Day 91 - Old Selves, Domestic Factories & Exorcisms
I am still kind of reeling from my breakfast encounter the other day. It was such a mirror held up to me. Kind of shattered who I like to think that I am and who I really am. When I saw that woman and her behavior I had the following question:
Why did she behave like that?
I have no idea why this woman acted the way she did but I have delved a little deeper into my own past conduct. I was unprepared for motherhood. Having only vague ideas about what it would entail and demand from me. I thought it would be easier. I thought I would be good at intimacy. I thought I would create a marriage that could and would support the raising of children while nurturing all beings within the family. That is not what happened.
I was not comfortable with intimacy back then. Hell, I am not sure how comfortable I am with it now...but back then I was not wholly present. It wasn’t even a goal. I was just this being that accomplished things all day long. At work, legal tasks and cases, things to be conquered and decided. At home, there were tasks, a never ending list of tasks that required my attention. The things to do more important than everything else.
As I write this, I cannot for the life of me remember why...why these tasks were more important than the people in my life. But they were. I got a sense of accomplishment from the tasks that I did not get from the people. I felt accomplished and competent in my completion of tasks, something I did not feel in intimate relationships. When I became a mother, the task list blew up exponentially. There was not enough time in the day, the week or the month to get its all done. I had unrealistic expectations of myself, of others, of the amount of time and energy doing things my way would require. In the end, I felt like I never got anything done and it always felt like it was done half assed.
I felt like I was constantly behind the eight ball. Running to stand still. Mired in too many things to do and stuck in a perfectionistic dance with myself that I could not relinquish control over. Things had to get done and they had to get done my way. I could not rest or relax. Looking back now, I can see my behavior as pathological. But at the time, it was just reality. While I can see now that I could have made other choices, at the time there were no other choices. I just had my way and that way really imprisoned me. I was my own slave...chained to a task list that I could never complete and held to a standard only Martha Stewart and her staff could even begin to tackle.
So there I was with a big career, a marriage, a house to run, animals to take care of and now a baby. It was the perfect domestic storm for me. I was stuck. I could not let go, I could not step out of my own way and so I did everything harder, faster and better. Except I didn’t. I did what I think most people do, they prioritize and they allow the less important things to fall by the wayside. I downsized the number of animals. We moved to a smaller house. Those things helped but where I really got a break was changing the view of my husband as a person to be more of an assistant. His needs were inconvenient, an interruption in my plans. He became an irritant in my life. I am not proud of this but I am sure that this is how I began to feel about him. Suddenly he was just another thing to take care of, and the closer I felt to him the harder it was to see him in this manner. So I distanced myself from him in order to keep the task list moving. I know it sounds crazy now but I am not lying when I tell you this is what happened.
The other thing that happened was that I went away. I was no longer really present for my life. The woman and person now just a slave to the almighty task list. I became a cog in my own self production factory. Just working on the assembly line of my life, not really thinking much of anything except getting it all done. Waiting for the whistle that signaled my shift concluded. But that whistle never seemed to blow for me. Seemed like I left the assembly line and then was required to go work in the cafeteria and then the laundry facilities. There was always so many other part of the domestic factory that required my time and attention. There was no rest. The people who also lived in this domestic plant just things to do and take care of instead of beings in which to connect to and love.
I am not proud of this, in fact, it causes me a lot of pain to write this but I feel like I have to own this in myself. I hope that my willingness to explore this ugly side of me can help one younger woman in this same predicament and liberate her before she ruins everything.
I will also own that my marriage was not a good one from the start. Not because he was not a great guy but because I didn’t want to be married. We lacked passion for each other and I think we both lacked a real willingness to hear and see each other. I think that I tried and I think he tried. But each of us was more concerned with getting our own needs met than we were being there for the other. I am pretty sure that neither one of us really saw the needs of the other as important as our own. Our marriage more of a giving to get kind of arrangement that resulted in neither party feeling heard, seen or supported.
In retrospect, I think a good marriage is solace. A place that one can turn to in times of trouble, times of hardship, times of stress and feel heard, seen and supported. An intimate place to lay your head and allow the other person to do the same. It should also be a place that is celebrated and provided a space for joy to be expressed, fun to occur and love to flourish. Both are required in order for the marriage to persevere. Too much of one and not enough of the other, makes a marriage out of balance and unstable. Too much joy and fun, nothing gets done and one person ends up having to be the adult, forever chasing the other person for help. Too much hardship and work, drains both parties of the ability to remember why they came together in the first place. Resentment and contempt live here. Once they take root, the entire relationship poisoned, most of the time to the demise of the marriage.
I can see with such clarity now the person I was. I do not like her, seems fitting and true that he didn’t like me much either. She was so joyless. So hard. So uncompromising in her demands and details. What a drag I was. I shouldered it all and then let you know about how much I was taking on. I am not sure what the fuck I was thinking but I can clearly see myself and how I became a person I didn’t recognize or like. How easy it was to arrive at the conclusion that I was better off without him. How much easier my life would be if I were single. And that turned out to be so true and wrong it is comical. I am happier single. Way happier. Not in a constant and unwinable battle to get my needs met by another person. My happiness totally up to me with no one to battle but myself.
The task list still exists but I was able to really put that in check because I took on the role of full time parenting and full time return to the work force. Something had to give. What resulted was things being less perfect, me saying fuck you to the task list, hiring out a lot of the domestic chores that kept me in chains. What transpired was Sunday Fundays with the kids. A morning of household duties shared amongst us and then a noon time trip to the beach where we spend the afternoons wandering the beach and playing. No work. No tasks. We buy lunch on the way there. We sit in the sand. We enjoy ourselves. We talk. We laugh. We relax. All of us, together. It took me awhile to get there but this Sunday routine now part of the fabric of our lives. I don’t think my kids know why this is so important to me and how hard it is for me to do some Sundays. I have a million other things that need my attention...but I shelve those other things so that we may be, I may be a whole person that attends to all aspects of my life and the lives of those about me. Sunday Fundays are my simple act to be a whole person. Someone who does not resemble the Linda Blair Exorcist mother in breakfast rooms of nice hotels. Someone who is capable of going on a vacation and being present for those she loves, which can and does include herself.
Maybe I got it all backwards, maybe I should have figured this out years ago, maybe I would have still been married if I had. But, for me, I have it now. And this is my path. My lessons. My growth. It is mine and it is holy to me. I wouldn’t change a thing. I needed all of this to end up here...sitting alone in my bed on a Saturday morning, welcoming all of you into my inner most sanctuary. Welcome, please stay as long as you like...I think the exorcism is now complete.