Friday, June 25, 2010

Twenty Years After

Twenty years ago, right around this time, I became pregnant with my first, lost child.

My whole world was M. then; all I wanted was for him to love me; I suppose that I believed somehow that the pregnancy would force his hand, would compel his love.  What I did not know was that the sacrifice of our child -- and his regret, and the way that we were now inexricably linked to each other because of that grim martyrdom -- was the thing that would finally inspire his love.

By then, however, it was too late.  I still loved him, but I had become bitter and cynical.  I married him because I felt -- we both felt, I'm sure -- that this was the one way to set right what we had made so wrong (though I can't really know for sure what he felt, because, after the abortion, we never spoke of it).  So I married M.  And I threw myself into my singing.  I have never met anyone who worked as hard as I did to become a good artist, who studied his craft from as many aspects, who strove to become an authority on the history and practice of his discipline the way I did.  (And I now know that, later on, when I taught college, I was much too demanding of my students; since this kind of striving, I believed, was the only thing that could save me, it was surely the only thing that could save them, all of whom were from humble backgrounds, all of whom were searching for the divine spark of beauty in their own hardscrabble lives, too).

I loved what I was doing as a singer -- all I ever wanted was to create something beautiful that would move people -- but, more importantly, it gave order to my life, it kept me from flying off into oblivion;  in short, it kept me from hitting bottom.  I trusted nothing and no one; I believed that all I had to hold onto in my life was my singing; I truly believed that singing would create a new, alternate reality for me, a realm in which the emptiness was filled, and in which I not only had power and agency, but also in which I became essentially good by virtue of the qualities I had developed as a musician.

I suppose it is no coincidence that I walked away from my opera career at the same time that I jettisoned my first marriage.  Too much had been predicated upon my first poor, lost child.

In the ensuing years, I have sometimes sought, sometimes resisted, the contraction of my life into a shape and a form more constrained than the expansive life I once imagined for myself, and which I have pursued at great cost.  I am both an accustomed and a reluctant penitent; as much as penitence has become a habitual stance -- to the bemusement of those who know me -- I would so much rather have all the nice, easy, kind, fun, pretty things in life instead.

My only prayer, as always, is that God will use the rest of my life for something good; that He will bring beauty and healing for others out of the abyss of my crimes and my despair.  Once, when I was very ill, I had a feverish hallucination of the Blessed Virgin standing at the foot of my bed; she showed me scenes from my life, little lozenge-shaped dioramas in her hands in which I relived all my misdeeds.  Then, as I lay there and watched, she turned each of the lozenges around, and they became roses, which she scattered from her hands.  Readers and friends, please pray for me too.

22 comments:

elena maria vidal said...

Our Lady is guiding you now. You are a very blessed soul. Love purifies, more than suffering, more than the fires of purgation. (I think the Little Flower said that.) Please, please don't look back.

Pentimento said...

Thank you, Elena . . . nevertheless, I am so in need of prayer right now.

Rodak said...

As much as I've learned to love and respect you, I'd be afraid that a prayer on your behalf from the likes of me would be analogous to the endorsement of a Democratic candidate made by Dick Cheney.

elena maria vidal said...

I'm praying for you.

Honeybee said...

"O Merciful God, and heavenly Father, who hast taught us in Thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men; Look with pity, we beseech thee, upon the sorrows of thy servant for whom our prayers are offered. Remember her, O Lord, in mercy; endue her soul with patience; comfort her with a sense of Thy goodness; lift up Thy countenance upon her and give her peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."


Praying steadfastly for you!

Sally Thomas said...

And you have it, my friend.

Pentimento said...

Thank you all so much -- I love you all.

mrsdarwin said...

Many prayers, much love.

Rodak said...

I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance. ~ Luke 15:7

May you feel that joy and give thanks. Any may you thus be strengthened by God's love for the completion of your journey.

Pentimento said...

Thank you, all.

And I'm sure, Rodak, that your prayers count for a great deal.

Rodak said...

Many thanks. You give me hope.

Honeybee said...

Last night, I woke in the middle of the night with a migraine. While waiting for my medication to kick in, I offered up the migraine and said a rosary for your intentions, dear sister in Christ.

Pentimento said...

Honeybee, I'm so sorry for your suffering, and so very moved by your sacrifice. Thank you so much. I hope you're feeling better now.

As lonely as I often feel in my new town, I feel so strongly connected to the friends I have made through this blog, few of whom I'll probably ever meet face to face on this earth.

ex-newyorker said...

I'll pray for you too.

Pentimento said...

Thanks, Ex-NewYorker.

Karen E. said...

"the Blessed Virgin standing at the foot of my bed; she showed me scenes from my life, little lozenge-shaped dioramas in her hands in which I relived all my misdeeds. Then, as I lay there and watched, she turned each of the lozenges around, and they became roses, which she scattered from her hands."

This took my breath away. Praying.

Clare Krishan said...

Found this BBC TV show on Youtube

http://www.siena.org/June-2010/the-angelic-sound-of-vivaldis-women.html

mentioned on the Catherine of Siena Institute blog and thought of you - hope this is a good place to post it as an addendum (think of Vivaldi's Women as a concordia-sisterhood in Heaven who're intimate with the vicissitudes of an artistic vita devoted to sacred polyphony - and forgive me for suggesting a somewhat unconventional corporal act of mercy, if it would help, why not take a memento of that time and cut it in half and place one half at some nearby shrine -- we have Padre Pio's confessional at Barto here in PA that is inundated to overflowing with petitions and such -- with the prayerful hope that you can keep the other half until that joyful day when you meet again? )

Series of short clips start here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYpSTlN9n-w&feature=related
God Bless

Clare Krishan said...

Here's the same ladies singing "in exitu israel"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0y7olxJkEdI

versified by Sir Walter Scott here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=_gBKAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA187

Enjoy!

Pentimento said...

Thank you, Clare. That BBC program looks fascinating and I am going to try and watch it in its entirety.

I'm quite sure that any mementos of that time have long since been incinerated. I did leave my old wedding ring at a side altar in the shrine church of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in New York City, however -- my old parish.

Clare Krishan said...

More on Micky White at NYTimes

"I believe that what he wrote here picks up on the vulnerability of all these kids, all these mothers. There's an innocence: an 'otherness' you feel when you walk through the doors and leave the vulgar, brash, commercial world of Venice behind. "
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/21/arts/music/21whit.htm

Pentimento said...

That is beautiful. Thank you for linking it.

I was in Venice only once, in the late 1990s. I spent a few days en route to Rome to give a concert, the only time I've ever sung in Italy. I was just thinking about that trip yesterday, and of how I stumbled into a little dark Baroque church off an alley -- I will have to do some research to remember which it was -- and found a basket there with rosaries for everyone to take. I took one and still have it. I wish I had known about the Pietà then.

BettyDuffy said...

Praying for you and yours!