NEVER GIVE UP
Combining my learned attachment style of disorganized/ disoriented with my tendency to leave things unfinished, has resulted in my relentless determination to be tenacious, to not quit, to not give up. Because of Trump’s stubborn refusal to accept defeat and get out of the way, we are conscious of the two sides of tenacity. His is anchored more in his attachment style which is commitment to his father and father’s values without ever reconsidering them. Mine comes in part from always reconsidering everything. The thing I’m leaving unfinished has somehow changed by my doing it. Now it’s different. So what loyalty can remain?
The sometimes unappreciated gift of this has been moving through many different situations and world-views and an education that gave me the tools to stay cool and witness. On the one hand my conscious identity says, “You will stick this out as a matter of honor.” My mother did this and taught this, though I sometimes overshot. When I signed the contract to teach in Browning, she said, “Be sure to stay two years or it will look bad on your resumé.” Twelve years later she said, “Aren’t you ever going to leave that place?”
I wouldn’t have left except the only job I could get was teaching and I no longer believed in teaching. It had changed: I now saw it as forced assimilation to a part of society that was dated. But the only alternative was marriage. Even with marriage the terms changed. At first it was romantic. Two things changed it: success which made Bob even more irresistible to ambitious women and the ghost of his second marriage which had oppressed him and slipped that wife’s face over mine.
But on my side, I had also changed. Because of his protection and allowing me to attach to him so completely, I had the chance to reorganize and grow. I had claimed this territory, not just one person. I should have given up and left sooner, but it took a while to figure it out. In fact, Bob nearly pushed me out and my successor certainly encouraged him. Also his mom. So it was disorganized and would have been disorienting except that Bob — while circumventing conventional divorce that would have endangered his small empire and with the collusion of the white professional community of the county seat — let me stay on our little ranch on Two Medicine River, the one the flood had converted into a gravel field full of thistles. I loved it. I reterritorialized and reclaimed myself.
Another intense result of the schism between my disorganized/disoriented attachment structure and my conscious, rational, achieving rationality was the ministry. I had attached to my UU minister and wanted to enter his context, which I understood not at all. He told me that. But the side-chutes and stairsteps of the religious institution allowed me to attend the U of Chicago Div School and its associated seminaries. For an example, one of the most powerful was the Jesuit seminary class taught by Robert Schreiter, a priest in a teaching order, which endorsed my original education on the other side of town, theatre classes at Northwestern University, a major confirmation and re-framing. Now I was reterritorializing again. But I had to navigate the ordeals of Meadville/Lombard seminary:
- Earning an MA in Religious Studies from the U of Chicago by passing 6 formidable foundational classes.
- Passing a test for reading French.
- Passing a basic 10 week Clinical Pastoral Care initiation
- Surviving an internship with a minister at a major church.
- Getting approval and guidance from the UUA Fellowship Committee in order to be accepted into the UU placement machinery.
- Writing an acceptable scholarly thesis.
- Finding the money for all this.
- Locating a first congregational ministry.
There were other incidents: “growth groups” with various counselors, rivalry from other women students, connections with my brief sojourn as a lay UU, being twice the age of most of the students, limited faculty at Meadville and terrifyingly brilliant faculty at U of Chicago, my assumed relationship to my original potent UU minister.
Also, my decade with the Blackfeet meant nothing. I never did connect with the U of C anthropology people. Instead I attached to Richard Stern, the novelist, which was good luck. His “thing” was narrativity and modernity which were both structure and orientation. Useful beyond describing.
Then I found more sidechutes as friendly big male white clergy decided to use a cache of covert Universalist money to send me back home to Montana for a circuit-riding ministry. Tenacity was paying off! The basis was attachment to territory: these men loved the prairie as much as I did. But they adapted to the UU world — but not as congregation serving ministers. I did not. The denomination changed. I left.
What followed was a return to Portland where my mother refused to let me “come home”. I explored options which included a former high school teacher and a UU clergy colleague. In the end my mother, who knew she was dying, relented. She was already sheltering my youngest brother, but thanks to her teaching career, she had resources.
When she died, I took her bequest and a “flight” back to the edge of the rez, which is expanding so much that one-third of the people in the town are enrolled in the tribe or close to it. This is my burrow and I’m sticking it to it.
The fact that I accept a disintegrating house and too many cats is explained by the safety that lets me explore ideas even as deep in my own psyche as my basic attachment style formed during WWII. It turns out to be relevant. Over-committed, paranoid, tough, and prideful. Each of those qualities work well in the appropriate setting.
What I learned was not the drive to control or be “Number One” but to do what works, to endure hardship, and to accept that nothing is permanent or even stable. Also, to always be conscious that some people will disappear, no matter how beloved.