Friday, September 16, 2011

Piles of Shit or Cowboys are My Weakness

I had a vivid dream just before I kicked my (then) husband out.  It was so powerful and symbolic that I have decided to share. 
In my dream I was bringing my ex (we'll call him  Assmonkey or "AM") a sandwich out in the fields where he was "working" as a cowboy. Mostly he was just racing around, looking handsome on his horse. He was in charge.  Behind him, milling about, were 7-8 other mounted cowboys, and a couple of men on a large piece of farm equipment.  They were laughing and enjoying the beautiful day. They were also playing some sort of game whereby they were simulating jousts or warfare between the mounted men and the machine. Machismo shimmered in the air. 

The task for that day was to move of a huge pile of manure.  This thing was enormous--a hill, really.  I handed AM the sandwich and a thermos of lemonade, which he barely slowed down to receive.  His horse was dancing in place, eager to continue the fun. AM tucked the provisions into his saddle bag indifferently, and leaned down (I thought) to kiss me, but instead he handed me my garden trowel, and nodded toward the shit. 

I was being asked to take care of an enormous job that was actually my husband's responsibility, and with inadequate tools.  But he was my man and I didn't want to see him fail, or to see us fail as a family, so I gripped my trowel firmly and headed toward the pile. The laughter of the cowboys faded behind me as I trudged toward the sweating mountain of manure. The smell became overwhelming as I approached.  The sun was very hot and there was also heat emanating from the mound.  Millions of flies buzzed over the slick shit, and their droning filled my ears. The ground became slippery and I struggled to keep my balance.  I grew short of breath and gasped, but I could not open my mouth.  I realized, in horror, that my mouth was sealed shut...with manure.

I awoke with a gurgle and a gasp.

"What the hell was that?" I thought to myself. AM was asleep on the couch, and I was sweating, heart palpitating and feeling utterly soiled. It has taken me months to realize that the dream was telling me what I did not want to know: when you marry someone, their shit becomes your shit. They may expect you to clean up their shit, but you are not equipped to do so. You can help a little, but he is the one with the resources to clean up his shit. If you try to clean up his shit, you are going to end up eating shit, and choking on it. Also, your spouse may prefer to play make-believe and cast himself as a hero, a stud, a cowboy in a game of his own design as opposed to addressing the source of the stink.

I've always loved cowboys. I even bought a book of short stories titled "Cowboys Are My Weakness" because of the title. It is time to let go of the cowboy fantasy. Cowboys are mavericks, sexy in their independence and archetypal masculinity, and yet tender with their animals in a way that makes you believe they are both strong and gentle. But the fact is that many modern "cowboys" are simply playing dress-up, pretending to be men while leaving the work to their women.  Or to quote one of my favorite books, "It is revealing of the American culture that its prototypic hero is the cowboy: an uneducated, boorish, Victorian migrant agricultural worker." - Trevanian, Shibumi

I've been shoveling a man's shit for 16 years now and I'm done. I have a young daughter and I have my own pile of shit to address. When I examine my crap I must say that it presents a significant task, but I am more than capable of clearing it. More importantly, I am inspired that my daughter will witness that I am taking care of my own shit, and no one else's.

Are you shoveling someone else's crap? Does the task overwhelm you?  It is overwhelming; moving that pile is as impossible as you think.  You've been handed a garden trowel when the job requires a backhoe.  My recommendation? Stop choking on someone else's shit and address your own.

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