Monday, June 13, 2005

Thriving in Neglect

You were so fond of saying that the thing you liked most about your garden was that it could thrive in neglect. You loved the phrase, thrive in neglect, and when you said it you felt a twisted pride that something so beautiful, so over-grown, so faerie-strewn, tree-toppled and plant-mangled could survive without any attention from you. That aside from a little water it demanded nothing.

You liked things that thrived in neglect. You liked your daughter's pet snake because it lived in pure silence and you could forget that it was there. Aside from the occasional trip to Petco for live baby mice, you could ignore it completely. You liked your cats for the same reason. You can't even remember the last time you fed them though someone in your family must have because they're still alive. Same with the dog. You checked his water when you remembered and tried to remind yourself to feed him when your husband wasn't around, but you didn't touch him much, didn't let him lick you or anything like that.

You appreciated friends who didn't need much extra handling. The ones who didn't mind when you didn't call them for weeks and months, friends who could just pick up where you left off, who didn't whine for more time, who forgave you when you forgot their birthdays.

You didn't think getting married would require too much. It would be like meeting another salmon in the stream and just running the same route together. What fun. You liked your independence and your husband, an artist, was an independent guy, a night owl who liked making art and jumping on his motorcycle at midnight and riding off into the forest, a guy who liked going to raves and all night parties, who didn't mind that you didn't join him, a guy who was more married to his art than anything. His focus gave you the freedom to keep yourself as separate as you pleased.

Until the day he told you that he felt neglected by you. He'd found a phrase in a book that said that in every relationship there is a fuser and an isolator and you resonated with this new tag, isolator. Honestly, though you felt a little like the meanie, it was so much safer to be that one than the other. On the other hand, you couldn't help yourself, you were, by nature, this way.

Having kids was a push. In your original fantasy you were surrounded by your beautiful, children, but in a quiet way. You were together but no one was pulling on you or spilling things on you. Your image of motherhood resembled more of a still life; a pretty picture with everything in its place. But these children needed so much. At first it was just the breast and you managed that pretty well, especially if you got to sit on the couch while you did it and watch Baywatch, which you had never watched in your life and which seemed full of pathos and purpose.

But of course they needed so much more and you found yourself retreating, backing yourself up into work and before too long you became a really busy girl. Workaholic busy. Angry, frustrated, freaked out busy. Lock your office door busy. Let the children watch TV. for hours busy. Tuna sandwiches for dinner busy.

You longed for your isolation, the quiet and the space that allowed you to think. Your temperament was not suited for the loud and messy madness of motherhood. Like your own father who liked being in proximity to his family but not actually interacting with them, you liked knowing your own people were there, but you needed more walls,

You took to wearing that old, beat up jacket with the skull and crossbones on the lapel, the one you stole from your husband with the words Death As Your Advisor, printed above the skull. The jacket and your cowboy boots brought on a calm, familiar, detached feeling. You could breathe again.

Still, something needled you, you wondered if you were neglecting the kids. But as much as you promised yourself that you would spend more time with them you found it hard. You gravitated to your office. You told yourself that they seemed to be thriving despite you; one had become a little soccer champion and the other had a flair for the stage. Still, you wondered, oh stop, you knew; like your wonderful, wild garden, they too seemed to be thriving in neglect.


jill said...

insightful... This really makes me think! Thank you for always being so truthful in your writing.

Dale said...

Parenthood is a serious trauma for us isolators. A whop upside the head. I'm grateful for it but I'm not asking for more :-)

Lovely writing.

Sounds to me like the kids are doing fine. But the busy -- that doesn't sound so good.

Bilby said...

And they told me in school that second-person writing was stylistic suicide. Well, that worked for me. Thank you.

I would be honoured if you would consider contributing to my site.

It needn't be a fantasy of "a life completely out of reach". Perhaps your dream is your reality.

Anyway, thank you. And all the best.

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joy madison said...

sorry you got spammed. I love this post. I am there with you isolator and all. I love your writing! Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

gkgirl said...

i thought you were gone
i tried to read you for a couple of days
but nothing would come up...

i got a little butterfly
in my stomach
today when i clicked on you

and there you were

Dale said...

Yes, I was getting a blank page too, but now it's back, hurray!

Kathryn said...

blank page for me too. happy to see things up and running again.

Kathryn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

What it is, sister. Thanks for the affirmation that you give so dependably.

Karen F.

Anonymous said...

Your candor, well it certainly brings me into your clever way of being honest.
Just love to read what youu write

Jen Jen