Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sweet Relief

Yesterday, and even more so today, I have felt immense relief. Relief that my youngest graduated from high school though he nearly shot himself in the foot over one class. Relief that Funny Delightful Son kept his apartment in such wonderful shape during the last year, making moving then cleaning a quick endeavor. Relief that Lovely Beautiful Daughter texted with the message that her apartment has rented, so she will get her security deposit back though she is breaking her lease a month early. Relief that at least two members of my family are now aware of what is happening between me and my husband.

And they found out because of me, the person who had agreed to keep things quiet, writing on this blog. A space that had gone silent for nearly two years. A space I decided to use to think through all the junk in my head. A space I returned to with the thought that no one would be reading it. So I wrote openly, and each time I wrote, I felt a working through happening.

I'd not said anything to family out of embarrassment. I couldn't make things work between me and the father of my kids. Now, I can't seem to make things work with this marriage. For my dad, especially, I feel like I have to be one big disappointment. He and my mom were married 50+ years. They were the perfect example of how to do marriage. For whatever reason, their example didn't stick with me.

I found, though, that instead of being disappointed in me, he is concerned for my happiness. And my sister made it clear she is upset that I'd not asked for help. Apparently, I've been wearing my unhappiness on my face for everyone to see for quite some time. I thought I'd been doing a pretty good job of faking happy whenever around others, but according to Lovely Beautiful Daughter, my friends, and now my sister, the unhappiness has been like a blinking neon sign for everyone to see.

The only person who is taking umbrage with my family members knowing is my husband. He's afraid his family will find out, especially his mom. He is concerned she will worry about him, and in worrying her health will be affected in a negative way. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this. I keep going back to when we first married and I wanted to keep my maiden name, but my husband argued against it because "what would his mother think?" After several arguments, I caved. Perhaps if I had stood up to him then we wouldn't be where we are now.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Tiger Swallowtail on the Sheer Lace Curtain

My husband and I agreed to have "dates." He can ask me out. I can ask him out. For our first date, we had dinner then talked late into the evening, until we reached the point of frustration brought about by my husband first saying he understands why I've been angry but then going on to show he truly doesn't understand. I left, going back to my place, feeling as if we are forever going to be two ships passing in the dark. For our second date, we went on a yard sale adventure then followed that up with dinner at my place. The yard sale adventure went just fine. The dinner was good. My husband, though, thought my asking him over for dinner meant intimacy afterward. When I declined, he became upset. We parted ways. Again.

We really are so far apart on just about every aspect of life. At this point, I'm not sure if we will ever be on the same page again. Perhaps we have never been on the same page. Perhaps for whatever reason, I just had it in my head that we were when we really were not.

The time we spent together going from yard sale to yard sale was fun. I found a wonderful set of heavy, wooden deck chairs, as well as a wrought iron table with two chairs to make the deck a nice gathering spot. It was at that table my husband and I ate dinner later that evening. It was at that table my husband and I found ourselves once again misunderstanding each other.

Earlier, before my husband arrived for dinner, I had returned to the house after spending several hours hunting for treasures with him. Those hours were filled with laughter and kindness. He happily drove me wherever I asked. He helped load the furniture, at one point a bulky mid-century arm chair I scored for $18. He then helped unload all the pieces, carrying them to where I pointed on the deck or in the house. When we decided we were finished with the yard sales, we went back to his place where I got in my Jeep, and we parted ways. He to a benefit for a long-time friend suffering from throat cancer. Me with Angel Baby to a movie matinee.

After the movie, I made my way back to my place, hoping to get a few hours of quiet. When I walked into my bedroom, a flutter at the corner of my eye caught my attention. I looked over to the sheer lace curtain panel at the sliding glass doors. A bright yellow tiger swallowtail fluttered its wings. I marveled at the vibrant hue. I wondered how it came to be in my bedroom. No windows were open. No doors left ajar. The place had been closed up tight.

Yet there in front of me, clinging to the lace curtain, was this beautiful creature. I slowly opened the heavy glass door, hoping to not send the butterfly up to the ceiling. It closed its wings then opened them but didn't seem concerned. I cupped my hands around it, gently pulling it away from the curtain, and stepped out onto the deck. I took it over to the planter where I'd put basil and mint, and flattened my hand to allow it to find its way onto the soil. Almost as soon as it felt the soil beneath its feet, the swallowtail took flight, rising up, going almost to the top of the nearest tree. I watched it land on a leaf, but again, almost as soon as it landed, it took flight, disappearing in the mass of leaves.

I think about that butterfly, still wondering how it came to be in my bedroom though all the doors and windows were closed. I think about it having gone through its own stages of transformation, eventually finding freedom. Perhaps I'm not so different. Perhaps I'm going through my own transformation and one day will find the courage to accept the freedom being set in front of me.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Mass of Radiating Nerves

It always seems like the closer I get to the end of the semester, the more I put off doing what I should be doing--grading final papers--to write poetry or short fiction. More recently, I've been focusing on the poetry.

The space between blood and bone

She sits beside me, relaxed, 
though a layer of weariness cloaks
her like a worn, familiar sweater
she can’t let go to Goodwill.
A small smile is the switch
bringing light to her dark brown eyes,
and she looks at me, whispers 
she is done with soul prostitution.
One hand rests on the place that beneath, 
past skin loosened from sacred creation,
past flesh protecting the space of possibilities,
is blood-warmed hope she planted, 
guards now like Cerberus
to keep safely inside where it roots,
can take hold, nurtured
until like ivy entwines
with bone, with sinew, swaddling
her heart, then spreading 
into her limbs unchecked
until orange ribbons exit 
through her fingers, through her toes
and swirl like tendrils of smoke
around her, a gentle embrace 
keeping good her promise. 

This is another one of those poems that came from an image that developed in my mind as I sat thinking about the solar plexus (for some reason I am fascinated by the idea of a mass of radiating nerves in the abdomen), life, and love.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Bringing Life Back

Go to dinner with me this evening, my husband suggests.

I am working in the garden behind the house. Where the chickens used to be. Where the empty beehive still stands at the far end. I didn't answer.

Think about it for a bit and let me know, he says.

I nod.

As I pull weeds, shift pavers around, lug cinder blocks to line the fence, I think about the neglect of the space. Life resonated throughout the garden once. Chickens. Bees. Birds. Rabbits. Snakes.

Now an emptiness fills the space, and emptiness that began two years ago with the chickens, after a neighbor complained to the city, and a city official showed up one sunny June morning, telling me to remove the chickens from the premises. The emptiness grew when the bees absconded, leaving the hive to follow the queen wherever it was she had decided to go.

The sadness I felt then stirs from my heartspace. Dormant for a long time but still residing within. Still a part of me these two years since.

Bringing life back, somehow, some way, took me into the garden. I'd been standing at the kitchen window, finishing a cup of coffee, when a bird at the empty bird bath caught my attention. That bird, its need for water, sent a whisper through me, triggering my need to feel earth between my toes, sift through my hands, blacken my fingernails.

Perhaps going to dinner with my husband is a start for us to bring life back to us, I think. Perhaps the bird, the garden, are showing me a way to fill the emptiness that is us right now.

My husband returns as I am checking the rain barrel's spigot.

Dinner, he asks.

Yes, I say.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Thirteen Years in a Blink

Early this morning I returned to the house my husband and I have shared for the last 13 years, to see Angel Baby off to school. While I have been staying overnight at the new place, Angel Baby has been staying where he has been for most of his life. This has been the best arrangement for him, a bit of a buffer for the disruption happening all around us. I try to talk with him every day, checking in to be sure he is moving forward, feeling calm and okay with what is happening. He always says he is, but I can tell when he is feeling overwhelmed. He told me recently that he has been confiding in two close friends. I told him I'm so happy to hear this as we all need that someone we feel comfortable discussing difficult matters with. He seemed relieved to see I am perfectly okay with him not confiding in me. And I truly am.

Now he is gone and so is my husband. I am alone in this house. I go to the bedroom I've been sleeping in for 13 years. My side of the bed is still made up. My husband's side of the bed is disheveled, the comforter and sheet tossed back, the pillows thrown haphazardly on top.

In the bathroom, my brush, comb, lotion, soap, shampoo are all gone. The only tell-tale sign I was ever there is the feet care kit I bought recently to show my feet some love. I pull it off the shelf, and as I turn to take it and put it in the bag of items to go to the other house, a strange sensation flits through me. As if all 13 years pass behind my eyelids when I blink. There then gone. I hesitate with the blink. Stay? Go?

I have to go. I know this. Yet each day a moment happens when I feel off balance, as if going isn't the answer.

Since I made the decision to leave, my husband has worked for either a temp service or doing handy-man jobs which are in answer to an ad he created and posted online. He's actually had quite a bit of work just from that ad. If I hadn't taken the step I did, he might not be taking the initiative to find work. He'd still be sitting on the couch, watching his 60 inch TV from morning til night.

I dreamed last night that I met a man. While he didn't look like my husband, his behavior was very similar. Everything was a joke. He asked me out on a date. I looked at him and said no thank you. I then turned and walked away, feeling so strong at having not given in.

Many days I don't feel strong at all. I know I can be, though. I have to be if I'm going to make my dreams happen.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Woman to Woman

From my daily journal:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017:

I am in the writing center. I sit and listen as a student confides in me about a tough decision she had to make this week: telling the man she’s been in a relationship with for some time to leave.

He doesn’t support me, she says.

He’s always telling me I can’t do this (return to college), she says.

I’m 50 and this is the third time I’ve tried to get a degree, she says.

I will do this. I will finish, she tells me.

As I watch this beautiful woman’s face go from sad to determined to resigned to happy. I tell her about all the women I have met over the years whose boyfriends or husbands were unhappy with them going to college, learning, finding out how smart they truly are.

And I think back to just yesterday when I arrived at work, feeling so fortunate for being able to extricate myself from a toxic relationship. Thinking about all the women out there who cannot because they don't have a support network. Or they lack skills to find a job to sustain them. Or they are filled with fear. I wondered how I might be able to help these women. Even if in just a small way. 

Maybe this was the small way I could help the women who feel trapped--by listening to their stories. Supporting them. Letting them know where help might be found.

Are you safe, I ask.

She smiles. Yes, I am safe, she says, laying a hand lightly on my arm as if to thank me for asking.

She tells me about having her home to herself again. Enjoying the quiet. Her living room with its plants and her violin nestled amongst them. She will take violin lessons again.

I’m exhausted, she says. 

My own exhaustion tries to surface, feeling a kindred spirit just a foot away. I tamp it down. Exerting so much emotional effort to please? to placate? to avoid conflict? But to what end? 

I'm better off alone, she says.

After the student packs her things and leaves for class, I think about her. Hoping she stays strong. Hoping she believes in herself. Hoping she continues going after her dreams.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

First Night

Ado and I spent the first night in our new home.

My bed--a Japanese shikibuton--arrived earlier in the day, so I lugged it to the Jeep, folded down the seats, and slid it in. It took longer to get the mattress out of the box and the heavy plastic it was wrapped in than it did to get it to the Jeep, in the Jeep, out of the Jeep, then into the house. Once the shikibuton was unrolled, I stretched out on it. I snuggled into its firm support. An hour later, I awoke, totally surprised at having fallen asleep.

The simplicity of the shikibuton suits me. No ornate headboard or footboard. No box spring to have to wrestle with. Just a mattress. I do think I'll raise it off the floor, though. I truly want the mattress to last for many years. After reading about how to care for the shikibuton, I learned mold/mildew can be a problem if the mattress is left laid out on the carpet, so having it off the floor seems like a good way to go. If I decide to go without the platform, I'll have to roll the mattress each morning, which won't be an issue. It's easy enough to manage.

When I returned to the house later in the evening after going to get some dinner, loading my laundry basket with a few things to move, and taking Ado for a walk, I watched as Ado intently inspected the different rooms. I read for awhile. He checked things out, being particularly interested in looking out the sliding glass doors that lead to the back deck. I finally turned the light out and settled in under the quilt. Ado continued to sniff wherever his nose took him. Enough light filtered through the curtains at the sliding glass doors that I could see him moving around the room. About twenty minutes later, he came over and laid down beside me.

Throughout the night, Ado would get up to check things out. Being able to see outside seemed to fascinate him. He would go to the doors, find the spot where the curtains part, and nudge them aside. When he was satisfied, he'd return to take his spot next to me. Around six o'clock, he decided it was time to get up and began his usual cold nose to my face routine.

Though we both didn't get a great night's sleep, it was good. And good is good enough.