Issuu on Google+

“Funny, fearless, and utterly honest. Unbridled will leave you longing to embark on a journey of your own.” —Jim Ruland, author of Big Lonesome

UNB R IDL E D a me moir

BARBARA M C NALLY


Advance Praise for Unbridled Launching into new phases in her life, including the pain and discomfort as well as the freedom and joy of the venture, Barbara McNally communicates what many of us suspect—to be truly ourselves we might have to journey in directions we hadn’t imagined. Gaining confidence, finding passion and a life’s mission along with lessons from her ancestry, McNally is an example for those of us invested in making our lives meaningful. Moreover, she writes a great story. You’ll feel with her every step of the way. —Sheila Bender, author of A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief, www.writingitreal.com

What matters is not the destination, they tell us, but the journey. Whether the path we follow is a quest, a pilgrimage, or an exploration into memory, the ultimate journey can lead us into a deeper understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. Setting out on this odyssey requires courage, honesty, and a fair share of humility. In her memoir, Unbridled, Barbara McNally displays all these qualities and then some. Her adventuresome spirit, good humor, and fine writing make hers a journey you’ll want to share. —Judy Reeves, author of A Writer’s Book of Days, www.judyreeveswriter.com


Unbridled

Ba r ba r a M C Na lly


UnbridledFreedom.com Copyright Š 2013 Barbara McNally Cover design by Monkey C Media. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Balboa Press books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting: Balboa Press A Division of Hay House 1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403 www.balboapress.com 1-(877) 407-4847 Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them. The author of this book does not dispense medical advice or prescribe the use of any technique as a form of treatment for physical, emotional, or medical problems without the advice of a physician, either directly or indirectly. The intent of the author is only to offer information of a general nature to help you in your quest for emotional and spiritual well-being. In the event you use any of the information in this book for yourself, which is your constitutional right, the author and the publisher assume no responsibility for your actions. Certain stock imagery Š iStock. ISBN: 978-1-4525-6283-4 (sc) ISBN: 978-1-4525-6282-7 (hc) ISBN: 978-1-4525-6404-3 (e) Library of Congress Control Number: 2012922160 Printed in the United States of America Balboa Press rev. date: 02/27/2013


To my daughters. May you be true to yourselves ‌ and dance!


Genuine inner freedom is the ultimate aim of life. It’s the unspoken goal of every thought you have and every action you take. —David Simon


Contents 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

A Liar and a Cheater. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Departures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Arrivals. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Black Pudding and Pints. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Finding My Religion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Witches and Saints. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Lady Barbara of County Riverside . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 How High the Moon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 Hunger Pangs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 Unions and Reunions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119 Tea with Sister I’m-Okay-With-That. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125 Fifty Golden Years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135 Options Optional. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147 Conservative Hedonism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161 Floating in Fear. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173 The Road Less Traveled. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181 Prison in Paradise. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191 Choices. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203 Coming Home. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219 Miss Behaving. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227


Author’s Note To round out my memories in writing this book, I relied on my personal journals and on conversations with those close to me. In all cases, my description of events represents my own perspective. Regarding my divorce, my attempt has been to present what I saw as irreconcilable differences without placing blame on either party. Twenty-three years of marriage changed me. Writing this book has allowed me to understand the impact and effects of those changes. To preserve their anonymity, I have altered the names of many individuals who appear in this book.

xv


Acknowledgments This book would not have been possible without the inspiration of Farrell Gallagher, who first prompted me to express myself on paper and supported me once I took that first bold step. I also am deeply indebted to fellow writers who helped shape my story by giving me honest feedback and constructive criticism. My heartfelt appreciation goes out to my editor, Jamie Winkelman, whose eagle eye and creative touch brought this manuscript to the next level with each revision (and there were many). Thanks to Monkey C Media for the creative cover design and to J.T. MacMillan for the fabulous headshot. My daughters deserve special recognition for their patience and understanding as I worked through this emotional project. More than once, they offered insight when my memory of events became selective. Finally, I’d like to thank my former husband for being a good provider, father, and teacher. Our marriage was a success. It just didn’t last a lifetime.

xvii


Chapter 1 A Liar and a Cheater

T

he tapered candles on the dining room table flickered in the evening’s fading light. Surveying the table settings, I adjusted a fork and frowned when I noticed a smudge on one of the wine glasses. I plucked it up and polished it spotless with the flour-sack towel slung over my shoulder. With our older daughter, Molly, off at college and her sister, Kelly, overnighting at a friend’s house to work on her eighth-grade history project, I was able to give my full attention to the dinner party my husband and I were hosting for some of his clients. Everything had to shine to perfection, including me. One last sweep and I was finally satisfied with how it all looked. The florist had delivered fresh flowers, and several bottles of wine were chilling in the wine cooler. I’d prepared paella, my signature dish, which I’d learned to make during my college years when I’d volunteered at a physical therapy clinic in the Canary Islands. I excelled at entertaining. Exalted in it. My mother had successfully taught Betty Crocker Barb how to set a stunning table, serve a delicious dinner, and pretend to be happy the entire time. According to my mother, life was all about appearances. She had married a politically conservative, Christian fundamentalist mining engineer. He was a steady provider and the antithesis of her wild and unpredictable parents. My mother once told me that he was as solid as the rocks he studied. 1


B a r b a r a M c N a l ly

The rocks didn’t interest her, but my father’s rigidity did. In a way, I followed my mother’s footsteps, carving out a stable life with someone as traditional as my father. As the guests began to arrive at our Riverside, California, home, I set about making everyone comfortable, pouring champagne and passing canapés. Jay, “The Captain” as everyone called my husband, puffed out his chest like a rooster, planting kisses on the women’s cheeks and glad-handing the men, slapping their backs in hearty camaraderie. Talk turned, as it always did, to how the goddamned liberals were ruining both our government and the moral fiber of our country. Eventually the conversation morphed into self-congratulatory boasts about financial deals and acquisitions. The women giggled and nodded at the pontificating males before starting up their own conversation about the latest shoe sale at Nordstrom. I watched the evening unfold, lost in my own thoughts. When did Jay and I become these people? While the guests mingled in the living room, I took a moment in the kitchen to sip a glass of wine. I longed for the simplicity of the early eighties when Jay and I were first married. We had talked endlessly about our childhoods, our feelings, our dreams. We sprawled comfortably on the floor of our California condo, drinking cheap wine and spinning LPs on our new turntable. Over time, these conversations became ruminations on Italian leather sofas while we sipped collectible cabernets and listened to the latest musicians on our Bang & Olufsen stereo. To be fair, I enjoyed the art of living well, but as time went on, we began to place undue emphasis on the material details of our life together and not enough weight on the actual bond we shared—or didn’t share. I missed those days, but whenever I tried to resurrect our early talks and conversations about us, Jay snapped at me and made excuses about being under a lot of pressure at work. I probed for more information to understand what he was going through, but he refused to open up. I had a hard time with this. I needed to know him and believed he needed to know me. Otherwise, what was the point? 2


U n br i d l e d

I had hoped we could renegotiate our floundering relationship and knock down the walls between us, but when that didn’t work, I rebelled. The Irish fire in me burning, I snuck purchases and hid money, but retail therapy wasn’t enough. I needed to feel wanted, desirable, necessary. I wanted to play an active role in our relationship, in my life. Earlier in our marriage, I had worked part-time as a physical therapist while Jay developed a home-building business. My income wasn’t all that impressive, but working allowed me to maintain a sense of self. Once his company flourished, Jay preferred that I quit and stay at home with our daughters. I didn’t put up much of a fight. He led, and I followed. Back then, I was afraid of confrontation. I also suffered from guilt. I thought that wanting more meant that I wasn’t grateful for all Jay provided. The way I was raised, women should be taken care of without making demands of their own. Abiding by that idea made ours a parentchild relationship, not an adult marriage of equals. The middle daughter of three, I was trim and athletic—and my father’s overachieving tomboy. He coached my basketball and softball teams, and I glowed at his sideline encouragement. But after the balls were put away, he’d approach me with a laundry list of mistakes—the easy layup I’d missed, the botched catch. I was too slow. I was too fast. Nothing pleased him. Eventually, I didn’t need my father to torture me emotionally—I could do it myself. I could do it in my sleep. The criticism became a constant chant inside my head. I was never good enough in my own eyes, so how could I possibly be good enough for Jay? Still, every day I strove to make him happy, especially on Sundays. Sunday meant golf and barbecue. And sex. It became mechanical, dutiful, and obligatory. I failed miserably when I tried to seduce Jay on a Tuesday or a Friday. Finally, desperately in fact, I tried to change things through reading. “Listen to this, babe,” I said one night, after he flicked off the 3


B a r b a r a M c N a l ly

bedroom television with his remote. I lay next to him, captivated by the Kama Sutra. “You won’t believe how erotic these people were … thousands of years ago! Wanna try something different?” He listened halfheartedly, then looked at me as if I had lost my mind. Barbie didn’t experiment or exert her needs for pleasure; she did only what she was supposed to do to make her husband happy. In the morning, searching for a way to reconnect, I attempted to persuade Jay to run away with me for a romantic weekend. I told him I’d bought tickets for a getaway to San Francisco. “Well, let me call some of the guys. We’ll make it a group vacation.” He peered over the edge of his Forbes magazine, coffee in hand. I smiled feebly and tried to get him to see my point. “Honey, I was thinking just the two of us,” I said as I trailed my fingers up his arm. Jay jerked his hand back and flung the magazine down. He stormed over to the coffeemaker. “Jesus Christ, not this again,” he muttered, pouring himself a fresh cup. “I thought it would be fun. A little one-on-one time.” “You’re being selfish,” he admonished, knowingly pushing my button. “Do you know how much work I have to do? I don’t have time to go running off with you for two days.” My plan for a surprise getaway was a disaster. The tickets to San Francisco went unused. Selfish was a code word. Eight years before, I’d stepped outside the confines of my marriage to find the attention and affection I needed. I had an affair, a textbook tryst complete with daylight dalliances in squalid motel rooms. Before our meetings, I felt drunk with desire—not only for my new lover, but also for whom I was when I was with him. But afterward, it was a different story. In the empty motel room, with the useless air conditioner cycling on and off again and the thick air smelling of mildew and sex, all the glamour and romance that had filled my heart deserted me. Feeling cheap and dirty, I tried to cleanse myself 4


U n br i d l e d

in the shower, but when I caught my reflection in the chipped mirror, an ugly witch glared back at me. A liar and a cheater. Ratty snarls knotted my hair, and makeup ran down my face. The tiny bar of soap crumbled in my hand as I tried to scrub away the scent of my lover and purge myself of my betrayal, vowing never to cheat again. I swept my transgressions under the carpet and resumed the role of the dutiful wife, but I couldn’t forgive myself. How could I forgive what I didn’t understand—me? Confused and scared, I returned to where I knew it was safe, even if it was no longer fulfilling. Jay, meanwhile, knew I had been unfaithful, and although he acted like he had forgiven me, I knew he hadn’t. I could tell by the way he tightened the matrimonial leash.

k At the table, I fortified myself with more wine, as I served dinner and refreshed drinks. The conversation around the table droned on—business and politics. I knew better than to pipe in with my own opinion. Years earlier, I’d made the mistake of dropping a liberal viewpoint into one of these conservative-fests. Jay was irritated at me for being “disrespectful.” His wife’s political views should match his own, damn it, especially in front of clients. I didn’t have the filters to express myself eloquently, so my opinions came off more bitchy than shrewd. I let my focus drift out the picture window opposite our dining room. Tiny spotlights lit up the palm trees from below and cast a soft aura around the yard, transforming it into a world I yearned to explore. I missed the gratification of my career, helping others with the important tasks of day-to-day living. I craved discussions about philosophy, travel, and art. Anything but this. I turned my eyes back to Jay, sitting at the other end of the table with his legs crossed in a casual but charismatic pose. He caught my gaze, then looked right through me, as if I were invisible. When everyone had finished eating, I stood and began to take away the dishes. 5


Unbridled A Memoir - by Barbara McNally