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Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Second Saturn Cycle Retrospective

By Morgana Sage

As I was approaching my first Saturn Cycle, I dreamed of being more than just an average housewife and mother. I wanted to change the world I’d been raised to fit into, the world I’d delivered my children into, to be one in which adventure and personal growth could be achieved without being ground down to a common denominator of passive acceptance and dumb luck.

I didn’t want an ordinary life of raising ordinary children to become ordinary cogs in a system of ordinary sacrifice and struggle. I wanted to walk the shining path I saw before me, the path that led to real freedom, and the chance to make a difference; a path that my kids could follow without losing faith in their abilities to make the world a better place.

Liberation was not so much a goal for me as it was a means to become unshackled from the expectations that chained me to a grist mill, the same chains that my children would inherit from an average, discontented mother if I didn’t make a radical effort to change the course of my life.

Having no marketable job skills and only marginal talents, I had no other choice but to leave my kids safely tucked with their father and his family, as I made the jump into the ruthless, dog-eat-dog, world of sexist, racist, classist society of strangers, alone, with no economic, marital or political status, with nothing but my naked feminism and my willingness to hold fast to the idea that I had an obligation to do whatever I could to make the world a better place for myself, my children, my fellow travelers, in this one life I owned.

I almost didn’t make it through the first two years. Leaving my family and sisters tore a hole in my heart and I still weep when I remember the terrible loss, the awesome guilt, the horrible pain of knowing that I could never return to the fold that I had so drastically changed with selfish ambition and cold desire to become someone important enough to right the wrongs of an indifferent society.

I was crazy with grief and the idiocy of believing that I could just volunteer my services to change the world, to heal the ignorant, to accomplish revolution of the social order, one person at a time.

Suffice it to say, that I did get tutoring at the hands of the mental health establishment, which eventually convinced me that I had to learn how to make a living as something other than a revolutionary feminist or die an unsung martyr to masochistic idealism.

So I abandoned my attempts to infiltrate women’s centers and lesbian affinity groups and took advantage of a displaced homemaker’s training program to become a member of the pink-collar labor market as a nursing assistant in old folks’ homes. For ten years, I privatized my radical tendencies, complied with rules of behavior and dress codes and actually learned to care about the needs of others.

I loved the work and it took me a long time to get used to being paid to do something I really would have done for just the satisfaction of being loved and needed. The paycheck gave me the freedom to make a home for myself and my community of misfit artists and musicians and poets who did our living and loving and world-changing on the street as guerilla thespians. And we did make a difference when we occupied the campus of Syracuse University to demand that they divest their stock portfolio of South African apartheid.

We must have been one of the last straws because very shortly after our movement hit campus, apartheid fell and we were all astounded further when the Wall fell in Berlin.

My employment in nursing homes ended shortly thereafter because I was arrogantly determined to make a comparable difference at my worksite by arranging to organize a union presence, activities for which I got fired and blackballed. My co-workers did vote in the union and invited me back, but I was already suffering job-related wear and tear, so I left home again to join the Rainbow Family of deadheads and hippies.

Only to find myself living in a police state where there is no free camping. I traveled in a Volkswagen, up and down the Californicated coast trying to make a home for myself and my dogs only to be told that I am too old to be of use and that I take up too much room and that my grant-writing skills aren’t worth a salary because the alternative culture is full of volunteers who are happy to donate their talents to the Cause.

So I went back to a mental health counselor, got diagnosed with depression, Lyme disease and osteoarthritis and retired to the desert with a nut check from Social Security, something I had always avoided like the plague because I thought it would damage my credibility as a writer.

I was delusional thinking I had any. The irony of all the years I spent in Syracuse was hearing Karen DeCrow warn against the trap that was women’s culture as she stepped down from the presidency of NOW.

In Detroit, and after being barred from that culture on my arrival at the doorstep of her hometown women’s “club,” I was forced to gather beautiful New York men around me who could feel empowered by my feminism, not threatened by it, and that we together could accomplish such a moral victory by making an ethical stand and sharing a very certain pride of actually accomplishing real change.

Karen must have been right, in her own way. Women’s culture failed to get the ERA ratified, reproductive freedom is still a political football and the politics of sexuality is clamoring for the bondage of marriage. Woman, as an independent individual is still shackled by trite convention, her dignity, security and pleasure still measured with the shortest stick.

This one woman, however, has accomplished much on any everyday basis with the life and time allotted to me, and I do feel satisfied, justified even, that my choices have been good ones, and that if my children knew the woman I’ve become, they would be proud of their mother.

The personal IS political IS personal. And it’s all been worthwhile.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

The writing is excellent, however, the context and content created a very disturbed feeling in me. I suppose that's good writing. I wish you the best.

If this were fiction, I'd say it was powerful writing. To know it is not fiction makes it even moreso. I identified with portions of the emotional emptiness of her story and am appreciative for her bravery in sharing. It was a time of discovery and confusion and we had no road maps. ~ Joie

I am so glad that you feel that you made the right choices and are comfortable with the way it all turned out.

Wow. Tough lady. Guess my shoulder doesn't hurt after all... Nicely written.

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