Category Archives: Part 3 Moving On

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Arthur and I left for Philadelphia the summer of 1984. Zigzagging across the country is fun. My excitement is high when we arrive in that beautiful, historic city. Arthur had flown out before the car trip and found us a place to live, so we rounded up some used furniture at the Salvation Army, and I set about securing my place at school. I love Penn, the campus, my classmates, the faculty, and Arthur.

We drench ourselves in the Philly experience. We go to New York frequently, explore the Pennsylvania countryside, travel often to the Jersey Shore, go to the theater, and discover magnificent eateries. The hype doesn’t last long.

We are in Philly for less than a year when Arthur becomes disillusioned. He can’t find a fit for his rogue, bad-boy persona, though not for want of trying. My studies require more and more of my time and energy. The Pacific Northwest tugs at him, as he grows more despondent with each passing day.

In a last ditch effort to help Arthur regain some of his previous endearing qualities—love of laughter, joy of life—I suggest we go abroad.

I apply to the London School of Economics and Political Science. Initially, Arthur is wild about the prospect but his enthusiasm wanes and deep depression grips him in a choke-hold. He decides that what he really needs is to return to Portland; familiar territory.

He won’t hear of me quitting my studies, and he leaves for Portland dejected and even more depressed. I am deeply saddened, and miss him, but know there could be no other way for either of us. We don’t break up exactly, but it is the beginning of the end.  I take a leave of absence from Penn, and one month after Arthur leaves, I fly to London.

On my way to England, I stop in Portland to spend some time with my daughters and a few friends. Marilyn, a long-time Portland friend, and I are catching up on one another’s lives and wondering about our future. Then I say, “I feel like there is a big piece missing from my life, like a puzzle with a hole in the center.”

“I think what’s missing from your puzzle is God,” Marilyn says.

“I can’t imagine that is what’s missing. I’ve never felt any kind of a God in my life. It must have something to do with me leaving my children, don’t you think?”

“I’m thinking the two might go together.”

Something vaguely resonates in the way she hints that the puzzle might have to do with God. I feel a weensy internal shift. So I began by experimenting. Surprise, prayer didn’t feel as alien as I thought it would.

What I came to learn:

  • That period of time in my life, as I drenched myself in learning how to be a full-bloomed independent woman, was critical in paving the way for my growth into the motherhood I strived for.
  • It would take many more years in the making.                                                                       Stay tuned for a “surprise” post.

#14 Dating Again

I move into a lovely older Northeast Portland home in the Lloyd Center area. I’m making good money working for the State of Oregon and finally feel some stability and security in my life, which bumps me up the symbolic ladder of adulthood a couple of rungs. Notice, I said adulthood, not parenthood. I continue […]

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#13 A New Playbook

With the girls’ arrival, graduate school becomes fraught with parental demands so far out in left field I’m barely able to grasp them. I’m not prepared. Riding the fence of nascent parenting forces me to put in overtime writing in my new playbook when I can—squeezing it in between school, internship, and a part-time job. […]

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Some changes look negative on the surface, but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge. –Eckhart Tolle

After my first year at PSU, Tracie, and Kelly, ages eighteen and fourteen, come to Portland to live with me. This development offers me another opportunity to practice my parenting skills face-to-face.

Tracie had dropped out of her freshman year from Boise State University, dumping a track scholarship, and Dave called to inform me he is sending Kelly to me with the expectation that I ‘fix’ her. “She’s running with the wrong bunch of kids, they’re into drugs, and who knows what else. She’s skipping school, and she won’t listen to me.” Without a pause, he continues, “Stefanie is doing fine, but wants to come to Portland during the summer break. I’ll call to make the necessary plans in early May.”

Abandonment runs in our family. I can see that now. My father was abandoned by a depressed, unloving mother; he then abandons his son Wally, my half-brother, via alcoholism, and Wally’s mother abandons him through death. My mother abandons me, twice: first, metaphorically to God, then psychologically by seeming to be unavailable to my growing-up needs. I abandon my children by physically leaving them, and Dave, unwittingly, abandons them by marrying another and redirecting a lot of his attentions away from them, toward his new wife and her children. I am well aware my daughters have not gone unscathed through my family’s string of discards.

Long before my mind is aware of it, the desire to break this damaging cycle is sensed by my soul (spirit). This yearning is so deep within, I can barely identify it. The wounds caused by my leaving needed to heal. I wanted my girls to have what I didn’t—a truly nurturing mother. This visceral understanding eventually became the taproot connecting me to my childhood.

I start slowly, so slowly that one would barely notice. Without a playbook, I need to write my own moves. Understanding it and knowing how to correct it don’t line up easily so I do what I’d always done: march forth with dogged intention, but without a plan.

I add the first few ingredients for my new recipe:

one tablespoon of purpose

half a cup of confidence

a dash of grit.

The makings seem compatible, yet not quite ready for blending. I cover the bowl with a soft muslin cloth of hope, and store it safely in the pantry of my heart to protect it from the rain.

What I came to realize is:

  • I had to let go of the guilt and shame that fed my Denial. This is a large order and it takes me nearly three and a half decades.

Stay tuned. Next episode: A New Playbook