Take Care of Yourself

Sophie

Take Care of Yourself was an art installation and book exhibited in the 2007 Venice Biennale by one of my favorite artists, Sophie Calle. The piece was about her breakup with her boyfriend, and it took its title from the last line of his email to her.  In order to process the experience, she asked over 100 women from different walks of life to interpret and assess the breakup letter she received in an email. STATE OF THE UNION takes its genesis from that project.

Janet Gonzalez is a poet.  I met her quite by accident, and because of an accident, or rather a series of fender benders, I had gotten myself into during my divorce proceedings.  I don’t need to be told how pounding my car into both stationery and moving objects reflected my state of mind at that time.  Like most poets, Janet needed a day job to support her art and so she worked at a local auto body shop, which is where we met.

As most people going through a divorce do, I began telling Janet my tale of woe upon her asking me, “How are you?”  To this day, I never quite remember that when people ask me that they are just being friendly and that they really don’t want the honest answer.  But Janet listened intently, and then replied,

“When the sad and lonely times knock at your door, always remember, your happiness belongs to you and no one else…take good care of it. Don’t answer the door.”

Door

I found myself speechless.  I have always marveled how the universe puts teachers in my midst.  I remarked to Janet how profound I thought her advice and then I began to tell her about my project. She began to tell me about her writing.  I knew I had to ask her to be part of STATE OF THE UNION.

Below is the poem Janet wrote.  We had never met before, yet she seemed to know my story.  Then again, my story was like thousands of other stories, which gave me the idea that perhaps this project was more than a way for me to process my life through my art practice, but that this project might actually give voice to thousands of other people who had gone through the same experience.  And, maybe, just maybe, it would help others.

By Janet Gonzalez

We been yelling and screaming
Without saying a word
She’s grown tired of listening
Fairy Tales
Super Heroes
Come to save her
She ain’t having it no more
She is
Crying
Questioning
Why have I neglected her
Why have I thrown her
to the arms of a stranger
I couldn’t own up to her
I was afraid
I wasn’t enough to fill the Cinderella slippers
And she slipped
through my scissor hands
When I bumped into him
On the yellow big road
He was charming
Promised to take good care of her
I put down my guard
Getting lost in Wonderland
Making her dependent to him
Like a vampire to blood
She lost herself in his reflection
At the magic pond
Drowning, gasping for air
Holding on to him like a magic rug
Waiting for him to lift her up
As if was the only one
That could wake her up
With his kiss
She almost died
And she cried
I belong to you
How can you let me go
Why did you leave my fate in the palm of his hands
Grow the fuck up
Can no one take better care of me than you
I am yours
I miss you
She cried
I cried
And beg
Forgiveness
No more Super Heroes
I promise to keep you safe
No more Fairy Tales
Just you and I
Happiness
Please give me one more chance

Repaired Heart

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