Wednesday, March 4, 2009

When Love Goes Wrong

Oh man, it does doesn't it? Love can go so wrong in so many ways that you have to wonder what Cupid does after he shoots his arrows. Does he belly up to some ethereal bar and pound down a few pints, does he just forget all about his victims?

If love didn't go wrong, there would be fewer poems, books, movies and country western songs, to be sure. It does inspire the arts. If it has other positive results, they seem to come solely because the people involved Do The Work of figuring out why or how, and evolving away from their behaviors.

In a simple, small format, I'm going to work with the idea of love-gone-wrong in the last of the three paintings devoted to romantic love. I'm hard into the second painting, a monumental canvas that includes Annapurna, the three Fates, and the 47 beautiful love stories that were originally comments on the post from last Sunday.

In reviewing my own stories of love gone wrong, it's clear that the very wrongest of the wrong was the one with the painting professor who was in a position of power over me, was much too old for me, and was married. When he told his wife, a series of meetings ensued, me white knuckling it through the excruciation, sitting on a chair opposite the two of them who were holding hands, snuggled together on their living room couch. Can you imagine? I was twenty-one. After those hideous meetings I would go home, smoke dope and turn up Taj Mahal on the stereo as loudly as I dared. My roommate Chevy would inevitably come into the room and crank up the music even more. She was such a good friend.

The love part of that one continues to this day, though the affair piece of it ended pronto. Within a year, the wife developed spinal cancer, then died slowly - and publicly - as a convener of death and dying seminars around the city. (The work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was quite popular at the time.) During the wife's slow decline, I was a bystander, reading about the progress of her disease in the newspaper, feeling certain that the brief affair had literally killed her.

Love gone wrong? Bloody hell! A few years of psychotherapy helped me wrap my mind around this episode, but it's only now, with this triptych of paintings, then I'm finally letting go, once and for all, of the lingering sense of guilt I haven't been able to shake off my heart, even all these years later. That I'm making paintings is no coincidence, is it?

Onwards & upwards, oh yeah!


kathi said...

Oh Reya, I just love this series you're doing right now. It's really touching my heart in so many ways... Guilt can be such a black cloud on an otherwise sunny day. Love your first image especially...

SafariB said...

I am lost for words Reya. Life and love can be cruel at times. Goodness me. Hugs to your soul for that past pain xx

Steve said...

Wow. What a situation to face as a 21-year-old! You certainly have a lot of material to work with in developing your paintings. Fab photos, as always. :)

mary said...

Oh My, Reya, that story is not just a painting - that is a whole novel. If we choose who we are and what we will experience and learn in each lifetime.....well, cut yourself some slack next time !! I am still reeling with the images.

Reya Mellicker said...

It was a long time ago. Honestly I've processed the whole episode thoroughly and completely. The last painting will be simple and very small.

It's the Annapurna, three fates painting that's getting all the juice.

Thanks though for your compassion, ya'll. I bet every one of you have some heinous tale of love gone wrong. Yeah? Oh yeah.

janis said...

What an interesting story! Also, as usual, I love your photos.

deborah said...

We bright and curious humans have discovered universal forces, which continue to confound us.

Among them are magnetism and gravitation.

We see and attempt to measure them at work, ineffably pulling the stars toward one another, the planets to the stars—holding massive spinning galaxies together in beautiful spirals, holding our homes onto the earth.

Through unimaginable microscopes we see those forces at work keeping our atoms from splitting into a billion explosions, our molecules identifiable in their family clusters.

And yes, I am suggesting that we too gravitate to one another in some mysterious magnetic dance which holds our eyes and bodies, our hearts and souls together in some universal sway which remains until that force weakens or is weakened and we drift away--or we are catapulted apart, or are pulled by another body—-a passing planet-—a magnetism which cannot be denied.

On top of these primal forces we pile experience, history, religion and analysis—but the hummm, the whirl, the motion sound of connection remains as inexplicable as the universe itself with love, perhaps, being the true physicists’ gluon for it all.

love you so much,

Reya Mellicker said...

The physics of love! Fabulous, Deborah.

John Hayes said...

That is a harsh story-- glad you've been able to move beyond it. As I mentioned in an earlier post comment, I still have one love story that's never been fully resolved & had its own, very different harsh/cruel aspects. One thing I try to keep in mind is the age of the woman & I-- just as you were only 21-- an age that's not far removed from childhood, really; & that whatever I've gone thru, no matter how difficult, has brought me to where I am today. Overall, I'm very happy with that place, tho there are some sadnesses. I sense from these posts that you also have made that kind of (conditional?) peace with the past.

Love the pix.

Amy said...

Your story almost leaves me almost speechless.

I can remember when I began therapy near the end of my first marriage. In the first session, I told my therapist that I thought my husband might be cheating on me. She asked me what I thought would happen if he left me. I told her that I thought that I couldn't survive it. She asked, "You think life would end?!" My response was, "Yes!"

Our hearts can take so much more than we give them credit for sometimes. They only know what the past has taught them, and I think that's why it's so important to keep them open to love even when they've been brutalized. Once they see what love is and can be, they grow exponentially

Bee said...

That first picture -- I couldn't even "see" it for a moment. I couldn't make out what it was.
Love can transform (or warp) our vision, too.

Your painful love story definitely goes into the "couldn't/wouldn't make it up" category. I am a naturally curious person when it comes to human beings, and so I can't help but having lots of questions. Just one: Had this professor been involved with students before? (It's not uncommon, is it.) There is something about that scene with his wife that makes me think that his outside affairs were used to separate from -- and then reinforce -- something (not very healthy) in their relationship.

I was engaged to a professor when I was 23 -- but I broke it off a couple of months before the wedding. I felt guilty about it for years . . . and then I realized that I was ONLY 23 and it helped me get over it. (I hate causing people pain; also hate conflict.)

Barbara Martin said...

I feel your pain, Reya, having been in similar shoes. I have no respect for the professor for his subjecting you to those meetings. Did you have to attend, otherwise you might fail your course? Reya, it wasn't your fault the woman developed spinal cancer, and it certainly had nothing to do with the affair you had with her husband.

By allowing this experience to remain close to your heart in combination with the guilt, it continues the pain. There is an etheric cord attached to this situation and if you cut that cord mentally, the pain will go away and so will the guilt.

e said...

That wasn't love...What a nasty situation for a young girl. I am sorry for you...

Reya Mellicker said...

It really wasn't love. I idolized him, and called him "Mr." even after the affair began.

He was very young, too, only 33 and I believed him when he said it had never happened before.

The meetings - well - I don't know what they thought would come of the meetings. As for myself I was too young and inexperienced to simply say "No, I will not do that."

It was truly hideous, though honestly ever time I think about it these days, I have to laugh.

Oh the ways love can go wrong! My goodness!

Patty said...

Colorful photos and moving words. What a wonderful combination!

Hang in there.

Delwyn said...

You were young
He betrayed you both
It was the age of Aquarius
She got sick and died
You live
and learn
and plumb
your depths
and move on

Fire Byrd said...

Sounds abusive on the professors part.... you were only 21, and of course in the way of 21 yr olds knowing everything except how to deal with life.
We can only earn from our mistakes, and it's as well we have them to be able to change and become the people we are.
But you shouldn't beat yourself up, there is no point.It doesn't achieve anything.

tangobaby said...

Wow, what an intense and interesting situation. I'm glad you survived and could learn from it. And the photos are wonderful. I especially love the first one.

Nick James said...

Count me in. Hi, I'm Nick. Wildeve suggested your page--we seem to have similar views. Can't wait to read more!

Reya Mellicker said...

Honestly the beat-myself-up part of the whole story ended decades ago when I talked endlessly about this in therapy. Sorry to have given the impression I'm still fussing over it all. I'm not.

The paintings are actually quite dainty and pretty. It's the last little bit of healing. No big deal.

The Family Julz said...

Isn't the last little bit of healing so lovely, so ethereal, so empowering and life-giving? Change is so good. It's highly underestimated; painful, but necessary.

Meri Arnett-Kremian said...

Love Delwyn's observation. And yes, you can totally process something, yet come back to it years after and reclaim the feelings and insight, using them as creative fodder. I can't wait to see the series when you're finished. As for the photos, images of light and shadow are such wonderful accompaniments for your narrative. They're beautiful in themselves, but so perfect as partners to the text.

Lover of Life said...

I loved pot and Taj back in the day...

We all have those loves that lurk in our memory, only to be examined when we are strong enough to do it.

Are you sure the older man and his wife didn't spice things up with young students? Just saying.

Mrsupole said...

The difference in experience from a 21 year old and a 33 year old person is immense. I'm with the others in thinking that it was not his first time or his last. Just be thankful you got away when you did. It is very sad when someone in power takes advantage of those they have power over. I think it happens a lot.


You have moved on.
You got therapy.
You can talk about it.
You are brave to share the story.
You are painting.
You are just fine, regardless.
You recovered.
You have people that care.
You are believed.
You have people who listen.
You will love again.
You are loved.

Thank you so much for this series, it is wonderful to hear all the stories. Can't wait to see the pictures.

God Bless.

Ronda Laveen said...

Thanks for the love story, or rather, the love gone wrong story. And you are right, it can go wrong in so many the blink of an eye.

Yes, what do you think the point of the meetings was to them? The visual I get is of them united and you standing alone. The wife's ultimate triumph?

Lynne said...

You certainly have led an interesting life, Reya!

Both photos are great, but that top photo is totally FAB! I love the strong shadows this time of year. So deep. I took a strange photo the other day I have yet to post. I love your view through the lens (both camera lens and life lens!)

Reya Mellicker said...

That I could tell this story on the blog means, to me, that I'm no longer ashamed, a really good thing.

The meetings were (I think, but who knows?) a way for the professor and his wife to feel close, to work through something together. I don't think they had very much to do with me.

Honestly he was quite innocent when he fell in love with me. It happened over the course of a very quiet summer during which I was working in the office and he was acting as department chair. We sat around in the afternoons, with nothing to do (no classes were in session) and talked and talked.

After the wife died, some time passed, then he re-married someone who I heard was/is wonderful.

He's retired from professing now, but still paints and maintains an office at the art museum across the street from the school. He was a great teacher in so many ways.

And in so many ways I still love him with all my heart.

Lucy said...

The things we carry around with us... it's good when one finally gets round to compassion for the young self though.

Came over on Bee's recommendation, so glad I did, I've been so absorbed! That first photo is wonderful, the shadows on the snow look like cloudscapes. And I really loved your photography essay too.

Georgia B. said...

i love your shadow photos.
i like to take pictures of shadows.
yours are so clear—wonderful contrast!

ArtSparker said...

Wow, that is quite a story, a horror to live through. The photos are wonderful and forbidding.