Picture
The night before our wedding, with family and friends.
"What are you going to wear? A white t-shirt with your jeans?" That's what my friend asked the week before I married John on this day in 2003. I was the kind of person who wears the same grungy crap a few days in a row, maybe even sleeping in it, because I was obsessed with organizing. Or, that is the story I told myself.

"No. I'm going to wear a dress."

"A wedding dress?"

I wore a wedding dress. I did. It was off-white. And I carried flowers. And up until I threw it at John's face a few years ago, I wore a ring that had his name inside and the date on which we were married. I have that ring now, and his ring too, in a handmade wooden box that says "I love you the way you are."

Oh, John. Life is so short and friends are few. I love you. Maybe I can say that and mean it and know what it means to love someone else because you taught me. We taught each other, maybe, because maybe that is the way love works. In the end it was you who taught me, and I who taught you, though I have said all kinds of awful things in the past about the kind of pain I was in with you too. As have you, though you were never as emotive as I. 

We've been so shitty to each other, by accident mostly, and so, so good to one another too, mostly on purpose. The forgiveness between us is real and deep. There is something to be said for that.

For the rest of you, this is what I have learned from my marriage. John and I took vows on our wedding day that we wrote ourselves. They were about our commitment to the community. That's all we said. We were a work team devoted to the world. Guess what, activist friends? That did not a marriage make, and in the end, that did not a good work team make either.

We fell apart, as people. We're still picking the sharp little pieces of broken heart out of our flesh.

Community is something you don't just work for. It is a relationship. And you can't have a relationship with something as huge as "the world" or even "the neighborhood" if you don't know how to have a relationship, an intimate one, with another person, because you cannot know the reality of others without this experience. And you cannot write your own vows to the community. It is a negotiation. 

In The Sibling Society, author Robert Bly relates the story of the Hindu god, Ganesh, who, as a youth, is asked by his mother to guard her privacy as she bathes. He unknowingly is guarding her from her husband, his father, who had been so long gone he does not know him. Indeed, the father had left the family in a rage eons before because his wife, the goddess who bore Ganesh, conceived him in an act of trickery against him. In the ensuing fight between Ganesh and his father, the boy’s head is cut off.  His mother, upon seeing this, is filled with grief and rage. To mend him his father takes the head of a baby elephant and places it upon Ganesh's shoulders. Bly interprets the story in terms of the damage we do to young men in our culture of libertarian ideals, leaving them without mentorship, to feel as if
they are protectors of their mothers, not themselves sheltered.

The myth is also reminiscent of the awesome, if somewhat delusional, responsibility of the activist, the deformity, and the weight of a professional head -- a non-human head -- that has colonized us, a head that does not quite fit on our very human body.

Jeff Noonan wrote recently:

"A future new left must be positive and constructive if it is to be anything at all. A positive and constructive new left, while mindful of the structural contradictions of capitalism, cannot treat these as a reason to not act in the present on demands that make some people's lives better but leave structural problems unaddressed in the short term. Theoretical models of wholesale alternatives to capitalism have a place, but have not proven capable of mobilizing large numbers of people in Europe and North America in ways that have effectively institutionalized real gains. Instead, the losses continue to mount. The first crucial task of an effective new left must therefore be to work out a short term agenda that builds mass support and that can be realized within existing institutions, but at the same time pushes those institutions away from their current life-blind function toward their life-valuable reason for being."

Their life-valuable reason for being.
Their life-valuable reason for being.
Their life-valuable reason for being.

My friend, poet and teacher, Lee Furey, wrote in her poem Penelope about her 20 year long relationship with another activist:

I hate this movement
that has stolen you from me.

I hate it because it denies
its own love of conflict,
it denies
humanity,
the beauty of imperfection
and forgiveness.


I hate it because
it finds those who live in peace boring.


I hate it because
I don't know where you left the guitar.
I hate it
because
I live on the ground.


Yeah, Lee. We all do. We all live on the ground.

 


Comments

Diana
04/05/2012 9:56am

Windy, your writing gets better and better. :-) Thank you for sharing these thoughts - beautiful.

Reply
Windy
04/05/2012 11:10am

Thanks Diana. I try.

I think I might be getting much healthier. I seem to move through the PTSD in spurts, languishing sometimes for months at a time, and then, it probably seems from the outside, I just wake up having made huge progress. I think I take much longer to really feel things through than I like to admit, being such a fast talking, fast thinking, fast learning kind of person -- though these are all bad survival-based habits many organizers and activists have.

I'm really pleased that I'm putting things up on the blog, making progress on my thesis, and moving forward with my projects in real ways, not just in emotional ways.

And you, you are a great former sister-in-law! A great friend. Thank you, Diana.

W

Reply
Amy Callner
04/19/2012 7:36am

I stumbled into your blog and really needed to read this today. Thanks.

Reply
Windy
04/28/2012 6:12pm

I'm so glad.

Reply



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