Category Archives: Strength

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.


My brother: Chapter 3: ME.

That phone conversation sent me into the dark place… that place where I go when I feel emotionally trapped.  I’ve been to that place oh so many times over the years.  I’ve lived there for months at a time.  I don’t go there very often any more, but when I do, I go with a new awareness that makes the pain deeper, and therefore shorter lasting.  There was nothing I could say… nothing.  Anything I said would have made me look like the ass hole.  I couldn’t believe the tone in his voice, the matter-of-fact way with which he spoke… the absolute void-of-emotion conversation we were having.  He was leaving to go back across the ocean in less than 24 hours… no desire to see your sister who is one of the greatest people you’ve ever known???  No NEED to see her and hug her and say thank you, I love you, one more time?  No.  Nothing but a slight obligatory tone indicative of a family member who is obligated to appease another family member just by showing up when is expected.  And then my mind started spinning…

Of course he was acting distant to me now that he’d come home and my parents were completely and amazingly supportive of his situation.  He’d called them and told them and given them a few days to think it over before he called back to tell them he was coming home to marry Rachel.  I finally spoke to my mother about it and her word-for-word comments were these,”I mean, what are we supposed to do, but be supportive?  We can make a big deal about it and worry about what everyone will think, or we can just accept that this is what it is and love them and be the supportive parents that they need us to be right now.  It could be a lot worse.”

Pause still for shock and awe.

My jaw nearly fell off my face.  After a few seconds of speechlessness, I managed to tell her how proud I was for her and how right she was.  I told her I was proud of her three times.  She acted surprised… and finally said, “Well, ya know, we’ve been through a lot, Ellie, and we aren’t going to be the kind of parents that aren’t there for our children.  I can’t tell you what some of my cousins went through with their families and the lack of support they received.  We’re just not going to do that.”  She talked a little bit more but I tuned her out… I told her I was proud of her for the last time and we said goodbye.

I shared this apparent awakening with an old friend and was able to laugh about how I feel that I have a right to take credit for some of that obvious emotional growth and development that has occurred in my parents… I like to think I broke them in with my bi-racial marriage and all.  They ignored my husband’s existence for 2 years and lectured me about how they’d burn in hell before they had black grand-babies… they told me at the age of 25 that I had no “idea” what I was doing and that I “better stop it now” before it’s “too late.”  Doesn’t take a genius to figure out what they meant by “too late.”  They never reacted well to any situation I found myself in.  They were never supportive of me in my darkest hours when I needed them the most.  As proud as I was of them for the way they were handling this situation, their ease and acceptance just dug the knife they planted in my heart many years ago in just a little bit deeper.  That is a pain that is profound and very energy consuming to cover up when they are around.

So, here was my brother, home and spending time with my mom and dad who completely and almost immediately embraced him and the girl they once said they could not stand.  They surrounded him with the love and support he needed almost immediately, as he said they would.  He told me, “they don’t have a choice, they’ll love her and be supportive of her because our family is amazing and that’s what families do.”  It has taken me years of therapy to realize that they very much do have a choice when it comes to what kind of parents they choose to be.  I am finally beginning to understand this. Parents always have a choice as to how they will react to their children.  Herein lies the “ME” part of this chapter.

In my frustration, I tried calling my parents, no answer.  I tried calling my sister, no answer.  I just could not bring myself to seek comfort from my husband, who had the knowledge to offer the most compassion, but lacks a general ability to actually show compassion, which presents an obvious problem. But, I decided to tell him anyway because quite frankly, he was the only one who knew the history and sometimes I just can’t be bothered explaining it all, nor do I want everyone in my life to know the drama that is my family.  I explained to my husband that I was feeling hurt by the entire situation on multiple levels:  hurt that my brother was showing no interest or even care about whether or not he saw me before he left the country, hurt that my parents had shown him such support and love when I never have been able to receive that from them. I told him that if it were not for me and all of the things I “put them through,” this would never be.  His response did not shock me… he told me “Don’t even take it there, Ellie.  Don’t even take it there. This isn’t about you or your parents…”  I stopped him and calmly explained that the situation involves me because of the bond I have with my brother.  I explained that I am allowed and should be granted full permission in my own house to feel things as I need to feel them as I adjust to the situation.  I explained that he must understand my shock and awe at my parents behavior considering that I had received such opposite behavior from them on multiple occasions in my life.  Certainly, he could understand that?? Apparently not. So, I told the blog. 😉

They finally came by; it was after their dinner reservations, around 9pm.  I’d just put my son to bed.  As soon as I saw him, all the anger and hurt I’d been feeling all day naturally disappeared.  I hugged him and told him to please keep in touch once he was back home.  I’m a bit of an over protective sister at this point and I do recognize that I have some adjusting to do, but who wouldn’t?  


My brother: Chapter 2: Echos

My brother is one of the few people in my life who I feel understands me.  The distance that grew between us in the months following his stay with us created a bit of a hole in my heart.  I have never been very good at letting people go – I understand that people change, but when I feel as strong of a bond as I do with my brother – it is difficult for me to let things be as they are and go about my day-to-day life without thought or worry.  I watched, mainly through pictures and emails from my mother, my brother breeze through the initiation into the Navy, graduate first in his class, and thereby taking the privilege of choosing where he would take on his first assignment.  He chose Spain, and thus, he fulfilled a dream.  He’s always loved Europe and never really wanted to settle down in the US.  So, his move to Spain was something that I both admired and feared.  His entry into the Navy was something I’d feared for many reasons, the obvious ones and the not so obvious ones.  My worry proved true as he continued ignore his alcoholism because he entered a world where drinking alcohol came with the job, much like it came with being his father’s son.

When he called me to tell me how scared he was about unexpectedly becoming a father, his voice was rattled and heavy with reality.  He spoke with conviction and desperation and I did what I knew I had to do… what he had done for me so many times.  I had to validate him, encourage him, and allow him to feel everything he was feeling without judgement.  After he admitted to me that he is an alcoholic, I immediately told him that this was the first step in his recovery – and I don’t mean that in a 12 step program kind of way.  My brother isn’t one who would benefit from AA.  He was trained very well not to accept such formal treatment.  After all, he was the one who got to hear my dad’s reaction on the day I sought formal treatment for my disease.  I didn’t use the word recovery, either.  I did encourage him to consult his commanding officer and reach out to someone for help.  I explained how helpful therapy has been for me and that I, of course, would not suggest he join “something like AA” but I did highly recommend that he give himself the gift of an objective listener so that he could work through is feelings and grow and change as he was so desperately telling me he wanted to.  His response to me?  “I’m doing that now.  That’s why I called you.  You are my therapy.”  Few things are more complimentary than that.   While I was flattered, I immediately told him “Thank you, but I am involved in this, honey.  I am not an objective listener, as much I want to be, it’s impossible.  You are my brother and I am emotionally involved in this situation.”  But, at the same time, I took such incredible comfort in that comment and I clung to it… thus allowing myself to believe that this meant I had a little piece of my brother “back.”  I thought, as I had a couple of times in the last two years, that he was coming back to me… that our bond was rekindling, that my friend was mine again.

The next time we spoke, his voice was once again, less familiar to me.  He spoke with authority and an almost robotic confidence and conviction.  My heart sank a bit, as I knew there was no way I could reach him in this place.  I had written him many things in the aftermath of our conversation, including what I thought was valuable information for him to consider.  I explained to him that he should wait as long as possible before telling mom and dad.  I told him that he should probably tell them in a letter rather than face to face or over the phone, as their immediate reactionary words could be almost irreversibly cruel and hurtful.  I still have the Skype chat…

Hey hon… need you to touch base with me, please. I really wish we could make a date to Skype – I know weeks are hard for both of us but if you can just drop me a quick line so I know that you’re okay. I really want to talk to you before you tell Mom and Dad – just to give you some advice. I don’t want to alarm you or make it even harder – but I want to caution you to give mom and dad as little details as possible about this situation. I hope that you will trust me on this and that you will also trust me when I tell you that you must not internalize anything that they may say to you. In fact, it may be better for you to write them a letter so that you cannot hear their first thoughts because they could potentially be very, almost irreversibly hurtful. You know that I’ve been through a lot with them and I’ve shocked them and challenged them in many ways. I really want to make sure that you know that regardless of anyone’s reaction – I am here for you and I want and need you to communicate with me and stay focused on my support because you need to know that you have it. Just like I knew I had yours – knowing that kept my heart beating at times.

Prior to that, I’d sent him many message in my immediate reaction mindset… looking back I realize it is fairly intense, but I know why now. These “My brother” chapters are obviously eventually going to come back around to me. Here are pieces of what I told him after finding out about my new niece/nephew:

I have to be truthful here as well… as much as mom and dad love us and their grandchildren, they are far less involved in their little lives as your sister and I both imagined. This has been extremely painful for both of us and it’s something you probably are very surprised to hear… but it is true. Mom and Dad are very much in their own world and visit the cabin more than they visit their grandchildren. They make excuses for why they can’t make it to birthday parties – mom rarely wants to leave dad’s side so she hardly ever (and I mean once or twice year) comes on her own just to spend time with her daughters, and when she does, it’s almost always when dad is traveling. Two reasons I’m telling you this: so that you know that this is how they are and when they are this way with your future wife, you’ll know it isn’t just because of mom’s fears about her. This is just the way they are. The second reason is because you won’t be able to count on mom and dad’s help and support like you may think you can. Because your sister and I have both been shocked, humbled, and hurt by how often they have been absent. When Dad is with mom on the weekends, they are rushed because dad is anxious in a crowd and can never wait to leave. (when I say dad is anxious in a crowd, I mean anxious outside of his own house… anxious even when it is just our families that are present. He can only handle being away from home/mom for so long and it changes even the way mom interacts with the boys when they are both here.) We have told Mom how we feel more than once, and nothing changes. Our feelings are ignored. This is probably way too much to put on you, but I just want you to have a realistic picture of what things are like – so that you aren’t shocked or disappointed when you don’t get the support that we should all expect from our parents/grandparents of our children. It’s just the way it is.

Here is what he wrote back to me:

Yes, the message I just got was WAY too much. I wouldn’t like to have any other way. We will have to speak, and I wish it could be in person…….. my frickin brain is overflowing. It is my fault that we have not been able to communicate enough. My fault. But, the energy that you just stirred up in your brother, I have told my father once, only once, twelve years ago, that he better not say another fucking thing about this girl, and he got the message. Mom was there. I am truly lucky to have you in my life. I consider you as one of the best influences, and simply one of the best human beings the world has ever seen. And you don’t have to apologize to me, sweetheart. I am the one who has laid this crazy news onto the planet. I’m just lucky to have a great sister that I can spout my mouth off too… they will support us. That is what families do. They do not have a choice. And neither do I. There will be another life on this planet because of me. I just hope it has my last name. The fact is that I am a sailor in the US Navy and my future wife has to go through this all by herself. I know you will be a part of the support structure that she needs and that i can’t give from 3000 miles away. I know you support me, so get on board. I know you already are. goodnight, sis.

And, as our chat continued, this is what I wrote back to him while he was sleeping in Spain:

I love you so much. After talking to you and realizing the incredible bond between sister and brother and how powerful it is, I feel the need to have another baby. Because your little nephew shouldn’t be alone in this world. All I think about is you taking me on that date when we lived in Europe, giving me that rose, showing me that I was human when I felt so very far from it. I remember you walking into the hospital and hugging me, despite the fact that our sister, Mom, and Dad all walked past me like I was an insect. You were the only one that didn’t. And you know what the counselor said to me? She said, “You aren’t the one that needs to be in here… your whole family, save your brother, needs to be in here.” Because what kind of family doesn’t support their own DAUGHTER when she feels so incredibly sad that she wants to end her life? Remember dad’s reaction?? He said it to you. So, remember, above ALL ELSE, that Mom and Dad are NOT perfect and they DO NOT know it all. You are about to feel the wrath of this family – and I have only felt it like you are about to feel it. My advice to you is to tune out as much of it as you can. It does come from love but it will eat you alive if you listen to it. I have had time to think and really reflect on the whole situation and I feel SO much better having talked to you and hearing your voice and knowing that I have my brother “back.” I have missed you.

You need to stay focused, stay strong. No. Matter. What. I am here for you. Fuck religion, fuck tradition, fuck judgement, fuck presumption. Fuck the past. I want more than anything for you to do the same. I have so much faith in you that I know you will rise to this – I know you will be who your dad never could be. I know you will face your worst fears, you will fix your demons, you will face yourself – and you will conquer everything that attempts to defeat you. You are one of the strongest people I know. You can do anything you set your mind to, you’ve already proven that. Alcoholism is no joke and you, more than anyone I know, can squash it like a small bug that lives in my house and is very, very annoying. All it needs is a little vinegar down the drain and a LOT of discipline. You know a little something about discipline, ey? I already love this baby and I already love his/her mother, because I know that if you love her, I will too. Whatever happens in this, I am with you.

And, that is that. That is the last time we spoke from the heart. It saddens me that I miss who he is when he’s drunk, because most of the heartfelt things he said were said when he was drinking. No wonder it is harder for him not to drink that it is for him to drink – that is how he described alcoholism to me. My confession is that for part of that conversation I had consumed a fair amount of alcohol as well.  I rarely do so, but in familial stress especially, it just comes natural to me to deal with that particular anxiety with the old familial remedy more commonly known as red wine.  I’m never particularly proud of that fact, but it is a fact; and I only do it once in a blue moon.   As you can see, our bond is one that only sister and brother could share.  The fear and confidence we exchange is incomparable and irreplaceable, and unfortunately, also happens once in a blue moon.

So, my brother is now on a plane back to Spain.  He was just here for a week.  He flew home on Thursday, came to our house for dinner on Friday, had lunch with Rachel (not her real name but it’s getting difficult to leave names out) and her parents on Saturday afternoon, went to my parents’ cabin to have dinner with them on Saturday night, got engaged on Sunday morning, drove back to town that night to have dinner with us again… but never showed up.  He called to say they’d had a long day, told me the ring fit, and apologized for waiting until 8:30pm to call and tell me he wasn’t going to make it.  All day I’d been telling my son that his Uncle was going to come back.  All day I’d been preparing food and anticipating the time with him.  When 6:00 came and I hadn’t heard from him, I called and texted Rachel.  No response until 8:30.  This is the brother that I don’t know, the one I’m not bonded to, the robot that seems almost void of connection and affection.  On Monday, he obtained a marriage license, they were married in a courthouse on Tuesday (while the rest of us worked) and left for their honeymoon.  They returned to town on Friday.  I didn’t hear from him all day on Friday.  Apparently he had dinner with our sister that night.  He had told me on Monday night that he’d call me when he got back to town.  He didn’t.  I didn’t hear from him until I called and texted again, on Saturday.  When I finally got to hear his voice again, he explained to me that they had a busy day of running errands ahead of them, furniture shopping and such.  I told him that I’d really like to see him before he left because I had something to give him.  His response cut a knife in my heart, reopening the hole that I thought was full again.  “Okay, well, do you guys live near any furniture stores?”  In fact, we do.  So I explained where he could buy furniture for Rachel, and how to get to my house from the stores.  I asked what their plans were for dinner… again his response all but broke my heart.  “We don’t know yet, we may go out, we may just order in.”  He had no desire to see me again.  I practically had to beg him to just stop by long enough so that I could give him what I had for him.  I had a card for him, that was it.  I didn’t want to mail it, I thought I was going to get to give it to him on Sunday… and if not then, when he had returned on Friday.  I had no idea he was content leaving town without seeing me again at all.  That’s not the brother I know, that’s not the brother that is my best friend and one of the few people on earth that understands me, and vice versa.

 


Reformation

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted and there are far too many reasons to explain why.  Ultimately, I am finding that blogging is getting harder instead of easier.  I realized that while I started this blog as an attempt to try and explore myself and write my own story, that instead I ended up writing the story of my marriage.  Which, I will never understand, has been easier.  The story of my bipolar marriage is not a fun one to tell, I struggle every day with what my love for my husband means and what his love for me means.  I struggle with the concept of a soul mate… whether mine really does exist out there.  I struggle with the lack of solid support in my life, I struggle with strength of self.  I struggle with the idea that I have settled for a life less than what I imagined it should be.  A very good friend remarked that having an oppressive marriage feels at times like your life is being stolen away from you, day by day, hour by hour.  I’ve felt that way.

But.

In the beginning of my blog journey, I wanted to to explore myself.  I wanted to tell my stories.  I didn’t want to harp and hound my marital circumstances.  I don’t think they will change, regardless of what drastic measures do or do not happen.  I don’t think my marriage is ever going to change.  I think this is the life I chose for myself and am still choosing to live in for the moment and so that I need to make the most of it.  I don’t mean this quite as cliche as it sounds.  It just is.  I’ve not accepted inexcusable behavior, nor will I fight for myself any less.  I am a different, stronger person than I was when I met my husband and that is irreversible.

For now, I need to stop focusing on what I can’t change.  I need to focus on what I can change.  The blog was titled “the colors of me” because I wanted to tell my stories.  I have so many stories to tell.  Telling them will no doubt bring me closer to myself.  I need to be there, I need to understand what makes my heart beat before I go blaming someone else for not making it beat stronger.  My strength needs to come from within.

I have come a long way in my search for understanding.  I’m still young and I have a long life ahead of me.  I also have a past that is filled with family secrets, denial, shame, fear, hypocrisy, tragedy, and abuse.  I need to write these stories down.  I’ve told them… many times… to many friends and therapists.  I don’t think I’ve ever told them to myself… so I’m going to make a promise to myself to start telling myself these stories in an effort to get to know myself through them.  They are ugly stories, but they are necessary truths that I must embrace.


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.  🙂