independence

Celebrating singleness

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Today is February 14th, the dreaded Valentine’s Day.

Not many people really enjoy this holiday (if they were being totally honest). And if you are trying to recover from an abusive relationship, it can be painful and depressing.

While many single women might be feeling lonely or forgotten, desiring some male attention, I am celebrating singleness.

Singleness to me means:

  1. Independence
  2. Self-determination
  3. Focus on self-care
  4. Healthy selfishness
  5. Choices
  6. Freedom

I grew up watching Hollywood’s version of the male/female relationship, one in which a female waits for a male to find her desirable so that he will choose her. Validation always came from a male, and was something which women needed in order to feel valuable. This is the perfect set-up for an abusive marriage.

Desirable women were portrayed as glamorous, sexy, and alluring. Marriageable women were portrayed as quiet, demur, and subject to the wishes of fathers and suitors. Women were presented as virginal, sluts, or eccentric.

But let no one misunderstand: the independent ones usually ended up alone.

Now 56 years old, I feel that I am much wiser, and, at the least, much more discriminating. I critically evaluate attitudes and cultural norms found in entertainment. I have worked to discard many of the values that I picked up from such influences.

On this Valentine’s Day I can declare that I am happily, almost giddily delighted to find myself single and alone (relationship-wise — I have a house filled with male offspring).

I am not mourning the loss of my marriage (anymore). I am not feeling sad and alone (anymore). I am not beating myself up because my marriage failed (anymore). And, most of all, I am not feeling abandoned, discarded, rejected or unloved (anymore).

I enjoy my own company and thinking my own thoughts.

On this Valentine’s Day 2017, I am celebrating my freedom to choose where I go and what I do. Instead of this being a holiday that focuses on romantic love, for me it is more of an independence day.

I think I’ll buy myself some flowers. Daisies, I think!

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My favorite things: wheels

Written Wednesday, January 4, 2016.
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Backroads of Connecticut are really fun!

I learned to drive when I was 15 years old. My mom taught me. My poor mother.

I got my driver’s license on my 16th birthday.
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My first car was a hand-me-down 1969 Plymouth Sport Fury, 383 V8, dual exhaust.

I quickly realized that a car meant freedom.

I was the only one in my group of friends who had a car, so we would all pitch in to buy a few gallons of gas to feed the beast and then go as far as we could.

As an adult, my car provided greater employment opportunities. I didn’t mind a long commute. I love to drive.

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My 1975 Honda Civic

After moving to the Austin area (Cedar Park to be exact), I bought a tiny Honda Civic. My dad’s Honda Gold Wing had a bigger engine than this little 4-speed. No air conditioning, no power steering, this car was, however, fun!

I drove that car all over the Texas Hill Country. I loved to explore!

I commuted into Austin for work before getting my own place in the Rosedale neighborhood. This car was a blast on the hills and curves when I took the back roads.

When this car bit the dust, I struggled for years to find another dependable car, or one that was as much fun.

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Mine had 10 years and 200k miles

A move to St. Petersburg, Florida and me without wheels left me feeling trapped and claustrophobic. I found an old, worn-out Oldsmobile station wagon, a monster with floaty suspension (and another V8). I paid $250 for that thing and loved it. I could load the kids (I was up to four) and go anywhere which we did, often.

When the kids were on the verge of making me crazy (which was quite often), we would pile into the car and go on an adventure. One of my favorite places was across the amazing expansion bridge that connects St. Pete to the mainland and drive around in the rural parts of west Florida or head to Tampa where we had a family membership at the Florida Aquarium. Having a car was necessary for my sanity!

A year or so after that, I bought a Mazda MPV minivan. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was what my husband wanted me to have. It wasn’t large enough, really, for the kids and stuff.

I never liked that minivan.

When I was separated from my husband the first time, my MPV gave up the ghost for good. I spent a month searching for a replacement vehicle and found a really nice, used Toyota Sienna. My brother-in-law loaned me the money and I made payments for the next few years. This was the first vehicle that I bought driven, pardon the pun, by pure self-determination and not practicality alone. I know, another minivan. But this was the best vehicle I had ever owned — it wasn’t a junker, really old, or a basic model. It was loaded. It drove like a car, had a powerful 3.0-liter V6 and ran without ever giving me any trouble.

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2007 Road trip from Connecticut to Austin, Texas. Seneca Rocks, WV.

I took the kids on a 3,800-mile road trip to Texas and back in the Sienna, much of it on back roads through beautiful Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and then Texas. Yep, that mini-van represented freedom.

Then my 19-year-old totaled it when someone cut him off on the highway on his way to school.

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My next car is my favorite to this day: a 2003 Saab 9-5 station wagon–my first turbo. Yes, I like station wagons a lot. I had kids, a dog, needed to haul my trash to the transfer station and occasional bicycles to and from kids’ friend’s houses. I paid almost nothing for this very used vehicle, but loved it (still have it sitting off the driveway waiting for me to find the title so I can sell it).

This leads me to what I am driving today. I found another used Honda, an Accord this time. It has dings and scratches, and a black interior which I detest, but it is a dependable, decent car. It always starts and always takes me where I want to go.

See, my Saab quit being roadworthy at the beginning of 2016. I went without a vehicle for seven months. A friend of a friend sold me a very sad, poor condition Chevy S-10 pickup to use until I could scrounge up enough money to buy a decent car. Never buy one of these. Total junk. But it allows me to haul off trash and junk as we prepare the house to sell (when it is running, which isn’t often). This truck was all I had to drive until September when my 26-year-old son found me the Honda Accord.

I miss driving my Saab a lot (sport mode)! But I fully appreciate the freedom a dependable Honda Accord affords me.

This afternoon I am using that car to pick up my daughter and granddaughter from the airport in Providence. She will, in turn, use that car to visit all of her friends while she is here.

Knowing that my car is sitting out there in the driveway waiting to take me wherever I desire is glorious. Having wheels is definitely one of my favorite things.

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Texas Hill Country

Out of control

TMI alert! If you don’t like to read about female reproductive issues, don’t read any further. Click off, so to speak, to a less graphic place.

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One theme that I am focused on in my life is self-determination. I want the ability and resources to make decisions for my own life without the requisite campaigning, begging, cajoling, and typical refusal I see as normality for me. I am sick of it.

So what in the *#@$ does my body think it is doing? I am 53 years old. That means stuff is going on that is new for me. I was fairly comfortable with the typical insanity of monthly menstruation. It has been mostly painless, though never regular. Well, that isn’t completely true. For years I had a 45-day cycle. That is a blessing unless you need to calculate due dates for pregnancies. Then it gets a little challenging (and doctors tend to tell you that a birth is early when it isn’t). Aside from that, the secondary infertility I suffered for a few years, and the years of very heavy flow after the birth of my second-to-the-last son, my reproductive issues have been minimal. Compared to what I am dealing with now, that was all a walk in the park (oh, the joy of time blurring memories).

The Change of Life: Really?

Now I am going through “the change,” in the throes of peri-menopause, seeing a new season of life ushered in and an old season coming to a close. Good grief, I am so sick of the euphemisms used to describe the living hell that women go through because they are child bearers. We bleed, we hurt, we have mood swings, we cry, we laugh, we make our families flee in terror, we need wine, we need chocolate, we need pain relievers and hormones. And dammit, we bleed!

Let that sink in for a minute. We bleed, over and over and over for years and years, decades, sometimes half a century.

While we are in the midst of childbearing, desiring offspring, loving being a mommy, looking forward to another pregnancy, and understand the nature of the reproductive system, it is all okay, most of the time. A lot of the time we grin and bear it because out of it we sometimes get babies. Oftentimes, not. I have lost four pregnancies, four little ones that never took a breath or felt my embrace. They are gone forever. Then there are the times when I hoped for a pregnancy and month after month it was a no go. I bled. My hopes bled, too. Sometimes I felt like my soul was bleeding, hemorrhaging, getting weaker, becoming ghost-like.

And then I was done. I knew the second my youngest was born that I was done. He was born after two losses. I held him in my arms, and I knew he was the last. I was completely comfortable with that. I was so done.

Thirteen years later, I am still done but apparently my body didn’t get the memo. Now I feel as though I am being punished for having allowed my body to be used in such a brutal way — yes, reproduction is brutal on a woman’s body. I know: babies are a blessing. They are. But pregnancy is a bitch. Postpartum is a bitch. Sore nipples are a bitch. But we love our children, so it is just one part of the picture. But there is the bleeding: before pregnancy, during labor and delivery, and after pregnancy. Always the bleeding.

And now I am still bleeding. A lot! At a time when I want to have SOME control over my life, I feel as though my body is my worst enemy, rebelling against the notion that I might ever have control over anything. It is thumbing its nose at me, laughing, smirking, and betraying me. I want it to stop.

I did have a brief respite. After an eight-week flow, some of it scary heavy, it stopped after I was given some powerful drugs. God bless drugs.

It was almost three months since that flow stopped, and I was celebrating because I thought I might be through the wasteland of peri-menopause, the field laid with razor wire, the haunted forest, the Dead Marshes. Then it happened. My body laughed at me AGAIN!

I wonder if control, self-determination, are mere illusions? Is such a thing ever possible for a woman, man or any human being? Am I tilting at windmills by fighting for independence? Am I seeking the unseekable, or the unfindable? Oh, the philosophical questions that all sentient beings ask. Oh, the frustrations that women face. I cannot comprehend the frustrations of men because I am not one. But I can say, from firsthand experience, that being a woman sure can be really rough physically, emotionally, hormonally, and any other -ly you can think of. So today I just want my body to stop pouring itself out for nothing. I am tired. I need a break.

Out of control and not liking it one bit.

Modern Mythology and the Hero Complex

I completed my first Response Paper on The Odyssey for Mythology class this morning.  After uploading my paper to the online interface for my school, I wrote a comment stating that my next paper just might be on the Hero Complex after I spent 2 hours shoveling out my car this morning while the males in the family were attending church and enjoying a nice lunch out.  Huh?  Well, my estranged husband is in town. He had the boys overnight and called this morning mentioning that he got salt (I asked him to pick some up) that can be used after I get the driveway plowed. Not happening this time as I had to choose between getting the driveway plowed or buying food this week. He offered to pay for the plowing but will only pay for something if he can pay directly, not trusting me with the enormous sum of $40 cash. I declined and let him know that treating me like a child was not endearing him to me at all.

Fast forward to 1 p.m.  Only an hour late, here are the boys trudging up the stairs.  Oh, they have great news!  Their dad has arrived on a white horse bearing a snow blower. I am pissed. What? Why?  Now let me explain.  You all looking in just don’t understand why I am not gushing with gratefulness, right?  Oh, this takes a bit of ‘splaining and a teensy bit of psychology to figure out.  Our main marital issue is control.  There was plenty of emotional abuse, raging, breaking of my things, and offhanded physical pain, but mostly there was neglect and control.  So after he moved to Tennessee almost two years ago and not hearing from him through two hurricanes and multiple winter storms, extended power outages and quite a bit of trauma, not to mention several winters where I am on my own to deal with the driveway with pretty much no money, a body that is my enemy, and a houseful of boys that will shovel but must be motivated with creativity, showing up after one snow storm with a snow blower is an insult.  He refused to allow me the dignity of calling someone to plow my driveway because he didn’t trust me with $40. And the snow blower is a trigger for me.

Let me back up just a bit more.  Our family has relocated long distances two times since we got married.  I handled the moves.  I found the houses we would live in each time, packed, organized, hired moving companies, and set up utilities, accounts, found new grocery stores, post offices, and all of the other little stuff that goes along with moving to a new community in a new state both times with a baby or two and the last time pregnant.  He worked, so I did everything else. When we separated and he decided that he needed to take control of our finances, he canceled my credit cards, cut me off from our joint income, and would only pay bills if I gave him complete control over the accounts, allowing him to change them over to his name.  He cancelled our third son’s auto insurance without notifying either of us, he tried to get control of my cell phone account (and found out that they don’t appreciate that — I now have an additional password required for any changes to the account), and a few years ago when I tried to buy a snow blower so that I could deal with the snow we get on our very long driveway, he forbade it.  Yes, forbade. I now have my own bank accounts, new credit cards without his name on the accounts, and have maintained my dignity and independence as much as possible under the circumstances.  So when he got all patriarchal on me this morning, he really got me going.  How dare he behave that way?  I called him on it. And a snow blower?  Really?

He hasn’t cared about all of the other storms we have faced on our own.  He hasn’t been there while I was dealing with major illnesses in kids and myself.  He wasn’t there during the holidays (he doesn’t do holidays) or birthdays (he doesn’t do birthdays).  He refused me the little bit of extra cash it would have cost to get the driveway plowed.  He saw an opportunity to be the hero!  And he took it.  He has done this before.  Only when he has an audience, though (he is staying with friends with a snow blower).  Oh, man, I am so bitter, right?  I have him pegged is all.  This guy loves attention, and he loves being the hero.  But he cannot allow his family members the dignity of directing their own lives in any small way.  That makes him not so much of a hero in my book.

Oh, how does this tie in to The Odyssey?  Well, Penelope, Odysseus’ poor wife, has been sitting at home grieving for her beloved for almost 20 years.  She can’t bear to remarry because of her devotion to her one and only.  She has been told by 108 strange men that she needs to choose one of them.  It is time for her to do what she is being told, not just by these rude guys, but by her son as well.  So in swoops Odysseus who has the favor of the goddess Athene in huge buckets to save his dear Penelope from the awful, rude, insolent Suitors.  Because this is Ancient Greece we must accept that Penelope is at the mercy of the social constraints of the time: she has no rights of her own because she is a woman.  She needs to be rescued because she cannot direct her own life, run her own palace, or just go on a vacation to the Riviera whenever she likes.  She must be cared for by a husband or a father or a son.

So when I find myself in the 21st century being treated like I need to be rescued instead of allowing me the dignity of hiring my own plow truck to clear my own driveway or buy my own snow blower, it pisses me off.  I don’t need a man with a Hero Complex.  I need one who respects me as an independent person, intelligent and capable.  Yeah, that Hero Complex just doesn’t cut it with me.