Friday, April 25, 2008

The Weasley's House Versus The Desperate Housewive's House

I live in a very modest public housing 3-bedroom duplex. Thankfully, it is new so everything works fairly well. I've had trouble making it feel like home because my ex-husband took most of the furniture for public spaces -- the Italian leather sofa I bought, for instance. At first I thought, "Why do I need a sofa?" There is only one reason for a sofa -- cuddling. That's what I found out.

So, one of the very wise people that is in my world suggested that I think about how my choices in 1994 and 2001 were playing out now, and to realize that I am also making choices today that will play out when I am 56. That was very upsetting because in 1994 I had a clear choice to leave my marriage before we had children. I even turned to someone for help, and he did not help me but "turned me in" to my husband as now a "cheating" spouse. It was a defining moment in my life. If I had not caved and apologized for even trying to get away in that year, I would not have had my particular children, but also I might be further along in creating a substantial life. I made a decision to stay and try to work on the marriage for another 12 years. 12 years is a long stretch of life.

Then again in 2001, after I had both of my children and my husband had been laid off right after 911, I became afraid again and chose to drive across the country instead of flying. That took us on a 9-week road trip which sapped the few resources we had while my husband tried to figure out what he was going to do with his life. There is no doubt in my mind that had we flew to Denver for the visit with the children, that he would have found more work in Portland, and maybe would have stayed on anti-depressants and there may have been a chance for us to get help.

Now I'm looking at my life again and I'm envisioning where I might like to land in my mid-fifties. Yesterday I created a very clean vision based upon the idea that I would like to be a successful writer, have a beautiful home, have good relationships with my kids, have a respectful and loving relationship. That all sounds great doesn't it? But, it didn't feel right. It felt like a Desperate Housewives scenario. The plan would take me perhaps towards financial well-being, but it felt cold and lonely and frankly exhausting. In order to rebuild my life from this modest 3-bedroom public housing duplex, to a mini-mansion estate would require that I give up tango and co-masonry in order to write my little heart out. The balance of my children's childhood would be dealing with a mother who was working all the time as I am now to stay afloat. It left me wondering if I can afford to be in love with a man who travels for work, or if our desire to have a child could fit into the goal.

My mother, to put this in context, traveled all of her 40s and early 50s with a wealthy, but demanding man. When she was in her mid-fifties he literally "fired" her as his companion -- via fax. So, she was left without a stable income, without a home to call her own, and she's been paying for that ever since. I want to have stability and to have my career, whatever it may be, peaking in my mid-fifties. However, what does that really mean in light of the fact that my priorities are truly raising happy, interesting kids who feel free in my home to be themselves?

I realized late, late last night that the reason this plan of mine did not feel right is because I'm more of a Weasley-type of person. I want to have a magical household that is full of love and connection. I want to be free to make my weird choice to love first and worry about how it will all work out second. I want to be courageous in my choice to bring another child into the world because this soul speaks to me -- and whether I end up adopting or creating this baby with my love, I do not know. If though all of that comes to pass then necessarily things get to be more messy, less of a straight line to least material stability.

When I would find the time to write a novel, or four, in the next twelve years is beyond me. I like my job at the Boulder JCC. I love to serve the greater good. I love teaching others how to write. I am never happier than when I tango. My devotional work is more important than any of this, and yet all of this prevents me from making that pristine future, where I can pay all of my bills easily, happen.

I spend hours on the phone with my lover rather than writing. Am I doing this because I am afraid of success? I used to kick myself about these kinds of choices, but now I am beginning to see that I have to let go of the television ideal of what life should look like if you're being a reasonable person...and embrace more of the Weasley model for happiness.

I would much rather know I had people around me who could depend on each other in a scrap. I want to have an open-door policy for life. Whatever my kids or my lover needs, I want to give. If I end my life with a bunch of half-finished pieces of work, well maybe someone can cobble them together and see a full life, lived with love.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

polygamists in Texas

The strange thing is I find myself totally obsessed with stories like the 400 plus women and children found in the compound of Fundamentalist LDS Church in Texas. I wondered why until I started reading stories about how these women cover up the truth of their situation, and I realize that I was not so very different from them in my ability to create subterfuge and denial. And, further more I felt I was doing it as an expression of my faith.

So, I've mentioned I have to keep fairly good and peaceful relationship tactics going with my former husband because the courts have split our children down the middle in spite of the fact that he admitted that he hit me to a court appointed psychologist. Of course, he told him that I provoked my punishment. I get to talk to him multiple times a week still, and I am aware that he still takes no responsibility for it, nor perhaps does he remember the violence and anger in our lives for twenty-two years. I know this because just this week he seemed to be asking me for an apology for disrupting his life plan. "You started it," said he, "I would have stayed until the bitter end."

I really wanted to say, "Fuck you," or at least, "Who wants bitter endings?" but instead I was stung and I laughed and said something deflective. He seems to think that my ambivalence means that I really want to reunite, when in fact, I'm just struggling not to start a fight, not to set him off on some tangent that will lead us back into a custody battle. It is an old tactic of mine -- ambivalence.

Which brings me back to the women of the polygamist cults. After 20 years or a lifetime in an abusive situation, you learn to believe that you've only got your wits to rely on and that NO BODY WILL HELP. The ability to apologize for the worlds' ills, to take responsibility for one's self becomes one's only source of pride. I can apologize for anything and totally believe it is my responsibility -- rather than be confronting or threatening. I am absolutely sure that amongst those women there are those who believe that the women who want to leave the situation are weaker because of it. Their pride in staying, in keeping whatever vows they made has become the thread upon which they survive in terms of a sense of self no matter how warped. They cannot understand a 16 year old girl who crumbles under the same pressure they've made themselves endure. They probably believe somewhere inside that she deserves the punishment because they believe they deserve the punishment because they've taken responsibility for their abusers infractions.

Yes, I know this is insane, but having done it for years myself, I can only send those beautiful mothers who are trying scrape together some kind of happiness, all of my compassion. They're wrong. I was wrong. I hope they do get out, and get more help than I got because they're in the headlines because they have the more acute situation. I am praying for them.