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.