Living in a divided consciousness.

I stayed at a motel again last night, one of the nicest in town, and got a top floor room with a riverview. If you are a long-time follower you might remember when I first came here I stayed in a $39 a night motel with filthy carpet and paper walls. During the past few months, I have become more aware of my need for beauty, clean design, light, spaciousness and views. I will not stay in an ugly motel room anymore, even though on my fixed income, this is all I can really afford.

Yesterday, I read an op-ed piece in the New York Times and realized that the person who wrote it was someone I went to high school with. She went on to get a Ph.D and became a university professor. This was what I wanted to do. My two big dreams when I was in my 20’s were to become a university professor and write books.

One of the reasons I never fulfilled these dreams was my inability to sustain focus and attention on my goals. I remember being conscious of this for a brief period of time when I was in my 20’s, and tried to do something about it, but quickly lost focus.

Now that I am older, and have more time to examine the inner contents of my psyche, I am understanding and appreciating my deep need to revisit repressed material from earlier stages in my life. There is an enormous amount of content here to work through and I often feel time-constrained because I am in my 60’s. There is also an overwhelming feeling of “what’s the point, it’s too late now.”

But my psyche does not operate within linear time. It is ageless and eternal. The work that goes on here is above and beyond the petty details of everyday life. And, it is also beyond any beliefs I have about reality.

While at the motel last night, I went swimming in the pool. Most of the people using the pool were respecting the divider between the deep end and the shallow end, and keeping their noisy, boisterous kids within the shallow end. But after awhile, a woman came out with two kids who were around ten years old, a boy and a girl. The girl was instinctively respectful of me, and the fact that I was not a good swimmer. She saw that I was holding onto the ladder and therefore stayed away from it.

The boy, however, was instantly antagonistic and bullying. He quickly took over the ladder, and the area around it, and began jumping noisily into the pool right in front of me. I could see that he was intent on invading my space and claiming it for himself. His mother noticed what he was doing and told him to be mindful of me, and he was for about a minute, but then he went right back to being a bully. I eventually had to stop swimming because of his aggressiveness towards me.

The cultural acceptance and glorification of this kind of male behavior is something I have never understood. My mother let my brother be this way when he was growing up and then had to suffer the consequences for the rest of her life, (along with me and all the other women he came in contact with).

I am now coming to see how this dissonance between how I was expected to act, and how my brother was expected to act, created an unendurable feeling of confusion and oppression within me that remains to this day. Here I am at 62, still feeling terrorized by a young boy in the same way I was terrorized by my brother. As I feel the tension rising in my body, I think about all the women, all over the world, who feel the same way.

How can I maintain focus when I live in a constant state of fear, when I know that at any moment, a boy or a man will inevitably challenge me? When I was driving cross country a few years ago, I checked into a motel and the man behind me heard the reservation clerk say the number of my room. As I was bringing my suitcase in through the hallway, he opened his door and said in a leering voice, “I know what room you are in.”

This forced me to change my room to the other side of motel. When I told the young, female clerk why I was moving she said, “Yes, I understand, he was creepy to me too.” What could we have done? Since it was late, there was no manager on duty, and since he had not assaulted us we could not call the police. Given how many men now own guns (and this incident happened in rural Oklahoma), we were fearful that if we antagonized him he might shoot both of us.

I am often incensed when I hear people talking about how “free” women are in the U.S. and how good we have it here compared to other parts of the world. For me, this is not an issue that is amenable to comparison. If I feel this kind of fear, it is same kind of fear other women feel, regardless of where they live.

And this brings me back to what I said earlier, “But my psyche does not operate within linear time. It is ageless and eternal. The work that goes on here is above and beyond the petty details of everyday life. And, it is also beyond any beliefs I have about reality.”

I live within a divided consciousness. There is a male world and a female world. More and more I long to live in a female consciousness that has nothing to do with fashion, hair, painted nails, gossip and the unendurable fear and anxiety that never goes away.

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19 thoughts on “Living in a divided consciousness.

  1. What a wonderful and thought-provoking post. I’m always vaguely aware of being careful, cautious (ultimately, fearful) of the threat males pose, though we’re made to feel ridiculous for it by society sometimes and I try to talk myself out of focusing on it. It feels good to know that some other women feel the same. If there were a safe and affordable community for women only without the painted nails and ‘cute’ shoes mentality, with tranquility and safety – oh how fast I would leap to live there. Unfortunately I doubt it will ever truly be safe to be a girl or woman in this world and if such a community existed, it would likely be a target in itself.

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    1. I hold the hope that when women finally understand and acknowledge the depth of their oppression, they will no longer tolerate it. “The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.”
      -Roseanne Barr

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    2. i was looking for such a place, cathy, a few months ago – partly for the fear-less aspect (it gets wearisome double locking and chaining the door) and partly for the (hopefully) saving money aspect and also (as a confirmed introvert) to occasionally intermingle with people. never found one so, even at my age, i am constantly looking around to see who is behind me or is there enough lighting…and as i read in an article on sunday “i’m too old for this”. except it does happen.

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  2. you could have written this about me. or i could have written it about me, but possibly not as clearly. for you sum up all of my own feelings, anxieties and fears. and i am a good decade ahead of you, doing the same soul searching, trying to understand these fears that invade my everyday life and anything “new” i attempt. your writings give me then opportunity to realize i am not alone.

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    1. There are very few women who write honesty about their fear, or their anger, yet our lives are permeated by both. I consider it an honor that I have communicated something you resonate with, and that by doing so, you feel less alone. Thanks for your comment.

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      1. My life was always dysfunctional. Yet I always had hope and lived life honestly-being true to myself and others . I felt fortunate with the experiences life brought my way. I found my peace and love for life and people.It came only though my conviction of seeking balance in my engagement with the world and the solace I sought for reflection , learning and inner peace . I had learned early on through life’s difficulties-the path that layed ahead of me and my place in the world . I knew it wouldn’t resemble the life of other woman , Without paridigms, convicted to being always true to myself , I fearlessly traveled life’s journeys. It was a good fit. I was where I was suppose to be. I touched the lives of others and others touched mine. I found my voice and it was heard . At times, I was the voice for others who had no voice. I had found my place in this world and welcomed it with open arms. Until the day my male supervisor took his hands and pushed and shoved me into my classroom and slammed the door closed. As I stood hysterical and shocked with his choice of action. He continued addressing the problem at hand-responding in the hallway to the disruptive ,irrational colleague who was yelling. Three days later, then 40 years old , I was wisked off to an ideal position in an ideal school. At 56 I am still there. I live in solitude. I am lost. My innate skills has allowed me to superficially reach survival level in this world. My quest for 16 years to go beyond the injustice and my unrelenting efforts to heal and rediscover my life’s journey has left me surrounded by 4 walls. I remain searching for HOPE.

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  3. Hi Rachel, it´s never too late, unless we are dead!! If you like to be a professor, go and teach something to someone, give english classes to newcomers at your village, go volunteering to Unicef or other NGO and teach what you know to young children….you are already teaching all of us that read your blog, by your example, we learn from your experience, imagine what else you can do more….about being a writer…you already are…you write this blog…and nowadays it´s more easy and cheap to make books…you don´t even need paper…go and write an ebook and sell it on amazon…or ebay…. 🙂 and give a break to people in general, we don´t now each one difficulties and what they are going through…. we´re all on the same boat…we are all learning with each oher…if someone bother your, tell him that you desagree and move on to your life…we don´t have to like everybody, only a few and good ones 🙂 Just my 2 cents :p All the best!!

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    1. Thanks for the inspiration and wonderful suggestions! You have given me a lot to think about. I am going to keep in mind, “We don´t have to like everybody, only a few and good ones.”

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  4. Wonderful post. I keep wondering if women who are mothers of sons were more knowledgeable about this stuff, would they be wiser, more assertive mothers and train their sons to be respectful of females. I especially wonder this about the mothers of the ISIS murderers–what kind of mothers did they have? My dad was respectful towards my mother, and both my brothers treat women well. I watched the pilot episode of Parenthood on Netflix last night and was appalled by the senior father’s behavior (forget his name) towards his grandson, Max, and am so glad I don’t have someone in my life like that. And why didn’t his wife give him grief over his attitude?

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    1. As someone who watched every episode of Parenthood, I can attest to the fact that this particular character goes through many changes that radically alter his personality. I highly recommend it.

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      1. Thanks, Rachel! I disliked him so much I was wondering if it was even worth watching the rest of the series. I want to say, I love reading your blog, and look forward to what you have to say. I also like reading the comments that people make. And hopefully that nasty little boy will have someone come along in his life who will knock him sideways and straighten him out some. Too bad his mother didn’t haul him out of the pool for a time-out. Maybe his dad is an abusive alcoholic, and that’s all the type of behavior the boy has seen. Who knows what’s been going on in his life to cause that kind of behavior? And now we have Donald Trump to contend with!

        You write really well–I agree with Hugo. And it’s true, we can learn from what you write which may be a lot better than some professors can teach.

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      2. I didn’t learn much in college. It was what I read that influenced me, and the people I have known. Thanks for your encouragement and support, much appreciated.

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  5. I guess I take a “what do I have to lose” attitude to situations like these. I remember years ago, when I was in my twenties,, this man I knew (via his wife being a school friend of my sister) passed me in a blind curve. I naturally proceeded to cussing. He slammed on his brakes in front of me and got out of his truck. When I saw him, I rolled up my windows and locked my truck doors. He came to my truck door and tried to open it. We were in a relatively isolated area. We had a verbal confrontation and he again tried to open the door. I was afraid but I didn’t show it. I told him that he’d better not touch my door again and to act like he had some sense, get it his truck, and drive away. I had always kept a ball peen hammer in my car for defense from the time I started driving (courtesy of my dad). I put it in my hand and made up my mind that I was going to unlock my door and if he opened it, I was going to crack his head open. He must have sensed that I had enough and he got in his truck and drove away. I have since that time adapted a kamakazee approach to life – if the confrontation is unavoidable, go beyond your fear and hit it with all you’ve got. Bullies will always exist and they have a way of honing in on who they perceive as victims. Sometimes you need to walk away and there’s times you have to stand your ground and say “I’m not a victim”!

    Bullies come in all shapes and forms. It’s a shame that parents are oblivious to their kids being overbearing and displaying confrontational behavior.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this story, you were very brave. I am going to take to heart the advice, “If the confrontation is unavoidable, go beyond your fear and hit it with all you’ve got.”

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  6. I don’t want to let fear rule my life, but I think I have a realistic awareness of the dangers “out there”. I have a walk I love to take through the neighborhood. It is on busy streets. In case I get attacked, someone will see me. Also, I don’t listen to music as I walk, so I can be aware of what is going on around me. Recently, I had some long-overdue refurbishing done in my home. I’d put it off, because I live alone and don’t want strangers (usually men) working in my home. I was fairly uncomfortable throughout the process, but just bit the bullet and am so happy with the outcome. I’m sorry your swim was rudely curtailed. If the parent is not going to take charge, there’s not much you can do. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

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