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Divorce is such a first word problem. DIVORCE! he screams. And with that word the entire dream of the future, the whole heartedness of the present, the structures built on assumptions of the past disintegrate into a pile of rubble. Once the fissure was discovered in the foundation of the relationship, there was nothing to hold back the force of gravity waiting to release the dreams, like little sparkling drops of love dew leaking out to find a new home. One word. Start the hellish commotion, the separation strife, the shouting of blame, the pent up unfairness of life. Pouf!
Dear Sis and Sam,
Finally Dad's house is empty. The floors are swept and counters shine. He'd be proud to see his voraciously blooming magnolia tree out his deck window. I think he can see it even now. Mark came by to say another goodbye. Always sad. He was such a good "almost a son" to Dad, wasn't he? Mom's paintings have been given temporary shelter in my garage. Maybe they will find new homes to settle in, like Dad's beloved Bella. This last chapter has been awaiting us, and is closing behind the locked door at Dad's old house.
I'm sitting in my new favorite place in my house. The foyer, with the front door opened wide and the scents of spring wafting in. I sit on a gold striped corduroy parlor sofa with curly arms. From here, I can hear a spot of conversation among women walking en mass. Or I can hear the coaxing of dog owners, "Come on, let's go!" This street is almost like a parade after 5 pm when neighbors return home from work, and there's a window of opportunity to get some sun and grab some spring before dinner. Ahh, life is good.
Flexibility might be the number one characteristic of a quality life. The ability to go with the flow, to do the mental gymnastics required to see a situation in a positive light. For example. I'm fretting about not making money. Why? Because, it has been something I've needed to do most of my life; work, not just for money, but to buoy my worth in the eyes of others (namely husband.) But I could instead appreciate the time off and be thankful that now is the time to stop punching the clock and organically let my business take shape. Yes!
Organization: Such a crucial skill. My latest attempt to master it was this: I bought five clipboards on which to collect papers: Clipboard one; for all things related to WSU; clipboard two; work related papers, clipboard three; current projects, like repairs on home, clipboard four; things to do in the future like info on plays, upcoming concerts and conferences, clipboard five; bills to pay. NIGHTMARE! Warning: do not try this at your home! My life was haunted by shuffling clipboards. They'd appear, disappear, default to the backburner position, become lost. If anyone knows how to organize a life, please help!
Holy Crap! How did I grow up admiring you blindly like some guru? I have spent more than half my life in your shadow, thinking that your light was the only light that mattered. I was generous with my time, with my efforts, my nurturing, my money. Now I find out your true colors. No! Lack of color, lack of generosity, lack of love and a total narcissist. The blinders are off and the true light hurts my eyes. I'm lucky to be awake and aware and rid of all the inconsistencies that I used to throw under the rug.
I'm divorcing my sister. I can do it. I have divorced two husbands already. There is such a thing as mind training. When the mind goes into that poor me sadness, it's like a tongue revisiting the chipped tooth. Refocus. You've already been there. No need to think about it more. Write your 100 words and be done with it. Or, write it again tomorrow. But only indulge with the 100 words. It's over. It was fun to pretend that there was a relationship, like when we'd shop together and I'd play her small slave, little sister. Shopping, her forte!
This is my vision board with words: There is a friendly place in the neighborhood where the adults hang out. Not to drink, or to eat, but to sit at a table with other artists and paint or sculpt. They talk, they exercise their imaginations, they make things they're proud of. They pay money for the honor of showing up and to indulge in a fine community. There are art creations all over the room that inspire. There are books of master artists. Once in a while, a drummer leads us in drumming, or a poet shares her latest poem.
Me, inside the car with a vacuum and spray cleaner? Yes! It happened. What came over me? It's like I had been hypnotized and all the ick messages got anesthetized. There I was, cleaning unidentified schlop off the rubberized floor of my Element. Each area, from top to bottom and upholstered seats were cleaned. I pulled out all unnecessary hats, gloves, "why is that here?" stuff to discard or put it where it belonged. Really? This is not me. Who am I? I like her, who ever she is. Keep up the great work, incorporate this new behavior into repertoire.
My judgmental nature: Of all traits a character might have, lack of courage is the one I abhor. It's the one that has hung my life on a picket fence for many years. It's the trait that throbs when I think about my sister's inability to speak to me about our conflict. It's the flaw that keeps us in our shells, socially and in the tried and true ruts of our lives. It suffocates brightness and boldness. It snuffs out creativity. It makes adventures stressful and less enjoyable. A tip from a friend: generate 5 minutes of courage a day.
When I announced my first divorce, my mother tried to shame me for "being too strong for my own good." It was a comment I savored. My past husband also remarked to the therapist, "She's so strong." He meant stubborn. His abusive attempts to win control over me never worked. I'm a resilient person. I have been fired several times. Authority doesn't like resilience. What is resilience? It's knowing that the circumstances of your life; relationships, demeaning jobs, the way that you are treated doesn't define you. It's being free to define yourself and know and seek what you deserve.
Ahh, Mother's Day. Who is responsible for making that up? Probably a resentful Mom, a narcissist who had to have her day. I always thought that since we have a Mother's Day and a Father's Day, that there should be a Children's Day. I mean, what does it say to a kid, year after year of doling out home or school made cards with reverent sentiments and no one ever reciprocating? Sad! Mean! It probably came from a church dogma about honoring thy mother and father. Should have died with the word "Thy." Thanksgiving, for abundance of treasures seems adequate.
Spring fragrances bring such poignant memories! I used to live here in Michigan as a teenager. I'm now 60 and returned to this hometown. The blooming trees caught in my nostrils and before I could find which tree garnered the scent, I knew it was a pink scent and that teenage Greg Briggs was with me under such a tree in full romance. Lovely, youth and spring, memories and life. It would be an art to be so alert to the gifts of nature and experiences, so that each moment could be so captivating. I vow to become more awake.
I'm getting new neighbors. It could be nothing, but it could be life changing! They are a young couple, professions. (Attorneys. Yikes!) Sorry, that was prejudiced. Maybe they'll have a dog I can babysit. Or I might be a future godparent? I swear I'm going to make brownies and deliver this weekend. This is the midwest way of acknowledging the change and welcoming strangers into the fold. It's nice. My friend Nina moved away to a new Virginia neighborhood and brought the tradition to her new neighbors. She invited them all over for her home cooked dinner! A Nina specialty.
The experience doesn't tip the balance into the positive zone. There are more difficult times that amass feelings of heartbreak, anxiety, fear, insecurity, loss of control, sadness at partings, loneliness on birthdays.
But there are times of the most simple and exquisite joy! Silly, insightful sentences that tickle your insides, loving gestures, warm hugs, never to be forgotten praises.
In all, motherhood scrapes away insignificant concerns, raws out the emotions, digs a crevice into your soul that deepens it, readies it to become a wise vessel into which many woes and hurts can nestle and be healed with love.
OMG! Where's my hat? Which Hat? Am I looking for student hat, or business hat? or artist hat? Or counselor hat? Or homeowner hat? or landlord hat? But I'm happy, stimulated, content, busy, optimistic, planning and scheming and dreaming, which is my forte! Somebody hold my feet to the ground! Today I sign the papers to own and thus open Go for Art. I have a million questions, but I also have many new friends, willing to walk this path with me. I'm so lucky. Even if this doesn't work, I've thrown myself into the ring; the circle of life!
If we were still speaking, I'd tell you that I bought the property I showed you! It all fell into place and I'm so excited about it. And nervous, too. I'd tell you how both Mom and Dad's gifts to us both provided the path to this adventure. I can see it so clearly now.
If we were still speaking, I'd tell you about my new job and the couple that employs me. They are so nice to work for.
If we were still speaking, we'd probably share the relief of getting Dad's accounts in order. We'd celebrate!
Now that I'm sixty, I'm thrilled at each thing I'm doing for the first time. I think, "where have I been?" Today, I (almost) learned how to fill, start and operate a gas engine push mower; except, I can't get it started even though the nice repairman told me what to do. Also, I'm about to employ an accountant. That makes me feel very business y. Like, "Get serious, you've got a business to run!" (What do I do?) I also redesigned my engagement ring of yesteryear into a right handed diamond ring. A symbol of the wealth of independence.
Had connection with my niece today, by texting. I suppose that it's less intrusive or less demanding, or more guarded than a phone call. It's OK. Better than nothing which has been the mode lately. Some day, we'll all hash this out and pull the pieces together about why we are all not mentioning the split between me and my sister. Or maybe I'm the only one that knows we haven't spoken for months. I don't mention it to anyone because it seems like the new taboo. And I don't want anyone to attempt to fix it. Let it go.
New revelations about self are daunting: an interview of Maya Angelou in which she told tales of her mother's fierce anger for protecting "Self" and her selflessness in supporting her child and her loving response in welcoming Maya when she returned home. Ahh, the love of a good mother; we should all be that lucky. My son wasn't that lucky, but he was luckier than I. I wish I could breath into him the parts I didn't know I lacked: There should be responsive, assured indignation at any maligned comment from anybody. Know where the line is and defend yourself!
More on Maya Angelo: in between the lines of her stories of her mother and grandmother, she described a warm protective coat made of loving fibers that knew her skin intimately. A coat of love stitched to her, or better, seeped under her skin. It was developed by the kind words, and examples of her own importance to their lives. It was noble, she was noble and Maya knew that she was shielded from unkind words and gestures. They simply couldn't penetrate, no, they hardly registered for her. Maya spoke so poignantly about the power of love in the world.
Today I spend enthralled in the process of developing my new business. I found a steal on chairs, so I bought 20 of them. I unpacked them and admired the impact it had on the formerly empty space. I can imagine people sitting around the (future) tables and the welcoming atmosphere of the art studio. I spent time experimenting and creating a paper sculpture for the window display. Next is designing my business cards and then my website. Marching along. This, to me, is exhilarating. I love following my intuition and not having to ask anyone's permission or priorities. Heaven.
I have a new numerical identity; a new cell phone number signifying my new location (after moving 5 years ago) and my new independence as the sole responsible person for the account. Yes, those are big enough changes to warrant a new number. Hell, I should have a new name and a tatoo across my forehead that says "congratulate me on my sane status." I remember my first cell phone and the discovery that it became an electric leash to my controlling husband. I'm so grateful for my new development of courage and ability to disregard the displeasure of others.
Little sister thinks big sister has lost her mind or her bearings. Little sister is very late at seeing the rules of the game between them. Little sister sees big sister as very very small. Not big enough to even render a care. Little sister hadn't noticed how shallow and preoccupied with ornamentation and appearance big sister had become; and didn't anticipate her wrath in being less than attentive and less than controllable. Little sister is ready to say good bye; nonsensical responses noted and shrugged, relationship mourned, ending accepted. Little sister will not attempt communication with big sister again.
Autonomy. It's my new favorite word. Each time I feel pressure from someone to do something I'm not sure about, or not in agreement with, I remind myself that I don't have to do it. I'll do whatever I want or need to do to preserve my interests, inside the law. I can play the game of consulting my attorney and brandish Her opinion as if it fortifies my own, just like brotherinlaw does. I can turn a deaf ear to opinions I don't want to hear. Autonomy is a strength that has come so fucking late in my life!
Today was community garage sale day. I scurried to grab stuff, especially big items that clutter my house. I dragged an 8 foot table down my long driveway. As I stopped to rest, a young lady shouted from her car, "Do you need help?" "Yes!," I said. How sweet! Later, after a whopping, worthwhile $200 exchange of junk for money, a friend came by, late in the afternoon and helped me carry away the remnants and load the old 8 foot table into the car for the new studio. Ah, for the kindness of neighbors. They made my day sing!
Money makes me nervous. Perhaps because of historical fights with my past husband over it. The bi-annual accusatory assessment of who pays more; who does more! Or my struggling youthful experiences of paying monthly bills, knowing there wasn't enough in my checking. Or that whole awful scene waiting for the child support to come in, angry and dependent and frustrated; meekly, pleadingly to the landlord to allowing rent to be delayed. No wonder it makes me nervous. Now, even though I have excess money in the form of an inheritance, emails from my bean-counter brotherinlaw, make me cringe.
It's sad to end our family. I think of so many vacations over the years. It seemed as though we loved each other. What was it really? How does it unravel so inexplicably? I have no answers, just doubts about my judgement of character, and my fictional, unquestioning assumptions. But it will be the historical year that it all goes awry, that youngsters ask about; what happened? and no one can give an explanation. The pain is too deep to unearth the story. It's too subconscious to understand. And no one has the will to strive for it. The end.
I'm becoming more mindful. How do I know this? I am acutely aware of my gut feelings when I'm feeling anxious. I can pause to pinpoint the churning in my belly and the pressure pulsing like I could burst soon. That's a plus. The negative side is that this anxiety stems from being accused, falsely by family and by me getting caught up in victim role, the urgent need to prove myself, the distress of my grand ego! I can intellectualize that there is no need to suffer, no foul, no shame. But peace of mind eludes me. I'm reactive.
Hurray! Today I signed a lease with my first renter! He's perfect. He care about how the place looks, he appreciates the location where he can play his instrument without disturbing neighbors. I have rent coming in each month; it's like candy from God. Thank you! I feel smart, secure, savvy and successful. For the first time in my life I am financially independent. (Thanks to Dad.) I feel free to kick the habit of working for someone else and their jungle full of hoops and rules. Never again. I can structure my time, set my priorities, be authentically me.
Mom said she always felt that if the cows were grazing in the field, all was well with the world. I'm not from Indiana, but I have a similar feeling. I planted tomato plants in the community garden a few days ago. Now, when I drive by, I feel a sense of security (?) or appreciation to know I have tomatoes growing. I feel secure that I have rent money coming in each month, that I have friends to depend on if need be. I feel, at last, at home in the world. Like the grass is greener HERE for once.
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