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Picking up the pieces


Picking up the pieces in more ways than one. I’m in Fonte de’Medici, one of the agriturismo enclaves owned by the Antinori family, this one in Chianti. Perhaps this used to be a hamlet clustered around the church of Santa Maria Macerata, that dates back to 981 AD,  the earliest record of its existence.

It is sealed shut, and teases me with the mysteries of its ancient interior. I imagine there are shreds of frescoes, ancient dust, the smell of stale incense, mouse droppings, and festoons of spider threads that shimmer in the late afternoon sun slicing through the single window.

What should be a serene interlude of family togetherness is turning out to be massively irritating, and I have no meds to help me smooth out the rough edges of my nerves. My mother and sister arrived for a holiday that had been in the works for months. My ex had agreed with me on the timing of their visit and set aside the house for us. Then, some six weeks ago, he announced that he and his wife would be coming on the day before my family was expected and would spend a week in residence. I hunted for a suitable retreat and located a beautiful  retreat, which has turned out to be perfect (though I AM sleeping on the couch because my mother’s dog doesn’t tolerate the presence of my dog in the large bedroom I had planned on sharing with my mom and growls and barks each time I stir). Sleeping in my sister’s bedroom is out of the question because my reading myself to sleep is unacceptable to her and the tropical temperature at which she likes to keep the room does not suit me. That leaves the couch and, as we all know, couches are not always good on one’s spine, etc etc.

I nap on one of the two terraces of our farmhouse, listening to the low key rooster and his harem of silken hens in an exquisite coop down the grassy slope.

I worked myself up to a state in the days leading up to my ex’s arrival, getting the grounds and the house in superb shape. With Michaele, my brilliant gardener, we did a bang up job on the grounds. He calms me down, just like my poodle Dylan. I trust him and I feel safe with him.

My girlfriend offered me a night’s shelter , and a splendid dinner, so I wouldn’t have to have the aggravation of sharing the house with the ex’s wife, a rather harmless but silly woman who gets on my nerves because my ex takes such heroic measures to protect her and to elevate her on all sorts of pedestals on which, had she to rely on her own resources, she would never be able to keep her footing.

Gitte, my friend, and I  polished off a bottle of champagne unpacking the sealed bundles of our family concerns and relationship regrets.

Our six dogs marked the shifting strata of our moods by finding new combinations and configurations on the couches and floors. I am grateful to her for the friendship, the tact, and the affirmation. Odd, how I am not finding it with either my mother or sister, the former because she identifies too closely with my soul and is always brimming with indignation and pity; the latter because she offers moral judgment instead of pragmatic problem solving. At this stage of my life, I crave navigational charts and tools for building the soul house of my present and future — not the laments and outrage of a  Greek chorus or the stern verdicts of the Furies.

Relations between my ex and myself have been deteriorating royally since his mother’s death. He does not admit the possibility that Dorka’s death might have something to do with the power shifts in his relations with his wife, who, from what I can gather, is now allowing herself to make a bigger and bigger issue out of the fact that he refuses to have any “issue” with her. She did sign a pre-nup to that effect, but evidently it serves her purposes to continue agitating for a child and he in consequence has put strict censorship rules in place on what subjects I may or may not bring up in my emails to him (nothing about our joint parenting, for example, since that aggravates the tension over the lack of their progeny). I have been told not to  call or email.

I accept my ex and his wife as two of the more challenging members of the coterie of  my current Zen masters.Others in that group include my sister, who is trying my patience with her reflexive use of abusive, demeaning, and bullying verbs and adjectives to characterize my behavior. I have to continually rein her in on that habit. I know she loves me and would do anything for me, except treat me respectfully.

The “man in my life” is another ZM, but I have very little contact with him these days as he embraces his single life with “quality women.” He is preparing a double exit strategy: either totally out of my life, or back into my life, depending — I suspect in my needlessly and self-indulgently paranoid and refusing-to-let-go way — on his ability to make a living. I am definitely heading into the dark, angry zone of my soul, and I don’t want to go there. I want to be back in the radiant flow into which I worked so hard to swim. I suspect that what I need to do is return to my work, my writing, my drawing, my planning for teaching. I need to grab  hold of the reins of my own horse.

A dull way, today, to pick up the pieces of my writing and to reflect on the jagged ends of a long history with the father of my child, who continues to tear at my soul.

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