Yeah, I guess I’m doing ok
I moved in with the strangest guy
Can you believe he actually thinks
That I am really alive
I will buy you a garden
Where your flowers can bloom
I will buy you a new car
Perfect shiny and new
I will buy you that big house
Way up in the west hills
I will buy you a new life
Yes I will
Everclear, I Will Buy You a New Life
When I finished my Associates Degree in College, I decided to return to Chicago. Several other friends that had left, also returned about this same time, and a few particularly important people were there, having never left. I saw it as a homecoming. But looking back, I think something was slightly off. I returned to find some of the support, and some of the relationships.. but the environment had inexorably changed. Of course that is to be expected. Nothing stays the same. But that, right there, may partially explain the path I chose.
Within a few months, I started dating, fell in love with and got pregnant by one of those old friends. As that was occurring, several of the other important relationships began to crumble, or get lost, or simply fade away. This left me triply bound: for the first time in my life I needed to be able to wholehearted trust someone else. Not as a friend, but as a lover. Before that, all of my relationships had been, perhaps intense and perhaps serious at times, but nonetheless fundamentally independent. So now I needed to feel safe with dependency. Secondly, I was pregnant and the hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy fueled my insecurities. So I was not only fighting my personal history but my body chemistry as well. Third, that secondary support structure, made up of all my other old friends and lovers was slowly disintegrating before my eyes.
By the time my son was six months old, that network was completely gone, save for my little family, and two friends that I spoke with on occasion. I also now realize that I suffered moderately intense post-partum depression for perhaps as much as a couple years after my son was born. Who’s to say whether the depression led to the loss, or if the loss exaggerated the depression. As in most things, I think it was probably some of each – a vicious cycle that I had no way of breaking.
At the same time, I was convinced by my partner that we needed to change the way we lived. We couldn’t afford ideals and beliefs outside of the acceptable middle, because we couldn’t place our son in the position of being marginalized or discomfited by our behavior, beliefs or mores. At the same time – and I only see the irony right here and now – I was also convinced that marriage was neither appropriate, nor necessary for us. An outdated, religiously sanctioned, political scam of the highest magnitude.
Now I have to say that I am glad that this was the way of things. I do believe that characterization of marriage – at least for me – and I acknowledge now that what I really wanted was the drama of it all. The party, the social interaction, the gifts, perhaps. And It may be that the fact of our non-marriage may have been the one thread of WHOIAM that I managed to hold onto throughout that period of my life.
So we worked, and we saved, and we were responsible, and we didn’t delve too deeply into anything of substance. Every discussion consisted of what we’ll do some day, that projected time when we would have enough of everything to walk away from it and live like we wanted to once more.
Of course, this couldn’t go on for ever. Eventually, we were doing well enough that we left our cheap little house and our relatively modest lifestyle. Once again, our son drove the change: we wanted to be somewhere where we felt he would receive a superior education, be surrounded by other children of the ‘haves’ variety. And in the process we also opted for a home we could be proud of, that was much to large for us, but that therefore provided some of that status that we had previously eschewed.
There was a plus side as well. When we moved we also inserted ourselves heavily into a social group based within my honey’s workplace. They couldn’t supplant the ties that I had lost those years earlier – after all, how could these people really know me when I had buried myself beneath these many layers of appropriate behavior? But once again, I find it was a cycle. The social network in question involved a lot of less appropriate behavior. Alcohol tended to sit at the center of much of our interactions. Bars and Karaoke and parties and day trips to Horse racing… and as parts of my demeanor began to slide away, I started to become aware of the person beneath once more.
No surprise then, that this lead me to a new set of crises. Why am I not happy? I’m active, I have fun, I could blame it all on work (I had a job, at this time, that I loved for a year – but did for three.), but at the end of the day I knew there was more to it. I started to consult with myself again. I started to question the assumptions we had been living by for the previous eight years.
First came disgust. Disgust with myself for allowing this massive detour from what my life had been supposed to be.
Then came anger. At my honey for driving this detour. For constructing this twisted panorama of the world that we found ourselves imagining as real.
Then came terror. After all, ideals aside, I was still a single mother with a young son and a job that certainly wouldn’t last much longer. I didn’t own a single thing – it was all in his name. I had a spotty work history as I had made our son my top priority throughout his childhood. And a credit rating in the tank due to financial strains during my pregnancy. So what was I to do?
And so it went. I was rediscovering myself, but I found that even before I was lost, I had never really learned to trust myself. Intellectually, sure, but not emotionally. And if I cannot trust what I am feeling, how can I possibly endanger the well being of my child by making any sort of rash decision? For a year, more than a year, these thoughts consumed me. Driving an ever deeper wedge between my honey and I that he saw, but did not understand or know how to approach.
I finally found a bit of that trust. Or I finally could stand it no longer. I can’t really say for sure which. I sat down with him and explained to him how much I hated what our lives had become. How much I despised the people we had become as a result, and that I could not continue to live the lie anymore. Much to my surprise he agreed with me on every point – at least to a significant degree.
So we made the change. We sold our big house, left the heart of the suburbs and settled in a relatively small town to the west. But that is not the end of the story. In all truth, it is probably the beginning.