The voice spoke to me from outside my body but I was alone. There was no one with me. “You don’t want to live here. You need to leave and go to Charlottesville. You want to be with your children and grandchildren. Go!” I was alone in my mothers’ bedroom on a day in late February 2020. The room was dark, curtains drawn, and the blue silk wallpaper seemed to fade out to nothing. The cream-colored, French provincial, dresser I was leaning against was lit on both ends by standing lamps made from antique candelabra. I had been living in my mothers’ house for several years while she aged. Keeping her at home in her lovely house while needing more and more help became my job. Then at almost 102, she died in November, a few months earlier. Of necessity, I had made a real life for myself in my old home, my old city. It was so familiar to me to be there in Washington DC. My life was on a forward trajectory that did not allow me to slow down and think (yet).
Moments earlier I had been musing over places to live in Washington DC once Mother’s house sold. It seemed sensible to find a small house or maybe an apartment to live in so that I could continue the life that I had made for myself while living with my mother. But, if I was honest with myself I did not want to continue that life. Being ‘honest with myself’ was often the most difficult thing for me. It took that “outside entity”, my guardian angel? my dead father or mother? a ghost? some voice outside of myself to shake me into knowing what I wanted all along.
My biggest problem personally has always been that I forget to ask myself “What do you want?” So indoctrinated was I from my earliest childhood to do “the right thing” and to do what my parents expected of me. Do not color outside of the lines. Do not break the rules. To be a good example to others and think of others first, was just second nature to me. Isn’t it for everyone? Now I am not so sure.
In any case, when that disembodied voice spoke to me about NOT staying in Washington DC, but said, “Go!” It really seemed almost like an order. “Go back to Charlottesville where you will be happy.” And that voice was right. I had forgotten what I wanted. During that time when I simply had to make the best of my situation it was best to just put one foot in front of the other. I did such a good job, my momentum was so great that it was months (and hearing the voice) before I remembered how very much I just wanted to go home to Charlottesville.
In the city, there were several organizations to which I belonged that had regular luncheons, usually with a good speaker and nice people. Because I had no choice I was determined to enjoy my time in Washington. Some of these women were my friends and the rest were potential friends. Also, my volunteer job at the office of Presidential Correspondence was one of my favorite Washington perks. There were ladies there who had become my friends. If I left town my job would be gone. Did I want to lose them and give up my job at the White House? What did I want?
Back in 2004 when my husband and I divorced I went by myself to see the movie The Notebook. What a romance! It is a great chic-flick. It has a romantically happy ending. However, I drove home sobbing the whole way because of one pivotal line in the movie. The story is about a girl and boy separated by her parents who meet again later while she is engaged to someone else. She goes to see her old boyfriend and spends a night with him but is torn about what to do. She worries about her fiancé. She worries about her parents. She worries about what people would say. And her lover asks her “What do YOU want? Not your fiancé, not your mother, not your father, not me, not anyone else. WHAT DO YOU WANT?”
I guess that is really what the whole movie was about. What did she want? And in the end, she decided she wanted the old boyfriend. But as I drove home along Rt #66 through a rainy landscape of fields, occasionally shopping malls or apartment complexes, and then more fields, tears ran down my cheeks. I kept thinking about those words. What do YOU want? And it seemed important to me to try to remember if ANYONE had ever asked me that question in that way. ONLY ME. Not anyone else, not “they” not family, just me, what did I want for myself? The more I thought about it the harder I cried. For lost chances, lost loves, lost time, and lost “self”. Because I don’t believe anyone did ask me that. I certainly never asked it of myself. So I sobbed and sobbed all the way home. When I arrived at my old home which I knew we would soon be selling, I cried some more. In fact, it just seemed hard to stop. Eventually, the tears did stop. But I never forgot it or the words that brought it on. WHAT DO I WANT?
It was difficult for me to determine what I wanted because I am so entangled with the family. It was vital in my mind to keep up the picture of a happy family. I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I did not want to ruin my children’s illusions, I did not want to hurt my husbands’ feelings. In those days I was still free of the job of taking care of my mother. I could be selfish. But I did not know how. It is a learned skill. I went from my fathers’ house to my husbands’ house and never lived on my own. We had babies immediately. At no time was I able to think only of myself. My actions were always accountable to someone in authority. You young women will laugh at that, but I felt my husband had authority over me. I knew I could probably get my way about something that was really important to me, but for the most part, his wishes came first.
In the time between 2004 and 2020, a lot had happened. As a divorced woman my life and its purpose changed, my friends changed. I grew stronger. I had given up about 5 years of my life to live with my mother in her home in Washington DC and now it was OK for me to make a new life for myself. But how could I possibly have known what was in store at the end of February 2020? Within 2 weeks (March 13) I left Washington with my dogs, computer, and enough clothes for a month or so. We went to live in a cottage on my daughters’ farm in The Plains. Covid had taken hold of the world.
But Covid gave me time to reflect. Two weeks to flatten the curve which turned out to be a lie, allowed plenty of time for me to examine my life. All the fear-mongering about death and a supposedly incurable virus, made me think of my mortality too. I realized that I have lived a beautiful life and have few regrets. Yes, I probably could have used my insight about knowing what “I WANT”. Nevertheless, I knew I had done pretty much the best I could most of the time. After spending hours a day researching this new virus and watching the numbers and the way they were used to terrorize the population I decided to follow my own guidance.
That is what I have done ever since while continuing to broaden my experience with the facts about the virus. I spend hours every day on the study of our current problem. This is my current career, fact-checking the propaganda about the virus. The last two years have been marvelous for me. I have taken responsibility for all of my own actions. Only I am responsible for my health. I am not responsible for anyone else’s health. (The weird idea that we are responsible for the health of random other people is disturbing on so many levels.) For some reason, there has been a concerted effort to make us all feel afraid of each other. I KNOW what I want. I want freedom for myself and my children and grandchildren. It is important to speak out and give money, energy, and time to those who also want freedom.
Joe Biden who is (supposedly our legally voted in) President has just gone too far by extending the emergency powers he took over from President Trump when there really was an emergency. Now there is no reason to extend them except to maintain power. Covid is fading and people are sick of his emergency measures.
I know what I want. And I am thrilled to be doing work to help that along. What do YOU want?
Copyright©. 2022 Bonnie B. Matheson