Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Moving the Earth and the Stars

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... two and a half years later ...

Watching my father die was hard, but strangely liberating. My dad and mom had a rocky marriage. Of course, no one was in that marriage except the two of them, but from my perspective, Daddy was gone a lot (I talked about that some). Mom lived a life of luxury most of the time, with maids and cooks and gardeners (especially the Philippines). After my sister died, my father turned to alcohol to deal with the pressures of his life and his job. As the years went on, my mom was very mean to him. Every word out of her mouth was spoken in anger, in impatience and belittling. She was impatient when he started losing his hearing. He was the type of man who avoided confrontation at all costs, and he would turn the other cheek. After he retired and relapsed into alcoholism, her treatment of him escalated. At one point, my sister and I went to therapy with him, and we begged him to divorce her. He maintained that he had made a vow, and he intended to keep it. He was of that generation that did that. We hated it for him, but only he knew his own heart, and maybe there were moments of tenderness between the two of them that we never saw. As he lay dying in the hospital, my mom was very caring and strong. When he died, my mom appeared brave on the outside, but I think the reality hit her hard. Especially when it came to light that he had left her in severe financial straits. She works at a university as a graduate school advisor, but now she's almost 81. Not sure how much longer she can do this.

All that brings me to my midlife crisis. As I saw my dad die, having vowed to stay in an unhappy marriage because of his beliefs and convictions, it hit me. I was unhappy in my marriage. I won't go into details, because that wouldn't be nice or fair to anyone. Suffice it to say my inner Third Culture Kid clashed with the "me" that I had created for myself. Having been a "global nomad" most of my growing-up years, I longed for stability. I got married, had children. But it wasn't the real me. I felt unsettled, impatient, always looking for the next thing. I felt that my "waters" ran so deep, and no one, including my husband, got that about me. I tried to talk about my experiences, my thoughts and hopes, but I never truly felt that he truly understood who I was and the thoughts I had. I kept looking for things to fill the void in myself. Graduate school. Traveling overseas for small "fixes" for my wanderlust. And that is just a very small part of why I left my marriage, in case anyone thinks I'm that shallow. I tried and tried to fit my round self into a big old square peg, and did the insane thing of doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Maybe leaving the marriage was extreme. Not maybe ... it was extreme. I lost friends. A lot of friends. My children have suffered. They stayed with their dad in their house. He was more financially able to care for them, and staying in their house offered some semblance of security for them. I moved into a tiny little apartment not far from the house. I remember the first night I spent in it, sleeping on an air mattress because I didn't have a bed. I tucked myself in and thought, "Well, here I am. It's going to be a bumpy ride!" But I felt free. Scared to death, but free.

I finished grad school. I received my MLIS in May of 2010. I reunited with the love of my life, my college sweetheart, who has freed and accepted the real me in many ways. We are planning an August wedding (actually an elopement). I will always love and respect my ex-husband ... he is the father of my awesome children, and he was kind to me throughout the divorce. We still laugh at the kids' antics, and are jointly concerned with their welfare. He has a new love in his life, and I rejoice at that. I only want him to be happy and have someone in his life who loves him.

So that is the background for the 180 degree turn that this blog will take. I thought I would write about how being a Third Culture Kid has made me who I am today, the good, bad and ugly. About my huge capacity to tolerate and how it makes me sad for people who didn't grow up like I did. I hope that other TCKs will see things in me that resonate in themselves. Maybe by sharing my experiences, we can understand why we are who we are, and what drives us in our lives.

6 comments:

lrslippers said...

I am so glad you are sharing this and sorting it out. I am sure your story will resonate with many people who had some of the experiences you did growing up all over the place, seeing the world, and then having to find your place in it.
And sometime I want to hear about your daughter in New Delhi!

Liz said...

I'd like to hear about my daughter in New Delhi too! I didn't know I had one there!

Robert said...

Liz that was a wonderful post.

Mojo said...

Yes Liz, please tell us about your daughter in New Delhi! Many men have children they may not know about but for a woman it is certainly a tale for the telling. I am a TCK also and every time I hear about New Delhi, I am reminded about my experience being a tourist there in the late 1970's when we stayed in a guest house because our hotel had over booked.

Liz said...

Hi Liz. I really enjoyed reading your post. As a TCK myself and the product of a bicultural/bilingual family, I'm still trying to figure out--at age 50!--my place in the world. I look forward to your future posts...

rpm1960 said...

it resonates...