Thursday, August 15, 2013

Life in the Single Lane

I think I've been too elusive about our life circumstances and confused some people, so let me try and clear up any confusion.  My husband has moved back to Texas, San Antonio specifically, to help care for his brother as he makes the long journey back from a head injury suffered right after Thanksgiving last year.  He estimates he'll be gone two, maybe three, years.  So, I'm not buckling done for a slightly long vacation.  I'm buckling down for a notable separation.  I won't insult military families by likening it to someone being deployed, but there are elements that are similar.  You're not separated in terms of your marriage vows (if you catch my drift), you're not immune from the joint expenses you've always shared, but you lack that physical presence of the other person that causes us, as a species, to choose to mate to begin with.  It's not just sex that I'm talking about.  It's having a "helpmate".  I've said this before in this blog, it's about having the ability to turn to someone and say, "I'm out of milk (cat food, dog food, chocolate, whatever...), do you mind running down to the store and getting some?"  It's being able to turn to someone at a moment's notice and say, "I don't want to hang here tonight, let's go to a movie (baseball game, dinner, whatever...)." And maybe above all else, it's about having someone there when you're sad, mad, glad or whatever and being able to share that emotion and have them know where you're coming from.  So, as I make the adjustment - much different emotionally from the separation we had when I moved up here by myself for several months - it's likely that my posts will focus on that adjustment to being a not really single person, but not really not either.  If that seems like an awkward sentence, try living the life.

Anybody remember The Mary Tyler Moore Show?  If you do, you've dated yourself, so if you don't, you're probably in the ever-growing majority, but I do.  I was 10 when it came on the air as a groundbreaking series:  a show about an attractive, smart female choosing to live as a single career woman in the big city.  It was groundbreaking because it was using a woman to carry the series, but maybe more than that it was about a woman who was living on her own and being emotionally fulfilled doing it.  Or that's how I remember it anyway.  There had been other series in the sixties that centered on women, but there was always something to mitigate their single status.  That Girl had a committed relationship (even I at the age of six wondered why she never actually married the guy) and The Flying Nun was, well, a nun.   The difference was that Mary Richards was centered on her career, had her own circle of friends and had her financial independence with no man in the picture.  I remember her being so tidy.  Always neatly dressed in a lot of polyester and scarves, with perfectly coifed hair.  And I remember her apartment being so white.  I'm not sure it really was, but that's how I recall it in my mind.  Nothing ever dusty or dirty.  So, at an impressionable age, I was subjected to this image of what a modern woman should look and act like. Truth be told, I was always more attracted and in tune to the Rhoda Morgenstern character because she was boho chic before there was such a thing, and she was allowed by the writers a little more freedom to be a hot mess (again, as I recall it).  Anyway, I thought of the show the other night as I looked out at the big backyard I've inherited sole care of in the upcoming autumn months when leaves fall like ample rain and thought, if not for the dogs, I could really dig living in a little downtown loft because that's a much easier way to meet people.  But, that was just a passing thought, really born out of the dread of keeping up with all those leaves, work, football, hockey and more work and more leaves.  It came, it went, and I settled back in to liking my little cottage in the 'burbs.  Yet, the thought of the social significance of the show and it's impact on me, and millions of girls like me, lingered.  I've already pondered in here about the weight my generation carries on their shoulders of the feminists who came before us.  Well, it was shows like that where we cemented into our heads what single success should look like.
Rhoda played by Valerie Harper

I can tell you:  it doesn't look like that.  It looks like you with your hair tied back in a ponytail because there's no way you've got time to fix it.  It's shoes strung randomly from one end of the house to the other.  It's dirty dishes in the sink and clothes on the floor.  It's not really knowing what to do to stop the leak in the basement sink, so sticking a bucket under it so you can at least not waste the water.  It's deciding what's more important:  a day at training camp or cleaning the bathrooms, because there's just not time for both (hint:  the winner is NOT the bathroom).   It's being exhausted a lot of the time because there are only 24 hours in the day, and you've got to sleep at least five of them.  It's having a list a mile long of things you need to get done and can't quite seem to get to  And maybe more than anything it's being lonely sometimes and scared even at others.  But it's a life.  And it can, despite and maybe because of all the trials and travails, be a good one full of adventure.  So, as I embark on this new chapter in my life, that's what I think I have to realize.  This will be messy, but I've got to make it good as well.  If I can.

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