First, a bit of clarification might be useful about my article on the strength of my Aunt Marian. I certainly am not implying that any woman must stay with a drunk or abusive husband. I do not admire her because she did that. I have no idea how she decided that she would not kick him out. Whether she loved him in some unhealthy way, or that the circumstances of 1930-1945, the circumstances of Poverty, of The Great Depression, of WW2, made it impossible to leave. Or whether it was the culture of the day, the days of women having few economic choices. I don’t know.
What I do applaud her for is not the choice she made, but that she lived out her desperate circumstances without becoming a victim and without becoming a negative, complainy, crabby person. I do know she was embarrassed and angry sometimes, because on occasion, when the police called to tell her he was laying drunk somewhere, that she could come to get him…I do know that she sometimes said, “Aww, you guys can keep him till he sobers up.” And I do know that on some occasions when he lay drunk on her floor in the dining room, she took his picture to show him how disgusting he looked. And I do know that once she cut off his tie (yes, he usually wore a suit and tie to the tavern!) while he was passed out so that he’d wonder how that happened. I don’t think she ever did tell him and he wondered about it all the rest of his life.
Telling these stories, I don’t know how she did it, but they were funny and she snickered a little. She told them in a way that said “Oh, listen to the funny think I did.” Never, in all my years of knowing her, did I ever find an angry, pitiful, vengeful, or mean tone to her voice or look on her face. Her eyes sparkled. She always seemed proud of herself. She always seemed to be having fun every day no matter what was happening.
I want to be that strong and cheerful. Until I was almost thirty, I was not. Life had dealt me numerous devastating blows and I was reduced to feeling helpless, self-pitying and manipulative. I lashed out at the world with a vengeance. Until I didn’t. Until I climbed out of that hole.
For almost 50 years now, I have been that strong “Aunt Marian”. Life was not easy, but I did not wallow or dive into misery. I jokingly told people, “Well, I guess I have 3 choices…I can be depressed, I can be on drugs, or I can be happy. I think I’ll choose happy!”
I have been a real “pull myself up by my bootstraps” kind of person, pursuing joy and life no matter what. Sure I complained sometimes, got crabby often, but I didn’t stay there. I always found joy in the positive things I did have. I loved my life, hassles and all!
But I can’t seem to get there now, and that’s probably why I started remembering my Auntie stories. I’m not depressed (I don’t think), and I don’t pity myself, and I’m not complaining. But there is something about this pandemic that has thrown me. I’ll be 77 the end of July and have high blood pressure, so I’m careful about where I go and who I am around. My choice of activities is limited. My freedom to be spontaneous is limited. I’m tired all the time, which is not like me…a sporty, peppy person. I feel like I’ve lost part of me.
On the surface I am ok, doing a really good job keeping positive and cheerful and busy. But there is a river running underneath that has robbed me of inspiration and motivation. I keep motivated because it’s the right thing to do, but I don’t feel it, and that’s new for me.
Goodness knows, I’ve battled and overcome way worse. I have tattoos to celebrate my victories. And I will find the light at the end of this tunnel. And sport a new tattoo to declare it!
But I’m thinking maybe all of us are overwhelmed with trying to figure out what life is all about now – again. And maybe what we need is some good stories. Some fun times. I’m a pretty introspective person and tend to write pretty serious articles, and maybe now is not the time for that. Maybe I’m just gonna write more funny Aunt Marian stories, and about my Aunt Glada and Aunt Helen, too. And stories of some fun things I’m doing or finding someplace. I need some good stories and some silly fun activities. Some fun, pointless activities.
I’m gonna do that and stop trying to figure all this out. Understanding and figuring can take a break for a while.
Only way out of the dark cave is to crawl on one’s belly, army style, exerting all one’s strength to push forward.