Around the rough and rugged rocks: chasing the tail of my life

At Rodeo Bar 2011

At Rodeo Bar 2011


It’s been a long time since I posted here,, posting and living being two very different things.
My husband of twenty years passed away in early 2012. My sister tells me, “Don’t say you LOST him, he’s not lost.” That seems irrelevant at this stage of my mind.

Few people can explain what this event can mean in another person’s life. I would compare it to a lobotomy. The mirror I used to make me see the good I did in the world just up and vanished. My comfy couch was replaced by a pile of cinder-like rocks. No one in the house has any suggestions for what to do about dinner. In short, as in the game of tag, I realize, “I’m IT!” What are you going to do?” I say. “Whatever I feel,” I say. Ice cream for breakfast, crumbs in the bed, watch videos into the night, drink wine, wake up with a hangover. Go to work the next day mumbling, “Never again…” And then you say…”why not?” You begin to live like a juvenile offender, but you don’t tell anyone because they already feel sorry for you.You do not want to hear about it.
Mom As Indian_jpg_'09-6
I went to visit my 90-year-old mother in Arizona last Christmas. I arrived Christmas Eve, and she drove us to a holiday party. She fell at 2:00 in the morning and broke her hip. An ambulance took her to the hospital in Phoenix. I slept in the hospital for four days, then put her in assisted living outside Phoenix. We are confused – no one in our family is ever sick, we are newbies at the hospital.

We have always had tension between us as mother and daughter (and we are both Pisces). All hostility, jealousy, misplaced anger melted away. We need each other now, we care deeply about each other, and it took all this time to be revealed. Who can explain this? We both become good little girls.

I was a sensitive child, obviously an artist. My mom came from the depression era: work and saving money are the ultimate masters. Art was frivolous; alright as a hobby but not as a real job. “You CANNOT make a living as an artist, you must choose something else.” My SAT scores got me a teacher education scholarship, and that was it. Off to the state university when students went home every weekend. Ugh.

After many adventures around the country, I became a photographer and came to New York. Visits to her were out of duty and difficult to enjoy – until I got the idea to dress her up in costumes and makeup. She saw how much trouble it was to get everything right and how I agonized over details and materials. She understood hard work. In the photos she may appear serene and beautiful or angry and fierce, but she is always out of her usual character, her self. She accepts every challenge I throw at her. “Sit up straight! Scowl!, That’s not a scowl, get angry!” She never knew that this was the work I loved…til now.

I am facing retirement. You want the “job” to end but you wonder if you will survive. You want CHOICES? Retire, quit your job. THEN you have choices, WAY many choices. You have so many choices these days, AND think you can have everything you dream of. But TIME is the leveler, you can never have enough time. You really have to put a new head on those shoulders. My new mantra is…and yes, it’s corny, “Everything is going to be fine.”

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About psullivan66

Patricia Sullivan is a New York City based photographer whose portraits and personal projects have appeared in New York Magazine, on HBO's "Bored to Death," TimeOutNY and other magazines. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Sullivan is drawn to the people "with broad shoulders" whose belief in just working hard and doing the right thing are keeping this whole planet together. Besides rodeo, she has photographed cops on motorcycles (in their off hours) and her mother, "the toughest woman I know."
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