Tag Archives: divorce

heroine

Thinking about heroines….thinking about a lecture I heard Jean Bolen give at the Jung Center last year. Among the things she said was that a heroine’s journey often begins because she is cast on her own and didn’t expect it. Unchosen circumstances put her on an individualistic path. I was thinking about my path, about the very domestic life I thought I would have. And how I didn’t obtain it though some unwise choices. I tried to tame a tiger. I have a friend on a heroine’s journey right now; she’s adjusting to the death of a long-time partner. But it’s not only a partner’s death that puts on a woman on a path that contains only her. There’s divorce, illness, disease, the death of a child, the death of a dream. There’s some Mary Oliver line….to love what is mortal and let it go. It takes a heroine’s heart to do that. What makes a heroine? Do you know?

When I was younger

When I was a younger woman, I collected birds’ nests. The collection began when two dear neighbors brought me a branch from a tree on their farm, a branch which had an intact bird’s nest in its V. I loved it. And then, seeing that nest displayed, other friends began to give me ones they found, a cardinals’ nest from a back deck, a nest before a move to another city, tiny nests built atop a door wreath, a nest in which paper had been used as interweaving. Once when I was driving in pouring rain, there on the trunk of a parked car, was a nest. Once I was sitting under a tree saying a prayer and when I finished, the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was a nest waiting for me.  

I loved those nests with all my heart. Over the years, as I failed one marriage and another failed me, and I clawed my way up out of the debris, I carried them with me.

Not so long ago, I visited a friend’s weekend country house. The house was rambling and filled with flower prints on the walls and on the sofas. There was a big kitchen with a big table around which her family, sons, daughters, their husbands and wives, grandchildren, her forever husband, ancient parents, gathered at holidays. And I thought, this house is her life’s nest, a place where her family can gather in one container, and she can count heads and hearts and smile on the new little ones and sit at one end of the table and be proud of what she has created with the man she loves, a geniune nuclear family, no divorces cracking them open. 

That’s what the nests meant to me, I realized, as I slept in a bedroom of that house, an outward symbol of that which had always eluded me and which I had wanted most of all once upon a time, a marriage held sacred because love was held sacred, the same children by the same father, holidays where all could gather in one place and I could count my blessings.  

The other day, one of the cats knocked a nest to the floor, and I was able to sweep it up and put it in the trash without tears. My young mothering days are over. My family is splintered. I won’t ever have the luxury of looking around at a big table at what I have created with the man I created it with. I failed at that particular dream.

And that’s ok. And that’s a miracle. And that’s a blessing.

Sing a song: partial journal entry: 12/20/07

Today I realized it’s finally over––that long, protracted period of grief I’ve been in. For a long time now, I haven’t worn black or scratched my face or wailed like women seeing their dead––but the grief was there––bearable, stiff upper lip,  no need to bother the neighbors. Like a scar one learns to ignore or a limp one forgets one has––the grief of the loss of my nuclear family, the family Karleen made with her second husband atop her first husband’s heart, dragging in her child whether she wished to be there or not, creating her son.

I pushed and pulled, worked and cried, ignored and dreamed to make that marriage work because I’d destroyed one to make one. So much investment of time and effort, so much giving up of hope and yet so much joy in mothering my children. Yes, that’s what I mourned––the marriage was the frame of my motherhood, and when it smashed, my motherhood was essentially over––though my son could have used some supervision and guidance, but I didn’t know how to mother a teenager––how to be quietly firm––hold fast in spite of his dislike––too wounded there myself.

Anyway, the grief is done. I got the rest of my life out of storage this week––the baskets I used to collect, baby clothes, glass blown brandy snifters from Murano––that time when I’d crossed my fingers that the marriage might make it. I got them out of a fifteen-year storage and am giving it all away––the first Christmas ornaments I ever bought at a Denton dime store, little objets d’art that are beautiful, books, my children’s toys, things, things, things.

All going away, out of my life, out of my psyche. I can’t put up a Christmas tree yet. Perhaps I never will. But I’ve moved on–-out of the valley, out of the shadow–-some subtle shift. Those days are gone, my mother days, my younger woman days, my own dear family days, and I gave them their due mourning. Much about them––my children––was absolutely beautiful, stunning, and it took me forever and fifteen years to sing the death song that had to be sung. I don’t regret a single thing––a single sad, distraught piece of it. It is my quilt–-my woman’s quilt––I make this life, the good and bad and sad and lovely of it. Sing a song of six pence, a pocket full of rye. four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie–-sing a song of Karleen. I have.