While I am away for a few days, I am sharing a series of guest posts from some awesome bloggers. This one is from Keri Rumley, a single mom and expressive art therapist. She explains why she writes on her About page:
I began this blog as an attempt to utilize my own creative process as a tool for healing. I also knew I needed to write to connect to others in a time of extreme isolation, to be seen and witnessed in my experience of loss and hopefully to inspire and help others.
So, read on and be inspired. Just be forewarned, you may need to have some tissues nearby; this one brought tears to my eyes.
Are you there Divine? It’s me, Keri.
Today I received an eviction notice from my landlord. No reasons were stated, just that the kids and I needed to move out within 45 days or legal action would be taken against us. When we signed a lease for the property, the lease was “at will,” meaning that either party could terminate with 45 days notice. There was also a handshake agreement that we (my husband at the time and I) would eventually, be purchasing this property and the understanding that all of our monthly rent would be going towards the purchase price of the home. While I wasn’t really comfortable with the solvency of this unwritten agreement, my husband and his family members assured me that their families went back generations and would never “screw” one another over. A big part of my willingness to move from my hometown of Montpelier, Vermont and my childhood home was this sweet little house in Maine with it’s sunny deck, wooden play structure, chicken coop, barns, awesome kid’s bike riding flat paved driveway, pastures and forest bordering the property.
Since then my circumstances have changed. I am no longer part of this family with it’s wide reaches and I wonder if I am suddenly exempt from the “no screwing” clause. Because I have experienced so many traumas over the last six months around my divorce and because so much of it felt like it happened TO me unexpectedly, it’s hard not to take this latest slight personally. I would’ve rather received a phone call, or had an in person conversation about any problems with our tenancy and if not, the reasons for the eviction (possibly selling the home)? The same way I would’ve liked to have a conversation with my husband about our problems in the marriage, rather than discovering it for myself through the phone bill. I feel the drama building around me and I feel people getting sick of the endless stories of adversity. In my worst moments I imagine they think what a hard luck case I am and that perhaps “I did something to deserve all of this” and pat themselves on the backs for the neat and tidy packages of their own lives. Other tapes that run through my brain are, “why is all of this happening to me? I’m a good person, nice to elders and children. I volunteer in my child’s pre-school. I support public radio. I pay my taxes. I don’t do drugs; I don’t even drink alcohol anymore. I have always crossed my T’s and dotted my I’s. I have my Masters degree and my work is helping others, for crying out loud! Where are my blind spots and what am I supposed to be learning from all of this?”
My supportive spiritual companion reminds me that God (whatever version you believe in) steps in and offers guidance when you become completely helpless. A few weeks ago we joked that I’m nearly there. Tonight, I believe I have finally arrived. I don’t know what else can be stripped away? I have lost my marriage, half of what I considered my family, my kids half the time, my old community, financial stability and now the place we have called home. What is left? And yet, this is what divorce does. No area of your life can be considered safe from the spreading plague of a divorce.
Two weeks ago one of my cats died. It was actually the day after my last post, which was a perky and self-congratulatory ditty about how well I was FINALLY doing and how great I felt! Hooray for me! Finding my dead cat in the basement that night, his long gray and black striped body stretched out head to tail with rigor mortis, pressed up to the wall, eyes half open and mouth agape, was shattering. I calmly put my 3 and 4 year old sons to bed knowing his body lay there two floors below and then did what I do in all crisis situations: I got to work. I googled “what to do with your dead cat?” (I’m really not joking). After researching the town ordinances, I texted the landlord asking permission to bury my cat on the property, which was granted. I was so thankful my spiritual companion (family aunt) was staying with us to talk to me, support me and make a plan about what we should do. I stroked his dead body, feeling his plush fur for the last time. She was patient and gentle with my emotional process and did the tough and impossible (for me) job of lifting his body, wrapping him in the soft blanket he used to sleep on and then sealing the plastic around him. We tried many different boxes but his body was too long due to his robust physicality and the elongated and stiffened tail. She stayed inside listening for my boys, who often awake at night, while I went out into a fern grove in the forest behind our backyard, clad in boots and my head lamp to dig his grave in the peeper filled moonlight.
I experienced a full litany of emotions throughout this long intense process. In some moments I sobbed, releasing feelings of sadness that had been stored up over the last few months, realizing that that which is not fully felt and experienced the first time, will continue to keep coming back. In other moments I raged into the night like a crazy person, yelling about how fucking unfair this life is. I went through a lot of “what if’s” and self-blame and guilt around failing to take him in to the vet when he was making atypical meowing sounds the previous day. And in some other moments, I felt calm, resolved and at peace with the memory of my handsome adventurous cat’s life and being in the moment of what “is”. Digging in the dirt striking roots, and sharp edges of slate was ultimately calming and cathartic with each shovelful of dirt flung to the side. I remembered back to the day that we brought Clyde and Bonnie (his sister) home from the Montpelier Famers’ Market, and how the artist giving them away told us about their mother, a lovable barn cat. From the tangle of kittens, my husband chose Clyde and I chose Bonnie and we later joked how we secretly liked Clyde better because he was less tempestuous than his sister. I visualized the photos of my son who was two at the time, holding these mewling, squirming balls of fluff and the pure delight and joy on his face. I remembered the rhymes we would make up about the kitties (Clyde who would glide and slide) and how both of my kids could easily hoist up either cat as they grew to full size, the long expanse of their bodies draping over my kids’ arms like heavy snakes, limp and unfazed, ever tolerant. He and Bonnie slept with our family whenever they stayed inside, Clyde usually nesting down with my eldest. At our Vermont house the cats were very much indoor/outdoor cats with free reign, and would hunt at night. One morning Clyde returned with a slash out of one ear from a wilderness scuffle, only reinforcing his tough-sensitive guy persona and forever marking him for those who struggled to tell the two tiger striped kitties apart. They easily adjusted to our Maine home last fall and loved exploring the barn and trekking off into the expansive woods, climbing trees, and returning home to rub up against the dog, circling her legs as she nuzzled noses with them.
At some point in the digging, all of my feelings about my cat became entangled with my feelings about my marriage, and subsequent divorce. I had texted my (ex) husband letting him know our cat had died and asking if he wanted to come help me lay him to rest. His response was that he was “not available.” This moment for me finally crystallized what I already knew. How many times do you walk down that same street falling into the same hole? Listen to what people tell you. I finally got that he is NOT AVAILABLE to me now, or ever. Whatever I need to do, whether it is bury our dead cat, or find a new place to live, I have to do on my own, completely and fully. That is what divorce is, right? I had some fantasy movie montage playing in my head of him driving over, “knight in shining armor” fashion, our sweat pooling into the earth as we dug side by side, reminiscing and connecting about our cat and somehow, despite the divorce and ugliness that has ensued, making peace with his death and facilitating a healing process between us. A letting go and honoring of what once was; our shared history and continued evolution as a family.
Well, it didn’t happen. What did happen was that I realized I had it in me to bury my dead cat. It turns out I have a lot in me that I never knew I had.
These days I’m filled with clichés. “The lord never gives you more than you can handle.” “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” “Something better awaits you.” “The universe gives you what you need to grow.” While I believe all of these things, I realize my desperation to make sense of everything that is happening allows for the tender vulnerability of my own spirituality to emerge. We tell ourselves these things so we can feel better, and yet, we do believe.
Clyde was my (ex) husband’s cat and now they are both gone. I cried for two days after Clyde died until my 4 year-old son said exasperatedly, “It’s life, Mom. This is what happens. Why don’t you go draw a picture about it or something?” (*Child of an expressive art therapist) I was so worried about my kids and how they would handle yet another loss. I went on and on about how Clyde was “returning to Mother Earth and his spirit would possibly go into another animal, etc. When I asked them if hey had any questions or wanted to talk more about him, my younger said, “I have an idea. We’ll get another cat and name him Clyde!” My older son, said, “If you are done Mom, can I go watch a show?” They are so in the moment and they don’t yet attach all of the suffering to loss that we do as adults.
Ultimately, I couldn’t save the cat, just like I couldn’t save my marriage. This house that we are being evicted from, is still very energetically linked to my (ex) husband and his family and the promise of our fresh start here in Maine, last October. I see all of my ties and memories connected to him drifting away like a log floating down a lazy river, or the lump shrouded in plastic covered with shovel after shovel of damp earth. Soon, nothing recognizable will remain but the same river, winding and flowing, carving a new path. The past is buried and becomes a fertile ground for new growth, new life. I’m not sure where I am headed, but I have to trust that it will be the right place for me, and my kids. I recognize my helplessness to control any of it. I’m ready for you, Divine. It’s time to do your work, because I need a miracle.