Take Me Back

I just finished a cute, and apropos, book called Time Flies by Claire Cook. It’s about Melanie, a recently divorced woman on her way to her high school reunion. My reunion (that I am happily skipping) is in November so I empathized with Melanie’s quandaries. When she gets an email from her ex-boyfriend, she looks through her yearbook and realizes she doesn’t remember most of them and other than a few best friends, only vaguely remembers the others. She flirts with the ex via email and decides he is reason enough to attend. She eventually learns that imagination is so much better than reality and he is an ex for a reason.

While the actual reunion is a minor plot point, the events leading up to it are more interesting. And that is exactly where I find myself. At age 48, my life is so much more interesting than getting together with people I don’t know, barely know, or cut out of my life for reasons. Like Melanie, I spent some time looking at names on the facebook group and I honestly couldn’t remember 95% of them. Of the ones I do remember, it’s either because we were great friends or because I couldn’t stand them. I’m actually only personally involved with a handful of people anymore. While I’m still facebook friends with several, it is because I like who they are now, not because I remember anything about them from high school.

I had one friendship of 25 years that ended six years ago when I got tired of her judging my life and particularly my parenting, one of 37 years that ended after the election. I have one of 38 years that is still going strong. Whether they are still active friends or not, the point is that I stay in contact with the people who mean something to me.

Maybe reunions are great for people who went to schools that weren’t so deeply divided into cliques, but my high school was passionately divvied up into immutable circles. Although I’ve had several people tell me that things are different and people change, my ten year experience was that yes, people change but generally not for the better. The assholes became more asshole-ish, the bitches bitchier. People I was relatively friendly with had so many issues, it wasn’t worth getting caught up in the toxicity. I went back because I thought I was in a good place in my life, but going from personal success to being treated like the socially ostracized geek girl that I had been was more than a little jarring. It took me six months to emotionally recover from a six hour experience.

I’m not saying people can’t change. I know they can. I’m not the same person I was a year ago, let alone 30, or even 20, years ago. But it took decades of effort to get here and I just don’t see 200 people putting in that much effort. As for me now? I’m far from perfect, but I am finally happy with who I am, where I am, what I am doing. I don’t need to show up or show out. When I’m asked if I’m going to the reunion, I truly mean it when I say, “No thanks, I’m good.”

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You’re My Sweetheart

Yesterday was a terrible day. It is rare that my mother can affect me, but it does still happen occasionally, and yesterday was just one of those days.

But today…today I got notes, texts, and emails from friends telling me they love me. My mother-in-law did the sweetest thing and deleted my mom from her friends. Today I played with kittens, snuggled my husband, had lunch with my family, read a book, wrote a synopsis for my NaNoWriMo novel, signed up for a launch party, looked at knitting patterns to take to the knitting retreat next weekend, ate egg salad sandwiches for dinner, put away laundry, and wrote a long letter to a friend while laying next to my husband on the bed.

At some point, Ron went into the kitchen and came back with a handful of smarties. He unrolled one and set it in the middle between us. I was busy typing and not looking; I reached my hand over and felt the now empty wrapper, then started feeling around for another roll. I let out a frustrated yowl and Ron quietly pushed an unopened roll between my searching fingers.

This is love. While fancy dinners, unexpected flowers, and expensive chocolates are nice, it’s the smarties roll gently nudged into your searching hand when you’re stressed out that lets you know you’re special.

While my husband is far from what most women would consider to be perfect, he knows how to love me and he does it well. He knows when I need to rant or when I need to just be held in silence. He makes me laugh, but lets me feel my feelings before trying to distract me from them. He makes me toast and tea and laughs at my “your face” jokes that really aren’t funny. He listens to my weird dreams but knows the difference between those and my dreams of what I want for my future, our future.

Smarties. They are better than flowers.

 

Come Play With Me

My husband called me this afternoon at an odd time and for no reason. I immediately thought something happened at work and he was done (his last day is supposed to be July 8th), but he just said he was bored. He plays an adult well in the real world but in real life, he’s a dorky five year old. And this is why I love him.

We’re on the downhill slide to 50. We are OLD. But Ron still makes me feel like we’re teenage kids together, faking our way through life like we have no idea what we’re doing. I mean we really don’t have any idea what we’re doing; who does? We have a modicum of a plan but day to day stuff? We still occasionally eat chips and queso for dinner (not as an appetizer) and vegetables just aren’t as prevalent as they should be at our age. We bicker over whose turn it is to do various chores. We laugh and giggle and play like kids.

I know that at work, my husband is strong and capable and smart and an adult, dammit. But with me, he still gets toddler face when he has to do something he doesn’t want to do, like mow the lawn or take out the trash. He randomly makes funny noises. He makes up songs to the cat. He wakes up with his hair sticking up and is plain adorable. I can easily imagine him at age two, or five, or even 15.

He works hard to cultivate his adult image and I’m sure I’ll get crap for marring it, but he is ridiculously child-like with me. He keeps me young because he makes me laugh. I’m often torn between wishing the entire world could know how awesome he is and wanting to keep him a secret all to myself.

Our marriage has had its ups and downs (like hell level downs) and there were a few times we weren’t sure we would make it, but the past two and a half years have been amazing and it doesn’t show signs of stopping. Since we learned how to communicate, we are stronger, happier, and more fulfilled. If there was one single thing I could wish for my children it would be to have this level of communication with their future partners. There is no passive-aggressive manipulations. If I want something, I ask for it. He’s still learning to do that but he has drastically improved.

I think the other thing we’ve learned that has made us both happier is acceptance. I love him for exactly who he is and I don’t try to change him. I do make him stretch his comfort zone now and then but I don’t expect him to suddenly start bringing me flowers.

Having someone to play with, who makes me laugh and who laughs at my horrendous “your face” jokes is a relationship goal that I never knew to aspire to. My first marriage made me feel old and worn out. My second marriage made me feel like I had a third child. But this baby bear is just right.

 

Love Without End, Amen

It’s Father’s Day today. This does not hold the same traumatic emotions that Mother’s Day does, thank goodness. Not that I had a good father, neither my biological nor my adopted one. Even my first husband was a shitty dad when we were married and he’s even worse now. He hasn’t had any contact with his children since 2005, in spite of living less than two miles from our current house. I can only wonder what kind of relationship he has with his stepson. Shudder….

No, my actual fathers were crap, but I had some amazing male role models and both my second and my current husband were and are both inspiring dads. Although Jon was only part of our lives for four years, he gave us a normalcy that I and the kids had never had. We had a beautiful home, fantastic home cooked meals, and he was always up for playing games and having fun. He and Aubrey are still in contact although not as often as they used to be. I am so happy that he now has two daughters of his own to spoil and be a great dad to them.

Ron is everything a dad should be. He’s supportive without being overbearing. He takes care of all us without question. He works hard and comes home to work even harder, be it cooking, cleaning, or studying so he can move forward and take even better care of us. He gives the dogs their meds twice a day, makes me coffee every weekend morning, and tries very hard to not punch Aubrey’s boyfriend in the face. He does almost all of the grocery shopping, all of the laundry, all of the dishes, cooks almost every meal that we eat at home, takes care of the yard, and makes us laugh with his little idiosyncrasies. And all that is just the tip of the Ron iceberg. Every day, he amazes me with how incredible he is and I know exactly how blessed I am to have him.

Unlike with mothers, I’ve never wandered around grasping onto male father figures and asking, “Are you my father?” But there have been some truly special men in my life. I think the first one was Delbert Rowland, the Vice Principal at Alamo Heights High School during my time there, although I didn’t know it then. He reported my mom to child protective services because he cared about me. Of course, my mother has fictionalized it as he was persecuting me, which I believed at the time. As an adult, I know better. He actually believed I deserved better than what I had, and while I didn’t recognize it then, it has helped me in my trauma recovery as an adult. I cannot thank him enough. He wasn’t out to get me, he was out to get her, and he tried his best to make a difference.

Also from AHHS was Mr. Paul Foerster. He was the only teacher who ever gave me in school suspension for missing class. He knew I was capable of more than what I was giving, and he expected better from me. Even then, I knew he punished me because he cared, not because he was mean or being an asshole. I think he loved all of his students equally (and he was there FOREVER, so that’s a LOT of students), which was also a great lesson; love is infinite and there is plenty to go around if you let it. He never ever ever played favorites, unlike almost every other teacher I’ve had.

Which leads me to Glenn Boswell, affectionately known to all of us as Boz. He also never ever ever plays favorites. Ever. He makes every person (not just his students) feel special, and worthy, and capable, and accepted. I remember he told us that he had to fix his ex-daughter-in-law’s car and we all thought that was crazy. But to Boz, she was the mother of his grandchild and would always be part of his family. That set a shining example for me of how love should be; unconditional.

Boz always underrates his importance in changing lives. So many kids go off to college broken in some way, both minor and major. At a junior college, the rate is even higher. I was more broken than most; in an abusive and controlling marriage after surviving an abusive and controlling childhood. Many times I floundered, to say the least. But Boz was always there to pull me through. He didn’t have to do anything special…he just was THERE. When I was knocked down, he lifted me back up. When I said I couldn’t, he told me I could. He gave advice with no expectation of it being followed. He offered comfort when my life was at its worst. Most of all, he believed I was amazing, and he made me believe I was amazing, too.

Without Boz on my side, I would likely have stayed in my miserable marriage for much longer because I wouldn’t have had the means to support myself and my kids, both financially and psychologically. Not only did he teach me everything I know about computer architecture and half of what I know about programming, he gave me glowing job recommendations. I always got the job. Not only was I able to leave my abusive husband, I was able to provide a good life for my kids when they were young.

Even now, Boz is still the angel on my shoulder. When I don’t blog often enough, I get a gentle nudge reminding me to post something. I think a quarter of my entire blog is due to Boz’ nudging.

It’s been 20 years since he came into my life. While I don’t get to see him often enough in real life, he is still a major influence for me. Although he never signed up for the job, he’s the closest thing I have to a father and that is more than a lot of my friends have. For that, I will always feel blessed.

 

That’s What Friends Are For

18 months ago, my life was so much different. I had a slew of what I considered to be good friends. I was knitting in a different group every day and considered myself somewhat popular. Then I made the mistake of becoming close to the wrong person and when the schism inevitably happened, just like in any divorce, friends took sides. I. Lost. Almost. Everyone.

It was HARD to cope with the sudden changes. I went into a major depressive episode and returned to therapy. Oddly enough, a miracle occurred and I gained a new perspective on my need for people to like me. For the first time, I truly was able to say, “Fuck it,” and concentrated on spending time with the people who actually do care about me rather than chasing after the ones who don’t.

Every once in a while, I come across an FB post that is evidence of my non-importance to those I called friends and I admit that it does sting for a moment or two. But then I remember the real people who matter and it’s like aloe on a burn.

There is one person that I particularly miss, though. J.S. was someone who soothed my troubled soul, whom I thought loved unconditionally, whom I loved unconditionally. Even when we didn’t see each other as much as I’d have liked, she would randomly text that she was thinking about me. Then she stopped responding to my texts. I was ghosted. It hurt because I loved her.

Months later I received a single text that she wasn’t upset with me, but that she was dealing with stuff and didn’t feel up to socializing. I accepted that because I’ve been there. I never heard from her again. But today I saw a selfie with her hanging out with someone I don’t like, to put it mildly. That’s cool; I never begrudge someone else’s choice in friends. However, I can’t help but think that I was easily replaced by someone she considers to be better in whatever way. My heart broke a little to know that it’s not that she doesn’t want to hang out, it’s that she doesn’t want to hang out with ME.

So today, I am sad. Heartbroken, even. I miss her. And that is OK.

After grieving for a bit, I will go back to being excited that my best friend is moving all the way from Connecticut back to Texas. She will be within easy driving distance. Leigh is more than a friend, she is the closest thing I have to a sister. She is the other half of my heart. While losing a friend can be devastating and leave me feeling unwanted and “less than,” I think of Leigh, who swore she’d never move back to the same state as her mother and sister, saying, “I need to be near you more than I need to be away from my family.”

me and leigh

Leigh and Me

I am loved. I am wanted. I am enough.

 

 

The Road So Far

I am still committed to the low-carb journey, although I have gone up to 45 carbs a day should I want them. At the behest of a couple of friends, one of whom is a GP, I did check in with my doctor. It was time for a full physical anyway. I gave up five tubes of blood and got a tetanus booster that has my arm swollen, knotted, and itchy. Other than my continuing diagnoses of major depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and insomnia, I’m relatively healthy, although I am still waiting on all the blood results.

Of course my doctor recommended I have 30 grams of carbs per meal. I’m not sure I even know how to do that anymore, unless I eat a potato or something. Should my liver panel show any abnormalities I will obviously have to increase my carbs, but in the meantime I’m at half that. We did agree that I would go back on the slivers of Nuvigil (I can only handle 37.5 mg a day) and that I would see my therapist for this depressive episode.

Depression pisses me off. First off, I fucking hate the word, because it doesn’t really describe the feeling. I think “inundation” is a much better word. I feel inundated with emotion, so overwhelmed that I can’t function because I can’t figure out what the next step should be. Besides, it literally comes in waves. I can feel okay one minute, and then burst into tears the next, then five minutes later be fine again.

It’s been a couple of years since I saw my therapist, but I had to laugh when I saw my folder. It’s almost two inches thick. I’ve been seeing her since 2004, which means I’ve shown her more commitment than my first two marriages put together. She was very happily surprised that Ron and I are still married, as we had essentially decided to divorce the last time I saw her.

We spent a few minutes catching up, (Ron’s great, Aub’s going to college in the spring, Matt’s in California, Aub has an apartment, etc…) and then delved into the cause of this current episode. It all boiled down to my major abandonment issues, my anger at my chronic illness, and my relentless yet hopeless search for a parent.

are you my

This baby bird is my soul sibling.

Most importantly, she gave me permission to grieve my losses. It’s okay to be sad, angry, and disappointed. It’s okay to cry and rant and whine. For a while. But she also had me count out all my positives. Leigh, who offers me the most amazing unconditional love and is a constant source of recovery and healing, even though we only see each other once or twice a year and rarely talk otherwise. My husband, who makes me feel worthy and goes above and beyond every single day. My son, who makes me laugh with his antics in spite of being so far away. My daughter who is truly my best friend and staunchest defender. My friend Rob, who has gently reminded me every day that she is here, even when I push her away. I thought I was past the stage of testing people’s loyalty, but apparently, that nasty habit lingers. Today, I decide to stop pushing and start accepting.

Of course, the not so easy thing is the homework. While I obviously have some residual childhood trauma to deal with (again), this time I have to work at an even deeper level. This week’s assignment is to write out who I am. Not what I can do or have done, but who I am. I really don’t know who I am. In a lot of ways, I know who I want to be, and I know who I’ve been but who I am now? That I’m not so sure about.

I asked my friends and got a few interesting answers: caring, strong, survivor, afraid, quirky, fearless, unapologetic… Ugh, I wish I were fearless. I know there have been times when I have been, but that time is not now.

After much introspection and lots of conversations, I think the only thing that today I know for sure is that I am loved. And for today, that’s enough.

Saturday Night I’ll Be In The Spotlight

Today is my 46th birthday. Every birthday, I look back over the past year and think, “This has been the best year so far!” In a way, it is, because the new one has yet to reveal itself, but I am always amazed at how each year outdoes the last.

45 was fantastic in every way. Matt got better and started a new chapter in his life. Aubrey moved out and has yet to  move back now that Matt is gone. My relationship with Ron strengthened and we’re better than ever. I made fantastic friends, cleared away the clutter of bad relationships, became a better knitter. We got a new (ish) car. Everyone is as healthy as can be expected.

46 is going to be amazing, though. I’ve got a core group of truly wonderful women that I regularly spend time with, talk to, dine with. I’m in better shape than I was a year ago, and I’m getting physically stronger every time I swim. I’m a faster knitter, so I should be able to finish more projects this year. My friend Danna and I are starting our own line of hand-dyed and hand painted yarn.

This year, the house will finally get (at least a little more) organized, I will get rid of anything that doesn’t fit me in August, and I will do whatever it takes to avoid getting any more steroid injections. We will finally get a few projects done around here, like fixing the fence that is currently held up by a rope to our basketball hoop.

This year, we will get the last credit card paid off. We will take another vacation together this fall that will be better than last October’s because it won’t have the pall of my newly diagnosed heart condition hanging over it. We will buy a second car that’s not from craigslist. I will visit Matt in California at least once.

Yep, 46 is going to rock. And if you don’t believe me, just watch.