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.

 

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Tougher Than Diamonds, Stronger Than Steel

A friend wrote a post on facebook about people who are waiting for the “perfect” mate and the comments were interesting. So many people had the most ridiculous ideas of deal breakers. Let me tell you, perfect does not mean that he agrees with everything you say and do. Interests are superficial; they wax and wane. What you like one day is what you hate the next. It’s the core of your partner that’s important.

I’m really starting to dislike the term “deal breaker.” I like to think of them as starting points. There are only four true deal breakers, and they are abuse, addiction/untreated mental illness,  unfaithfulness, and inability to change. Anything else is negotiable. Look for the person who makes you laugh, goes out of their way to make you feel loved, who is kind, caring, supportive, and empathetic.

Give a warning shot across the bow before deciding that someone isn’t the one. When I met Ron, he was a terrible tipper. Now he grudgingly tips 20%, but he does it because he knows it’s important to me.

I was freakin’ crazy when we started dating, arguing all the time, playing come here go away. He flat out said “Choose which is more important, the drama or me.” I chose him over drama. What could have been a dealbreaker for him was instead a chance for me to make a positive change.

Look for the person who respects you enough to love you and help you grow, but is patient enough to stay while you do it. Someone who may not do the things you do, but who is secure enough to let you find others with whom to do those things.

Oh, but what about when he hums through his nose while he’s breathing, or she has to have all her food on separate plates? Um, guaranteed that if it’s not those things, there will be other things that you will learn to hate. But love means making the effort to look past those things.

Neuroses are not deal breakers. I insist that dishes be washed under running water. Ron thought it was weird, but went along with it. A year or so later, we read an article on germs and dishes; turns out the best and cleanest way to wash dishes is under running water. I’ll say it again. Neuroses are NOT deal breakers.

You love animals and he doesn’t? That’s when you ask him to make a change. You’ll find a way to make it work. If not, that’s inability to change, which can be a deal breaker if you love animals more than you love him. Same goes for if she wants kids and you don’t. If he wants to send the kids to private school but you only want public, that is NOT a deal breaker. It’s a point of compromise.

What about sex? What if it feels more like a vaginal exam than foreplay? What if he doesn’t like the way she twists and pulls? FREAKIN’ TALK ABOUT IT! If you’re not comfortable enough with each other to discuss what you do and don’t like about sex, you shouldn’t be having it.

Love is all about making compromises. I used to tell my second husband that compromise was when one person got their way and the other one didn’t. Now I know that’s not true at all. Compromise is when you work together to find a solution that is acceptable to both people. It’s work. It’s GIVING. That’s LOVE.

Although I’m not the first person to say it, and I’ve said it many times, love is not something you decide on one day and never revisit. Love is a decision, every single day. Love is deciding to find it funny that he can’t go to the grocery store alone without calling you from every aisle. Love is deciding to put on headphones when she watches Supernatural for the hundred millionth time.

I think the reason so many people think it’s impossible to find love is that they don’t want to have to change their own behavior. They want to focus on someone else’s quirks and never adjust the insane things they do. I think it’s hilarious when someone says, “Oh, if he were to do (x), I would walk away.” But if you ask them about when they do (y), they say, “Well, if he loves me, he’ll just have to accept it.” Wait, so he has to accept you and the crap you pull, but if he does anything wrong, you’re out of there? Yeah, good luck with that.

Love requires change, and if you’re not willing to change, you’re never going to find it. Change is hard, I know. But when you decide to love someone, change has a purpose. You’re becoming a better person for the one that you love.

Some days, love is easy. Some days it’s hard as fuck. No matter how irritated we get though, we both know that tomorrow is another day, another decision, another chance for it to be us against the world.

 

The Dark Side Of The Moon

I had two major breakthroughs in therapy today. I did my assignment of making a list of my characteristics; when I presented it, I joked that I did it as a list of pros and cons. She had me read it out loud, then asked me to pretend that all those characteristics belong to someone sitting in the chair next to me. What would I think of that person?

I looked at my list, and admitted that if they were smart, funny, creative, and sarcastic, I would likely want to be their friend. I examined the cons and thought that none of those things were something that would make me dislike someone, things like disorganized, self-doubting, bitchy. She asked what I would tell that person who had self-doubts. Since one of my pros is that I’m encouraging and empathetic, I would tell them that they are capable of doing anything they want.

She then asked what I thought of that person overall. As I looked at that list, a list that I struggled over and thought about endlessly for the last five days, I realized I’m actually a pretty cool person. I’m far from perfect (selfish, authoritative, demanding), but in general, I try to be “good” (kind, caring, giving, generous, fair, ethical). My pros did outweigh my cons, even when weighting various bad characteristics more heavily than others.

That was breakthrough number one. Number two was the big “aha” moment, though… As we talked about my deep-seated parental void that I’m constantly trying to fill, she said that I would NEVER be able to fill that void, that it would always be there. At first I thought that was kind of a negative thing for a therapist to say, but then it hit me.

When I met Ron, I believed with all my heart that he was my missing piece. That if he loved me unconditionally, I would never want for anything or anyone ever again. In a lot of ways, he is my missing piece, and the Universe knows that this man loves me unconditionally and has done so through good times and bad. Even so, I still have that longing, needy, existential void that I keep trying to fill with one person or another, particularly mother figures.

But no one, no matter how wonderful they are, can ever make that nothingness go away. No one can go back in time and re-parent the neglected and abused child to keep that vastness from springing into existence. All I can do now is try to talk myself down off the ledge of low self-esteem by reminding myself that I am worth sacrificing for, I am worth encouraging, I am worth loving, I am worth protecting. And the fact that I wasn’t encouraged, loved, or protected as a child ISN’T MY FAULT. It’s my mother’s.

One of the things I listed is that I am a good mother. I know I’m a good mother because I have awesome relationships with my awesome kids. Matt calls me at least once a week if not more, just to catch up and touch base. I see Aubrey every single day and she hugs me every night before she goes home. In spite of my lack of a maternal example, I still managed to love and protect and encourage my children. I was far from perfect. Trust me, there are plenty of moments where I know I was the worst mother ever. But overall, Matt and Aubrey know they are loved unconditionally. My worst mother moments were my failing, not theirs.

In a hilarious caricature of my entire relationship with my mother, I recently posted a meme about depression not always having a reason. My mother in all of her narcissistic glory, posted, “Now you know how I feel.” OMFG. Are you freakin’ kidding me? While a million and one smart ass comments ran through my head, I settled on replying, “It’s what I aspire to.” Really, I wanted to say, “Way to make it all about you.”

I don’t care who a person is, and especially not if it was my child, if someone I know were to post that meme, I would respond with, “I’m so sorry you’re having a tough time.” Or, ” Is there anything I can do to help?” Or even, “I know it’s hard, I’ve been there, but I’m here for you if you need anything.”

We all had a good laugh about it because it is seriously typical. However, while I know it’s a dark humor thing, I also know that it hurts in a way that only maternal rejection can hurt. But after today, I also know that her response is her problem, not mine. It really, truly, absolutely is NOT about me.

That is huge. Groundbreaking. Tremendous. So after a week of making a list, checking it twice, and interviewing my friends and family, I know exactly who I am.

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.

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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.

The Bright Side of Life

Just when I think things are going well, it turns out they’re not. I hate this inconsistent roller coaster of emotions. Yesterday was one of those days where I just wanted to call it and be done. But I won’t. Marriage is about commitment, and I am committed. Or maybe I should be committed? Not sure.

Dinner has been ready every week night by the time Ron gets home. The dishes are done before bed. The dishwasher is unloaded every day. Our bed is made every morning. All the laundry gets done by Friday afternoons so Ron has the weekend free to do other stuff. In other words, he’s getting all he asked for. He’s definitely less stressed, but he’s still not happy.

Last night, we had a long talk about where our relationship is going, what are our boundaries, what we each want and don’t want. Ron spent his formative teenage years being raised by his dad in a somewhat emotionally bereft home. There were no hugs, no “I love you” as he walked out the door, and no example of what a good marriage is. While I certainly didn’t have a good example in my parents, I had plenty outside my home; as I’ve gotten older, I have friends with good marriages who have still had tough times but have seen it through. Best of all examples though, is having been married twice before. I realize what is good, what is bad, what stays, what goes, and above all else, I know that wherever I go, there I am. In other words, I recognize what is my issue vs. what is a marital issue.

But Ron doesn’t have that. He said that, “It was fun at first, but then that went away.” I laughed (I couldn’t help it) and explained that of course the fun went away; that the falling in love feeling only lasts for a while. He also said he loved me as a friend; I said I love him as a friend, too; that as marriage goes along, friendship is what we’re left with and what gets us through. I don’t think I’m just being stubborn. We have the same values, our politics are similar although I’m more passionate, we support each other, we respect each other, and most importantly, we make each other laugh. For me, that’s worth fighting for. We balance each other out in that he keeps me grounded and I keep him human.

My ex-husband used to tell me to stop focusing on making the right decision and focus instead on making my decision right. In other words, once you make your choice, learn to live with it. So I see the bright side of things. Goodness, if I didn’t see the positive, I would never have escaped my childhood. However, Ron sees the negative of everything. It’s all he ever thinks about. Things will NEVER work, things will NEVER change, he will NEVER get a new job, I will NEVER keep the house clean…so much NEVER and not enough MAYBE.

So I asked him to engage in a small experiment before we really call it quits. He said it seemed like too much, so I said we’d start with something really simple. He does enjoy kissing, so I asked him to kiss me goodnight and goodbye every day for the next two weeks, and that we wouldn’t talk about our relationship at all during these two weeks. He didn’t understand what I meant, so I kissed him the way I want to be kissed, just to make sure he had the idea.

Two kisses and a whole lot of under cover time later, he saw the possibilities in my request. Of course, I know the science behind it: kissing and cuddling releases oxytocin, which is a neuromodulator that is responsible for pair bonding. In other words, kissing someone makes you feel closer to that person. Touching also releases oxytocin, so this morning when I heard his alarm go off, I snuggled close and rubbed his back (under his shirt) for a good while. He ended up late to work, but I got one hell of a goodbye kiss. After twelve hours, I thought we were on to a successful start.

Can we kiss our way back to him being in love? No, it’s going to take more than that. But it’s a simple start, easy enough to do, and doesn’t cost anything, all requirements for an effort from Ron. We still have other things to work on, particularly communication, but other than communication, they are generally superficial things…the house, the laundry, the dishes, the bills, the debt. I can effect a change in him simply by doing my part in those areas.

Being in love is really just a decision made every day to be in love. Being married is just a decision made every day to stay married. Can he make that decision? I don’t know. But last night and this morning definitely give me a LOT of hope, and that’s better than not having any hope at all.

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Still The One

A month ago, just a few days into my planned six week vacation in Connecticut, my husband told me (over the phone) that he wanted a divorce. He says this periodically; I pull teeth to figure out exactly what’s bothering him, we work on it, things get better, life moves on. I cut my vacation in half, but while I was there, I made sure to talk to him at least once a day. Things seemed to be okay, and he said he missed me.

This time ’round, he said he was tired of the house being a mess and having to take care of me all the time. Both of those are an easy fix, especially since he (mostly) cleaned while I was gone. I’ve stayed on top of it pretty well, helped with the laundry as much as I can, and I’ve tried to have dinner ready when he gets home without asking him the dreaded question of, “What do you want for dinner?” Everyone hates that question.

Here we are two weeks later, the house is still clean (ish), the bed is made every morning (no hospital corners, but who cares?), all the laundry is done, and I’ve had enough energy to shower every day (a huge accomplishment, trust me). Things are better. They are not perfect, but no marriage ever is.

These are the days that are the hardest of any marriage; the, “God, I do not want to be here with this person,” days. I know we’ve had them before, and as my friend always says, “This too shall pass.” Although lately, I feel more like Gandalf; “You shall not pass!” I feel mired and sad and lonely and unwanted, and I am waiting for it to pass. And waiting. And waiting.

We’ve both made more of an effort to spend time together. Today when I had the car, I realized he didn’t take a lunch, so I called him to see if he wanted me to pick him up or take him something, and he decided that I should pick him up. When I got there, he said he forgot that today is the day of the week that a local restaurant sells barbecue plates in the lobby. I asked him if he wanted to just stay and eat there, and he said, “No, I WANT to have lunch with you.” That made my entire week. Seriously.

When I had a crappy day because someone unfriended me on facebook last weekend, Ron made it better. I know I unfriend people all the time, but this is someone I considered family, and they not only ditched me, but my kids, too. It was personal, and the reason was ridiculous. Ron made me laugh about it and pointed out all the reasons I wouldn’t notice she was gone.

Marriage is work. Unlike work, you can’t just call in sick. You have to be there everyday, rain or shine, good mood or bad. For better, for worse, in sickness, and in health. Suck it up and stick it out.

At the end of the day, I can honestly say my husband is still my best friend. He still makes me laugh and he still turns me on. As we fast approach our 11th wedding anniversary, (well, limp along towards it), he is still the person that I most want to be with. He’s smart, funny, sexy, and gorgeous. He plays a killer game of Cards Against Humanity. He makes amazing salads. He’s a great dad. He’s good, kind, honest, and has a sense of integrity that is nearly impossible to find nowadays. He is worth the work.

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Happy Birthday to You

Today is Isaac’s 20th birthday. He was 13 when he first came into our lives, and 18 when he last left us. Yes, I still miss him. Yes, I still think about him every day. Yes, I wonder how he’s doing, if he’s happy, how school is going, what he intends to do after he finishes…It was two years ago that he and Aubrey began dating again, and I truly thought they would be together forever.

Aubrey and I were watching Royal Pains the other day, and one of the characters told her stepdaughter, “You may not have grown inside my body, but you grew inside my heart.” Indeed, that encapsulates my feeling exactly. Isaac was a pain in the ass, but I loved him just as much as the two pains in the ass to which I gave birth. He grew inside my heart, and I loved him with every piece of me.

I sent him a Woot t-shirt for his birthday, just like I did last year. I have no idea if he wears them, or if he just tosses them out, knowing they are from me. It doesn’t matter to me. Every year on this day, I want him to remember that somewhere, people love him and miss him and think of him.

So please forgive me if today, I mope around a bit. I am sad and heartbroken. I miss my little boy, and I miss knowing the young man he’s grown into. I hope that someday I see him again. I hope that he is happy and doing well. I will put out a candle with my tears, but I will try to remember the good times.

Happy Birthday, Isaac. You are loved.