I want a divorce!

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This was written to be delivered at a local storytelling festival. I’m not now participating in the festival, but thought it was still worthwhile sharing here. Note-this is not written in a journalistic style. It was written for a performance, so as you read it, imagine me on stage acting out some of the scenes!

‘I want a divorce.’ With those words my world crumbled. He told me – in that raspy Texas accent that I found so endearing – that he didn’t love me, made a mistake and wanted out of our marriage immediately. In fact he had already begun legal proceedings. I was gob smacked and didn’t know how to respond. How could this man, who I loved so much, tell me that he had made a mistake, that he didn’t love me after all? Why was he being so cold, mean and heartless? Was I too fat, was I not worthy, wasn’t I enough? The pain was unbearable.

He was a pretty single-minded man, washed his hands of me and left his lawyer to handle matters and that was that.

For months I would lie on my bed unable to sleep traversing all those feelings I guess one goes through in these sorts of situations. When things got too much I would try to take my mind off it by counting the flower petals on the hideous wallpaper in my room. Hideous blue and yellow flowers in the middle of candy stripes….yuk! Months passed and I had held out some faint hope that he would realise he had made a mistake. Of course this was a fantasy.

In the UK on November 5th every year we have a tradition of marking the day Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Communities make massive bonfires and burn an effigy of Guy on top. That year we made a guy in the image of my husband. We stuffed a pair of jeans and a sweater full of straw with a cowboy hat on top and put it on the bonfire. I have to say it was a little cathartic!

I found myself saying to myself, ‘It would be so much easier if he was gay, he’d come out and I’d be able to forgive him and move on!’ Instead, I was lashing out at him….”I’m going to sue the pants off you, you bastard!” So he lashed back at me with the threat to have me subpoenaed. I begrudgingly signed the divorce papers.

It took me time to realise that we do not have to be victims of our own stories… our stories are a way out of our suffering. We hold the power to change our story. Eventually I knew it was time to rewrite my story. I turned a corner. I stopped counting the hideous flower petals and painted the walls of my room. I began to see that I had to grow up, stand on my own two feet and gradually take back my power. I learnt to love and value myself rather than letting someone else define my worth. For the first time in a long time I enjoyed being single. Just at that point a new love walked into my life.

I didn’t hear from my ex husband….aptly named the ‘Wasbund’ for many years. Mutual friends would keep me abreast of his life from time to time. He had returned to the USA after serving in the Peace Corps and had gone into politics in Texas. Years later I get an email from him. It said ‘Dear Miranda, please know that I wish you nothing but the best.’ WHAT THE FUCK! I haven’t heard from him in 9 years and that’s all he had to say! I ignored it.

The very next day, I arrived at work and opened an email from a friend in the US with the link to a news headline – GAY TEXAN MAYOR COMES OUT AND FLEES TO MEXICO WITH HIS ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT LOVER. Could this really be the him?

I fell off my chair, ran into the bathroom, sobbed and had to be coaxed out by my bewildered colleagues.

He IS gay!

YAY!

I was vindicated! It wasn’t my fault after all!

The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should sell the story to the National Enquirer, make pots of money and celebrate this news in style! Like I said…it was just a thought!

The greatest act of compassion on his part was letting me go all those years ago. Despite everything that had happened, in an INSTANT I forgave him.

Next, in what I can only describe as an out-of-body experience, I felt a mass fall through my body and I was free of the chain of events that had choked me for so many years. I found the power to let go of an abusive family relationship and a shitty boss who I had let rule my life for far too long.

Forgiveness gave me freedom and has since become a mantra for the way I now choose to live my life fearlessly. Coming out, leaving all your hopes, dreams, family and community behind takes a HUGE amount of courage. Despite everything that had happened it was easy to forgive him.

I responded to his email and over the next few years we renewed our friendship. We’ve taken vacations together. We even took him and his partner to their first Pride parade in London. I can’t deny the joy I feel whenever I seem him express his sense of freedom openly. I knew I could count on him as one of my closest friends when, several years ago, my mother was killed in an accident, he dropped everything and flew to the UK to help comfort us in the aftermath.

One of the proudest moments of my life was to be a witness as my friend married the love of his life and we became a family. If anything I love and admire my ex husband all the more for standing up for his truth. Together with our husbands, (in the words of Sister Sledge), WE ARE FAMILY. It is as it should be. My story, OUR story proves that love truly does come in all shapes and sizes!

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Mexican Independence

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The weekend of Mexican Independence is arguably the biggest annual celebration in Mexico…especially right here in San Miguel de Allende.

The Mexican War of Independence marks the end of Spanish rule in 1821. Led by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla who was the priest in nearby Dolores. Father Miguel led a secret group who planned ways to overthrow the tyrannical Spanish government.

Inspired by the Age of Enlightenment and global liberal revolutions, the educated elite of New Spain (as Mexico was then known) had begun to grow tired of colonial relations. Political events in Europe also effected events. Charles IV and Ferdinand VII abdicated in 1808 in favour of Napoleon Bonaparte.

In the same year, in Mexico City, a coup against the then viceroy was unsuccessful. This led to small groups of conspirators meeting in other smaller cities where they planned how to rise again. After being discovered in 1810, local banded together and joined arms together on 16th September 1810.

Over the course of a number of years the movement for independence went through several stages but eventually full independence was achieved on 27th September 1821.

Independence celebrations are taken very seriously here in San Miguel de Allende because it was here that General Ignacio Allende (a native of the town) joined the army as Hidalgo’s chief lieutenant and led the army to several victories. Sadly, Allende was not able to enjoy the new independent Mexico as he was captured and beheaded. The town was renamed in his honor in 1826. Today he is celebrated as a national hero. His home is on the corner of the Jardin and is now a museum-well worth the visit.

Celebrations over this last weekend have been loud and proud! We’ve had fireworks, reenactments, parades and non stop parties going on around us for the last 3-4 days. Mexicans REALLY know how to party hard! On Friday I watched hundreds of horses and their riders come down the hill below our apartment in full cowboy dress to join one of the parades – quite a sight…especially as most of the horses struggled to get across the cattle grate which is directly below our balcony!

Today, Sunday, it’s strangely quiet here. It seems all the chilango’s who have visited from out-of-town have departed again and normality is returning

 

For the love of a father

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OK, I admit it….I’m a little bit of a Trekkie fan! Last week we went to watch the latest movie – Beyond. The character I’ve loved forever is Spock – a noble character with massive integrity and a sense of humbleness and grace. Perhaps the most loving character of all.

Leonard Nimoy – the actor who played Spock all these years – passed away last year. Earlier this year his son released a great documentary in tribute to his father’s legacy. For the Love of Spock charts the ups and downs of this father-son relationship alongside Nimoy’s career in Hollywood – through a very raw and authentic series of interviews. The pair were estranged for several years while both seemed to need to figure out elements of their lives separately, but when his son’s wife was diagnosed with cancer, it was Leonard to opened his heart to his son once again. They enjoyed a fulfilling few years reconnecting before Leonard’s passing last year.

I found the film deeply moving…for reasons that I didn’t expect at first. It’s no secret that I’m also estranged from my father. It’s been a tough few years which came to a head shortly before we moved to Mexico. For my own sanity, I needed to let go of a relationship that has been controlling and toxic for far too long. It felt like the most loving thing to do for both of us was to walk away. This hasn’t stopped me from continuing to love my father. While I’ve worked through all the ‘what if’s,’ in the back of my mind of course you always hope that things can be worked out one day. Who knows if that will happen…I’m at peace either way.

I wish there were more people like the Nimoy’s who were so open about their relationship and striving to heal with it. For now, I’m grateful for their example!

Family Time Part II

WOW what a long Summer! Our final destination before heading back to Mexico, was some LONG overdue family time in Godalming and time with friends in the London area. It was great to catch up with so many family and friends.

The highlight has to be the Ash family reunion which brought together family we haven’t seen in years. Debbi and Martin are home from Thailand for a while and Liz and Ben and their brood recently moved back from Burkina Faso for some time. Rebecca and the kids were home from Russia for the Summer. Graham, Sandra and Sarah came up from Somerset for the day and the Highs travelled from North Wales and Manchester. What an international bunch we are!

A great way to finish our Summer of travels. Feels like a world away now!

 

Family time Part I

After what felt like a month on the road, we were back home in Cladech for a week. It was lovely to have some rare family time here for a few days after we were joined by Robin, MH, James, Bernadette and John.

Saying goodbye to Cladech is always always difficult – this place is home!

One night in Toledo

After a scorching week in southern Spain we began our long journey north again. We were heading for Toledo which is the old capital just south of Madrid. Our drive north took us through mile after mile of olive groves, up to a plateau where we drove through undulating fields of scorched golden grasses.

Eventually we made it to the magnificent town of Toledo. Capital of Spain until 1563, Toledo is now a well known day trip for tourists visiting Madrid. Built on a steep hill, heavily populated with churches, convents, mosques and synagogues, the city is a feast for the eyes. Looking quite gothic it feels like a day here just doesn’t do this magical place justice. I wish we had given ourselves more time here – and at a time of year when it’s slightly cooler. Apparently the city once had a reputation for being somewhat pious and austere, but now a new wave of restaurants and tapas bars are breathing modern chic into the place.

We arrived at the height of the heat and retreated straight for our lovely air conditioned hotel rooms. Having driven 5 hours that day I was ready for a nap and left Matt and Susan to explore. The heat had really got to me by this time so I wasn’t up to much until after dark when the day-trippers had left and the city took on a new magic. Having enjoyed our last supper we meandered back through the narrow cobbled streets to our hotel taking in the spectacular flood lit cathedral and town hall. An early night for all as we had to pull out of the city at the crack of dawn the next morning. I have a feeling we’ll be back here again before too long.

And with that our time together with Susan came to an end. An hour later we were at Madrid airport where we parted ways. Susan flew back home to Mexico while we continued our drive back up to Cladech in France. We drove through the Pyrenees, stopping briefly in San Sebastian before crossing the border and on home. A mere nine hours after leaving Madrid, we pulled up at home.

The Alhambra

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Perhaps one of the most famous places to visit in all of Spain is The Alhambra.

Dating back to AD 889, layer upon layer of diverse cultural history can be found within it’s walls. It was well worth dragging ourselves out of bed early to be one of the first in line to visit that day – or so we thought!

Arriving at the palace visitors centre to pick up our pre booked tickets we were shocked to discover masses of people queueing up in front of us waiting their turn to get in at the appointed time. We waited patiently to get our tickets and through the turnstile before hot footing it (literally) up the hill to the Nazarene Palace to get through the door before our time slot expired! We made it – phew.

Being the height of tourist season meant that the palace was packed. I don’t do crowds! Although this wasn’t my first visit to the palace, it has been over 30 years since I was there as a child. I didn’t remember too much from that childhood visit so I was really keen to take it all in this time. I have a feeling the palace is best visited in the low season and while it may be cold in the winter….the quieter corridors and walkways must make for a more pleasurable experience. Still I did the best I could to take it all in.

However…sorry I’m on a rant here….if I see one more person with a selfie stick….I will snap it. There were SO many people taking selfies that it really got in the way of the enjoyment of the place at certain points. The takers seemed more interested in themselves rather than the beauty and history surrounding them – such a shame. Nevertheless, a visit to this beautiful palace is very worthwhile and not to be missed. Just take your time, let the crowds pass and drink in as much as you can.

The Generallife gardens are a feast for the eyes and senses! Occassionally I’d take a seat, close my eyes and imagine what it must have been like to walk here in years gone by. What stories do these walls and plants have to tell?

A visit to the Alhambra truly is worth the time and while it’s a challenge to take it all in – it’s magical, mystical and other worldly. Simply stunning.

Going South

After six days decompressing with family in the Barcelona area, we headed down the coast of Spain….final destination….Lanjaron, just south of Granada. The drive would take us a couple of days. We stopped in a very quiet Valencia for a night en route…and air conditioning! Yay!

After a beautiful drive through the dry crisp fields and hills of Spain, we arrived at our fabulous friend Terry’s hill-top retreat. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, south of Granada, Terry has built a gorgeous house off the grid…complete with swimming pool, acres of wild land full of almonds, figs, olives, apricots, avocados, peppercorns and much more growing wild…and views to die for. This was our second visit to El Rincon but Susan’s first.

Situated at the end of tiny lane and up a somewhat treacherous dirt track (don’t look down!), the drive up to the house is challenging but SO worthwhile. Time at El Rincon ebbs and flows at a leisurely pace, moving between swimming and eating and just enjoying each other’s company. The time here gave me the chance to work in peace and others the chance to explore the area.

We visited with friends and explored Lanjaron – a small spa town nestled in the foothills. Enjoyed shopping and took a couple of day trips. All in all, a very relaxing time!

One of the day trips we enjoyed involved a long steep drive into the Sierra Nevada Mountains in La Alpujarra region.

Archaeological remains show that human settlements in Las Alpujarras date back to prehistoric times.During the Iberian, Phoenician and Roman periods, there were occasional settlements but it wasn’t until the Muslims arrived in the 8th century that the population became permanent and reached its highest levels. The inhospitable terrain has always offered refuge for those in need of a place to retreat and hide.

The Muslims set an indelible mark on the region. Indeed they had found their heaven on earth and treated it as such, respecting their surroundings and adapting their way of life to preserve it, living in total harmony with nature. This was reflected in the urban architecture of their villages that cascaded down the hills, taking their shapes.

They devised a sophisticated and efficient irrigation system to create a flourishing arboriculture in an otherwise barren area. They also developed a prosperous silk industry that survived until they were thrown out of Spain and Las Alpujarras fell back into the dark ages.

We enjoyed a leisurely drive all the way up to the top village – Capileira. We stopped here for tapas and some shopping. Several rugs, baskets and pieces of pottery later we made our way back down the mountain laden with shopping bags! All in a good day’s work.

I loved the slower, simpler pace of life in this part of the region. Las Alpujarras are situated in one of the poorest parts of Spain and yet Brits – seeking a cheaper, simpler way of life – have reinvigorated the area in recent years. During the Summer tourists flock to the area bringing much-needed money into the area. Well worth the visit.

Churched out!

I have to admit that by the time we visited the city of Girona in Northern Spain, we were all getting a little ‘churched out!’ It was clear we were tired and I clearly needed a break from intellectual stuff as I spent most of the day huffing and puffing around two churches and up and down hills in the intense heat.

Girona is a city with connections to Rennes Le Chateau where we had just been the week before. It is thought that while Berenger was building his church in Rennes, he made regular trips across the border to Girona, secretly staying with a Frenchwoman behind the cathedral there. He modelled the “Tour Magdala” that he added to his church exactly on the tower on her property (old photos of the tower in Girona and architectural plans he drew up prove this).

In her book ‘The Portal’ Patrice Chapin talks about the relationship between the two locations. In an interview in 2007 she says,

“But really the essence of the Rennes-le-Château connection is that the priests came to Girona to conduct their rituals. Saunière received his inspiration for the Tour Magdela while in Girona. And he measured and copied it with some precision. More importantly, it was all about what was between the two towers; Canigou, the sacred mountain of the region. It was all about Spain, really. Rennes-le-Château was secondary. It’s very interesting – Isis and Nephtis represent the North and the South in the Kabbalah and the South always becomes invisible – it disappears.”

So we were curious to see what we’d find. Although we didn’t see the tower, we did enjoy visiting the last two churches we’d see for a while and did a little bit of light shopping! While huge, the main part of Girona Cathedral seemed robbed of life. The Black Madonna there was not in place on the altar but rather in a glass box in the museum surrounded by lots of other examples of sacred feminine iconography that had been relegated to the museum rather than sacred prominence. Somewhat sad to see this. 

 

 

 

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