My Wildest Dreams

Snapshot_20150421_17

Me. Right now.

Things take as long as they take. Marathons have no short cuts. In a Sports Illustrated interview last August, Lance Armstrong said:

It’s easy to look back and say I’d do certain things differently. It’s been a bloodbath the last couple of years. It was a decision we all made in the mid-’90s when we went over there. We went over for a knife fight. Lo and behold, the rest of them had guns. A lot of us young Americans just said, I’m not going to sit here and get my ass kicked. And I’m not going home. I’m going to gear up and fight. I have a lot of regrets about how I handled myself—my behavior, my reactions, my interactions—and I’ve tried to make amends for that.

As the Quakers say, “That Friend speaks my mind.”

I never set out to be married multiple times – I was looking for something “better,” each time – and each time I married, I thought it would be my last. Each time, I thought I had finally arrived home.

In my first post on this blog, I spoke about my first wedding, summer of 1976.

I had the prettiest wedding you ever saw, in imgres1976, when I was a baby bride. He wore a morning coat and tails and I carried gardenias and the whole thing smelled of White Shoulders and Aramis. I had a slew of bridesmaids and my maid of honor, Brigit, cried just as I was about to head down the aisle, and said, “I don’t want you to get married, Jeanie.”

When I say I was a baby, I mean, literally. I was 16. And pregnant. Completely incapable of “informed consent,” which is what separates the kids from the grownups. Brigit knew, though she was a baby too, that I was too young to do more than play house.

This post is full of quotations, which is not typical for me. But trying to rewrite this stuff is needlessly painful, today. On my most recent birthday I shared this on Facebook:

I’ve been haunted today by a dream I had last night, about a time that has haunted me throughout my adult life. I dreamed about my baby, Heather, who is in heaven. I was pregnant at 16, and married in the Catholic Church to a boy who was 18, kind and gentle and loved me with every bit of himself. I lost Heather when I was just over 20 weeks pregnant. I had been feeling her move for just a couple of weeks, when she died in my belly. I saw her – perfect, tiny feet and hands, fingers and toes, and a soft, serene face. Only the doctor and nurses and whomever was in the operating room saw her with me. The boy I married didn’t see her, and I never told him I saw her or that I named her. I don’t know what happened to her, what they did with her little body. We had no funeral or any kind of ceremony. Nobody ever talked about her, we were just told we were better off and that we should move on with our lives. I couldn’t think about her and I couldn’t look at the boy I married. I ran away from him and never looked back, which is why so few of you know about any of this. I have always hated myself for losing Heather. I have recently thought about her, and it’s as painful as any memory I have. I have only recently been able to think about that boy and the pain I caused him and the loss we shared. I write my sadness because putting it out there sometimes eases it. This one has been so persistent and so long-lived, I don’t know who I am with it on the outside of me. But there it is.

I find it extremely difficult to write about the boy I married. It is hard  to find the words. It is agonizing to look back 39 years. And it is his story as well as mine, and I feel presumptuous telling it, though I have his permission. Let me say this – I can only tell the story from my vantage point, then and now. It was probably unfair or untrue or something for me to say, as I did above, that he “loved me with every bit of himself.”

I can only, with honesty, say that it felt that way to me.

It occurs to me that I tried to take zillions of short cuts to spring, hoping to circumvent the laboring pain of winter. But there is no doing that. It’s a blood bath, eventually – with or without the drugs, as Lance Armstrong tells us – and to go back and be harrowed when one’s bones ache from a lifetime of dragging around unnecessary trash is to take on the bloodbath more ill-prepared even than a child.

When I ran away from that boy, I ran away from myself, and that led me to find not bliss, but Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island, where I debauched, my nose grew, I developed donkey’s ears and tail and performed in circuses and grimy carnival sideshows. I broke hearts and had my heart broken. I escaped and tried to go home again, only to find the toy shop abandoned, layers of detritus and dust covering my childhood dreams and playthings, and my loved ones long gone.

It’s not that we can’t go home again. It’s that once we appreciate it and want to return, home is changed. We are changed. We’ve had children of our own. Maybe they’ve had children. Perhaps, no matter how hard we think we’ve tried, we never feel that we’ve done right by them. But there’s no going back, no fixing it. They’re all traveling their own paths now.

In the last chapter of the Hero’s Journey, the central character endures a grave trial, at home’s gateway – burned in cleansing fire by a final sacrifice.

In my case, I needed humbling, needed it badly. In the process, I found that the treasure I thought I was looking for was the one I had abandoned.

The boy I married, all those decades ago, lives here in Phoenix. I sit at his computer and write this in the home he provides, that he shares with me.

11065483_922508994455627_8804491314586237312_nWhen the moon was young,
When the month was May,
When the stage was hung for my holiday,
I saw shining lights
But I never knew:
They were you.
They were you.
They were you.

When the dance was done,
When I went my way,
When I tried to find rainbows far away,
All the lovely lights 
Seemed to fade from view:
They were you.
They were you.
They were you.

Without you near me,
I can’t see.
When you’re near me,
Wonderful things come to be.

Every secret prayer,
Every fancy free,
Everything I dared for both you and me.
All my wildest dreams
Multiplied by two
They were you.
They were you.
They were you. 

– Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt (The Fantasticks, 1960)

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