Tag Archives: marriage

One man’s trash

… is another man’s treasure, isn’t that the saying?  That little set of six glasses, espied through the window of a vintage stuff & art gallery called Hudson’s at MassMOCA in North Adams, was priced for $25.00.  I have a set just like it– maybe?

The set belonged to my mother, and she picked it up for some cheap price at some church white elephant, because she had notions of what kinds of things one was supposed to own in order to maintain a proper household.  When she moved to California to express her displeasure that I wasn’t giving her granchildren find her bliss in the sunshine, she pushed them off on me along with other sundry glassware, some of which I wanted because it had been my grandmother’s, and most of which I thought was just junk.

I say maybe I own something like it, because I really cannot recall if it’s sitting, wrapped in a box in the basement, unused with my grandmother’s china and other still-wanted possessions, or if I took the chance of leaving my husband to give it to the AIDS Action Committee thrift shop for them to sell to someone who might think that six tiny pressed-glass cordials or whatever the hell you call them would somehow make your life more complete than if you just bought some all-purpose lowballs at Ikea or Crate & Barrel.  Who knows?  Maybe the owner of this shop bought this very set from the Boomerang in JP, and it’ll bring someone else way more use and pleasure than it ever brought me, cluttering up the bottom shelf of the hutch full of shit I didn’t use and had had foisted on me by family insisting on the right way to set a table, entertain, put on a spread?

Seeing that set in the window got me thinking about the things that we keep and the things we discard– not so much that I’m going to go hunting downstairs through my stuff– but in terms of the trash versus treasure conundrum, and how invested we get in other people validating our treasure, and telling us how lovely it and therefore we are. Failing to take an interest in the same things as you is taken as a wholesale rejection of you as a person (and heck, sometimes it is but I do have some manners and usually manage to be polite, but asking for pom-poms and a brass band is too much).  That perceived rejection is a cause for drama, accusation, pouting, shaming, guilt or outrage (I don’t know your family, I just know mine, all those options are possible, sometimes within the span of five minutes), and if you dare state anything as inflammatory as a disagreeing opinion, you’re a terrible person.

You’re trash, in a word, for rejecting someone else’s treasure.  (Though you haven’t, you’ve just said you don’t want any yourself.)

People mistake the collections of objects they amass for pleasure and success, and project that mistaken impression of accumulation of happiness via stuff onto you, in a nutshell.  Go your own way, and you’re telling them that you think they’re all wrong.  It’s not that, necessarily (though sometimes it is, and sometimes it only becomes that after our progenitors start insisting you follow The Old Ways) but changing the arrangement and type of objects is deeply unsettling to some, and the lack of stuff is even moreso.  When I tell people I don’t have a TV or a car, it earns me these looks– and when I look at the house I have only one room in and think– the things I could do if I could get rid of all of this stuff– well.  I’m sure it’s crazy to some.  But I like not having to deal with the weight of so many things (or wanting them, any more) physically & mentally taking up space that could be better spent swinging into warrior pose, or spreading out in a sunny patch on the rug with a shelf-space conserving Nook.

In the two years that most of my stuff has been in the basement, there have been maybe four times when I’ve needed something.  Maybe it is time, in fact, to go down and unpack– not for keeping’s sake, but shed to even more.

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When does it start?

I’m at that age now (39) (older, have more insurance, long live Fried Green Tomatoes) where I not only know but accept and sometimes even bless the universal truth that no one really knows what they’re doing, even when they’re supposed to be an adult.  I find that truth freeing, because it lets me laugh (internally) at the poser assholes who pretend that they do know it all (and inevitably get knocked off the pedestals they built for themselves), feel less insecure generally about my own talents, and get on with the general figuring out of what I think I should do in any particular situation/problem/whatever.  It also lets me feel Zen enough about things that I don’t feel the need to get up in poser assholes’ faces just because anymore– now, I only do it when there’s a reason like– they’re fucking over one of my employees, or me, or someone in my family.  Some random jerk being a jerk otherwise mostly garners an inner laugh with a side of compassion tinged with a soupcon of you poor miserable bastard.

However, I’m also at that age where I’m sort of in between lots of other age groups– the people born when I was graduating from high school, to whom I’m an authority or even a maternal-type (hah, hah, hah, hah) figure, the people 5-10 years younger than me who for some reason think my no-bullshit crankiness is actually cool (?) and seek out my advice, the people my own age who are also in the hohshit, all these people think we’re adult boat, the people slightly older than us who really don’t know that much more but whom we’re supposed to respect but really, sometimes we want to punch in the face because they’re just being a dumbass– and then, then there are the people who’ve known us over the whole course of our lives, be they siblings, spouses, parents, old friends, who refuse to let you be the person you are now that you don’t give a shit what anyone thinks, and they still insist and get really upset when you don’t care what they think– not because you don’t love them, but because you finally, finally, really love you, even to the point of letting yourself make mistakes and being willing to forgive yourself for them, because making mistakes at least betokens action, not stasis.

The looming precautions these long acquaintances wave over our heads are too claustrophobic– the feeling that you can never really be free of criticism for trying to find and be whomever your real self is– at least not until your loved ones are dead or you cut them the hell out of your life. It’s not unlike college or the first time you move out of the house and you have that chance to be just as you present yourself, except now, at this certain age, certain is what you’re finally beginning to be, and everyone’s calling that into question, saying you’re wrong to think, act, feel as you do.

It’s depressing to repeat same arguments over and over again, when family and old friends treat you like you are 9, not 39– and you can see all the behavioral patterns you’ve discussed in therapy so that now you’re aware of your triggers.

I’m not triggered, precisely– but I am tired of fighting with people for the right to be someone other than who they think it’s safe for me to be, based on their own fears and projections, and I am tired of not fighting with people for the sake of harmony, too, because, for the moment, affection outweighs my need for personal freedom.  The definition of psychopathy and masochism tend to intertwine here, because I can’t possibly expect anything different to come out of allowing the same behaviors over and over, and I’m definitely putting up with bullshit that hurts my feelings and makes me defensive and sometimes more than a little bit crazy.

It’s why I cut off my mother for good this time.  I was tired of fighting for attention I’m never going to get, tired of holding up both ends of a conversation and then being betrayed by her need for attention.  I was tired of having to be nice to her so she could reassure herself that she was a good mother, when really, her self-absorption and mental illness are so exclusive that I only register as a mirror, not as an entity in my own right.  It doesn’t matter if she’s not a bad person or if she doesn’t mean it.  It does matter that she can’t stop, and that she hurts me, a lot, every time I see her.  That’s the stop to that interaction.

It’s why I left my husband, because he didn’t want anything other than a fully functional wife who didn’t complain or ask for emotional support (and who made dinner and did the shopping and did the driving and didn’t nag him about anything unpleasant, whatever X=unpleasant that week.)  I wanted the freedom to be intermittently crazy, to ask for help, to complain without being told I was wrong to complain, to vent without being stopped mid-rant to be told I had no “right” to be angry because my situation was my fault when I never asked for advice, I only wanted someone to listen, to have emotional reactions to things without being told I was either wrong because of some intellectual reason or because I was crazy.  You don’t get to have it both ways– either you make an effort to understand and partner with me in my anxiety and depression and listen to me, or you shut the hell up and keep your thoughts to yourself when I need to vent, because your refusal to help denies you any right to interpret my actions as sane, “right,” or anything else.

It’s why I shut off needy friends who couldn’t see that they’d crossed boundaries again and again. There wasn’t a fight, I just let things lapse.   It’s why I shut off apathetic friends, who didn’t hold up their end of the communication, friendship, socializing, BFF bargain(s).

It’s why I try to keep reaching out to those friends who make an effort, even if we’re all busy & crazy at times.  Trying’s the thing, even when they have kids or I have a workaholic job or they have opposite hours from me or etc., etc.  Trying’s important.

It’s why I limit, now, my interactions with my brother, who doesn’t ever want to engage on an emotional level, because he is the king of denial, and he will not help out.  Ever.  I engage with his wife and his daughter instead, and if he wants to change it, he can make the first step to remove that iceberg I’ve put on my desire to have a real bond with him.

It’s why I am going to have a conversation with my Dad, though I cringe in advance about it, to remind him about the way he and his mother interacted the last few years of her life, and the way she would drive him batty with her constant questions and paranoia and interruptions.  It’s why he needs to understand that he can either treat me like I’m 39 and stop projecting his own fears for his own health onto me and stop being controlling and stupid about things like how I am getting to work and whether I’m going to be out socializing with friends during the week.  Because his having a shitfit about my riding the bus and calling me crazy at the top of my lungs is crazy, and I told him so last week.  I said it very, very, calmly, when I asked him to listen to himself and his tone of voice, then asked him again– who was the one acting crazy?  It did shut him right up.

I won’t be infantilized or controlled, because he’s scared about getting old or because I’m doing something he’s afraid of.  But I’m tired of feeling like I have to wait until he’s dead to finally be free of the last person insisting I be someone I’m not– because I don’t want him to be dead, I just want him to either like me for who I am now, or learn to keep his goddamned mouth shut.  I wish he was less of an asshole, because I find it hard to be compassionate to him as a poor, miserable bastard. For the first time in his life, he’s got a stable job, a decent income, and he doesn’t have to do all the work in the house.  It’d be nice if he’d try to start to find a way to be happy– and act 71, instead of 17.

It’d be nice to start over.  To start at all.

Pyromania, the relationship cure

May the bridges I burn light the way,
said that late 80s sage, Dylan McKay.
It took me a while, but I’ve come to see
it’s not just ironic, but true.
The flames of your past illuminating what lies ahead–
it’s the flip side of leaving a room like General Sherman,
or Scipio, even, burning and salting because after a fight,
you might as well make damn well sure that it’s done.
Over.  No more chance of rising to haunt you,
to try to drag you under with memories of when you
used to be able to stand one another.  Before.
They don’t want to parry, negotiate peace, even consider
some terms of surrender?
Burn it all.  Let it light up the night,
and ride your horse into the dawn.
Don’t look back– just let the salt leak out of the saddlebags you’ve
stolen and slashed, let to drift on your path out,
a reverse cookie crumb trail.
No witch with an oven at the end of this trail,
no more fattening period, no waiting,
no more.

All you really need are waterproof matches,
some razer-sharp wit to discern the next
impending disaster, that and a heart that’s dry,
ready to kindle again.

I bet you can’t even tell me that much…

There was a night, years ago now, two-thirty in the morning or thereabouts, when I felt the darkest I’ve felt.  I reached out and was told in effect that my sadness and wanting death weren’t true, that my loneliness and feelings of being abandoned were wrong.

I still don’t know how I got through that night by myself, because I certainly got no fucking help from the person who was supposed to love and to cherish, for better and worse. Whatever his reasons for his reactions, the fact still remained: he told me I didn’t need the hospital and I let him tell me, rather than listen to what was in my own head, which was– you are not loved, you should end this right now (you should go to the hospital.)  I was right.  I wasn’t loved.  And I should have ended it sooner.  (Just not the way I thought.)

A yearsome later, I left, because fuck anyone telling me that my need to take all the pills in my medicine chest because I didn’t feel loved wasn’t real, wasn’t deserving of immediate fucking attention.  And fuck anyone who told me my feelings were wrong because they didn’t have those particular feelings.  Because of course everyone’s psychic, and entitled to tell other people what it is they’re supposed to think, supposed to feel.  Instead of maybe– listening.  Shocking concept, I know.

It’s two years plus, now, and I’ve had ups and downs, better and worse parts, but none quite so bad, and the answer to the question of why should I stay if I’m going to have to be the only one taking care of me, anyway is again– no, fuck you, I’ll do it myself, and I have.  The answer to do I honor my feelings, no matter what someone else says is Yes.  I may even have it tattooed.

It’s two years plus, now, and one of the people who work for me in a job I probably would have been told I wasn’t up to handling (my feelings might get in the way, didn’t I recall I’d flunked out of law practice and why, oh why, hadn’t I told him (btw, CRAZY at the time, it gets in the way, skip the reading, much, did you?)) had a breakdown of their own at work.  I handled it, and I handled it well.  I let them have as much agency as they could.  I listened.  We hung out in more privacy than I thought the workplace would have afforded until the people they’d chosen and asked for came to help them. I didn’t do the thing that was panicked and shove them in an ER, which probably no one would have done– but still, better than letting them go home, on their own, and even moreso, no one knew my history, they just knew I’d know what to do. Because I am competent. And I do know what to do– in general, all-purpose ways. I am a sensible, well-trusted person.

Those asked-for people came to help them, after I’d called and explained.  They’re going to be fine, to come back to work soon, and the family– oh, they’re pleased and surprised that we’re able to be so commonsense about it.  Because yes.  Crazy happens.  So does everything else in this life.  We accept that and make room, because we all have to live and work with each other, and for the bits of crazy, the other things we bring to the day far outweigh the occasional break.

It’s two years plus, now, and it feels raw like that dark night again because I can do it all by myself, but I shouldn’t have had to, and fuck you.  That hurts.  It hurts that I still feel like my crazy wasn’t worth it to you, that it was too scary and you were too selfish to ever bother to learn what it felt like in anyone’s head but your own.  It hurts that you didn’t trust me or you enough to listen to what I had to say.  And that you didn’t trust either of us to believe that you could ever be wrong.  It hurts that sometime in the year after I left, you told me that a friend had a breakdown– and you’d been the one to take them to the E.R. until they could be seen, so they weren’t alone.  I don’t know if that was supposed to be proof that you’d learned– to me, it feels like proof that you could only muster that energy when it wasn’t someone you needed to make your decisions for you– and when I became incapable, so did you.

It’s two years plus, now, and though that night I kept reaching for you, now– I’d shove you away as fast as I can, because I did the right thing walking away, I did the right thing in shoving through on my own, I did the right thing in helping my charge– and you.  You don’t know, and you’ll never be able to tell.  It’s not that you didn’t love me, or that I didn’t love you– but it wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t right, and if I should have done more?  So should you.

Hardly thinking at all

The management wishes to apologize that you have begun to feel old.
The fact that your joints and your libido no longer stir are clearly our fault.
That you have concerns about your ability to pay on a going-forward basis,
despite your established good credit– and did we mention the fact
that we have budget-minded items, as well as spreadsheets,
if that is, in fact, a thing you wish to ruminate on?
Pardon us for mentioning so touchy and profane an issue as money.
The management also requests that you excuse all of our feelings,
so different from those you profess.
Our shocking attempt at individuating ourselves should clearly
be nipped in the bud.
The management is only here for your cooking, housekeeping, entertainment,
provisioning pleasure, here to laugh at your jokes, keep things lively and light.
No, sir, you’re entirely correct; attempting to bring to your attention
the ways in which management was aware of the ways in which it
was falling short of your and its own expectations, in words other than those
you would have used– clearly our fault, none of yours.
We can hardly say what we were thinking,
thinking for ourselves and not for you,
always for you, you and the issues we did our best to guess at
despite your refusals to participate in our survey(s),
to provide feedback on the comment cards periodically provided to you,
to anticipate your needs.
Clearly, the management was hardly thinking at all.

——————–

I was wading through my hard drive and my Google Drive the other day, looking for a zombie apocalypse piece I had started.  I couldn’t find it, but I came across a lot of poems I wrote in the run-up and immediate aftermath of leaving the husband.  The poem above is not one of them.   The poem above, I hope, comes across as fucking furious and sarcastic as all fucking hell, with a soupcon of what the hell was I thinking?

I re-read the poems, a lot of them very raw, but a lot of them very good, some of them the same as the ones that were raw.  Probably, most of them will never see the light of day, but one thing that occurred to me, slowly, after reading them all, was how much they dwelt on what I didn’t do, what I hadn’t said, what I hadn’t tried.  I was very much focused on my failures, even as I was paying lip service to marriage being a two-way street.

It’s almost two years later, now, and it’s probably been eight years since I’ve had sex, had anyone touch me in an intimate way or hug me in a way that was more than a brief hug between friends, and I’m only now getting to the point where I’m getting angry.  Probably not a little of it has to do with the fact that in the last three months I’ve had more people I work with and whom I’ve just met be more perceptive to my mood and offer to help than the husband ever was or ever did.  My colleagues aren’t afraid to ask questions, even when they don’t know the answers.  It’s been a raw time for me, trying to absorb the idea that perhaps, maybe, I deserve mere coworkers like this.

It’s not that I wasn’t angry before.  But now, I’m just pissed, because you know what?  Marriage is a two way street, and I wasted a year waiting for a yes or a no to the proposition of the items that follow:

I hated being a lawyer and I was never willing to try to make money like that again if being a litigation attorney required that kind of work ethic/life/outlook– he needed to really nut up and take it or leave on my being depressed some of the time and needing you to respond as a partner and helpmeet to me–he needed to start to listen and ask questions and not criticize or interrupt when I was having feelings or telling a story about a situation that he knew nothing about, so stop the fuck silencing me and telling me that my thoughts and feelings were wrong– and why the fuck should I be his housekeeper when there was no sex, no sharing the bed at the same time while we were both awake, no cuddling, no kissing, no intimacy in it for me or notice of my physicality (and sympathy for my diminishing physical weight and my anguish at that, because if 80 lbs weight loss wasn’t a metaphor for the fact that I was turning into a different person, I don’t know what a metaphor is) and all he did was freak the fuck out about money and then turn around and blow it on cocktails with friends (or insert other bauble or expense left to rot here)?

There were other items, other quibbles and quarrels, but they mostly boil down to the above.

Now, I’m just fucking pissed.  It makes me awfully sad, because I never wanted to be– but I know what I did wrong (didn’t make enough noise about our problems, didn’t have enough self-awareness, was too scared to examine my feelings in order to make enough noise, didn’t insist enough when I was aware enough to be mad, and instead always caved) and while I’m mad at myself for all the things I should have managed better, I’m also mad because the promise of marriage is solemn, to love and cherish, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer.  It’s not a fair-weather thing that was contingent on my being a high-earning, non-bipolar, chirpy cheerleader lawyer who did all the cooking and managed the checkbook and did most of the cleaning (except his laundry and the bathroom, he did a great job with the bathroom) except for the dishes, a goddamned easy trade.  It was a promise contingent on me, with all of my flaws, trying the best that I could.

I know now that I tried the best that I could at the time.  Now, I could try somewhat better– but that’s not important, because he could have tried too, and that was never (or shouldn’t have been) contingent on me.

I don’t hate him.   I hope he finds happiness somewhere– it wasn’t with me.  Still, the idea of being in love with him, now– it hardly bears thinking.

But does it work?

It’s been a weird couple of weeks in Lake No-Longer-Nearly-So-Woe-begotten, and I’ve written about a half-dozen posts of various tones and tempers and lengths, all stuck in draft.

Instead, you get this TMI blather.

I’ve been settling into the new job, figuring out all of its kinks from the rising personality and discipline problems of our daily employees to finding out the best way to balance myself (and everyone else) off everyone’s different managerial styles.  Feeling like the grownup and being deferred to in a group where I still feel unsure and new re: my standing with this particular group and this particular culture is, to put it mildly: weird, scary, awesome, bizarre, and anxiety-provoking.

At times, it’s a little enraging, when some people push a little too hard, and then I take a deep breath and remind myself– everyone is learning, there will always be alphas, and if I’m more of an alpha-beta when it comes to management style, I do know how to deal with alphas, and at last, I’m working some place where I can just point blank come out and say– “Look, this isn’t cool, but this is.”  Getting past the adrenaline rush of opening and in to the occasionally depressing daily grind of OK NOW WE HAVE TO MAKE MONEY and BTWS, EMPLOYEES, YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP OR GET FIRED, some anticlimax is natural, even in a (yes, still feeling it) more enlightened workplace like mine.  It’s been so long since I’ve worked with grown-ups who’ve considered my opinion, let me apologize for my mess-ups, and still come after me for advice that– I find it hard to settle.  It’s still a little surreal.

(Yes, dearest reader:  I am complaining because I apparently get to have nice things and am freaked the hell out by this.)

I’ve also been trying to be kind to myself, and not just in the YAY, YOU FOUND A REAL JOB kind of way.  Lucidity about my moods and affect have been hard to come by (hey, look, I imported my archives, I’ve now got the official, 8-year record…) but I realized this week that I was starting to get a little depressed, which has in turn caused me to try to figure out– well, what else?  Is it just anticlimax?  Or more?

Of course, it’s probably more.  Or triggered, or interrelated.  It’s so hard to tell sometimes what sets one thing or another going.  But.  This is the time of year when I have gone more than a little bit nuts as just one of my bipolar cycles– and I think I was, in fact, a little bit manic when we opened the store, maybe even before that in some kind of mixed state when I kicked my own ass out of the old job.  Still, the mid-spring wind-up worked in everyone’s favor because they needed me to be really attentive and fluid and hyperfocused.

Now, as things slow and so, too, do I, I am just trying to pay attention to myself right now as I find myself dragging (in old habits) this week before getting my ass into gear going to work, so that I don’t let myself do that, start going in late, start leaving early, etc..  I need to avoid the computer in the mornings, to set the alarm a little early, to change my routine so I do something different than my normal rut– wake up, read the paper online 15 minutes (which turns into 30 when I’m depressed), shower, eat breakfast during the 40 minute commute.  Revising bad habits is a big thing– or should be.  Maybe….  Wake up, shower, eat breakfast downstairs, don’t go back up, get to work early, go read in a park?  Read a book? Detach myself from the distracting, wondrous computer?

I have, throughout all of this (read: changing jobs, feeling kinda sorta like a real boy) been trying to reconnect with some friends.  It’s been a half-and-half kind of deal.  Everyone’s busy, and some of the folks I’ve gotten in touch with have been so half-assed that I’ve just decided I’m not going to bother, and honestly, that’s kind of a relief, even if I’m sad to “lose” people that I once used to enjoy.    (And bless Brain Eats Brain for her emailed suggestion that sending an African Violet for those relationships that just won’t reset.) Others, though, have been closer friends, and it’s been a struggle to feel like I shouldn’t just throw a tantrum until I get the attention I want or they modify their behavior in the way I think is right.  I can’t have it my way all the time, though, and I have to accept that the fact that I’ve been in and out of their lives and really erratic means they get to decide not to bother with me, and I have to get that and not be clingy.

I have to accept that moving on means sometimes losing as well as gaining.  That a marriage that was no longer working and a safe-harbor job that had become a pain in the ass aren’t the only things I might “have” to give up– and that finding a new job that’s a pleasure but is also work isn’t something to depressed about but something to embrace as a challenge I’m ready to face.

Like I have to face– maybe some day I’ll get to make amends or repair the friendships I don’t currently have with those people, but maybe I won’t.  In the meantime, though, I have to create some new habits.  Look for new friends.  And finish letting go of things that no longer work and that I’ve decided (no, that’s not a laden sentence at all, in no way full of several complex emotional steps that I find a burden) no longer work.

I’ve got to ask myself– does it work?  No?  Let it go.  Find something that does, even if you don’t know what the replacement is each time I let something go.  I need to learn to trust that if things don’t feel 100% in the moment, they’ll get there, sooner or later.

Even if it means living with dad and occasionally growling at him to remind him I am a still mostly-competent adult who, unlike him, manages to get all the shopping and laundry done every week, so kindly don’t bitch because you don’t like the way I trim the fucking hedges, all square instead of rounded.  WHO CARES, THEY’RE STILL TRIMMED AND THEY STILL LOOK REALLY NICE.

(Why, no, this is not just an example of my relationship with my Dad as a metaphor for some power dynamics things at the store that have since worked themselves out but which made me internally depressed and anxious and rage-y for a couple of days and which I don’t dare detail because it’s already clear to people who know me where & whom I work for, no, not at all.)

Also?  Running into your ex-marriage counselor at your workplace/store and then having an awkward not-conversation where you can tell that she’s DYING to know how everything’s working out is not awkward.  At all.  (I might have had a bit of the feeling of Lady, I used to pay you serious money for this and you know what?  You didn’t help bupkiss, I’m not telling you shit.  Emphasis on the might absolutely not tell you shit.)  Yeah.  She didn’t work.

Now to move on to finding the things that do.

Enter, gory backblogstory

So, the husband very kindly managed to fix the breaking of my previous blog, even though I hadn’t expected him to and was in the middle of trying to figure out how to unbreak it myself/which of my techy friends I wouldn’t mind rummaging around in my archives.  But the husband is a generous person, and he managed to fix it.  And then, I imported it all here, with nary a corrupted file import, a small miracle in and of its very self.

If you’re so inspired, you can now read all the gory details going back to 2007.  Or the chocolate truffle post.  I recommend that one.

She Curmudgeon, now with added bipolarlawyercook and pre-breakup archives!    Also, some pretty damned tasty recipes and occasional amusing food-fail.  Come on, you know it’s a train wreck you want to watch.