Melissophobia is a fear of bees. I don’t so much have a fear of bees as a fear of becoming a bee.
My husband and I recently separated after 18 years of marriage and 20 years together. I have spent the last 8 months learning to live independently again after a long period of co-dependence with a man who wanted to control everything I did. He called me 8 times a day on my phone, and was angry when I didn’t answer on the first ring. He took over my finances and did my taxes and then blamed me for not knowing what was going on and called me incapable for asking questions. He leaped across my boundaries Baryshnikov-like until I ceased to have any.
It wasn’t exactly perfect romance.
Although I know in my soul that I am better off now and that returning to an abusive relationship is a laughable alternative, I still can’t see how I am going to handle everything by myself. I often feel broken, guilty, abandoned, and lost like my Barbie doll from childhood, missing an arm, hair cut off, in the corner of my closet. Change is hard.
There are bee hives at my daughter’s school, and a teacher who acts as bee keeper, maintaining them and harvesting honey. They use these hives to teach children, cloistered away in central London with only controlled access to nature, far from any forest or farm, about pollination and life cycles. Today I dropped my daughter off as school and learned that the hives had collapsed. How could that happen? I asked. I was told that the queen had unexpectedly died. The drones and workers, suddenly abandoned by their queen are broken and lost, and try as they might, cannot survive.
Normally, if the queen is getting old she gives some signs that their relationship is reaching the end of its useful life, maybe by producing fewer eggs, and the bees sense this and have time to prepare a new queen. They find a female to feed a diet of royal jelly and cultivate a whole new focus for their massive co-dependence so the hive survives. But if the queen dies suddenly, without warning, the hive will collapse. She is the only one who can reproduce effectively.
The drones don’t know what to do. They are basically useless. Immature boys sitting passively and waiting for something to happen. They have grown so accustomed to doing what they have always done that they do not have the right instincts to produce and fertilize eggs. They cannot adapt to a new routine. Eventually they try to have babies themselves, but they can only produce males and the hive fails with only half of its purpose fulfilled and no workers. They keep frantically doing what they have always done, abandoned by their queen, until they die alone.
I relate to these bees. My heart breaks a little when I learn of their fate. I feel similarly abandoned, with no warning.
In July, on our anniversary, he told me that he didn’t want to be together anymore. He didn’t want to try counselling, because he thought it wouldn’t help. He knew that he wasn’t happy, hadn’t been happy for a long time, he just hadn’t told me. He thought that I should have known, but obviously I had missed the signs and wasn’t cultivating a new queen. I was going to have to learn to live without one and somehow adapt my routine.
Can a bee become independent? I Google it. A drone will die within hours of separation from the queen and hive. A worker can live longer. If she can find nectar she can live long enough to find a new hive. Females are stronger. There is hope.
As I slowly try to put the pieces of my life back together, separate my bank accounts, back up my own hard drive, find a new place to live, explain to my children that their parents still love them but not each other, my friend tells me that I am a Kintsugi pot. Kintsugi is a Japanese technique of repairing broken vessels. A broken ceramic pot is fused together using gold. The cracks are filled with precious metal, drawing attention to them instead of hiding them. My friend says this is me, whole again, but different. More beautiful because of the brokenness. It is a trite analogy meant to make me feel better about being broken. I know he means well.
What if he is wrong? What if I am more like the bees in the hive, lost without the queen? What if I am not more beautiful because I am broken? What if I am just broken? A pot fused together with paperclips and gum that falls apart if you pick it up?
I realize that it doesn’t matter what I think I am. I am wasting time wrestling the right analogy. I am a mother. It doesn’t matter whether I think I am a beautiful Katsugi pot or a paperclip and band-aided mess or a hive without a queen. My taxes need to be done and my children need to be fed either way. I can be self-indulgent and wonder, but in the end I need to move forward, even if my instincts fail me. I have a new job, and a new house, and I support myself and my children with purpose. I move forward because I have no choice. A mother can’t afford to be a drone; she is always a worker or a queen.
I am a mother.
Alyssa is a recently separated mother of two coming to terms with the sudden demise of her 18 year marriage. But that’s life. She is also coincidentally an Electrical Engineering Professor and a top notch sarcastic bitch, just ask her students. She has previously published on bluntmoms, and hopes that she has only offended the right people.