You’re pretty. A Riff. | – BWright Group, Boutique Media & PR Firm

After a brief hiatus, I’m back to blogging for my favorite Richmond business!

What is it about being called pretty that causes some women (read: my girlfriend and me) to melt into irrational puddles of swoon?

Read more…You’re pretty. A Riff. | – BWright Group, Boutique Media & PR Firm, Richmond, VA.

 

The Long Answer is Your Story

I sat in the dark chapel, blurry-eyed and bone-weary from an emotional morning, waiting for the 12:15 concert to start. Earlier, as part of a writing exercise that asked us to explore the short and long answers to a question, where the long answer is your story, a classmate asked me, “What is it like to be a single mom? To work so hard for your family by going to school and working two jobs?” It was an honest question – one I ask myself several times a day, but I had yet to answer.  Our mentor rang her Buddhist Meditation Bell to signal the beginning of the short answer.

The concert began; the opening notes of Debussy’s Clair De Lune met me gently and took me to my children’s nursery. I played a classical lullaby CD for them during their fist couple years of life. Clair De Lune was in the middle of the CD, so I often heard the delicate notes late at night when it was my turn to drift off to sleep.

“Short answer, I don’t know how it feels. I’m on autopilot. I just tuck my head and get through my days as best I can.” I smiled weakly. The meditation bell rang gently, signaling it was time to provide the long answer.

The associations of Clair De Lune to my children as infants, to being married, to being a family are strong. Although I relish the pleasure of self-knowledge and have learned to cope with the pain of solitude, life was somewhat easier when I was playing the classical CD at night. I was young, my marriage was young, and the children were young. We had so much promise. Futures lay ahead pockmarked with possibilities. They were hopeful days.

“It sucks.” Began my long answer. I fumbled to my bag for a tissue because I was already crying. “It’s absolutely brutal.” I sobbed. “It’s not how I imagined my life would be. I never thought I’d get divorced. I never wanted to be divorced, but I also knew I was marrying the wrong person. But I still tried so hard to make it work. And I’m tired. I’m tired all the time, but I have to keep going because my children are depending on me. And people expect so much of me. And it didn’t have to be this way. My ex dumped 60 grand of debt on me – the adoption bills. He put all that on my shoulders. He walked away with no debt. I got slammed. I can’t pay my bills. I have to work two jobs even though that finds me still working at 2 a.m. when I’m so exhausted, I’m unable to form a coherent thought.”

Debussy’s familiar pauses and chords unhinged a latch, and discharged residual pain that didn’t surface during my classroom confessional. I lurched for my bag and unsteadily left the cold chapel. I felt crazed; anger and sadness and resentment made me dizzy. The memory of where I once was and the facts of where I am came together, finally, and took me down.  I felt drunk, disassociated.

The long answer came rumbling out before I could stop it. I blurted out facts I don’t talk about. Expensive cosmetics and well-tailored clothing have done a fine job of presenting me as put-together and well rested. Yoga and meditation taught me how to appear calm and centered and how to keep the gorge from rising to the back of my throat when I panic about all the tomorrows spread in front of me. It works. No one ever suspects otherwise, which was obvious as my group members sat in silent mourning, my words hanging like rainclouds. “Yay!” I exclaimed, breaking the spell of awkwardness. “This is fun! Thanks D–!”

After my outpouring, as we funneled from our classroom, my friend and classmate, Magin, said that what I did was great and that women need to be more honest about their feelings. I told her I disagree; she bristled. I explained, “When you are honest about your feelings, it isolates you. Sadness is a blockade between people.” She agreed.  She walked closer than usual to me as we left the building.

People are leaving the chapel. The concert has ended. It must be 1:00. I can’t bring myself to go to lunch with my merry band of fellow MFA misfits yet. I’m tucked away on the grass, near a large tree – I was walking to my Jeep, intent on going home, but I sat to think, and I stayed. From where I sit, I can see them walking towards the cafeteria. The tree shelters me from sight. Secretly, I want someone to see me, to come over and talk to me, to comfort me. I went somewhere I wasn’t strong enough to go this morning.  And now I’m tired. And I can’t ask for help.

A few deep yoga breaths will give me the spiritual energy that will get me through the rest of my afternoon. I’ll go to lunch, drop my bag on the floor by the table where my friends and I sit, smile weakly and say, “I’m fine!” Drama over. Let’s move on.

And I will, indeed, move on.

Two Hearts Need Not Beat as One

“We must learn how to be alone…but not expectant, not needing the other in order to feel fully alive, and unafraid, and ready for the road.” ~DHG

I’ve never been the marrying type even though I tied that knot at the age of 29. While I enjoy, and can’t resist, a good, dysfunctional relationship, I’m at my best when I am alone. The spiral of relationship dependence easily sucks me in, and I sink, deep and deeper into the identity of the Other until he becomes sick of my whining and clinging and casts me back to the sea. That’s when the spell is broken, and I’m brought back into my own where I stumble and stutter for a while until I find my feet again. Then the next dysfunctional relationship presents itself. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The awareness of my become-dependent-get-dumped pattern hit me in the mouth months before I said, “I do” to the sweet, simple country boy, Lance*.  I was less concerned, this time, about the dumping part and more concerned about losing my identity. I felt like I was giving up ‘everything’ even though I couldn’t list anything that comprised the everything I bemoaned. But I did the “I do” anyway, hoping for a different outcome. Lance was passive and genteel. Quiet and laid-back. He was everything I deplore in a man – all smiles and empty eyes, no strength and fire. Still, I married him. He showed well in public. As long as he didn’t talk, which he didn’t do much, thankfully. He could tell a joke, though. Typically at my expense. But oh, how they laughed and declared, “what a great guy!” and then looked at me with eyes that said, “Finally! Annmarie did something right.” I sank deep into my new role, and adopted a new identity. However, since Lance was so passive, I pretty much got my way. All the time. I didn’t have to yell or cry or threaten to leave. I would declare, “this is how it is and shall be.” and he replied, “ok” every time. I could have easily taken advantage of his passive nature further than I did.  I could have been a real shrew. Luckily, momma taught me better than that. As the marriage wore on and the responsibilities of home and hearth fell mostly on me, I  told Lance I needed him to be an equal partner in our life. He glanced up from his cycling magazine and said, “ok.” Then he sat there, shut off to the emotional needs of his wife and children.

To be fair, Lance wasn’t a bad guy. He had moments of genuine tenderness. And when his jokes weren’t on me, they were funny.  For a couple of years, he did well to make me laugh. But the occasional laugh didn’t support my growth and forward momentum. It moved me to work harder to bridge the chasms between us, which prevented any hope of developing an identity separate from my marriage. I didn’t know what a wife should do, so I suffocated myself to breathe his air. This was my choice, based on my distorted needs and familial beliefs. In order to paint the portrait of a ‘good marriage’, I never complained; in fact, I talked about how good things were to anyone who would listen, and I supported him endlessly. Two adoptions and a major surgery later, I courted a deep, frightening depression. In therapy, I examined every corner of my life. Except my marriage. And when I finally did, I was at my breaking point. The rage and resentment was deafening. I went home and made my last declaration; it’s time to divorce.

Since giving Lance his pink slip and sending him on his way, I have had to work tirelessly to develop a sense of self.  I too-quickly bounced into a frighteningly abusive relationship. It almost made me appreciate Lance. Then, battered and fragile, I began Internet dating. Granted, my emotional state was not the ideal condition under which to search for my soulmate, the love of my life, but dating provided a distraction and allowed me time and experiences during which I could examine my relationship patterns and see precisely where I was going south. I confronted my need for approval and  practiced saying no; I voiced my feelings, asked to have my needs met, using delicate words, and weathered rejection after rejection after rejection. Eventually I started to see that; in fact, I wasn’t being rejected. It simply was not a good match. I was fortunate to have met some wonderful men who have become lifelong friends. They have helped me see my worth and won’t let me settle. No matter how tempting the dysfunction is, they keep me in check.

I believe in the long haul. I believe in having a monogamous relationship. I believe in the sanctity of marriage, but I don’t feel a need to rush back into one. I’d rather focus on the immediate ground under my feet than on the road ahead. I can’t say with an ounce of certainty that I’ll retain my independence if I find a relationship partner. But, maybe I will if the relationship becomes, through mutual, shared effort, a loving partnership. Meanwhile, I am going to relish being “fully alive, and unafraid and ready for the road” so much so that it becomes a deeply ingrained part of me – a part I’ll not be willing to surrender; then I’ll be able to consider the road ahead.

xo
~AJC

*Not his real name

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