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.

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