“Most writers write to say something about other people — and it doesn’t last. Good writers write to find out about themselves — and it lasts forever.” — Gloria Steinem
I have to admit it. Going through this divorce is one of the toughest things I’ve had to go through in my life. It really bothers me that some people think it’s easy and trite. It definitely is not. My marriage to Adam’s father was the most important adult-to-adult relationship of my life. So the the reason I’ve had trouble working and writing and responding to emails. So the reason that many of my usual tasks have easily slipped my mind. I’ve hesitated and hesitated — do I write about my personal life? Do I write at Adam’s peril? What do I keep and what do I reveal, for as a writer, I find it difficult to avoid the truth and the self and disguise it in fiction. I am not a fiction writer. Not yet, anyway. As for Adam and this divorce, as far as I’m concerned, I’m only interested in human dignity, and while truths emerge over time and perspective, Adam’s father and Adam’s mother deserve the best regard and respect for Adam’s sake.
I’ve hesitated about writing about myself too much for fear it may appear like “writing therapy.” But let’s face it: all reading and writing is “therapy” if it brings us to a greater awareness and understanding of ourselves. The best reading is the “a-ha” moment — a connection with an author’s observation. For me anyway, the best reward is when others express gratitude and connectedness to my writing. Another reward is a larger perspective of life and the world itself, and a growing compassion.
Adam and I must move houses. I’ve been preparing one since the beginning of March. This is also top of the stressor list (death, divorce, moving…). So again, if I haven’t responded to some of you, please do not take it personally. Thank goodness for the house, even if it’s all bittersweet. A house allows us to build again. It asks for creative energy. As a creative person, I’ve come to realize that I’ve had a desperation to build something lovely, something peaceful. It is only bittersweet because I am still living in the “matrimonial home,” which I built for my family and will soon have to leave. I put as much creative energy into that home too. Yet with Adam’s father now gone, there is a loneliness to it all.
As for work in autism, I do so again quietly. TAAP will have to reassemble. It’s website will remain up as I seek to find ways that outsiders can contribute to its growth more readily and easily. As I read Gloria Steinem, I related to this: “I had felt burnt out many times in the past twenty years, like so many people in social-justice movements — especially in the feminist movement, to which women bring the very training in selflessness we are trying to change — yet unlike other women with more self-vision, I believed so little in my own inner world that I couldn’t stop to replenish it. Like a soldier who is wounded but won’t lie down for fear of dying, I just kept marching. Why? Well, if I stopped, I would have given up the way I made myself ‘real’ — that is, by being useful to people in the outside world — just as I had made myself ‘real’ as a child by keeping so busy that I numbed the sad unreality at home where I looked after my mother… my image of myself was very distant from other people’s image of me; and that, in short, my childhood years — a part of my life I thought I had walled off — were still shaping the present as surely as a concealed magnet shapes metal dust.” (from Revolution From Within, preface).
Maybe you can tell where I’m going as I move through the fact that I had lived my recent life for Adam, and I, like so many other women, was taught that the only way to be a “good” woman or mother was to constantly work and serve, leaving myself to the very end, if at all. I am not at all complaining or suggesting this was or is Adam’s fault. All of it was my choice — to work, to serve — and I still intend to do so. It’s just that as mothers with disabled children, we have a tendency to throw our entire selves into our children. And why? Needs are higher, for certain. But I also wonder about the lack of social supports to help us out — lack of respite for the average family, lack of inclusion, services and so great a lack of understanding. How many years (since 2005) have I written this blog and written before this blog, trying, by gargantuan effort, to convince family, friends, schools and public, that Adam is indeed worthy and valuable as he is?
Was it worth it? I have no regrets. But work in social justice movements may come at a high price. Not paying attention to our own growth and nurturing our relationships also comes at a high price. How to mitigate it? I’m not so sure. I am not solely responsible for not nurturing it. I did what needed to be done. Adam still needs this to be done. I recognize that I also need to take care of myself for him. And that fine balance seems difficult for me to achieve. Or maybe I’m simply too hard on myself.
I’ve been called strong so many times. As I move through the pain and loneliness of divorce, sometimes it sounds like an easy write-off to me — “you are so strong, you’ll be fine.” I can’t tell if people say this to me because they fear my pain or just do not want to engage in it (understandably). I feel obligated to keep on a happy face for others, so I do not scare them away. Being a divorced woman comes with its share of stigma. All I can say is I recognize that my situation renders great discomfort in others and sometimes I cannot spare the energy to spare them, even though I try.
For certain, I’m learning so much. I’ve spent the day in my new garden, filling in gaps in the earth with new perennials, being with the plants and the earth, knowing they will grow and bring me pleasure with their life. The dirt beneath my fingernails and a sore back is also a reward — knowing that I’ve contributed to renewed growth. Gardening is a creative, hopeful act and a belief in the future. A sore and gritty body means I’ve done the work to nurture it. I do it as Adam is away this Victoria Day long-weekend with his dad. It gives me time to think.
I’m alone and I honour my relationship with myself and with Adam’s father to permit myself to mourn and learn as I dig deep. I believe that distraction is counter-productive. I believe that if things have to drop away for awhile, so be it, as I put my energy into rebuilding my life and making it as productive and creative as possible. I believe that, in the words of Noah Benshea, “strength is not the absence of weakness, but how we wrestle with our weaknesses.”
“I worshipped dead men for their strength,
Forgetting I was strong.” — Vita Sackville West