Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Monkey

Late last year I grabbed the corner of our monkey, and in furious anger wrenched it down so hard that it smashed all over the floor. It was only 6.30am in the morning and I was in the midst of a dreadful argument with my husband. Sometimes I get violent when I'm angry.

Who has fights that early in the morning?

Married people.

The monkey was smashed. It was a really cute monkey too, we'd had it for over twelve years. Since the beginning of our relationship. He was brown and ceramic, laying on his back using his arms and legs to hold up a bowl. In that bowl contained vital pieces of crap that households collect - allen keys, buttons, batteries, ds games, coins. Whenever somebody around here couldn't find something there was only one question. "Have you checked the monkey?"

Every so often I'd get staunch and go through all the crap. Sift it all, and the monkey would be culled. Then we'd start again, layers of detritus building up. One day, I found something in there so horrific I was kind of in awe at my own dysfunction: Rocco's belly button thing that fell off when he was a baby.

Yeah. I choose to look at that symbolically ... the time when he was born was so manic, so hard ... that I obviously just tossed it into the monkey to deal with it later.

My husband Dave moved out of this house in early November. It was a joint decision, one we both felt was the right thing to do. There were four kids to consider - our two younger ones needed their own bedrooms and safety so I stayed here with them. Dave took his two older children from a previous relationship over into a different house a few towns up.

I was unprepared for how I would feel when he left. Intellectually I knew that it was the best thing for all of us, it was not a "break-up" .. just a break. To catch our breath and stop fighting, to focus on our children, to heal the gigantic gaping maw that the clash of parenting values two adults can have when parenting children of a blended family.

I was absolutely fucking devastated. The pain was intense and horrible and I thought to myself, "something deeper must be going on here." And it was, it did not matter if I consciously knew it. All of the abandonment I'd ever experienced in my life came crashing to the forefront of my mind and no amount of any tough exterior or hardcoreness could extinguish it. My heart turned wild with fury. Then it started winding around itself, shooting out protective layers like a pearl.

My husband is the only man I will ever let in to my heart, and it was crushed. Bad. My husband adores me. My husband had no choice but to put his children first. My husband makes me crazy. My husband makes me safe. My husband got cancer and kept soldiering on and it was me, me who fell, in the end.

Spectacularly! I never do things by halves.

We spent Christmas apart for the first time in 12 years. I would not talk to him. It was awful. I worried about falling off the wagon. On Christmas morning I woke up to the flu, my period, manic family-of-origin dynamics .. all as a single parent. Then I watched people get drunk. I got through it by laughing, because life is stupid and also funny.

I came away from the festive season with a feeling I hadn't felt before, a strength that has been growing ever since. I am strong - like, I really am. Big! I'm not just pretending. A fertile ground grew in me. I kept daring my voice to grow louder and it did. I kind of liked me, a bit. That was new.

I've been mainly financially dependent on my husband for many years now. It has slowly eroded my sense of worth, my self-belief. Of course I do the bulk of the child wrangling and meals and housework .. but sadly, it never seems to COUNT. I haven't felt equal, and I haven't felt enough. You know what happens when you have no respect for yourself? Nobody around you has much respect for you either.

There are other dynamics at play here, too. If I write this out according to what I did and how I feel, then hopefully I won't hurt anyone. But my god, when a woman realises she has been giving her power away and wants to start reclaiming it? Watch out world.

I've never felt so free and creative and fertile in my life. There are talks of moving back in, living together and working as best we can. With a sense of honesty and clarity that we all did not have before. I finally realised that I am not a wicked stepmother .. because my own children annoy the crap out of me just as much as my stepkids do!

I'm not step-kid racist, I'm just an arsehole!

I don't know if I believe in marriage anymore. It's too hard, there's too many compromises to make. I'm really scared that I will go back to how things were. I don't want to lose myself again, because I just found myself. And I like what I found. Can you have a rich creative life inside yourself and also be married with children? Or is that too greedy?

Honest conversations have been had. He's willing to do whatever it takes, and he looks at me with those green eyes and I think man, I will NEVER let myself love another person as much as I love this guy. I think real love is like the stuff that makes the arrow always point to north on a compass.

I don't know what's going to happen. I've been pestering him to take the trip to Spain he's been talking about for years, by himself. I might surprise him with the plane tickets and he might go over and fall in love with some Spanish chick and they could be *made* for each other. Or he and I could live together for the rest of our days until we die in a horrific accident. We could part ways and be best friends forever. We could stay together and love hard instead. We could divorce out of protest for gay rights, and just date each other until we're eighty seven. Nobody knows. If you think you know what's going to happen in your marriage? You don't. Nobody does.

Goddamn this world and the keeping up of appearances.

Marriage is HARD. I finally realised what old people who have been married for fifty years mean, when they say "sticking through the hard times."

You gotta know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em.


We have a plastic pineapple now, to collect all the household crap. It's orange and looks pretty ridiculous and weird. I miss the monkey. Yet breaking his back is one of the best things I've ever done.



  1. With exception to the stepkids part, it felt as though I was reading my own story here. We separated last August after almost 24 years of marriage. The devastation, the rage, the first Christmas apart is so relatable...but now I feel stronger, contented, happy. I cant see us ever reconciling. Too much pain associated with that, but I can see a workable friendship one day.

  2. Once again, you're ability to be nothing but 100% authentic makes this compelling for it's truth and totally relateable.
    After a shitty, shitty year - in all aspects - In 2011, Mr Smith and I are FINALLY back on track, talking honestly, but most importantly hearing and not just listening, to each other. I probably love him more today than I did on our wedding day because I know him now. Not totally. We're still working on that.
    You're amazing Eden. I love that I get to walk this earth with souls like yours.
    Gab x


Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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