Category Archives: Skeletons in the Closet

Not So Easy Silence

*In a moment of weakness…. I am going back and making myself publish previously written posts… this one was written in September.  I think I even published it for a few hours, then came back and reverted to draft.  Maybe I’ll leave it out there this time…”

 

Horoscope September 04, 2012 (Today):  Sometimes in life, we have to settle for good when we really wanted great. You’ve got an intensely devoted, loyal heart — and a questing, independent spirit that just won’t be tied down. This is a tough combo for some people to get, but rest assured, there are those out there who cherish this quixotic and delightful mixture. Someone who wants to blend their life with yours will understand why it is you who possess both these qualities in abundance — and won’t ask you to get rid of one or the other to satisfy them. Hang in there.

I’ve tried to sit down a write many-a-blog here in the last couple of months.  I haven’t been able to finish one… the topic has changed… the mood has changed… there has been little consistency in my life.  There have been highs and lows as is the ebb and flow of life, and the life of an unstable marriage.  This weekend things definitely came to a head as we approached and “celebrated” our 5th year of marriage.  Two weeks ago, I sat my husband down at a local restaurant and told him the following:

1.  Emphatically, I do not want to end our marriage.  That is the last thing I have ever wanted.

2.  Our son deserves to live in a peaceful environment, a loving environment.

3.  You and I have tried to work things out, and I’m finally at a point where I feel I have done everything I know to do to fix us, and none of it has worked.

4.  Because we have an obligation to create a safe and happy environment for our son, I’ve researched divorce laws and think it’s time for us to separate officially inside the house until we either decide together to keep trying or figure out a way to legally separate and start the process of divorce.

Those were basically the points of our conversation.  He was taken by surprise, I could tell.  He said to me, “I just don’t understand why we can’t make it work.”  I explained that I’ve been trying to tell him for years that we need help – I’ve come to the table with so many suggestions, begging him to come to the table with me to try to make things more peaceful between us.  Each time we’ve come together temporarily, agreed that we love each other and “tried.”  I say that with hesitation, because really all that comes to my mind when I think of his efforts to “try” is the way he has always reacted to my telling him that we need help, that we need to work to actively love one another.  He’s told me so many times that we don’t really have problems… he’s explained, “You don’t like when people have different opinions from you…” and that’s how he’s summed up “our” problems.  He’s said a few hurtful things, but it’s been mainly his method of communicating that’s been the most hurtful over the years.  There’s been a whole. lot. of silence on his part.  So much that it’s essentially allowed the incredible abyss between us to survive so well.  I’ve told him many times that if I had the money, I’d have already been gone.  I’ve explained my thoughts, my emotions, my wishes to him in writing, verbally, through tears, through anger and lately, through incredible calm.  Most of the time I’ve been met with silence… no acknowledgement whatsoever of a letter, tears, a plea for discussion, a dissertation on what makes me, me and why I feel lonely and helpless at this point in our relationship.

This weekend we attempted to have a nice dinner to mark our anniversary.  We dressed up and sat down, we started talking… about us.  Obviously trying to keep things positive… it was very hard to do so.  Right before dinner, we’d argued about getting ready.  I wanted him to be excited about going out, I wanted him to have a realistic understanding of what getting ready took – with a toddler and a baby sitter arriving within 30 minutes.  He wanted to drink a beer and sit on the couch, 30 minutes before the babysitter got there.  I still had to finish getting ready and obviously, our baby needed to eat and be ready for bed.  Somehow, we actually argued about this because as usual, I was hurt by the fact that even 30 minutes before our fancy anniversary dinner, he responded with a “don’t try to control me” tone when I told him, “aren’t you excited about going out?”  I listed a few things that needed to be done, and all I got was, “I’ll be ready…” and a “leave me alone” look.  So, by the time the babysitter arrived and we got into the car, I had already resigned myself to the tone the evening had taken on.  I was hurt, and wasn’t going to be able to leave that hurt place just for the sake of our milestone anniversary dinner.  I’m really not very good at leaving that place, I readily admit.  So, as dinner proceeded and wine was consumed, I remained comfortable on my throne of “you can’t hurt me anymore” stature.

It isn’t true, that he can’t hurt me anymore.  I thought it was.  I thought I was so confident and ready for anything, including divorce and separation.  All I have to do is look at my son’s face or hear him tell us, “Stop it!” when we raise our voices at each other and I know that separation is the right thing for him.  For awhile, that made my attitude and disposition very easy.  It was easy for me to move into the guest room, the guest bathroom, to tell him I had come to the unfortunate conclusion that we cannot make this work and therefore it is healthy and right to give up at this point.  I felt like I was somewhat on top of the world after our initial conversation – so sure of myself and what I’d said.  I felt like I was doing the right thing, period.  I still think I did the right thing by bringing it to that level.  When he asked me why we couldn’t make it work, I told him that I don’t know, I wish I did or I’d fix it, but the point is that it isn’t working and therefore we cannot live like this for the rest of our lives so we just need to move on and accept it for what it is for the sake of our son.

That was then… this is now.  Right now, I think I’d give my right arm not to lose him, not to break up our family.  The question I think I keep asking myself is whether that is because I don’t want the relationship to end, or because I don’t want to live without him.  I am pretty sure I’ve been asking myself this question for almost the entire time we’ve been married.  The dinner conversation resulted in a hurtful exchange – and he finally told me that he would have left by now if things were different financially as well.  I brought it up, I told him, “I’m going to be very honest with you, I think it’s over.  I don’t see you coming to me and trying to make it work, I can see it in your eyes and feel it in you – you’re going to just let it end.” In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t said it.  I wish I’d just let the conversation flow and not put a statement with such accusatory finality sit there in the middle of our anniversary dinner.   And, it went down hill from there.  What I didn’t expect was to fall off of my pedestal.  But, that is what I did… I fell hard over the next few days.

The reality of living without him hit me like a ton of bricks.  Suddenly, all I could think of was our wedding day, the way he looked at me while we stood there promising each other that we would stick it out in the good times and the bad.  We wrote our own vows, together.  I love our vows.  The words are framed in our bedroom; I designed a print of them and gave it to him for our 2nd or 3rd anniversary – in part because I felt that we needed a refresher.  Is it normal to need a refresher that soon?  I didn’t think so – the fact is we need a refresher every single day it seems.  So, I’m asking myself if we’re holding on the idea of our marriage now or to each other.  I think the question is the same internally now for both of us.  I cried my eyes out the next day.  I haven’t cried like that in years… my eyes were all but swollen shut – I just couldn’t speak without crying.  When I saw him after one of my “calm” moments of the day, he looked at me and then seemingly went on with his day… showing what seemed like absolutely no concern for me.  So, yes, that just made me cry harder and not because he wasn’t showing concern but because I was actually still expecting him to show concern in the way that I’ve always wanted him to.  The question, “Why can’t I give up?” was like a broken record in my head and heart all weekend.  All.  Weekend.

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Courage and Cravings

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
― Maya Angelou

Blogging can be lonely as hell.  So can marriage.  Let me tell you, I don’t know what keeps me writing or fighting sometimes.  Is it courage?  Or insanity?  What makes me so scared to start saving money and making this divorce happen?  What makes me believe that there could still be hope?  I feel these days like I’m slowly coming apart at the seams despite my incredible determination not to.  I believe it’s just exhaustion… shear exhaustion.  Exhaustion from years of trying to explain myself and the problems to my husband.  Years.  YEARS.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” ― Dale Carnegie

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

“Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.”
― Samuel Johnson

He is trying.  I can tell.  In the last few days there have been some signs of a fundamental change.  I know it will not happen over night.  The only problem with it is that it is so incredibly late.  I want to feel grateful and relieved and “back to normal.”  I want to crave him… but I don’t.

The only thing I crave these days are my dreams.  I’ve been having recurring dreams of the one that got away; rather, the one that almost was.  The one that was my best friend.  The one that wouldn’t leave the room unless he knew that I felt at least better… until I felt understood and heard.  The one that could hug me and make the world disappear.  In my dreams, he’s been doing that.  He’s been hugging me, and I’ve finally been able to feel his intimate touch and his lips against mine.  It has been my saving grace in the middle of the night… compensation for the lack of affection and security I feel with my husband.  A good friend told me that he is showing up in my life to remind me that it is possible for me to be loved that way – that it’s out there.  Of course, I spend a lot of time (too much time?) imagining that he sometimes dreams of me as well… that he wonders if he made the right choice.  I wonder if he thinks about me and longs to know what it would’ve been like to grow and travel the world with me.  It seems like he’s living the life I was meant to live, somehow.  Whatever the reason he has come back into my life, even if only fantastically, I am so grateful for it.  I am grateful for those dreams that feel so real I wake up feeling comforted and loved.


The Sentimental Drunk

Every day, it gets easier for me to call things like they are.  I really only see my mom these days when there’s a birthday or a holiday involved.  Lots of people are around to keep things traditional and wonderful and we appear from the outside to be as close as ever.  My family has always been all about appearances.  It took me years of therapy to realize this and I’m still learning about the depth of denial and vanity that exists in our family.  But, it is what it is.  I have learned, for the most part, to love my parents for who they are and I choose regularly to remind myself of their good traits.  I do the best I can to keep those forefront in my mind and to be thankful for ways in which they help when they are here.  I know that no parent is a perfect parent.

With that said, let’s get to the truth of the here and now.  I worked hard in therapy to forgive my parents for many things.  At one point when I was exploring why they are still able to have such an impact on my emotions on a semi-regular basis, we discussed that this is not a situation in which I have to muster forgiveness for something that happened years ago and the effects fade (for lack of a better term) or at least improve over a period of time.  It isn’t something I can exactly “put behind me” when “it” is a series of behaviors that still happen on a very regular basis.  As in, every time I see them.  On the rare occasion that my mother is able to visit on her own, it is maybe once a year that she stays for more than 24 hours; she cannot leave my dad for more than that.  During those times, and on the occasional evening phone call when my dad is out of the country, I feel like I have a mom again.  She listens, she responds, and that “mother” voice that offers unparalleled comfort, is alive and well.  If my dad is in the house, even if in a different room, her voice is that of a distant and removed mother.  She doesn’t listen, she hardly responds, and if it is, it is not a response that she would typically offer, but instead one that my dad would approve of overhearing.  It truly is sickening.  It’s heartbreaking for those who hear about this dynamic for the first time… everyone has sympathy and wants to talk about how “wrong” and “abnormal” this is, but then we always finalize the thought process with the age-old understanding that every family has its dysfunction.  I realize this.  And, this happens to be my family’s (ha! one of them!) and it so happens this is the one of them that is particularly affecting me lately.

I could really use a mother right now.  This morning, my mom took care of my little one while my husband and I slept in.  That was very kind!  I got hope and went down to see what kind of schedule they were on in hopes that just maybe, they’d be willing to stay for a full 24 hours and let my husband and I have lunch together, outside of the house.  I, for some reason, am still a little under the impression that if we had more alone time, things could be better – even now.  I was about 90% sure that my dad would be ready to leave as soon as he could – but there’s always that psychotic hope in me that they’d be able to chill out for an hour or two more.  I didn’t even have a chance to ask if they’d be okay with this because after about 3 minutes of sitting on the couch with my mom, my dad said, “So, are you ready to go, hon?”  And, there it was.  It didn’t surprise me at all, but it still stirred up some anger and disappointment.  I didn’t bother asking anyway, because, I’ve done that before and it almost always makes it worse.  My dad went to pack the car, and my mom and I had about 2 minutes of bonding time.  Here’s how it went:

“Your eye looks swollen honey.”

“Well, I’m getting old (half joking)… it’s just bags.”

“No, they look bloodshot…”  This was followed by a look of concern.

“Yeah, they always look like that in the mornings lately.  I’m tired.”

Here, I got the mom stare… the inkling of engagement and concern.  I’ve learned not to latch on to this, but my tears apparently haven’t learned that kind of self control yet.  Because, as soon as she looked me in the eye and said, “Are you okay?”  I couldn’t lie without them falling out!

“I’m okay.”  Not sure why I can never leave it at that, tears or not.  I tried to think of a way to sum up my life for her in the 45 seconds left of our bonding time.  So, I just said,  “I’m stuck; but I’m okay.”

And, my favorite part is next:

The concerned, sad look came over her and she said, “Oh, honey.  We’ll have some alone time in a couple of weeks where no one can interrupt us.”

Now, let’s talk about how many times I’ve heard that promise.  There was absolutely no reason we couldn’t have had some uninterrupted mother-daughter time right then.  No logical reason, anyway.  But, my dad was tired and ready to go and that’s all that ever matters.   I may have already posted about this once, but about 10 years ago my mom wrote me and my siblings a letter that very clearly laid out the emotional map for our lives.  She said a bunch of things about how wonderful and loving my dad is, about how much he had done for her, and then, proclaimed from the codependent hilltops (I am not exaggerating here), “…so I hope that you can understand that if given a choice in life between you and your dad, I will always choose your dad.”  This is not word for word because I don’t think it’s in my best interest to actually dig the letter out (I’m not sure why I haven’t burned it by now), but this is what it said.  I didn’t believe it either at first.  What mother would ever say that to their child, even if she had the thought?  What mother would feel like she had to choose between her husband (the father her children) and her children?  If a woman feels that that is a choices she has to make… something is VERY wrong.  Tragically wrong.  Well, welcome to my life.  This is how my mother lives hers.  It isn’t as if she had a moment of insanity and didn’t mean it how it came across.  It was clearly well thought out, intentional, and prophetic.  What is still amazing to me is that I’d pretty much been watching the transition from her “choosing” us and “choosing” him for years, I just didn’t think it could be a conscious one.  Up until that point, I’d started to really see my mother submit to my dad in ways that went against her basic self-worth.  My mother used to be a strong and independent person.  She used to do what she had to do to make things happen for her children.  I saw her stick up for us and for herself many times throughout my childhood.  I watched her continue her education amidst teaching my dad that just because she was far surpassing his, this did not mean that she was going to leave him in the dust.  The last true moment I can remember of my mom talking about her fight to stand up for what she believed with my dad was when she got her doctorate degree and he was having a moment where he felt the need to ask “Why is this so important to you?”  My mom explained to me that my dad was insecure in this area of his life, but that she was not going to let that hold her back or stop her from pursuing her ultimate dream of obtaining that degree.  I could not have been more proud of her.  After a series of events, however, all of that changed.  Every year, I see less and less of that strong woman my mother used to be.  All my sister and I see now is someone who has almost no individuality and certainly no strength left to hold my dad accountable for his own issues.  Instead, she takes his on.  She chooses to sympathize and explain away his alcoholism, his selfishness, and his denial (which is the cause of it all).  It truly does not matter how hurtful this behavior is, because in her mind, my dad is the most selfless, loving, sensitive man she’s ever known.  So much of my anger is towards my dad, and I suppose at least 2/3 of it can be attributed to the resentment that has built up over time for the fact that he stole my mother from us.

Last night, I threw a party for my little guy’s birthday.  After everyone left and we were cleaning up, my dad broke into his fairly regular routine of sitting back and reflecting on how proud he is of his children and how happy he is about, well, pretty much everything.  But, it usually centers these days around how proud he is of his children.  This is a very strange and confusing thing for me.  Up until last night, I guess I’ve been thankful for these moments.  Regardless of the fact that he’s drunk as hell every time he has them, I generally welcome the compliments that come my way.  My dad and I are a lot alike and I like to think I got most of his good traits (sigh).  He also has a strange distrust and underlying frustration and anger towards me because as far gone as he is in the denial department, I think he senses that I can see right through him and it makes him nervous.  Perhaps that is why he can particularly never relax when I’m around.  I can’t relax when he’s around either, so we’re even, I guess.  Last night, he called me over to him for a tearful hug and it felt more like a routine than it has any other time.  I went through the motions: hug him, let him hug me tighter, hug him tighter back, let him cry and tell me how wonderful I am.  For some reason this time I asked him what was wrong (ha!) and he said, “I’m just happy!  Nothing’s wrong,  I’m crying because I’m just so happy.  I love watching you and your brother and sister living your lives and being such wonderful, happy people.  You know how wonderful you are, Karen?  I’m so proud of you!”  He tried to lock eyes with me this time and get me to enter this drunk, happy world with him, and instead, I just disengaged and told him, “Thank you, dad.”  I continued cleaning, he didn’t miss a beat.  In his mind, we’d just shared a father/daughter bonding moment.  He felt even better and even more accomplished as a father.  I’m not saying he never did anything for me – I know he worked his ass off so I could have anything I wanted as a kid… but those were just things.  I’d much rather still have time with my mother today, perhaps some detox for him?  Perhaps some compliments instead of insults when he isn’t drunk?  Perhaps some anti-anxiety meds for him?  Sigh.

I think this most recent visit from “The Sentimental Drunk” angered me because he felt so proud in that moment – through that lens of denial the alcohol gives him – that allows him to sit back and pat himself on the back and feel like he’s accomplished as a dad.  Last night, I really felt like telling him that he could thank my therapists for my wonderfulness.  I am finally realizing just how fabulous I am.  So, when my dad asked me how I liked the flowers on my table and I replied, “They are very pretty, Dad…. kind of like me… ya know?  I’m just sayin’…”  He turned to my brother and said, “See what I mean?  That kind of confidence you all have makes me so proud.”  Ha!  It actually made me laugh out loud that he thinks he can take credit for that.  It actually makes me want to tell him that he’ll need to write me a check for about 10,000 dollars, which is probably low-balling it for how much all my therapy and trips to the hospital have costs before he can take even partial credit for it.

Confidence is something that I’ve only known in the last couple of years.  I may not sound like it now, but I have more of it now than I ever have.  That is why I am so lonely lately.  I finally have boundaries and walls built around me that I never had before.  I’m finally protecting myself.  And, I know these are healthy and necessary walls.  I have even returned to the gym and am getting physically stronger as well.  Man, does it feel good to take a boxing or weight lifting class!  I think it was the missing element for quite some time!!  Also, I have this blog that allows me to lay it all out there and feel accepted and understood in a small way!  I know I don’t have many followers, but every comment and every “read” validates and excites me!  And, that is something!  The point of this blog was to do just that!  I’m currently not in therapy, so getting all of this out of me is important.  I’m proud of myself for finding a way to do it.  And, it is working.  So, if you are reading I can’t thank you enough!  Even if you don’t leave a comment, it really encourages me just to know that people are popping in and out from time to time.

Every one of these things gives me strength.  Ya know, I am wonderful, Dad.  I’ve worked my ass off to be this wonderful.  🙂


End of Our Ropes

If I compiled every letter I’ve written my husband over the years, I’d have at least a short novel.  It wouldn’t get published, though, because it’s fairly repetitive.  I think this is a sign to me that I’m asking for things I’m never going to get.

Two friends of mine recently severed ties with their boyfriends.  They are both in their 30s like me.  I have many different kinds of friends, like we all do.  Some of them are supportive and have been for years (and patient, might I add) and some of them, not so much.  Earlier this year one of them essentially told me that I should just “get over it” or “leave.”  Easy for someone to say who is not standing in my place.  I believe that she meant well and tried not to take it too personally, but it stuck with me and stumped me for a few months.

I really do try and remain positive.  I’ve been through a lot and rising above my natural gift for negativity is not easy, but I’m better at it now than I always have been.  I didn’t want to write about this constant marital turmoil for many months after my friend gave me her very blunt opinion about what she thinks I should do with my life.  Obviously, she isn’t the person I confide in anymore.  Nor do I rely on her support.  I still love her as my friend and she is supportive of me in other very important ways.  But it changed the dynamics of our friendship in a small way, forever.

It’s a fairly simple equation there… I realized that I could not get that kind of support from her anymore, and I decided after a few weeks of wondering what to do – to just accept it for what it is.  Love her anyway, set some new expectations, and move on and continue enjoying her as she is – no more, no less.

So why can’t it be like that with my husband?  Why isn’t it that simple?  I look at my friends who have just embarked on new chapters in their lives… they have decided “This is where you stop and I start.”  They have drawn a line in the sand and kept it there.  This is not without struggle and strife, mind you.  Both of them worked as hard as one can work to “fix” what was broken.  They both sacrificed, examined, and changed things about themselves along the way.  They both grew from their relationships… and they grew so much that they realized individually that their growth simply could not continue if they remained in their relationships.

So, this is not the first time I’ve lived vicariously through my friends who are seemingly much stronger and braver than I am.  I can’t draw that line in the sand, and although I’ve said in many ways, nicely and not so nicely, “This is where you stop and I start,” it hasn’t exactly held much weight because I’ve essentially “stopped” as well.  Only I haven’t.  I’ve kept growing, and the more I’ve grown the clearer things have become, and the clearer things have come and the less he moves with me, the more angry I get.  The point that now, the anger is almost crippling.  I am starting to believe that even at this point if he agreed to counseling or showed me any kind of valiant effort, it is already too late.  And, as is evident by the fact that I’m even writing all of this down, I am only getting stronger and braver by the day.

For years, I internalized everything and the only thing any kind of dynamical dysfunction in our (or any other) relationship crippled, was me.  After years of therapy and epiphany, I’ve stopped doing that.  It’s improved my relationship with my entire family… I’ve forgiven my dad for so many things and accepted him as the human being that he is, imperfect like the rest of us.  As I realized in all this therapy, however, just because it’s “easier” now and I’ve learned to cope with our dysfunction – it is still very present.  That is why the holidays bring stress and too much family time sends me over the plank a bit.  But I have medication for that… ;).  I think in all of this self-analysis, one major realization I had was how comfortable I was with all that dysfunction when I met my husband.  If I met him today, and the series of events that occurred even within the first 3 months of our relationship happened again, I’d have no trouble laughing that off as a “good try.”  I’d laugh with my girlfriends about how this guy thought I’d be his princess, when I’m actually a QUEEN.  I’d joke about his utter lack of selflessness, and about how pompous and proud he was.  I’d have been sad because his good qualities are so immensely good –  he has a good heart, he’s adorably attractive, he has an amazing perspective on life and the world, and his dreams are admirable.  But it would be a brief sadness… and I’d move on to someone who was a bit more aware of themselves and of what it takes to please and love and show care for another human being.

So is it really fair of me to stop the relationship in its tracks and expect him to be different, when he’s really the same person he always was?  This thought has kept me around as well. I’ve realized that it isn’t his fault.  I understand that I’m the one who has changed.  I understand that it’s not fair for me to expect him to just magically know what to do.  So, gently (and not so gently) over the last couple of years, I’ve introduced him to the new me, told him what I need to feel loved, and waited and hoped that it would sink in and that he’d want to grow and learn these things.  I believe that he can.  And the hurt that I feel at the true, emotionally raw moments when I am able to feel the immense sadness that is the death of our connection and thereby our love, stems from the realization that he is not interested in changing because he doesn’t think he needs to.  He thinks love is or isn’t, he doesn’t think it is something that you have to work on.  I’ve tried explaining it all to him, so many times, in so many ways, and I am just tired now and tired to the point hopelessness.  And the anger that turns to anxiety that turns me into a person and a mother that I don’t want to be… is becoming my line in the sand.  And it’s getting easier and easier to imagine walking away from that line and leaving him behind.  And he’s just letting it happen, and that breaks my heart.

I realized after our most recent, and most honest talk that we’ve ever had, that we are both at the end of our ropes.  I guess, I thought we were hanging on to the same one – but I don’t think we are.  We’re hanging on to two different ropes and swinging in two different directions.  We’re both physically and mentally exhausted, and we’re miserable.  And as he pointed out, there’s a little bit of hate in our arguments now.  And somehow we magically agree, now, that neither one of us is prepared to remain in a space where hatred exists.

Every time I look at my son, I see my husband’s good qualities… and I start to imagine what life would be like for him if we were apart.  It’s not a fairy tale… it’s not something I ever wanted to imagine would happen, but if we keep up the stress level that our relationship is creating in both of us 80% of the time now, he will learn the wrong things about love, just like I did.  And neither one of us wants that to happen.

I hope that I can keep writing like this.  I feel better every time I do, regardless of how scary the words are when I read them later.  Truth isn’t always comfortable, though, is it?


Red Red Wine

Tonight I reached for a glass… okay… a bottle of wine.  I had a hard day at work.  I just needed to cool down a little and re-claim the pieces of me I felt I may have lost sight of in some exciting opportunities at work.  I do that.  I get all excited about an opportunity, a window, and I run full speed ahead.  I’m kind of like a child in that sense.  I still have not decided whether or not this is part of the child that I should’ve outgrown by now or not.  Either way, I needed to take myself down a notch and as I have been taught by most members of my family… this is seemingly the best way to do that :).

Lately the skeletons have been creeping around my curves a little too comfortably, so I thought I owed them some attention tonight.  I feel like I barely have time to breathe anymore.  I am supposed to be committed to this craft of writing again, yet I barely have time to stand still.  I am doing important things… raising my son… for one :).  I just wish I had a few more hours in the day so I could carve some much needed “me” time in between all the responsibilities pulling me left and right and forward!  Okay and sometimes, back.

I really hate the way memory can creep in and ruin a perfectly good drive home.  While visiting some old friends in my hometown this weekend, I had the chance to drive down the street I spent all of my teen years growing through.  I would say growing “up” but I really didn’t start moving upwards until I was out of my teen years.  My stomach turned and for the first time I felt I was having a physical reaction to the painful memories that can still bring me to my knees.  My father took me for a walk when I was about 15 years old to explain to me how “different” I am.

The conclusion that I have come to over the years (and through years, and years of therapy) is that all of the whispers of diagnoses never really stuck because there were always real, substantial, circumstantial reasons for my depression/anxiety/mood swings. No doctor could ever truly rule out that I was just a product of my surroundings, which included a substantial amount of emotional neglect.  There’s no doubt in my mind that the anxiety disorder diagnosis is dead on… name a person in my family who doesn’t have it and I’ll send you a million dollars! 🙂 And if I am truly bi-polar, however “soft,” I’m cool with it – and I take great comfort in the fact that I’m the only one who has chosen NOT to use alcohol to cope with this awkward state of mind… so I am the healthiest one of us all!  I digress.

Back to the walk.  I can remember feeling so special when my dad wanted to spend time with me.  He spent a lot of time with me when I was little… pretty much up until teen. He did okay even in the pre-teen years. The older I got, however, the more he became a distant, powerful stranger in my life.  He was wonderful and inspiring when he was happy.  But I never knew if he would come home happy – throw change up in the air and giggle with me and my siblings as we jumped to collect the most quarters – or angry, all but treating us like we were the last people he wanted to bother with.  No one is perfect, I realize this. My dad worked hard, for many, many years, at a job he ultimately hated, and he did it for us.  I know that now.  I know that he struggled through it, for us, his family.  I have always wondered how much happier my dad could’ve been had he actually taken a chance or two earlier in life… had he not let go of his idealism as quickly as he did. My dad loves John Lennon. LOVES him… but you would never know it today… because he has been known, more than once, to actually agree with Rush Limbaugh. From John Lennon to Rush Limbaugh… that’s gotta explain a lot about the kind of change my dad has made in his lifetime.

The walk.  My dad invited me to walk with him.  As most of these “special” moments with dad went, I danced down the driveway of our quiet, suburban house, so proud to be my daddy’s daughter.  I wrapped my arm around him and couldn’t wait to share a daddy/daughter moment… hoping this would be one of those rare occasions that he chose to father, rather than coach (he was a great coach!)  We didn’t get very far at all until he said the words that have echoed in my soul now for years. “You’re different, Karen,” he said, placing his hand firmly on the tip of my right arm the way he always did.  “Yeah, isn’t that a good thing, though, Dad!?”  I was always brave when I was younger with him – the fear really grew with age, thanks to moments like this.  “Well, yes, you’re right.  But you’re different in maybe the kind of way that you don’t want to be different.”

It was something along those lines. I, of course, can certainly not remember every single word – but I remember their impact. I remember that the word “different” established itself in my head that day as something I did not want to be.

He went on to ask me why I am the way I am… and I couldn’t tell you exactly what he meant by “different.”  I remember him always wanting to know why I always wrapped my arms so tightly around my friends for pictures… why I was so passionate about the love I had for my friends and pretty much, for anything I was involved in at the time.  I had extreme passion… and it was complimented by extreme sadness.  I remember the sinking feeling settling in… the self-doubt, rebellious anger, frustrating refusal to accept his evaluation.  I knew, though, that I could not argue.  What he said must be correct.  He told me that people “noticed” this difference.  And that he thought I should know that people “talk about it.”  I asked him what they said as the first tear rolled down my face… it’s all a blur now and I could fabricate a memory.  I am sure whatever I come up with would be close enough to convey the point.  I think this is far enough though.  The feeling of walking, elated… and then so intensely defeated.

I wish I knew why this particular memory has been at the forefront of my mind recently.  I have worked through so many of these intrusive memories in the past; this one seems to be sticking around much longer than normal.  Maybe because my mom has been in full abandonment mode lately.  I don’t know.  I know that it sickens me every time I think of that day and every other day I mistakenly let my guard down with my dad.

I’ve learned a lot.  I don’t share exciting news anymore.  When we bought our first house, I did not tell my parents until we’d bought it.  They were offended… it would hurt dad’s feelings that I didn’t want his advice, my mother warned, but I knew I had to keep it from them in order to maintain the strength to go through with it.

For years I dreaded Father’s Day.  This has been a bit of an easier holiday since my son was born and I have my husband to celebrate on this day (and especially since he’s actually been very much worth celebrating lately!)  However, it is always very emotional for me to choose an accurate greeting card for my father.  So many cards out there say things along the lines of “Dad, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for your encouragement, love, and support….  or Dad, you are the best father a daughter could ever…. or Your love has turned me into a better person…. or even you show your love…” cards that i just cannot bare to read.  It takes me at least 2 trips to the card (stores) and then 20 minutes at least to find the perfect, “not too much, not too little” card for him.  Sweet enough to make him feel like he’s a good dad, but true enough too. I don’t think there’s any point in buying a card if it does not speak to the reality of a situation. He is not the best dad in the world. He is not my hero, nor is he my inspiration – nor do I feel like I am a better person for the way he chose to live his life – but he’s my dad.  And I’m learning more and more every day how to appreciate him for who he is.


It is love that builds faith… not the other way around.

I’m not religious.  At all.  My husband says that I don’t believe in God.  Sometimes I don’t think I do – but I can’t look at my son without the belief that his presence is anything less than a miracle.  The moment of childbirth solidified my belief in a higher power.  I do believe… just not in the traditional, Southern way that I was encouraged to.

I was raised in a church.  I was baptized, went through all the ceremonies of First Communion, Confirmation… all that.  And then I was pretty much free to do whatever I wanted.  So I followed my sister to her church.  We were both vulnerable and passionate teenagers.  We loved our friends and having fun… we shared confusions and frustrations that we didn’t know how to verbalize.  We were “normal.”  We were as normal as two loving, spirited, vulnerable teenagers living in the South could be… so it was a perfect time to stumble across a church that would attempt to transform us into little Christian soldiers.  For awhile we were both hooked… to the point that I remember actually believing that because my parents didn’t approve of our attending the church, this meant that they were destined for the fiery depths of hell.  And all the pastors could tell me was that “not everyone is destined for the promise land.”   While I recovered pretty nicely from this temporary insanity in college, it changed my sister’s life forever.  She hasn’t been the same since.  We stopped going to that church right around the time we left for college.

We both left for college determined not to let the separation from our newfound baptism (that church) shake our faith.  I entered college as a Bible thumping, glorified Christian ready to take on all the sins that awaited me with a solid, “No.”  I left wondering if God existed at all… and believing if nothing else, that if he did exist, the last place he was to be found was inside a church/mosque/temple.  I don’t believe in Christianity.  I am not a Christian.  Calm down now… I promise you it’s okay.  I always feel so defiant and rebellious still when I “admit” to that.  It horrifies my husband.  It horrifies my sister.  My sister changed forever when she entered that crazy church – she is as brainwashed today as she ever was.  She once told me that the reason I was depressed was because I had a “hole in my heart where God belonged.”  She actually said that to me.  It was a strange moment in our history as sisters.  She felt so bad for me… and in a very different way I felt so bad for her.  We will never understand each other, and for the most part we’ve stopped trying.  I am sure that my way of life disappoints and confuses her much the way hers disappoints and confuses me.  I am sad for her, and I’m sure she is sad for me.

It’s an interesting study.  We were raised in the same house – and while I cannot say that my parents didn’t sacrifice for us or love us – I can say that we experienced the same level of hypocrisy and contradiction in our upbringing.  My parents tried, but not as hard as they could’ve.  Maybe that isn’t fair.  Their generation didn’t encourage self-reflection…rather I guess it was more about where and how they were raised in their own houses and less to do with the time they were coming of age… which would’ve been the 60s and therefore they should truly have no excuse for not having explored themselves and their limitations a bit more.  Regardless, as loving as they were – they weren’t and they still aren’t whole people.  They think that they complete one another – but truly I believe that they have grown to fill a space in each other that each of them gave up on in themselves.  My dad has been a functioning alcoholic for as long as I can remember.  My mom, although highly educated, never has been able to separate herself from the traditional “wife” role her Southern Baptist upbringing taught.  Although I did watch her rise against it in protest many times throughout my life, and she’d deny it and be utterly offended if I were ever to tell her, but my opinion is that she ultimately settled in defeat.  She decided, almost overnight, that her life would be less challenging if she stopped fighting and instead, allowed herself to fall second to my dad.  I am sure it was gradual, but sometime I am sure I will post a blog about the night I think she made this decision.  For now… back to religion.

Everyone in my life is full of contradictions.  As am I.  Maybe it’s unfair for me to talk about my mom giving up on herself because sometimes I feel like I am in the process of giving up on myself… at the very same time that I feel more empowered and strengthened than I ever have… I still can’t gather the strength to accept that I have changed and that my marriage hasn’t changed with me.  It isn’t my husband’s fault that we are unhappy.  He hasn’t changed.  It’s me who’s gone through an enormous shift – and while I’ll tell anyone who asks that I’ve become stronger and less insecure and aware of healthy boundaries… maybe the truth is that I’ve just gotten very good at telling myself that I don’t have to settle for what I’m settling for, even as I settle for it.  I know I’m not free of hypocrisy.  That’s my point.  But at least, I know it.  At least I own it.  This is something that many people do not even recognize in themselves.  I worked damn hard in therapy to get to this place where I do recognize it.

My sister goes to church nearly every Sunday… and between her and her husband they also each attend another church function at least once during every week.  She has always looked down on the rest of us in the family because we don’t share her “passion for Christ.”  I am sure that her heart genuinely aches when she imagines, through her religious goggles, that we aren’t destined for eternal happiness in Heaven as she and all her fellow church going Christian friends and family are.  She doesn’t know that I’m not even a Christian.  She’s fully aware that I don’t subscribe to the ways of any church.  A couple years ago I told her I didn’t believe in missionary work.  She nearly lost her lunch.  I explained that it’s not the “doing good for others” part that I don’t agree with, but the “doing good so that you’ll think Jesus is your savior” part that I cannot fundamentally support.  I believe in helping others because we should want to be helped if we were in need.  I believe that our desire and at times our need to help one another is fundamentally human.  In fact, it’s not just a human trait… we are animals, and just as most living things do, we are generally programmed to help and protect one another from harm.  I don’t believe that it is fair or genuine to help someone under the pretense that by helping them, they should then believe in the same thing that you do.  This steals the love out of the very deed you boast about to your fellow church goers.   I only pick on my sister because I have a window into her world.  I am therefore exposed to this religious vision of the world that she has.  It is draped throughout every area of her life.  Her blog makes me sick to my stomach… many times.  While I agree that I should let her live as she lives – it is painful to watch and listen to her put her all into something that doesn’t even bring her genuine joy.  All it brings is guilt.  Constant guilt – her blogs are filled with “I should’ve… I should…” and praising of those people in her life that agree with her and support her religious beliefs and her overall struggle to find God and Jesus in everything… right down to the Easter egg hunt that she put together for her very small children…she’s all about keeping Christ in everything.  While she’s busy finding Christ in everything, she’s worrying about how inadequate she is in every way – as a mother, as a wife, as a servant to God.  She is constantly apologizing and explaining and talking about how unsupported she feels and all at the same time she’s blogging about how thankful she is… wait… so am I!  So who is to say that we are so different?  I just went to therapy, instead of church.  I recognize this.  What I rejected about religion as I went through my journey, was the guilt it encouraged in me.  I grew up with so much guilt it took me years to find myself in all the layers that were so neatly put together over my spirit throughout years and years of being told just how “wrong” I was about pretty much every thought I had.  I’m not sure my sister’s experiences were the exact same as mine were – but they weren’t far off.  We were raised by a perfectionist whose pride caused immense pain and confusion in our hearts.  He loved us, but we were never  doing what we should.  If anyone did what she should, it was my sister.  Until she found that church.  My parents hate that church – ironically for much of the same reasons that I do.

I go to church, as I did this morning, with my husband from time to time, to show support to him… although he knows that I do not believe as he does.  When we met we were on the same page with religion.  We understood each other.  We shared the general believe that God didn’t belong in a church – that Christianity was just one of so many religions that claimed to be “the way, truth, light” when ultimately all they were doing was creating war against one another.  He changed a few years ago when his life took a devastating turn and he experienced something that few will ever know, including myself.  It’s not to be shared now, but I understand his turn toward religion, because it was the only way that he could make sense out of what happened to him.  And that’s okay.  Maybe that’s what the undertone of my sister’s search is as well.  And that’s okay.  It just doesn’t make logical sense – I wish it did.  But it just doesn’t.

This morning, and every morning that I sit in church I am utterly disturbed by the militant and mindless worship.  Repeating a creed while raising your hands in the air… is different than bowing towards a temple and repeating a different creed… how exactly?  Telling your “followers” that they are right and others are wrong… in the same breath that you tell them to have hearts filled with love… is teaching love… how exactly?  One thing the priest said this morning was true.  He said, “For it is love that builds faith, and not the other way around.”  This is true.  If I felt that what was behind this Christian movement was more about love and less about faith and whose is stronger/louder/more correct, then perhaps I’d sympathize with it a little more.  I’d understand and even sympathize with my sister a little more.  But the underlying message that she and all other religions teach is that it is faith that builds love… and only the “right” faith leads to “true” love.   That’s why my sister has built a protective wall between us… because my lack of what she calls “faith” contradicts her own, and the church teaches her that those who do not walk in the kind of love that they seek, will only lead them astray.  It’s a great analogy they use with the flock of sheep… genius, really… like everything else that’s brought the Christian empire where it is today.   It takes a certain genius to gain power and maintain it for so long.  They even change the sacred “word of God” every couple years by coming up with a new “version” of the Bible that helps translate their message through each and every era we’ve experienced as a culture… and few question it.  It’s okay to have doubts… God can help you with that.  But to question the word of God… that’s blasphemy.  It’s faith that she thinks she has.  All that she is truly searching for is the kind of love that we were never really shown.  The kind of love that comes naturally at the start of life… when a person who has experienced some serious radical self-love and acceptance can feel.  It’s the kind of love that I feel for my son.  The kind of love that is unparalleled and unyielding, selfless but with a healthy dose of selfishness too – because the only way you can truly love someone is to love yourself.  It’s that self love that religion frowns upon.  Because if taught to love ourselves with all our faults… then what would our faith be?  What good would that do the church?  If people don’t feel guilty all the time, they don’t give money, they don’t gather and worship, they don’t feed the insatiable need for power that every religion from the beginning of time has held.

So, that’s it.  Another great divide between my husband and I.  That’s not really why I blogged about it… I blogged about it because it’s been heavy on my mind.  Marriage is an offspring of religion… and I am still studying how and why I am so scared to imagine that it is as free of logic as religion itself.  Some things are so ingrained in us that even years of acknowledgement can’t cure our denial.  Maybe I’m not really that different from my own mother, after all.