What About Me?
It’s 1984, I am divorced again. I have just moved again. My life is changing again. But this time I am older and wiser. For once, I know that I have done all my jobs and done them well.
“What about me?” whispers my little girl voice. The voice I hear again and again. The one I have muffled over the years when I don’t use all my energy to stuff it down. It fights with the other voices that echo in my head …
“Sweetie, you must be doing something wrong,” my father said.
“If only you acted different, he wouldn’t drink or beat you,” my mother said.
“If you divorce him you can never re-marry or you will be excommunicated from the church and you’ll to Hell,” said my priest.
“If only I’d have picked better men as husbands, my children could have had a more stable upbringing.” The persistent voice wouldn’t leave me alone.
“You are leaving him? And him? And him.
Being cautious was new, I was used to leaping not looking.
What I know best is that even though I have tried to fit the mold of the All American Family it has fractured my spirit. I do better alone. I go to bed at night to sleep deeply and well, rather than pacing and worrying by the window. I go to bed with a book and a cup of tea (and my M&M’s), rather than wrestle around in a heated attempt to have my sexual needs met as he is having his met, at home or elsewhere. It’s just easier to give in and get the sex over with when I am tired, and all of the romance is gone.
Now, when I want to go somewhere, I walk out, shut the door behind me without discussion, and drive my own car without permission. Now, when I hear the “What about me?” whisper, I know I will do something I have never done before.
But first, I must spend another day on the telephone earning a living. It’s the last day of the Recruiting and Sales Drive at Act ll Jewelry. I need to talk to the managers who work in my group to spur them on. “I know you can do it! Get those last sales mailed in! Sign up just one more recruit!” In turn, the twenty managers will call their subordinates with the same chant. Seven hundred of us, a pyramid of women making money for “the man.” We operate like a well-oiled machine.
We did it! Most of my managers are winners. This is a company record. Many of these women, mostly housewives, will be making the first trip in their life on their own. I arrange for the supervision of my house and two sons who still live at home. I pack my bags and we sail away on the incentive trip, a cruise to the Caribbean. It is a working cruise for me. My job is to schmooze, to congratulate, to recognize, and to inspire every winner for the next incentive. I couldn’t ask for a better place to work than on this cruise ship, but by now I am exhausted and tired of talking.
We shop the streets of Cozumel and visit the Mayan Ruins. In Jamaica, we cool off at Dunn’s River Falls. Our ship docks at Georgetown, Grand Cayman, our last port of call. By now I’m drained and exhausted. “You all go ahead,” I tell my team after our lunch at the Beach Colony Hotel. ” I am just going to walk the beach and be alone.” This is huge for me—ever the caretaker and nurturer, to take time for myself.
Seven-Mile Beach … My feet squish into the hot, white sugary sand. The turquoise water draws me. I float and drift, weightless and carefree. Finally, I coax myself out of the warm, crystal-clear sea and walk down the beach. Solitude. Joy wells up in me like a concert of Beethoven’s Ninth. “This is the place! This is the place you have always dreamed of; this is the place where you can write your book,” the voice again, now confident and clear. Dragging my camera out of my beach bag, I snap a picture of a small cottage on the beach beneath stately Australian pine trees. Someday, I will own a home on this island, I promise myself. No, too vague. I teach goal setting, I know better. I affirm Within twelve years, I own a house on this island.
Back home, I place a picture of the cottage on my desk and another in my daily planner. Each day as I gaze at the photo, I picture myself there in the turquoise water, my feet tingle in the warm sand as I repeat my affirmation. Within twelve years, I own a house on this island.