It’s Thursday morning around 11:00. I just made my second cup of chai. I’ve meditated, did ten sun salutations, ate my cereal on the porch outside my apartment, met my neighbor, and slipped over to my friend’s apartment to coordinate our social calendar for later in the day. I feel good, I have a smile on my face, and my brow is not furrowed. Yet, I’m uncomfortably aware of a tinge of guilt following my every move.
Earlier this year, I made a decision to rent an apartment near campus. It actually takes me just fifteen minutes to walk from my apartment door to my office door, a far cry from the hour and a half commute that I was making three to five days a week for the last few years while finishing my graduate degree and then beginning my teaching career. A majority of the 115,000 miles on my Honda Civic are also on my body. The commute was taking a toll. My body was spreading like butter and aching in places that I did not know existed. I had no spiritual practice to speak of and no social life. And I wasn’t writing, which meant that I wasn’t practicing what I was teaching.
Bilocating became the answer, but it has called for many adjustments. Every Monday morning I pack my car with freshly laundered clothes and a couple of meals that I created over the weekend and packed into Pyrex dishes. I drive to my apartment, drop off my belongings, and walk to work. On Friday afternoon, I leave work, go to the apartment, and then pack up the dirty laundry and empty Pyrex, and then make the drive back to the Arroyo where my husband and I have lived (and had a fly fishing lodge––another story) for about ten years. The logistical adjustments, however, are minor players. The major player in this new development in my life is renegotiating my role as a wife.
Like many, I was raised by traditional parents where my mother was expected to tend to the house and her husband. This rule, of course, was set forth by generations of men and women who believed that this is the way marriage should work. Once I became old enough to carry some responsibility, my mother left me in charge of siblings and dinner (and in many cases my father) while she darted off to one volunteer obligation or another. The training for my role as a traditional hearth-keeper was set into place in concrete, and I followed suit in my first marriage.
However, I thought, having learned some difficult lessons, that new rules would be in place in my second marriage. I truly believed that I had declared my independence and was firmly seated in the belief of interdependence and interrelationship. But something happened and I slipped into being the traditional wife role in marriage number two, and I soon took over the responsibility of chief coordinator and support staff not only for the fly fishing business we created, but the relationship as well. And even though husband number two is light years ahead of his predecessor, he was raised by parents subscribing to the male head of household model, so there have been undercurrents of traditional expectations weaving throughout our relationship. And these expectations have been brought to the surface by my validating my own needs.
To his credit, husband number two is adjusting. He stays at home most of the time, tending to the dogs, and juggling his multiple responsibilities alone––no longer privy to my Virgo-like attention to detail and multitasking skills. Occasionally, he’ll swing by the apartment for dinner or a sleepover, but for the most part, even though he is on campus a couple of times a week, he opts to make the trip back home where he can work in the comfort of his familiarity, forgoing a few hours of shared space in our apartment. And this is where my discomfort begins.
Yesterday afternoon, I left work at about 3:30. I came home, did some yoga, ate some dinner, and took a walk. I made a brief visit to my husband in his office and then continued my trek around campus––an hour’s worth of exercise that was not in the realm of possibility had I still been commuting. Then I went back to the apartment and cleaned, not feeling any pressure at all to begin reading for my classes, or even answer emails, or make posts to Blackboard. And that is because I knew I had the whole next day ahead of me. A scheduling change opened up one whole day about every other week, and I opted to stay at the apartment and take advantage of the quiet to tend to my agenda, which included writing and meeting friends for yoga later in the day. But I feel guilty!
I sense the dominant rule-setters from my childhood and society in my psychic space, admonishing me for not being at home, easing his pressure of tending to the house, the repairmen, the dogs, and cooking dinner while my husband polishes his tenure notebook. I flip-flop between giving credence to these voices and listening to my own wisdom. I deserve to be rested, I deserve to tend to my work, and I deserve friendship. And as I write these words, I smile again. In fact I laugh at myself. I see the absurdity of making some other person the pace-setter of my life. No definition that I researched in a couple of dictionaries says that relationships are about one person having power over another. So why did I buy into the rule that all of my needs and desires were to be of lesser value than my partner’s (and others as well)? And why is it so hard to firmly embrace a different belief? Because somewhere somewhere along the way, someone cast a spell so that they would not have to do the work necessary to be in relationship. Whether that person is a parent, a friend, a boss, or a partner, I was expected to do all of the work to keep the peace and keep their lives humming along with ease. And that has left me with a whole lot of responsibility that I just don’t need, nor do I realize that I want.
My mentor–– who has walked this path of Spellbreaking for many, many years with me––once said, “If you cannot do something with heart, then don’t do it.” So my heart is here, sitting on the bed in my apartment with my laptop, listening to the traffic whiz by the window, where I am writing and finishing my now cold cup of chai. And on Friday afternoon, my dirty laundry and my empty Pyrex dishes, will accompany my heart back to the Arroyo where I will continue to practice interrelating with husband and dogs, and the multitude of kiscadees, greenjays, and doves that now wonder why they are only fed on the weekends.