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Tova Gabrielle

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Never Marry a Man Who Hates His Mother
By Tova Gabrielle
Sunday, April 30, 2006

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divorce

The Vessel Never Marry a Man who hates his mother/1994 I was lying on the massage table getting angry. The masseuse, “Sky,” was too goddamn careful. Sky’s tentative touch caused me to flash on asking Roy, my husband of twenty years, to scratch my itch. Somehow he had always managed to avoid the right spot. “There, there! You just passed it!” I would cry, but he would glide his fingers just over it and scratch next to, under or around, but never on top of that itch. “Up! UP to the right NO that’s down, NO my right (dummy)!” Finally it came to me: the intent behind his miscalculated touch; his forgetting to pick up the meds, the groceries; his headaches always being worse than mine-he was doing what husbands do! Avoiding my pain. His needs had always eclipse mine. Well, I would later tell Bridgett, “I think that’s the whole problem, including his being kitchen-disabled, office-retarded, and “too tired”, in the bed. If only we could take turns being needy or being After Roy and I and the kids left the commune, with it’s flexible structure and tax exempt status, we were thrown unawares into a daily grind that turned marriage in to a war for survival and no one was intact in this family. Survival was an unforgiving relentless task. Roy was becoming a pathetic aging hipster while I was trying to become a professional grown-up. The more I worked on improving myself the more he made fun of me, called me self-involved, and dug in his heels to the rock music of the sixties. I rolled my eyes, got sarcastic, and acted superior. “How does it feel? Sky asked. I tried to think of a word, settling upon, “umm...” “Is it too hard?” “No such thing. In fact, it’s too gentle.” “Why would you want it rough? I do not believe in being intrusive.” “Well, its kind of a tease when it’s too light....” “Well, it’s really much more effective when it’s subtle like this...maybe you should try to meet my touch halfway?” “That feels like work to me, I just want to bliss out,” I protested “Well, healing, true healing is a joint effort. I believe that the patient needs to participate as much as the healer for it to truly help.” I tensed my shoulders and began breathing faster “How’s this?” she asked, “Can you let your body feel it?” “It’s frustrating---Like a soft fuck!” I heard myself cry. I sat up announcing, “I’m sorry, but this just isn’t working”. I quickly began to pull on my sweat pants from the chair. The same year, I kicked Roy out, gentle; passive aggressive Roy never knew what happened. And so the book of my marriage slammed shut and with only the materials of my pre-marital adolescence, I set out to find myself in another man, substituting one dependency for another. I began my noble feminist quest with a thorough and in your face quest for the perfect lover. I would need of course to sample many, especially to be sure I didn’t order the same meals I’d been leaving on my plate since early on discovering that the man I always wanted kept his sensibilities locked in a vault and I never did get the combination, at least not up to that point. He was a mirage, he was a chocolate cake that I couldn’t eat, and he was funny and handsome and completely inaccessible. Behind perpetual headphones, newspapers, intellectual political guises, he had more rapport with our pet parrots, much more, than with me. He would come home from teaching history to the bad boys in lock up, say hello to me from a safe distance across the room, kiss the birds hello, and disappear into the news, or anything but my hungry body. That was my fantasy, he’d come in and kneel in front of me and lift my skirt. He wasn’t like that. He had very definite rituals and they never changed. Lovemaking was done in the dark. I wanted to see him, to look into his eyes. I wanted to make love on the stairs, in the middle of the morning, in the shower. Roy was a prude and talking about sex was prohibited. Since he was chronically too depressed to get or keep “things” going, I finally decided with the encouragement of my women’s group, to pursue my basic human right to have a fulfilling sex life. One night I wrote about not being able to have an orgasm and they said, “you are going to have an orgasm if we have to hold you down and give you one.” Then someone said to another woman, “hey you have a vibrator don’t you?” Yes. “Do you think you could lend it to her?” She considered and I said I’d get one myself but didn’t believe it would work. I phoned Mom who’d become a confidante during the divorce, a woman with whom I could trade secrets and talk about sex with and asked her if she had a problem like I did. “Never.” She bragged. “Did you ever try a vibrator?” No, I don’t think it would help. “No one can resist a vibrator.” She offered to buy it for me. Within 2 weeks I received a vibrator in the mail. To my amazement it worked. Roy and I were two sides of a coin. He couldn’t not come and I couldn’t come. We were both unable to open. I wanted to open but the door was bolted shut and someone held the key. For me, sex was inextricably bound in fear and shame, and that’s no recipe for a good orgasm, or to be more accurate, for any orgasm at all. Ever since my parent’s had walked in on us, it seemed they or at least my father were in the room. I had to get my father out of there. I needed an exorcist. And Roy, well, he had to exorcise his mother, who had screamed at him when she discovered him examining himself in the nude before the mirror in his bedroom ~ After he changed careers he started to gain a modicum of self-respect. However, his former depression was turning to anger at the overarching shadow I’d thrown on him, so focused was I on helping him mange his depression. Perhaps the depression had kept his rage de-potentiated, I don’t know but he had a dramatic turn in temperament, lashing out viciously at me, calling me “whacked out” and telling me to go to bed, when I tried to talk to him about the trouble I was having all of a sudden, just being around him. Finally, it seemed to happen suddenly, one day, Roy made a decision to take the reins. It had been 20 years of my running like a maniac in compensation for his immobilizing depressions. I never expected that the safely passive aggressive man I’d married would suddenly turn into my father, an explosive man whom I feared. Roy had one of those one-in-a -thousand freak adverse reactions to Prozac. ~ Jamjee, an Iranian man who sold me a car that I purchased in order to buy my husband off as an incentive to let me go, came to my house to help me pack. Jamjee took one look at me and he understood that I had to go west, that my life depended upon it. He had escaped Iran two years before because he believed it was no longer safe to live there. His wife had refused to leave and he’d come here with his son to find a less oppressive life, and now sells used foreign cars at extraordinarily good prices, taking only what he felt he needed to sustain him as commission. Jamjee met the soon to be ex, and said to for god’s sake let me go. He told me that when I went to California, to walk, sweat, drink h20, and don’t look back. ~ divorce “I don’t feel like a train any more. I feel like the tracks.”- John Gorka Welcome to mid life crisis…. We thought we could avoid it, avoid turning into our same-sex parents, but time ran out, we had to stop kidding ourselves, smell the coffee, or, more likely, quit it. We’re running off our reserves now, our adrenals, our kidneys or some kind of benign spiritual energy. When I had complained to Mom once about Roy’s sabotaging my efforts at raising the kids appropriately, she’d responded, “...Doesn’t he know to obey you? Lennie always obeyed me!” Mom, who was patient with men only to a point, said about Roy’s laziness, “What, he thinks you’re a stand in for his mother??” Yet divorce was not her answer: rehabilitation and education was. “They’re all broken when you get them,” she said of husbands. I thought of Roy after that as a “fixer upper”; thinking how I’d once heard that if you’re looking to buy a house, buy a fixer upper over the modern one with no character. The one you remodeled would feel homier. I also thought that as long as Roy and I were “growing” together we had reason enough to stay together, telling Roy that the time when I had nothing more to learn in the relationship, I would leave. That was a catch-22 when the day came that what I needed to learn to do was to exist without the oppressive “support” of a man looming over my head. Mom said that no man knows instinctively how to treat a woman because of the way they were raised. She even wrote a pamphlet about it, “How to talk to a husband”. What always bothered me, though, was that she gave far more compassion to men than women, as if men were abused children who, when they were bad, couldn’t help it because they didn’t know better. “This is Rabbi Victor Gross, of the Aquarian Minion, in Berkeley, California on July 28, 1998. Present is Laura Sessler, absent is Roy Sessler. We are here today to perform a “GET” ceremony for the dissolution of their marriage of the past twenty years. It was said that when God created the universe, it was with the intention of forming a vessel with which to hold Her light. This vessel, although fashioned with the greatest of care, was said to have proven too weak to contain the powerful essence, causing the vessel to burst and casting shattered fragments out into the heavens. One of those fragments formed what is now our world. So it is like God creating the vessel to hold Her love, that you created the vessel of your marriage, with which to contain your love. Each did so with the greatest of hopes and intentions. And like God, you too each underestimated the properties of the vessel’s ability to hold that essence, and so the vessel of your marriage also broke, spewing shattered pieces out into the universe. And although fashioned with the greatest of hopes and dreams, each was hurt and disappointed in its dissolution. And now it is time to move on, no longer as husband and wife, but each as individuals gathering back together the light that was scattered in the bursting of the vessel of your marriage. It is time to move on, if not in love, in gratitude for the good times and it is time to grieve the bad as well. There can be no winners or losers, there are no heroes or villains in this breaking of the marital bond, but only people trying the best they can to get on with their lives at this difficult time. It is time to cry, time to grieve, and time to find the necessary supports to now enter the next chapter of your individual lives, and to eventually find love again. We ask that each be blessed with these things and that this process be done without taking any emotional hostages, without fighting over your children in a war no one can win. It is time to reflect, to forgive, it is time to grieve and to heal, it is time to find refuge in your personal beliefs and in God, as you understand that to be. Divorce. Then the madness that follows after you’ve thrown yourself at men due to all the sex starved years of marriage. Leaving again, It’s an epidemic, you know. But so is life, proven to be the number one cause of death. And who ever said life or love was beautiful, didn’t stop to consider the beginning and end. Life is always getting the first and last jab. First it beats you up and then it kills you. You can’t really argue with life’s obscure logic, because if you do you just die sooner. ~ Some people’s lives are geared towards dying, others towards living, but most people, just towards a state of quasi existence, an in-between thing I never understood. What do they run on? Idle? For someone who spent my entire adolescence being “grounded”, the idea of putting life on hold is no more a choice to me than suicide. And that’s not a Buddhist thing and not a Jewish thing either. Making It My ten-year-old daughter, Swan, asked if she would now be able to go places alone with me (instead of a van full of kids) while Lee, age five, asked how long till we could go “home.” The baby, Julian, was happy either way. The first time we’d received an electric bill instead of having it taken care of by the group’s donations, I was livid. The new grind very soon turned marriage in to a war for survival. No one was intact in this family. I was beside myself when I called the commune nursery to ask them to pick up my son who was still enrolled at the school nearby, and found I was no longer privy to help of any kind. Why didn’t my friends consider me a friend anymore? Why was there no setup like they had in California for post hippies trying to re-merge with the larger world for veterans of the sixties, from communes? Survival became an unforgiving relentless task. Within the year Roy was looking more and more to me like a pathetic, aging hipster, while I was trying to become a professional grown-up. mom hadphoned me after we left the commune and said, “I have some money to invest and I have decided to invest it in you because I believe I will get the best returns that way. Iwould get a career and education. The more I worked on improving myself, the more he made fun of me, called me self-involved, and dug in his heels to the rock music of the sixties. I rolled my eyes, got sarcastic, and acted superior. He complained I was too uptight, he needed a young “chick”, someone who made him feel good about himself, not demanding and criticizing him all the time. I told him I’d feel powerful and important too, if I went back to kindergarten. He was a mirage, he was a chocolate cake that I couldn’t eat, he was funny and handsome and completely inaccessible. Behind perpetual headphones, newspapers, intellectual political guises, he had more rapport with our pet parrots, much more, than with me. He would come home from teaching history to the bad boys in lock up, say hello to me from a safe distance across the room, kiss the birds hello, and disappear into the news, or anything but my hungry body. One night in my women’s’ writing group I wrote about not being able to have an orgasm and they said, “you are going to have an orgasm if we have to hold you down and give you one.” Then someone said to another woman, “hey you have a vibrator don’t you?” Yes. “Do you think you could lend it to her?” She considered and I said I could my own but I didn’t believe it would work. I phoned Mom who’d become a confidante during the divorce. She’d phoned me after we’d left the commune and said, “I have some money to invest and I have decided to invest it in you because I believe I will get the best returns that way. She’d invested in my extensive education. She’d also become a woman with whom I could trade secrets and talk about sex. I asked her if she had a problem like I did. “never.” She bragged. “Did you ever try a vibrator?” No, I don’t think it would help. “No one can resist a vibrator.” She offered to buy it for me. Within 2 weeks I received a vibrator in the mail. To my amazement it worked. Circa winter ’96. I began suggesting, then asking, and then begging Roy to move out. Roy’s response had ranged from laughter and asking me if I was getting my period, to yawning and telling me to knock it off. When none of those tactics worked, he employed the old blame-the-mother trick and threats. I asked him how did his Socialism account for his indignation at losing the property of wife and mother and most of all defying his privileged stance? That silenced him momentarily. After we had a fire, then a flood in our house, I began wondering if pestilence would come next, chanting, “Let my people go!” He started playing the Pharaoh more and more. He employed a get-tough strategy, abandoning the patient saint role that he’d claimed he’d been in with me, when I was hyper or depressed. Actually, he’d only left in smaller ways, in forgetful and absent-minded ways that drove me to despair. This made him look innocent next to my demanding meditation or writing times, his being the silent party in the dance of marriage. But now his passive aggression manifested in being heavy-footed around the house. He didn’t respect the wisdom of Jewish mystics that warned men to never enter a woman’s house abruptly. I had become hypersensitive to noise in the bad commune days. It had been impossible to sleep for little footsteps running endlessly through the hall, the constant loud music from the barn, the fighting and yelling of 25 people from different cultures, all crammed on top of each other in our communal New England Inn. Although I was the screamer first, that didn’t stop me from wishing fervently for an atmosphere like the ashrams I’d frequented before the commune. Roy would say with disgust,” then go to an ashram if you want silence.…” My will power only fueled the simmering volcano of grief.... the loss of the years we should have been making our way in the world, the shame, our inadequacy with it’s impossible imperative that we somehow hide it from the world. Living with a female earthquake, while he was trying to become a man in spite of his own fears, finally got to him, I guess. Got tired of being overwhelmed by my insistence in making him over in my image. Roy became even less careful about not crashing in on my desperately protected meditation or writing times; his morning ritual complaints now turning to cryptic swearing fits and door slamming. For the first time ever, I hid under the covers, my head under a pillow until he was gone off to his teaching job where it seemed as if the delinquent boys were teaching him instead of vice-versa. My rationalizations no longer worked that at least he never drank, drugged, or womanized. I was repulsed. I went to College, after having a dream that an author I was reading at the time (late eighties) and admired, asked me where I’d gotten my degree. I burst into tears, confessing I’d not gone to college. I soon was going for my graduate degree in counseling/psychology. And although it wasn’t at Goddard College where I’d been accepted and so regretted no going there, back in ’71, it turned out that the program I was in had been bought from Goddard, and not only that, but my advisor had been the president of the college for a short time in ’71. Life reincarnates itself. ~ At my internship in substance abuse counseling, I was running psychodrama groups of substance abusers with Kathy, my newly discovered soul mate and colleague. She and I had both been born and raised in Connecticut. We’d both moved to Florida for 8 years and returned to Connecticut, had both grown up with fathers who’d been in the military, both had written manuscripts about communes in which we had both lived, she in a Church-Science cult and me at Renaissance Community. Both of us understood the symptoms and ramifications of mind control, first hand. I was hardened at last, absolutely sick and tired of being sick and tired, as the saying went in the recovery groups I’d co-led with Kathy. “I don’t know what’s happening to me. I just find myself not wanting to be married anymore,” I said in measured tones. “You’re getting better-and he’s not,” she said. “ You married a man who was as sick as you were at the time.” But the thing that I could no longer tolerate on top of everything else was his blaming me for the trouble that began with Lee’s quitting school and getting more and more out of control. “Nothing, will tear a couple apart faster than the illness or loss of a child.” For 20 years I’d run around planning, fixing, making excuses, and just basically colluding, like a maniac, I was as unbalanced with aggression as he with depression. I’d worn myself down to the point that I was ready to join Cindy in “respite” from almost two decades of compensating for his immobilizing depressions. I’d made sure he too had a viable career before I bailed out to save my own life. With the teaching degree, which I’d forced on him in ‘93 (get out of construction or I’m leaving you), and the help of the anti-depressants (I pushed for) his former depression had begun dissipating. Yet what had been emerging in its place? Had the depression kept this sudden tendency to go into rages defused? I wondered to Zoë said it was a common and terrible error to blame oneself when a family member became emotionally or chemically unbalanced, that a dramatic change of personality such as he was exhibiting sounded more like a psychiatric emergency. Was Roy now one of those one-in-a -thousand people who had freak reactions to the new wonder drug? Is that why he seemed to be going berserk? A year or so later, when I still had my job as an outreach counselor, I was driving through Amherst center. I had just slowed down at a yellow light when I became alarmed at what I was thinking about. I had been fantasizing his funeral and trying to decide whether or not to go. What I will say if I do, what stance will I take, the selfish woman who pushed him over the edge by bailing out when he got sick. Oh no, my brother-in-law, will he snub me, cast me evil dart looks, confront me, or worst of all: ignore me? Will I be expected to say something like Sher did at her former husband, Sonny’s, funeral, with all allegations of abuse now forgotten as I recount what he meant to me for the most part? Will I be blamed for his death? How could I have done Dad in? I’d said to Zoë, around that time: I never remember wanting Dad to die, though. Actually, that was what I was AFRAID of, that was the thing I couldn’t stand seeing! I hadn’t wanted him to die! That was why I was so enraged! It freaked the shit out of me, and the way he was so defeated, and after his little reprieve of enlightenment, all his promises . Silence. Zoë : “As far as I can tell the only one you ever abused was yourself.” It didn’t penetrate enough, I guess. Because one night (after I’ve again thrown Roy out) I awaken in a panic, pick up the telephone. Where is he? Why isn’t he home he wasn’t home last night either? Is he OK? Is he alive still? Is it too late? My heart is racing, my thoughts too, I am wailing to myself, NOT AGAIN, not again. I can’t let it happen again. I phone Mom, crying, he hasn’t been picking up or returning his calls. But he’s 52, she says....reasoning that this is not like a child not returning from school. She asks what’s the worst thing that could have happened. “I couldn’t reach him for two days,” I’m wailing and she’s saying, .”..so what? Are you alright?” She says my hysteria can’t be about him. “Are you OK?” “Not if he’s not.! “ He could be dead, he was so low, I have to know he’s ok. I hear her breathing evenly and she tells me she talked to him just a few days ago and he didn’t seem at all suicidal. She thinks I am overreacting. But Lee saw it too, Roy was walking out of Atticus bookstore and Lee saw from across the street, something hanging over him, a darkness, headed for an accident or something. Any one who’d lived with him could feel the steps echoing depression on the stairs. Now it was more like apathy, like he’s giving it up; giving up on living. If I don’t want the burden of his life, well he doesn’t either. But it was really he who’d left me all those years he chose to sleep instead of make love, to stay out in the bookstores instead of coming home for dinner, to forget my birthday, to ignore me in hope I would go away and leave him alone. I’d worried when my hand passed over the cold spots on his chest and groin. As if he were partially dead. He is not dead, he is working overtime he is staying over at the job site. He isn’t dead or dying and it isn’t your fault. That was then, this is now. Even if he dies, it will not be your fault. “She’s trying to kill me, Millie...” “Laura, it will be a terrible thing if he dies without forgiving you...” But I want him to live. I love him. I want him to be well, to thrive, I want the children to have a father. He is not dead, he is not dying, and it only feels this way because the movie in my head takes over. As if I could save Roy, restore his soul. I’d said, “If you love me, show up for dinner. If you love me, do the dishes. Love is a verb. Work is love made manifest. Just because you want to do something and promise to do it, doesn’t make it real.” His love was a seed that I tired of watching. He said that without me he was nothing. That gave me no comfort, only worry. And now he looks like a ghost and his emptiness confronts him and he will either die or enter that void and live through it. He doesn’t know that you cannot destroy the soul, that the soul remains intact. Still, I fear how low his light has become. But I can’t quite accept that I am not and never was his source. I’d enjoyed his pretense that I was. If I could accept that I was not his creator, nor Dad’s destroyer, maybe I could sleep again. Something beyond me seemed to be in motion, driving me away. One night I dreamt that the ground was all broken up at foot and a half of intervals. Everywhere I stepped I had to watch for crevices or bulges. I was endlessly wandering, exhausted, looking for a place to rest, to lay out the sleeping bag I toted. Just before I’d left home (what it really almost three decades before?) when Daddy was dying, I’d had a bad trip on Belladonna, in which everything turned to black and white, as spiders and insects constantly fell out of the sky on and around me. I’d spent that nightmarish trip, an entire night, walking through the West Hartford Reservoir, trying to find one place that was not broken up on which to lay down my exhausted body. The only difference was this nightmare, three decades later, was not induced by drugs, at least not mine. Dreams of running I have these dreams I am running… Running for so long my legs hurt when I awaken. Trespassing, too. Right through front doors and desperately trying to find back doors of strangers’ homes, sleeping in their garages, homeless again, so ashamed. Sometimes in the dreams, I get caught. “You have been running a long, long time”, observes the Seek taxi driver who offers the ride to the Rabbi’s house because his religion dictates he do this for me. Don’t go to India, you are an educated woman. Stay here. Berkeley has all you need. Eleanor I felt that I would be next, when my older sister, Eleanor, died of cancer in 95—I knew she was worried about the toll my marriage was taking. Her last words about me to her co-therapist lover, Yana, were “I hope Laura finds her place in the world.” In order to do so I had to leave home and start over, at least for a time. I was growing up in middle age, making up for the 15 years hiding out in the commune. I’d never learned a thing about taking care of a home or family, let alone myself. The task before me was to become unfrozen-an my frozenness was most apparent in my frigidity. I wanted thawing and to live again. And I was going to have it, no matter what the losses. My older sister, Eleanor, was very sick when I consulted her, seeking her advice on pursuing a “real” career, and talking at length with her about the mental illness that ran in the family. I told her I was afraid of getting kicked out of graduate school, and Eleanor answered with a sobering, “Hey – anyone can get kicked out of anything – even life. Her two-bedroom Berkeley house was already packed when I arrived. Those among our family members who were missing included my twin, Cindy, who was in the mental hospital; our father, Lenny, who had died decades before of cancer; and our brother, Donnie, who had been sent home prematurely by Eleanor. Those present included Jenny, Eleanor’s twin; our mother; Uncle Jake and Uncle Sam; my daughter, Swan; and me. Eleanor had become sage-like after her life-seeking journeys into the desert and mountains, which she had undertaken after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer a few years earlier. But for me, the rip I had felt in the family fabric ever since our father had died was widening, becoming a living thing, possessing me. Self-loathing stuck to me like the clouds outside, gathering darkly around this small home. I ached, wanting either to awaken out of these feelings or to curl up in a fetal position and go to sleep. As I wondered whether I could find any cappuccino nearby, Swan assigned me to kitchen duty by. Swan was one of three extended family members whom Eleanor allowed to freely walk into her chamber without permission. She surveyed the atmosphere keenly, ordering family members to “chill,” or “go meditate,” so that Eleanor could be free to pass. After we had been together for a week, half of the original family and a dozen members of the extended family were called to Eleanor’s bedside, where we joined ranks with a group of Eleanor’s friends. Everyone stood respectfully, waiting. With great effort, Eleanor began what sounded to me like a memorized speech. “As you all know, I firmly believe... As you... all know... ” Her eyes closed and her words faded. After a few moments, she returned, pushing through the invisible force that was pulling her away. “...As you all know... know, I firmly believe... I... that all illness begins... illness… Did I already say that? Damn it – the fucking morphine!” She faded again. We waited patiently. Returning, Eleanor started again, “As you all know... I firmly believe that all illness... except those which... I firmly believe that all illness... begins... illness begins... in childhood… childhood... trauma... ” She had refused chemotherapy this time around, saying the treatment would kill her. She had pursued alternative treatments and a spiritual journey instead. I looked down at the blanket that was wrapped tightly around her icy, thin legs. Mom eyed Eleanor steadily, trying to give her the same respect that Eleanor gave her clients: the dignity of being heard and not placated, no matter how painful her words. Mom was not going to make the same mistake that she had when Lennie was dying: He had asked for her permission to die, had said he was at peace and felt it was his time to go. She had answered him with a firm, “No.” After that it was a slow, agonizing, downhill process. Eleanor continued, “Jenny was the runt. You were always so concerned about her. What about me!? What about me? I needed you, too. You knew it – you just didn’t deal with me!” Millie began to nod her head, moved closer to Eleanor, who continued, “I always had this death wish – if no one cared, well I would just die then. But what’s really awful is, you knew this.” At this point, Jenny stormed out of the room. “Eleanor, I had no idea. How could you think that!?” “But Mom,” Eleanor wept, “you had to know on some level. It’s your job to know... ” I was sitting at the foot of the bed. I picked up Eleanor’s feet and rubbed them. We were waiting for Jenny to return. I was thinking of how my own situation was reversed: I had survived, while Cindy had gone crazy. “Yes, Eleanor, one twin gets sacrificed,” I said. Eleanor gave me a “hush” signal. But I was emotionally flooding, feeling the void filling with understanding and love. I felt I knew an opposite pain to Eleanor’s. It was the shame of saving oneself at the expense of others. First there was Cindy, who got my leftovers and crumbs in life. Then there was Daddy, who I ran from in his moments of greatest need. I marveled: There were four sisters, all suffering with mental illnesses; one twin hospitalized with manic depression; one dying; and two, jealous of the attention that the dying one was receiving. What a mess I was too; struggling to hold on through feelings of self-doubt, grandiosity, and the urge to leave the house. The night Eleanor passed, I was standing by the San Francisco Bay. As I stood there, I felt a coolness come beside me. I sensed her brilliance, her mind, and in my own mind I asked if there was anything she do differently, if she could do it again. I sensed an emphatic, “I would do it from my heart!” I felt her energy, her passion for life and love, filling my lungs and cleared my brain. I would be her successor and transcend my familial pain with thought, with intellect; I would integrate the mental capacity of my genetic legacy with something softer, more forgiving, kinder. I would learn true kindness. I sensed her warning that I would forget again and again the importance of living in the heart, instead of falling into a sort of waking dream, amidst the morass of my mind. Her spirit seemed to be pleading with me to go further than she had in her forty-seven years. Hours later, the storm finally subsided, and Eleanor died with a smile on her lips, pointing upward at something that only she could see, crying out the word, “ALLAH!” Allah, she cried, and her cry woke the household. She was found with dilated pupils, her arm outstretched in a gesture of pointing. Her face had lost all signs of stress, all lines of suffering; she looked as smooth and Goddess-like as if she had been carved out of marble. The sun came out after weeks of gloominess and streamed in on her face, which was blissful with recognition. She had gone home. She was home at last; she was home in the light. It seemed to me that she had died of longing for love, while having repelled it all her life with wit, criticism, and the sharp weapon of her intellect. Eleanor had died longing for the love that she had refused to receive. Maybe I would free myself from the traps that had so ensnared the minds of the women of our family and caused us to hurt so wretchedly – if only I could allow myself to sink into my heart. The night before I’d had a dream, a nightmare I’d had ever since being locked out at 16. An older woman found me hiding in her garage, invited me in and gave me a place of my own. At Eleanor’s funeral, Yana, her friend, told me, you know, Eleanor’s last words about you was that she’d hoped you’d find you place in the world. Running I ran in 1968, 69, 70, 71, then began again in ‘98. I took Jamjees advice to heart and I walked. I walked and walked and walked. All over Berkeley. I walked like I’d done in the sixties when I’d get stoned and wander through some of the richest suburbs in the country. Looking into the homes of normal and secure people as they congregated in front of TVs or full dining room tables, where there was still food and rest at the end of the exhausting day. Imagining their lives. I walked in 1998 remember Jamjee having escaped near death himself and having lost a wife in an unsafe country and time, had said to walk, drink water and not look back. That was his prescription for recovery. Before I was tired enough to walk (before middle age and all the dramas had filled me with so much conflict that I began shouting Dyanue, enough!) I ran and ran. Circa 1996/Out-Standing in the Field [of shit] I’m living in western Mass. I’m working my first job since graduate school, out there doing my bit for the world instead of just moaning about me. Then it all goes haywire, everything. I’m a therapist, don’t laugh. I got sick of being on the payee side of the desk, figured I’d try playing the sane one instead, it’s cheaper. I loved being the one getting paid for telling people things they didn’t generally like hearing. My clients, all addicts in recovery would ask real questions like, “What am I doing wrong? Why am I living?” “How can I live again?” I felt like a little Buddha. I didn’t want to let them down; I wanted to give them something meaningful to think about, a new frame to put around their lives. I’d query them on what’s the difference between a scapegoat and a hero. I’d say that the hero survives fighting their demons, and lives to tell about it, even goes back to the tribe that threw her out for being too much like themselves in all the wrong ways, and actually forgives them and teaches them what she learned, that’s all. My supervisor Holly was this priss who did everything by the book and she looked like she was smelling bad air when I came into her office with it’s crystals and sayings about positive energy with little smiley faces tacked up on the walls. And she never understood how I worked. She didn’t want to believe I was getting results even though they gave me the ones who didn’t usually come back, the shoppers. That was because my clients always came back, they didn’t want to miss the movie. I mean, we actually had some laughs, which was the best therapy in the world. But my paperwork was a mess and she thought I was too chummy with the clients, like I was being that way for my own gratification, not because it actually helped. So one day I’m in her supervisor’s, Tom’s, office, in there again, explaining myself to him because he’s the only one who understands and appreciates my interventions and yes my abrasive style, but he digs me and he knows I’ll listen if he says I’m screwing up. So I start bitching about Holly, right? I’m moaning, “I can’t work with someone who has absolutely no idea what I’m doing!” And then he goes, “That’s right, we won’t let you... That’s why we’re letting you go”. He said if I was going to make it I had to learn to get along with authority figures which I’d told him even in my interview was a fatal issue for me, professionally. My supervisor was married at Grace Church, the same place I’d frequented for the great gospel music until finding out that the show biz, new age minister, was coming on to his son’s friends. She put her hands over her ears when I clued her in. “Try to move away from pain, not towards it stupid,” I’d said so many times to myself. Still, though, I hated rejection I looked mournfully at my supervisor, Tom, who had become my mentor. I keep having this dream. I’m wandering a long way. When I wake up my legs are sore. My soul is tired. When will I ever find a job that fits? “Personally, if I was your supervisor I’d keep you but really, and I want to, it’s not up to me at this point; I held her off as long as I could, kept thinking you’d get your paperwork done, and you two would finally click in but it just kept coming up again, like bad weather. You’d do really good and then boom; you’d start going under. I just have no choice. I was determined not to cry. “Do you think I need meds?” I sat there half paralyzed. I can’t answer that. It does seem like there’s two yous. One is very competent and the other is on the moon. “Is there hope?” Oh, I know you are going to make it; it’s just a matter of where and when. I’d hoped it would be here; I’d looked forward to continuing to work with you. I really enjoyed it, you have a wonderful mind. It’s a shame, you know. But it’s not the end of your career. This is only the beginning. Lots of first jobs in a new career don’t pan out.” “If I learn from this,” I moaned. “That’s a big if. I’m too learning disabled. It’s like a bad marriage. It just doesn’t work.” “There’s a very good word, maybe you’ve heard of it?” Tom tried. “It’s ‘socio-syntonic’. Do you know what it means?” “Wait….in sync with society.” “Very good.” “See,” he said, leaning forward over his mess of papers, “it doesn’t matter how brilliant you are Laura, if you can’t act out the part that is the written into the script. Ad-libbing comes later, not when you’re just getting your feet wet. You have to learn the steps before you start improvising. “Say more,” I said. He leaned back and put his big feet up on the desk, stretched back and cupped the back of his head in his hands. “O.K. Ever hear of field theory? No? Well see, a pristine person, a brilliant and talented person, like you, say, is standing in a field of shit which makes her look like shit. It doesn’t matter a bit that she’s a super woman. When people walk by and see that field of shit and see her in it she becomes part of it in their opinions. It’s the field around her that people judge her by... Now you take a really mean nasty person, a real louse and put him in a pristine field. It doesn’t matter to anyone that he’s a bastard. They only see that field and since he’s standing there in it, he comes off looking and smelling like roses.” I smelled coffee. You want some? Black, thanks, he said. “...We knew you had problems with authorities,” we’d resumed; with me whining why did you even hire me in the first place. “...You even told us that in your interview. It didn’t deter me; I wanted to be the one to help. I felt a, well, a connection with you. I wanted to put in whatever it was that you needed, that extra attention because I saw you were worth it; I believed it would pay off. I still do.” “I don’t want to not see you,” I sniffled. Tom looked out at me and I looked at him. “ I don’t belong here, you know!” Now the tears were rolling. “Maybe that’s true . Lots of people, good, smart people like yourself, feel the same way. That’s why they work for themselves. It’s not so horrible. If you wanted to do what Holly required of you, you would have. But for whatever reasons you chose repeatedly to buck her system, you did this, no one kept you in the dark, certainly not Holly.” “So what do I do now?” I demanded. “Well, you could learn something,” he said kindly with a question in his voice, softly like the father I’d always wanted would have said. It wasn’t the job. The job was over-ridden with paperwork. I put it off. And I was late a lot. And depressed a lot. And holed up in the office crying. I didn’t even want the job most of the time. It was Tom. ~ Kathy’s advise/ working Age 40 I have recurrent nightmares of homelessness and nakedness in public and walking forever, as if across a desert. I have fits of severe fatigue, rages at my husband, feelings overwhelm and an inability to keep up with domestic life or work. I get rashes, hives, eczema, wight gain, bloating, joint aches, muscle aches. My son is manic depressive. Working at my second year internship in counseling psychology I was running psychodrama groups of substance abusers with my supervisor who was becoming a great friend, Kathy. Kathy and I had both been born and raised in Connecticut, both had moved to Florida for 8 years and returned to Connecticut, both had fathers in the military, both had written manuscripts about cults in which we had both lived, she in the church of scientology and me in Renaissance. Both of us understood de-programming and mind-control, and we shared struggles with the typical mood swings of survivors of such things. I don’t know what’s happening to me. I just find myself not wanting to be married anymore, I said in measured tones. You’re getting better and he’s not, she said. You married a man who was as sick as you were at the time. But you didn’t stay sick. You’ve done a lot of work, Laura. “Well, the ultimate thing I can’t take any more is his blaming.” , that’s the old “blame the mother” trick. It’s as old as marriage.” Right, good mother bad mother. But God, how dare he blame me for Lee’s breakdown!” Why not, Freud did? Yeah, but Roy fancies himself to be a womanish you know. Ever since he took that course on feminism he believes he’s more in sync than other guys are. Well, his being privileged didn’t change did it? What do you mean? He’s not supposed to be inconvenienced and if things go wrong with the family you’re supposed to patch it up. I was supposed to take care of everything. (Mitch told me after he took a course in feminism we were finally in sinc. I said, he’d be in sink when he started showing up at the kitchen sink.) Nothing will tear a couple apart faster than the illness of a child. Christ, you’d think it would pull us together. No, they’re not like us. As soon as things go wrong they look for something to blame. Right. God, do you know he takes everything as a personal assault? One time we were walking down the street and believe it or not, a bird shit on him. He actually believed the bird did it on purpose! Can you believe that? Pretty smart. But really, Kathy, he lives in such a hostile world in his head. I tried to explain to him that when your kids in trouble you should try to comfort each other, not make a list of offenses. It makes people feel like they have some control. Finding someone to blame? Sure. But sometimes there is no one to blame; it’s just tragic, that’s all. Then you’re stuck just feeling powerless. Men don’t want to feel that. Well, no one does but God, we can’t control everything! I mean all I ever want since our older son got sick is for someone to hold me. I feel like curling up in a fetal position, in fact I do that. I lie in my bed with my cat, all curled up, trying to get as small as I can. I feel like a nut pulling a shell over me. But you know I just can’t get enough shelter. I tell him I need to be held. I tell him I’m starving emotionally, and he say’s well, don’t expect me to feed you! So what does he do? He withdraws. That’s his comfort, disappears, into the radio or the news or a book or to sleep. You know I can’t tell a difference when he’s home or gone. He’s always gone. Uh huh. Honey you deserve better. God, do you know that’s what one of my kids said to me just before all this happened? He said, “Mom, you take care of everyone, but who takes care of you?” I said, well what do you want me to do, divorce your dad? So what did he say? He was crying, he just kept saying, I can’t stand to see you so neglected mom; it’s not fair. Wow, he really cares about you. I know, it’s so ironic, here I was all this time staying with Roy for the kids and now I’m finding out they don’t even necessarily want that. All kids want their parents to make it. You mean stay together? Well, probably, I don’t know, but what I meant was they find more comfort from seeing their parents being happy, separate or together, but it’s having that image of a well-adjusted parent that’s important. I spend all my time adjusting to Roy ’s nuttiness. I’d rather be adjusting to my own insanity, which would be an improvement.. You’d do very well on your own. Every woman needs that experience at least once. You know, I’ve always had someone, a man screwing up my head. Well if you live alone you get to deal with just you’re own shit. You find out half of your neurosis weren’t even your own to begin with. What a load off that would be. Maybe I could actually focus. You need to; you know that’s the only thing keeping you from being hired here full time. If you could ever stop being scattered, you’d be a really effective therapist. But I’m exhausted all the time. Hey, who wouldn’t be? I feel like I have to choose between having a career and a family. I just can’t deal with so much all the time. I’m constantly drinking coffee, you know sometimes I actually see double when I’m doing the notes, I’m so frazzled. Yes, we’ve all noticed you walking into walls. I gave her a hurt look. What’s that supposed to mean? People laugh at me? Well, to be perfectly honest, yes-Dick even makes derisive jokes about the spacey intern. But I’m not telling you this to hurt you. I’m telling you this because you’re carrying too much of other people’s burdens, when you have your hands full just managing yourself and your kids. I’m telling you, Laura, really, (putting her hand on mine) that if you don’t get away from him or from the pressure, I’m afraid you won’t get hired. Here? Anywhere. You’re a wreck. I know it. God. Ok, well, thanks. I’ll start taking better care of myself. Really, you’re way too gifted to let yourself be twisted into a pretzel by him. You’ve got to demand better for yourself. OK. So that settles it. It does? I’m going to divorce Roy. Well, I don’t think that sounds like such a bad idea. .And marry you! Kathy laughed. Well, wait a minute; I didn’t say I was ready to get rid of my guy. Why not? You can’t tell me he’s not a pain in the ass either. He can be. But I have a job that’s secure. You don’t. Thanks a lot for the vote of confidence, Hey, I just want the best for you. I know you do. I will. I’ll do what I have to do. I waited way too long for this career. I really don’t want to blow this. It feels like my last chance. Well, think of it as a healthy relationship: Your career will always give you feedback; it will be there for you if you are there for it. It will give back exactly what you put in. Wow. Getting back exactly what I put in. Now that would be a novel experience. It will be great. I know you’re going to make it; it’s just a matter of not getting too strung out along the way. Well, that’s already happened. I know, it has. But I was once in a very similar state to you. It’s a lot of work recovering from abuse-especially our cult experiences. In fact it’s so much work that I don’t even know if I would have had the courage to try, had I known how hard it would be. I know, fifty miles into the woods fifty miles out. How long have you been married Twenty years. OK so when your sixty you can be one of those incredible older women who’ve seen and done it all. Great, when I’m sixty. When I’m sixty who’s gonna hire me? I will. Promise? Promise. OK, I’m going to hold you to that. Yeah, right, if either of us lives that long. At this rate, I don’t know. Neither do I, I always said, when it’s time for me to go. I don’t want to be hanging around. This MS is killing me. Kathy. Everyone I know has such bigger problems than I do. I should never complain again. That’s ok. You will. Now get to work. OK boss. Thanks. You’re welcome. Anytime, she said and I went into the group therapy room to prepare to start the session. ~ Soon after a flood following a fire, and fearing pestilence next, I told Roy I wanted him to move out. Believing we were as constant as the sunrise and sunset, He didn’t take me seriously and for two months refused to talk about it, telling me to knock off the drama. When he finally did move he cried bitterly that I’d left as soon as you got your Masters degree,” he accused. It was in one of his dozens of late night calls to curse me out or try to con me into taking him back, which always ended in screaming matches and me hanging up on him “Of course, did you expect me to leave with three kids before I could support myself?” I could bear it no more. My soul was sick. ~ Permission to shop around Zoë was the one I conveniently relied on to tell me what to do now, and she dutifully gave me “permission” to shop like this against my mother’s, “only losers have to advertise” view, not to mention, mom’s concern because I was not yet legally divorced. Zoë, on the other hand, had the sense since she knew I was going for it anyway, to explain how things have changed dramatically, how “everyone” consults the Personals. “You deserve to have a little fun, even have a lover if that’s what you want! --He’s been out of the house almost a year, and you aren’t getting any younger so why not live it up?” Lover? “---Hey, what are you afraid of?” “My mother?” Zoë looked pityingly on me honey, don’t you think it’s kind of odd that you think your going to get in trouble? You’re an adult now you can do as you please. “You know Laura’s friend who’s in her 50s? Well she just decided one day she wanted to have a lover and found one in the personals, she’s very happy. You know why? Because she has the sense not to get emotionally involved with the men she sleeps with. It’s like not mixing business and friendship, or like keeping sports impersonal so you can play your best. She sees this guy a couple of times a week for sex. That’s it, she doesn’t psychoanalyze him and he doesn’t psychoanalyze her. You know life doesn’t have to be a soap opera, Laura. “ Well, I always felt that way, but I thought I was the only one. “ “ No honey, your time has finally arrived, the world has caught up, almost passed you by! Things have changed since you got married-you’ve been living in a cave. “ “No sir, I’m quite radical.” In your head maybe, but if it doesn’t get you off in your body, how radical can you really be, Laura? Face it, kid, you’re deprived. As the book of my marriage slammed shut, I compulsively set out to find another man, armed with only the materials of my pre-marital adolescence. I began my repetitive quest with a questionnaire suited for only the strongest stomach, although “stomach” was not what I was focused on. Had it been so, I would have focused on saving my own and gone straight to the gym, bypassing dating all together. Why start dealing in reality at this point? The agenda was to make up for lost time/ Zoë, warned me that I would need to sample enough men to be sure I didn’t order the same meals I’d been leaving on my plate since early on I then disregarded Zoë’s advice to try not to get emotionally involved with the men I sleep with, since I’m only sampling, for starters. “Sorry, I told her, I don’t know how to do that. For some reason once that man sticks it in I’m like, like his Wife after that. I get hypnotized or something. Well, take it easy, it sounds like your going to get hurt. I just can’t believe men can be so out to lunch who can make me feel so good. I always interpret fucking with lovemaking. Well, it’s different for them. It’s physical. No, I can’t believe that, I mean, damn, without love its just meat on meat. Well, maybe that’s enough for them; maybe that’s why they resist being vegetarians so often. Well, I’m going to find a vegetarian. A loving, gentle cook who’s also good in bed. Well more power to you, honey. But if you succeed in finding one of those sensitive new age guys, just remember when he rolls over before you come, they’re all carnivores at heart. What are you talking about? There’s spiritual guys, what about your friends from the yoga center? They’re not interested in sex. They’re too much in denial. Denial of what? Their bodies. Listen, Laura, no matter who you go out with you’ll be trading one set of problems for another. It’s not their fault; the flaw is in the hardware. I’m afraid you’re right, you know? But God it would be nice to have real sex again. Well you should, every woman deserves to be happy. Just watch out. Let the guy be the first to say he loves you, and don’t call him, let him call you. That’s not my style. I wouldn’t want a man to hold out on me so why hold out on him? Because, Laura, t hey use that stuff you heap on them against you later on. They take you for granted. Well I can certainly confirm that. I helped Roy out until he hated me. They call that, what, smothering? Castrating. They’re weird. What can I tell you? You see me jumping into bed with men? It’s not because I can’t. But I’ve decided they exact a toll that’s too high on my blood pressure. I’ve already got enough problems with my heart. ~ My mother now understands that the distance that I keep most of the time from my twin, is necessary to my sanity, due to the thin veil of separation between us. She says that she was asleep when she was raising us kids. She was not yet the educated educator she became after Dad died; nor the mystic who would call me up in the commune after my ten years of not speaking to her, and ask me in exasperated frankness to please work things out with her in “this life” since she “really” didn’t “want to have to deal with it in the next life”. ~ I’ll tell you what I’ll do with the pain. I will make a space large enough to hold it, a space that is safe from intrusion. I will learn to eat the pain and just as an infant feeds on its own tears when no one comes, it will feed and soothe me and turn only to rain and evaporate with the warmth of the sun, forgiveness, forgiveness and gratitude for how I can understand now, how I can feel for others, how I can be kinder and learn to harm no one, beginning with my self. This pain, it is making me alive again. Suffering can produce a sort of alchemy in a person’s psyche where they eventually have more compassion for the suffering of others: it seems, the hotter the fire the greater the purification. However, I also think that not everyone goes up when they hit bottom, but rather dig in deeper to Hell and leave big ruts for others. But I think that the lesson ultimately is that we all have CHOICE and that if we fuck around with life we not only get nowhere personally, but don’t move forward collectively either. I don’t think there’s a God who cares. I think there’s a way of living and if we don’t learn it, we’re fucked. And I also believe that although the jury’s still out on that one, that ultimately we’ll all come around because at our cores each and every person isnothin but love. And that as sick as we may be, and as horrible as the things are that people do to get various incarnations of what they perceive as love, whether that be land or someone else’s wife, ultimately, we want love and ultimately man that’s all there ever was, is or will be. Which mean that even hate is just a frustrated craving for love! I think sooner or later we’ll figure it out, with or without other species still around. I think that in some ways, people have to have their hearts broken in order to learn to appreciate life. Just look at how loving people are after the eleventh. Like this guy on the news, this fireman saying, “I just love everybody, Man.” I think it’s terribly terribly exciting, this show-down between desperation and love, that’s been prophesised, as far as I know by every major religion and my God, the time is HERE! A Well-Deserved Breakdown May 1997. I’d gone out to Oakland to attend my Swan’s graduation from Mills college. It was the first time I’d had a vacation by myself (I’d had 2, I think, with family) since I’d begun raising children twenty-four years prior. After the graduation I was to stay three weeks. But after six, I could only get off the futon in her Buddhist-style living room, to find myself able to only do three things other than care for my body: whisper (it took too much energy to talk), cry, and laugh. “I’m having a nervous breakdown.” “But you have to come home,” Roy protested deafly “Why?” I said numbly. “You have to come back and take care of us.” I have to live first. I’m dreaming of my death. “The boys can stay with you or come out here. I’m fried.” I even offered for Roy to come on the condition we lived separately. There were more opportunities in his field, the eldest was desperately in need of some inspiration and spiritual direction which Berkeley was known for, and as for the youngest, his cousins, and much missed sister were here, Berkeley High was very advanced and free-thinking, not to mention the weather.... After 2 years of my asking for a divorce, it dawned on Roy that I wasn’t threatening, I wasn’t just getting my period. “Mom will come back when she’s rested,” the youngest was on my side. However, the eldest took a humungous amount of peyote and landed himself in the hospital. It worked. Dad was right after all---I had to come home. Well, then, crazy, I guess, it was-I had myself a good ole, much needed, although contained, nervous breakdown. I broke the rule to ignore mom’s needs and they’ll eventually go away. It had become impossible to hide that I was not in fact invincible, that I could and did crack, and now I needed to survive. It was the first time that I no longer wanted to live. I had given away my valuables back east, and then gone back to, in my mind, “say good-bye” as if for the last time. Also, I was seeing the world as a person with a death impending: I chose not to have a car, nor a bank account, I wanted nothing but to huddle in an artists colony by the shore and be left mostly alone to curl up in a catlike ball. I recall, driving back East that last visit with a wonderful artist friend, with whom I’d shared an aesthetic appreciation of the world. She pointed out something about a sign we passed on the highway and I sighed in disinterest, feebly trying to explain by saying, “Kathy, I don’t care. I’m no longer for this world.” ~ ~ Sometimes the pain in me is so deep, that even if you took my heart out of my chest and massaged it, it wouldn’t help-Bridgette R. (friend and co-twin) A manic piece of writing I wrote the day before my divorce: The planet of betrayal, the broken vessel, this world, this body, these imperfect persons who pretend to know how to hold us. No wonder these genetic faults, this imbalance, chemistry, that broken brain that broken or missing part, body, soul, it is all reflective of the broken vessel, the imperfect creation that wants to hold perfection, how can it be, how can it ever be that a creation, a metaphor of something so vast as life impenetrable unchangeable electric and unnamable, how could it ever hope to translate perfectly into a form? What mold, what container, what mind could handle the complexity? For is not thought only translation and self-consciousnessness; is not form only metaphor? All that really ever exists is energy. To hold it still is like trying to hold mercury. Energy and stasis are opposites. They say when things aren’t jibing, when they are out of sync, that mercury is in retrograde. What does that mean, retro, backwards, the impulsive material is moving of another will in an opposite direction, as if into a black hold, as if into a constriction, a waning, as if this imploding is less than natural. this is natural, then the tide going out must be so and death must be so and all that is not expansive but that contracts, including the birthing process itself must be an aberration. and so it seems if it is not so, if contraction is not aberration, well then neither is my impudence, my uncertainty, my impulsively and even m y bounced check, my lovers temper, it must be that all of this which is not good is indeed good, is indeed of god, otherwise why the contractions and death and all of that which ends whether in grief of loss or in just letting go. to put it simply, I was a basket case the day before my divorce. First the landlord and then an unexpected twist of attitude from my father, Charlie. I phoned him to ask for a loan to cover the rent check which bounced as a result of a bounced check from good ole hubby, who by the way warned me of it’s bounce-ability but offered another on a day which had come and gone to his amazing sudden amnesia of his offer. So Charlie had been all warmed up and cozied by hubby I guess they’d been schmoosing on this particular eve for hours, and so he played dumb and in effect refused my request with sarcasm and a get off your ass reply of surely your landlord can wait till you have the money yourself, surely you of all people can talk anyone into anything. So I was catapulted into grief mode and whispered good-bye. That was the beginning. The rest of the day I moved into catastrophe mode, insisting the past was the present and I was helpless and a victim. But then Wendy ruined it all for me. I went to cry on her shoulder at her studio and she said she refused to support my choice of misery, I was not a victim and I did not have to buy into other people’s nonsense and dramas. I sobered up by the third take on her part, my asking if this was really her speaking or a new age rap and she joking it was the devil speaking through her, and what if it was a new age rap, so what if it made sense, which it did. So I decided to take her advice and sit by the river by my home and as I sat I thought to myself that I was grieving the loss of my marriage, as tomorrow was the big D day. So I sat and prepared to grieve, but instead I realized that I had nothing to grieve, that I had been alone even in my marriage, for years. Really I had done exactly what I’d wanted to do and the only one grieving was him and it was not mine, this misery I’d decided he’[d inflicted upon me, what with the check bouncing and the roommate threatening to move out because he’d stayed as a guest in my room for four days while I’d resided downstairs with Gary. And I further realized that this day of feeling as if the accusing angels were in control of my life, was a blessing too. For on this day I could again decide to truly cut him out of my very personal life, and in so setting boundaries, not buying into his empty promises like a person just born with no mind or memories of twenty years of his well intentioned lies, I could for once and for all stand up and say NO to rescuing, to borrowing, to believing, to leaning on someone who couldn’t even stand alone, not one bit, not one bit, ever. I could face the bitter truth again, again, and stop this madness of giving up my own security, my own space, my own small sense of order, my own sense of having something, something no one else could have, something imagine, I didn’t have to ever share or give away if I didn’t want to, this time, my room, last time, my money, next time, my womb, last time my mothers womb. I could for once for once for once remember re member remember yet again, to keep something some small corner of the field of the crops of my efforts for the pilgrim, the sojourner the loner, who, by god is ME, she is me, she is myself, this tired legged wanderer is no more nor less no less deserving or gifted than myself, in all its maddening glory, and I can say no I can go through with this divorce and take a corner of the world for myself, my very own, the very first time in these forty five compromised years, I can have my life and like it too. FRI, Nov. 20, 1998 D-day He arrived in a faded green t-shirt that had three large to middle size holes on one shoulder and two on the other, and khaki pants that were bilious and too short for his white socks and sneakers. Unfortunately for him and him alone, he’d not been allowed to wear his baseball cap or I’m sure he would have-backwards. I looked at him and any doubts I’d had about the divorce were discharged. ~ Marriage and birds He’s standing in the corner between my bedroom and the bathroom, no he’s kneeling down. Painting the strip of wood white, slowly and easily. There are a few blotches and it is subliminally confusing to look at. Has he started? Apparently he has, but then why are the blotches disconnected? Don’t you paint a thing in some kind of order, i.e. in rows? It was the same way when he’d vacuumed, 6 years ago when we were married still. An arbitrary section here, a splotch there. It’s why I divorced him. That and the Yankees cap, on backwards. He’s stopped donning his handsome head just because his hairline had receded. In spite of me telling him I found a little gray or a little balding sophisticated. He started covering up, more obviously, then. Two nights ago I picked him up in my teal Toyota Tercel that mom bought me for 7 G with only 20 thou on it in 95. He’d enraged me at the time, by going out and buying a brand new Toyota Longbed for 10 thousand. We don’t buy them new, I’d protested. If you get a low mileage used car you save thousands. He tells me two nights ago he’s ready to get rid of the thing, can’t afford the payments. This long afterwards, he’s still making payments. Internally I shrug. That’s another reason I divorced him. He walks out of the ranch house on Mountainview Road that the East-Indian woman with the same books as I on her coffee table owns. Codependent No More. A book on dreams. A novel by Marge Piercy. Does he ever pick them up? I wonder as I wait for him to come downstairs. Codependent No More. Writing with Power. Alias Grace . What the Hell takes him so long? Sorry, that Olive, she didn’t want me to leave. Olive is the Indian Ringneck I gave him. His significant other now. I go outside, he comes out, then goes back inside for something. He returns and he’s wearing that crumpled dark blue Yankees cap, backwards on his broad and otherwise intelligent brain. Roy, please, you’re so handsome. Take that advertisement off your head. I need a haircut. Is the rejoinder, it never changes. I’ll buy you one, we have an hour to kill before Julian’s play. Not right now. Here. He turns it around and I can see the advertisement on it. Roy, you look like a walking advertisement. Turn it back around. Come on Laura. Just don’t start. I have a horrible headache. Do you have any Excedrin? I don’t answer. We’ve talked about the tension headaches and the need for relaxation, not cover-ups. I think to myself, “mindache”. You’re mind is always in pain. Maybe if you would feel it, it might pass. But he knows this. He’d remarked a dozen years ago about liking the print-out of that saying I’d posted on the fridge: Sooner or later you have no choice but to feel what you are feeling. He was right, I’m such a hypocrite. I refused to feel the disgust that came up in me when he misrepresented my image of his true nature. Obviously he, having grown up in Brooklyn considers this part of his costume, part of his act. While I guess if I had it my way he’d either be naked or dressed like me, male style. He’d wear not only those denim jeans and long sleeve striped shirt I got him that he’s shrunk in the dryer and that’s so faded now, and is that a paint spot on the front? He’d be wearing the silk and rayon shirts I bought him and the African cap with the threads of gold and silver running through the raised tapestry. The cap he lost because he didn’t like it. Like the marriage, although he swears otherwise. I don’t particularly like myself when I get like this. I don’t do this with my children and if I tried with my present insignificant other he’d cut me off at the start. It’s just so familiar a script, however. I start up the car and realize I can stop. And I feel just a bit more sane in comparison to the endless and escalating wars of our past. Which reminds me. About war, and about killing and about my theory regarding men and women. Which goes something like this: we aren’t supposed to kill because to do so is to assume there is nothing worthy of saving in that human we kill. And apparently as long as there is life there is hope, as the saying goes. That’s the real reason and it also happens to be what I believe. Then I think about some people. Still, I know that anyone can turn. I think of that song amazing grace. The person who wrote it was navigating a slave ship when he realized he was not supposed to be taking slaves from Africa and turned the ship around to free the would be slaves. But really, all I have to do is to think of my own life. The things I’ve done I dreaded ever having to face after my leave from this world. And how I turned. I think of how I quit coffee last week. It was in my body to do so, that’s all. So I turned again. Towards life. My other theory before I return to the Toyota with Roy, I must need a break from him, even after 5 years apart now. My theory is that until men and women learn to get along there will continue to be wars. OK the car ride. Uneventful. We sat with my folks and watched these high school kids do a knock out job at Romeo and Juliet. But that’s not the story I want to tell you about. Maybe I do need a coffee after all. It’s the corner in which he’s kneeling down, a day before. I’m playing Catie Curtis for him, which he likes. At least it’s soft he says, after I made him listen to Greg Brown. This is a man I met in a rock and roll band, the lead singer with the afro who did Elvis moves so well I’d had to wait in line to try to get him into bed after the show. I won but not his body, just his heart. This was a man who’d said he’d live with me if we pretended there was no such thing as sex. This was a gentle, handsome, funny man who was terrified of women ever since his mother screamed when she walked into the bedroom and found him examining his hard on in front of the mirror. Then laughed at him and told him that he didn’t have anything worth looking at. This is a man who at 21 and a virgin was dragged to a whorehouse and then couldn’t get it up. This is a man who has felt ashamed all his life. This is a man whom I shamed. Oh, my heart. I never meant to hurt you. We all hurt. My heart, his, Lee’s. But I want to get back to that corner and the way it felt in that roughed out new space, a space that was almost repaired so that the door to my bedroom where I make love with a passionate other man can close properly. He is kneeling there, graciously, contentedly, not bitter, but rather, glad that I have a home and someone looking out for me because he says he wasn’t up for it, ever. And Lee is OK for a while at least. Roy drove him from respite, where he’d been released last week from Providence Hospital, to Rutland, Vermont, where he is in a recovery community of people his age, along with the new black guitar I spent half my grocery money for the month on. And for the first time since our son first got sick, six or so years ago, Roy and I feel almost content together. “It’s so amazing,” I tell him as he stands up, turns around and hugs me close and hangs there in the hallway with me. It’s like waking up after a six year nightmare and the bad feelings are gone between us. I feel exactly the same way, he says. It’s like a limb on my body was missing when you and Lee were split from me. I was hobbling around not knowing that it was the state of our family that was killing me. I feel exactly the same. It’s been so easy to work here today. A pleasure. Me too, I edited the whole article I was working on while you were downstairs working here. Because you were here; working, downstairs. And because Lee is in a good place finally. It’s just what he needed. I think this really could launch him. Just remember so you don’t set yourself up, what they said at the support group: not to get your hopes up too much when they’re doing well because it’s the nature of the illness that they go down again. Do you have to do that? Roy wants to know. Can’t I just feel relieved? Yes, please, honey, feel relieved! I am too, enormously. Just also be careful so you don’t get taken by surprise, that’s all. But he can’t hear me. Doesn’t want to. I know. I know he says, and turns back to the corner with his paintbrush. The birds in the aviary are yelling to us. They want us to come and admire them. You have too many birds he says for the umpteenth time. Roy I know you think that. Why do you keep saying it? I heard you. I get it. What good does it do to keep saying it. Well, it’s too much, that’s all. For you, I remind him, for you. Which is why you don’t live here, remember? No, I’m worth keeping. It’ the birds you should divest yourself of. So is Lee. You threw us out and then you complained about the empty nest. He says sadly, now resigned. I couldn’t treat you the way you deserved to be treated. I know you couldn’t. I don’t blame you. I would have left me too. You almost did, I remind him. And you left me way before I left you, anyhow. I add. You put me out on a branch and eventually I flew away. I’ve been dreaming since hanging out with him about snakes and birds. The snake comes into the birdcage and nearly startles the bird to death. And he seems to be snaking his way back into my life and I’m afraid that I’ll forget how to fly. Or rather, to fornicate. I found myself thinking pretty soon I would go back with him when my sex drive ran out we would get old together like we’d so many times over those two decades planned and imagined. Now that the kids are hatched and he isn’t working much we are finding that we have time for each other for the very first time in our collective lives. So it’s strange. He’s coming along with my folks for thanksgiving. He was there at dinner with them after Julian’s play and he jokingly reached for my hand and said, honey did you tell them? No because we’re not I said, smiling. Although it’s an attractive idea. Mom smiled when he joked, “We’re getting married, she just doesn’t want you to know yet.” I could see she was just a tad wistful. And my step dad, Charlie was slouching into Roy in such happy camaraderie. How do you walk away from all that love? So now we’re trying to integrate our love into something like an extended family. So for thanksgiving it will be me, my folks, Julian (Lee is having a thing up at the resort, I mean, farm) and another handsome ex boyfriend of mine. As always there are hardly any females. If only I had more ex’s that weren’t males, I wouldn’t feel so maternally responsible. I could actually relax and have a good time. We are only as sick as we are secretive: as blocked, addicted, and disconnected as we are ashamed of our lives and those of our families. Fortunately, time betrays us: It tells a larger story. Multi-dimensionality is the ability to hold two opposing truths in one’s mind at the same time. It is through this lens that I write now of the abuse as well as underlying goodness I experienced at the hands of my parents. In spite of all my parents did out of fear, that disrupted my natural flow to this day, they also instilled in me a love of the truth, even if they had taboos about who could tell it, when, where and to whom. It seemed like it was part of my Jewishness. Jews have big mouths and love to argue and debate. They taught me that from the get-go, as they regularly argued around the kitchen table with their siblings, when I was growing up. It was good spirited intellectual debate and the sparks flew gladly. They understood in that context that thoughts are only thoughts. That it’s what you do, how you treat each other that counts. Nothing Personal 3 months later, out of the marriage institution. You realize you’ve become a Sex, Love, and Relationship junkie. You were sex starved after twenty years of marriage and you’ve discovered the boys have grown up and know how to please the women. But unlike your ex, who lacked perhaps the libido, they forgot to include a heart. Too late. You can never go back, not after everything that happened. It would kill you. You don’t want to be another breast cancer victim in mid life, thank you very much. 1998 Screening out open flies More or less Single after 20 years of marriage, I was Donna Juana, and having the time of my life. I’d found sex with the 5 men I’d briefly dated a different experience from the playground of the sixties. The boys had grown up, and my sex starved senses were heightened to the stars. Men were responsive, seemed to revere my sexuality and respond with a delight my husband never showed. The way they could touch, gaze at my breasts, compliment me made me eager to get naked when I could preen and glow with delight to their attentions. At least it was attention. On the other hand I was afraid of the fallout from my feast of pleasure, . I was intoxicated and empowered only by my sexual prowess, and fed and validated by touch. I told Allen, over the phone I was afraid I would take my clothes off. I said I kept jumping into bed with men lately. He groaned, so your going to stop with me?, and then reassured me that that was what divorcing women do; throw themselves at men. So I devised a screening process that would weed out the men from the boyss. The Questionnaire Was Delivered Orally, with the safety of the telephone between us: 1)Are you attractive? to which the more evolved ones asked me if it mattered. 2)What do women say about you when they’re angry at you? this brought instant amnesia or lies?I’m the best lover they ever had. 3)Are you a distancer? They all denied and they all were. Do you have a heart? They all insisted yes and few did. 4) Do you have a working cock? Shocked silence, some laughed. Then began their questions?never as bold, although aimed at the same information. What is your body like? 5) Are you “passionate”.... Have you or would you make eye contact while f—g? “Oh yes!” (but they didn’t). 6) Do you believe there is such a thing as a relationship if there has been no penetration? You added that after the guy before this last one, told you there was no relationship between you. That was after we stopped f—g. You told Zoey that there is nothing but relationships, whether it is with the check out person behind the counter or a lover?and she nodded like a true feminist. You laughed with her about how your ex once said after taking a course in feminism that he finally felt in sync with me. You’d said, I’ll believe it when you spend more time at the sink. 7)This was the most telling: do you sleep with your back to a woman? Scenario #3: You stopped dating and got intellectual. You discover in a graduate class that you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and you join a SLA group. . 2000 Out with the Old, In With the New, now out with the New You’ve been legally divorced for two years. You’ve met someone who you somehow put up with and who somehow puts up with you. The somehow of it, is you realize he is only able to make you happy, in a very few situations and you don’t look to him for the rest. Congratulations: You’ve finally learned the lesson of keeping a relationship going: have low, very low, expectations. It works as best as can be expected: A friend calls me, crying because her husband isn’t deep. I tell her if she wants depth to call me, or her women friends. Look at marriage as something of a cross-cultural exchange, to which we must be diplomatic and savvy. Learn how to fight fairly and cut your losses, and maybe we’ll survive in the friendly war of the sexes. 

*******************************************************************************

2 years Later:

Roy changed sexes. 


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Reviewed by hannah james 2/17/2009
Being a parent isn't easy. Especially the parent of a mentally ill child. It's easier to run away and dump the problem on your much-maligned spouse, isn't it?
Reviewed by Sandra Mushi 5/2/2006
Yap Tova, love the title too. Lol. Great write! Took me a while to read it, but I must say, love it!

God bless,

Sandie.
Reviewed by Chrissy McVay 5/1/2006
Very good...and I love the title!


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