There is water in my glass. The bright fonting reads: “you are extroverted cheerful, impatient and loud; you seek adventure; your down to earth attitude is very attractive; you love sports and nature; you are quite talkative; you are always willing to help, but you will never be pushed around.” No one who sees my thirst being quenched from the vessel believes the words astride my lips are inaccurate. Not even I.
I drink from this glass in a room painted in bold red and orange. It is filled with contrasting and complimenting paintings of the same. I am gulping down the remaining drops from my favorite glass while I read Hélène Cixous. I remember that I received this book from a dear friend even after we had completed our graduate course on feminist theory. This book was not part of the syllabus. Why my friend owned the text is beyond my recollection now. She was moving and wanted the piece to go to a ‘good home.’ I gratefully accepted. My loving french theory and being inspired by feminisms past and present seemed idyllic in housing this book, another tome of womanly thinking. Later, I carefully salvaged it from the castaways upon my own move across the state and it has been squished among others on my shelves. I’ve had that book for nearing 7 years and had leafed through the pages only a few times. I recall grappling with the meaning and context over the course of my busy mothering days. My friend who gave the book to me said, when we were completing our applications for graduate school together, “dig down deep and light a Mary candle before you go!” as we each separately set out to mail our packets to the deciding deans. I am not catholic. It took awhile for me to realize that she was suggesting that I mediate or pray or send out to the universe – my heartfelt desire to be good enough.
Without that wish, that wing on my prayer – I would not have been able to read Cixous with any real consideration. I might’ve understood the words on the page, but not quite how they related to one another and certainly not how they related to me. My friend and I had a shared favorite professor who is a smart and sassy mama herself. In this role I think now that she had indulgently tolerated me throughout my learning curve. I suggest that it was a toleration because I have come to see myself as some others do. It seems that I am not pleasant. I am not nice. I ponder too much of/for my own. I pontificate without consideration of my own well-being. Rightness, righteousness are not attractive. Mixed with my own pain, my drama, my kids, my understanding, writing, thinking, feeling, context, praxis. It has all gotten in the way of any kindnesses I might bestow upon someone else. I tried to make nice. I did try to play well with others. I just couldn’t relate. They were as different to me as I to them. Though we exhaustively studied the Other in all of my classes, I never felt like I became a ‘one of.’ My friend had understood my anguish. My colleagues did not see me. They saw all the stuff – not me. And what they saw, they did not like. It was all too much for others and maybe it was all too much for me because I was so awful and not that the stuff was so awful that I became hard. Who cares, who wanted to figure it out? And I did not like them for not liking. The dean had bestowed an acceptance letter, I properly defended myself, but at a cost. I am friendly with my classmates, but we are not friends at all.
Though I left heavy hearted I remained ever hopeful that the stuff would diminish it’s hold on me. The yuck did not cede. I suffered setbacks. I became distracted. I hatched deadly cells that damaged my Self. I did damage control and became more strident – more hostile. When the surgeons had cut away the last of my womanly goods, I woke up lost and afraid and alone. I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I had been so much fun, so lovable, so sassy and charming before my quest for good enough took hold. I was a fighter and a thriver – no weakling’d surviving nonsense for me. I was brash and bold and liked myself as I was before the anesthesia took hold. When I woke up, I cried out for that loss. I cry for my lost Self. I have raised kids and been pretty good at it. Fierce and strong and loving. And I’ve not rested on my laurels either. I read. Voraciously I consume every book in the house (and there are lots!) and I borrow beg and steal for more to learn, to understand. To establish my good enoughness. There is nothing left on my shelf in the middle of the night to incorporate. I am vainly looking for something, anything besides the cereal box texte to feed my brain. And I pull down Cixous again. I flip through the pages and I see the words: To Live the Orange / Vivre l’Orange. And I am lonely. I need someone, anyone to understand me. So I think I should read what this french feminist theorist has to say about my favorite color. The shade of the nightgown I am wearing, hue of my house, my accessories, my paintings, my laughter. Orange is really the color of my soul. And she says:
I felt guilty that my writing was aside from reality, – busy searching for writings of the same age, of human origin, with which to learn how to call forth the tongues in which words still live, near by things, and listen to them breathe: guilty of naivety, of pride, my writing, guilty of innocence, I alone responsible for all of its ills: and sometimes I judged it, sometimes I condemned myself, I acquitted it, I justified it. And thus: attacking myself, defending myself, attacking it. And sometimes reproaching myself. …I feared [the writing] voice.
What remained of a woman that I had loved being, was the last tear: and this tear I had given in answer to the question of grace, the one whose point I had turned against my writing: “What have you in common with Women? When your hand can no longer even knows anymore how to find a near and patient and realizable orange?” [I cannot write the orange.] To save the orange. The orange is the beginning. Starting out from the orange all voyages are possible. All voices go their way via her good.
There is a time for listening to the vibrations that things produce in detaching themselves from the nothing-being to which our blindness relegates them, there is a time for letting things struggling with indifference give themselves to be heard. [There is a time for orange.] One doesn’t resound without the other. [I see that I am in danger.] In danger of writing, in the fullness of writing, in the process of writing it, unto the dangers.
All of the dangers that we encounter on each journey… Dangers of error, of falsness, of death, of nullity, of complicity in murder, of blindness, of injustice, of distraction, of hypocrisy. That we fear and that we seek… And this sentence, if I end up expressing it, my soul mingled with syllables, if I let it be discovered that I am afraid of it, I who have not paid the price.
Under what conditions could a woman say, without dying of shame: “the love of the orange is political too?” At what cost [can I express myself; say the word, spell the word, write meaning upon the peel, the juice, the rind]?
Despite the meaning, that Cixous could strain across time and place to find me here and now – even with her understanding, I am alone – I am lost. I am muddled in the afraidness of my Self.
The brash and loud orange is my center.
I am yet covered in the stiff peel. The juicy fear is but a smaller molecule of the whole that constrains my clattering typing fingers. Like a small pebble is but a particle chipped off the mountain, my fear is my juice and is enough to fill my glass. The seeds are my words, spreading fear and shame across the page. Danger. This feels dangerous. To be good enough to reveal the bloodorange centered self in a landscape I can’t imagine. Dangerous. All those adjectives a ringing true. I turn back to the tome and Cixous says of this:
Senses flow, circulate, messages as divinely complicated as the strange microphonetic signals, conveyed to the ears from the blood, tumults, calls, inaudible answers vibrate, mysterious connections are established. It is not impossible in the unrestrained conversing that among disjunct, remote, disproportionate ensembles, at moments, harmonies of incalculable resonance occur.
And so I must write the Orange.