Have I been shamed (“gently persuaded”) into faking emotions, etc. that I don’t really feel? And do I now, think/believe these emotions, etc. are mine (but they are not; they were forced on me by others [parents, friends, society])? Yes, I think so.
It takes lots of self-awareness to pick out these things which are lies I have been told about what I should feel, think, do, say, etc.
Coercion of any kind is not a good thing, whether social, familial or between friends. I find that women who have followed more traditional roles want other women to conform to those roles. (These people are like the women who carry out clitoridectomies in some countries or wives in countries like India who abuse their daughter-in-laws after being abused in the same way themselves.) A few women (both young and old) have expressed horror and outrage and condemnation of me when I told them how I feel about my children and grandchildren. They judged me harshly and refused to accept my choice as anything even NEARLY acceptable.
The role these women hate so much is a respectful relationship with a lot of distance between myself and my kids. When Myles is born, it’s OK with me (and with Seth) if I am not around to see him during his first few days. I just want to know the baby and his parents are doing fine. I can see Myles on Skype and get all the info I need from Seth on the phone. I will see Myles within the next year. That I had chosen this untraditional way of relating to my family was appalling to these women. Would they judge a man as harshly?
I was “encouraged” by all three of my children to allow them to be very independent of me. And I accepted this position with tremendous delight and joy, maybe not at first, but with time. At first, I wanted the very traditional mother and grandmother role; slowly, I saw the benefits of my new life. I was able to create A LIFE OF MY OWN. Now, I am not tied to my kids in any way, nor are they tied to me. We are all free agents. I miss Sam, but we will be reunited again. Anya and I keep in touch by phone, and Seth and I are also in touch by phone. I am very satisfied.
I refuse to feel sorry for myself and groan over what I don’t have. It is so much better to let go of the past, move on and find the beauty in a new path.
Life is constant uncertainty, excitement and stimulation. Pachamama (my spirit mentor [who may be My Own hidden, higher SELF]) tells me to reject nothing/no one; to love it ALL. That way, nothing gets in my way, slows me down, or makes demands on my attention. My negativity attracts other people’s neediness and demands.
My commitment to myself is to be AUTHENTIC. I want to CREATE the real, true me.
Some quotes from Fragments of Grace: My Search for Meaning in the Strife of South Asia by Pamela Constable (2004):
“I took pride in traveling fast and light, fitting into new cultures, absorbing new realities and putting them into prose. I became expert at making entrances and escapes” (p. 257).
Pakistan: “…the control of women is a major obsession, and fer of European-style women’s liberation is a major factor… in the growing anti-Western clamor from Pakistani pulpits. The issue resonates deeply with men, especially those from impoverished, illiterate backgrounds…. (p. 90).
“In the minds of many Pakistani men, Islam’s constraints on women are a convenient cover to exercise absolute control over them, while its emphasis on mercy and restraint may do little to rein in men’s violent impulses” (p. 91).
“In Pakistan, there was simply no such thing as a female free agent; the very idea was unacceptably subversive” (p. 95).
“To me, it was a luxury to spend an entire afternoon in a refugee camp or a brick factory or a used-clothing bazaar. I learned more about (Pakistan) in a few hours at a shoemaker’s workshop or a school for street children or a clinic for drug addicts than I did at a dozen news conferences by men in suits and uniforms. I was much happier wandering on my own with a translator among the bazaars of Rawalpindi or Peshawar than shouting to make myself heard while squeezed among a dozen TV cameras in an Islamabad ballroom” (p. 105).
“For a few hours, I will feel jealous of these settled lives and emotional certainties, of friends and relatives who have been steadily adding accoutrements to their comfort and generations to their tree. I will wonder briefly what is wrong with me, why I have never really wanted to settle down and raise children, why I keep shedding possessions and relationships when others are accumulating them” (p. 107).
“My husband began working his way up the American ladder; I wanted to plunge into distant struggles and terrain” (p. 108).
“…sometimes he struck a pure, painful chord in me, especially when he talked about the emptiness of celebrity and the need to pare away everything–possessions, personality, pretensions–to the bone… I knew he was right” (p. 109).
“At an age when most sane, successful people measure time and progress by annual raises and Christmas cards, I am still living for these few, fleeting moments of inspiration and insight and raw emotion, for brushes with near-death and impossible love” (p, 109-110).
“I may eventually discover that a succession of intense experiences and epiphanies add up to nothing, that I have lost more than I have gained by rushing off to another distant revolution or earthquake instead of leading a quieter but more cumulative life, closer to those I love. In the end, though, the choices were mine, both the mistakes and the redemptive moments. That in itself is a privilege that my sojourn in South Asia has ensured I will never take for granted again” (p. 110).
“I jet in and out of other people’s sealed fates, I devour their pain and transform it into prose and move on, clutching a passport from the most powerful nation on earth” (p. 131).
“…I was a lonely traveler… ‘Being a foreign correspondent means catching planes with no one to see you off, and landing in airports with no one to welcome you'” (p. 132).
“I myself was an adopted child, taken in as an infant by two people who loved me but did not look like me, who raised me in an atmosphere of care and privilege and purpose but knew nothing about my genealogy. In a profound sense that is no reflection on them, I do not know who I am, and I am not connected to anyone. I know the magic access codes and mannerisms of the American aristocracy, but I am much happier among the anonymous wretched of the earth” (p. 133).
“Perhaps the qualities that make me a good journalist [a light traveler, an empathetic observer, a quick study, an emotional extruder] are exactly the same ones that make me a flawed person, that keep me from making the transition from hotel to home, from passion to commitment, from child to parent. Perhaps I am searching, in a thousand exotic places and faces, for clues to the puzzle of myself” (p. 134).
“I was always moving too fast to allow my memories to accumulate, always rushing my experiences into print instead of savoring them and learning from them, always writing for strangers who could erase me just by turning the page” (p. 157).
“We (journalists) also shared a horror of surrendering to the complacency of desk jobs and comfortable suburban lives, where the worst one had to face was an appointment with the dentist or the IRS and, perhaps, the occasional, vaguely disturbing reminder of paths untaken, novels unwritten, dreams deferred. To chronicle others’ hardships and conflicts was a way to stay alive, on edge, engaged, even if our Western passports and credit cards usually allowed us a quick exit from looming conflagration
“Finally, we both admitted that morning, there was that heady assumption that we could survive anything, peer over the brink of an abyss without falling in, fly close to the flame of revolution or riot or religious wars without being seared” (p. 202)
“Afghan family life was ruled by pride, shame, obligation, and fear of gossip; individual feelings were irrelevant, especially for women” (p. 229-230).
“My friendships with Afghans were limited in a different way; some seemed open and modern at first, but I gradually discovered that their family lives were a dense thicket of obligation and rank and ritual from which no one could escape. Even without the Taliban, Afghan society remained closed and conservative, a place even the most adaptable foreigner could never really feel comfortable or at home” (p. 251).
Pamela Constable loves getting dirty, literally and figuratively. She writes about the “guilt” she feels about her privileged upbringing. I love Constable for these things (and more). I read the book in two days and cried after finishing it.
Wrote Pam Constable a message on her Facebook site.
It just rained and was cold for two days. I stayed in the big, empty, Airstream trailer on the Heitz’ property out in the East End. Cliff is the caretaker, and he very kindly let me stay there.
I wandered around the property and memories came back. The house burned down quite a few years ago after True and Larry had a messy divorce (his choice). But the old chimney and the house’s foundations are still there as are two of the modules Larry built for the kids. There’s a new cabin now (built about ten years ago or more) where Cliff lives.
I started hanging out on the Heitz’ property, at their house, around the time that I first came to Ojai at age twenty-two. Actually, it was probably a year or two or three later because when I first got to Thacher, I was still very young and naive. I had no idea who I was or who I wanted to be; I knew very little about the world.
My main recollection when rambling around the Heitz’ acre or so was realizing that True and Larry lived free, artistic, experimental, creative lives. I knew almost immediately that it was what I wanted: to be like them in many ways. But I wasn’t ANYTHING like that. And I’d never known anyone like them. My main thought/feeling was: “Can I change? Can I ever fit in with these people?” I desperately wanted to go in that direction.
The Heitzes were my teachers, Larry probably more so than True. They both had been raised in Los Angeles, and they knew about the intellectual, creative lifestyle that was so prevalent at that time in Ojai’s East End. Until I met the Heitzes and their friends, I didn’t even know that theirs was the lifestyle I longed for. My dreams and personal, individual desires were buried deep in my unconscious. I was raised at a time when women in the US were just beginning to have lives and thoughts and feelings of our own. My mother, Ann, encouraged me in this, as well as in self-expression through writing.
I had no idea where my pursuit of that life would lead me, but I knew that was where I was going. I used to go to the Heitzes’ house with my husband, Hank, but he was heading in a very different direction, and he didn’t really fit in there (I didn’t understand this at the time). Larry, some neighbors (the Dinkins and the Danishes), and I played guitars, sang, smoke pot, and drink wine. (Maybe not too much pot in those days [1970 or so], but I recall there being some.) It was mind-blowing for me. Soon, I was really changing and growing and discovering a new me and a new world.
I gradually moved away from Hank and Thacher School and everything I’d known and been before. Playing the guitar and singing made a big difference: I really expressed myself and became an artist. (I left playing music behind, but, for a few years, it made a huge difference in my life.) By age twenty-seven, I had made the change to a new life. On January 1, 1974, I left Hank and Thacher School (and Anya, who wanted to stay in the house she knew, and who feared the changes I was going through). By February 1975, Seth and I had moved to San Francisco in a wonderful house-truck: it was an International Harvester, which friends helped us convert into a little dream house. (I was on my way to school up at Cal State, Humboldt, but SF drew me in strongly in those post-hippie days.) I met many new and unfamiliar kinds of people in San Francisco. I auditioned and tried to get into the music scene there. I did a lot of LSD and smoked a lot of pot and spare-changed on the streets of Berkeley and became acquainted with living in SRO or “transient” hotels.
In the summer of 1975, Hank took Seth away from me (I had full custody of Seth, however.) On October 6, 1975, I tried to commit suicide in Berkeley, California (so many changes over so little time!). By early 1976, I was back on my chosen path and firmly resolved to follow my star. By summer of 1977, Seth was back with me in Santa Cruz. (Anya was still living with Hank, now in Carmel, and apparently happy). Seth and I began to live a life of squatting (at Scott Creek, Davenport, Ca.), living in house-trucks, and finally, in October of 1979, moving north to Eugene, Oregon in our eighteen-foot, Dodge “Swinger” RV. There in Eugene (where our RV broke down), I met Bill Schneider and got pregnant with Megan. Another new chapter began.
Seth was ten years old. In April (or May) of 1980 we hitchhiked from Florence, Oregon back to Ojai with two small dogs. (We left our big Dodge “Swinger” in Florence; it had broken down.)
At first, Seth and I made a home in the bushes at the end of the little dirt road off McAndrew (the road that leads up to the entrance of Horn Canyon). We used to call that road “Casa de Paz” because True and Larry (and later the Danishes) lived in a house up there that had that name (and also its own little chapel).
After a month or two, we were invited to stay at True and Larry’s (in the property where Cliff is living now); we stayed in a room that was under construction. True felt sorry for us, but I loved playing house in that big field. By autumn, we had rented Eileen’s house (she was up at the Dron’s house on Gridley Road) on the corner of Thacher Road at McNell (she still lives there). Megan was born in that house in November, with my pregnant friend Tracy Lou attending as mid-wife and Tina Cardinalli (and two of her kids), Suza Francina, and Marty Gottesman [Noble] helping.
Seth was present at Meg’s birth. Now, his and Noelle’s baby, Myles, is due. Exciting!