10 February 2012

A Room, A Cage, A World

I am on a house-sit assignment in Santa Cruz.  It's one of my favorite places to stay in CA. One of the two women who live here is a writer (not like me; she's a serious writer, i.e., she has novels for sale on Amazon) so the space is laid out to support writing and I like that a lot; including, lots of books and reference materials and pencils;  a garden that's big enough to walk through, with flowers as well as vegetables growing; and the lighting is perfect in every room. There's also a huge bathtub and a fireplace.

But there's no dryer. So forget about washing something last-minute. You gotta plan in advance around here. These women prefer sun- and air-dried clothing.

a pretty space somewhere in the world
The space I inhabit most of the time in Berkeley is not a favorite space. It's a space I'm grateful to have. It's not what I call "well appointed."  There's not one room in the house that receives direct sunlight and there is no water pressure to speak of.  Still, there's a baby grand piano as well as a washer and dryer in house and it's within walking distance of good markets, theaters and public transportation depots. The owner is fairly easy-going and the space is rent-free.

Earlier this week, I was disowned by family.  It was surreal to read the words "I never want to hear from you again" twice in one night from people I grew up with; but the pain was not sharp. What was sharp was the realization that this was, at last, the explicit statement of an old, tacit understanding.  The door was slammed in my face a long time ago but no one -- least of all me -- had the courage to call it what it was.

Sympathy and support from friends has been abundant and full on FaceBook since I posted the news of Mommy's diagnosis and being banished from the family on myWall, including expressions from women I haven't seen since high school. They were the cool, popular girls back then. I didn't think of myself as cool or popular. I believed I was invisible to them. I believed what my mother told me:  the "white" girls hated me even if their behavior said the opposite; and the "black" girls were either "fast" or "ignorant".

In other words, there was no one outside our house who could be trusted or loved.

In my bones, in my gut, in my heart, in my head...what she said just didn't seem possible. That no one in the world could be trusted or loved.

And yet

I also believed it was true. I was a child.

A year ago, I was still trying to bridge the decades-long gulf of estrangement between my mother and me. I was thinking of making a trip back to my hometown, talking to my mother face to face. My sister warned "Well, whatever you do, don't stop by Mommy's house unannounced. I hate to say it but she's likely to shoot you.  You are on her black list, there are guns in the house and she's capable of anything..."

Same sister who disowned me two nights ago.  Now I wonder whether her comments were based on credible evidence or just some of her own venomous feeling toward me leaking out.

Today, former high school classmates are sharing stories, their impressions of me and memories...  Their comments align with the way things felt to me then -- they really did respect my intelligence and talent; they didn't think I was ugly and they didn't hate me -- except I believed my mother more than myself.

I don't mind the current expressions of sympathy. I don't need them but I don't mind them.

I feel clear.  And free.  And affirmed after all this time.

So much doubt when really and truly my eyes and heart were working just fine.

And my journey to wholeness, my struggle to break and breathe free, to live the life I came to live, feels easier.

I am tired for now of living in other people's houses. No matter how generous the host or well-appointed the borrowed rooms, the arrangements are provisional, whether acknowledged outright or not. I want a room of my own.

I have it in writing now:  I can't go home again. I can stop looking over my shoulder. 

Breathing has been luxurious all day.

Now to find some money....