In the wake of my last post, one in which I celebrate all the exciting and happy events that my son and I have shared lately, I wonder if the rant on which I am about to embark will seem unjustified, perhaps even somewhat manic. I mean, things for the most part here are good. Right? The photos I share seem to represent and lovely mix of town and country, academic and leisure pursuits, and certainly the life of two people who for the most part, have it good.
Yes, we do have it good. This I know. But still, there’s always another side of the coin, and the flip of that proverbial coin can be lightning fast and unpredictable. It’s this turning on a dime of our circumstances that makes me uneasy about the future, while stirring up my deep-buried bitterness about the past. We appear to have all we need, but sometimes I can’t help but think ‘not quite…’
I know I’m where I should be. I know that I should thank my ex husband a thousand times for giving us this life here. I know that my soul – and my marriage – would have withered if we’d stayed in that tiny, provincial town in the Midwest. And I absolutely know that my son is thriving precisely because we came here. And all of this – our chickens, the view of the mountains, the Waldorf School, Elihu’s love of aviation, his playing the tuba and loving polkas, the Studio, the fact that I was with my father as he died – all of this and so much more would not have been possible if my husband hadn’t left me. I know, I know, I know. I remind myself over and over….
But the fuel oil has run out in spite of my turning it off for twelve hours out of every twenty-four and the house is slowly grinding down to a deep cold, I have less than ten dollars in my checking account because of all manner of unplanned expenses – from gas for my car to tutors for math – my computer no longer recognizes the printer, but that doesn’t matter anyhow, because I’m out of ink. The copier still works, and I’d get to work on printing out information for my taxes, but I can’t even buy ink cuz I’m out of money. The phone just rang, and I learned that I missed the deadline for Elihu’s tuition assistance at school. I’d somehow tied it in my mind with the tax deadline, but I was two weeks off. It’s of no consequence now anyhow, but still, I look for the reminder email and I find it buried a hundred emails deep in my inbox. Fuck. Guess I’ll have to enter all the figures in by hand, and hope that turning it in late is better than not turning it in at all.
Like worrying a wound to make sure it still smarts, in moments like this when the shitty stuff seems to be happening all at once, I play back the words my ex husband said to me before we married. “Remember, no matter what happens, divorce is not an option.” At the time I’d thought it sounded strange, and it had given me pause. He’d been uncharacteristically serious when he’d said it; truly, it had felt very unnatural. But I’d dismissed my feelings and chalked it up to a robust vote for a lifelong union that would prevail in the face of absolutely anything that life might have in store for us. (In hindsight, it kinda seems as if he must have known something I didn’t.) What, I wondered, could ‘no matter what happens‘ possibly look like? My ex solemnly repeated his words, and looked for my agreement, which I gave to him with all of my heart. “No matter what happens, divorce is not an option….”
For the most part I don’t mind going it alone, without a partner. Most of the time I truly prefer it. That’s not to say there aren’t times when I keenly miss having a mate, a partner, a best friend… I also miss having another adult around to help share the load, both emotionally as well as financially. At one time my ex husband provided all of those things. My ex was (and is) a man who liked to be at the helm of things, taking charge, leading the way, breaking new ground, and as such, he took care of shit. I may have kept the home, done the bill paying and domestic stuff, but it was mostly he who made it all financially possible. So I never worried. He was, after all, in addition to being a pretty good bread-winner himself, the only child of well-to-do parents. For a short time in our relationship I fretted over the financial inequality; I felt deeply crappy that I wasn’t able to pull in the ‘real’ money as my spouse did. But we’d successfully worked through it when he posited to me that our relationship relied upon ‘division of labor’ (his words). He highly valued the home I created, the stability I made possible, and that I was there to raise our son. While initially this idea had felt shameful, outdated and chauvinistic, when I put all that cultural crap aside, I could see that he was right. And it had felt supremely good that my role was validated and appreciated. Once upon a time, a long time ago, my partner recognized me for all of this. And deep inside, his recognition was what allowed me to function in the world, guilt-free, and sometimes, even, with great pride.
All emotionally healthy people know that we cannot look to external sources for validation. We must provide that for ourselves. Yes, we know this. And yet who among us, no matter how successful, how old, how experienced, doesn’t wish for a little nod of approval from the outside world? Only as I’ve gotten older have I come to understand that everyone – everyone – could always use a little proverbial thumbs up from a fellow human being. And I know I get that thumbs up every so often when a student laughs at a new understanding, or when kids run up to me, arms open for a hug, happy to see Miss Elizabeth… But sometimes I wish I had my own life and my own interests back again; I can’t help but feel that would make me feel deeply validated – and happy, too. My enthusiasm for throwback Thursday on Facebook is beginning to worry me… I look at all those bands I played in, I remember all that fun, all that music… Where the fuck is that same sense of enjoyment and satisfaction now? I share in my son’s discoveries, and to some extent they’re mine too, but still…
It’s there, somewhere. This new life, the one I wish for, the one I can all but imagine… It feels as if it’s around the corner, but then again, I’ve been disappointed before. Who’s to say there’s anything around the corner except more chickens, more chauffeuring to school, more food to prepare and dishes to wash…? I know I should just shut up already. Yeah, I know it. One day Elihu will be grown and on his own, and I’ll likely miss these days with a stinging nostalgia. I know. I also know that being down about things doesn’t help the situation. My kid is always correcting my negative talk – in much the same way as I must work to turnaround the chronically negative spin my mother herself puts on every little thing – and he reminds me to speak as if things are already as I wish them to be. He warns me against giving energy to this great, looming doubt I have that follows me like a cloud. And for the most part, I am positive. I’m the one leading the charge; packing up the tuba, enlarging and copying music, charging helicopter batteries, cooking ahead of time so we can go flying, stocking the car with polka CDs… I’m the one rehabbing the Studio, making sure the pipes don’t freeze and that the accountant has the papers she needs, making sure there’s salt for the entry and that the baseboard heaters don’t get left on all week… I’ve got this, honestly, I do…
But still, for the most part, I’m not satisfied with my current life. On paper it looks like I should be, so it gets me wondering… Honestly, what’s the difference between doubt and dissatisfaction and honest-to-goodness, clinical depression? Am I depressed? I wonder. But I don’t ever wonder long though, cuz fuck it, I’m too busy being scared about my future. I am what I am, I just gotta figure out how in hell the bills will get paid this month, and when – or if – this emergency heating assistance will ever arrive. And the Waldorf tuition assistance… Good Lord, I hope I haven’t fucked that up. I don’t cry often these days, but I can tell you tears are coming….
The house is getting colder now. I am feeling overwhelmed, and I don’t know where to start. I think of my office in the basement; the piles of unsorted receipts, to-do lists, empty applications… all of it waiting, waiting, waiting… If I don’t do it, it won’t get done. My kid wants to go to a summer residential science camp, that will take forms which will take not only time to fill – but ink to print. But I’m out of ink. So I’m stopped. I don’t want to go to the office anyhow, because it’s even colder down there. This is the kind of cold that will need more than two layers. It’s filling the whole house now. Should I cancel my students? I wonder. Man, I need the money, but can I receive people into a house where it’s less than 50 degrees? I don’t know. Crap. Yes, I do know. I will cancel them. The snow is not letting up, and my driveway must be a mess by now. This forces my hand. It’ll cost me the day’s income, but having the driveway plowed would cost the same as I would have made. Fuck.
How can I feel so stressed when there are homeless folks that at this very moment taking turns getting warm inside the Stewarts Shop on Church Street? Right now, they’re standing in the parking lot, hopping from foot to foot to keep warm, making small talk and smoking. (How do they even find the money to buy those damn things?) The homeless folks in town are a friendly lot, one of them is a very talented street drummer with whom Elihu’s played several times, and I like these people. I care about them, and I worry about them too. How on earth are they managing right now? I’m inside my house, sheltered from the wind and snow that falls on this April morning, but they are there, without any place to return to, in a state of perpetual limbo… How, how do they do it? And how dare I complain? Seriously.
There are no answers for me in this moment, and no, I don’t need a slew of private messages telling me to buck up, or asking if I’m ok. I’m not ok at the moment, this is clear. But I will be ok again, this is also clear. At the risk of confirming for readers that I’m in the midst of a manic swing here, I will continue to posit that at the conclusion of this crappy chapter there will come many new and wonderful things that I, from this point in my day, cannot quite envision or believe. Not quite… But I have faith that things ebb and flow, and that this too shall pass. Nothing in my present circumstances is dire. Uncomfortable and a little scary, perhaps, but really, as I’d said in my previous post, nothing in our world is personally dangerous or devastating. So, thanks for the witness. That’s the beauty of having this platform. One can vent. And venting helps a person to recuperate, regroup and restart. Which is what I’ll do, soon. Not quite yet, but soon. So thanks.