Does the Mistress’ Soul Need Chicken Soup?

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Though a seeming condemnation of the mistress, Pamela Haag’s “Chicken Soup for the Mistress’ Soul” is a balanced examination of the role and plight of the mistress. As the title suggests, she offers medicine and comfort to the much maligned mistress, noting her significance in unsuspected ways: they are the scaffolding of important contributors to culture and society such as Martin Luther King, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Franz Liszt, as well as they are marriage savers for the everyday people.

The article is a few years old but is an entertaining and informative read with a creative approach. She begins: “Dear Mistress or Lover: Let’s face it. No one’s making chicken soup for your cheating soul.” She reproaches the addressed mistress or lover in the voice of the normative current (and historically recent) attitude that mistresses are immoral and unethical, thieves and masochists. However, aside from attaching them to historical greats such as those mentioned above, she also makes a simple but significant (and counterintuitive) assertion that lovers may also be marriage savers. Due to the clandestine nature of the relationship, this fact is rarely acknowledged, though certainly true, at least anecdotally to my experience and others who have confessed their stories.

I particularly like Haag’s explanation of the marriage saving function here:

Sometimes you help an ambivalent spouse escape marriage without escaping.

You help them run away without running away from the marriage entirely. You
help them manage loyalty to a marriage or to their children and parenthood
without wrecking the marriage wholesale on a serial monogamist’s dream of
romantic fulfillment elsewhere, or growing bitter on the brine of their
resentment at being “trapped” in an unfulfilling life.

In these cases, you’re not the home wrecker so much as the home’s flying
buttress: You hold it together through an ingenious force of design and
gravity, from the outside.

You create sustaining oases of pleasure and happiness in a duty-driven
marriage, or life.

The children dreamed about, planned for, often if not always, add overwhelmingly unaccountable stress that tests the marriages of the sagest most circumspect couples in their measured choice of marital partners, let alone those great numbers who lurch into the institution for good, bad or indifferent reasons in less than optimal circumstances, financially, emotionally or situationally. Many a good man or woman, untold numbers, have patched their marriages through those betwixing times with the love and support of an-other, one detached from the toils of the quotidien and strains of the impossible: lover, mother, father, provider, worker, son, daughter and friend, all at once. That resonates true. Neither a hero(ine) or villain, the mistress (and mister) supply the glue sometimes. Leave her be.

Art Material

The artist and I live in a box of pain,
he in his blue house and me in mine.
Sometimes we share the same frame.
Crippled by pennies and oily spills,
we stream our strife in pen and paint.

Reflections of the tethering tightrope walk,
we sweat and steam in the cloth of life.
We press our ears to the rhythm of talk.
Chewing our nails in the toil of change,
we pay our prison down in collectors’ coin.

Hovering about the dollar bills on display,
we are scission of fancy and fistful plight.
A pression of paper, the sack holds sway.
See us shored in the glean of the glass
in art and always out of grasp the prize.image

Past the Virtual Dream

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In a dream I spilled my coffee and you dabbed the drops dry
then kept me in the sanctuary of sunny walls of the canyon.
You surrounded the silence inside and out of the darkness,
sheltered me from the unknown and unseen threats
spewing from my head and the encroaching sentence.

Though a vision, the cocooned comfort of clean warmth
saturated my skin and soothed the silhouettes of scenes
I played in the air which demonized and tormented me.
The silken offerings of shelter and savory songs, teeming time
and release, held me suspended in secure freedom and relief.

Even as you encased me, swept me from danger a while,
ensuring ever peace and never entry either, none for me
who pierced your persona, the mask that sailed through days
without a hitch, I was not there, nor were you for all we said
for all we did, the lapse of waves on the ocean front of the inn.

I sat on a porch in the vineyards with you sipping wine and sage
in that illusion as we drifted through somnambulant skies of amber
portraying the iconic lovers of notes, words, cells and seasons.
Culling the seeds of our silvery days we played Tristan and Isolde
and all about us applauded the proposal, the performance of us.

But awakening in the half lit room of slatted rays of golden dust
I feel your shadow lingering hidden deep like rusty pipes
in the foundation of this house, shambled upright and tall.
The image creeps about the corners of my eyes, tingles sight,
but I stretch open the passage of the day with true flesh and mind.