Looking for the White Knight

So, my therapist has been talking about me to other clients.  I’m totally cool with that–it’s in a good way.  It’s like what Ellen Gilchrist said about her family’s reaction when she writes about them:  “They don’t care what I write as long as I say they’re good looking.”   The story that my therapist shares with others is the one I wrote about yesterday, when I met my second husband by the side of the highway when he stopped to rescue me.  She tells it to people who are rebuilding their lives and wondering if they’ll ever find someone to love.  The advice she gives them and that she gave me when I was rebuilding after a divorce was this–focus energy on YOUR life, not who you’ll share it with.  Plan the life you want, down to every detail and when you have it in place, you’ll be able to see the person who fits into it.  Don’t worry about looking for them first.

white knight

I had spent 10 years trying to make myself into a person who could make a life with the person I had picked out when I was 22 years old.  The problem was, Fartbuster didn’t much like the world because he was smarter than everyone else in it and didn’t see the point in bothering.  I had to get smaller and smaller and smaller to keep him comfortable.  For example, I told him I wanted to get back into writing and he said to go for it.  But when I came home at 8pm after my writing group, he was all pissy “because there was nothing for dinner.”  Ummm, you’re a grown man with a debit card, a car and an Arby’s.  Feed yourself.  I wanted to travel.  The only place he would go was England because we spoke the language.  He ended up SCREAMING at the snack bar lady at Stonehenge because there was no ice in his drink. I told him I wanted to have kids and he said that he really didn’t see how they could be worth the effort–we would have to run the dishwasher more often.  His number one concern about having kids was that I might gain weight. Yeeaaaaaah, I’m not making this up.

Still.  When it was over, I felt like I was starting from square one and I’d never catch up and get to have the life I wanted.  The Baby Store was going to be all out of babies by the time I got my act together!  The Happy Store would be closed for renovations!   I needed to FIND SOMEBODY and do it quick.  My therapist told me to pump the brakes.

My first assignment was to visualize the life I wanted.  Not in generalities like “I want to find love, ” but specifics:  do I want to come home and cook dinner or go out to eat?  Do I want to listen to music and talk or eat in front of the TV while watching CSPAN?  Do I want to go to bed early or late?  Do I want to exercise?  How?  Do I want to spend weekends with family or camping in the woods?  What color should the bathroom towels be?  Where do I want to go on vacation?  What do I want to do for holidays?  Every sentence had I as the subject…not we.

I started living my own life.  I cooked lasagna for one.  I put on a swimsuit for the first time in 10 years.  I went to the beach with my family.  I tried tequila shots for my 32nd birthday.  I went to movies on Sunday afternoon, all by myself.  I threw parties and went to parties.  I bought season tickets to Chastain concerts.  I volunteered with my college and a literacy project.  I joined a writing group.  I attended the Unitarian church.  I read all day or walked all day or shopped or slept or stared out the window.  I planted daffodil bulbs.  I walked my dachshunds.  I did a lot of work on myself.  I went on some dates and turned some others down.  I woke up one morning whistling.  I realized that I was happier on my own than I would have been if I were still married.  That was a really good day.

And what do you know?  A few days after that, my car broke down and I met Richard.  Our lives bumped up against each other’s and it worked.  Love plopped right into my lap when I had quit chasing it.  I think Nathaniel Hawthorne compared happiness to a butterfly.  If you chase after it, it will always elude you; but if you sit peacefully, it will sometimes alight upon you.

For years, I thought of Richard as the White Knight who swooped in and rescued me.  He was my reward for the miserable decade I had tolerated.  When he died, I was PISSED.  Not at him, but at the great scale of justice that had taken away my reward, my rescuer.

But here’s the thing my wise counselor pointed out.  There were two people who met on that cold and blustery day by the side of the highway.  Two stories.  One of those people was going to get sick and one of them was going to die.  One of them was in need at that immediate moment, but one of them would have a much greater need four years down the road.   Richard, brave and capable as he was, would need someone courageous and stalwart and true beside him for that great fight…and it turned out to be me.  I was his White Knight.  We rescued each other.

If you are feeling like there’s no white knight coming to the rescue, look more closely…it might be you.

37 thoughts on “Looking for the White Knight

  1. Chris

    A beautiful story, made even moreso by its truth. Had my dose of moist eyes for today. You’ve had an adult life that’s been so full, and if it;s true that you can’t know real joy unless you’ve been hammered (my word) by sorrow, then I predict a most joyous future. So well written, Ashley. I. too loved the Baby Store and the Happy Store. Sometimes I think that last one is only open for some freakinly weird hours.,

  2. Beth

    I’m living this myself, really scary at 43.The Baby Store may be closing it’s doors but I heard there’s a sale at the Happy Store. Thanks, Ashley.

    1. baddestmotherever

      Guess what? The Baby Store has expanded its hours. When Richard died and I still hadn’t made it to the Baby Store, I decided that I would adopt on my own. I realized that my goal had always been “be someone’s mother” not “have a baby.” Once I had made that decision and found peace with it….BAM. Babies at 38 and 42, with no medical intervention.

  3. Lisa

    I’d like to thank mutual friend Debra Helwig for pointing your blog out to me. A few things you’ve written have resonated deeply with me, and have definitely reassured me that the path I’m on is MY correct path to be on. Hiking boots optional.

  4. Marie Davis

    I can’t remember a thing anybody in writing class wrote (except maybe Dawson), but I know how much I enjoyed being in there with you. You write wonderfully. And I am thoroughly enjoying your blog. Keep it up!

    P.S. Were you in there the night Dawson read a piece that had everybody blushing fiercely?

  5. Peggy Duncan

    Wonderful true story…you are an inspiration for all of us to follow our dreams, don’t sit waiting for it to come … go get it.

  6. tanyadiva

    I never thought I would meet someone just for me. I walked in the wilderness for years before I found someone. I knew he was waiting, just for me. He is no white knight, and there’s no magical orgasm that makes everything perfect. And because we met so late in life, kids have kind of gone by the wayside.

    But I wouldn’t change him or us for a thing. Don’t you hate it when everything happens for a reason?

    Also. Grown man. Debit card. Arbys. THIS.

  7. Donna

    Wonderful blog, Ashley. It’s just amazing to me how you and Richard met. Baby store stayed open for me, too. Two for one sale at age 39.

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  10. S.A.M.

    Ashley —
    “Smaller and smaller and smaller to keep him comfortable” is BRILLIANT! You will never know how that phrase has changed my life. So many women try to make themselves into someone they think their man wants them to be instead of fulfilling their own potential. Thanks for the words of wisdom and the encouragement to be bigger and bigger and bigger!

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  17. Katia

    I absolutely adore this post and your therapist’s perspective. I was recently reading the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. He was a psychiatrist who founded the Logotherapy movement in psychiatry and survived the holocaust. He wrote about his experience and used his personal story as a way to illustrate the principles of logotherapy. Ish. Because there was a lot more to it, but anyways at one point in the book he says that one of the difficulties the camp prisoners faced was their inability to answer the question “why is this happening to me” he then proposed to change your perspective and stop looking at life as owing you answers, becoming instead the answer to life’s questions. I know this is kind of a convoluted argument in support of your therapist, but a change of perspective is often very helpful. I am going to reread this and adopt some of your advice and will forward it to a friend who struggles in finding partnership. Thanks so much for pointing it out! 🙂

    1. WordPress.com Support

      HA! My therapist had me read Frankl’s book many years ago. Time to reread it. It has been too many years!

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