Nobody ever actually came up with the idea of asking me to marry them. In the case of my first husband, I badgered him about getting married pretty much from the time we met. I was very young, and suffering the fresh injuries of having a mother who left my family on one side, and a father who chose to emancipate me on the other. I wanted to make my own family, so I badgered him about it all the time, until he finally asked me.
In the case of my second husband, who was very clear about never wanting to get married throughout our relationship, even after having a child together, it became a thing for me. A complex, I guess. Something about me was not good enough for marrying. It made me nuts. One night when we were on a date, he told me that a friend of ours who had been a confirmed bachelor was getting married, which sent me over the edge and I yelled, “if he can do it, why can’t you?!” right there at the bar. To which he replied, “Okay. I guess we can get married if it means that much to you.”
I’ve spent most of my adult life wanting to be chosen. Wanting to belong to someone, or something. And so I’ve convinced two men to take me on, and then I’ve given them everything I had of myself. I am good at wifing. I make comfortable homes. I keep bellies happy and full. I’m decent in the sack.
I’m good at mothering, too. If I include pregnancy, I’ve spent over eighteen years, which is just shy of half my life, mothering. 6 of those years I spent either growing babies in my body or nursing them outside of my body; literally making and feeding other humans from myself.
I’ve spent most of my life applying my energy to carving out places for myself and supporting the people around me. I’ve supported them so well that they feel absolutely entitled to me. I have literally given so much of myself, that there is nothing left. Nothing belongs to me. Not my house, not my car, not my supper, not my sleep, not my body. These things belong to my husband and children, but not to me.
When I ask for something, whether it’s a night off, or a day shopping, or a hand in the kitchen or foot rub at night, they question me. “Why do you need that?” I hear it in my head like, “Why can’t you do it all, all the time?” When I spend money on myself, it’s “Why did it cost so much?” Never mind that marriage and motherhood have cost me my identity as an individual. I’ve been reduced to a life-support system. The place that the food comes from. A piece of real estate that other bodies inhabit or visit sometimes. The fixture that is constant while everyone comes and goes and lives their lives.
When I wanted to belong, so badly, to someone else or to some particular structure, I lost sight of the fact that I had something that mattered more. Something that mattered the most. I belonged to myself. I thought I was missing someone or something, but I was, in fact, a whole person. I had interests and beliefs and a rich spiritual life, all of which have been set aside to do the intense job of being everybody’s everything, every day, all day long.
After a year of emergency and loss and crisis, I was finally just a hull. An empty husk. I stopped being able to feel anything, physically, a few months ago. I felt completely disconnected from my body. So I decided to run. I could feel that. The pavement. The burning. And I took back an hour of the day. Maybe some emails had to wait, or the dishes sat in the sink, but it put a drop back into my bucket.
I started paying better attention to the things I care about, and engaging in meaningful conversations with people who care about them, too. And that put a drop in my bucket.
I sat on a drainage ditch, and smoked with a friend and put a crazy orange streak into my red hair. Small, but important, acts of defiance. And they put some drops in my bucket.
Those things don’t mean I won’t get the emails done or the sink full of dishes. Or that the demands and needs that tug at me are going to change. But for now, when I am stretched thin and tight and going for 12 hours straight until I sink down at night, I will tell myself constantly, “I belong to me. I belong to me. I belong to me.” At age 37, I am realizing that I never really was chosen by the person who was the most important all along, and I can change that now and start choosing myself.