Thursday, July 30, 2009

Living History

Tonight I took my children to see my soon to be ex-husband in the hospital. He's been there for a few days, but I didn't tell the kids at first. He has never managed his medical conditions. He doesn't take prescribed meds on time, doesn't watch his diet, doesn't exercise, etc. So, every now and again his body reaches crisis point. This is by far the worst instance. He let his blood sugar get so out of control, that he should have fallen into a coma. Thankfully, he didn't. Still he spent 24 hours in Intensive Care, and is still hospitalized because his body was so out of sorts.

I've been doing what I do. Taking care of him. Trying to fix things with my sheer will. It doesn't work, but I don't have to feel all the feelings that come with an experience like this. This morning when I went to see him, I broke down as I left the hospital. I don't know how to fix him. I don't know how to make him see that he has to stop this madness before he ends up in the ground, and leaves behind our two babies.

As a child, my father was continually ill. His lifestyle (although I didn't know this then) caused a lot of health crises for him. Smoking, drinking, eating crap, not exercising, binge dieting...none of it is good for one's physical body. So, from time to time, he would wind up in the hospital. Hooked up to tubes and ventilators and clinging to this life. It used to scare the hell out of me. All the beeping machines and uncertainty. I just got very quiet. I didn't cry. I didn't scream. I just got quiet. I didn't know what to do, and so I tried to blend into the woodwork. To make myself unnoticeable. The culmination of my father's health issues although certainly not the end happened when I was 13 and my dad underwent 5 heart bypasses. He was in surgery for over 12 hours, and then in pretty bad shape for days afterwards. He became depressed after the surgery, talking about ending his life. It was a tough time. I was entering high school, had endured some pretty scary stuff personally and then I had this parent who I felt needed taking care of. And so I tried to take care of him. I tried not to make trouble, to please him above all else. Even now, I struggle with my instinct to try and fix him.

Now, I'm watching my daughter, almost six years old. She was scared tonight. She's confused and doesn't know what to think. Her daddy is sick. She can't fix him, and she's uneasy. I feel like I'm watching myself. It makes me cry. I never wanted this for her. Perhaps we are all destined to repeat only what we have known. I found a man that I have to take care of. And I can leave that man, but my children...they have to keep dealing with his inability to care for himself.

I will admit, I am not perfect in this area. I let myself swell to 350 pounds. In the past two years though, I have been learning (self-teaching perhaps) that I have to care for myself. I've learned to eat better, exercise and take time for me. I'm not where I need to be, but I'm a hell of a lot better off than I was. What did it for me...what made me change... was my son. His health issues took a lot of energy, and i was afraid if I didn't lose the weight, I wouldn't be able to keep up with him. I would wind up with children who had to care for their mother. So I've instituted changes. I don't know how to convince my husband to do the same. I think it is a self-actualization kind of thing. It doesn't happen for you until you're ready for it.

Still I am sad. Sad that my baby has to worry about her daddy at 5 years old. Sad that I have so completely married my father, that I didn't learn the lessons I needed to learn sooner. All I can do is reassure my baby. Tell her that daddy will be ok, and hold her in my arms so she feels secure. Or as secure as I can help her feel.

Monday, July 27, 2009


So, here I am, at the end of July, and feeling a little dazed. It's been a crazy last several months in so many ways. Changes happening everywhere, and I'm ...well...I'm not sure what I am.

I have decided, without formally making a decision, that I'm going to quit therapy for now. I'm not seeing benefit at this point in my life. I saw benefits to the idea, but, ultimately don't feel any better, and I feel myself becoming less and less honest in the sessions. This is my tendency, and I'm working on that in all aspects of my life...honesty, that is.

So, I don't know. Am I in some sort of denial if I quit? I'm ambivalent. On one hand I know therapy has value and its place in most people's lives, but in my own, today, I don't see the value. I'm fairly well aware of my "issues." I see things fairly clearly most days. And most days I like my life, hell, some days I even love my life. For all of the misgivings in the past six months, I feel stronger in many ways. More able to weather the storms I suppose.

I'm still sitting on my divorce papers. They are signed and ready to be finalized, but somehow I'm not ready today. I'm working through this process, and I realize that in my rush to "move onward and upward" I forgot how I felt about all of it. And I feel sad and angry and also a little crazy. So, I'm letting that happen as it was meant to happen for now. Slowly, surely, I'll get through this time. I want to be sure I'm sure. I thought I was "sure" when I got married, but when I look back there were some pretty huge indicators that I wasn't "sure" at all, but rather that I was determined to *do* something. If I had a husband then that told the outside world I was wonderful in some ways. I was loveable and cared for. I felt secure. Now I'm struggling with just the opposite. What does it say about me that I'm divorcing the man I vowed to stick with forever? What does it say that I'm doing this despite the fact that we have children who will be affected by this? I don't like the answers to those questions. And so I'm not ready yet.

Am I in denial about all of it? Well, I'm not sure today. Perhaps tomorrow is going to be a day of clarity for me.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Messin up my vibe

This week has been an oddity - busy at work (though not making much money), busy at home, busy brain and avoiding what needs to happen next...

Life at work has been much the same. I had a series of fairly distraught clients in this week - which is slightly unusual. While a lot of family law clients are dismayed, it isn't an every day thing to see so many people, women in particular, come through my doors that are upset, tearful and worn out. I can identify with so much of what they tell me, that sometimes I have to consciously separate myself from their stories. Thankfully I have never known physical violence in a relationship, but I'm scared for these women. In the back of my mind is a protective instinct. Particularly for the ones that are experiencing violence of some sort currently. I've been very affected by the latest in a string of murders of women by their husbands/boyfriends/lovers. This last one was a lady that I saw in the courthouse the day she died. She parked her car right outside of the building I work in. No doubt she walked by my window on her way to court that morning. She never made it back to her car. She was intercepted by her estranged husband and killed - left in a ditch. Her car sat alone - next to mine - and when I left that night and went home to my children, I had no idea she was gone - she would never kiss her babies good bye again. She had three small children. Did I mention her name was Jill? Her children are going to grow up without their mother. I cannot understand a world like this one. My heart hurts.

Life at home, well my Rudy got sick Wednesday night - strep throat... and something not yet identifiable. My son has had lots of health issues since he was born. I used to get really worried, but he has done so well the last year, that I had forgotten that fear in the pit of my stomach...until Thursday. I knew he didn't feel well Wednesday night. In same way that I instinctually knew he was sick in the past, I knew he wasn't well. By morning, he had a high fever. I babied my baby - fed him applesauce, gave him medicine and held him while he slept. I called one of the few numbers I don't have to look up - our beloved pediatrician. Eventually we got the news it was strep throat, and got him on antibiotics. He also got another round of steroid cream for his eczema. Everything seemed to be ok, until we got to the pool today and I discovered he had a rash all over his torso. This is his third drug reaction. They always scare me. I don't know what exactly to do, and I'm not in any sort of control. So, I took him back to the after hours clinic - so they could tell me what I already knew - another drug allergy to add to his growing list and we got another prescription. Sometimes I think I cherish my son even more because of his health issues - he's had so many scares in such a short life. But what a great kid. He has a sweetness like no other child I've known.

In the rest of my life, and the real reason I started this post...I attended my small group Wednesday night. It didn't go really well for me. It ended up being a discussion prompted by one of the members in the group. I look forward to this group - it centers my week and I feel encouraged and inspired by something or someone every week. That didn't happen this week. The person that dominated the meeting was upset by a solo that was sung in church some weeks ago. (and what she perceives the solo to represent) She did not believe the solo fit into the Anglican way of church or liturgy. She also mentioned that she (or perhaps others, I'm not sure) were also put off by a sermon that was given some months ago by a priest who is occasionally part of the church I attend. He's not the rector of the church (who I have come to know, and really like), but I have come to respect and genuinely like this priest. And I will say, unabashedly, he is one of the reasons I have become involved in the parish I am in. The sermon she referenced was actually one I still remember parts of. It meant a lot to me at the time, and was really inspiring. It was precisely what I needed to hear at that moment, and I am thankful to God for the words (and for the speaker). I was moved to tears at one point in the message. So to hear someone be critical of this sermon, well, it bothers me. Try as I might, it changes my opinion about this member of my group. I think I am probably also upset by the fact that while I assumed that the community I have ventured into has it's issues and problems like any other, I didn't realize these sorts of issues or conflicts existed. I'm disappointed. I'm not sure with whom. But nonetheless I feel let down. I guess it's hard for me to understand. We are all touched, moved and impacted by different things in this life. What may be something incredibly important for me to hear this Sunday may not be what another person wants to hear per se. But I think God puts our rear ends in the right seats/places/times so that we can be moved, touched and impacted by his servant's message. That servant might be black, he might use different words than we are accustomed to hearing in the predominantly white Episcopal church in the United States, he might not stand behind the pulpit...nevertheless God has placed this person in our path for a reason. If we can just see past our own prejudices - whatever they might be - we just might be amazed. I know I was. For such an inclusive sort of church as the Episcopal church aspires to be, I was disappointed with this person's inability to make room for the woman who sang the solo or for the priest either. She indicated that the music wasn't the sort she enjoys (the woman sang a spiritual sort of song, not a hymn), and that she really couldn't accept the woman's gift and felt it didn't have a place in the corporate worship of the church. The speaker was very emotional about all of this, and I have no doubt her feelings are genuine. Yet, I still find myself disappointed in her. What if there was one person who needed that message more than they needed anything else at that moment? I know that happens. I've been that person, starving for hope. And so we close off the message because it doesn't fit within our prescribed framework for our liturgy...well that's not an acceptable result for me.

What a week.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Carrot Cake

Who would've thought all the dysfunctionality in my marriage could be summed up by two words? Carrot cake.

Wednesday was my birthday. It was a lovely day. I really enjoyed it. I met with a guy who has become a spiritual advisor to me first thing in the morning. I got a good (but mild) workout in. I had lunch with lots of friends. I went and had a massage and a manicure. And I rounded out the day with dinner with my kids and a thought-provoking session with the small group I've been participating in at the church I go to. All in all, it was a really nice day. It was the first time in recent memory that I did things I wanted to do all day long. My soon to be ex-husband called and wished me a happy birthday and indicated he had something for me. Typically we don't see one another on Wednesdays because he gets home after I leave in the morning, and he leaves out for work before I return from work. This Wednesday was no exception to the rule.

So yesterday (the day after my birthday), I went to work and caught up on what I left undone Wednesday and generally got my house (office) in order for the weekend. I didn't want to have too much to clean up for the half day I intended on working Friday. When I returned home I found a plant sitting in our kitchen next to a carrot cake. My husband came around the corner and said "Happy Birthday." I'm sure the look on my face was fairly clear because he said, "What's wrong?" I couldn't help myself, the words starting coming and I didn't bother to censor myself. (Something I'm having a tough time doing these days) I said something to the effect of, "How long have you known me?" My husband looked perplexed, but answered me with "12 years or so." I said back, "Have you EVER in the 12 years you've known me EVER known me to eat, look at or talk about eating carrot cake?" The fact of the matter is I HATE carrot cake. I'm not ambivalent about how I feel about carrot cake. I don't like it. I don't like the texture, I don't like the smell, I don't like the look of it. I HATE carrot cake. There is something unnatural about vegetables in cake.

My husband on the other hand, well, he loves the crap. He can eat an entire carrot cake on his own. How do I know this? I've made them, and he's eaten the entire thing. I've bought them from different stores, and he's eaten the entire thing. Now, perhaps I'm being too hard on this man. Surely he can't be expected to know everything about me? But the thing is carrot cake is one of two desserts I really dislike. I don't meet too many sugary foods that I am not fond of. Let's face it when you spend several years over 300 lbs, you likely are a fan of sugar. In fact, had this been a cheesecake or a chocolate cake or a peach pie...well I would've gained a few lbs this weekend downing it. Carrot cake and pumpkin pie...really the only two things I can't stand that are sugary by nature. And they both come from orange things that don't belong in sweets! How hard is it to remember that? Really?!

The silly thing is, I shouldn't be mad at my husband. Not really. Because a long time ago, I allowed every one of the things I liked or wanted or desired to be usurped by the things that he liked or wanted or desired. At some point I cannot even identify, I decided that he was the more important person in our relationship, and that my job was to learn how to be the woman he wanted rather than the woman I am. He didn't ask me to do this, and for a long time I didn't even realize I was doing it. Once the realization hit me (probably a few years ago), we've been in a downward spiral in our relationship. Because once you figure out something like this, you feel compelled to change it. I insisted on eating Mexican food, seeing movies I wanted to see, going places I wanted to go and taking time for myself. It was in direct contradiction to the way I had been for 10 years. It created a strain in our relationship to the point of breaking. I made small decisions that said I was important, and I don't like carrot cake dammit.

In the past year, the thing my husband has accused me of most has been that "I've changed." And I must admit he's absolutely right. I have changed. For him, there is an assumption that it must be a new man. Someone that I am now conforming to. A few years ago I blew up at him over the silliest thing - very similar to the "Watergate carrot cake incident." For as long as I can remember, my husband has eaten off my plate. At a restaurant, at home, wherever. He will have piles and piles of food on his plate (the man can eat)... but he will feel compelled to reach over and take something that is mine and eat it. He typically doesn't ask or if he does, it's a foregone conclusion anyway. One day I was writing in a journal and I realized how angry that makes me. Why? Not because the food is important, I typically didn't finish what I had anyway. It was the taking part. It was the "I'm more important than you" in this relationship. You are secondary to me. I can take what you have. I can take who you are. I can use up your time and energy and spirit. These things are mine for the taking.

One of the people I've been seeking out as a spiritual advisor asked me Wednesday, when were you happy in the relationship? I've been thinking about that. I don't really remember. Or perhaps that's a cop out. My marriage gave me a certain level of security and safety. I felt protected. I also felt wanted in some ways. When I first removed my wedding ring, it was an internal struggle. What was I telling the outside world? That I wasn't wanted anymore? That I was alone? My greatest fear all along has been in being alone. I realize now more than ever I've been alone for years. I can paint it anyway I want to others, I was alone in my marriage.

So, was I ever happy? No, I suppose I wasn't. On some level, I didn't quite think I deserved that part. But more than ever, I craved it. So instead of admitting it years ago, I overate, I had babies, I buried myself in my work...the list is a mile long of the things I did to hide from what I couldn't admit. I was unhappy, unfulfilled and had lost who I was.

Today, I crave relationships that nourish me from the inside out. I find myself distancing myself from relationships that don't do that for me. I also crave a relationship with a man that is full, rich and sweet. I don't know if I'll discover that along the way. There's still so much for me to unravel, that I feel I'm ill-prepared to accept another's love. But acceptance is what paves the way. I've always been a "giver" in most of my relationships. It is complicated and difficult for me to accept love, affection, attention, etc. I was reading Henri Nouwen this morning and one of the passages talks about how difficult it is to accept gifts. How true that is. Yet, in acceptance I find what I need. And there's room there for happiness, too.