Confidence Game

Plotting my next move…

I don’t know the first thing about chess. Well, okay. I know what pawns do, and pretty much what kings and queens do. Apart from that, a game with me would last about an eighth of a second. Still, this chess set created from sculptural table and chairs had me thinking. Oh, sure, I’d love to take this gorgeous handcrafted work home with me, but my wallet’s a bit thin to afford it. That, and there just isn’t room in my tiny cottage to allow such a thing. Chess is all about strategy, but even more it’s about confidence. That the players have the guts to pull off moves that could end everything, or take it all.

Could I have it in me to have it all?

Saturday couldn’t have been a prettier day. Blazing blue skies, with only a few polka dots of clouds. Crisp, cool breeze. Perfect for visiting all sorts of artists and art studios, as I did in a local city’s open studio day. This event had been organized by an enterprising couple of artists who saw great possibilities in a place that’d almost been written off and outright rejected.

This small Hudson River city is the perfect place for creativity. Once a successful, busy manufacturing port on the river, it slid into a rundown sad state of affairs. Abandoned factories. Burned out lots. Low prospects. Its inhabitants, resilient and resolute, saw its treasures waiting to blossom. Like seeds planted in the spring, the promise of a great future arrived in a wave of creativity. Artists saw sunny, wide open lofts that, with a bit of work, became perfect studios. With skyrocketing rents for loft space in Brooklyn, they’d been priced out. Little more than an hour away from New York City, this prime location on the Hudson invited anyone willing to invest in buildings who might’ve been written off as urban blight. And so they came. A few at first, but after word got out that anyone could afford to live here, artists moved in.

Once a year, Artists open their studios to the public. Visitors come from all over to have the opportunity to see who’s emerging, who’s established and what’s trending. So much is happening here that even international names have taken up residence.

I already knew some of the artists, so I wanted to see what they’ve created in this COVID year. What has this pandemic year stirred up on canvases and galleries? My boss and I went, eager to see how resilience translated into art.

While I waited for my boss to join me at a well-known gallery, I struck up a conversation with a professor from Mexico City. He came north to hang out with photographers, improve his English and work remotely. That, and get a foot in the fashion industry door – his other gig. We spent an hour talking about all sorts of things. By the time my boss showed up, we’d already exchanged business cards and followed each other in Instagram.

Later, we headed on over to lunch. For once, my boss and I talked about our lives and not our jobs. Past boyfriends, silly things we did, how I wound up at Phipps. As we scooped another forkful of quiche in our mouths, she asked me, “If you could do three things in your life right now, what would they be?”

I met her gaze and said, without hesitation, “Have my writing career take off, be financially stable and fall in love again.”

My boss nodded. “Because your book will sell, right?”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t it?”

I’m thinking this because I have a meeting with my agent, in person, in a few weeks. She’s already informed me that she has plenty of changes for me (argh!) but she likes what she’s read. But am I clinging to the hope that my book will sell good enough so I have the financial stability to be secure? And maybe that’ll bring me the love of my life?

Or is it about confidence that I can craft my future well enough to believe I have what it takes to gain all three?

I’m thinking it’s confidence. You want to know why?

Because up to this point, I had a rough time believing that I was good enough for anything, let alone another relationship. I can’t pinpoint exactly where that believe changed, but I think it was right around when I found out my ex had a steady girlfriend. At first, I felt the full weight of rejection. But then, like the old chestnut says, a door closes and and window opens. That part of my life needed closure, complete and final, so that the rebirth could begin.

I really don’t love him. At all. Certainly don’t want him back. He’s gone like a wisp in the wind.

He moved to a big city after we ended. This, after we married, convinced me to sell my Manhattan apartment so we could move to the suburbs. Now, I realize, that moving to this tiny town truly set me free. This place had no trace of him at all. He never lived here, never romanced me here, never anything here except for dropping our son off and picking him up. There’s no shared history. No nothing.

This place of mine was built by a retired 1920s showgirl who needed a change in careers. She left New York City and moved to my village on a lake that also attracted such people as Babe Ruth, Cecil B. De Mille, Greta Garbo and a whole host of musicians, back in the day. She became a painter, filling up the rooms with her works. When she died, her family removed over 100 works of art. By the time I bought this house, it’d become a bit shabby and worn, but filled with promise.

I like to think me and my cottage help each other out. Make each other feel better. Put each of us back to rights. And after sinking what little money I have into a new furnace, kitchen stove and wastepipe (a major chunk of change, that was!), two doors, insulation, a gas fireplace a complete paint job inside and out, landscaping, plus a few other things, it’s getting to where I want it to be. In return, I have a place that’s all me and not what my ex thinks it should be. Whatever decorates my space is a reflection of what I am, no one else. My place pleases me.

It’s also a launching pad for my present and future. I decide what my next moves will be. Whatever I do next, it’s my decision without thought for others. I’ve invested a lot in myself. Although things might not pan out exactly as I wished them to be, I’ve the confidence now to try. I’m going to keep writing because my life depends upon it. And I will be published. Otherwise, what’s the point of living if I’m afraid of what might happen tomorrow?

Something wonderful just might be coming my way. Confidence makes sure that it does.

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