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.

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