Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Becoming resigned

I'm caught in that peculiar place of being the emptiness that defines the spokes in the wheels, that gives the meter to poetry and to music but fades into background in the presence of what's obvious.

The stuck part is in being literally invisible, and experiencing the futility of pointing this out as being important, even vital.

Once again Gary said something this morning that indicates that he has no clue what I do. I think the anguish in this, is knowing that he feels very self-righteous in his belief that I don't 'do anything' except 'sit around and read books'. I realize that no matter what I do, no matter how frantically I run to create the sub-surface foundation that pushes up the tip of the iceberg of apparency, he only notices the last time he saw me taking a break, and defines me by that.

I feel the way an African American must feel who learns that some property that is owned by a corporation now and is worth huge amounts was once owned by an ancestor who was run off it or lynched. It must be very difficult to face the smug person who says it's time to 'let go and move on' with no consideration of whether or not they'd be as gracious as they're demanding the descendant be. The flagrant injustice of this and the futility of penetrating the fatuity of such a person would make it difficult to not hit them.

Yesterday I made inroads into my current book, and on the basis of that Gary said that's 'all' I do. Gone is the laundry I did, the grocery shopping, the hours I spend at Scott's school, the baking of some scones to prepare for Scott's teacher Billy's home visit, the checkbook-balancing, the numerous times I set aside what I'm doing in order to help a child who needs it. Gone is the week I was home with a very sick Scott; up in the night with him, taking him to the doctor, follow-ups, getting him medication and making sure he took it.

What I do is take care of the details that put our eco-system into place and maintain it. It's not like a clearly defined job, where the description is easily listed and bullet-pointed. It is like the skill of 'seeing', which is fairly unremarkable until one considers that as a skill it requires at least 8 sub-skill-sets, all working perfectly and in perfect integration. This is something very difficult to point out, especially to someone who doesn't want to understand. I don't just do discreet 'jobs', I sustain a system. And the system functions so well it disappears from consideration when Gary evaluates what I do. This system is a given, dropped on us by God, and what have I done lately?

What I'm becoming resigned to is that I will never ever be able to get him to see it. I'm just wearing myself out trying to find words to articulate it 'so he'll understand'.

On "King of the Hill" this example of paradigms defining reality was illustrated beautifully in an episode where Dale Gribble, a raving paranoiac, discovers that a girl in the neighborhood has the same DNA as his 'son' Joseph (who has an uncanny resemblance to a handsome Native American New Ager, John Redcorn). The obvious explanation to Dale is that aliens removed his (Dale's) DNA and impregnated the child's mother with it--making a daughter to him and a sister to Joseph. It never occurs to him, though it's immediately clear to everyone else, that the girl and Joseph may have John Redcorn in common. You can see the minds of the friends and neighbors working as they weigh the uphill battle against Dale's belief system and conclude it's just not worth it to convince him.

Even when I've been able to shed some light on the situation for Gary and he seems to understand, it's short-lived. He forgets and again sees the evidence of me reading a book as proof that I'm selfishly neglecting the family and riding the gravy train that is him.

Instead of hitting him I slammed a door (knocking moulding loose, which means I've set a bad example for the boys about not being destructive when angry. I'm aware I've also only managed to feed his self-satisfaction about my lack of self-control.). I left the house, found a wi-fi place and have been here for the past few hours. I didn't take the cell phone with me.

It's a bitter pill. People are not going to see things they don't believe already. It's a waste of time to try to show him what I do and how much it costs me. And how much it costs me to know he doesn't see it. It's painful to see how he magnifies his role and minimizes mine. Even if he spends some time alone with the boys and gets a taste of how crazy-making it can be, instead of translating that into empathy he's annoyed that I left him with them. Later, he forgets how difficult it was at the time and thinks I whine when I say it's hard and I need a break.

It matters if I care what he thinks. The fact that I'm experiencing pain over this shows I still care; but it seems it may be in my self-interest to jettison that. It may not be a matter of discarding; it's probably more accurate to say it's eroding.


Douglas W said...

I understand what you do.

How many times have I heard this story of the male who thinks the wife does nothing all day... that her work is valueless compared to his... that she just sits at home and enjoys herself while he works oh so hard to support the family...

I wonder what goes on inside the heads of some of these men who just cannot see it.

Oh yes... I can understand why this is frustrating you so much... I can see and hear and feel your frustration with this... I just wish there was something I could do about it.

But I can listen.

excavator said...

I've heard there is a counterpart to this from men who are at-home dads. I haven't explored this as much as I like; it's kind of a topic that lends itself to blogging, I think. Generally if I'm with an at-home dad, the mom is also a friend of mine (and Gary is a friend of the dad's) and so I feel a little inhibited in asking sensitive questions.

So, I need to find some at-home dad bloggers!

I really do appreciate your comment. Writing has always been an attempt to express and trace that odd combination of experience and feeling, and sometimes real anguish comes from being unable to do that. Thanks for telling me you 'get' it.