Monday, June 28, 2010

Shredder Therapy

This past weekend the Pumpkin and I had a garage sale to get rid of stuff we had both individually and collectively outgrown. A vast number of the boxes of stuff were delivered to my doorstep about a year ago by Renfrew. He assesrted the boxes contained things that he just knew I could NOT do without. As I unpacked boxes to sort and price, I realized that the contents were not, as Renfrew had asserted, MY stuff. No, they are clearly jointly owned items of the daily life I left behind -- at the same time I left our joint home. My repeated assertions were clear.

Or I thought they were clear. I did not WANT or NEED any of it. He could sell it, give it away, use it, bronze it or burn it -- it was part of what I had been evicted from. Just like he ignored so many truths that were mine over the dying days of our marriage, he ignored my truth about these things as well.

Thankfully, I am now at a point in my healing where I am able to shake the negative ions from my being as I turned my attention to the boxes and their contents. Although, my mind (being the dangerous and dark neighbourhood it often is) strays into the possibility he packed these boxes up specifically to rake my heart and spirit through the coals. He carefully put together collections of items and papers that would, once again, dredge up the sick and painful ache that until relatively recently throbbed whenever I thought of the last several years of our shared life. But the more realistic voice of the woman I am becoming (I really, really like her!) shrugs off these thoughts. Clearly my dark self was giving him far too much credit in actively plotting and conspiring even to not just break my heart but render it incapable of healing. No, he didn't plan what went in these boxes - - he just ignored what went in them.

I reach for one of the more recent boxes and realize that ignore is truly the operative in this situation. His new wife packed up this stuff -- at his request and direction. Apparently both she and I were under the impression he had sorted through the olio of books, photographs, letters and other papers for what he wanted or needed. As I set aside training materials for his career -- some of which are likely either 'protected' or 'classified' as his employer likes to label things -- I shake my head. I add to the 'give back' box photos of his family -- items from his youth that clearly have no place in my life and am almost knocked over by one letter that I know he once prized. It is a letter from his paternal grandmother -- a grandmother he did not meet until he was into adulthood and after he learned the man who actually contributed half the DNA that is HIM had died by suicide around the time Renfrew turned 18. This woman - whom he had sought out and taken long trips to visit - died when we were expecting our own child and I never had the pleasure of meeting her. A letter that contains her contribution to his search for his identity -- this letter is in a box packed up by his new wife and given to me as so much trash. I sigh and set the letter aside - knowing that it makes up a piece of the past that Renfrew spent his life trying to explain and sort out. That search may not seem so important while he is wrapped up in the intoxication of young love, but someday he'll get back to it.

Given that I knew I'd have several hours of only occasionally interrupted time, I took my paper shredder to the garage as a way to pass the time. If anyone had told me of the therapeutic uses for and healing powers of a paper shredder I would have thought they were grasping for another pop psychology miracle cure. But as I stood there sorting through old files and boxes, I discovered a freedom in the sound of the blades.

A folder marked 2002 revealed everything from cancelled cheques for my defunk law practice and paid household bills. As I pass the sheets of paper through the intermeshing blades watching them come out the other side in thin slips of paper I feel strangely peaceful. Like finally throwing out those notes from my first year universities courses once I'd graduated from my professional degree. Unpacking those boxes and putting the contents to rest has brought up feelings I've been ignoring -- probably because I wasn't ready to process them. I think they are ready to be taken out, set in the light, examined and recycled now -- at least I sincerly hope so.

Friday, June 11, 2010

WHO is that woman. . . .

With fathers' day rolling up, I figured it would be nice to put together a photo collage for Renfrew of selected photos of him and the Pumpkin. With a sense of optimism I trundled down to my previously-mentioned craft room to dig out some shots from the 4 years we spent in the North, during which time Pumpkin went from a just out of diapers 3 year old to a wise and curious 8 year old. I already had an idea of the photos I wanted to use. Or if not the specific photos, the times and places where they had been captured.

One was a trip we made as a family to Maui the January of our last year in the North. One of the few 'perks' of getting sent to the back of blessed beyond by the RCMP is that they pony up the cost of a trip 'out' each year. I figure they really do this because they know how much psychiatric treatments for everyone in the family would cost. Not to mention the number of members they'd lose to the loony bin due to serious bush fever. That year we actually took two trips -- one to Maui in January and a second to Mexico in October. This was due to the wonders of 'fiscal year' designations.

Keep in mind this was near the end of our tenure in the brush and I was close to my almost total break with reality and plunge into the black jaws of depression that fully blossomed with the melting snow in May. In January I was still very good at playing my role. I was working very hard convincing myself and anyone around me that I was 'happy, happy, happy' and being a loving supportive wife and small time career woman. I played that part so well, I think I almost believed it myself.

The second clutch of photos I was looking for were from the Mexico trip. This was after my depressive break but before we had relocated to the Sunny South. That time was a confusing and difficult one for me. I had come to grips with the very real depth of my despair and depression, and knew it was a slow climb back to normal. We had informal notification of our transfer, but the official paperwork had not yet been sent. It was a period of limbo. Like all liminal periods, it was a time when identity was in flux and everything was subject to rapid change.

From the time it was confirmed we were getting out short of the normal five-year sentence. . . err. . . posting, I began to breath a bit easier. However, until I saw the transfer order in writing, signed by someone with a lot more hooks on his shoulders than Renfrew's local commanding officer, I was suspicious and frightened they would find a way to keep us up there for another year. Perhaps it is because I grew up living next door to my hometown RCMP detachment. Perhaps it is from working several years for a large souless corporate entity myself. Perhaps it was a bit of paranoia layered with my depression. I just wasn't convinced we were going to get out of Dodge short of the five years that are required at this particular location.

Flipping through these photos I was looking for the images of Renfrew and Pumpkin . . . frolicking on the beach in Maui . . . dancing on the catamaran that took us snorkeling in Mexico. I found those but I also found something I hadn't banked on. I was struck dumb by photos of a woman I did not recognize. She resembled me and was wearing clothing I could identify as mine. But she was clearly sad. . . beyond sad. Behind the staged smile for the camera there was an emptiness. Something was dead, or at least on life support. It was so clear in her face. She felt trapped, caged and was getting ready to chew off a limb to get out of the leg-hold trap.

Now, more than five years later, I can see what was probably obvious to many of those around me. I was sinking in a quicksand bog of pain and loss. Now that I have had time and distance to unpack what made that time so destructive, I think I understand the undoing of my marriage and my sanity more clearly. There was no one thing. There is no moment or event I can point to and say: "AHA!" It is not like unearthing a diamond in the Arctic. It is more like gently brushing away layers of sand from an archaeological site to reveal a fully and vibrant civilization. The process is slow and painstaking, but worth the effort.

Lately I have been reading a lot of memoirs - - mostly written by women around my age about the joys, pains and realities of facing middle age and the stuff of life. One particular description struck me and has stuck with me. The author, in describing who she has become, proclaimed that the person she now is someone who her former self could not have 'picked out of a police line up'. Looking at those old pictures of me, when I was someone else, somewhere else I feel that in reverse. The woman I have become is so far removed from that sad, trapped, angry woman I would not identify her as me in any kind of line up. She is part of a past that has made me who I now am. I thank her for helping me grow. And I send her love and compassion, becuase I know that she is only beginning a period of great growth and, consequently, great pain.