Plates, and glasses, silverware and pans, bowls and pots, all come out of the cabinets. I cook breakfast. Then wash the dishes, maybe I put them back in the cabinets. A few hours later plates, and glasses, silverware and pans, bowls and pots, all come out of the cabinets or dish drain, I make lunch wash the dishes, maybe I put them back in the cabinets. Then at dinner, plates, and glasses, silverware and pans, bowls and pots, all come out of the cabinets and dish drain, I wash the dishes, don’t put them back in the cabinets. Boring right? Boring to read, boring to do. I think of all the women in all the kitchens over the years. I don’t think of the ones who are happy doing this, who enjoy cooking and taking care of their families, I think of the ones who don’t and do it anyway.
I think of all the horror housewife stories I’ve read and movies I’ve seen about women stuck in unfulfilled lives they hate, going mad and even killing themselves. I collected them, Madame Bovary, Wifey, The Awakening, Revolutionary Road, kept them on my bookshelf to remind me of what I didn’t want.
But somehow, (maybe because I never thought about what I did want) even though I didn’t go the traditional route of the house in the suburbs with kids, for a good part of my existence I still found myself trapped in an unfulfilled life, going mad like all those women in all those novels. It was when Jon gave me the use of one of his barns as a studio and began encouraging me to make my art that I started to claw my way out.
And I’m not complaining, ( or don’t mean to be) and I am so grateful to have Jon back home healing and getting better and better everyday. And I know it could be so much worse, that so many people have it so much harder that I do. And there have been many surprisingly wonderful things to come out of Jon’s Open Heart Surgery. But if I’m going to be honest, (an apparently I am) this past week or so of taking care of Jon at home I can see that, as a caretaker, I’m easily frustrated, not very patient and often irritable. And Jon is not the kind of man who wants to be waited on or taken care of, (one of the patients wives in the hospital told me how her husband didn’t want to ring for the nurses because he didn’t want to bother them, but was happy to have her do everything for him or have her call the nurse) he wants his independence back as quickly as possible and is getting it. But I thought this morning, that if I did have to do this long term, that I might become like one of those women in one of those novels again.
I remember seeing an After School Special (remember them) on TV when I was a teenager. It was about an unwed mother trying to finish high school and take care of her new born baby. At one point the baby is crying and the girl picks it up and shakes it to make it stop. Soon after that she gives the baby up for adoption. It’s the only scene from the movie I remember, but I do know I thought that it’s exactly how I would feel if I had a baby. And I know this is one of the reasons I never had children. Because I did not see myself as someone who could be there so totally for another person.
So I don’t know if it’s just who I am, or if it’s because I gave so much of my life away before meeting Jon, that no matter how much I love Jon and want to take care of him and want him to be healthy and happy, I’m not willing to give up my life to do it. And I know he wouldn’t ever want me to. But still it seems so selfish to me to feel this way. And not something I wanted to admit to myself or anyone else. But it is the truth.
And now, after finally acknowledging it, saying it out loud to Jon and writing about it, I realize that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. That part of loving someone else is being able to love myself just as much. And loving someone else doesn’t mean giving up my life for them whether it’s a child or a spouse whether they’re healthy or not. And that selfish feeling, well I guess it’s going to come and go for a while, but I think ultimately, it won’t win out over the truth. And the truth is that I’m not willing to give away my life like I have in the past. And I’m not going to swallow arsenic or drown myself in the ocean because, unlike those women in those novels, I have choices and at this point in my life I know what I want as much as what I don’t want.