Long time running

I’ve been marinating a post on my second date with Felipe the Brazilian for a few days, but often when I hesitate to write something, it’s because something else is meant to happen for the story to complete itself. I trust this process completely, because I’m the kinda girl who pays attention to signs and patterns, the clues of the universe. It’s all just one big game of Zelda (OG Nintendo version, natch) and sometimes you gotta stop and talk to a troll to know where you are going next, and other times you wander in one direction for far too long before you get a new clue and that’s just the process, kiddo.

This morning I woke up to an excited email from my friend Susan, who is someone that I love and admire deeply. She’s big into music and one of her favourite bands (and mine too) had just released a trailer for their final tour documentary. Her enthusiasm was around the fact that my ex (we’ll call him Theo from now on) and I are in the trailer. Just a blip. One second. I’m not sure if we’re in the full feature, but in that frame, we are slow dancing to a song called “Long Time Running” and crying, because the band was doing their final tour, their lead singer dying of brain cancer. Our marriage had a slow-growing tumour, too. We knew that then, we sorta knew the cancer was Stage 4, but forever the optimist I was hanging on and lying to myself to get through.

Does your mother tell you things?
Long, long when I’m gone?
Who you talking to?
Is she telling you I’m the one?
It’s a grave mistake and I’m wide awake.

(Side bar: I love the Shakespearean use of the word “grave” in poetry, signifying weight but also the impending death of something. It’s so perfect in this context right now. Any readers who dabble in writing might agree with me. All the songs of this band are poetry set to music, and yet their fans are mostly hockey-loving guys who get drunk to create a window for vulnerability. Bros.

I recently travelled with my mother, and we stayed up late into the night talking after the kids were asleep. I told her that because of old school views on women and marriage, that having a wedding had always been positioned as the be all and end all in terms of my goals. Sure, they encouraged me to get an education, but I was also always keenly aware that any guy I dated in my 20s COULD BE THE ONE!!

I don’t spend a lot of time on what ifs but I wonder the following:

What if I had moved to London with Theo in 1999 like he’d asked, rather than follow the career path I thought I should be on? Would we have bummed around Europe for a bit and would I have gotten annoyed with his poverty conscious way of living? Would I have seen his inability to make shit happen beyond what he was comfortable with?

What if I had moved in with him when he moved back to our city, like he’d asked? In hindsight, given his frugality, I wonder if that ask came more from sharing rent than just wanting to have sleepovers every night. Still, I helped to furnish the apartment. I’d go grocery shopping and help to make meals. I didn’t think anything of it back then. I just wanted to do nice things for him.

Would I have seen all the flaws? Would I have had the smarts to say, “We are using up all our energy here and we won’t have anything left to finish the race”? Would I have better established what are roles were? Would I have walked away?

I often wonder, 
Drive-in’s rained out
Weatherman wet-fingers the sky
He pokes it out, he pulls it in
He don’t know why

It’s the same mistake

I don’t regret my marriage, so the what ifs are futile. There would be no children otherwise, and those guys, I can’t imagine my life without. They are half him, half me. And the him-half makes them who they are as equally as the me-half, so trying to go back and envision erasing Theo from the choose-your-own-adventure that plays out in my mind is pointless.

I am stronger for having loved him. He filled a need, filled in my blanks and made me a better human, for a very long time. With him I experienced a love that I had only dreamed of, a poetic, romantic love, full of passion. I always said that “he steadies the boat so I can get in.” I was the anxious suburban princess who got the courage to explore the world thanks to him making me feel safe and encouraging me.

The reverse is also true. I am stronger for ending it. Stronger for finally listening to him when he said he couldn’t do it anymore. Stronger for deciding I had enough of trying to make the glass slipper fit my foot. It took a ridiculous amount of time to get there.

It’s been a long time running
It’s been a long time running
It’s well worth the wait

I fear I will dance the same dance again with someone new. We’re all doomed to make the same mistakes, aren’t we? So I’m overly cautious right now. I know I can’t really give myself to anyone in my current state. “I belong to no one, and no one belongs to me,” says my fiercely independent, Almodovar-character of a friend, Esperança in Madrid. “Everyday,” she once exclaimed to me while pounding the table and making my Rioja slosh, “Everyday, I fight for my freedom! I don’t want to live my life for a man!” I understand this statement to be true for me at this point in time. I don’t know if I’ll never get there again, but right now everything still smarts and being alone is delicious. The thought of sharing living space with a man or getting married gives me the willies.

Right now I am fiercely defending my little kingdom of three. It takes a lot of energy and resources to govern our wee country, but it’s ours and I don’t want invaders, pilgrims, refugees or settlers occupying it at the moment. Our country has been through disease and then war, and its citizens need to rebuild. There is so much love, light and laughter in our country right now and that’s our secret. We are crafting it to our liking, creating rules for our individual provinces and working together on shared domain. It’s the brightest spot in my life right now and I can’t overstate how protective I am about it all. I am constantly on guard for external threats. I don’t want to let any random person in just because sometimes I get lonely for masculine attention.

We don’t go anywhere
Just on trips
We haven’t seen a thing
We still don’t know where it is
It’s a safe mistake

Grief is that funny not-really-your-friend-friend that sometimes shows up out of nowhere and catches you off guard. Like you’re at a 1990s kitchen party, halfway through a Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Grief shows up. For a second he’s familiar, but you’re also like, “Oh fuck, him again. I know where this is going. I’m going to be weeping in a corner in 10 minutes.” You can’t recall who invited him or how he got there, but suddenly he’s raining on your parade. You think, “Dammit, I thought I was fine, and now I’m a hot mess who can’t function in the adult world! FUCK YOU GRIEF!”

That’s kind of how I felt when I saw the clip. Theo and I have been doing mostly fine, save last week’s financial disaster. We are learning to be friends, grown-ups, co-parents. We need each other, a lot more than we should. It hasn’t been a clean break but a weaning process. I’ve worked hard on letting go of anger, which is a gift to myself at the end of the day. I don’t want to undo that. I don’t want to stew in the bitterness of what could have been and measuring which one of us screwed up worse.

I am happy to have him in my life, in my kids’ lives. But seeing that moment of grief captured to represent the grief of so many fellow fans, it hurt so bad. It’s like the packing tape began to get unravelled, which caused an opening in the box I had stored the grief in and some seeped out. It hurt him too, maybe more in some ways because he loves that band as though they are the sacred vessel for his feelings. Maybe because they are. The thing about feminism is that it’s not just about women. It’s also about the box we put around what it means to be a man, how we shame them for feelings and how society doesn’t give them space for emotional exploration. To me, this is the disease that killed our marriage. This idea is at the root of it.

It’s been a long time running
It’s been a long time running
Well, well it’s all the same mistake
Dead to rights and wide awake
I’ll drop a caribou, I’ll tell on you
I’ll tell on you, I’ll tell on you

I know I’m not the only one. Being where I am in life, I see many women with creative aspirations who are holding it down in office life, while their creative-pursuit-spouses are struggling to find where they fit in the world. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic, “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.” Why does only one gender in the marriage get to live like that? And why isn’t it enough?

So these men, they try to make things and some succeed and some just flounder as they struggle with the ideal of masculinity. You must be a breadwinner, a provider, a meal-catcher. And you also must keep your cards close to your chest. And how do you and your poet soul function in a world of meetings and overloaded inboxes? How does your need to live a private, manly life allow your poet soul to soar to great heights? How will anyone experience your art if you can’t share it?

The women realize these men need help. The women know the family must be fed and housed, so they go out there and they slay the boar. They also come home and roast the damn thing. If she is above-average she may even source inspiration on Pinterest! But she is fucking tired, depleted from doing it all. She asks him to help, nicely at first and then with decreasing patience. She offers suggestions, lots of them, she’s full of ideas, she can help!

But he’s a man. He’s gotta figure shit out on his own. He doesn’t need to rely on anyone. He must do this on his terms. In the meantime, she is pining for a different life, one that gives her the time and space to get back to her creativity, her life’s passion beyond her family. She grows bitter, but she swallows it down because she never expected the world to give her anything, whereas he just assumed everything would arrive as smoothly and unexpectedly as an Amazon Prime delivery.

You’ve got a boat-load of nerve
But I would say you’ve been told
You work me against my friends
And you’ll get left out in the cold
It’s the same mistake

I got a note today from someone I have admired from afar, someone who has rebuilt her life in the most beautiful of ways after the death of a spouse and is on the other side of it. No, I am not a fan of that term. She’s on another side of it now. She acknowledged how “unbelievably difficult” it would be to see the clip and then gave me a gift:

“I’ll offer one platitude, that (admittedly) takes a while to believe: you may not be living the life you thought, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a life you love. Just as so much has changed since that concert, so much will change in another year. Time is a funny and amazing thing. Experience it, feel it. Just hang in there!”

It’s true. A year ago, at that concert, we were married. He had told me he wasn’t in love with me anymore, but I thought we were still trying. Now, a year later, it’s over. Poof! I am trying desperately to buy our family home and not overextend myself. I’m learning how to live alone for the first time ever. There is so much good in my life. SO MUCH. I love my new life. LOVE IT! I’m calling the shots and being present and kicking ass and realizing that I deserve all of it. That I am open-hearted and vulnerable and generous and kind and deserving of good things. 

I LOVE MY LIFE. For the first time in a long time. And saying that out loud doesn’t mean I am tempting the Fates to come and drop a shit sandwich on my plate. There’s no other more waiting for the other shoe to drop. It dropped already and I have a closet full of them so there will be more shoes dropping. Waiting for those awful moments means I’m in stasis and not truly living. Buy the shoes. Wear the dress. Life is occasion enough.

It’s been a long time running
It’s been a long time coming
It’s been a long, long, long time running
It’s well worth the wait
It’s well worth the wait
It’s well worth the wait
It’s well worth the wait

Songwriters: Gordon Downie / Gordon Sinclair / Johnny Fay / Paul Langlois / Robert Baker
Long Time Running lyrics © Peermusic Publishing

Author: MariaCallas

Maria Callas is a pseudonym

3 thoughts on “Long time running”

  1. I ❤️️ Everything about this post. Evolution in progress. Loving life no matter where the path takes you is secret to happiness. We’re all striving for it. As North Americans we tend to want to control every detail about our lives and when we realize we Cant, we become miserable . We need to embrace some eastern philosophies which call for accepting what life brings you as part of your metamorphosis, they we are meant to pass through this stage. On another note, the fact that you mention OG Zelda and Choose your own adventure books in the same post make me realize (yet again) our twin 12 year old souls lol!


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