I have a little book with me. The first entry is dated 27/07/2000, 19 years ago and 7 months into our setting up our business together with a family of four, the youngest of which was 4 years old. My thoughts were naturally revolving around my children. I can see that I am concerned with how I was spending my time with them, but also, even then, with how to be me. I write
‘The Art of Living – ways of being with children, not using the time to educate them, actually showing them yourself‘ I go further ‘How to make a job/career of that time’ Then I add ‘Therese’s mum’s books, measurements, samples of threads garments made..‘ I finish with the phrase ‘Knitting Life’. I am concerned with childcare, finances, a lack of external input and a desire to pursue my creativity, somehow still trying to link it to my family responsibilities.
It seems to me that as then, is now; the same questions arise for me. Perhaps they always will, who knows? They are how to be fully myself whilst being in relationships with others. How to manage their demands and desires. How to fully live and love and what will sustain and support me if I try a different path to that shown me by my own family.
This book remained untouched for another 14 years, the next entry is:
Lisbon May 2014
The Fuck It Holiday
If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work
I see myself setting the scene and the expectations for this time for myself. The voice is much more certain and calm, less worried about getting it wrong. More capable of understanding my own needs. But if the truth be told there is some desperation in that voice too.
I speak in this entry about feeling confident in hotels for the first time and of my connection to a disenfranchised part of myself that until this moment ‘had had no expression, been allowed no space, had no other home’.
I finish the page with the following questions: Caliban’s parents, who are they? The Bad Mother. I am still working with the same questions here. The Bad Mother referred to is a woman who had 5 children by different fathers but who brought them all home to be looked after by the father of the oldest. In a Council house in Bury St Edmunds she had her own room, only lived in during her confinement, sacrescant whilst she was away, causing the children to be bunked in together regardless of age and gender.
I confess now to having had a sneaking admiration for her clarity about what she wanted from the situation, it was a guilty feeling as, after all those poor children and the effect it had on them. Now though a new analysis enters my head. This story was told by my ex about his friend who was one of these children and his ex girlfriend who was the youngest of them. Now I wonder about what wasn’t included in the story.
Another section from this time details the end point of that relationship. A visit to the beach for lunch led to my ex husband storming out of the restaurant in anger, leaving me to find my own way back to the hotel (2 hours away by train, metro and bus). I hadn’t stopped painting my little toenails purple, and when he saw this he was furious. Dear reader, I had thought about it but knew that this part of myself that was represented by His request to paint them to remind me of who I was when we were apart had to come with me on this next journey for my husband and I if our relationship stood any chance of healing. It was apparent to me from his reaction that this was not going to be possible and I had a decision to make. Whether to get back onto the path that was seen by most as the right path or to continue further on the unknown path, my own path less travelled. Away from the restrictive structure I had helped to build to keep me safe from my wayward self, my bad mother, my slut, my whore, my unredeemed self and risk my reputation, good standing in my safe but ultimately selfless world,
‘Another lesson learnt. Left again, this time by the beach, something to be grateful for I guess. So angry and left with that too. Lost. I lost a lot that day and the one before. Christine’s lovely scarf, my pride, a thousand little cuts, a thousand shreddings so painful, humiliating. Almost unbearable. Razor sharp, unthinking, unkind.
From this moment things take a bizarre turn. I realise that I have travelled here on my son’s passport not my own. I am unable to leave the country without my own passport, I have to stay until it can be sent out to the hotel and then I can board a plane home. This gives me three unexpected days of freedom in Lisbon. it also gives our friends the first inkling that things are seriously wrong with our relationship. It is not lost on me that my husband actually left me twice at this point, and it came after many other threats to leave me before then, and yet, in the end, I was the one that had to do the leaving and still, to this day, bear the responsibility for this.
On Monday 19th May 2014 I am still in Lisbon. I walk for miles wearing shoes that are not suitable for such punishment and with sore feet I seek a seat in the Cathedral.
‘I sit on a seat worn with centuries of use and pray
– dear God, please help me – I don’t feel like I have done anything wrong and yet I have broken vows, betrayed my husband and committed adultery. And yet. It sitll seems to me to be a worse sin not to follwo my curiosity,, not to fully explore what it is to be me. Not to cut loose the tangled and deeply constraining bonds I had been wearing day and night and replace them with the ones I choose. Ones I consent to, in a specific time and place, and ones that were taken off and the marks massaged out.
There’s a long, low light through a rose window which bathes me in its glow, Stone worn, smooth with pilgrims, and sinners alike, they are drawn to this house that hums with prayers murmured on tongues and in minds for centuries. All of us falling short, all of us gloriously flawed, all of us trying imperfectly and failing over and over again, all of us good enough.
I breathe this in, this air, with its sherry-like vibrancy, thick, scented and fortified. The Host’s lights are not lit but their glow, as the sunlight dips and touches each red glass is reflected in my smallest toes’ purple nail varnish. I take it as a sign. I remember it always.
There is a happy ending. I fly on the wings of Elpis (Hope) and I perch on His arm on my return. Today I write this on His laptop, brought for me to write on as He rests and grins His approval of me. No constraints without consent. And love, always love, in action, which is worth much more than words to me now.