Hidden places are of course internal and external and both literal and figurative.
So the literal hidden place is both Toni Patisserie and the Cultural Center. These were the places where I met and fell in love with an artist, with my city of origin, and most crucially with myself again. And the figurative hidden place is the space for love within myself.
It started in June when my boyfriend left what had become our home and our relationship to pursue a PhD in another city. This was the best relationship I have ever been in with the happiest person I have ever known in my life. A month later, I was given a contract journalism assignment as a contender for a full-time position in a new city for a job that seemed to meet me where I was in terms of my talents and skills, but for which I had absolutely no prior experience. Because my work during the entire contracting process exceeded everyone’s expectations, I became set into foreseeing a reality of myself with this job. And it did not work out; I was in the final top two applicants and ultimately the full-time was given to someone with more experience. But it was the first time that I realized that I cold be employed as a writer, which I think I had just completely forgotten. I had studied psychology and neuroscience and framed myself as a researcher.
Okay, so that is the background to set the stage. For weeks every time I would go out and someone would flirt with me, I was angry and hurt because I just wanted this person to be there who was not there. I wish I had given myself more space to heal. I realized that I had a lot of insecurities about my life. Namely, I had watched someone who I loved do exactly what I want to be doing, which is enrolling in a PhD program and pursuing something within himself that he loved more than our relationship and that could not accommodate our relationship. During this phase of my life I spent a lot of time with my family and started building up my writing portfolio, focusing on graduate school myself. I traveled to Portland, which is one of my favorite cities in the US.
For some reason at the beginning of August I decided to start dating again. I think I just wanted to talk to someone who could really understand me because I was starting to feel really overwhelmed by the intensity of my own mind while also having a lot of fun expressing it freely and creatively. Sometimes being lost and finding ones way can just be really fun, energizing, and exhilarating.
Then I met this Buddhist calligraphy artist. He had invited me to come check out his work while he was creating it at the Cultural Center. His gallery invited me to confront intensity within oneself in a non-invasive way. We sat in the windowsill of the room where he was working on the exhibit. There were only two walls complete at that point; the angry political wall and the love wall. He had just finished the love wall. During our conversation, I was facing the angry political wall and he was facing the love wall. He told me that I did not really know how to meditate, and that I should not try to understand meditation. He also told me that I did not have to show or prove anything to him, that he could see that I was wildly intelligent and passionate right away. It made me feel safe and accepted.
When I looked at his sketchbooks, it was like their was suddenly this giant schism that allowed for an opening, like lightning piercing my soul. I felt like I was going to cry, vomit, and laugh all at once because the sensation was so overwhelming. I felt like it reflected back to me something very deep within me. Something I had never encountered externally, and certainly had never seen or met anyone else who expressed it.
The fact is, no one else can show you your core. You have to find it for yourself. So while this artist friend reflected and presented various flashes and tones upon the prismatic faces of my soul, the final piece to this…puzzle I have been experiencing, to this ‘hidden place’ within myself…is just that, it is within me.
My favorite line from his exhibit is, “Can you truly accept that all beings are the same as you?” On the opposite wall, it says, “This is for you. Love, DB.” I love how dichotomous that is. On one hand, we want to reject the notion that we are the same as all beings, that there is just one self and we are flashes upon its prismatic surface. At the same time, we want to live and play out being this version of this self to the best of its abilities and we want to be loved for doing it.
The exhibit is still here, and it’s great. As much as I can feel and hurt from the ghost of our relationship in that room, I can also just feel the love and energy all upon those walls. And it was hidden to me in the sense that I would have never thought to go to the Cultural Center. Another favorite hidden place is Toni Patisserie across the way. The bar stools along the window there offer the best people watching I have ever experienced. The French pastries are affordable and delicious; purchasing one gets you free bottomless coffee for the day. So go, sit, watch, meditate, work, whatever — it’s a “hidden” gem.