If it isn’t quite a wonderful life, at least it’s a well appointed one. Until one morning Mar wakes to find her sense of duty has changed to cynicism.
Well bred, tractable and resigned, Marlene Reichmann-Stevens steers by auto-pilot in a world of people she tolerates, work that’s degenerated to paper pushing and wealth that traps her into soul-sucking social obligations. This morning, though, Mar is different and she doesn’t know why. It may be midlife crisis, critical mass or a nervous breakdown, but today she can no longer fool herself that running an importing firm inherited from her father, living in her childhood home married to the son of her father’s partner and continuing her parents’ civic involvements add up to anything but slow asphyxiation.
Navigating nannies, board meetings, five star restaurants and the trappings of life as a CEO, Mar hunts for something she cares about. Over lunch she tries to confide in her friend Lanya, who encourages her to embrace this new outlook and kick off constraints. But Mar is terrorized by the thought of all she stands to lose. Everything she has, everything she is, was defined by her father’s training and the stipulations of his will. She doesn’t know how to do without the structure he imposed and the social system to which she’s accustomed.
Mar’s tension builds as she goes through the motions of her day. At first she wonders where this change in her came from. By afternoon however, the need to find answers to the questions she’s suddenly willing to ask becomes far more crucial. The questions have been there all along but Mar hasn’t allowed herself to acknowledge them. Now memories she’s kept submerged in her effort to maintain normality rise to the surface and everything she’s built her life on looks tarnished.
do NOT tell me she remembers being abused or some such treacly thing. That's so five minutes ago.
Once Mar’s thoughts begin to fly out of Mar’s tight control, her behavior follows. Over the foie gras she becomes hysterical, laughing to the point of tears. At the Seattle Art Museum she kisses a man she’s only known an hour and snubs a politician’s wife. Convinced she’s going crazy, Mar draws on all the tricks and strategies gleaned from a life in business, forcing herself to concentrate on work. At quitting time the questions return as she faces the prospect that at home she’ll find her family life as empty as her professional.
Mar has tried to scrub the traces of her childhood pain from the house, but the unclouded vision of this day shows the classic structure is still stained with abuse, neglect, loss and fear. The life she’s been trying to lead here, with her husband and twin daughters, is beginning to follow the same dangerous patterns. At dinner the question Mar has been asking herself all day, “Who would I be if I left this life?” turns upside down and she asks instead, “Who will I become if I stay?” The answer to that question is clear – if she stays in her house, in her current life, she will be like that politician’s vacuous wife. Or worse, she’ll become her mother and ruin her children. Perhaps it’s already too late.
oh boy, abuse and neglect. yawn yawn yawn.
As night falls, Mar goes to bed devastated by what she’s just admitted to herself. Lying awake beside her oblivious husband she slowly resolves to act, convinced she has nothing to lose by taking a chance. She packs up her two small daughters and carries them out to a waiting taxi, anxious to get far away before she wakes to the enormity of what she’s doing and falls back into habit. Giddy with fear and anticipation, Mar directs the driver to the airport and watches the house and her half-dead past recede into darkness.
ok there’s the first chapter. Now what?
Don’t confuse a dawning realizatin that your life sux with action and conflict. It’s just the start. Now she’s got to actually do something, face the challenge, and change.