Another point of view

Growing up isn’t like in a movie…where you have a realization and life changes.  In life, you have a realization and your life changes a month or so later.

So I just have to wait a month?

It depends on the realization.  Some of them you only wait a couple weeks.

Gene Hackman giving advice to Meryl Streep in “Postcards from the Edge”.

So anyone who’s ever struggled with depression knows that it’s far too easy to go deep inside oneself and therefore be unable to view yourself clearly.  This is what therapists are for.  Therapists, the good ones, anyway, are the people who are not afraid to tell you you’re full of crap when you are, and to point out your gifts when you are convinced you have none.  I’m of the opinion I have a good therapist.  What’s so funny is the times she tells me the obvious, only I have my head so far up my butt, the revelation wasn’t obvious to me.  Today was one of those days.

I’ve spoken to her at length about my depression and mid-life-crisiness.  Today she referred me to a book she says is poorly written but has some insight into the different stages we women go through.  To simplify, we go through the maiden stage, the matron stage, then the crone stage.  My therapist then stated emphatically her dislike for the term “crone”, so she replaced it with “queen”.  At 41, I’m in the matron stage.  I am a wife, a mother, a breadwinner, a mortgage-payer, etc.  The time in my life for taking grand risks is seemingly passed.  I’m long past being able to quit my job and gamble that I’ll succeed as a writer, actress, director, whatever, since it’s incumbent upon me to pay the bills and support my family – hubs is 11 years my junior and, thanks to the economy tanking, is unable at this time to make a living in his chosen field. So he’s in retail hell and I’m an insurance broker.  And the crowd rejoiced.

My therapist spoke of the risks we take, and separated them into two classes….for simplicity’s sake, risk 1 and risk 2.  With risk 1, the young man climbs mountains, performs daredevil feats, etc.  The young woman, the maiden, risks her connection with her femininity by, in my case, attempting to become a model, actress, singer, etc.  The risks taken in risk 1 offer more immediate gratification, but is often shallow and fleeting.  Risk 2 is more long term, and deeper in meaning.  Gambling on a marriage, raising a child, taking on a $300k debt via a mortgage.  I won’t go so far as to say I’ve succeeded in risk 2, because it’s never-ending, but I can say I’ve at least taken those risks and, so far, am doing well.

Where my regret comes in, and what I need to come to terms with, is the risks I didn’t take when I was a maiden.  I know, duh.  I realized today I’ve been guilty of overlooking the risks I did take that have paid off.  If I’m to come through this, I need to build on these things.  Towards that end, a list.

  • My first trip to Europe was alone.  Though I stayed with my mother’s best friend in London, I spent four days alone in Paris, speaking just three phrases in french…”I have a headache”, “my name is…”, and “do you speak english”?)  It was terrifying at times, but I did it, and those are some of the fondest memories I have in life. Watching Quincy dubbed in German (wha?) in my tiny hotel room in Montmartre, visiting the Louvre, eating a sausage served in a fresh baguette on top of La Tour Eiffel (and calling my folks back in the states just so I could tell them, “I’m calling from the freakin’ Eiffel Tower!”), standing in the room where it was decided Joan of Arc should be canonized, then going to the top of Notre Dame de Paris and making friends with the gargoyles, walking down the Champs Elysees, climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and walking through the arch, and, my favorite, walking the grounds of Père Lachaise cemetery, and visiting the graves of Oscar Wilde, George Seurat, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein, and so many others.  The place was so beautiful, and I delighted in the sounds of the children playing in a nearby schoolyard.  I thought it a beautiful juxtaposition.  I spent the most time with Jim Morrison.  I sat next to his grave and wrote in my journal.  Even now, I’m still moved by my visit there.  Lastly, I recall my trip back to London.  I stood in the bar car and sipped a glass of white wine while eating the best damn chocolate croissant ever made and watching the french countryside whisk by.  While I’m so glad I went alone, I also came to appreciate why they say it’s a town for lovers.  I hope to go there with my husband some day.
  • Though I didn’t do have yet to do what I set out to do here, I did save up my money and move halfway across the country, to a place where I knew exactly one person, my brother, and build a life for myself.  Granted, it’s not entirely the life I want, but to start from almost nothing, in a strange city, is something to be proud of, I guess. Had I not done that, I wouldn’t have met my husband and I wouldn’t have my smart, beautiful and funny daughter.
  • I have a successful career.  Okay, this one is hard for me to stomach, but the fact of the matter is, as boring as my job is and as much as I despise cubicle living, I’m good at my job and well-respected by my peers and my supervisors.  I’ve gotten some very sweet notes from clients, past and present, thanking me for my expertise and guidance.
  • I’m a homeowner.  I honestly never thought I would be, especially in California.  I live in a house more than a century old, with all the charm of a craftsmen from the early 1900’s, but with updated plumbing and electrical, and three bathrooms.  THREE BATHROOMS!!!
  • I’m sober and  I quit smoking.  Though there are times I still really wish I could have a drink, I haven’t succumbed to temptation for 6 1/2 years now.  I haven’t had a cigarette in 8 years.
  • I’ve survived.  I’ve survived being sexually and or physically abused by five different people (to varying degrees) from the age of 6 to the age of 15.  I survived my boyfriend blowing his brains out.  I survived my own suicide attempt one month later.
  • Did I mention I quit drinking?  Yeah.  That’s a big one.

Maybe this list isn’t complete.  Maybe upon further reflection, I’ll find more to be proud of.  But the fact that I can even acknowledge these things when two weeks ago I was so despondent I could barely move, well, that’s something to feel good about, too, I guess.

Maybe it’s time to find a way to create new items for this list, despite the fact that I’m in “the matron phase”.