ON CULTIVATING BEAUTY — While Living Amongst The Damned


Reflection from April 11th, 2012 @ Age 30


Cooper and I are fighting every day now—pretty much could say every day, all day long almost.  It’s horrible. 

In my entry yesterday I had actually taped in there an ugly printed out photo of this…


…that’s the pretty version on photo paper.

Anyways, I was home last night trying to figure out what pics to put in my two heart frames that will sit on my desk before me as I finish writing Cultivating Beauty.

So I was looking through my pictures that include both my husband and myself and, granted there aren’t all that many to choose from, but even still, I was very hard pressed to find even a few.  So anyways, I finally found my two favorites—they are from our wedding October 9th, 2010 — 19 days prior to his double lung transplant.  Planned in two weeks.  Rushed.  Beyond belief.

So those two pictures I have posted herein.  The first, from yesterday, is a photo of what I thought would be my fairytale moment, finally come true.  The other, this, is actually my most favorite of them all, of every photo we have ever taken together…


We look so happy.  That’s what was posted on Facebook too.  “You guys look so happy.”  What a fucking lie.

In the first, we had to stand in one spot because Cooper was a mere 18% lung capacity left from death.  He could not breathe, we were frightened of what was to come, of what would happen, if and when he would take his last breath.

We stood there as the photographer said to us, “just act normal!  Be natural!”  But it was uncomfortable as hell.  Cooper couldn’t breathe, I was sweating beneath my dress, my heels kept sinking deeper and deeper into the earth—I had to stand on the very tips of my toes to stay on flat ground.  I kept fucking sinking and it was hot and it was awkward to be in front of that camera because being ourselves, together, was anything but natural.  And that actually holds true all the way back in time to our very start.  Not only in high school when I wanted only to be with Dave and nothing to do with Cooper Lehmann, but also on our first date when we ended up getting drunk, making out at the restaurant, blacking out etc. back at his place.  And then he drove me home to my parents’ house and I had nothing to say and neither did he.  And at my parents’ house, I walked in without him in the early AM with same clothes on from night before, and there stood my Grandma—who had told me just the night before, that “this guy was the one.”  I suppose all of our thoughts, at times, are misgiven.  Wouldn’t you say?

Anyways, to get myself back on track here…the image posted in this very entry today is a photo Christopher took at our “reception” at Hyde Park.  It’s my favorite photo of the two of us all time because doesn’t it just look so goddamn beautiful.

Well, now I know why, it is, in fact, beautiful.  It’s the dichotomy I speak of in Cultivating Beauty—our ugliness and seeming “perfection”, as one.  It seems so perfect, the two of us there, so happy dancing our first dance as husband and wife.  But what you cannot see there, in that photographed moment, is this:

I had to get drunk enough, or at least far enough on my way, in order to get up the courage to ask him for that first dance.  Then I got out my iPhone to play Christina Aguilera’s version of “At Last”, and Cooper was embarrassed that we hadn’t arranged for music on the Hyde Park speaker system.  That I hadn’t arranged for that, in those two weeks, while I was hunting for a dress and two fittings for alterations, finding a cake and a bouquet and corsages for the moms and boutonnieres for the guys, makeup and hair, flowers for the venue, (LOL) the venue itself!  Planning the meal, finding a photographer and meeting with her to choose a place for photos.  Park of Roses, she had told me—people there are so much more polite than at Goodale.  Polite…with the thorns.  The thorns of those roses.

And then it happened with the timing—rushed to happen before Cooper might die, that the roses in that park of roses were all dead that October day.  All dead that they were, on that unusually hot autumn’s day.  Suffocatingly hot.  Trapped in that wedding gown I had three days to pick out. 

Agh…I digress again…but moving on forward again…he was embarrassed the music was not playing as he believed that it should.  He was embarrassed to get up from the dinner table filled with only immediate family members, to stand up before them and take that first dance with his brand new wife.  

If you saw any of the other pictures then you would see how it truly was.

And I could go on forever if I let myself.  But really, at this point it’s become quite unnecessary.  I feel nothing short of confident that my point I’ve made clear,

All along this was wrong, but I thought it was so right.  It seemed so right.  If we read the signs so very right.  So very just so.

It seemed to fairytale, what I’d always wanted I had thought so.  I had laughed and said to myself, oh Marissa!  You silly girl!  You wanted your fairytale and look at just what you got!  It seems such a fairytale, but with the twist that seemed so…so, appropriate and really kind of expected at that time.  Given how these fairytales of mine kept turning into nightmares—what with Dave’s death and becoming trapped in the great hellhole which is called here “being a lawyer.”  It seems so, okay, that these auxiliary circumstances were just a part of the plan.  The plan someone had for me, where nothing ever just fell into place without having to fight against that river pushing me down the stream.

Now I realize that “someone” was in fact, merely, this evil and cold society that we live in.  And now, here we are, two peas in a rotten pod—but not because of Cystic Fibrosis and mental illness as expected.

It seems once again this struggle has fallen down upon my shoulders—this reality of never ending oscillation within this world, between being who I am and that which I am “supposed” to be.

Cooper told me himself that he doesn’t want to know the person I used to be.  He is scared of her, but doesn’t understand that she will always be alive inside of me—because that’s what I live for.  He’s been fighting me all along, fighting me and against my dream, because he wants nothing more — he has wanted always nothing more —than to be “normal” just like every other goddamn person on this earth.

What makes you think you are so different, so special, than all the rest?  He wants to fit in, whatever the cost—but we are so different and so opposite because it is that very proposition I have fought against for my entire life up to this very present moment in time.  I am the opposite.  I want only to be who I am and work towards, always, who I am meant to be.  And I say fuck the rest because they are worth neither my time nor my energy.

And so there it is, like it or not—Cooper has now fallen into that massive group with most the rest.

I see now that we will part ways — I don’t know how or when, or where — but I can see it now, and how it rests clear in my otherwise unknown future.

Except, the rest isn’t really entirely unknown either, but to give Cooper this one last respect of all the respect he feels he deserves—I will leave my visions of dreams for a different time on a different day.  

Ohh how excited I am though, for what my fate actually holds.  Whatever it is that I was destined for, I am finally here to have my chance to make these dreams come true.  Dreams of the most fundamental, heart breaking sort.

Here I fucking come.