That conversation stayed with me for the rest of the day and those two words, 'left behind', lingered for more than a couple of weeks, triggering a surprising bit of anger in me. Is that how Beady sees me, is that how my family and friends think of me? Am I left behind like a comfortable sweater or a favorite book that one is assured to be reunited with in the future? Or am I an object to be pitied and worried over by others until my mariner returns? And how does one even behave who's been left behind? I mean the phrase clearly implies I should be upset and/or depressed by the lack of control I had in his decision to leave, right? 'No, No, No!', I thought vehemently while listing each and every reason as to how I was in no way, shape, or form a victim of my circumstances. As my list grew longer, I began to calm down then wondered, 'What the hell am I so angry about?'
And it hit me, a story my mother once told me a while back about a merchant mariner get together she'd attended at the beginning of her marriage to Big Daddy Mitchell. It was the 70's and a typical party where the men scattered to the garage leaving the women to chat in the kitchen. As they went around the room introducing themselves, each woman gave her name, number of kids, and what they did for a living. Most were stay-at-home moms, a few worked outside of the house, and then there was "That Woman" as she would forever come to be known in my life. After revealing her name, her no-children status, and how long her husband sailed out for each time she simply stopped talking, so one of the ladies asked her what she did for work. "Oh, I don't work...I just wander from room to room until he comes home" was her answer and my mother tells me the house went silent, one of those really awkward, eerie silences because no one could believe she had said it or that she was even serious. It turns out she was serious and it turned out I despised her for it. I thought she was weak, useless, even undeserving of her husband's sacrifice.
So for the next few weeks, as I digested the mariner's words about being left behind, I couldn't stop thinking about "That Woman" and feeling that this must be the type of person he was talking about because I just didn't see myself as being left behind. Then I thought about all the times people had asked me how I managed when Beady "left me behind" and how my reaction was so dramatic...cringing, defensive, angry. I remembered my obnoxiously proactive efforts to take a more narcissistic view of the situation in seeing Beady as the one moving in and out of my life rather than the other way around. And my absolute obsession with not thinking of him in a way that would inhibit me when he leaves for sea, a way that might induce me to cease all important actions in my life until he returns.
Now while these particular thoughts are healthy for keeping one's sanity in Merchant Mariner Land and I certainly stand by them to this day, the lengths I went to in the past to maintain these ideas were ridiculous at times in that I would deny my true feelings, lie even, all the while bristling at the idea of someone thinking I was left behind. And why did I do that? Why such a violent reaction to two tiny words, seemingly harmless? Simple (although it took me years to realize it). I did it because a little bit of "That Woman" lives inside of my heart, a very little bit, and my anger toward her was created out of fear...fear that I would become her, fear that I knew exactly what she meant when she uttered those words to a room full of strangers, and fear that others would judge me pathetic, just as I'd judged her, if I was negative in any way about my husband's absences.
I certainly don't think of her in that way anymore, took a very long time to come to that, rather I feel sad for her, sad that she couldn't experience control of her own life at the time. I definitely do feel as if Beady moves in and out of my life, rather than the other way around, but in a more settled and peaceful way and not out of fear. And at the same time, I definitely feel as if I owe her a debt of gratitude for the gift of perspective. For whenever I start to get really blue about Beady being away, I look in the mirror and say to myself, "Well at least I'm not wandering from room to room."
Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner