling an episode from someone else's life and not my own, a feeling most of us have probably had at one time or another. Only in this particular case it is true, for when I remember back to that time I truly am recalling an episode from someone else's past - as well as from my own. Because she and I shared a similar fragmentation of ourselves brought on by similar catalysts and it was that falling apart that brought us together briefly in order for us each to help the other hold on, just hold on until such time that moving on was possible.

We each had husbands attending law school in Salem, Oregon, but we hadn't met because the guys hadn't much in common (other than the obvious) and were not friends. She was a young professional with a job in town and I was a licensed insurance agent. I worked for a company whose sales and service were mainly done over the phone, but occasionally "insureds" (the jargon for customers) would come to the office. One day a young man came to my desk for assistance in splitting his insurance policy into two separate policies. He was leaving his wife. When I learned that he was a law student I asked him if he knew my husband.....yes, he did -- and did he know that my husband had left me two weeks earlier.....no, he wasn't aware of that (good, I thought, my plight and my shame are not known all over the law school). Splitting off the policies was a bit time-consuming, full of necessary details, and I needed the serial number of his wife's vehicle. When he said he'd call me with it the next day I offered to call his wife for the information, which was fine with him.

Her name was Beth and she was very formal at the beginning of my call. I told her in the first minutes that we shared something in common and she seemed as stunned as I was to be in the predicaments we were in (who knew this could ever happen?), and stunned also that there was someone else who knew this could ever happen. We exchanged home phone numbers so that we could each get back to work and then talked that evening.

Julia was just out in the theaters, not yet even in Salem but was playing in Portland. It was Beth's suggestion that we go and getting the hell out of Salem sounded great to me (she had a car, I did not), although I didn't know anything about the movie. She said she'd give me background on the way to Portland. Beth had graduated from a prestigious all-women college, I hadn't (yet) graduated from college, and her conversation very much reflected education and travel. I had never heard of Lillian Hellman until that afternoon when Beth explained that she wrote Pentimento, the book that included Julia. By the time we arrived at the theater my excitement to get away from all my problems was replaced by excitement for the film, a film I loved that night in 1977 and still consider one of my favorites.

In many ways there was a kind of parallel between the women in the movie and Beth and me. Beth was going to be OK in spite of her heartbreak, that was clear, because she had a financial support system back home that provided a psychic armor that I simply did not have. She knew who she was and what she wanted in life and in no way was she going to fail in her career or in the eyes of her family and friends. I hadn't a clue who I was or what I wanted in life, I hated my job and office work, and failing seemed, if not inevitable to me, an adventure at least. Beth talked about everything, including her hurt and anger, in a lovely open manner. I hadn't processed my hurt and anger, which choked my capacity for conversation altogether. Beth sipped wine, two glasses max.
I was hell-bent on finding oblivion.

We shared a couple more dinners together but were going in different directions. Beth tried harder than I did to build a friendship between us. I just remembered something! She bought a book for me that I'd forgotten about. Changing by Liv Ullmann was so meaningful because both Beth and I were avid viewers of the PBS series, Scenes from a Marriage that starred Liv Ulllmann and rerun that season... oh the irony. I don't know what happened to my copy of that marvelous autobiography, but I lost it through the years and after recalling these memories I long to read it again.

I may also try to find Beth on Facebook. I owe her some thank yous for being there when my life was changing.


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14 comments:

the half-life of linoleum said...

Nice posting Lydia - I hope you find Beth and that you have a chance to form a new relationship. Sometimes these memories stay with us for good reason.

And.

I am sitting here amazed at the coincidence with your prior posting. I loved the song the song 'boy with a moon and star on his head. . . ' It was out of character for Cat Stevens, i thought at the time, not like his hits. And - I once knew a girl who had a ring of a moon and star. I told her about the song and she fell in love with it too. Her name was Alice and I've looked for her in facebook but to no avail. Long story, wonderful posting, great song. I am going to listen to it now. . . for the first time in probably 30 years.

YogaforCynics said...

I think I've spent my whole life looking for someone with a similar fragmentation...

Darlene said...

As they say, sometimes friends come into our lives for a season and sometimes for a reason. It certainly sounds like Beth was one of the latter.

It's odd how a shared experience can create a friendship between disparate people. Maybe it's time to find Beth and see how it turned our for her.

Phoenix said...

I think I have the opposite going on for me, and have had for most of my life (I refer to it as one of my minor superpowers). I have the gift of either bringing to me or randomly finding people who are going through the exact same thing I'm going through. It's a freaking awesome superpower because I wind up going through huge changes but somehow never feel alone.

I hope you find Beth again and are able to tell her what you couldn't all those years ago: that everything is bearable with someone who empathizes, someone who's actually BEEN there and has gotten themselves out of that same storm.

Come to think of it... I owe someone a phone call who is going through right now what I went through last year with my own divorce. :)

Lydia said...

half-life of linoleum~ Well, in my first attempt to find Beth via FB I have failed. She never used her ex-husband's name, so I'm trying under her maiden name-the one I knew her by. Because it isn't particularly uncommon there are many...
How about that synchronicity with the song? I loved/love it. The year it came out on vinyl my ex and I were broke college students. He was an accomplished guitar player and so we learned the song and singing it was our Christmas gift to my mother that year.

YogaforCynics~ Hey! I would have said it's not easy until reading Phoenix's comments.

Darlene~ For a reason...yes, I agree. So far I have not found her on FB, but I'm not giving up yet. I'll try classmates.com and run through some years of her college if it is on that website.

Phoenix~ Wow! What a superpower! You seem really tuned in to your life and maybe this is a reward. (Having seen your darling costume at that post about the comic convention I think you should develop a costume representative of this superpower.)
Speaking of...I found a fascinating blog last week: Reading is My Superpower. The girl is a.mazing.

kj said...

lydia, this was so pleasant and informative to read. i love learning about you. :)

leave it to the universe to offer a kindred soul-friend when needed. i too wonder how beth is and i hope you find her. please find her! i want to know how she's fared.

love
kj

Erika C. said...

Thanks, Lydia, for sharing this moving story and also for visiting my blog.

There is something, at least for me, about reaching a certain age, about wanting to reach into the past and make a connection with people who were pivotal in our lives. I am doing that now too. Facebook did help me to reconnect with a couple of very old friends and it was interesting to see them again, but that was all.

Good luck finding Beth and thanks again.

love,
Erika

La Belette Rouge said...

What a lovely memory. I so hope you find her. I so hope that someday soon she will read this remembering. I would love to read her memory of your time together.

Maggie May said...

i liked that movie although i did find it a bit meandering. lovely memories.

Lydia said...

kj~ Aw, I love learning about you too (often wish I'd been an early reader...)! I promise I will try to find Beth. ;)

Erika~ Thanks for coming by.:) That is interesting that you have seen some old friends that you reconnected with at FB. I've reconnected, but everyone is too scattered around the country for meetups. But my very oldest friend found me at FB last year and I know we'll see one another again in the future; I feel very close to her.

La Belette Rouge~ I hadn't thought of what her memory of those months would be; what an interesting perspective you always have on....well, everything!

Maggie May~ There is a dream-like nature to the film that I can see might be thought meandering. Worked for me!

Hattie said...

Lydia: Facebook has reconnected me to several people I had gotten out of touch with.
I wonder if I lack empathy sometimes because I have not been knocked around in the way so many women have been. Or is it that I tend to work things out on my own?
I don't know.
What you write and the comments here make me think, though.

Lydia said...

Hattie~ FB is changing society by making it so much easier to find old friends.

You don't seem to lack empathy to me. Not at all. When I read that line I immediately thought No, she intellectualizes... - and then you more or less said that in your next sentence.

bfk said...

What a nice little story, Lydia. Good luck in your search. With Facebook and google, you've got a good shot. What did we ever do without them?

Lydia said...

bfk~ I'll do my best to find her.
I don't know what we ever did without FB and google either, and am grateful to FB for our reconnection that means a lot to me.

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