As I exited Part 1 I could drive. I had friends. I had interests and creative projects that revealed more and more of my inner shifting and outer capabilities.
My free-writing surprised me with its odd narrative of deep discomfort and the persistent questioning of the surface appearance of my life. The Nia dance class I almost skipped into once a week – where I gyrated my hips and felt like a flamingo and then a penguin, where I took aim and kicked and punched the air yelling Yes! and No! – brought me closer to my strength and autonomy.
For years I’d been visiting the local library a few times a week to stock up on books to read to my boys (I recommend the Redwall series by Brian Jacques if you’re happy to do accents and go high and squealing, then deep and fierce, then timid and resigned – all the voices of the anthropomorphic animals). I would leave each time with about 28 books and be back within five days. Here I met a librarian with stern eyes that softened when she smiled. She could ask difficult questions of the public, like ‘Did your kid cut out pictures of elephants from this book?’ Over the years we became good friends. Her name is Jean and she’s a thread.
Soon, with both my young boys at the primary school as well as the freedom and snatches of time zipping around in a white Toyota Tazz gave me, I volunteered at the school – at home in the corridors, chatting to the staff, taking class reading groups and tutoring little ones two by two in a literacy support program. I was quite a-buzz, my confidence incrementally returning.
Life puttered along like this for a few years. I started thinking about going back to work. Wanted to do something, but what?
A woman I was friendly with spoke to me in the school parking lot about her counselling course and new career path; she no longer had time to work for the only behavioral optometrist in the area three mornings a week and would I be interested in taking over? Behavioral optometrist? She works predominantly with children. I knew who the optometrist was – another school mom. I replied Yes!
Of course I said Yes. This was just what I needed. A break. Somewhere to start. An undemanding job that left me plenty of time to do what I’d always done – cook, clean, shop, budget, garden, take care of my children after school and read to them at night without falling asleep etc. Thank goodness I could drive – it was in an area best accessed by car.
I contemplated whether it wasn’t a little too undemanding. The optometrist had health issues that impacted her work. I was never there when she saw her patients – she preferred consulting on days when I wasn’t working. I did her admin and bookings and invoicing and on a few occasions put my no-nonsense (but still pleasant) voice on to firmly demand payment for services rendered. The most challenging aspect of the almost-non-job was phoning the long-suffering parents to reschedule their child’s appointment yet again. They all knew my voice and swallowed a sigh when they heard it. The pay per hour wasn’t bad at all but the hours worked were few which meant bad pay. That aside, the woman I worked for was kind and appreciative of my skillful management of her admin and ongoing, grueling rescheduling saga. It certainly wasn’t extending me in any way but it turned out to be a vital thread.
For more than ten years I’d grappled with a lack of intimacy in all areas of my marriage – accustomed to periods of resigned acceptance followed by (in more or less two-year cycles) placatory promises from my husband when I hit a patch of is this it? is this how it’s going to be for the rest of our lives? There was an undesirable, untouched, unaddressed elephant in the room.
Intimacy is not just sex. You can have deep, abiding intimacy – sexual and emotional satisfaction – with someone who never penetrates you physically.
Even if medical ailments are cited for lack of desire it does not diminish intimacy in a healthy relationship – it’s all about an emotional, spiritual, trusting, honoring connection and bond as much as it is about sex.
I was also struggling with a niggling suspicion that my husband wore a mask and had a tenuous relationship with honesty. I no longer trusted him. Then, too, he didn’t strike me as happy. He looked miserable, unhealthy and ready for change but incapable of implementing it.
Mostly, what I had was an uneasy feeling.
Over a long weekend in early 2015 I was visited by irrational physical and emotional symptoms I could not control or ignore – a lump in the throat that prevented me from eating. My stomach kept itself full, seeming to shrink overnight. I felt insubstantial – the beginnings of a kilos-shedding weight loss that had nothing to do with dieting and everything to do with unmet needs. I couldn’t stop crying. A simple, sentimental André Rieu track Romance For Clara ensured I wept bitter tears when I wasn’t crying heartbroken ones. Sleep eluded me yet I wasn’t tired – just floating in a losing-fat-fast body with a shrivelled, sensitive stomach and a closed throat.
My soul was starving and my spirit was leaving in a last-ditch effort to get me to WAKE UP. I was urged by my body and by intervening forces outside of me that felt as if they were saying ‘Sweetheart, we know it’s hard and frightening to do, but for heaven’s sake MOVE ON!’
I succumbed to the knowledge that – without doubt and without another procrastinating, futile attempt at reconnecting – I had to end my now dead marriage of 24 years.
This was a powerful thread. Perhaps the most powerful. Without fanfare or a blinding light, I understood I was supported. I was, for whatever reason, being assisted and guided. I was in tune with something (or Somethings) that wanted, needed, to help me.
It was a strong call to free us from a wooden, stale, murky and decayed partnership. It required courage and quite frankly, genuine affection and concern (which I still had for him at the time) for both of us.
There I was, with no concept of threads or a safety net or even a feasible plan; only a steely, New-Agey, naive determination to keep everything collaborative and pleasant and non-confrontational and unlike all those ugly divorce stories we hear about more often than not.
I faced my mental list of hurdles:
- how could I justify my decision to leave? How do you explain a knowing, an uneasiness? As is often the case, it took quite a while for the feeling to become irrefutable facts (subsequent experiences that exposed an unsavory side of my furious, smarting husband). I had to make peace with the likelihood of being judged.
- how do I, a stay-at-home mom for 14 years earning enough to pay for three smart phone contracts (my sons’ and mine) and maybe six days of grocery shopping, leave a stifling marriage and the family home and survive?
- how do I translate all of this for my children?
- How will I cope if I am shunned, ostracized? If all my friends, and even my family, are so shocked, horrified and disapproving that they withdraw their love and support? It was an unwarranted fear. I have sterling family and friends…my fear pointed to hang-ups I still had to heal; to the fear of abandonment, betrayal and not-good-enough embedded in my thinking.
Is it any wonder I needed to be pushed rather forcefully into a roller in the ocean, seemingly at risk of drowning, being smashed on the rocks or pulverized on the sea bed?
I had to make a choice. I was soul-sick. It was do or die.
I made my decision. I would do.
I wanted to tell one person, just one person, before I told my husband. I wanted to feel and hear it delivered, expressed, leaving my body. I wanted to know that when I told him someone was holding me in their thoughts and heart.
Sitting under a gnarly tree in a majestic botanical garden, with our children rolling down green lawns and happy picnic fare I could not eat spilling onto the grass – cold chicken (I love cold chicken) and muffins – I took a shaking breath, determined not to cry, and said it out loud for the first time to my bold, articulate, takes-no-crap-intimidating-if-she-needs-to-be friend, Ilze. I said it and then my chin wobbled. I was going to cry.
It was surreal but irreversible.
This is where all the threads begin to shoot out wispy threads of their own and make the mesh.
Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about what Daisy said to Jo and what that prompted Jo to do.
In my final installment I promise to knit it all together in a cohesive, springy net. I will jump through weeks and months and years. I will bring in fresh characters and soon, very soon, all will take their bow and bouquet.
Thank you for waiting just a little bit longer.