Un Espirit Indomptable

This part of my life is the montage. Like in a movie, you know? It would show me like, dropping off my daughter at school, picking her up, avoiding doing laundry until the last possible second, working, going on walks with my small dog, staring pensively out over various natural landscapes, etc. Then the next thing you know, a year has passed and I'm like, packing my suitcase to start my new job in Dublin or something.

But real life doesn't have montages. We don't have the technology. I looked into it, and the closest thing might be a drug addiction, but that comes with its own risks. If this were me before I had the world's greatest child, I would just pack my bags and go. Believe me, if I could I would be on the next plane out of here just for a breath of fresh air and some company. The other day when everyone had left for school and work, I actually looked up same-day plane tickets to New York City, just to see what it would cost to hop over there, grab some drinks, crash on the couch of a girlfriend who lives in Brooklyn, and fly back in the morning. (It was too expensive.)

This is a really difficult process. This whole year so far, every single day has felt about three days long. Maybe I really should read some Kafka, but I have too many other books I need to get through first. I keep picking up my copy of Man's Search For Meaning, and I only get through a few pages at a time before I have to put it down again. It's such a little book, but it's very heavy. Did you ever see Shoah? I got it from the library back in college, it was about seven VHS cassettes long. I wanted to see the man who says, "If you could lick my heart, it would poison you." I watched it all, and he was the very last interview. There really isn't anything anyone can say about it that will do it justice, so I won't bother. But anyway, if you've seen Shoah then just know that Man's Search for Meaning is kind of like that but distilled down into a small, innocent looking little book that has a similar effect. 

Divorce is weird, and it's really hard, but not for the reasons you think. At least, not mine. Honestly, you couldn't ask for a better person to break up with than my ex, it's very amicable. But it's just weird like, the things you feel and the things people say to try to make you feel better and how they don't match up at all. 

Like, people really love to say, "Just focus on yourself and your daughter." First of all, obviously my daughter is my number one priority in life. But also, on the days when you feel like you're falling apart, it's really hard to give to your kid when your own tank is empty. And the reasons why I fall apart are not the reasons people think. I'm not sad that my marriage is ending, I'm sad that it ever got this far in the first place. But wait. Let me go ahead right now and say that yes, I know that I got my daughter out of my marriage and she's the best thing that ever happened to me and she is worth all of this mess and more. Okay? I'm not a bad mom. So for the rest of this whole thing I'm writing we're just going to put her to the side because none of this has anything to do with her, she's perfect. 


What I'm saying is that, I wish I could go back to 2012 me and Cher slap myself and say, "Snap out of it! Listen, girl, it's March in the friggin' Arctic Circle. You haven't seen the sun in four months. You're not thinking straight. Just go back home and thaw out for a little while and then make life-altering decisions that you can't take back." (If you are reading this at work, the video below has sound.)

But I can't do that, and now I'm stuck, which is my least favorite thing to be. I'm claustrophobic, guys. I need two plane tickets, one for me and one for the bebe, and I need to go have a coffee with a splash of orange liqueur next to some Roman ruins in Vienna. That's why I'm crying. Because Vienna is so beautiful and I haven't been there in so long, and I don't want to wait a year and then make a reasonable decision that works for everyone. I just want to go. 

I know I'm weird, but those are the things that bother me. It's taking so long to just get to the point where I can go do whatever I want. 

People also say, "You need time to think things over and be by yourself for a little while." Um, actually I don't. I've been more or less "by myself" for years now. Even before I got married, I never really dated much. Number one, not that many people asked me out, and number two, I'm almost never attracted to anyone. I had like, a shockingly low number of boyfriends in my twenties. Shockingly low. Like, you wouldn't look at me the same if I told you, haha. I don't know what to say, it might be a virgo thing. 

Then I got married, and I've been "super duper" alone like, this whole time. All I've done is think about my life and my future, and I've thought about my partner's life and his future, and I've postponed dream after dream of my own to try to like, come up with a vision and a direction for us both, only to have those visions and directions shot down, one after another, over and over again, until I finally got to this point of separation. Don't ever tell a woman who's initiating a divorce to be by herself for a while, even if you mean well and even if it actually is probably very good advice. You know what you should do instead? You should sit her down on a comfy chair, pour her a glass of whiskey, blast Janis Joplin's "A Woman Left Lonely" on the record player, and give her a hug. 

Did you know that the Gaelic term for whiskey is "uisce beatha" and it means "water of life"?

People also love to tell you to take care of yourself. Okay, like how? Come on, self-help guru. How do I do that? A therapeutic face mask and even more netflix? I need to roar across the desert in a pickup truck until I hit the Pacific Ocean, not drink a glass of pink wine in a bubble bath. (Okay, I love pink wine and bubble baths, but not today.) 

I'll take this one.

I don't want people to not say nice things to try to help, but I'd rather they listen than like, spit out some stuff they read online about self-care. I've never been one to be easily distracted by the three-dimensional world. A bubble mask and a bag of candy ain't gonna do what the Near Death Experience of 2001 did, folks.  (It was when I had my wisdom teeth taken out in Budapest, and I've only ever told one person the whole story, so I'm not going to put it in my blog. But let me just say, physical death is nothing to fear. What was in that anesthesia, I'll never know.) Or the San Francisco Halloween Shroom Trip of 2006. (There was Led Zeppelin. I might have time traveled? My ego died but fought tooth and nail the whole way down. I survived, just barely. Also, my ego regenerated. Tricky little sucker.)

I'll give you a hint.

So anyway, thanks for reading this far. I wish I knew who was reading these. 

I will be all right. It's just that some days are harder than others. What makes them that way? I've been trying to figure it out.

I think loneliness, honestly. It's an epidemic in our society. 

I feel like maybe I'm a throw-back from the Bronze Age? Or at least the pre-Industrial Revolution. Maybe we all are. I just feel like, why are we all living separately in these little pods and working essentially in cyberspace? We're supposed to be having sex with our true loves in the fields this time of year in order to appease the land and ensure a good harvest, guys. What the hell is coding? (No, seriously. What. The hell. Is it?)

About once a year I post something on facebook about wanting to start a commune on a piece of land with my friends, and every year fewer and fewer people laugh and more and more people want in. Or if not an actual commune, then just all move to the same tiny town and take over. (I know, I know, a cult did that in Oregon once and it didn't go well. I don't mean like that.)

It's just hard to live by yourself with your kid and your ex-husband, even when it's amicable. I want like, a village of people around me, but I don't want them judging my every move. So like, a small town but not a small town. A good neighborhood in a big city, more like. Or a bunch of hippies living by the ocean and like surfing and making pottery every morning. We could run a legal marijuana dispensary for money, and everyone would love buying from us because we'd have such great vibes and the store would be beautiful with lots of wood and natural light (I've given this a lot of thought).  We could split the profits and make our schedules such that we still have plenty of time for our art and the kids would all play together, it would be awesome. Obviously, we'd grow a bunch of our own food. You don't even need a lot of land to do that, if you learn permaculture you can make it work in a little garden. I'm just saying, it can be done. You just can't let one guy get too much power, and you can't let any weird sex stuff go down. The women should probably be in charge, and we need older folks around to keep us grounded. 

Wait, how did I get here? Oh right, loneliness. 

You know, my dad's side of the family were all farmers. We're agrarian folk. I always connected more with my seafaring Viking ancestors growing up, but I'm pretty psychic, and actually the ancestors who follow me and guide me the most are from my dad's side. My Oma, in particular, who passed on when I was six. She was the one whose family came from Alsace-Lorraine, and whenever she got mad, my Opa would apparently make jokes about "that French one" and her temper. I cannot relate at all, of course. Just kidding, I can totally relate. I'm often demanding and unreasonable and when I argue I flounce out in a huff and I slam the door. (But I always sincerely apologize afterwards.)

Most of that side of the family is Austrian or French-German, they were agrarian people, farmers, and mostly Catholic. I feel like one thing that I definitely inherited from that side is this really satisfied feeling I get from feeding people. I love seeing like, hungry people coming in from a long day of work and heartily eating food that I prepared. I love to set a table full of food, meat and potatoes and dumplings and bread. Food that fills you up. And the sight of like, strapping men hunched over their plates just shoveling it in. It kind of makes me laugh because I'm also a radical feminist, but I just get this satisfied feeling way down deep in my DNA knowing that I made all that food that's feeding hungry working people. Ahh... It's nice. Like, when you're done working come over to my place and I'll have all the stuff here for you so you can take a load off and nourish yourself. Everybody stay out of my kitchen while I whip it up, too. I get into this zone where I just know how to throw everything together and if anyone tries to help it just weirdly slows me down and throws everything off? I don't get to do it all that often, but when I do it's great. 

My grandfather was a mathematical genius. When he finished eighth grade, the highest grade that the local school went to, the village priest and his teacher came to his parents and said that they wanted to send him to a school in a different town to continue his education, and that they would pay his way. His parents said no. So he ran away from home at age twelve, and became the apprentice to a tailor who beat him and made him live in squalid conditions and didn't feed him enough. But he never went back home. When he had a family of his own, he paid for as much education as his kids wanted to get. My dad got his Master's degree. "You can have everything taken away from you. Everything. Except what's in here," he would say, tapping his head.

When World War II started, my grandparents were Austrians living in what is now Serbia. They're called Banat Swabians. My grandfather got drafted into the German army. He didn't have a choice, but he resisted as much as he was able while still preserving his life. The stories about him make me proud to be his granddaughter, so I'll put them down here. 

On how they brainwashed the soldiers: "They tried to tell me how to think, but I didn't listen." 

He was an excellent marksman. One day, the commander of his unit took him to hunt in the forest, and he shot a deer from a very great distance with incredible accuracy, like right between the eyes. The next day, they were marching some people from a village to be transported to the devil only knows where, and one man broke away from the line and began to run. The commander told my grandfather to shoot him, but he missed on purpose. He pretended that the sight on the rifle was off. "I just saw a scared Russian who wanted to go home."

Another time they were going through a different village, searching for people. He opened the door to a cellar below a barn and found it was full of women and children, hiding. Someone from his unit called out and asked him if there was anyone in there. "No, there's no one here," he replied, and closed the door again.

The rest of my family was shipped off to prison camps in what is now the Ukraine, I think. It's this whole untold story from the war that no one's ever heard of unless their own family lived through it. They shot the village priest in the middle of the square and rounded everyone else up. They faced similar conditions to other concentration camps in that day. They were starved until they looked like walking skeletons, they slept in tents in the freezing cold, did hard labor breaking rocks all day, were tortured. My own great-uncle was a really strong guy, and they tried to break him to make an example out of him, but he never cracked. My great-aunt and my grandmother escaped, twice. The first time they were brought back, and then they escaped again and made it. They walked all the way home to Austria. 

When my grandmother was 20 and my grandfather was I think 21 or 22, and my dad was 2, they got on a ship called the General Mure and moved to America. I cannot imagine. But I also kind of envy them. They really did have true love. Not too long ago, my aunt found a photo of my grandfather that he had sent to my grandmother when they were dating. It had a romantic note written on the back of it. People weren't so afraid, then, it seems like. Nowadays we're so neurotic. 

So when I think about my ancestors, I remember that I'm made of tough stuff. They had "an indomitable spirit," as my dad says. And, dammit, I do too. There, I said it. I can do this for a year. A year? Come on. You can do anything for a year. A year is nothing, even when a day feels like three days. If they could do all the things they did and survive long enough for me to eventually come along, then I can do this. Easy.

I know because, the times when I've been really down in the pit, so to speak? Like, really low, where you hit the floor and even the "voices" that got you down there don't want to stick around and you're like, "Uh-oh, I've gone too far, I'm too deep down in here. Now I've done it. I'm screwed." 

It'll get really quiet, and then, like, out of my guts, fizzling up like a little champagne bubble through my throat, up to my lips, comes a smirk. And I look around and I'm like, "Pssh. Please. What are any of them gonna do to me? Huh? Nothin'. They don't have the guts." Then I give the pit the finger and walk out. 

And I slam the fuckin' door.



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