I seek guidance from my tested, tried and true old time friends because my life is more than a little unusual and you do not know the half of it. Well, perhaps eighty percent of it you know if you follow my blog. The most spot on insight came from Bruce last week. He and I have been friends for over fifty years although, as he points out, there was a twenty year gap. He said that most people my age have charted their course and look ahead along a straight road (leading unfortunately to death). But you, he opines, are different. My life has been constantly filled with curves and bumps in the road. You just round one curve, you look up and then there is another and that initially angers you at first. That man, that Bruce, can read my alleged mind. But then I just grab that steering wheel and negotiate the bends, the curves, the loops. I guess hopeful that it will all turn out. I have managed at this point to equip myself with a wonderful GPS system – old friends and many new ones as well. Many have been discarded, probably the ride made them car sick. I laugh. A song is playing: I can Hardly Wait to Hold You, Feel My Arms Around You, How Long I Have Waited.Now I Have Found You Don’t Ever Go. That part of my life has never happened and I do not think ever will. But life is sure an interesting ride.
Yesterday I met the most charming people at the jacuzzi. We had a jolly time which was supplemented by food and drink. There is a video wall and there are scenes of tropical beaches. Much to my horror and dismay there is scene showing two nude women running into the water. I immediately emailed Triple C. with the caption Here at Pool.
Me: Nude women in video wall. Where are the nude men? Remedy immediately
Triple C. Nude women …… where ……. CCC to the rescue!!!
Me: You just want to see them you creep! Four C’s CCCC.
So now I am going totally serious on you and will begin to post a story that I wrote in December when I was in London. It is called Secret of My Success. It is rather long so I will do it in three separate postings.
Secret of My Success
People ask me how I did it, how I was able to overcome my childhood, my dismal upbringing and become what I am today. A seemingly self assured, outgoing woman with a zest of life. Previously I have answered shaking my head in bewilderment: “I have no idea, if I did I would write a book about it and make a lot of money.” But today, in this my seventy-third year, I arrive at the truth of it. It came upon me quite suddenly but a lot of the thoughts were present, in rather inchoate forms and shapes. But today it consolidated for reasons I cannot recall.
The reason that I was able to succeed against all odds is that I purposively, almost intuitively, from a very early age, did the exact opposite of what my mother did. The way we approach the world, our abilities and even our weaknesses are diametrically opposed. The more successful I become the greater the contrast. Examples will follow.
Today I woke up to a perfectly organized flat. Even that is diametrically opposite from my mother’s lifestyle. I do not think that my mother ever lived in a flat (or in more common parlance, an apartment). She always lived in houses, houses both rented and owned. I would never have called them homes, but that is another difference. The houses were homely but not home like. I am obsessed with comforts, colors and stylish artifacts, not my mother. Then, here is another huge difference. I live alone at present and have at various times of my life. Not consistently as admittedly I have had three husbands and occasionally lived with men. She never lived alone as far as I can tell except for late in her life after my father left her and my brother was forced to relocate to Vancouver for business purposes. So it was never choice and the departure of my eldest brother when he was over forty, was devastating to her.
As far as I know my father was the only man in her life. She married relatively late, at the age of 26. My father was five years younger than she. Then after he left her I do not recall that there was any man in sight and as a matter of face, she hated men in her later years. Not my elder brother but all other men. She even hated my younger brother which was very hard on him, and I suppose on her. I have no sympathy for her because that was a disaster that she caused, when he was an infant. So she is actually reprehensible.
With me, it is the exact opposite. I was not particularly popular in high school, but I did have a steady boy friend at the end of my high school years. But from then on, holy cow, was I popular. One of my friends who knew me since my early twenties said: “Alexis, you may not remember this, but you were always a man magnet. You could have had anyone you wanted but you always chose the wrong men.” So three husbands, one live in, several serious affairs and several close, close male friends who I did not sleep with and therefore to whom I am very close. I suppose my mother and I do have something in common in that both she and I did choose the wrong men in my case, man in her case.
Our relationship with women is also markedly different. She did have one friend to whom she was very close. But that was really it. She did not particularly like women either. I guess she felt threatened by them but she was openly disdainful toward them and their values. She was never fond of me and was actually threatened by me and I know jealous. It made it very difficult for me and I recently wrote a piece called Don’t Hide Your Light Under a Bushel which detailed the phenomena – one I had to research. But the gist of it all is that you cannot show your strengths and instead must hide them. A very difficult row to hoe. I actually managed with grace and élan. I have always had women friends, of varying intimacy. Many close, intimate and enduring friendships from every age and stage of my life I have made women friends and actually do so on a daily basis.
I did not have children, my mother, of course, did. Dah! She did not particularly like being a mother, well to the younger brother and myself. Her relationship to my other brother is different but proved crippling to him – it was not so much she mothered him. it was like she owned him.
But then our habits are different. My mother lived in chaos, was a hoarder and believe me I know. It was me that was stuck with the task of moving her from the house where she had lived for about fifty years. Unbelievable the crap she kept, the dust, the filth of it all. We would come up with the find of the day, to amuse us. It was gallows humor. For example, the top of the wedding cake, hers and my father’s. It had to be at least sixty-five years old. Another example was a toupee of my father’s which he left when he left her hearth thirty years before, It was scary to find, I thought it was a rat or something. Of course, it had to be me to find it and to do the disgusting task of cleaning up the house when a spat of ill health struck her and she was forced to live in an assisted living place. Her spat of ill health was occasioned by her stubborn inability to take care of herself, most particularly her blood pressure. I am on blood pressure medicine but almost prophalitically. (sp?) I take exquisite care of my health. I am blessed with good health but have always insisted on the best of medical care and have a wonderful relationship with all of my doctors that ensure their attention. Mother dearest turned off physicians and care providers. Very stupid stance that. But back to housekeeping et. al. I am decidedly not a hoarder, In fact at this moment I have almost nothing with me, my few possessions are in a small storage area in the San Francisco Bay Area,
And I am organized with my stuff. A man, actually my lover, was stranded in my flat when I went to exercise (nothing my mother would EVER do) laughingly called me a slut and said that I left stuff all over the flat when I ran out the door. But he said that my cupboards, drawers and closets were incredibly well organized..“Stay out of my drawers!” said I. I am remarkably funny. Mother dearest had a slight sense of humor but was unable to laugh at herself. That is the essence of a sense of humor. Boy can I laugh at myself.
I have just come from what one would call a working class restaurant, well that is what they would call it in the US. It is in London near a public housing project so the clientele is of the lower class, they are on benefits (they call them here). Sitting at an adjacent table is a woman, of indeterminate age, She is in a wheel chair, she has oxygen attached, she has no teeth in her mouth, her hair is dirty and unkempt. Her physical unattractiveness is matched, perhaps exceeded by her rudeness. She treats the waitress with utter disdain, demanding her bread slices without a note of graciousness. It does not take too much imagination to see that she is doing nothing whatsoever to benefit society or the country she was born in. She does remind me of my mother, in her rudeness, her lack of attention to her grooming and her sense of entitlement. Sitting across the table from her is, in all probably, her daughter. She is a slightly younger, fatter version of her mother. As I write I almost cry for the two of them, no I guess not, just the one of them, the daughter. I can empathize, as mentioned before, and I feel sorry for this woman, most probably taking this rude person out to lunch. I did not have to perform that unpleasant task too frequently because I got a long way from my mother as early as I possibly could. I left the country – same continent but very inaccessible. I remained that way until she died. I am sure that helped.
There is a recent book Sing for Your Life, which describes the meteoric career of Ryan Speedo Green. He rose from a life of depravity and incarceration to become one of the most respected and talented opera singers of our times. The author was questioned as to Ryan’s incredible ability to overcome his past. The author had a surprising answer; he said it was his ability to be on his own, the ability to look to no one or nothing to assist him but instead to rely on his own inner resources. I have not read the book at this point but I will. But as I listened to that podcast I realized that was something so true of me. That aloneness is to me comfortable. I realized that while watching a play at the National Theatre Iphigenia In Splot, a powerful one woman play. The heroine is seeking desperately for a sense of union with someone and it strikes me that that what she is trying to get back to is the sense of union with her mother in those early days of infancy. I think that motivates many, if not all, often seeking intimate relationships in the unlikeliest of places. But I am not so encumbered. I know not that state of union. i am sure that is why I decided not to have children but it has led to bad choices as well. I see that I do try to replicate the experience with my mother. I assume the mothering role and think that if I do something right then I will be loved. I unconsciously seek out cold and unavailable people and hope to bring them around. I make valiant attempts of the for years and years. But then suddenly I get it and I leave the relationship. Always without looking back because I am returned to my comfortable place of aloneness. Thanks Mom.
But when did I decide to become different than her? I see that I could not reliably count on her for anything but fortunately I was surrounded by others in my early years. We lived with other people when my father was off at war – with my grandparents and then one of her sisters and her husband. So they gave me what I needed to survive. That is one reason why my brothers and I are so different. When they were born we were living as a nuclear family, a mother, a father and the kids. No one else to dole out attention and affection. I pity my brothers actually. So my outgoing personality is a result of my early living situation and one reason why I never clung to her. I could also see, particularly from my aunt, that there was a different way of being in the world. And that was instrumental surely. I learned that being attentive could get me the things I wanted and needed, like love for example. That being moody and changeable and selfish (like her) was not particularly productive. So the answer is, about three I figured out that being different from my mother would be a good idea.