Yesterday I was taking the laundry off the line. We have had so few line-dry worthy days that I try to schedule the washing around the weather forecast – not a simple task. This summer we have had frequent days of digging deep in the drawer for that last-resort pair of undies. As I took down a fitted sheet and began to fold it I was aware that I was thinking of someone I prefer not to. Unfortunately, every time I fold a fitted sheet this boyfriend of my early 20s is there in my mind. Why? Because nicely folded sheets are his only worthwhile legacy.
I was living away from home for the first time. I had a job as a bank teller and he was a customer. It didn’t take me too long to realize he had started coming in daily and manipulating things so he was ready with his transaction just as I was ready to accept my next customer. He would arrive at my window gleaming like the Cheshire cat to deposit his wealth of charm along with his checks.
We began dating. It began as most romances do, all hearts and flowers. I even came home one day to find a bag of marbles on my doorstep with a note that said, “I’ve lost my marbles over you.” Got ya!
Before long I was spending more time at his house than in my own adorable apartment. And not too long after that I was cleaning his dishes and getting instructed on how to “correctly” fold a sheet. His closet was off limits in case I didn’t hang the clothes with the appropriate amount of space between hangers. We did not go anywhere or do anything unless it was something it he wanted to do, which meant I went off to Maine for a romantic weekend – by myself. We never sat in coffee shops or walked along the waterfront. We went to parties of his friends where he was the center of attention. But when we went to the one party hosted by my friends he sat there in a big huff and wouldn’t let me mingle.
Still I hung on. For a year. Even when he called me and told me not to come over because his ex-girlfriend had stopped by. Even when he laughed at my (incredibly flat) pot belly and (deviated septum) crooked nose. Even when I began to question everything I was about to say in case it annoyed him. He never hit me or anything close to physically abusing me – in fact, you could say I was the abuser after I slapped him and screamed in his face, “why don’t you just go and fuck her,” after he told me again I had to leave because his ex was coming by. He probably already had.
Over that year I went from having ambitions to go on to grad school to making sure there wasn’t a milk ring in bottom of the glass. I began wanting to write and living the artist’s life in the “big” city and ended up positioning the corners of the fitted sheet in perfect symmetry. I lost myself.
But I sank so low on the self-esteem chart that the only way was up. My need to write and be creative was so strong it pulled me out of the hole in which I was scrabbling. With the help of two priceless gifts, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance, and the friendship of two people who believed in me, I began to find my way back. I wrote my Morning Pages every day with the commitment of a drug addict. I put together my Authenticity Book with the joy of someone who is discovering a new friend.
I guess, I actually have to thank him. My sheets would be in a right mess if it hadn’t been for him.