photo from New York Public Library Digital Collection
Welcome to my church. I’m so glad you came.
Here we preach truth in faith: How to live with God from within instead of worshipping with emptiness in the seat of some hard, cold pew. I didn’t ask the Pope for permission. I hope that’s OK. I’ll just go ahead and preach anyway.
“I should not write when I’m mad,” she said to herself.
She stomps her foot upon the dusty the pathways of her own mind. Crosses her arms like a child. Huffs. Backs down. She was too much for herself again. Now she’s afraid and confused.
Afraid of her own power and creative energy.
“I will not write when I’m mad,” she scolds herself, again.
She furrows her brow and removes her glasses. Rubs her forehead. Closes off the world around her and breathes behind her own two eyes. She winces as her skies move again, blotting out the sun and filling in free spaces with a gust of cold wind.
She trembles. The familiarity of old things begins to beat down the fragile walls, making her inner world sway. Working hard to hold firm to the fibers from within her very own body, the last bit of poison holds on for dear life. Her body turns cold, but she weathers the storm.
Don’t let the disease of judgement become the author of your stories.
(She’ll never allow that to happen again.)
Way too often, when I listen to women speak, I hear stories of second guessing the very things we know deep down we ought to believe. Our intuition is as keen as our intelligence when it comes to birthing and then nurturing the ideas of brand new things. Babies and businesses. A freshly planted garden. A college degree. A life spent investing in things that hold value and greater meaning.
(Sacred things for God and of God.)
The essence of feminine energy.
We make excuses, us women. We find ways to decide that we aren’t quite good enough, or worthy enough. We let the outside world dictate who we are and what we should become and believe.
Why do we do that to ourselves?
I want to hold back. To be careful and to bite my tongue.
But Thanksgiving wasn’t easy. My entire family came and my husband, the Executive, whom I definitely don’t love anymore by now, went to the beach to get some work done. I gave him the option. I’m glad he decided not to stay. He seemed pretty happy to leave, and I think my family intimidates him a little anyway.
The Executive is rather dry and robotic, but we are all the colors of the rainbow in my family. Color delivered in a big old mess of unconditional love tangled up in our very own tragedies. My family definitely does NOT like to keep fat elephants under the rugs. We like to pull them out and befriend them. Scream at them a little. Put make up on their faces. Make them laugh by tickling their underbellies.
maybe one day we will laugh about this Thanksgiving
I should have told my family not to come, but they had nowhere else to go. So I said, “Come anyway. I’ll be just fine.” I told them all it was really all OK. Women are very good at pretending.
Thanksgiving wasn’t all that bad. I moved about and took a walk. Spent time with a friend and enjoyed a lovely meal cooked by my family. They cleaned up and the kids played. Board games were pulled from shelves and rooms were dirtied respectively. The kitchen floorboards took on a filmy surface, from shoes and sugar, flour and butter. The love and laughter of family gatherings.
But still there was a gap everyone knew wasn’t filled.
That of a husband and a father we all knew.
My little brother and his wife came. My mother. My sister from Saint Louis and her family. My children were here, of course. I manned the household alone, opening the doors for them while holding back from visibly wincing from the pain.
Friday came, and it was very hard. Calls and text messages. Numbers thrown at me that I can’t even fathom.
Stop me if you’ve think you’ve heard this one before:
MOM gives up college degree.
Career grows, so does family.
He decides they aren’t enough anyway.
WE WILL NOT TALK NUMBERS!
Now you know.
My sister walked up to me in my living room on Friday night. I had been at Vanderbilt Children’s After Hours Clinic with Joe, who was running a high fever and was acting rather fussy. The day had progressed, and I’d assumed he was just very certain something wasn’t quite right. Babies have a keen intuition like their mothers. God designed us that way, so that we can sustain life within life. Two heartbeats operating and pumping blood as one human being.
“I think you’re manic!” my sister had said. I’d had enough, really. Seventeen years of someone making me question my thoughts, my feelings, everything. The Executive didn’t directly say mean things (not all the time), but his actions have meant everything and equalled nothing. Presence and NO presence hold the same exact weight. The latter means that one person has to carry enough loads for two. There is no way around it. A paycheck is good, but without a friendship, it’s just a piece of paper flapping in the wind.
I think God designed husbands to nurture their wives and the mother of his children.
Her inner world.
Her entire self,
not just her body.
I flipped out. I couldn’t help it. I just can’t fucking take one more person making me question my sanity when I know sure as hell that I’m standing so firm upon the ground without my head in the clouds, that not even a brick thrown at my face could make me back down.
I’ll fight because I’m a fighter, you know.
I’ll go ahead and fight and look crazy doing it.
That’s what it looks like when you save your own life.
Truth should most certainly look No. Other. Way.
“YOU will NOT come into my house on Thanksgiving,” I told my sister, “judge what you perceive as less than perfect, and then pass your psychosis off on me. I’ve been acting weird? I fucking should be. This isn’t all that easy.”
She was so mad, but she went to the door anyway.
“You may come back into my life when it looks like a Land’s End catalog, but until then, it is going to be a big old fucking mess. As it should be.”
Three years ago, a psychatrist said, “There is no psychosis. It is your marriage. Your husband makes you sick. I want to see him. I’ll give you medicine, but it’s a bandaid. If you don’t get rid of the marriage, you’ll aways feel this fear, depression, and anxiety.”
I left and went to yoga.
I went ahead and decided to save my own life.
And that’s exactly what I did.
And now I’m here three years later.
I’ve learned to rescue myself, thank you very much.
Three years ago, I left that doctor’s office screaming. I remember gripping the wheel and pulling off the road. I just screamed. I knew I was right then. I knew it. When I used to be full of life and light and color, but how I’d let the energy of one person strip that all away. For so very long.
Is he a bad man? The Executive?
Then what is it about him?
We aren’t right for each other. But he had to be the one to make that decision in the end.
Even in the end I never would have been able to leave him on my own.
The Executive decided to sleep at home when he returned on Sunday. That wasn’t easy, either. We had stood in the kitchen. Every single time he comes at me now, I will SHOUT AND I WILL SCREAM. I will be MANIC AND FURIOUS. I will fight for my life with every last ounce of my being.
“Tell them,” I said to him. “You will tell the children that you decided this, and that it wasn’t me.”
We were on opposite sides of the kitchen island. I wasn’t screaming anymore. I don’t think. I tell myself that we can be friends, but when I look into his face, which I don’t even find attractive anymore, things move to hurt so quickly that I begin to hate him again, almost instantly. But I will try to love him anyway, just as friends.
I’ll do it for my children.
The Executive started crying. He should. He deserves to cry over this. “I don’t want them to think I don’t love them,” he said out loud.
“They don’t think that. I don’t think that. You’re a good provider. You take care of us that way. Do you love them?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Did you decide that we weren’t enough? That we didn’t make you happy? That growth at work was more important than tending to your family?”
He paused. He didn’t want to say it. Instead, he wanted to start saying things like:
Wait a minute.
You don’t really think that.
Let me be a good husband and skew your vision of reality.
This house will become our sanctuary. It will be a place where I live with my children and where they will heal. We’ve been unhappy for a long time, and I’m sure glad we both know it. There is nothing worse than wasting time in a marriage that is so bad it serves no one, not even God. It makes the children feel sick. It makes their mother ill. It makes our bellies hurt and our nerves shaky.
It takes all of the air out of the room.
It makes it very hard to breathe.
“Answer the question! ANSWER IT! Yes, or no. Did you decide to walk out because we weren’t enough?”
His face was red. His eyes full of fear, but breaking a little. Knowing. Not this time. I would not back down from what I know is the truth.
“Yes,” he said.
“No custody battles,” I told him. “You may take them as you please.”
“Three years,” I also told him. “You move out. I’ll live here. Our children live here because they belong with me. You will pay for my education. Yoga and my teaching degree. I’ll get a job, and I’ll write. I’ll buy this house. It’s going to be my retirement.”
I won’t live off him. I want him to owe me nothing. But I sure as hell will take all the time I need.
Prayer. Hope. Faith. Praying the rosary. Mother Mary. Forgiveness. Healing.
I don’t think God designed women to second guess themselves, and he didn’t design men to encourage them to.
She decided in that moment, amongst all of the women she’d hoped to become, that she’ll be NO LESS than all she had believed she could be.
And they all said, “Amen!”
The Art of Storytelling