“Out of damp and gloomy days, out of solitude,
out of loveless words directed at us,
conclusions grow up in us like fungus:
one morning they are there, we know not how,
and they gaze upon us, morose and gray.
Woe to the thinker who is not the gardener
but only the soil of the plants that grow in him.”
~ Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche~
This week’s theme for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge is Black and White. As I was looking at the various mushroom pictures I took above, I thought, what do I feel like writing about today? I couldn’t decide as no topic seemed to really connect with the photos. So I Googled quotes on mushrooms to find inspiration and came up with the one above.
What truly deep and meaningful words those are! I could never really add anything worthy to the words of a writer such as Nietzsche. Therefore, all I can add is how those words affected me and reflected my life…
Like most people, my self image was often a reflection of what people said about me. As a young girl, I was a dizzy blonde, a goofy cheerleader. I was pretty, but a plain pretty, not like a “high-class” pretty. So when a “high-class” boy from a wealthy family liked me, it was an honor, a privilege. I remember my mom telling me how I should be excited that such a boy should like me. It wasn’t in a cruel way as it sounds per say. It was merely a reflection of her life experiences.
As a poor deaf child, she was always treated like a lower-class citizen. She was told she was “retarded” because she couldn’t hear. Therefore, she was only allowed to go up to the 5th grade. They couldn’t waste their time teaching a “retarded” girl. As she got older, she was lucky to have the honor to be around fancier and wealthier people from time to time. She should have been happy that her first husband married her despite her “condition.” So when he beat her or cheated on her, she should have overlooked that and kept her mouth shut. When she got out of that awful marriage and met my dad, she found odd jobs to help out. Wealthy people took charity on her and let her clean their homes, watch their kids. They graced her with a smile and some friendly small talk when out in public. She learned to accept the position in life that she was allowed to reach. Between the abuse she endured and the “normal” treatment of children like her then, I am amazed she had the feisty personality she did. So when she told me to feel lucky, I didn’t really look at it as an insult. It was merely a fact. There were other smarter, richer, and prettier girls. I should feel lucky if a “high-class” boy liked me after all.
Getting married was actually my mother’s life goal for me. So when I mentioned that I wanted to go to college, she didn’t really see the point. Girls from her time and her level got married and did odd jobs. They didn’t have careers. So when I got old enough, I did both. Part of me wanted more, needed more. But the insecure part of me, and the high school girl in love, decided that marriage was a requirement. Therefore, I married my high school sweetheart during my freshman year of college.
It took me nearly ten years after that to finish my degree though. Between working full time and raising two children, college was put aside from time to time. And through that long and rough marriage of two teenage sweethearts, I began to think my mother was right. Maybe college was not for me. Maybe I just needed to focus on my kids and husband. Maybe I wasn’t smart or pretty enough to keep my husband’s attention. Maybe I wasn’t good enough to have a career. Somewhere along the dark days of my life, I began to believe I deserved all of the bad things in my life. And the good things, were merely a blessing from God. I should be thankful for them but not expect them.
When things got particularly bad in our marriage and I considered divorce, it frightened me. There was no way I could survive on my own. I needed a man to take care of me. I wasn’t smart enough to navigate the world without a husband. Even if that husband and I had grown so far apart we were like two strangers with a past, I needed him. And that was all compounded with the religious guilt of divorcing that told me, I should not quit because it was hard. And there were moments over the years when I could still see that young man I fell in love with. So I stayed.
Twenty years passed, and out of those, I would say only the first three to four were really good. Sure, there were some good moments here and there over the years, but as we started to age, we just faded apart. We were becoming two separate people and wanted different things in life. However, we pressed on and on, insanely and naively thinking things would change by doing the same things over and over again. But, they never did.
Through those years, I began to slowly change and realize, I wasn’t dumb and helpless. I was capable of all that I was willing to work at. I could have a career. I didn’t need someone to take care of me. In those years of change, I finished my degree, joined the Army Reserve at 29 and worked a full time retail management job all while raising two toddlers. In reflection, I am amazed I survived. Those were some rough and long years. But, they gave me proof, I was strong and capable.
Fast forward to now…I am divorced and happy. I know who I am and what I am capable of. I am still in the Army Reserve and if all goes well, could retire in five years. I have a full time career on top of my Citizen-Soldier responsibilities. I just closed on a house last week-my first house as a single independent woman. I just started dating a wonderfully kind and endearing man who sees me as strong and intriguing. He likes me for who I am and the person I want to be…and the best part of all that, I finally like who I am too.