It’s been a while since this blog showed any signs of life, but the hibernation has been fruitful. Upheaval in the peaceful land of Farandwee has required my full attention for several months, but order has been restored and the journey continues.
This new chapter finds me single and living alone, after the remarkably uneventful termination of a very brief marriage. I’m still trying to understand it all, but I’ve learned a good deal from the experience so far. The most important lesson seems to be that I am no longer willing to assume responsibility for anyone else’s happiness or success, after decades of defining my personal worth in terms of my ability to do exactly that. This can make me a disappointing partner, a characterization that I find myself able to accept with equanimity.
Since the restoration of peace and solitude in my private life, I’ve experienced a sort of inward blossoming that I did not expect. It’s almost as if this recent relationship were the final gasp of my old self-definition, a lunging, last-ditch clutch at my old ways of relating and engaging that had already proven themselves so useless—but were so comfortably familiar. Entering into it, I remember noticing that familiarity and thinking of it as a sign of compatibility; now I believe I was drawn to it as a refuge from the daunting hugeness of rebuilding a life grounded in freedom and autonomy. Turns out that hiding didn’t help, it inflicted more damage than it avoided and proved unsustainable. I had grown too much to turn back.
So the ongoing question becomes how to nurture that growth into the next chapter, whatever that proves to be. Solitude and plenty of it seem to be essential for me, although I find myself paradoxically more open and willing to engage with people when I have a quiet haven to retreat to betweentimes. I find myself more interested in the larger world than I’ve been in many years, from current events to social justice to politics. I hunger for intellectual stimulation: ideas, conversations, analysis. With the dissolution of the emotional bonds that shaped the last couple of years, inner space has opened up, ready to be filled with new and resonant connections. The most surprising aspect of all this is that I don’t miss those bonds. I have loving and interesting children, fascinating friends and family, a rewarding career and reasonable confidence that the doors of romance are not forever barred to me. The old conviction that I require a husband and a wife-role in order to justify myself in the world appears to have simply evaporated, a consummation devoutly to be wished.
It’s been several years now since the seeds of this transformation were sown amidst the chaos of loving and living with someone with profound mental health and addiction issues Those experiences taught me that love is all too easily confused with self-protection. I was so eager to define myself as a martyr in those days, to surround myself with the intolerable so that I could point to my heroic self-sacrifice as the measure of my strength. During the long awakening from that dream, I realized that entangling my self in the anguish of a soul torn apart by fear and guilt was a way for me to hide from facing my own demons, that in essence I was using someone else’s suffering as a way to mask my own. Fortunately I found that idea so repellent that I was able to address it and find a way to move forward. Unfortunately, I was unable to hold on to my hard-fought gains well enough to avoid one final attempt to be the “good wife.” I’m not proud of that mistake, but I’m hellbent and determined not to repeat it.
This is a watershed time of life, these halfway years, and I feel very lucky to have the mental and emotional wherewithal to embrace it, and to throw myself 100% into the adventure. The goal is no longer to present an approved face to the world but to present THIS face, the one that is mine. I hope to steer between (or upon) life’s shoals with my eyes and mind wide open, so that I don’t miss a moment of what happens next. Freedom is all.
©Mary Braden 2014