Monday, March 31, 2008

Having coffee the other day with my parents, I had a meltdown.

CNN ran the story of a young, middle-class family. Two kids. Two working parents. Lovely home. Then the husband and wife lost their jobs. Difficulties arose. The man walked out, leaving the woman alone with an adjustable rate mortgage that had just hit $2500/month and no income. No health coverage. She couldn't afford a minimum-wage job because it wouldn't even cover day care for the kids.

Her mother rented out her home and moved in to help with expenses. They couldn't get food stamps because she owns a home. So now, the guy's off starting his life over, making no contribution at all, and the woman is alone, struggling to keep the house and feed her kids and find a real job.

As I watched and listened, a stranger took over my body. She breathed hard and fast. She talked loud and didn't care how she sounded.

We, the stranger and I, turned to my dad and said, "This is why, Dad. This is why it matters that Bill Clinton screws around."

Dad's a diehard Clinton democrat. Not a fan of infidelity, but he doesn't think Bill's private life is relevant. And he doesn't understand why I don't admire Hilary for staying with him.

Using my voice, the stranger told Dad that when the leaders of a nation have bad morals, it's easier for the average person to have bad morals. It's easier for men to walk out on their families, easier for them to turn their backs on the women they promised to love, honor and cherish.

We raged. We raged. We raged about this unknown guy who left his wife holding the bag holding their lives and their futures and the trash he no longer carries to the curb on Saturday mornings.

I finally had to go to the salon. Halfway there, the stranger drifted through the driver's side vent and floated over to the walking trails in Burr Oak Woods, where she stubbed her toes kicking stones into trees.

Later that afternoon, I apologized to Dad for getting so carried away, and then spent two hours wondering where in the
world the rage came from. All this time, I've never spoken so out of turn. I thought...I really thought I'd turned it loose long ago.

No idea what to do with my the rest of my life. I think I mostly got married at 24 because it answered that question. I would be a wife. I would be a mother. I would be my husband's partner and we would build a life.

I walked, heel-toe, heel-toe, on that path for 16 years, until the day I was no longer a wife. For the next 14 years, I hauled ass down the path of being a mother. I'm still a mother, but one whose children no longer need daily care. A writer, sort of, but not really. A middle-aged woman who still has trouble speaking up for herself. One who once had a float in the parade and now sits on the curb, watching the bands march by.


mamatulip said...

I always find it interesting, in a deeply personal way, the things that really spark something from within.

Your last paragraph says so much...

luckyzmom said...

I'm inside watching the parade on TV.

And, oh yeah, I have always felt the same way about Clinton.

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with redefining yourself periodically. When we get mired in the doldrums, perhaps this is the universe nudging us toward a new identity.

And I have no quarrel with having an occasional conversation with one's alter egos.

I'm never alone. Always a crowd of folks in my head to talk to.

Anonymous said...


Like a friend once observed of me, your "raging" is pretty civilized by most standards.

I doubt Dad saw you as a raving lunatic. Perhaps it's your perception of yourself that's distorted.

Go Mama said...

Reminds me of the phrase, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it any more!" The question is, what the hell do I do now??!!

Sounds like you are heel-toeing your way in a new direction....

Carrie Wilson Link said...

God, how I love you.

I love your honesty.

I love that you care about these things, because we are all interconnected! It DOES matter!

I love that you have more questions than answers.

I just love you. Period.

Amber said...

This is beautifully written and expressed. You are SO a writer.

And isn't it funny the things that build up and come out, when we have thought we were just "fine" with it? Personally, I am also fed up with this crap of men doing as they please, and never being held accountable. Pft.


Deb said...

These transitions from one part of life to another are a bitch! But it is in the trough of transition that we find our real selves - the parts not defined by our roles. You may be sitting on the curb, resting and deciding which road to travel next, but you are by no means done my dearest friend. Sending love and light and arms of comfort.

Also, I'm thinking it's good for the rage to be released into the light of day so it can diffuse. If you were busy being a wife or a mom or another role, it wouldn't have found it's way to the surface.

It's all for your good.

Michelle O'Neil said...

I don't know if the average guy gets his morals from Bill Clinton but I know Clinton's actions blew it for Gore, and look at the mess we're in now.

BTW....I don't think your a "sort of" writer. I think you're a real one.

Jenny said...

I never understood how many people could separate Clinton's actions either . . . you either have integrity as a person or you don't.

Go Mama said...

I was going to add, you're not sitting on the curb watching the bands march by, you're probably just taking a breather!

And I love this evocative image:
"Halfway there, the stranger drifted through the driver's side vent and floated over to the walking trails in Burr Oak Woods, where she stubbed her toes kicking stones into trees."

Jess said...

Of course you are a real writer, no question. If you're not, I dont know who is.

And I'd be willing to bet that you raging is relatively unoffensive. Its alright to be passionate about things, and the ones we are closest to are so likely to understand and respect us for it. "Out of turn." What does that mean? Who else's turn IS it?

kario said...

What a beautiful gift that you trust your father enough to get into such an emotionally charged conversation with him and say what you really believe! I'll bet that even while he was disagreeing with you, he was proud of your ability to stand up for your own point of view.

Thatta girl!