Thursday, July 7, 2011


"The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs." ~Joan Didion

"It's a question of discipline," the little prince told me later on. "When you've finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet." ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Tonight I told a new story about myself--or I told a new story about a longtime fact of my life. I do not have a family, a husband (or even ex-husband) or children. That's a fact. For years, since I was thirty, I kept telling myself that I didn't have that yet--then later, when I became too old to have children of my own, I told myself, I had a stroke of bad luck with men, or my drinking kept me from having what I most wanted. But those are strange justifications, as if I was blaming the outcome of my life on circumstances. But many women have bad luck with men and still marry them and/or have their children. Lots of people marry bad partners or have children whether or not they are drunks. So, tonight, I just started spinning a new twist on my story: my singleness is a choice. Rather than becoming a flesh-and-blood mother, I've 'parented' my creative projects, my adventurous life. I've refused to settle when it comes to a man--looking for the right partner is more important to me than having a marriage and children with a man who's good enough. Maybe I'm a perfectionist in this area, I don't know. Maybe I will settle later in life--or maybe, like an acquaintance in his 50s who just married his 'spiritual partner,' my spiritual partner and I are still being made for each other through our adventurous life experiences.

I once was told, by a woman 20 years my junior, that my independence was an inspiration to her and her peers. Her perspective was that whatever I did, I embraced with great fervency, and that, if I was to settle down with a man, I would give him and my love for him my all, and all else would fall by the wayside. I remember cooking three meals a day for a man in my life. My devotion to making his lunch--building, halving, and wrapping the sandwiches, was so thorough, it nearly brought me to tears every morning. Love takes me over, every cell of my body a small whirlwind, living fully to serve. Yes, in service of love, I've written poems and stories, prayed with my partner in church and at prayer altars, played music and written songs in partnership with him. But me, so often, is lost to we.

Maybe, instead of having bad luck with men, I've chosen relationships that burn out, so I can have a chance to recover myself again and again. I can say that I've had this amazing opportunity to get to know intimately and love many men, and I cherish the plenty in that.

I take heart, too, in this quote from Isaiah:

"Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD."

And so I sing, I sing Italian arias, I sing folk tunes, I write and sing my own songs, I sing in the shower, I sing in bars and coffee shops, I sing while I'm driving, I sing while I'm jogging around the creek every morning. I sing. I sing. I water my little planet with sweet melodies.

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