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“Wife of a Master” by Ala Villanueva.

Excerpt  of Ala’s book “Wife of a Master.


Ready, set, fall.

I sit in front of these mini-stories scattered on the floor behind me. I am re-reading all the words that linked themselves to each other in aloof observation and mortified introspection. Not wanting to dig into the discomfort of it too deeply, but it was inevitable. Once the gears were unlocked, their rhythmical clicking caused a chain reaction and all my anguish was flagrantly exposed. I step back and gasp in disbelief. I never viewed it with such harrowing honesty. My face twists wondering where the hell did I gain the fortitude to withstand such perpetual onslaught for twenty long years? How am I still doing it now? It was as ludicrous as falling up.

I had justified it all as being what everyone goes through, but as I looked around, it was not true. Yes, everyone has challenges, of course. But mine were somehow insidious and relentless, closer to torture for a person of my composition, never affording a respite. Apparently, my lies to myself were an attempt to lessen the gravity of my circumstance for survival’s sake.

But I’m still here, so either I’m stronger than I give myself credit for or I have invisible friends.

Meanwhile, I relied on my natural compulsiveness, coupled with endless Ala energy to execute daily operations despite my raging internal conflicts. I kept giving, providing, supporting because it was the right thing to do and it needed to be done.

But there was a covert storyline. While I was juggling five dozen fire balls without gloves, I finally digested a difficult truth to swallow: My obsessive generosity in lifting others all these years deliberately tipped the scales to counterbalance the love, attention, and expression I so deeply craved, but lived without.

What wizards we are, creating distorted illusions out of our desires. It’s so clear now. It wasn’t then. Sometimes we are halfway there, not fully here and missing now all at once. I suppose it’s a common mechanism to avoid oneself.

I decided to take the last two months of this year to sit back a bit. A very challenging task for someone like me. I needed to stop pushing and pulling so hard. I stopped attending my non-profit program on Sundays so I could finally have one day off to myself. I really needed it as all my strength was exhausted leaving me unable to carry on with such intensity anymore. Sometimes surrender is an important step towards victory. It can potentially offer you a seat at the negotiation table.

A time of renewal is here, it has been upon me for a while but I’m caught in some awful loop like a rip tide. I can’t seem to get to shore, the shore that I left so long ago chasing the proverbial boat I missed. I have little desire to try anymore because the negative experiences amassed over decades had constructed a stark, cold cage, entrapping my soul. I’ve lived in that cell for years with only fear and fleas as my companions.

You might know the place. It’s a hell of incessant agony wishing for a death that will never come. Yes, it gets that severely dramatic. I suppose without some sort of self-prescribed anesthetic, outlet, professional guidance, intimate support or a scapegoat to blame, the internalization of my private battle compounded itself into a quiet but critical state. But I chose to continue to whistle, work and ignore it.

To make matters worse, this choice exacerbated the suicidal bent that spins me into a third person perspective, sealing me up in a cement casket. In anaerobic blackness you exist, but there are no signs of life. My second home.

My suicide demon emerged in full regalia with my first dick at thirteen. I recognized that associated trigger when I recapitulated my sex life. It was a devastating discovery. See, memoirs can be very therapeutic.

This third part attempts to share the sobering process spawned of a desperate duplicity. My heart was always donating itself, but my soul wanted nothing to do with it. This deep conflict was clearly not healthy, balanced living. It was no longer acceptable to get willingly pummeled and then unconsciously blame myself as I did in the past.

Once I accepted that those and other destructive ideologies were of my own making, it was my duty to dissect them so I could initiate a corrective process towards healing. After I stopped indulging in beating myself up, an inspired series of systematic exercises instinctively emerged which guided my awakening.

Once the first few steps were taken, a consistent gallop followed. Fortunately, it was just in the nick of time. It was imperative to discover a middle way as I could neither live this life nor leave it.

Each week, in the wake of every emotional monsoon, endless pain and sorrow washed away leaving a telltale trail for all of this and who knows what else to come. Whoever has not been subjected to misery has not had the full human experience and in an odd way, I pity them. Although I doubt that they exist. From its staggering profundity to its insurmountable emptiness we are all players in this caustic miniseries of living. Despite our outward desire for personal peace we revel in our pandemonium.

What a complicated mess of magicians, liars and false saints we are, ignoring that each moment micro mirrors a life cycle, with all of its endless potential. To be selectively oblivious in this way keeps us running on a treadmill never arriving anywhere. As much as we bitch about our complex dilemmas, the only other option would be to be singular, like being comatose.

When my mother suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, as much as I wanted her to wake from her coma, after a week I knew the helpless condition she would be in would be worse than death. A vapid, hollow stare, all body functions uncontrollable, learning, growing or laughing completely unavailable. That’s barely being. I was so grateful when she slipped away into her permanent sleep. It was the most humane exit.

A life without its trademark duality would be comparable to watching a play that was happy from beginning to end. Or a roller coaster that traveled on a straight flat track. The empty disappointment would be enormous and we would demand a refund. We are not made to experience life that way. We need dark alleys to dart into, blue skies to leap through, people to love and lovers to hate. I suppose even forests that ignite themselves understand the necessity of life’s cycles. Why can’t we?

Although my internal compass follows true North, my external situation becomes increasingly grave and continues to plague us relentlessly. The subjugation is so incomprehensible it can’t be disguised or dismissed. Like the condemned, digging deep graves their severed heads will soon fill.

I feverishly seek just a single ray of light to view this entire mess differently. But blackness prevails and even my internal pilot light has been blown out and noxious fumes now burn my remaining oxygen. I’m forced daily to interact with people whose contemptible behavior is so extreme it shatters your senses like a fine Murano chandelier crashing onto a marble floor. Even God would probably have reservations about taking these specimens back. I have witnessed their twisted smiles as they beat then bind you, douse you with gasoline and eagerly watch you burn alive.

One doesn’t stand a chance against that level of ingrained evil. You can neither accept it nor fight it. Coming to terms with this powerlessness is mind numbing. The bouts of paralysis and hysteria produce such distortion one is made unrecognizable to oneself. It’s no wonder we are a collective culture of victims. So many of us, tortured for fun, killed for a dollar, maimed for profit. Broken and defeated, my only recourse was to turn inward and surrender to this pervasive inhumane onslaught. All that was left to do was to wait and hope salvation would present itself somehow amid this sick desperation.

I understand failure, but this is not that. This is more about futility. Failure allows for an end and then a new beginning, where futility drags on and on like a lifetime prison sentence.

First, I relinquished my expectations. It was the only method available to thwart the constant disappointment and sense of loss. Then I discarded what remained of my decayed hope as it slowly disintegrated my vision leaving only a hollow stare covered by a purulent scab. Finally, I shut down my emotional body and lost my last connection to living. I had to. It was too painful to feel anymore. I had all the technical markers of a zombie. Without expectation, hope and emotional expression, you wade through skies without stars, oceans without water and a black hole sits where your heart used to be.

I tried very hard hundreds of times to call on inspiration but fell flat, first on my back, breaking all my bones, only to stagger, rise halfway and fall again face first rendering me crippled, hideous, useless. I try to recall the things I used to love: Bowie, nature, dance, anthems, but they no longer resound as they did in the past. I gaze dumbfounded from the pavement at the empty sky, my disbelief echoes into its endlessness. How can I fix this? So I lie there and try to do nothing as a new strategy. As if something will sweep in and save me when I’m not looking, unprepared and surprised.

With my luck, it will be more like an eagle catching a mouse. That’s what I just unconsciously thought, and as I wrote it down recognized how quickly I return to my victim mentality. No, I refuse to go there anymore! I hate that place.

So, I fixate my intention on an opportunity that I can’t fully articulate. Watching my skin wither and my mind tap out.

When do I get to wake up in the morning and smile? A genuine smile, without my conditioned sarcasm, forced action or my many survival techniques. I look forward to that day. I’m eager to reap the reward of a consistently lighter Ala, she’s a great lady and I really miss her. Sometimes I can grasp a little light for one or two weeks at a time but it remains elusive, never sticking to my soul. But at least now I know it exists. That’s something to build on. Like a dog, I’m grateful for my bone. But of course, I’m still sniffing for meat.

My life, like everyone’s, is not shaped by events, but how we choose to react and process each incident, accusatory thought and interpersonal exchange. These factors all heavily hammer themselves into shaping our rigid perceptions for living. It’s what we do as humans. Although our views appear selective, they are frequently unconscious choices borne primarily of conditioning lost to habit. All our personal preferences, selections and options shape absolutely everything.

What appears on the surface as a simple choice can carry the weight of a thousand worlds.

What is even more mesmerizing is the vast spectrum of our individual views. To a Hindu, The Ganges River is revered as most sacred and holy, but to an American, it is considered a toxic sewer. These endless contradictions are one of the unfathomable traits that make us so fascinating.

Boundless and gifted as we are, it seems impossible to reconcile all of our emotional vignettes that compose a lifetime. With all these saucy mortal ingredients, don’t you ever wonder what else can we create with it, discover in between it and around it? I hope something valuable, inspiring and worth remembering to somebody, somewhere, anywhere.

When searching and shifting foundational patterns of living, we vacillate. One morning you wake up singing a song, the next day a pervasive dread fills you. I’m so guilty of this. This is not exclusive to artist’s extreme sensitivities. I believe it is a ubiquitous human trait.

It’s natural to doubt new outlooks, particularly when they’re healthy and you’ve been immersed in false living for so long. Those familiar dirty demons of our own making are deceptive and insanely possessive. Maintaining consistent efforts towards reformation against those professional tricksters is grueling. They feast eternally on all the abundant faltering souls served on this gilded plate of lies we call civilization. Their power is undeniable and their influence is often imperceptible. Their presence is why we are so keen to cling onto negative trauma and underplay our joys. So arm yourself accordingly.

The pressing question remains: How to reshape my daily existence into something palatable. I am no longer an artist, producer, choreographer or director. I’m only a dreamer, as I believe I can do all these things but can’t produce any in time and space. Those opportunities elude me.

Although I have engaged in academia, corporate America, local government, arts and cultural communities, it was never a good fit. I just wanted to go home, to theater. I claim to be a creative but where is the work? It’s a lie, a dream, a lingering ghost casting shadows that haunt me. I’m clinging to something that doesn’t exist.

At least being SiMu, the wife of a Master, I have a position, an identity. I can say that I am an active participant in this. I can’t deny it as I walk into each day in my black uniform and gray aura. Whenever people ask what I do for a living I want to say, “I’m a living, working artist.” But instead reply, “I own a business,” or I lie to deflect the conversation ending the need to explain any further.

I do know that I have a fluidity within a deep, raw rhythm that is all my own. It is delivered through my temperament and observations. I do have an opinion, a voice, a desire and talent to create beauty that hungers for expression. Yet, there’s no vehicle, fuel or map to drive it anywhere. Much like a catatonic patient who wants to communicate by blinking his left eye, but can’t. Stuck, like so many of us.

Yet even in my relentless bitching, I can’t deny there has been tremendous growth and value creation. I would be a fool not to recognize and appreciate it. Although my non-profit agency is now in the past, I can never erase all the affection, value and growth that was shared.

I certainly have not wasted my time because for each one of my complaints, ten lifesavers were distributed with compassion and heart. There is something indelible about the posture of selfless love. That gift is never wasted, even if its’ survivors hold you down underwater. That awful deed is on them, not you. Loves divine vibration resonates eternally. It is not reserved for the pious and children. When you give it away freely you receive endlessly, whether you can perceive it or not.

Causes are never without their effects. It’s a scientific law. In diligent efforts to become a better human, hopefully, you recognize that you have actually been shedding day by day, which ultimately reveals itself as gaining. Inconspicuously, gently, perfectly.

The truths were always there, you did not have to recreate or reinterpret them. All you needed to do was get out of your own way and discover them as old friends waiting patiently for you by the doorway. Once identified and welcomed wholeheartedly you can finally sigh into a more peaceful way of being. You then begin to attract what was previously kept at bay by your unconscious grasping. Now you are free to methodically begin re-assimilating the possibilities that exist daily.

In writing this memoir, I went backwards to propel myself forward. I could finally place the disservice to myself behind me, no longer being led by its choke collar. Once in that less burdensome position, I became light enough to skip forward and then float upward. It’s a nice ride if you can catch it. But nothing can ascend if it is weighed down, so, shed your bullshit and get the lead out of your balloon so it can take flight already.


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