Finding a reason to remain

My father nicknamed me the bolter after a Maria Edgeworth character in a novel, I think she was someone's crazy aunt who kept running off. I kept running off when I was a child. Lost in the London Zoo, lost on Fire Island, excusing myself from the dinner table to go outside and lie on my back and imagine the house blowing up and being able to walk away and disappear. This was in direct conflict with my desire to be feminine and as Nico promises in her song, someone's mirror. On the one hand, as soon as a boy slung his arm around my shoulder I was looking for a way to escape, on the other I did everything in my power to seduce, entice and please.

Drinking helped this process morph into a dysfunctional cluster fuck of mammoth proportions. I would create situations where I had developed meaningful friendships, respect and love and then I'd become the creature from the black lagoon and flail around informing people of their worthlessness and my own desire to be dead. The results were mixed. Some co-dependent friends and lovers stuck it out. Who knew what I wanted? I loved my parents passionately and yet felt their obliteration was my only chance for survival. I wanted a baby, a relationship and a home yet the metaphors I used to describe love were all suffocating and binding; wool blankets, coffins, ropes and tight dresses. I worked my witchy magic on a man and as soon as he succumbed, I would cheat or leave.

Contentment frightens me. I am wired for tragedy and chaos and god knows I've had plenty of both. Not, mind you, anything that compares to people born in war zones or poverty or outright abuse. My chaos and tragedy has revolved around the sudden violent deaths of two women I considered as my home base in life, my consistent supporters who reminded me I was worth loving. The chaos came from alcoholism in my birth family, in me, possibly in my offspring, alcoholism denied and repressed and shamed until it came so close to ending my life it is hard for me to deny the miraculous. Some of the chaos came from the marriages I entered after sobriety, trying to be a loyal wife when my husband asked the impossible, deciding to take care of myself although every guilty bone in my body demanded I surrender, beg for forgiveness, run away and hide. For me it is the remaining that hold the terror. It is asking for what is necessary to my own happiness and risking being told I am undeserving.

What now? My son is 18 and leaving for college and he is the reason I stopped bolting. Luke's birth changed me in a fundamental way, a way I can't sum up gracefully but he moved ahead of writing as the most important thing in my life, he moved ahead of everything. And he is not a bolter. He is independent and daring but he also welcomes stability, consistency and routine. He is an amazing combination of his father who has worked for the same organization for twenty-five years and me who has hummingbirdlike gone from pillar to post seeking something that would satisfy my restless soul. I like to think I helped him find this balance, that while I went away occasionally to write, I always returned, consistently made choices that demonstrated to him that while I drew breath, being his mother is the ballast that keeps me from disappearing into the mist.


  1. Brutal honesty. Love this post, your commitment to your art, the difficult but wonderful journey. Children are miracles, keep us grounded to this world. I think Matthew saved my life, as well.


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