12 hours ago I did a final walk through with my friend, and new landlord. The hard wood floors shone with fresh varnish. I had butterflies in my stomach with the excitement of leaving this place, of starting off new. And now sleepless with imagining where I will put the dog crate or my desk, or if the movers will help me put together the spare bed my friend left behind, I decide now is as good a time as any to update my address on the dmv website. I will be without internet for several days.
The dog has crawled under the warm down, burrowing next to me for warmth, this pleasure of having a short haired dog; she rests her chin on my bare feet as I pat her skinny little backside.
I feel like a box full of sunshine, my rays all spraying out of the cracks, like a tin lantern.
This last year has been a slog, I have trudged through it, holding on sometimes, like fingers scrambling on rock, at times my soul has felt bloodied and raw. Or wound tight, talking too loud, being too much on edge, hard and brittle and cracked just a little. My therapist assures me that I am quite sane, and an easy client. I love that. But here is what I love best, I have left this relationship with integrity. We both knew it was over, a while ago. And he has helped me pack, we have had open and honest discussions about how it was going to go. I still will, for the time being, have keys to his house; he still will, for the time being, dog sit if I need it. And every step of the way, I have informed him of my choices and what I would be doing. I have consciously done this. Because leaving a relationship any other way is cowardly and immature; packing your bags and leaving without warning or saying goodbye, is weak and pathetic. I am none of these things. And when you leave someone this way, it is a brutal, heartless and cruel way to treat them, it results in unbearable pain, no understanding of the meaning behind it, and a vile anger.
My brother had a friend, who, many years ago, came home from work, or a weekend away, only to find that his girlfriend had left him. She took everything, including the toilet paper hanging on the roll. And there were people, who advised me to do the same. But i remember thinking, then, that it was a pretty heartless and petty way to go about leaving a relationship. Is this what I wanted to do? The message about myself that I wanted to show the world?
I am better for having done it this way, I am better for knowing that my strength and integrity will always carry me.
I feel like my tin lantern is made of tempered steel.
Respect is defined as “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability” by dictionary.com.
“To respect a person is not possible without knowing him; care and responsibility would be blind if they were not guided by knowledge.” ~ Erich Fromm
“If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.”
~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“On a practical level respect includes taking someone’s feelings, needs, thoughts, ideas, wishes and preferences into consideration. It means taking all of these seriously and giving them worth and value. In fact, giving someone respect seems similar to valuing them and their thoughts, feelings, etc. It also includes acknowledging them, listening to them, being truthful with them, and accepting their individuality and idiosyncrasies.” S. Hein
I don’t know how to write about respect. I look for clues, about it, why do we come to respect someone, how does someone fall out of respect. What does it mean to behave respectfully, what is the role that fear plays in obedience, and what is the role that respect plays in it? Is respect always tied to submission? Or if the respect goes both ways can both sides be willing to submit to the will of the other? What must I do to get respect?
I spent the whole afternoon thinking about this, about respect, about how to write about it. I think about the significant men in my life and what respect means to me in regards to them. Men who cheat on their wives, or leave their spouses out of selfish disregard, low on the respect pole. Men who openly look at porn, less respect. Men who hide out of fear and anxiety, low low low on the respect pole. Men who abandon their children (and then blame it on the woman, no respect whatsoever). Men who will raise another woman’s child as their own, high respect, but will hit the road and never look back when the going gets tough, sinking down again. Men who treat their woman well, high respect, men who treat those weaker than them badly, including animals, low respect.
And what of women? Does a woman who has a baby out of wedlock deserve respect? What if that child turns out to be well raised, is her esteem then re-granted? What if, the woman does not value her children’s judgment, intelligence, and choices? Or her spouses? How does a woman earn her partner’s respect? How does a mother earn her children’s respect? Does a divorced woman deserve respect? (this comes from an article I read in the Huffington Post at Thanksgiving about how divorced adults are forced to sit at the children’s table during the holidays, because they are now an unmarried – GAH!) Once lost, why is it hard to regain respect? Or is it? How does a woman get the respect of her man?
You see, I find it hard to write about it because I have so many questions.
I have been rewatching Firefly the last couple days, and I think Mal is an excellent example of a fictional character who behaves respectfully (in some ways) and is respectable. It is a thing about honor, keeping your word, loyalty, and looking out for those who are in need, less fortunate, down trodden, there is also a strength, the ability to stand naked in front of those that know you, an absolute unwillingness to hide in the face of fear, the ability to return to those in your charge, a bold faced up frontedness. I say sometimes he behaves respectfully because he always calls the woman he is in love with a whore, which ultimately she is one, but it shows a great disrespect to call her this, and she lets him know so, but when a “client” grabs her arm and orders her to his side like she was his dog, Mal stands up to him, and demands that he treat Inara with respect.
So what of me, am I deserving of respect? There are those who have treated me with no respect at all. I find sometimes that the whole single parent thing is looked on as though I am not deserving of respect. We have what we call the divorced women’s club at school, and when we hold ourselves up to the long list of Catholic women at our building who are still married to their high school sweethearts, we feel as though we are not respectable, though mostly it was the men who behaved badly, far more than us. (one’s husband cheated numerous times, one’s husband is a man whom I have no respect for whatsoever for reasons I cannot go into, but trust me he doesn’t deserve it, and then me, my story told a million times. Man “doesn’t” cheat on wife, with woman he knew since he came to this country, man “doesn’t” leave her for someone else, but miraculously is in a relationship with this woman days after leaving wife, man allows the wife to suffer forever with the lies completely lacking the balls to admit his infidelity, and don’t even get me started on her stalking and bothering me, man is such a chicken he cannot ever speak to wife ever again. No no no respect.) and the fact that it still makes me angry after three years, can I ever get over it? God do I even deserve to be respected at all?
I respect myself though. I am strong, I am smart, I am creative, no I am not perfect but I try, I am kind, honest to a fault, loving, genuine, giving, have a great integrity, try to be peaceful, and green. And here I am thinking of all of my faults, maybe a little lazy at times, not generous enough, sometimes insecure, although far less so than in previous lifetimes. Creative but not much perseverance on self promotion, nor on maintaining a strong work ethic when it comes to making art, though a strong work ethic when it comes to work. I arrive on time, I do my best to be a good teacher, I don’t take a lot of sick days, I continue to learn and grow, my plan book is a disaster, and disorganized. Yes, yes, see always back to the faults. Do faults make me less deserving of respect? According to one of the quotes above, acceptance of idiosyncrasies is part of respecting a person. Are not my peculiarities of personality, my quirks, all additional definitions of idiosyncrasy? And am I not worthy of respect simply based on my honor, integrity and fortitude? Without regard to say talking in my sleep, or belching, or unwillingness to dress like the way someone else thinks I should?
And what of the pirate? Speaking of idiosyncrasies, of which he has many. But respect, long in coming, built nacre layer on nacre layer, on the grit of who he is, respect is there. The more I see, the more respect I have, and here it is, for me laid out bare, like naked Mal, right in my face, bold and unafraid, more than I have ever had for any man. Ever. Yes more than my father, because there was fear mixed in there, and more than my Grandfather, who though a respectable man, did not actually earn respect from me, over time, it was just there by the time I became aware, and he carried it. That’s it. It was just there. And here I am face to face with my pirate, and I find myself noticing that the respect is there. it is like a smooth stone that I have just discovered in the pocket of my jeans, I reach in and find myself touching it, and turning it over, and trying to get a feel for it. And suddenly I think, I am too, deserving of his respect. And I find myself expecting it, not in a bossy way, but in the way of my actions, of making it clear when I don’t feel respected, and his honest and forthright response, engendering even more respect from me. It is a cycle, now self powered, the more I respect him, the more I feel I deserve, the more I expect it, the more he gives it, the more he warrants mine.
I like this. It is working for me.
But I still have to think about it more.
It is a challenging thing to ponder, particularly in this world, where respect, and respectability is so rare.
“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are. “— Arthur Golden
First the rain came in sheets, then the wind. I could hear my trash cans being battered by it. The house being buffered by it. In the early morning, just after dawn, I was out picking up the carefully broken down cardboard, and aluminum cans and newspapers that had spread across my lawn in the night. I found a sheltered spot, by the burning bush and firmly pushed the can and blue bin into the snow, it still rests safely there this afternoon.
I had a crazy dream last night, a recurring one, in which my community is being overrun by a fierce monster, sometimes a T-Rex, a behemoth that I cannot see, but I hear it and know it means danger. Last night it was some combination of a T-Rex, Robot, and Alien (the one from the series of movies with Sigourney Weaver) that had a blood sucking appendage. I ran this time, sometimes I stay behind to fight or die, or hide, but this time I ran. I ran along a deserted road until I came to a swampy area, I saw a fox and then somehow ended up in the water with the fox grabbing onto me desperately, pawing me and wrapping his forelegs around me so he wouldn’t drown. A man I knew from the town came along on a bike and he stood on the brief shoulder of the country road giving me advice, but not actually helping me. Escaped from the danger of a building crushing, blood sucking monster only to be nearly drowned by a mangy fox, and the only help forthcoming from any man is words and no physical assistance, typical of my life.
As I drove into the windy morning, the grey clouds were flying across the sky and impossibly big bold patches of blue bursting through. Somehow this started my mind on thinking about overcoming adversity, and in surviving against challenging obstacles. They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. They say that you are given spiritual obstacles in order to grow in strength. They say that life’s difficulties should make us better, not bitter. I don’t know why this popped into my head, maybe the stormy day, maybe the dream of survival against the biggest of obstacles, the craziest of circumstances. But there it was.
How much of a challenge this life can be sometimes, and yet I realized that I was really lucky in one way. I am strong, I have pulled myself through some really difficult things, and I have carried my daughter a long way by myself. I think sometimes the greatest weakness is also the greatest strength. I go into the last half of my life, sometimes fearful of the spider belly alone, sometimes angry about the scorpion tailed past, sometimes nostalgic for the cotton candy taste of the good times. I marvel at women who won’t drive in the snow, whose husbands and cousins deliver them on terrible days. I marvel at people who have rides and hand holders at serious medical appointments, and women who say “I shouldn’t have to work, that is my husbands responsibility.” I find myself confused when a woman’s husband dies and they have to have relatives stay with them, because they don’t know what to do, women who have never driven, or paid a bill in all their lives. I cannot fathom how a person could be like this, how do they survive? How on earth do they make it through the hard times, how do they face the dark and vast alone, that belly shaped cave full of spiders?
Sometimes I do wish someone would not just give me advice from the side of the road, that I wouldn’t have to run from the scary monsters by myself, but that someone would take my hand and run with me, and jump in to pull the mangy fox off my back. But only sometimes. Today I am so thankful, not just that I am strong enough to survive scary robot alien T-rex creature, and mangy drowning foxes, but also that I know I am.