This is the Real Simple Thought of the Day today. And for some reason, I feel like it could have been written just for me...
Confusion is the welcome mat at the door of creativity.
Did I miss the part about a time frame?
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Just a short note to say that I'm taking the weekend off of posting. It's my long weekend at work for starters, and although hopefully I'll get a lot of blog fodder out of it, it's still, well, long. But my main reason has nothing to do with work. It's me. I'm really struggling right now, and in spite of all of my best efforts just can't seem to pull myself out of it. I need a little bit of space to figure some things out, or at least to slap myself around a time or two.
Back on Monday. Hope you all have a great weekend.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Surfer Dude was student of the day at his elementary school today, an honor that each student gets once during the academic year. They get to bring in their treasures from home and put them in a display case by the front entrance, so all of the other students can ooh and aah and make them feel like the Big Kid on Campus. This morning we carefully took the box full of his special stuff to school and arranged it neatly in the case, Surfer Dude hovering closely to make sure it was all done to his specification. When we were finished, he took one last look, gave me a hug, a kiss and an "I love you mama", and then flew up the stairs to his classroom to start his special day.
It didn't hit me until I was dismantling the display at the end of the day that this was my last go-round with this in elementary school. Surfer Dude is in sixth grade, and with right around four weeks of school left in the year, is already looking at Gumby's junior high with a proprietary eye. I've had at least one kid in elementary school since Sasquatch started in 1997, and it's a really disquieting thought to realize that we are just about at the end of an era. Time flies, all right, and when kids are involved it moves at warp speed. Sasquatch will be a high school senior next year- and the year after if his grades don't improve. How did that happen?
I'm not one of those moms who tearfully laments the baby days and wishes for a house full of toddlers again. With three boys five and under I barely got through the day the first time, and really don't have the inclination to do it again. But you can't escape the fact that my kids are growing up, and even though for the most part I'm okay with this, sometimes it feels more immediate than others.
When they were little my favorite part of the day was when they were bathed and powdered and cozily in their pajamas. There was genuine contentment in those times. Another day survived, fat little well-fed bellies tucked into terrycloth sleepers, a glass of chardonnay with my name on it. Everyone was present and accounted for, healthy and sound. I slept really well in those days, partly because I was chronically sleep deprived, but also because in about three minutes I could make the rounds and make sure all was well with my brood.
I remember the Christmas I was hugely pregnant with Sasquatch and my mom, the FX and I went to Alabama to spend the holiday with my mom's family. At one point my grandmother gazed around her house, looked at her two daughters and three grandchildren, and she sighed this big huge sigh of contentment. "I just love it," she said, "when you're all here and I know you're all safe." I knew jack about the maternal feeling then and thought she was overstating her case, but I get it now. Oh god, do I get it.
The younger boys are gone every other weekend and Sasquatch is rarely seen on any weekend. He comes home to touch base, raid the fridge and change clothes, but that's about it. It's very rare these days for all of us to be home to eat dinner together. Everyone has their own activities and plans, and my house for the most part resembles the airspace above LAX, with people coming and going at all times and in all directions. The nights when everyone is home and accounted for are few and far between, and I love every single one of them. I have a feeling they're going to become even more rare as the years go by.
I've been out of school for years, and yet I still think of Spring as the time of endings and Fall as the time of beginnings. Next Fall will be a doozy around here. And the Fall after that - the college Fall - well, I can't even go there. Not quite yet.
After all, I've still got four weeks of elementary school left.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Could someone please explain to me how it is that you can go to the gym three or four times a week for months, getting to the point where you can run five miles straight with absolutely no problem, but then, when you can't go for two weeks, you're almost back to square one?
How is this possible? Is my body trying to tell me something?
Maybe I should just pop open a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos, flop down on the couch and say the heck with it?
I'm going to have to think about that.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I learned a lot about myself during that conversation.
Some of the things I learned from me:
It's not that I fault the FX for being human and reading my blog even though he swore not to. It's that one of the things that has kept me going the last year is the idea that the he has had absolutely no access to my thoughts or feelings. I've got a great poker face and for the most part don't engage in conversation with him. This is all, unfortunately, moot when all he has to do is boot up his computer to climb inside my brain. It's too bad he's a liar, but that's not exactly news. Strike One.
I'm almost less upset that he was reading it than about the fact that he had completely forgotten that he had promised me he wouldn't. Even though I told him at the time that it was really important to me, it had totally slipped his mind. Once again, a perfect illustration of our marriage. Strike Two.
I realized that I'm a lot more like my dad sometimes than I really want to admit. My dad could cut people off cold - and without a backwards look. When he was done, he was done. I always thought that was cold and unfeeling. But that was before I was done. Strike Three. You're out.
Some of the things I learned from the FX:
I am hopelessly stuck in the past, destined to repeat past behaviors indefinitely. When I get my act together and put the work into myself like he has, maybe I'll be able to move forward.
I'm narcicissistic and self-absorbed and it all has to be about me. The blog is a perfect example, and so is the fact that I always have to be right in every situation. My favorite thing, for example, is to not warn him that bad things may happen if he does (or doesn't do) certain things, just so if/when he fails I can tell him "I told you so".
The fact that he is in a "very serious relationship" and I'm not even dating is just more evidence that I'm the damaged goods here and he's the one who has finally gotten the wonderful relationship that he deserves.
I could go on, but really...why bother? Surely you get the point.
As long as he's in the hot throes of a new relationship he really could care less what I have to say. About anything. My feelings and needs are completely irrelevant to his life, and everything I say or do reinforces his image of himself as the put upon good guy. It takes a lot of work to get a relationship off the ground, and his relationships with everyone else were just going to have to take a back seat. I could care less about letting him in on my needs, but I mistakenly thought that after twenty four years together my feelings might still mean something to him. Stupid me.
What the hell was I thinking?
About five minutes into raving about his new girlfriend, about how she supported him in all his endeavors, how she let him be him, and allowed him to be free to pursue his own hobbies and interests, how she understood that he was "a work in progress" and that she "was there for him" at all times, and even that they "took care of each other", he told me that he had never expected to be in this serious a relationship this quickly. You can't choose, he said, when you meet someone. Then he asked me if I was seeing anyone. Pre-blog reading I would have told him it was none of his business, but that seemed kind of stupid now. If he's been reading then he already knows what my story is. I figured the hell with it and went with the truth.
"No, I'm not," I said. "Ask me why".
"Okay," he said. "Why?"
"Because I think you came out of our marriage with a much higher opinion of human nature than I did," I answered. "And if you shoot down anyone who asks you out, you can virtually guarantee that you won't meet someone who will turn serious too fast."
I wasn't done.
"You know what absolutely kills me?" I asked. "It's the idea that you fucked all four of us over completely with your selfishness and 'I'm the top priority here' attitude and you're the one who gets the happy ending. And you can rationalize all day long that you were completely blameless in our marriage because you've somehow managed to fall into a relationship that lets you feel like you're a good deserving person who just happened to spend twenty years with a castrating bitch like me."
The blog was a keg of dynamite, too. He insisted that he only read it to see what was going on with the kids. I said that was ridiculous, since I made a point of always keeping him abreast of kid happenings. Then he made the "You were a much better writer before you threw yourself a pity party" comment, which absolutely enraged me. On so many levels. "Well, which is it?" I asked. "Any posts where you might get the pity party idea aren't posts where kid events would be mentioned. So what's the truth? Did you just read the "pity party" posts to get off on my pain and anger? We already know you're a liar. Could you be just a little sadistic, too?And, by the way, if you were only in it "for the kids" how come you never called to check up on them when I wrote that they were having a hard time?" I also pointed out that the fact that he had to keep up with my writing indicated to me that he might not be as emotionally detached as he claims to be, an idea that he contradicted mightily.
There was more, but I'll spare you. It seemed that every time either one of us opened our mouths we drew blood, and we weren't going for small veins either. It was artery time, and eventually I felt like I had bled enough.
"You know what?", I said, "You just aren't good for me. In any way. And I know this is a really stupid thing to say considering that we've been divorced for six months, but I'm done. I'm completely done dealing with you. From here on out we discuss the kids and the house and that's it. I have nothing more to say to you and this will be the very last conversation like this that we will ever have. You can't hurt me anymore. I'm finished with you".
We ended the conversation right there. And in spite of the fact that I had, in the heat of battle, given him that glimpse of myself that I don't want him to have, it felt really good. Like a clean start in a way. I walked away from it knowing that we were both way beyond each other's reach. And that that was a very, very good thing.
I don't have to like him and I don't have to deal with him on anything other than my terms. I don't have to let him dictate my life and screw with my feelings and my kids. I will support the kids in every way I can, but I won't be the middle man anymore. He's on his own, and I sincerely hope he is smart enough to realize what he's thisclose to losing.
It has also become apparent to me with dazzling clarity that in spite of everything I've thought in the last year...I haven't lost anything valuable at all. And that it's time to let go and move on.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
My finger hesitated over the send button on my email, but no matter how much I hated to hit it, it had to be done. It was the Tuesday after Easter and all of my kids were still dragging. Gumby had spent most of Monday lying lethargically on the couch and Surfer Dude and Sasquatch were still uncharacteristically quiet. I didn't want to get into this with the FX, didn't want to have a conversation with him in any way, shape or form, but my conscience was screaming. My kids were hurting. The reason was clear. I had to confront the cause. This was the email I sent -
Per his request, I'm making an appointment for Gumby to see a therapist. I'm obviously going through your insurance, so you may see paperwork on that. Yesterday was the third Monday in a row that he woke up too "sick" to go to school after his weekend with you and we have to get to the bottom of this. I'll let you know when the appointments are when I know. Unfortunately, it's not just Gumby. I'm extremely hesitant to get into any of the rest of this with you, but for the greater good of our children I'm (very reluctantly) giving it one more shot. I had honestly hoped - after our heart to heart in the driveway - that you understood what I was saying, but it's obvious that you either don't, don't want to, or are somehow living within the delusion that you are. Whatever the reason, it's not working. For any of your children. If you have any desire to discuss this, you know where I am. If you feel you're doing fine with the way things are going, then by all means carry on. I've heard you tell me too many times that I'm influencing the kids and projecting my emotions onto them, but I need to be very explicit with you here. If you truly believe that this is all my doing, you are carrying your trademark denial to new heights. And all of you will lose. I won't do this again, FX. You're on your own from here on out.
My phone rang twenty minutes later. Guess who?
I don't know what it is with me and the FX and phone calls, but we seem to be far more comfortable saying what's really on our minds when we're not face to face. Much like the conversation we had last summer that finally broached some kind of understanding between us, this was a long conversation. 153 minutes, if you want to believe the timer on my cell phone. Unlike the conversation last summer, this discussion lobbed cherry bombs at our oh so tenuous bonds, and, at least from my point of view, effectively destroyed any chance of the divorce relationship I had hoped to be part of. It started out civil and with both of us attempting to be accommodating. It ended up as a gloves off brawl where things were said that can never be taken back, never be forgiven. It was 153 minutes toward the end, and by the time the ride was over I was shaking and exhausted. On paper our relationship ended October 17, 2008 when our divorce was final. In actuality it ended two days after Easter 2009 when the emotional dams burst, and the ensuing flood washed away every trace of respect and empathy we had.
I addressed the issue of Easter and the girlfriend first and, as I had expected, got nowhere. I told him all about what had happened when the boys got home, leaving out the impersonation routine because I thought that would be flat out cruel to pass on. I pointed out to him that the boys see him every other weekend and would like to be able to spend some time just with him. I said, yet again, that he ought to be able to manage his love life in the twelve days out of fourteen that he doesn't have the kids. I told him - honestly - that the kids seemed to like his girlfriend, and had nothing but nice things to say about her. (I have no problem with her. My problem is entirely with him.) But that doesn't erase the fact that they want to spend time with their dad being themselves, not paraded around as some kind of accessory to make dad look better with the chicks. If he wants a poodle, he can go buy one. That's not what my kid go over there on weekends for. Well. That's not what my kids want to go over there on weekends for.
The girlfriend has grown kids and, judging from the food she cooks and schleps over to the FX's house for him and the boys, has quite the maternal streak. I asked him if he had ever considered changing his plans on Easter when everything went to hell in a handbasket. What about, I asked, if when you and Sasquatch realized you had your wires completely crossed, you asked your girlfriend if you could just change plans and have a boy's day instead. She could have headed home and the four of them could have hung out and celebrated dad's birthday. If she is one zillionth as fabulous as he continues to tell me she is, something tells me she would have understood. The idea had never occurred to him, which doesn't really surprise me. He's a big picture guy, you see, and the details often escape him, particularly when they impact other people more than they impact him.
We shifted out of that and onto the next thing I wanted to bring up.
"Are you still reading my blog?" I asked.
"No," he answered immediately. "I'm not."
Someone less used to the way he communicates would have let that go, but I've been down this particular road before. You have to ask very specific questions, allowing as little wiggle room as possible, to get a straight answer.
"When is the last time you read it?" I asked.
"About three weeks ago," he said. "I stopped reading when you called me a narcissist for getting involved with (the gf) so quickly."
I was about to open my mouth to bring up a) that he'd have to get a little more specific than that and b) the fact that he had promised me that he would stop reading last Spring when he continued.
"Ironic, actually," he said, "that you would call me narcissistic on your blog. Seriously. How narcissistic can you get?"
I took a deep breath and peeled off my gloves. This was about to get ugly.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I've never been overly impressed with the FX's ability to be efficient, but I'm guessing I may have to rethink that one. He really managed to outdo himself on Easter, by any standard you care to apply. In the period of about two minutes flat he managed to convince all three of his children that his girlfriend was more important to him than they were. And judging by their reactions to this, I think he's facing a real uphill battle to regain ground.
This episode is important on so many levels - the children obviously foremost - but for me it was the trigger that led to the end. In spite of my promise to myself to shut up and lay low, I just couldn't, and believe me when I tell you that I paid the price. My children, however, took the brunt. At first I would have said one child in particular, but a week later I'm not at all sure about that. The devastation was fairly equally distributed.
That was the day that the boys were going to celebrate the FX's birthday, the day they had been looking forward to. The younger ones had been with him since Friday night, Sasquatch had been in and out at home, with plans to meet up with them all on Sunday morning. Saturday at soccer Gumby had said something to me about their plans for the next day, plans which included an IMAX film about half an hour away. As soon as I heard this, I knew the girlfriend would be going, since this theater is right in her neck of the woods. Sasquatch is the only one who has never met her, partly by his own design. At home later, just Sasquatch and I, I asked him who all was going to the movies on Sunday.
"Just dad and me and the boys," he replied.
"Are you sure?" I asked.
"Positive, " he said. "Why?"
"Just curious, " I answered. "Surely dad would let you know ahead of time if his girlfriend was going with you."
"Of course he would," Sasquatch replied. "Dad would never trick me like that."
And there we left it.
I had just finished my Easter potluck lunch at work when I got a phone call from a sobbing Sasquatch. The kid was beside himself, talking in hiccupy spurts, breaking into fresh tears every couple of words. We all know he drives me to the brink of insanity at times with his attitude, but not this time. His pain was palpable. And this was the story he told.
He had spent the night at a friend's house (one of my best friend's sons), and had gotten a call that the FX would pick him up there and then head out to the movie. What he wasn't expecting was to be picked up in the girlfriend's car, with his dad driving, and the girlfriend riding shotgun. They stopped at a store to buy some snacks for the movie, and the younger boys went in with the girlfriend. Sasquatch took that opportunity to tell his father that he wasn't going with them and that he wanted to be taken home immediately. The FX asked why, claimed that he had told Sasquatch ahead of time that the gf would be coming along. His exact words, according to Sasquatch were "I told you it was just going to be us." Sasquatch said they had a very different definition of "us" , and then told the FX flat out that he didn't appreciate the way this had all come about. I'm imagining he was fighting back tears even then, but I don't know this for a fact.
Okay. So some wires were crossed. Neither one of them can communicate for beans on a good day. Maybe he did tell him. Maybe he didn't. This was still (sort of) salvagable, if handled properly. All it would take was a lot of finesse and some changing of plans.
It didn't happen. The FX told Sasquatch that he was really sorry, that he was sure he had told him - and then he drove him home and headed off to the movies with the younger boys and the girlfriend. Sasquatch was devastated. It took me fifteen minutes on the phone to calm him down. Then I called my friend Laurie to enlist her help. We have a ritual on Easter, families we always get together with. This year, for the first time ever, I was working and the boys were scheduled to be with their dad. A quick phone call later, it was arranged that Laurie's family would pick Sasquatch up on their way to the festivities and he would spend his Easter the way he always did -surrounded by fabulous extended family.
I did a slow burn for the rest of the day, and when I got home minutes after the FX and the gf had dropped off the younger boys, I went up to my room to cool off. I had a brief word with Sasquatch to assess his mood, which was quiet but okay, and then I sat on my bed and tried to breathe. Minutes later Surfer Dude and Gumby came up to chat about their day and their weekend.
"Sasquatch is still pretty upset," Gumby said.
"I know he is, " I answered.
"Did you hear what happened?" Surfer Dude asked.
"I did," I replied. "How are you two with it?"
Two blank faces looked at me. Two shrugs. No answer. I'd never before noticed how the two of them have become this kind of united front lately. Two boys. One persona.
"Listen, " I said. "You know you can always talk to me if you're upset. You can always talk to Sasquatch. He's always there. So is dad. You can always talk to dad, too."
Then they both looked at me and laughed.
"Right," they said. "Sure we can talk to dad. Just like this."
And then, so help me god, they launched into the most dead on imitation of the FX you can imagine, caught him squarely in the act of attempting to listen and take part in a conversation, but not quite succeeding. In about thirty seconds, they nailed him. It was eerie. When they were done, they looked at each other and chuckled. It was clearly not the first time they had performed their two man show for each other. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It was a really tough call. In the end, I went with neither.
"So what's your point?" I asked. "You don't feel like you can talk to dad?"
"Oh, come on mom," they said. "We just smile and do what we're told."
"Why would you do that?" I answered, outraged. "Why in the world don't you tell dad what you really think? What you really feel?"
"We just don't," they answered. "It's easier that way."
"So are you saying you just nod and smile like puppets?" I continued.
"Pretty much," they said. "Goodnight."
And off they went to bed.
The next morning Gumby woke up clutching his stomach and crying. Said he felt terrible and asked if he could stay home from school. I checked him out carefully. He really did look kind of crappy, so I told him to lay down and take it easy.
A while later I dropped Surfer Dude off at school. As he got out of the car he turned to me and said in a very off-hand way,
"Have you noticed that every Monday after we're at dad's house Gumby is sick?"
And as I watched him walk into the school all I could think was...
Oh, my god. He's right.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
We're taking a little breather today before it gets kind of dark around here for a day or two. After the darkness, it's going to get light - nice, bright, sunny light. And with any luck, it's going to stay that way. For a good long time. I'm ready for daylight. It's been dark long enough.
I've said this before and I'll say it again, but the learning curves of divorce are really interesting. When you go looking for an answer you're very likely to still be standing on the curb six hours later, with not an insight to be found. But sometimes the cylinders all fall into place with no warning, and you're clutching a wall to stay upright as the ramifications of it all wash over you. It's been one of those weeks, all right. It took me sixteen months from the first time I was made aware of my ex's discontent, but this week I finally hit bottom. All of my good intentions, all of the behaviors I held dear...all by the wayside, in puffs of hot volcanic ash and swirls of smug deception. This week, for the first time, I was finally pushed too far.
This week, for the first time, I finally broke free.
It all came down to one simple little misconception I was laboring under. Not a completely unrealistic notion, especially considering that I was married for 21 years, but not a really likely one either. Now where I got this idea I can't honestly tell you, unless there was a sale at the Human Decency Store and I saw an ad somewhere. Barring that, it came from my own preconceived idea of what a "good" divorce should be, and maybe even what good people should be.
My mistake was thinking that the FX would give a shit about my feelings in any way, shape or form. To be fair, this idea came about during the Great Wishy Washy Spring of 2008, when he would alternately rage at me for ruining his life and then hold me tight and tell me we'd get through this. It was reinforced over and over again, in many ways, up until fairly recently. We didn't necessarily like each other much, but we played nice and even put on smiley faces with little difficulty when we had to. It had almost become comfortable, at least for me.
Well, things change. I realized with a bang this week that it's impossible to have a decent, honorable divorce when you didn't have a decent, honorable marriage. I understood with startling clarity that my feelings are absolutely a non-factor in the FX's life. And I finally, finally, grasped that I can talk all day long about issues we still have and it doesn't make a damned bit of difference, because whenever I talked about our issues when we were married it never got me anywhere either.
And so I did a few things. Just for me.
I decided that from here on out we will discuss the kids and the house and that's all.
I relieved myself of the responsibility of being middle man between the kids and their dad. This is not a relationship I can fix. My input will no longer be offered, even when requested. If the kids ask, obviously that's totally different.
I allowed myself to be angry over certain things. But I also encouraged myself to let it go.
I gave myself permission to not care one whit for his feelings either. This was the easiest of the lot, and the quickest one to get the hang of.
As ah-hah moments go, it was right up there at the top of the list.
I can't believe it took me that long.
Sometimes I can be a little...slow.
Friday, April 17, 2009
You would not be wrong if you sensed a cataclysmic shift in my little world in the last few days, and the fact that you had to log in to read this is but one little piece of proof. I've had a hell of a year this week, and it's going to take a while to get into. But rest assured that I will get into it. It's not going to be an easy story to tell, but I have a sneaking hunch it's going to have a happy ending. And that alone is worth a post.
But let's get some business out of the way first. Right off the bat I have to thank all of you for the wonderful emails and various other types of correspondence. You'll never know how much it means to me. It's not an exaggeration to say that in the heat of the moment I came perilously close to just throwing in the towel, but I couldn't take that final step. I simply couldn't do it. Keeping going is a risk, but I'm willing to take it.
And here's why. I strongly doubt that the FX would have gone to the trouble to create a name for himself in order to read this. Not impossible, but highly unlikely. (And, if I may add, for a truly hilarious reason.) As for my buddy Anonymous, your guess is as good as mine. A lot of requests came from lurkers who never comment, and even though most of them rang quite true there were a couple that set some alarms off in my head. A few of them I even emailed back, but here's the thing. The internet is set up for anonymity, and this is doubly true if you're dealing with someone with some computer knowledge, which I am. If they want in, they'll find a way to do it.
My bottom line? If the big A is here...oh, well. I'm not terribly concerned by it. I have a feeling that I'm dealing with a "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" situation and, to be perfectly frank, I don't give a damn. So there.
Now, having said that, I'm blocking anonymous comments, or at least I'm trying to. I'd really appreciate it if comments could be easily identified with their writer, although I know some people have trouble commenting on their own accounts. If you have to be ID'd as anonymous, could you please (in the body of the comment) say who you are? Just as common courtesy? So we can all get to know each other?
I'm not trying to be a pill, but I have several stat counters and site trackers loaded on this blog... and I have a delete button, which I'm not afraid to use. If the iffy comments start back up - especially if I can track them down as specifically as I can - I most certainly will. I have absolutely no problem with the content in those comments, it's the coy hiding in the shadows that I object to. Please - feel free at any time to point out any and all character and personality flaws of mine that you have issues with. I can take it. Really. I've had a lot of practice this week.
Alright! Are we ready to roll?
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Starting Thursday April 16th, RC is going private. I hate to do it, but I have absolutely NO choice. And this has nothing whatsoever to do with Anonymous. The FX admitted today that he's been reading all along and then summed up all my pain and anger by saying, "You're a much better writer when you're not having yourself a pity party."
Send me your email address if you want to have access. email@example.com.
I guess they cap you at 100 readers, so I don't know how that's going to work, but I suppose we'll see.
For once...I'm speechless.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
A big Thank You to everyone who commented on yesterday's post. I appreciate all the love and input, and will let you know what the plan is as soon as I figure it out. Another big round of applause to the people who have had to deal with my series of "issues" over the last week or so. You know who you are and I hope you know how much you've helped. There has been genuine clarity achieved in the last few days, and some of the insights have been more than worth the wait.
I have a head cold, a raw throat from venting and a sticking space bar, so I think I'm going to keep this short and call it a night.
Don't touch that dial. Tomorrow's another day.
Monday, April 13, 2009
You know how people will say to you "I have good news and I have bad news. Which do you want first?" It's an interesting psychological question, much like the glass being half full or half empty. The one you pick says so much about you.
Me myself, I prefer the bad news first. Sucker punch me, but then finish it with something good. End on a high note. Give me some hope, some illusion. That's all I ask.
So in that vein, I have a question for you. Which do you want first? The good news or the bad news? No preference? Well, alright then...
The Bad News: I'm inches away from giving up this blog. Seriously. The reasons I started it for originally have changed hugely, and I think it's more than fair to say that this blog - and the wonderful friends who follow it - have been a huge part in my getting through this last year. But things have obviously gotten weird. I don't trust the FX to remember his name from day to day and I seem to have picked up a reader who knows me but doesn't want to admit they know me and blah blah blah blah. It just feels weird. And for something that has felt so good, has brought me so much joy...I just don't know. I just don't know.
Then there's the other factor. Ideally, all this "spew" out of my mouth should go in the book. Truly. Today alone was a chapter. The things that came out of my children's mouths-all of them- when they came home from their "dad" weekend blew me out of the water. And not in a good way. The fact that he continues to not see when they are putting on a good face absolutely astounds me. I've run interference for years. It's not my job anymore. It seems instead that my job is to pick up the pieces when they get home. Thank god, I'm up to that.
And on the subject of a book? Well. I don't always have the highest opinion of my abilities, and that's a given. But the FX knows about this whole book idea, and all he could say was " Knowing the way you write...could you at least dedicate it to me? And thank me for my contribution? " Because here's the thing. I'm finding revenge to be the best motivator in the world. Don't get mad. Get even. Living well is the best revenge. Just do it. You may call them cliches. At the moment I just call them incentive.
The Good News: I'm not ready to leave all of you yet. You are all too dear to me. I've just got to figure out a way to make it happen. You may not see this as good news. But for those of you still reading...I'm working on it.
And in a side note: Anonymous, I'm 90% sure I know who you are. And if my hunch is right, the fact that the FX gave you my blog site is particularly funny considering what happened next. I don't consider that you are looking to screw me, since you could have done that long ago. And you seem, in your own convoluted way, to be ever so sympathetic. So. What is the real motivation? Hmmm. I have my own ideas. But. Let's start with this. I never really thought you were the girlfriend, because even someone as fucking stupid as the FX would never in a million years give the gf any insight into his neurotic tendencies. He needs to be the star, remember? I don't exactly give him that billing, and with really good reason. So I don't think he'll ever be passing my blog address along to her, although, since she seems to be a genuinely nice person, I'm a little tempted myself. Facebook, you know. You can find anyone. It's amazing. Save her a lot of heartbreak. And here's a thought. I understand that you may not want to go public with this, but you could email me. firstname.lastname@example.org. Man up. Or woman up. It doesn't have to be for public consumption. I would really like to know who you are. Stop hiding behind anonymous.
Because in the end, doesn't that lower you to his level?
Oh, and PS. Peter. I know you're still pissed at me, but isn't this what friends are all about? I could really use some help here. Trust me on this.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
No girlfriend at soccer today. Just one more thing to put on the To Do List.
And I seem to have a particularly cranky anonymous commenter, who, interestingly enough lives in my very own town. Or at least comments from there. And seems to have quite the pro-FX bent. Hmmm.
May you live in interesting times...
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Well, well, well.
I'm thinking I won't be meeting the girlfriend after all, because I do believe that the FX has been reading my blog...and adjusting his schedule to reflect that. Perhaps what slipped out of his mouth tonight as I dropped kids off was accidental, but I think not. I think the man is still reading my blog.
Why in the world would you be interested in little ol' me and my opinion, she asked? If you're looking for a camera pointing at your virtues, you're really in the wrong place. And please remember, as you court those who worship you blindly...that I know what lies under that civilized veneer.
You might want to stop reading. NOW.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Reading your comments after a day at work and a school orchestra performance, I feel like I need to clarify two things. Just for the sake of being on the same page.
#1. It IS written in our divorce agreement that the FX is responsible for half of the upkeep of the house. His name is on the mortgage, his credit is on the line, and he signed off on this without a blink in his frantic attempt to become a free man. The problem is the way it's written. When we sell the house, before we split any profits, he has to do two things. First, he has to reimburse me for half of any work I've put into the house that I've paid for. Second, he has to reimburse me for half of all the mortgage payments I've made since he moved out last June. On paper, and in a better economy, you could say he got screwed, although I would dispute that mightily. (I had plenty of opportunity to screw him and I chose to take the high road. Some days I wonder why.) In reality, and in the financial world we live in, this is going to work for him, because it removes any motivation he may or may not have to sell the house at the largest possible profit. Why bother if the lion's share of that profit will go to me? And if, god forbid, we have to sell the house at a loss, in a perverse way he comes out ahead. Knowing him as I do, in this instance he thinks he's got me backed into a corner. Pity he's never given my brain half the respect it deserves. That may possibly come back to take a chunk out of his posterior at some later date. It all depends on how he handles it. Because, really...I'm not half as stupid as I look.
#2. I don't depend on him for anything. Period. I wouldn't ask him for help if my head was on fire and there was a water shortage. I have no false illusions of him rescuing me, or even attempting to look like a nice guy anymore. We've moved past his guilt and solidly into the "The money I'm paying you is now interfering with my new social life" phase. He still continues to try with his children, and I have to be grateful for that. That may be all he's capable of, but it will be enough for me. I may be furious and he may be self-absorbed, but at the end of the day it's still about the kids. And they seem damn well adjusted. So somehow, we're both doing something right. That has to be enough. It just has to.
Oh, wait. Three things. That wasn't a picture my basement yesterday. That was a google pic. My basement is far worse.
Alright, back to the story.
So I was already pissed going into last weekend, which was too bad, because it was a loaded weekend. Last Saturday would have been our 22nd wedding anniversary. (No presents, please. Just boycott independent films for a year as a personal favor to me.) And then Sunday was his birthday. And his damn birthday opened yet another can of stinking worms.
Long story short: Last year, during that awful pre-moving out stage, the kids all forgot his birthday. This isn't really anything against him - they're just clueless. I didn't really give a shit that they forgot it and just let it go. This, evidently, hurt his feelings and he asked me if we could please, in the future, remind the kids about upcoming "special days". He then demonstrated his superiority over me by having them make me breakfast for Mother's Day, and going to the supermarket himself and buying me a pair of black velour sleep pants in size 3X and then having the kids present them to me - with the 2/$10 price tag still attached. Oh, man, don't you just live for moments like that? I could fit my whole body in one leg, price tag and all. Brings a sentimental tear to my eye, even now.
Even so, I've been making sure the kids knew about his upcoming birthday. Several weeks ago, I called him to discuss Sasquatch and asked him to make sure to talk to the kids about what they were going to do for his birthday. The kids were wanting to do something on his exact birthday, but I was a little leery of encouraging that, worrying that he might be planning something a little more adult in nature. He said he wasn't even sure he was going to be in town for his birthday and that he and the kids would work it out that weekend.
When the kids got home from their weekend the subject had never come up, and as far as I was concerned, I was done. I'd done more than my fair share on this already and I figured the rest was up to him. His birthday fell on my weekend with the kids, but I had already told them that whatever they wanted to do with him was absolutely fine with me. But there were issues. Gumby had a two day academic field trip. And one of his best friends was having his all day birthday party/sleepover the actual day of the FX's birthday. Gumby asked my opinion, and I said he should call his dad because I still didn't know if he was even going to be around. Or available. I said if you all want to, why can't you celebrate dad's birthday next week when you're already with him for the whole weekend?
So Gumby called him and the FX said that was just fine and they left it like that. But. Surfer Dude was mad because even though he had also been invited to this birthday party, he said he'd rather spend the day with his dad on his birthday. I said if he felt that way he should call his dad and let him know that. I've got to tell you, that wasn't easy to say, but I felt it was the fair thing to do. Because I had no idea what his birthday plans were. Maybe he'd be sad that he wasn't with his kids. Maybe the party would be the new girlfriend and a can of whipped cream. Maybe he really was going out of town. Who the hell knew? But SD had that stubborn little look on his face and I had to encourage him to follow through.
That was really stupid on my part.
I watched from the next room as the FX shot him down. Surfer Dude's shoulders slumped and his voice lowered on the phone. When he finished he came up to me with abnormally bright eyes and a really defiant look on his face and said, "Dad thinks it would be better if we all celebrated his birthday at the same time next weekend." And then he stomped up to his room and slammed the door.
All righty then.
Now I'm the first to admit that this is a classic case of Damned if you do, Damned if you don't. Maybe the FX was trying to be considerate. Maybe he was trying to make all the boys happy. Maybe he was trying to be a 2009 Flexible Dad. Or maybe he was just clearing the evening to get laid. With a clear conscience. But I knew how bad SD wanted to go to the other birthday party. I knew what he had just tried to do. And I knew what his father had - for whatever reason - denied him. My blood, already sitting at a rolling boil, became just a little more heated.
And that's basically where I've sat. Magma. Mt. St. RC. Oh, I've let it out in various ways. I had a long playground chat with one of my dear friends who happens to be male. And divorced. And a mutual friend of both myself and the FX if truth be told, although I've honestly always thought of him more as my friend and he doesn't deny this. (Here's balls for you. When he was leaving me, the FX brought this guy's name up and suggested we get together. The two of you seem, he explained, to understand each other really well.) Well, that playground chat - with someone I trust implicitly - coincided almost exactly with my hitting the absolute end of my rope and I completely and totally blew. For a solid ninety minutes I blew, and if there was a secret or skeleton, no matter how despicable or humiliating, in the FX's closet, I threw it on the table. My mouth was possessed by a demon and I wouldn't have stopped it if I could have. I was enraged. By the end, I was exhausted. And it felt good. There's nothing like trashing an ex to give you a sense of well-being and renewed vigor. It's like a day spa without the calming music and 200 calorie meals.
And that brings us to today. Wait. Let's go back to last night. Sasquatch and I had a knock-down drag out fight over personal responsibility. In typical form he tried to turn it around and make it my fault. I went ballistic. This is his father's trick and I've had enough of it. He continued to dodge, divert and deflect and I marvelled at the cruelty of the genetic pool. We did not end on good terms, he and I.
Then this morning at work I got a call from the FX who had gotten roped into Sasquatch's web. Hook, line and sinker. I won't bore you with the story because this damn post is too long already, but bottom line is that Sasquatch is using the FX's own tricks against him, and what's worse, the FX is so a) self-absorbed, b) oblivious, c) shockingly without any self-awareness, that he doesn't even see that he's doing it. I made sure to point it out, just for the greater good. And then I said this,
"The thing is, he's gotten your ability to take a tiny kernel of truth and bury it in a huge mound of bullshit. He can twist the facts all day long. This way he can delude himself that he's telling the truth and then he can deflect all the responsibility onto someone else. And in the process, he can completely kid himself about the fact that he's a bald faced liar."
He did not like hearing that. I, on the other hand, rather enjoyed saying it. And in spite of the fact that we sat within three feet of each other at Gumby's orchestra performance tonight...
I don't feel mad at all at the moment. And it's a good thing, because if I can read the man at all - and read between the lines of what he's unable to communicate - I think I get to meet the girlfriend at Surfer Dude's soccer game on Saturday.
This could be really good. Don't you think?
Thursday, April 9, 2009
I've been fighting this for weeks but it has finally happened. I've hit a wall. A big one. And from the way I feel, the wall hit back. Harder. I feel paralyzed, where every move is like walking through molasses. All I want to do is sleep and hide out. Well, there are other things I want to do, but unfortunately there are laws.
To make it even worse, I'm in magma territory again. I'm furious. At the FX. For something that happened almost two weeks ago, and yet my anger just keeps growing. My periods of hating his guts come a lot less frequently than they used to, but they make up for it in intensity. And, as usual, it involves one of my two hot buttons: the kids and the house. Actually, this time it involves both.
It all started with a funky smell in the house. The weird thing was that the smell kept moving. First we'd smell it in the computer room downstairs, and then it would be in my bedroom upstairs. Gumby was convinced it was a dead mouse and I kept searching for a well-hidden doggie pile. No results on either end. The stench got worse, and finally I was forced to concede that the only place we hadn't checked was the basement. On a Friday afternoon, Surfer Dude and I braved it and headed down to look.
There's no way to adequately describe how perfectly horrendous my basement is. First you open a trap door in the laundry room. Then you have to contort yourself like an Olympic gymnast because the stairs are backwards, and have a wall at the head of them. The walls lining the stairs are crumbling limestone littered with spider carcasses. When you get to the basement itself, it gets even worse. Three rooms, each more dank than the last, lit by two bare pull cord lightbulbs. Surfer Dude made it halfway down the stairs and called it a day. I didn't have that option, unfortunately, although I sure wished I did.
My fear was that there was some kind of plumbing leak down there or that the basement had somehow flooded and the water was rank. So when I came to the first room and saw a dry floor I was relieved. Second room - dry floor. The third room is down a small step and when you enter, it's into pitch black until you can get to the pull cord. (Do not ask about a flashlight. I have three boys, remember? I've hidden more flashlights than I can count, and for some reason they're never there when I go looking for them.) Well, when I got the light on the only thing I saw was a small puddle of murky water on the floor - and it smelled foul. Nothing about the puddle indicated sewage. There were no drains near it, no pipes that I could see - just some standing water. And not much of it. There's a window in that room that leaks and it had rained pretty hard the week before, so my thought was that some water had gotten into the room and gotten stagnant, leading to the smell.
At this point I did my head in the sand routine and went back upstairs, relieved that the problem didn't seem bad, and hoping that as the puddle dried up it would smell better. Yeah, yeah, I know - rub a lamp. Hope springs eternal and all that jazz. When I took the kids to spend their weekend with the FX a little later, I mentioned it to him, and asked him if he would mind checking it out when he took the kids home Sunday night if he was able to still smell it. He said he would and that's where we left it.
That was Friday night, and Saturday morning I started three days in a row at work. Late morning, I got a phone call from the FX. It went something like this:
FX: YOU have a problem.
RC: What do you mean?
FX: I just took Sasquatch home and when I opened the door the smell was unbelievable. I went downstairs and you have a basement full of sewage. There's toilet paper and other disgusting stuff floating around the back room.
RC: But I was just down there and it was a little puddle. And there was nothing at all that looked like sewage.
FX: Well, there is now. YOU need to get someone to come and look at that NOW.
RC (imagining her small savings acccount - the one that enables her to sleep at night - flying away at warp speed): Alright, well, let's talk about this for a second. This could potentially be the first big house expense that comes up post-divorce. How do you think we should handle this financially?
FX: Well, how do YOU think we should handle this financially?
RC: Well, I think 50/50 would be fair.
FX (chuckling): Well, it may be fair, but I'M never going to see any money out of that house. Why should I pay anything toward keeping it up?
FX: Let's talk about this later, okay? Just get someone out there to look at it.
RC: Do you not understand how badly I want out from underneath this house? Do you not see that it's taking every bit of the child support just to keep us in this house? How am I supposed to do the work we need to do to sell it on my own? And FYI - your children LIVE in that house.
FX: I'm not talking about this now. Just get someone out there to look at it.
And there we left it.
But wait. Sasquatch was having a birthday sleepover that night, with anywhere from 15 to 20 boys coming over. I didn't know where this "sewage" was coming from, and I certainly couldn't take the chance of having a houseful of people to possibly make it worse. Or breathe the fumes. I called him to tell him that I was going to try to get Kevin (aka Man of the Year) out to look at the basement, but that I had absolutely no idea if he would be able to get to it or not, and that if I couldn't do that, we were going to have to reschedule his party. Good Lord. The kid went off on me. This was the only date he could do it. It was all planned. I was only doing this to ruin his birthday. What the FX had started...he finished.
When I got off the phone I laid my head on the counter in the nurses station and wept. With about eight people around me who had heard both conversations and had absolutely no idea of what to do. I'm not a whiner at work. And I certainly don't cry. Within minutes I had a fresh Diet Pepsi in one hand and a Butterfinger bar in the other while everyone scurried around to take care of my patients. My charge nurse came over and gave me a shoulder massage. I picked up the phone and called Kevin.
Who dropped everything he was doing, left his family on his one day off and headed out into the pouring rain to figure out what the hell was going on in my Silence of the Lambs basement. As soon as I heard his voice on the phone, I swear to god my blood pressure went down fifty points. And when he told me not to worry and that he would take care of it, I actually stopped crying and believed him.
Bottom line? A misplaced downspout was sending rain pouring into my basement, explaining why the FX saw more water Saturday than I did Friday. However, there wasn't much more water down there and there was no sign whatsoever of sewage. It was just water that was picking up something funky (including a mouse carcass or two) off of the 120 year old floor and, as Kevin so delicately put it "activating some nasty smells". He fixed the downspout while he was there and checked out all the plumbing and drains. All clear.
They let me leave work early and I went down there with a forty pound box of kitty litter and some bleach. I spread the kitty litter around, let it absorb and then scooped it all up into a five gallon bucket. Carted that to the trash, sprayed most of a bottle of Febreze and we've been scent free ever since. My feeling of accomplishment was huge. Sasqutch felt so bad about his behavior that he actually offered to help - all on his own.
And the FX? Has no idea of the outcome and has not said a word about it since. Why should he? It's not his problem. Right?
to be continued
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I've done it again. I've totally sidetracked myself. Once more.
In absolute honesty, I really had no intention of digging up all the Michigan dirt just yet. It's such a loaded topic for me, so confused and conflicted, a hodgepodge of emotions that will never have any resolution. There will never be official closure for this and I'm fully aware of that. My dad died - very suddenly - in August 2002. My step-mother and I haven't spoken in almost 16 years. And I have four half-siblings whom I don't talk to. We aren't mad. We don't not get along. We just don't talk. Some days this breaks my heart. Some days it doesn't bother me at all. But most days I just accept that this is the way things are.
Surely the culture clash had something to do with it, but I don't think that's the whole story. I think that both my dad and my step-mother would have benefited by perhaps marrying more nurturing types of people than they themselves were. Yin and yang. Balance and counterbalance. My step-mother really wasn't evil, or even cruel. She was just terminally self-absorbed, and this carried over into everything she did. She was also very young when they got married. My dad loved his children deeply and wanted the very best for them. He was just clueless as to how to actually interact with them. They were not a good match in any way except for the ability to throw money around the greater Detroit area. And the inevitable divorce, when Sasquatch was a baby, blew the roof off the building. Permanently.
What saved me was my mother. Always. That she was able to get out of the marriage at all is a testament to her guts. He fought the divorce. He fought her for custody. (He didn't want me. He just didn't want to lose.) When she wanted to leave the state and go to California, he fought her on that. And every summer when she put me on the plane to Michigan, it was with trepidation at what was ahead. But I didn't help my cause at all. I had really good friends in my dad's neighborhood and we kept in touch all year. I couldn't wait to get back to see them and reconnect. My maternal grandparents were right there too, and I spent a lot of time with them when I was there, which I loved. I would always shoo away my mom's worries and downplay some of the things that happened so as not to upset her. We talked constantly, and I always knew that any time I wanted to leave and go home I could. But he was my dad, after all. And it's usually in a kid's best interest to have a relationship with the non-custodial parent, right? At least that's what all the books say.
I'd like be able to say that I don't know where all these memories are coming from right now, but I'm well aware of the reason. I married my dad. And that puts me in a tough spot. On the one hand, it makes me crazy that I fell into that trap after bitching about my dad my entire life. On the other hand, it makes me hyper vigilant where my kids are concerned, because I was that kid. And on the third hand I think this partly explains my to the bone exhaustion the last couple of weeks. I'm forcing myself to go places emotionally that I've always been afraid to visit. It's a promise I've made to myself. I won't let the scab heal until the tissue underneath is healthy. And while it would certainly be more fun to jump headfirst into another relationship to keep from having to be too introspective, I think it's a horrible mistake. Sometimes the past has to be dealt with before you can move forward in any kind of a positive, non-selfish way. I'm dealing with it, but it's kicking my ass. I feel...beaten. On a daily basis. I've retreated into my little cave and I know it. I just can't help it.
The Michigan stories will continue, but in my usual half-cocked way. I promise to tell the whole story. Stick around - it'll take awhile.
But for now, here are two little vignettes that are both, in their own way, extremely telling. One tells on my dad, but the other one points straight at me.
The first scenario is one summer when I got back to Michigan, and asked my dad when we were going to see his parents, who had been living there for about five years at that point. He had managed to get everyone in the family who wanted to move over to the US, and I looked forward to seeing my paternal grandparents in the summer. My dad looked at me kind of puzzled, and said "Didn't I tell you that they both died this winter?"
The second one baffles me. Oh, I get the deep psychological implications and all, but the mechanics of it absolutely confound me. When I was learning to talk, my dad spoke to me in Arabic (and Chaldean), in addition to English. (Part of that was an attempt to shut out my mother, but I refuse to sidetrack myself again here.) I was fluent enough in Arabic that when we moved to California, the state certified me as bilingual. During the summers there I spoke what I call "kid Arabic", where I could tell you to sit down, shut up and chew with your mouth closed, but for the most part my second language went the way of a lot of second languages. Unused, unpracticed...forgotten. I can think of maybe ten things I can say right now in Arabic - and half of them are swear words. But at my dad's funeral, my favorite aunt pointed out to me that people were speaking to me in Arabic and I was answering them (perfectly) in English. Well, this can't be, because I haven't had anyone speak Arabic to me in thirty years, and I certainly wouldn't have a clue as to how to respond if they did. I told my aunt (in English) that she was hallucinating and then she pulled in another aunt who backed up her story. So. Evidently this language is still in there. Buried so deep I can't even touch it. Gee. Wonder what that could mean?
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
My dad was married to my mom when he met the woman who would become my step-mother. He was friends with her father, and ended up hiring her as a cashier at one of his grocery stores. As part of a very tightly knit group of immigrants to the US, this was a bunch of people who stuck together all the way. They worked together, the bought businesses together, they socialized together - it went well beyond insular and tipped into incestuous. They were not, to put it mildly, a group that particularly liked outsiders.
Which was my mom. My dad came to Detroit from Kirkuk, Iraq by way of Britain. The eldest son, his job - explicitly laid out on the table - was to get both of his parents and his eight siblings to the US. Along the way, he was supposed to make a boatload of money, marry a good obedient Chaldean girl and have lots of Chaldean babies. He was certainly not supposed to marry a strong-willed eighteen year old American woman who came to Detroit via Alabama, a woman who was well aware of the definition of the word obedient, but didn't necessarily find the concept relevant to her own life.
My mom you've all read about. A lot. My dad, not so much. If this was a movie treatment, I'd describe him this way: Brilliant, sarcastic, funny man who from the time he was a toddler was second in command only to his father in the family hierarchy. Mathematical genius who could have had a full ride at Cambridge, but instead had to come to the US and bag groceries. Generous with his money, stingy with his time. Always had to look like the top dog, and could talk anyone into anything - and I mean anything. Tall, dark, quite handsome, with almost black hair and eyes and pale olive skin. Sexist beyond belief. A true narcissist, he legitimately believed that he was always right, and when anyone dared tread on this belief would, quite simply, cut them out of his life without a backward glance.
The marriage, obviously, didn't last, but it did produce me. And only me. I've forgotten how many times my mom was pregnant, but it was quite a few. One stillbirth, numerous miscarriages...and me. Six weeks premature, a girl instead of the much revered first boy, and half American to boot. They stayed married until I was (I think) six, when, during an argument my dad hit my mom across the face. Not his brightest idea. She picked up a lamp, cracked him across the head with it, and while he was at the hospital getting stitches we moved out. Two years (and much drama) later, the divorce was final, my mom had gotten custody, and we headed out to California to live happily ever after.
Re-enter my step-mother. Now she swore, up until the very last time I spoke to her in 1993, that she and my dad had never gotten together until after his divorce was final. My mom (and her family) say that was a bunch of hooey and that my SM had been plotting her way into the picture for quite a while before they even split up. Whatever the truth (although I'm firmly in my mom's camp here - big surprise), at the end of my first school year in California my dad took a long look at dealing with a nine year old on his own all summer and did the only logical thing he could think of. He married her. Over the violent objections of her parents, who, although they had started out as his friends, had some serious issues with him. The fact that he was ten years older wasn't a problem, but he was divorced. And had a kid. Who had an American mom. Good lord. It was enough to send any good Catholic to confession. Permanently.
The Chaldean culture is a culture that takes its weddings very seriously. Very, very seriously. The fact that they had to elope in Vegas was probably not the best start. (So much of my dad's life starts a downhill slide in Vegas, so the irony of this has never failed to amuse me.) No family present, no wedding gifts, no priest. Just the gaudiest wedding ring this side of Married to the Mob - a $10,000 (in 1970) umpteen carat marquise cut diamond set that could blind you from across town. (My step-mother had very expensive tastes. When the FX and I got married and I was still thrilled with my quarter carat diamond engagement ring, she flicked it with her fingernail and said "I have twenty of those in a bracelet - and it looks too cheap to even wear." "Yes," I replied sweetly, "but I like my husband.")
Over the years I had learned to fight back and stick up for myself. God knows, my dad wasn't going to do it for me.
Monday, April 6, 2009
When I spent summers at my dad's house in Michigan when I was younger, I spent a lot of time babysitting. I was nine when he remarried, and since my step-mother popped out a kid a year for the next three years, there was plenty of babysitting to be done. I don't, to be perfectly honest, remember ever being asked if I wanted to babysit. It was just assumed that I would. And so I did.
In addition to there being plenty of kids in need of watching, there was also ample opportunity to do the watching. My step-mother did not like being home, and spent as little time there as she could get away with. My dad was always at one of the supermarkets he owned, but as soon as he got home from work they would dress up and head out pronto. For one summer after the next, this was the basic schedule:
10 am: My dad would get up for work, shave, have a cup of tea and hit the road. My step-mother was usually right behind him getting up, but she didn't move quite as fast. She would sit and smoke cigarettes while she drank her coffee and woke up. The kids would be crawling all over her, since they'd been up for hours already. (Watched by guess who?)
11 am: She would make a huge pot of food for dinner and then retreat to her bathroom to fix herself up. Soon, she'd reappear in full make-up, four inch heels and designer clothes, wafting Joy behind her. At this point she would head out to meet friends to shop, lunch, play cards or spend the day at the manicurist/hairdresser.
6 pm: Pleading exhaustion, she would come in from her afternoon out and head into her bedroom to take a little nap. Sometimes, she would sleep on the living room sofa so she'd "be spending time with the kids", but it was always important for me to keep the kids as quiet as possible so she could sleep. A woman needs her rest, you know.
8 pm: She'd hang with the kids for a while watching tv and then we'd give them baths and get them ready for bed. They didn't go to bed - they just got ready for bed. All clean and pajama'd they simply continued on with the mayhem they'd been causing all day. At about this time, we'd call my dad with the grocery list of what we needed, so he could bring it home with him.
10 pm: My dad would come in from work, carrying the boxes of food we had requested, and the requisite shopping bag full of candy. I mean a grocery bag sized bag of candy. The kids would tear into it as he and my step-mother headed back into their bedroom to get ready for The Social Hour: Round Two. Soon they would waltz through in formal wear - floor length sequin dresses for her - suit and tie for him - air kiss the kids and head out the door again.
4 am: They would come home, smelling of cigarettes and good scotch, and collapse into bed.
Repeat a minimum of five times a week. For years. Or until my dad lost all of his money, which is a whole other story.
For me the most poignant moment of this entire schedule was when they both left the house at night. The kids were still wide awake, sticky and on a sugar high. And I would have the same surge of adrenaline and fear that I always did when they left. I was terrified to be "alone" in their house after dark, scared to death of being there most of the night with no adults around. They had a big ranch style house that was comprised of huge open spaces and vast walls of windows. The neighbors were far enough away that they wouldn't hear you even if you screamed, and for reasons I've never quite figured out, that particular house always scared the bejeezus out of me. Even as an adult I hated that house. Nothing bad had ever happened there, so I don't know where it came from. Well. Plenty happened there. Just nothing like that.
The house had an interesting story behind it, at least to a wildly imaginative teenager. It was a builder's house, and the man who built it spent the better part of two years designing and building it to his family's specifications. It was a lovely house, I'll give it that. Well, the big day finally came and they moved in. And moved out the very next day. Put it on the market the week after that. Sold it to my dad almost immediately.
And no one ever knew why.
I, of course, was convinced the house was haunted, even though there was never a shred of proof or evidence. It was certainly a house of bad luck, what with two of their babies dying, my sister almost drowning and my father going bankrupt. But as a teenager I wasn't so concerned with bad luck. I had more immediate fears. As I laid on the sofa in the family room waiting for them to get home, I kept wondering why the original owners moved out after just one night. What was right around the corner that I couldn't see? What was that noise? And why, oh why, couldn't they ever stay home? Just for a night. That was all I asked. Just one night to catch up on my sleep. And give my imagination the evening off.
I waited in vain.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
We all got new phones last week. This hadn't actually been part of the plan, but circumstances kind of worked against me and I gave in. Some of the circumstances even worked for me, to tell the truth, so giving in wasn't as miserable as it could have been. Surfer Dude's phone going through the washing machine - and the potential cost to replace it - was the last straw and a really amazing employee discount was the carrot.
I broke down and got myself a "smart phone", which has quickly become my default brain. Who knew you could manage a calendar on both your computer and your phone simultaneously? (Only the millions of people who aren't as technologically challenged as I am.) Who knew that you could sit in your car and check your email? Or post a status update on Facebook? Not me, that's for sure. I even gave in and got unlimited texting, which has led to my children sitting on the same sofa and texting each other inecessently. I've freely admitted that my kids have phones for my benefit, since I like to be able to get them on the horn when I want them. We all know I'm paranoid, and it makes me happy to know they're reachabe. We went with the bells and whistles plan, and thanks to my employee discount are paying bargain basement prices. What the hell, I figured. If you're going to be "connected" and "in touch", might as well go whole hog.
There's always a but, isn't there? I've hit some kind of a wall this week and can barely keep myself awake at the moment, so every time my phone pings at me to let me know I have a new message, I just stare at it helplessly. I haven't posted on Facebook in over a week, my emails and messages are piling up - including some I really want to respond to - and I just sit there paralyzed. I'm getting to the gym and wrangling my kids. Other than that, I'm absolutely useless. This has got to stop. Soon.
And here I sit, looking longingly at my bed, waiting on not one, but two children to contact me somehow, anyhow - text, phone, carrier pigeon - to let me know what their plans are and how their school overnighter is going...and nothing. I've texted, I've called, I've paced, I've worried myself into a lather. Nothing. The phones aren't being answered and neither are the texts. The fact that Sasquatch hasn't called isn't really surprising, and I know where he is (or at least where he's supposed to be), but Gumby is throwing me off kilter. He's texted me off and on all day, and now, when he knows he's supposed to check in - nothing. I'd like to say it's not like him, but he did get the genetic absent minded gene. I just have the worrywart gene.
Gee. I sure am glad I've made it so easy for us all to stay in touch.
Update: Sasquatch is home - with an uncharged phone and a cheesy apology. Still no word from Gumby. Grrr.
Friday, April 3, 2009
The work world: A fairly calm day until the very end, resulting in staying late to get caught up. It was almost 7:30 when I finally left. As of today (barring getting called in for any on-call shifts), I'm off for six days. God, am I ready for this.
The mom world: A kid going away on his first school trip (an academic competition) - a trip that never got mentioned (to me at least) until this past week. (This is the same kid who came home gleeful that he had made the tennis team, but hadn't given me the paperwork earlier - the paper work that had to be notarized before he could play. The next day. Oh, yeah, and the doctor's physical that he needed like, yesterday.) He's clearly got both the brains and the drive. The organization is another issue.
The real world: Packing suitcases, making a sack lunch, getting cash, charging phones and iPods, downloading some music for the drive, running through the supermarket because we were inexplicably out of salsa, slinging dinner on the table (tacos), running through the supermarket again to honor a donut request for tomorrow morning on the bus, tracking down Sasquatch...all set to the tune of a ticking clock.
The blog world: Not tonight. I'm pooped.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
One of my nurse friends, who is going through a divorce, is relying heavily on appointments with her therapist at the moment. She's the one initiating the divorce, the one totally upsetting the apple cart, the one who is feeling the wrath of virtually every family member she and her (soon to be ex) husband have. She is a woman outnumbered, and it's starting to take its toll. Never mind that her husband actively started this process with his wandering eye (soon followed by other parts)...he's playing the innocent victim.
It all starts with the way he's behaving. In a word, he's behaving quite badly. He's thrown major fits in front of the kids, begged and pleaded with her for hours on end, called everyone he could think of (including her mother) in an attempt to get her to change her mind, attached himself to her with velcro and cried to anyone who would listen for months. When none of that worked, he escalated it, threatening to hurt himself if she left him. Well, she did leave him and he didn't hurt himself, but it was pretty stressful there for a while.
Another casual friend, married longer than the FX and I, actually attempted suicide recently when her husband said he was leaving her. Coincidentally, she's a nurse too, and her stability (both in job and temperament) has enabled her husband to do the Peter Pan routine for the better part of his adult life. She's held everything together while he follows his dream. Now he's found his dream...and she's not in it.
I bring up these two separate stories for a couple of reasons. One is the response of the people who got left. I've clearly spent my life with the wrong person, because the idea of killing myself over the FX never, never occurred to me. Sure, it sucked. Yes, it was a brutal year and the residual effects are still very much with me. But suicide? Over a man? Are you kidding me? There's only three men in the world who mean that much to me - and I gave birth to them.
Also not happening in my life is the whole begging and pleading business. I'm the first to admit that I'm stubborn, and I've realized over the last year that my pride can be a real sticking point, but the day I beg someone to stay with me will be...almost impossible to imagine. From that point of view, I made it very easy for the FX to leave, since I have no interest in being with someone who doesn't want to be with me. What's the point in that? And where's the joy?
The second point is something that my friend's therapist said to her yesterday. She was venting about her husband's behavior and the therapist made the comment that it all came down to personality. Nurses are caregivers, he said, who nurture compulsively and have a burning need to take care of everything for those they love. And the large percentage of them, he continued, are in relationships with narcicissts who have to be the center of someone's universe, who have a burning need to be taken care of and are unable to nurture themselves in any way. It's like two pieces of a puzzle, he explained, and until you figure out how dysfunctional it is, you'll just keep being attracted to the same type partner forever.
Wow. Just frickin' wow.
I know a lot of nurses read this and I'm very curious to hear their take on this. Do you think this is true, and if so does it apply to your life? Did you outgrow this little trap or are you still in it? Or do you think it's just flat out BS? Would this apply to other "nurturing" fields too? Teachers? Social workers?
It's not something I'd ever really thought of in those terms, but I got it immediately. And I have to say that it sums up my life perfectly. And the lives of the other two nurses above, for that matter.
Now the question is - how to make sure to not repeat that particular pattern.