My 9th grade English teacher assigned our class the task to write an autobiography. I was fifteen years old. This was the first time someone had asked me to examine my life. It was also the first time I believed I had anything of interest to say. He returned it to me with the grade A on it and a note – “Publish it or burn it.” Sadly, I did neither. I misplaced it. I hope one day to come upon it and to meet again my fifteen year old self.
This is the first time since then that I have attempted to write “my story”.
I believe that in everything I’ve ever written I am telling “my story”. The reader is asked to interpret, read between the lines and speculate. Here I’m not hiding behind the words; I’m putting myself out there. I must be responsible and aware of my personal security. I will tell you as much as I can – much will not be a surprise, after all I’ve been writing posts for over four years!
I am separated from a man who hadn’t felt like a husband for over a decade. I finally decided that I didn’t enjoy him as a roommate either and as there was no marriage left, I too left. For primarily selfish, financial reasons, I moved in with my aging mother. I thought it would just be for a year or two. Of course I’m now stuck. How could I leave her by herself knowing as I do that she is barely functioning?
I’ve never hated my mother. We didn’t have that kind of relationship. I don’t remember a time when my father lived with us. It was always my mother and me. We didn’t communicate. We talked. She talked or, if she was angry at me or disappointed in any way, she didn’t talk. For days she could not talk. Silence became an ally. I stopped trying to build bridges. I accepted the gulf that existed between us. As a teenager, I didn’t have to “break” from her – she’d already broken us. I retreated to my friends, my room, my music. My mother had nothing to complain about. I was a good student. I was respectful. I had more freedom than any of my friends. My mother let me do just about anything. It worked for us both. My friends loved my mother. She was the “cool” mother. My boyfriends all loved my mother. I never quite understood her appeal. I sometimes was a bit jealous when I heard the praise they heaped upon her. I just smiled and remained silent.
When I moved away, after college, my mother became clingy. She called me almost daily. Wanted to know what I was doing. Who was this woman? It was too late to want to be my friend but I felt guilty for not wanting to respond to her. I avoided the guilt by avoiding her. Then I was getting married and having a family and I wanted my mother. Having a child brought us back together. I came to her in need – a position my mother enjoyed. I became one of the needy, damaged people she liked to collect. She never had a friend who she didn’t complain to me about. They were never smart enough or able enough or managed their money well enough. She needed them to be flawed to feel superior.
Ironically, being a mother – once I was over the first year of post-partum blues and sleeplessness – felt so right, so natural that it gave me the confidence to once again stand up to my mother. I knew I was better at motherhood than she had ever been. If I didn’t know what to do in a situation with my daughter, I asked myself what would my mother do and I did the opposite. I believe, hope, I have a very good, strong relationship with my daughter – which has nothing to do with us speaking regularly or her remembering my birthday.
Unfortunately, being a father was the undoing of my husband and of our marriage. He was not the perfect husband but he was as good as a flawed person can be. He had issues, don’t we all. But when I was pregnant, he began to crumble. I didn’t know how to fix him. I was focused on me, the baby, the future I wanted. I didn’t give him what he needed. I expected him to “man up” and make everything right on his own. For twenty years I waited and he did not become the person I wanted him to be. I wanted someone who would assume what I perceived as the responsibilities of a father and husband. My expectations were based on a fantasy of both. I had no experience with a father or a husband so I relied on TV, movies and books. They told me that he would be the rock I could always count on. He would do whatever it took to provide for me and my child. He would be a caring and wise father. He would dote on our child and be the perfect example for her how men should treat women.
I made the mistake many women make. I stayed in my marriage because I didn’t want to repeat my experience for my daughter – I didn’t want her growing up without a father. I assumed that any father was better than no father. I don’t know if she would agree.
I don’t see any point in regret. What happened, happened. Now I am trying to figure out where I go from here. I sometimes hope to meet someone new and to have another shot at a relationship. Then I think of all the places I want to travel. Could I do that with a partner? I imagine myself living in a new city each year – moving around to experience different cultures, climates, communities. Is there a man out there who would be willing to go on that journey with me? I doubt it .
I really have no idea where I’ll be five or ten years from now. I can only hope I will be happy.