“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
-Mark 8:36 (KJV)
“Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see ...each other in life. Vanity, fear, desire, competition-- all such distortions within our own egos-- condition our vision of those in relation to us. Add to those distortions to our own egos the corresponding distortions in the egos of others, and you see how cloudy the glass must become through which we look at each other. That's how it is in all living relationships except when there is that rare case of two people who love intensely enough to burn through all those layers of opacity and see each other's naked hearts.”
“I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there ’s a pair of us—don’t tell!
They ’d banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!”
- Emily Dickinson, I’m Nobody! Who are you?
I’ve had very little experience with minimum wage jobs. Even my first job, at sixteen, was at an antique toy shop where I earned a percentage of the collectibles I sold. I have always made an above average wage. When I was first married, I was making twice the minimum wage at that time and now I am well beyond that. I’m not proclaiming this information to brag. Also, I'm not rich - unless you are comparing me to people in third-world countries. By that standard, me talking about how I still struggle to make ends meet becomes embarrassing. It is only presented as a foundation for todays tale. The woman I was married to for twenty three years was never satisfied with my wage. It was never enough - never.
By our sixth year of marriage, we had moved into an amazing house. It was in a wonderful location and setting - a beautiful old farm house that had been rehabilitated but was still full of character. It was exactly what my spouse wanted. I loved it also, but I couldn’t afford it. Rent and utilities were taking up two-thirds of my take home pay. It wasn’t logical and it wasn’t something my wife was willing to budge on.
There were so many factors that were playing a role in complicating the situation. We didn’t save money and when we had extra, we were starved to “buy” something so we usually did. I tried to push most of this to the back of my mind. Now that we were on our second child, I was pretty content to just be experiencing a family. Looking back, I can see that my partner was regretting the path she had chosen. Much of that regret started to manifest in fabricated illness. On top of expensive housing, I was now accumulating medical bills from trips to doctors and emergency rooms to figure out what was surly consuming her body and leading to her demise. I’m still paying those bills today.
Fast forward six years and we were still living beyond our means. Any pay raise that came my way was diminished by her need to present our family as a torn out page from an Anthropologie catalogue. It was a constant battle. She was unwilling to make small sacrifices in the name of saving money so that we could eventually live the way we wanted. For her, the problem was always that I didn’t make enough money - that I had lost ambition - that I was, essentially, a loser. She wasn’t wrong about me losing ambition. I had been beaten down pretty thoroughly at this point and always succumbed to her wants. At the risk of elevating myself, I’ll tell you that I did everything for her. I gave her my soul.
This was the period that she told me that she had lost all love for me. She started a business of her own and, even then, informed me that she was starting this business because I was a poor provider and she was doing it to provide for our kids. It is interesting to note that all of the marketing, branding, design, illustration, manual labor, set-up, break-down, cleaning, maintenance…what else…was done by me. But, it was her business. It was a good one. It was good because this was one area where we worked well together. She had great ideas, I had great vision, she had great direction, and I had the artistic ability and a solid background in construction so that I was able to make it happen. It was actually exciting to me and I didn't mind doing what I did to make it succeed.
This same period was when my spouse started to cultivate a relationship with a psychic. I did not like this at all but I did not stand in the way of her pursuit of this charlatan. This woman began to whisper ideas of great success, fame, and fortune. It all seemed to be directed at her and my son but did not really include me or my daughter. This was also a time when my son started to have a bit of success in his life and “her” business started to have a great deal of success - people were ravenous over it. The business ended up having a story written about it in a very upscale white American magazine and soon to follow were a long line of independent producers wanting to ink a deal for a television program featuring my spouse and the two girls who were in business with her. Then an investor came into the picture wanting to build this vision to something even larger. Although I continued to fully support this vision, her criticism of me grew. Her disinterest in me got stronger and stronger.
Fast forward three years and the business had fallen apart but her engagement with the psychic was stronger than ever. Crystals were lining up around the house. Ritualistic notes about success were found under pillows. Prayers to unkown gods would fall from the underside of drawers. And Mercury was always in retrograde - apparently wrecking havoc on the chi of my family’s existence. These were strange times being orchestrated by a vicious charlatan.
The more intense her drive for money and fame grew, the more I pulled back and wanted as little to do as possible with money. This, among other things, drove a wedge between us. Her focus was on building her name and ensuring that our son became some type of star. The vision of the psychic told her he would be a famous star within three years time. He is doing fine and chasing his dream still but that three years has come and gone and he’s not a famous star. Fortunately he sees through these lies as clearly as my daughter and I do.
No longer blinded by lust or fear, I can pursue beautiful things. But my heart is still breaking. Not only for my daughter (and for less severe reasons, my son), but for my former spouse. She is a victim of everything I ever warned her about. She chases (what she perceives to be) love, fame, and fortune. What she did not realize was that she had love and she was rich beyond measure with a beautiful family. Her willingness to give all of that up in pursuit of something that continues to elude her is tragic.
Perhaps, one day, she will be arm in arm with “the one” - jet setting across the globe in the limelight. I could care less. I can look back and say that I was privileged and wealthy beyond measure. I can look at my two children now and know that my creator has made me a rich man.