I did something this past weekend that I’ve been waiting to do for nearly twenty years: hang a piece of artwork. She’s an angel, sculpted of clay but with a look of cast bronze. She harkens back to the Hellenistic era: she’s got no arms, no head, but she’s got wings, baby.
I bought it during my Roaring 20’s, during a time of transition but also empowerment. She spoke to me at the time – still does. But I never hung her. She sat in my closet for twelve years, until I moved and then she sat in a new closet for seven more.
I never had the time, nor just the right space. And more importantly, perhaps that feeling of transition kept me from doing anything too permanent that I might one day regret. I felt comfortable enough buying her, but a prominent display felt like a step too far.
I don’t recall the artist, but I remember the first time I saw her. As I was standing in front of her, I knew I wanted her. I wanted to be her. I knew all the ways I wasn’t – too insecure, too naive, too afraid of the sharp edges of life. She looked carefree, fearless – all the things I’ve never been.
I was fresh out of a relationship at the time. It was a change for the better, but it does things to you, that feeling of tenuous anticipation. For some people it makes them seize the day, take out the good china and wear things they had previously saved for a special occasion.
For me it did just the opposite.
I don’t know why – I couldn’t explain it at the time, and still can’t. But a lot has changed. Now I’m in a relationship that reminds me every day that I’m capable of loving fiercely. I have a flourishing business, and a studio that I built with my own two hands – with the help of two more that embrace me fully every evening.
I’ve let myself love and learn and let go of the tight control that once felt so necessary. Perhaps it wasn’t necessary at all, but in fact a hinderance to what truly matters: a willingness to be vulnerable, to cherish the fleeting beauty of life while it lasts.
She knew that all along, but it took me decades to learn.
Alan taught me so many of those things. It wasn’t his job, and maybe he didn’t even know he was doing it. How do you want it to be, he’d ask as we built my studio, with an emphasis on the word want that felt foreign. Was I allowed to want? What did want even feel like? It had been so long since I’d experienced it.
Want felt decadent. Selfish. Maybe even a pinch greedy. I didn’t want to want. Until I did. Until I felt an overwhelming desire to make things just as they ought to be, to oil each board just so, to honor my space and make it sing.
And then this past weekend, as we placed the last few boards in the tallest peak of the ceiling, I knew what I had to do. I ran and got my angel, unwrapping her carefully from her swaddling of blankets. Twenty years, and she’s barely aged a day. But in that time I’ve grown. Older, perhaps wiser, but mostly a little more carefree, the tiniest bit more fearless.
Now she hangs proudly at the peak of my space, framed by carefully oiled boards. She reminds me to live fully and love deeply, and mostly that it’s okay to want. That want is simply a way of honoring something fully, of fulfilling a purpose, of caring deeply enough to make something exactly as it ought to be.