On Meeting Pernille

So G and I went up to Princeton on Wednesday and met Pernille (see below for more information) and her lovely assistant Gina. My only regret was that I did not take pictures. I could shoot myself for that. But anyway…it was absolutely lovely.

We had lunch at the Alchemist & Barrister, a place G plays at every Wednesday night. The four of us talked and talked and talked and by one in the afternoon, we were sitting on the lawn of Princeton University, hooked up with mics, telling the camera of our old romance and what it has been like for me to be a love addict. Possibly the nicest thing that came out of it all (as there’s no guarantee that we will be chosen to continue in her project) was the tenderness and deep love that G exposed for me in front of strangers and the camera. At one point I began to cry and he hugged me, and said, it’s OK, Tracy. There I was, vulnerable, revealing horribly embarrassing secrets about myself in front of him and he accepted it all. It has pretty much always been that way between us, and yet…we have never been able to overcome our difference. Those four pesky issues of his that I cannot seem to accept in my life. Nor probably ever will.

Anyway, I believe Pernille and Gina were pleased with what they caught on tape. At one point, tears filled Pernille’s eyes as I talked about what love addiction “feels like.” I likened it to that old video we all saw back in high school psychology class…the experiment with the three Rhesus monkeys. One was raised by his mum, another by a surrogate clorox bottle covered in fur that rocked, and a third was raised his whole life with only a plastic clorox bottle (no fur, no rocking), food and water. Isolated since birth, he did not even have a blanket for warmth. The poor little thing sat in its cage and rocked back and forth, holding onto itself, whimpering and eventually died very early. I said, that’s what it feels like.

She asked us questions like “how did you two meet?” “why did you break up?” “why do you think you were addicted to each other?” and so on. They laughed at the way we still share food. The way we touch each other. How we smiled and laughed while we were together. They wanted to know the exact time-line of our affair.

Well, we dated three years. Sort of. There was MB in there for awhile and then, of course, S. Not to mention Carmela, the fifty-something-year-old, married waitress from the diner who’s madly in love with G. A lot of players circling around us. But most peculiar is that G and I are NOT dating, nor have we dated since January, 2008. So as far as time-lines go, it’s not a straight line like time to a Westerner. It’s more circular, like Dakota time or Cherokee time.

“We never fight,” G said. “We love each other but just cannot seem to get past certain things.” That’s easy for him to say.

He’s talking about vices. His vices, and how I can’t accept the lovely miss Mary Jane in my life. And there are other barriers as well. Things I won’t go into here. Things that I finally realized made for a bad partnership.

When you have things such as strong communication, healthy emotion, music, a shared love of many things, humor and mutual love and respect, it makes it really hard to walk away. But there’s a balancing act that “normal” people seem to do. They take all those good things and say, “that’s great, but I can’t put up with the bad stuff.” Normal people look at the whole picture. A love addict can’t do that. She sees only what she wants to see. She overlooks the bad and then regrets it and 2 years down the road she says, “what the hell am I doing? I’ve been starving myself and for what?”

A love addict takes that man and does not accept him as just a man. She turns him into Christ. God. Her Savior. And then when he abandons her, she repeats over and over, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

She takes on his identity and then wonders what to do when he is not in her presence, a la Scarlet O’Hara, “Oh Rhett! What’ll I do? Where’ll I go?”

Worst of all, she forgets who she is. Submersed in the very heart of that man, she loses her values, her opinions, her boundaries, her likes and dislikes. She loses her soul.

And then when she wakes up one day and says I gotta get the hell out of here, she realizes she’s got no where to go. So she stays.  The man is not a man anymore. The man is a “hit,” of her drug. He is her defense mechanism. Her way out of her ugly life. The man is not a man anymore. He is a tool used to suppress pain and to avoid reality at all cost. And thus, he begins to define her addiction.

The last question Pernille, or rather, Gina posed was, “how did you get over this addiction? What inside you changed to make you see the light, so to speak?”

Oh yes. Hallelujah. The light. The conclusion. Well, I am not addicted to G anymore. Nor anyone else for that matter. But God never came down and parted the seas and said to me, Tracy, it’s time to change…and I never saw this bright shining light nor had my moment of spiritual surrender. My path was a little less dramatic than that, and a little more boring. It was a long road. G helped me get through a lot by remaining my friend. My ex S helped me get through a lot. But mostly, I came to terms with being alone, slowly. Day by day.

When S and i split, I literally locked myself in my room and suffered for 5 days. I did not eat. I did not move. I did nothing. I raised the dead (in me, that is). I made peace with the emptiness. I said over and over again, it’s high time that this moment has come. It’s here now. You’ve been waiting for it. Seize it. And I did. I did so by doing nothing. And I got used to it. And though I entered into that state confused and scared and fearful of being alone, I came out the other end OK. And that was that. My moment. You see, that’s what it’s all about for a love addict or an alcoholic or drug addict or anyone else for that matter with serious defense mechanism. We try to avoid the emptiness at all costs. We’ll do anything to avoid the pain of reality. And eventually, it catches up with you and says, “it’s time.”

But the hard work had begun years ago when I first met G and it continues today. I came to terms with my own personal values and I began to find my own identity for the first time. I made boundaries and I upheld them. I demanded better things for myself. I sought out people who tended to share more of my values. Mostly, I realized my worth. Plain and simple. And the only way to do that was and still is in solitude. It is in the solitude that you have your own thoughts, uncluttered. You have no where to turn but inward. You can finally see your identity clearly.

Alice Walker in the The Color Purple has this great line: “you gotta git man off your eyeball before you can see anything at all.” And the only way to do that is find god. Find you. Make peace with the nothingness.

We left by 2:30 and hugged and praised each other and they were on their way. Traveling across the country to meet possibly hundreds of others with similar issues as me. Their project is vast and I may never see or hear from them again, and yet…they truly touched my life. Pernille’s project is my project. My life. It represents the struggle I have undergone as an artist to accomplish something for myself. And seeing her joy and hard work, it has inspired me to continue with my own projects and my own writing.

I hope to keep posting on this topic. And to keep doors open…

About Pernille:

Acclaimed director Pernille Rose Grønkjær (born in 1973) has been working with documentary films for the past 10 years. Her latest feature documentary “The Monastery – Mr. Vig and the Nun” had its US premiere at the esteemed Sundance Film Festival 2007. Since then the film has travelled to about 60 festivals the world over. It has won 14 awards from Sydney to Moscow, including the prestigious Joris Ivens Award in Amsterdam, and recently The Cinema Eye Award in New York. The film was also nominated for best documentary at The Spirit Awards in Los Angeles, California 2008.
The Monastery, by  Pernille Rose Grønkjær

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