Monday, May 8, 2017

Longing for Ghosts

Something has cursed me, has dogged my steps, has driven me mad. This thing is a blight on my psyche, a wound with jagged edges that refuses to heal. Oh it can heal but it refuses to. It is so ingrained in culture yet I see no evidence for its continued existence. It's nostalgia for a golden calf, my golden calf, the image of my devotion and obsession, the deepest pain of my heart where I succumb to the allure of something that doesn't exist for me or my children. Nostalgia for the non-existent, the overly dead, the fake.
This golden calf can be found here:

This image, a longing I've written about before, still tugs me, as in, I sob over it. Even though I never saw the sustained physical manifestation  of this image, I was recently talking to a friend about how I used to cry when I'd see an intact family. It still carries a pang when I see others in an intact family...not that I am immune to the struggles and complications of life with a partner and children thrown in, but that the longing of my heart to both be, and have someone be, a place where I do not have to doubt I am loved is strong.
It feels like a terrible burden at times. After my second divorce, I had no overwhelming urge to bring a partner into my life. My children and I had/still have a lot to sift through. My life is so full I don't even know if I have room for a partner at this time.There has never seemed to be the right combination of personality and circumstance. Most days, it doesn't even cross my mind.
At one point, my life looked like this:

I cannot stomach the woman I once was, the woman who sacrificed a lot of her own needs and her children's needs to feed the grandiosity of a  man. Now, I am thrilled to not do that and I enjoy my children a lot more and can be more present to them without the complications a relationship can bring. That being said, I'm pretty sure I'd be happy to welcome a man who can be an asset instead of a liability, someone who could add to our lives instead of dragging us down. 
But it is a point of grieving for me. I loved the role of wife and mother. I loved having someone come home to me, or me come home to them. I love family as a general institution, the idea of supportive fathers, and the concept of loving husband. I know others have them. Because of my life experiences, I will always associate family with "broken". My children will associate family with broken, too, and we still talk about their unique longings for a whole family.
I don't know if we talk about these things as much as we should. I don't know if these pictures of nuclear families are part of cultural or biological programming, or if they simply represent a harmony, a wholeness that me and my children lack.  I don't know if these pictures are confronted as often as they should be for what they are. They aren't lies, per se, but they do carry longing and grief...longing for people who model mutual respect, wholeness, and the sanctity of love. This nuclear family concept has surely been crumbling for a long time, and it has many enemies that actively work to make it difficult. Not impossible, but harder than before. And that takes for granted that the woman is respected, which we know was not true in the 50's. Domestic violence in that rigid of an image was just swept under the rug. For that reason, I'm angry about the image and think it's stupid, the same way I get mad at people who wear the t-shirt or display the bumper stickers but in their doing are opposite of the image they project. I have come to despise images without substance, even my own.
We don't always get what we want, and while my head says "we make our own family", my heart longs for the security of trust in that kind of love and grieves for what might have been. Image or not, for me it is the opposite of brokenness and pain. Happy faces surely knowing they are loved.
It's odd to have a nostalgia for something you don't have, have never really had, have never been able to give to your children due to poor choosing.
I give them what I give them- a woman who would move heaven and earth for them. That is what family does...unselfishly. I would not be the kind of parent or grandparent who is rich because I'd be busy giving it to my kids for their needs. No man, in or out of the picture, will move that from them. Because I am their mother...their family.

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