Self Interview: A Portrait in Words

I thought long and hard over the questions I would answer as an introduction to myself.  It’s like creating a self portrait, but in words.  I had to edit down some of my answers because I can tend to go on and on and…  lose track of time, and purpose, and energy to the point where I soon find myself asleep with my face pressed into the paper of the blank journal I keep at my bedside.  I want to write with a purpose.  I want to make not just a good first impression, but an enduring one that shows a true reflection of my personality. I want to make friends.  I like to talk about myself and share the stories I have to tell that I think are really awesome.  I think you will like me and what I have to say.  I have a lot to share!  So, without further delay, let me ask what I anticipate you might ask me if we were sitting across from each other sipping some hot tea and nibbling some cookies on a November midnight.

What is an average day like for me?

Quiet. I spend most of my time alone. I get up and do the usual things people do, except I turn on the radio instead of the television. I listen to WPR to catch the news, later to listen to classical music. I got into the habit of listening to the radio while working retail. Soon radio became a type of security blanket for me at home. I like having it play in the background while I’m doing dishes or drawing. I have no fixed schedule to keep to, so my days are pretty open and I devote my time to volunteer work, helping out friends, playing with my cat, making art, writing, and living well. I take a walk everyday through the woods, but on days when the weather is too wet or cold, I’m more than happy to stay in and read a book.

What do I do for a living?

I am unemployed but that doesn’t mean I don’t work. Nor do I struggle too much financially, as long as I keep to a simple budget. I am disabled due to several health conditions that are quite manageable but make it difficult for me to keep a steady job. I don’t like using the word “disabled” to describe myself because I don’t consider myself crippled in any way, but let’s just say my mind works differently and I’m more sensitive than the average person. What I do to augment my income is I sell my artwork and occasionally receive donations. I would love to eventually become more self sufficient making money at what I love doing. For now, my situation is the best for me because my medical expenses cost more than I can pay even if I was gainfully employed.

What do I dream of doing for a living?

My dreams become goals. When I dream of something I want to do, the desire to do it hurts so much, I can’t keep still, I have to make it happen or I stay miserable. The more miserable I am, the more unhealthy I get. So my goal is to get healthy enough to eventually be with other people, record their stories, and draw/paint their portraits, just shine a light on them! I just got done with a project in association with the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa where we sought to preserve and revitalize the Ojibwe language by publishing the first comic book to be printed completely in that language. Ojibwe and other tribal language books have been used for children and adults to study from, but never has one been produced completely in the native language without any English translation. We made it that way to entice people to learn the language first so they can figure out the story. I want to do more projects like this, but much of the work doesn’t bring me a lot of profit. I don’t mind it because I really get paid with the satisfaction of knowing I am helping Native American kids who were like me, the ones who grew up separated from their culture and without the stories, language, and spiritual practices of their people. I also want to prevent that happening to people from other cultures, but my talents lie within the arts. I may not be able to save the world by making pretty pictures, yet maybe I can inspire a nation.

What kind of friend am I?

I am very loyal, to a fault. I have my shortcomings and sometimes say the wrong thing, but ultimately I don’t do a lot of rejecting. I’m a loner, often not that outgoing, so when I’m at a bar or a party, I seek out a person who seems to be too quiet and get them to talk. Or I just talk to them til they are forced to talk to me! I am sympathetic to outsiders and wallflowers because I’m like that, too. However, I can go against my nature and pretend to be very extroverted, usually by talking very loudly, telling an obnoxious story, or doing something ridiculous in order to be the center of attention. I like to entertain, yet when I do that I’m not really being myself. My friendship is best enjoyed when things are intimate, when I can really sit down and talk face-to-face with my friends. I like looking into their faces and reading their body language. I pick up on subtle and secret things about other people. I don’t mean to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but sometimes telling them what I’m feeling gets me into some trouble… or it cements our friendship forever.  I’m a very sensitive person, too, so I react emotionally and feel the need to comfort my pals, yet because I’m sensitive, I don’t provide a lot of physical affection.  My way to comfort is to talk.  So, let’s talk a lot!

What is my ethnic background?

I’m a little cauldron mixture of things…  I am one full quarter Menominee Indian, a little less than a quarter L’Anse Chippewa, but I’m one complete Anishinaabe Woman! My great (4x) grandfather was Charles Michel de Langlade who, even though often depicted as a white man, was part Odawa and had many native wives before marrying a white one (some he remained married to while married to her!). He was given the title “Father of Wisconsin” but really he was a rebel against the British and Americans, preferring the company of Indians and loyal to the French. So I have that little salt sprinkling of French on the Indian side of my family! But since the marriages between white men and native women weren’t always recognized, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries, you won’t find the names of my great grandmother or Landglade’s granddaughters in the history books. Someday I want to change that.

As for my mother’s side, I’ve inherited a German-Austrian heritage. My grandfather immigrated to the U.S. in the early 20th century. I was told that my German great grandparents came to this country to keep my grandfather from being drafted into the German army. If I remember the story correctly, the first born sons were usually sent into the military, but with WWII coming up and all those nasty politics Hitler was spewing, the Belt family made the right decision.

I inherited from both sides of my family a deeply spiritual lifestyle. My mother and grandmothers were all very devout, be they medicine women or Catholic, religion influenced the people in my family.

Why am I single?

I haven’t dated in many, many, MANY years simply because no one’s been awesome or honorable enough to be my boyfriend. Those who have, however, did so in ways that made them undesirable! Last time a man chased me, he was overly forward and demanding, not nice at all. He thought harassing me into going out with him was the way to go. No, thank you. Other than that, I don’t get out much. Dating intimidates me. It’s like stage fright.  I panic.  I especially hate blind dates. I tried dating online, and even went to meet someone a couple years ago, but he wasn’t very nice and left me with the bill. I try not to think about it anymore. I think about other things that are more pleasant in my life. I no longer feel desperate to find a mate. I’m older now, too. Most people who are my age are too busy in a profession, are married anyway, have children, or come with a poor attitude about their life. Dating today is not like it used to be when I was in college. It’s too casual, too ambiguous, too much focus on sex and instant gratification. If someone really wants me, they have to really woo me now to get my attention. I think I deserve that. I’m a woman, not a toy.

Why do you like being single?

Because there’s no one telling me what to do! That’s what I hated about being in a relationship when I was young. Men dominating my life and me not knowing I had the power to tell them to back off. Even though my ex-boyfriends loved me, they felt this obnoxious need to take care of me and do too much for me, especially without consulting me. I almost married someone who wanted me to fulfill a very traditional housewife role for him. He came from Italian roots where the women cooked and didn’t have to work and made the babies. When he told me how many children I was going to have for him, that was my cue to leave! It was difficult because I loved him, yet I squirmed under his control. I can’t imagine living that kind of lifestyle.

I genuinely like living alone because the only person I have to answer to is me. If something is dirty or if I put something off, it’s my fault and no one’s going to be there to gripe at me for it. I have plenty of space and quiet. No interruptions. More freedom. No pressure to please someone else or keep to a busy social schedule. I can decorate the way I see fit. All my clothes and furniture smells like “me” and I can burn incense and perform ritual whenever I please without a big production or protest from someone else who wants to get involved or who’d rather not. Everything is simple, easy to maintain, and, sure, it’d be nice to include another person, but it would be a stressful adjustment for me to make now.

What don’t you like about being single?

The way some people think something is wrong with you if you have no partner or children. Like you’re missing out on life if you stay alone. I didn’t realize how controversal keeping to a single life can be. By the time a woman reaches 40 and she’s not with anyone, not even a sex buddy, they wonder if you’re wounded, lost, or just really very sad. They never care to think that living alone can be very liberating and wonderful. Usually I don’t care what people think, but I want to, for the record, say that my life is not a tragic one where I pine away day and night longing for a lover or a baby. My “dream lover” isn’t typical either. I’d rather date a person who likes their aloneness, too, and instead of having babies, I’d rather make books together. Oh, and we wouldn’t have to live together either. Now a lot of people would find that all kinds of strange, yet I’m not normal, I guess! There aren’t a lot of men who fit that bill, too. Most want a woman they can have children with, or some kind of family future, yet that’s just not me.  Men just don’t get interested in me in that way. Like the guy who walked out on me on that first date. Once he learned I’m not looking for marriage and family, it was a deal breaker for him.  No matter how pretty I am, or how nice, he considered me a useless woman.

The only other thing I don’t like about being single is that sometimes I discover something so wonderful or fantastic, but there’s no one around to immediately report it to! I have my cat, Mr. Snuggles, to talk to, but he doesn’t speak human. Sure, I can get on Facebook or blog about it, yet there’s nothing like that instant gratification of seeing the look and understanding on a friend’s face when they are standing there right beside you! I miss that.

What do I dream of doing that I haven’t yet tried?

Travel without a group and just explore a place completely on my own without a schedule, or even a map, and just rely on my own wits and soak in the atmosphere at my own pace without having to accommodate my fellow travelers.  Every time I go on a trip with other people, I get irritated and feel like I’m being pushed this way and that against my will.  Just as I get used to a place, someone interrupts my concentration and the break in focus sends me into a panic.  Crowds and strangers often overstimulate my senses, making me dizzy.  I have to take things in slowly.

In September 2010, friends invited me out to South Dakota for a few days, but our time was very limited, especially when we got to visit Deadwood.  A friend got sick and our trip was cut short.  I felt like I had just met my new true love and had to say good-bye in the same heartbeat. I think if I had been there completely on my own, with plenty of time to really take in the sights, say weeks ( ! ) maybe I’d have a perfect time of it. I was never a big country western fan or an Old West history buff, but I loved HBO’s Deadwood. Even though the city looks nothing much like how it was portrayed in the TV series, it’s still a small town with everything within walking distance.  And what an endurance course it is to walk around there!  The hills are very steep, you really have to pump your knees and thighs, but that clean air!  As you take in gulps of air while you get a work out walking up and down those hills, you breathe in amazingly fresh air.

I would love to do an artist’s residency or retreat there! Why? The place is full of ghosts! The hills are saturated with the sounds of a different era intermixed with modern day people, making for a very fascinating dynamic. Look in the faces of the residents there and you can recognize in them their Old West ancestry. The people could just as easily look right at home in 19th century duds as they do in 21st century clothes. I want to go there to record ghost stories, draw portraits of the people who live there, commune with the spirits who happily dwell there, maybe participate in some paranormal investigations, and get to know people there really well so they’ll let me see the hidden places the tourists aren’t allowed to explore.

When I was there for the first time, I was surprised at how “at home” I felt there. I had no panic, no discomfort, no sense of having to constantly look over my shoulder, and I didn’t have any problems with climbing those hills. Of course I visited during a time when it was just about the off season and the last of the tourists were milling through the thoroughfare before summer’s end, but I had the sense that this historic town has a lot more for me to discover. While I was there, I kept dragging behind the tour group, totally in a daze, paying more attention to the voices of spirits all around me who seemed so very pleased to speak to me that I was lost to the living! Armed with a digital camera, my batteries kept giving out even though I had just replaced them. I didn’t manage to capture any ghosts on camera, but I talked to them with my thoughts and promised I would return. I actually felt really “loved” there, too. It made me wonder if I had spent a past life there.

Who do I want to meet?

This will sound crazy, but I want to meet more spirits… and experience the Gods of different cultures. Less crazy, I just want to go out and meet my friends all over again, too! Especially ones who have passed away and are no longer in this world. I know, sad, right? But it’s true. When I’m away from my friends, no matter what separates us, I always think of all the things we didn’t get to do together, then I make the decision that next time it’ll be done. But once we meet up again, something always comes up that is better to do! So everything eventually works out. I don’t really want to meet anyone famous or rich. I like my company sweet and personal.

How am I feeling right now?

Hungry. I fasted today in an effort to detox. I’ve come down with an annoying cold that is stealing away my voice. Even though it’s late, I am about to indulge in a sandwich and watch a movie to distract myself from feeling hopeless. Besides hunger and being sick, I am a little sad. I am missing one of my best friends. I’m anxious to get over my cold quickly and wish I could fly or teleport so I could just pop on over to where he’s at and steal a hug from him. But what keeps me from feeling completely sad is a happiness inside that gives me the gut feeling that I will see him again soon, perhaps more than once! That’s my intuition, not wishful thinking. I checked. Spirit’s never lied to me before. So I need to stop worrying I’m going to miss out on catching my friend before he leaves. Other than that, I am tired, yet restless. The cold slowed me down and I think about all the things I wanted to do today that I had to put off for later this week. Oh, well…

What am I looking forward to?

Getting over my cold! I hate being sick, and yet I look forward to spending a few days in bed. I’m going to catch up on some drawing. I have too many blank spaces in my sketchbook that need filling. I am also working on a film noir kind of character for a comic art contest. Though I just have the bare bones of the model drawn now and need to flesh out what kind of person she is and in what world she belongs to and what kind of adventure she’s having… *quick intake of breath!* I’m letting her pose speak to me. I’m starting to get all kinds of ideas. I love that. I think I have great chances of winning the contest, but even if I don’t win, it’s going to be a lovely way to meet other artists.

Next:  Self Interview pt. 2: My Life with the Gods

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4 comments on “Self Interview: A Portrait in Words

  1. Victoria Porter says:

    While I do have a boyfriend, I can still relate to what you’re saying about people judging you for not marrying and having children. I don’t know if I’ll marry, it’s too soon for me to decide, but I’ve already chosen not to have children. I get so sick of people saying “Oh you’ll change your mind.” They just don’t believe a woman can be happy without giving birth. I have no intention to devoting my life to raising another human being. I want to travel the world, have a career, and do other things that would be more difficult to do with children. Children freak me out. Lol Kudos to you for living as you want to live and not conforming to an existence just because it’s expected of you.

  2. Thank you! It’s always a woman’s choice to have or not have children, and we should never have to be judged harshly for what we ultimately decide what to do with our lives. Because it’s not about our bodies, it is about our lives! I get most harshly judged by other women, actually, ones who have full families and, besides them thinking I’m missing out on that kind of life, I think they are a little jealous or resentful because I have chosen an “easier” life.

    Then I have lots of friends who are married or who are couples. They’re always trying to get me hooked up with someone, but it always ends up in disaster. Not their fault, or mine, I just think it is going to take an unusual and unconventional man to fall in love with me. I also live in a semi-rural area where family and home life is very important to men. They want a woman who will fulfill a different kind of role than one I can offer them. Once they realize that when they get with me they’re not going to get a housemate, they’re getting an artist who goes to bed late and is prone to crazy, passionate moods that carry her into obsessive-creative projects… ones that mean I need a lot of alone time to concentrate on, they feel like I’m blind sighting them. Oh, well! Maybe I’m just harsh on myself.

    I am a passionate creature, and am fully capable of not raising another human being, but cuddling one! I’m also a Capricorn, an introvert, and not as aloof as some think I may be. I just love people! I love kids, too, but it’s infants that freak me out. I think they are these fragile little aliens that I’m terrified of breaking! Once kids get to be older, they bring out the playful side of me. And, now that I think about it, since I’m like a big kid myself, I also bring out the playful side in adults, too. I’m the kind of person who still plays dress up even!

    Life’s too short and precious to waste on doing what everyone wants you to do! 😉

  3. Valentina – i am Finally catching up on the 100+ posts i have bookmarked and your writing here is amazing, very revealing, and well written. I feel like i am sitting at a table with you listening to you tell your story. Much of your story is similar to mine, especially right now, so i can relate for sure. Thanks for sharing this with me and us in the blogasphere. I am going to reblog this and look forward to part 2. Blessings of the God/esses, Great Spirit, the People who have gone to the beyond and some of whom have returned, the spirits of the land and trees and animals upon you…..

  4. Reblogged this on Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge and commented:
    Here is a very revealing post, written from the heart, from one of my favourite bloggers, Valentina. Enjoy!

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