My First Day at Sea

It is my first day at Sea aboard the Oasis of the Seas  and we are sailing the Western Caribbean.  I take some time to gather my writing goals for the week.  I decide to go back and read past journal entries and I find this one.  And I marvel at how my feelings on certain subjects remain the same year after year.  And, I am grateful that, in some ways, at least I am consistent.

It is 9:24am and having arrived early for my meeting with Angela, I sit at a round orange pedastal table against the wall of the Barnes and Noble Cafe savoring my Caramel Macchiato and reflecting on all that has passed and all that could be.   It is a moment of deep reflection blended with the mundane.  To my left, a couple sits enjoying their own breakfast version of coffee and a muffin, passing commentary on whether one has tried the other’s delectable latte version.  I think about time.   How fleeting it is and what a waste I have made of most of my life.  Or have I?  I am so hard on myself- why?   What is it about my life that seems to fall so short of the bar I have set for myself, for which I seem to never be able to attain success?  The bottom line is that I too often compare others lives with that of my own.   I look to their experiences in the hopes that I can one day perhaps mirror their realities.  Then I am drawn back to my present moment and I listen to the tunes filtering through the line of my ear buds from Spotify.  Right now, I am playing one of my favorite play lists which contains pieces from Handel, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven and pieces also from the soundtrack The Piano.    This is the movie that starred Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunt- set in turn of the century South Pacific somewhere.  I have very vague memories of the actual theme of the movie- it was about a woman and a little girl played by Anna Pacquin- who moved to this remote place that had a beach, rain forest, aboriginal peoples, and she – this lady – brought along this piano that was a required part of her daily life.   And the pieces she played were incredible …they to this day do something drastic to my soul.   Truly.  Classical music moves my spirit in a way that nothing else can touch.  So I love this soundtrack and realize that I must find a way to get ahold of that movie again and watch it.  There was violence involved- she had her finger cut offf which curtailed her ability to play the piano… horrific moment.. and I do not even know why that happened, what prompted it.   And was it in New Zealand, Australia or a French Polynesian Island?  What was the exact time period?   Why were they there?    I have such vague memories of the overall plot … but the music- oh my, the music.  I have had other experiences like that over the years- with movies like:  The Mission- which introduced me to Ennio Morricone, and also Adiemus.   I enjoyed the movies- but it was the music that followed me out of the theater and made me buy the soundtracks and listen to them over and over and over again.

I think about how isolated I am in this experience- I don’t know one soul that has this same passion about music.   I have no one to share it with- is this perhaps the disatisfaction that I face?   Angela has said and written about the notion of wondering “where are my people”.  I feel this same way -most of the time.  Like I was dropped on this planet as an experiment- to see how I could manage surrounded by other beings that had nothing in common with me.    I have so many vivid memories of moments when, in a rush of excitement to share something I had experienced- the person on the receiving end of my commentary glazes over and it is  obvious that whatever it is that I am trying to convey has absolutely no impact on the recipient.  This is actually a regular occurence for me- just about daily.   And, I wonder- why?   Why do I have these passions ..to experience them myself and just enjoy them- probably.   Is there a need really, to have someone else mirror back the same contentment that I experience in these moments?    I recall the time I was in Rome and was standing at the Trevi Fountain.  I was the only single soul standing there marveling at this fountain with sculpted horses in action as if jumping out of the fountain in fear.    I had no one to turn to to say “wow”.   And I remember how sad I was about that.  Or, standing inside the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on a bus tour full of other people that were either couples or families traveling together, best friends on a trip together- and then there was me… standing there under Michaelangelo’s Creation – in awe… alone.
So I wonder – does it matter?  Why do I have a sense of loss when I experience these moments alone?  Why do I long to have those moments shared by someone else.   And the specific and more probing question is- would that other person even get why I was so mesmerized by those horses or by the music or by the piece of art work depicting the creation and biblical moments- like the Garden of Eden on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?  Would that person stand there with me, nod his head and then move on?  What am I looking for in the shared experience?   Having that person stand with me – simply be present with me?  Or, for that person to look at me and for there to be this connection.. this moment of complete understanding that comes from having the same passion.    And, what are the odds – if I were a betting woman, to be able to find this type of partnership?    I admit that I am not looking actively because I fear the risk of getting tangled up in another disatsifying unbalanced partnership that ends up being more service than mutual partnership and enjoyment.
Not finding other souls that share the same deep interests and understandings is difficult- it means that the life experience is more of a solo journey filled with obligations.  Is this the reason that my marriages – in part – failed?    I was stuck in these relationships with people who had absolutely no clue what made me tick, and nor did I know what made them tick and- neither of us could figure out how to move to the next step to learn about one another, to feel what the other felt.  And, with our busy schedules and obligations ..time trodded along, and the experience of being part of a “couple” felt so bland and blank… and pointless.   I was there to satisfy his sexual needs- mine were satisfied in part, but honestly, it felt more like servicing him.   And, the payment was null.    No real mutual benefit ..so then, why stay?   So, I did not stay.  I eventually got out of both of those prison cells and launched myself into freedom… healing a bit along the way and then finding myself here- a solo traveler.  I enjoy my music, I enjoy my dog, I enjoy my parents, I enjoy globe trotting without having to gain access to a permission slip from another party that might find my globe trotting interest offensive or a waste of precious resources.  I don’t have to get permission to buy the vehicle I want to buy.  I don’t have to beg to go to the restaurant I want to go to instead of the one that makes him excited, I don’t have to hope that the movie we pick will be one I like.  I don’t have to share the dinner entree on the menu with him that he picks.   I can pick what I want on the dinner menu and eat it myself.    These all sound likely – like bizarre expressions of freedom- but to someone whose life was directed by another strong personality during two marriage episodes, the very idea of a third foray into this bizarre arrangement leaves me falling flat.     There is this comment I hear from people that one day I will find someone- so that I don’t have to grow old alone.    Well,  maybe I won’t have to – maybe I will live with several canine friends that keep me company, organizing my time as I see fit, enjoying nature, writing, music, and also- friendships.   I do need to get more involved in volunteer and other organizations that offer an outlet for social time and make life interesting- get things on the calendar.
Other than that- this time with the keyboard has been once again, fruitful.   I can count on the keyboard to help me organize my thoughts, to help me put down on virtual paper- the essence of the discontent and then I have a way to observe it through a different lense that brings focus on the situation and a better perspective.
Sometimes I come away from these sessions a bit more blue.   Today, I feel encouraged.  It’s been months since my last daily pages entry… and I am glad that I have re-opened this outlet of thought.     I need to do this much more often.

Universal Love Dashed

Recently, Mom and I were talking about the past and about faithfulness to one’s spouse.

Mom has some family history with relatives that for her reinforced how sacred marriage is and that for her laid the foundation of how, as a young girl in the midst of these stories, she would promise to always be true to her spouse once she married. Mom told me about how sad she was about one of the stories..  This one relating to one of her many uncles and his wife in Norway. As a child, Mom had been deeply fond of her aunt. And it made her so sad to hear about what happened between her aunt and uncle. Up until that revelation, all she had thought about her aunt was how beautiful she was and what an amazing smile she had. She was always smiling.
Mom pulls out an old photo album that is filled with these tiny black and white photos mostly faded and some hard to make out. They are all tainted with the sepia tone of time passing, the glue from the pages no longer holds the images as they lie there somewhat scattered on the page under a flimsy cellophane sleeve. A turn of the page and holding the album at a slight angle brings some of them tumbling to the floor. “I have a couple of pictures of her in here somewhere, a nice large one of her” she says.   As she turns the pages slowly, pausing on each page to examine faces and ancient places of her childhood, she comments on various characters from her past. “Who’s that Mom?” I ask pointing at a picture that shows Mor Far facing another man, his arm is wrapped around this man’s shoulder and they are smiling at each other like a couple of brothers. “That’s my father and his best friend”. Strange, I think, that Mor Far (Mother’s Father), had a best friend other than the one I knew in later years- Erling. “He just passed away not too long ago”. I don’t ask why we never met this best friend… I just sit there silently watching her take in her past. “Here she is” she exclaims. The picture shows a girl with ivory skin and thick wavy shoulder length black hair, her chin and head are tilted just slightly giving a coquettish glance at the camera.    Mom repeats that she always loved her aunt’s smile.  This young woman has the tiniest shoulders,  her head of hair billowing above her emphasizes her petit frame.  One can make out that she is wearing a particularly dark lipstick, typical of the fifties.

Mom  moves on to other pictures “There, look- Røseim, we spent so much time up there” she is looking at a photo of the black timbered exterior of a mountain cabin with a porch occupied by several twenty something women and men, some with arms wrapped around each other, all beaming at the camera, marking a ski vacation spent with friends. “Wasn’t she beautiful?” she whispers as she lifts the cellophane cover to a different photo that she retrieves to get a closer look.  It is a picture of her mother standing in light culotte shorts with a white blouse while holding Mom’s hand.  Mom must be about four or five years old in this picture.   Mor Mor sure was a beauty, and so skinny back then. I don’t think I have ever seen a picture of her that slender; not that she was ever large.  But in my memory, she was soft to squeeze, not bony.  “I understand based on this picture, why you have said he didn’t want her to take you to church alone..  I can better understand his jealousy”.   Mom just nods, she is deep in thought as she gazes at the picture. “Yes, he was very jealous” she whispers. Mor Far had forbidden Mor Mor to take my mom to church.  He didn’t want anyone having access to Mor Mor without him being present, and he was unwilling to go to church himself. So, mom stopped going to church as a young girl.
Still, she had received enough of a dose and spiritual guidance by then to have fallen head over heels in love with Jesus.  She was hooked, and her love for God would never leave her.  And as a grandchild, I recall Mor Mor often in her own world in the kitchen, singing Norwegian hymns and love songs to Jesus while cooking or washing up.

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Fortunately many years later, almost a year into her overseas life in America, Mom would meet a man named Jack who had a dashing smile, the most kind eyes she had ever seen, and a love for Jesus. Jack did not wear his love or awe for God on his sleeve, he didn’t really speak of it.  His beliefs have always been close to his heart and in his view, not to be talked of, but rather to be lived out.   However, with Mom  he did share what his upbringing had been like.  And, Mom knew that Jack’s mother had been a dedicated woman for Christ, involved with many outreach organizations,  and that generosity of spirit had transferred to her son.
Jack was a genuinely kind and gentle man. And in short order Mom knew she could never leave him. Over fifty years later, she still talks about how she can’t believe she did it- she left her country for him. Her beautiful country. Back then she offers, she had no idea how incredibly beautiful Norway was until it was gone. At least, gone for her in terms of daily life- a future only of stolen moments – visits to relatives. And her parents over the years, especially Mor Mor – would say to her that she couldn’t believe her sweet Karin had left her for America. This would be a repeated conversation each time we visited them.

But back to her aunt. This aunt had tortured her husband with a torrid affair that had started when she went on a trip to Russia without him. She had met someone on that trip and on return to Norway, she had continued the romance and even got ready for dates with this lover in front of her husband. And mom shares how shocked she had been on learning of her aunts behavior, because she had really liked this aunt and loved her uncle and she couldn’t imagine what might have gone wrong to cause her to behave in such a way.

In my own life, I have endured pain through two broken marriages. I know what can go on behind closed doors that might cause a once passionate love flame to blow out. What others see from the outside is very rarely the truth of what is going on within the privacy of the home. I know how a fervor of not getting to the presence of your lover quickly enough can turn into wanting to be as far away from that same soul as possible. Often it has to do with expectations. Unreasonable and unfounded expectations. And, it can have a lot to do with blinders, like those worn by a horse. Thoses blinders force you to look straight ahead and prevents you from seeing distractions along the side that could take you off course. When one is in love, one welcomes the blinders because we want to believe in the romance and the fairytale. We want to be a part of the great symphony called love. We want our part of the miracle of connecting with another soul. And maybe we put on those so called “Rose Colored Glasses”. Those glasses exist and many a lover has put them on and kept them on right up through to the alter and the vows and perhaps even through to the first weeks and months- I daresay, even the first few years of a marriage. And, then the glasses come off. And somehow, life isn’t the romance ending within which we had imagined ourselves.
For my mother’s aunt, something along the way went wrong enough for her to consider the option of setting herself up with an affair. You see this is not an option for most people who are in love with their spouses. I do not believe that someone who loves, truly loves their spouse- can be unfaithful. Some might disagree with me but it is my view that the vast majority of people do honor the sacred vows of marriage until they have reached a tipping point. Something happens that breaks the soul a bit, creates a wound that needs a bandaid and perhaps some ointment. And then, that wound properly tended to needs time to heal. Most people don’t allow the healing part to take place after having been emotionally wounded by another person.
For me, my wound kept getting picked at so that a scab couldn’t even really form. Oh don’t worry, I never did have that affair. I never let it get that far because I planned my escape early on- at least that is the case with husband number one. I stayed faithful until I just couldn’t take it anymore and until I figured out how I would exit stage left. Then I acted on my plan and I left. In each case, not going back. My first marriage was fairly short lived. I was smart enough and had enough self preservation in me to know that the slowly escalating acts of violence would one day mean a very bad ending.

The control nature of my first husband with his reprimands for how I incorrectly transferred the eggs from carton to egg holder in the fridge door, and how I didn’t remove them from the fridge properly- from right to left – never randomly as I did… there was an order on how one was meant to take the eggs out of their holder. Or the way that my cans were not turned properly to show their labels from the cupboard. After my marriage was over, I recall being in shock watching that movie “Sleeping with the Enemy” with Julia Roberts- because some of the behaviors of her character’s husband mirrored my ex. Then, towards the end of the marriage, there was that time when his moodiness during a visit from his seven year old daughter on one of his every other parental rights weekends ended up with a hole in our kitchen wall because of his anger directed towards me. On that same weekend, I came home to find dozens of little pieces of telephone all over the dining room floor because I had excused myself to go for a drive to get away from the tension. I had asked his daughter for forgiveness as I gathered my purse to leave, I told her I had to go run some errands. I fled the apartment and went for a drive. I recall feeling directionless that day- I just drove randomly up this street, down another with tears streaminng down my cheeks and blurring vision, which made it necessary for me to finally pull over. There were no cell phones back then, so I found a pay phone and tried to call him. I wanted so desperately to try to connect with him on that level we use to have together. But I had no success. Instead, the phone just went dead in my hand. On my return to the apartment, I understood why the phone was dead. It was broken in pieces; weeks later I was still finding the odd opaque button with letter 4 or 7 along the baseboards in the dining room- buried in the plush carpet. All this anger in the presence of his daughter. His poor sweet daughter. And now over twenty years later, I wonder how their relationship is now? Do they even have one? And how is her ability to have healthy relationships with men? She might be married now. She might have kids of her own. I would never know the outcome because I escaped within six months of that episode and was divorced from him within that year. And, we did not keep in touch. It was one of those marriages that almost feels like it never really happened. Like it was one of those nightmares that I wake up from that feel so real and thankful that it was just a dream. Except that it was real. And it forms a layer in my psyche.
So I think about my Mom’s aunt and her uncle. What are their stories. Why did she go to Russia? Who was her lover? And her uncle, what of him? What are their back stories?  One thing I do know, theirs is a  universal story of disappointment, of lost love, of sadness and of shame.