Tag Archives: marriage

Changes

Change is a strange thing.  Life is full of it.  It’s something we do, whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not, every single day (because no two days are exactly alike).  Most of us hate it.  It unsettles us.  It makes us look backward and reflect on what was – and how we got to the point that we are, currently, that effected the change.  Change, like time, is something that we cannot stop.  And often the two go hand in hand… change often comes over time (rarely does anything truly happen overnight – most times, even in small ways, it has been in the works for awhile).  And rarely is it something that we can hinder, or speed up, to our own liking.

There has been a lot of change in my life lately, though I suppose that’s no different than any other day, any other year, any other time.  But it FEELS different.  Sometimes when things change, I have a relative idea that things are going to be mostly the same for me, even though the surrounding circumstances are very different.  But 2014 has been a different entity entirely – and I sort of got the feeling that it would be around Christmas time and into New Years when I found eight dollars in my purse that had been hidden since early 2013.  The funny thing is, at least thus far, most of these changes haven’t directly affected ME, per se, but they have forever altered the way that I will interact with my family.

Last weekend I went to Kentucky for my sister’s wedding.  As I’ve written before, I hate weddings.  But I went anyway, because whether we are close or not, she is my sister.  And I went because she personally asked me to come.  I made the trip as pleasurable for myself as I possibly could, scheduling many things around the wedding to keep me properly occupied, but it still didn’t change the fact that I had to be in that town for that wedding on the date.

Right up to the ceremony, I kept myself busy – running errands, visiting the cemetery, helping with the decorations (and taking them down afterward), doing whatever I needed to do to keep my mind off of the fact that I really did not want to be there.  Because I’ve learned that keeping busy is the only way to make time fly.  Keeping busy is the best way to stay occupied.

My sister seemed happy, and I was happy for her.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel great about this to begin with.  They hadn’t dated that long, and he seemed awfully young.  But his whole family was there, and he looked ridiculously happy as well.  After talking to his family at length that day, and realizing that these people were really, really nice, I started feeling better about the whole thing.  I can’t say for sure that the marriage will last – who can these days? – but I know that she is in good hands and, whether we’re close or not, she’s still my little sister.

During the ceremony a journal was passed around for people to write marital advice in for her.  I couldn’t think of anything to write right then… after a failed marriage and nothing particularly substantial or promising afterward in relationships(and it’s been six years), I’m not exactly the poster child for giving sage advice in that area (even though I write about them).  So I didn’t write anything.  The wedding went off without a hitch, she was married, I helped clean up after the reception as quickly as I could since I had to get back to Louisville to see a friend later that night, and the day I’d been dreading since February ended – mostly painlessly.

The next day was when it hit me.  Things have changed now… irrevocably.  Coming back to Kentucky, when I DO come back to Kentucky, will never be the same.  It will never again be a matter of just going to my parents’ house, seeing her there, spending a few days, and leaving.  Because when she IS there, she won’t be alone.  And most of the time, she will not be there – she’ll be at her house, in another county.  And then I realized what I should have written that day.  It was too late to write it in the journal, so I sent it in an email instead:

 

It hit me last night when I was getting ready to go to sleep… you are married.  Nothing will ever be the same anymore, coming home to visit will never be the same anymore, but that’s okay.  Change is a part of life, and without it, we never really get anywhere…

…I didn’t know what to write in your journal yesterday, and so I didn’t.  But if this had come to me then, this is what I would have put in there:

 Take every day as it comes.  The whole point of life is to be happy, and if you are both happy in the moment, always, you don’t ever have to worry about being happy tomorrow.  

 

Because all of this is true.  Change, in and of itself, is a part of life.  Without it, we’d be stagnant.  Without it, we’d be stuck in a never-ending pattern that never gets us anywhere – things would always stay the same.  And while, maybe for some moments, that would be a good thing, for others, it would not be.  And even for the good moments, change is necessary so that we can move onto the next phase of wherever it is we are supposed to be going, good or bad.  The hard part, in essence, is being ready for it, whatever it brings.

Planting Roots

I’m a strange girl… I prefer funerals to weddings every time, hands down.  Part of that reason, though, makes perfect sense.  Weddings tend to bring out the worst in people.  They are stressful, depending on the level of “bridezilla” everyone turns into a monster, and every last bit of family drama comes to the surface.  With funerals, I don’t care how awful a person you were in life, no one ever has anything bad to say about you after you’re dead.

And this, ultimately, is why I did not want to go to my sister’s wedding; why I still do not want to go.  But I am going anyway.  For her.  Though the terms, and the situation, is not what I hoped it would be.  True to form, when we decided to start discussing it, the past was brought to the forefront.  My mother, who has been a nitpicker since I became a rebellious, sullen teenager that started questioning everything she’d been taught never to question (namely, religion, morals, and “right” vs. “wrong), always uses these opportunities to engage in the “hard discussions” – she uses these opportunities to evangelize.  To spread the gospel to her horrible, lost, rebellious daughter.  And she uses these opportunities to bring to light everything I have ever done to disappoint her.  I’ve named these things before – but for those of you that don’t remember, or who are just now joining me, I’ll list a few: a modeling career she didn’t approve of, living with a man before I married him, marrying the wrong person (at their behest, though they like to pretend they didn’t have a hand in it), having sex as a teenager, moving to Florida, wearing too much eyeliner sometimes… it goes on and on (and yes, I’m being honest, these minor infractions that are quite mainstream are really, to her, horrible).

But because I love my sister, though we are not close, I agreed to go.  Being in it was not an option.  After I’d thought about it, I realized that with flight times, it was not logistically going to be possible.  When I told my mother this, she blew up at me – as if I can control the flight times, the clock, and the timing of this wedding (which is happening way too fast in my opinion).  More stuff was brought up, she called me selfish (anyone who really knows me, knows that I am FAR from selfish), we had a shouting match.  My father, later, after hearing her side, took it and now treats me like a stranger, making it very apparent that if I come up there with an attitude (an attitude, to him, is not using the baby voice the way that my sister does – something I have never done), that I will be thrown out.  To save myself the trouble of being thrown out, I have elected to get a hotel room in Louisville.

But the whole situation says something much larger about my future, and about the future of my relationship with my family.  Things have been… unstable… for sixteen years.  They get better, but then they get worse – irrevocably so.  At this point, so many things have been said, by both parties, that we are not able to let go.  And there have been things done, to me, that I cannot forget – being beaten as a teenager for nothing at all, enduring the always overwhelming feeling of being second best.  The deterioration, I knew, would cause an eventual split.  I’d hoped I was wrong about that – I’d hoped that we’d be able to go on, being civil to each other, I’d come home when I felt like I could – when I’d recovered from the latest “Let’s tear into Victoria” time, pretend like everything was fine, then go home to the silence.

Now I know that that is no longer possible.  I mean I’ve known that their town is not my home for a very long time – it hasn’t felt like home to me since 1997, and less so since I started moving out during the summers beginning in 1999 until I moved out, permanently, in 2001.  Still, you know, that’s where you are always supposed to be able to go when shit hits the fan everywhere else.  It hasn’t been that way, not really, for a very long time, but it had been civil enough that I was able to pretend.  I can’t pretend anymore.  It’s a little disturbing.  But really, it’s more of a relief.  I don’t know, I’m sad and happy all at the same time – sad that things have gone so far to shit that they are irreversible, but happy as if I’ve just gotten out of a toxic relationship that I’d stayed in for far too long.

But it does pose the question: If my roots are not in Kentucky anymore (because that’s really what’s happened here – my roots are gone), then where are they?  The answer, right now, is nowhere.  This doesn’t scare me as much as it should.  As I told Botboy in the previous post – I’m a brave girl when it comes to doing what needs to be done.

And what needs to be done, now, is making a home for myself.  A real one.  One that I feel like I can come back to, no matter what, when the world goes to shit.  I know that won’t be easy to do.  I don’t even know that Florida is where that home is, but what I DO know, is that Florida has felt more like home to me (even when I didn’t live here, even when I was only visiting as a teenager) than any place ever has.  So because of that, right now, I’m going to stay.  I’m going to give it a fair shot.  There are opportunities I have here that I have nowhere else.  I have a good job.  My best friend in the whole world, the one person that knows how I feel without ever having to say it, is here.  The weather is damn near perfect.  And it is half a country away from the people that have made me feel the worst about myself.

It’s not that I’m not scared.  I’m fucking terrified.  Because now, for better or worse, aside from my friends that are here for emotional support and my cat who doesn’t leave my side, I really am alone.  I can’t call my family when things go to shit.  When UK beats UL, I can’t call my dad and trash talk Rick Pitino.  I will have to learn to be alone for Christmas and to be okay with it.  But it’s exciting, too.  Because where there is loss, there is opportunity.  And this is a big one.  But, then, I think everything I’ve done, everywhere I’ve been, everything I’ve gone through has prepared me for this.  This one moment.

I have suspected, for a long time, that what I am now, and what I want now – and who I used to be (who they wanted me to be) could not coexist.  I know this, now, to be true.  I won’t compromise who I am for who someone else wants me to be.  Florida is the foundation.  Because, for now, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather go.  Here I’ll find a house.  Hopefully find someone, eventually, to settle down with (that won’t echo the shit that my parents have put me through over the last several years).  Build something solid that I can run back to when the world around me goes to shit.

I’ll do it.  Because the only alternative is to give up.  And that isn’t an option.

What If?

In 1999, when I was sixteen years old, I moved out for the summer for the first time to go work at a camp.  I met a boy there.  We fell in love.  There were fireworks, he was my first, and six months later, on December 18, he gave me a ring to replace the promise ring he’d put on my finger a month before.  As it was being sized, two months later, in February 2000, a woman who was 28 years old (and who he had apparently been in love with since he was eight) told him she loved him.  He became confused, left me for her, I was devastated.

It was the shock of my life – at least back then.  I didn’t want to get out of bed for weeks (and did only to go to school – the rest of the time, I spent moping in my bedroom).  I ate, but didn’t taste anything.  I broke another boy’s heart when he asked me to prom because I realized I just wasn’t over the first one enough yet to really be with anyone else.

Four months later, I agreed to work at the camp again.  I knew he would be there.  I don’t know what I expected to come of it… but things were very awkward.  He was still seeing the woman.  She had a two year old son that was mad about him.  He was crazy about her.  Despite all of that, we were the only two staff members in residence that summer, so we were forced to share the living space above the dining hall once the day was over and everyone else had gone home.  Awkward silences spent staring at each other from across the breakfast table eventually became limited conversations which evolved, finally, into hour-long talks that never ended, quite, in a reconciliation, but the interest was still there.  He felt it, I felt it.  And I still loved him.

On the Fourth of July weekend, the camp always hosts a special festival event for the small town that it’s located in.  The camp staff usually works the hot-dog and refreshment stand.  I wasn’t scheduled to work until that Saturday, and I was looking forward to having the Friday off.  The guy, also, had finished his work for the day, and we’d sat upstairs talking.  Finally, he’d invited me to go with him to visit his sister, her boyfriend, and their kids.  It was a three mile walk, but I didn’t care… this was the alone time I’d been looking for.  And I said of course I’d go – I had to change my shoes.  About that time, my boss came upstairs, frantic, because the girl who was supposed to work the evening shift that night didn’t show up.  She asked if I would work.  I didn’t have a choice… I lived there… I was the only one that could be there.

He walked out to the stand with me, and I asked him if he could wait.  He said he couldn’t… he wanted to get there before dark.  I understood that… walking down a busy highway at night is not the safest thing to do – especially when there is not only traffic to worry about but coyotes as well.  And so he set off.  Several weeks later, he took another job with a construction company.  Permanent, and making better money.  I was happy for him.  Whatever happened between the two of them, he needed a job now that he was out of school and had decided against joining the army despite his ROTC program.

But I still wondered what would have happened had we gone on that walk.  I felt, the way that I feel things, that something would have turned that evening.  In my favor.  Knowing what I know now, that my gut feelings are rarely, if ever, wrong, I believe that things would have been very different once the evening had completed, had I gone with him instead of spending my time working in the Canteen.  But things were what they were.  He married her.  I moved on and married someone else.  They are still married, they have a little girl.  I am… well… divorced.  And in some ways, I’m grateful that it didn’t work out.  It would have been a hard life, and I don’t know that a marriage between us would have lasted – we were both so very young.  But still, I wondered.  Because sometimes “What If” is worse than anything else.  You can try and fail, but at least then you know.  “What If” just… lingers… with no resolution.

But I believe the past resonates.  I believe that, if we just wait long enough, we are given a second chance… a chance to repeat where we were before.  A chance to clarify a resolution that never came.  A chance to resolve the “What If” question.  The past resonates.  It repeats itself.  But the repeats are more of a “harmony” than they are a carbon copy of the past.  One can say things differently, do things differently, wait if they want to wait, work if they want to work, and go on walks, if they want to go on walks.

I experienced the same shock, the same devastation, eight months ago when Botboy came back from Afghanistan and left suddenly.  It was the same surprise, the same unpredictability, the same chaos and the same depression that had set in before.  And for at least a week after, I was back where I was before.  He was the only other man that ever affected me that way.  But the depression didn’t last as long… I wouldn’t let it – a casualty had come out of the first one, and while the casualty wouldn’t come out of the second one, I wouldn’t let those feelings eat me alive, either, so I got busy doing other things.  Time passed.  Things healed.  I wouldn’t say I got over it entirely, but I was better.  Botboy started calling again, we talked.  And finally, in January, we went to dinner – a “flashback” date as he called it.

And so, two months ago, when I was in the car with Botboy, and we were talking, despite the fact that I was very much in the present, and very much interested in what he had to say, and very much smitten with him, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities.  Botboy was not, by his account anyway, seeing anyone else.  Or in a relationship.  Or married.  But there were similarities all the same.  The way we talked.  The things we said to each other.  The two of them look nothing alike.  Their mannerisms are nothing alike, and they don’t even speak the same way.  But there were enough similarities there that my mind was drawn, for an instant, back to the summer of 2000 when Jacob was leaving for his sister’s house, and how he’d invited me to go with him.

Somehow I knew that this was a repeat of the walk that I never got to take.  It wasn’t the same… hell, we weren’t even walking, I was driving, and when we got back to the parking lot, we were standing between our cars (and Jacob didn’t have a car).  But the feeling was the same.  Botboy did not invite me along with him that night – it wasn’t that kind of evening.  And we aren’t kids.  But I was given an option all the same.  I could walk away, I could go, do whatever I wanted to do, and, likely, be gone by the time he got back.  Or I could stay.  I could wait.  I could see what happens.

I chose to wait.  Because I love him, yes.  But also because I know, because I feel it in my bones, that this is the answer to the “What If” question I’ve been looking for since I was seventeen.  Botboy is not Jacob (thank god – I love Botboy now more completely than I ever could have loved Jacob at the age of seventeen).  And this is not an instance where I am being called to work an emergency shift at the Canteen.  But it is another “What If” situation.

If, once his adventure is over, he comes back to me, I’m willing to make a go of it.  At least to try, to make an effort, to see if we can.  And if he doesn’t?  Well, I’ll be disappointed.  Not as devastated as last time – I won’t be so blindsided this time.

Regardless, though, once this waiting cycle is over, I believe I’ll finally know what would have happened had I gotten to go on that walk.  And then there’ll be a new phase, though I don’t know what it will look like.

Silence

The loudest noise in the whole world is silence.

In every other instance, we find ourselves able to drown the silence out with noise, with chaos, with the comings and goings of our daily lives.  We can occupy our time, and our minds, with the menial tasks that we throw ourselves into on a daily basis.  We distract ourselves with work, with mindless television shows, with our hobbies, with our friends.

Until everyone goes home.  Or we run out of supplies.  Or we run out of money.  Or we run out of work to do.

And then there is silence.

Suffocating, deafening, all-encompassing.  It’s in the silence that we hear ourselves.  It’s in the silence that we hear all of the things we want to hear, and all of the things we never wanted to hear.  It’s the silence that makes us look at ourselves under a microscope, that makes us dissect every little thing we’ve ever thought, every little thing we’ve ever heard, every little thing that everyone has ever said to us, or about us.

It’s in the silence that we, for better or worse, internalize those things.  It’s in the silence that we over-analyze these things until they become second nature – whether they are true or not, whether we accept that they are true or not, we make them a part of ourselves.

There’s been a lot of silence at my house lately.  Too much silence.  Botboy is away, communication from him is minimal (and I sort of assumed that would happen).  And while I miss him, that’s not really the biggest worry that I have – because eventually, all of that will, for better or worse, resolve itself.

No, the deafening silence comes from all of the anxiety over the things that were said to me at Christmas.  But let me begin at the (sort of) beginning.  My mother and I have a strange relationship.  We were close, once, when I was little and malleable.  As I grew up, though, and my stubborn streak came into play, she became more and more frustrated with me, and more and more disappointed when I did not live up to the things she wanted for me.  This has snowballed into disappointment over a bad marriage, an even more humiliating divorce, a move that placed me 1000 miles away from her, the fact that I do not go to church regularly (or really at all, unless I’m home and need to keep appearances up– she’d die if she knew what I was really doing), a modeling career she did not approve of, etc. I suppose it is the breaking point that I am not, and cannot, live up to being the person, even personally, that she wants me to be.  Because what she really wants is the bubbly, cheerleader type of child, that listens, that will go to church with her, and that is not full of strange ideas.  Now, I’m not an unhappy person… or even a negative person… but I am sarcastic.  A smart ass.  And I have many, many strange ideas and interests that she does not understand… beginning with the strong aversion to chick flicks (Downton Abbey excluded, I’ll admit, I’m hooked) with flowery, happy endings.

Which is why, I suppose, she decided over Christmas to sit me down in the living room and accuse me of being bipolar.  I’m not.  And she’s no professional.  But diagnose me she did.  On top of that, she (and my father too – at a different time during that visit) seemed intent on assuring me that I would never really be happy married and that I shouldn’t worry too much about having children.  I looked at each of them, coldly, and said that they were right… I would never be happy if I were married to the wrong person.  But had I married the right person, things might have turned out very differently.  And as for children, I do want them very much.  Being thirty-one without any, when that is what I really do want, is frustrating.

But what’s worse is having your own parents, the people that are supposed to be supportive of you, sit you down and just throw it in your face as if it were nothing.  Granted, I did not tell her that those two things were my biggest fears (not marrying, and not having children).  I don’t admit ANY of my fears readily to people (oops, I guess I just did – GASP) and certainly not to them, who have not always been the most understanding people to talk to.  I keep those things largely to myself.  Wrapped in grubby newspaper in the back of my head in a corner so that I don’t have to think about them very often.  I’ve even managed to do that, to a large extent, with the majority of their disapproval – I accepted long ago that they were never going to approve of me for ME.  I learned to live with it by throwing it into the back of my mind, in its own compartment, so that I didn’t have to look at it.  I like myself well enough, my friends seem to like me well enough, didn’t matter what they thought.

Except for times like this… when my sister decides to get married, and I’m expected to be there.  I love my sister.  We haven’t always gotten along either, but I do love my sister.  It’s not her fault that our mother wishes I could be more like her, and it’s not her fault that they wildly preferred to go to her school functions over mine.  It’s not even her fault that they canceled their fall trip to Florida because she decided to go on vacation with them.  She didn’t have anything to do with that any more than we had anything to do with our opposing hair color.  But I do not want to go.  I do not want to put myself through that ordeal again, of having to sit there, and be psychoanalyzed by my own parents.  I do not want to, by proxy, have my own failed marriage brought into the limelight again, and have to answer questions about whether or not I am seeing anyone (because I can’t go into detail, period, about anything – not when things are so up in the air).  Not because I can’t bear it when I am in the middle of it… for me it’s like a personal battle I have to fight – how much can I endure without cracking?

But because once it’s all said and done, I have to come home to the silence.  Where there is no one to continually put me under a microscope, but also where there is no one to distract me from my own thoughts.  It doesn’t matter whether I believe her or not.  Because I don’t.  Not really.  But that doesn’t mean those stupid inner demons don’t keep poking at me, whispering about how I can’t even keep a man in my life for longer than a few months these days, how I can’t get into anything stable and healthy, how my damned clock is ticking louder and louder and louder, and how I really can’t say for sure when it’s going to stop since my biological mother died long before she hit menopause.  Whispering how do I KNOW she is wrong?

No, I’d prefer to stay here… not that the demons don’t whisper at me, they do.  The silence is deafening because they not only echo the insecurities that were brought painfully into the center ring over Christmas, but because there is the anxiety over this unfinished Botboy situation and the acknowledgement that I have no control over it.   That said, those insecurities are largely under control.  Or at least they are managed.  But I’ve managed them so well that I don’t want to add any more to the load.  And I know that if I go up there, more would be added.  I know that the load would become heavier than it is already.  I can carry it… I am freakishly strong for my size.  And I’ve carried far worse in my day.  But I’m tired of carrying this shit around.

I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination.  And I don’t really know what I believe sometimes.  But if I were a praying person, I’d pray that someone would come along to prove her wrong.  And that someday I can put a family together that will thrive on building each other up instead of tearing each other down; a family that is not so over-involved with appearances that they don’t push the “different” one into a corner somewhere and lavish approval on the one that is more normal.  But, even more, I’d pray for an atmosphere in which the silence is peaceful, and not so deafening.

It’s not a lot to ask.

But maybe, in this case, it’s simply too much.

Valentine’s Day

I used to love Valentine’s Day.  When I was a kid.  Because when I was a kid, it was fun.  You bought Valentines.  You put your name on them.  You passed them out at school, to everyone, because everyone made their Valentines Day card pouch.  You had those silly elementary school parties where you stuffed yourself stupid on junk food and got to spend the afternoon watching Disney movies instead of doing math problems.  Then, if you were at my house, you went home and your parents gave you Valentine’s Day presents and then you watched them open theirs, your mother made a fabulous dinner, and you retired onto the couch afterward, watching Alfred Hitchcock and Superman reruns on TV Land before going to bed.

I started hating it in High School.  In High School it became a competition to see who was going to get flowers that year versus who didn’t.  You waited until the middle of the day when the front office looked like an extension of the local florist.  And then they’d start calling names to come pick up their flowers from their boyfriends.  One by one, girls would go to the front to get their flowers, each with a bouquet bigger than the other.  I was the tall, skinny, awkward, acne-ridden freshman and sophomore.  Flowers did not get delivered to me.  I’d sit there, doing homework, doodling in my homework planner, or otherwise writing letters to my out-of-state friends, and I’d pretend not to care.  But secretly, it mattered.  And it mattered a lot.  Not that I would have admitted that to anyone then.  Or even to myself.

And then, finally, there was the Valentines Day in 2000.  I’d been seeing a guy for months.  Met him at camp.  I was happy.  I was turning eighteen in a few more months.  We were going to get married.  He was poor.  I didn’t care.  In January, toward the end of the month, he left me for a twenty-eight year old woman with a two year old son.  That, in and of itself, was horrifying.  At seventeen you are not supposed to see twenty-eight year old women (ancient, by your standards at that age) as competition for your nineteen year old boyfriend.  That just isn’t supposed to happen…  But it did.  And I was devastated for months.  Like for serious, I didn’t really even get out of bed except to go to school for months after.  Valentines Day 2000, watching the girls go get their flowers that day, that was painful.  But what was even worse was that he called me that night… and he wanted to get back together.  I loved him.  Deeply.  I agreed immediately because that was all I really wanted.  Two hours later, he called to say that she had shown up at his house and he’d changed his mind.  Devastation again, made worse by the fact that I went to visit him the following weekend where he gave me my Valentine’s Day present – a large, stuffed white bear that I kept for years.  I finally gave it away to Goodwill last winter… it had spent most of the previous decade in a box.

After that, for years, I’d get dumped on Valentines Day.  It was like a curse… I could be in a great relationship, and it would all come crashing around my ears on that day, or on that weekend.  So naturally, I wasn’t a fan.

Combine that with the fact that even when I was married, we never celebrated it – my husband had to work every holiday, Valentine’s Day was no exception.  There is no stop to the gambling on holidays – they overschedule because they think they’ll be busy.  I’d spend that day home, cooking, cleaning, freezing because of the winter, watching all the pathetic Kay’s Jewelers commercials on TV, listening to people talk about all the fun stuff they were doing with their significant others.  And again, I’d pretend not to care.  Secretly I did.  Not because I loved him.  I question, now, whether I ever really did.  But because I felt left out.  Everyone else was having these great experiences.  Mine were nothing but memories of being dumped unceremoniously around that day or, if not getting dumped, sitting by myself most of the night in that big lonely house with two cats, waiting for my husband to come home, strip so that his ever-growing gut would pour over the front of his too tight pants, and watch TV as he ate copious amounts of junk food until bedtime where he would go, attempt to fuck me (if I was lucky), fail, and pass out after crying a bunch.

That said, there’s such thing as conditioning.  After years of not getting anything for Valentines Day, you start to expect nothing.  And honestly, I was kind of okay with that when, after the divorce, I was on my own on that day.  At least if I were alone, I wasn’t sitting around thinking about what I COULD be doing if my significant other just had a better job, or could keep it up, or whatever.  At least when I had my own place, I wasn’t having to watch flowers being delivered for everyone except me.  And I had my vibrator.  That was more dependable than what I’d been exposed to for the last six years.

Things looked up a little, though, after I moved to Florida.  Gatsby gave me an electric blanket for the Valentine’s Day we were together.  I wasn’t getting dumped.  I wasn’t being showered with affection, in fact he was telling me he wasn’t “sold” yet, but by then I’d learned to take whatever I could get.  The following year, before Valentines Day could ever even roll around, I bought tickets to fly up to Columbus, Ohio for a goth masquerade ball which was being held the weekend of Valentine’s Day.  I figured, at that point, if I was single… well… at least I’d be distracted.  And the goth theme really seemed to sum up how I felt about that day.

I didn’t anticipate being in a relationship with Botboy when I bought those tickets.  I didn’t expect anything out of him at all, really, since he was where he was right then, we hadn’t been together that long, and anyway, I was heading north.  Materially, I didn’t get anything.  I sent him some “coffee”, and some of the other stuff he’d asked for.  He was getting stuff he wanted.  I was getting stuff I wanted.  It was good.  It arrived, for him, exactly when I wanted it to – on the weekend I’d be gone so he’d be nice and distracted and wouldn’t miss me too much.  But it was during that plane ride that I got the best Valentine’s Day gift I’d ever gotten.  Whether he meant it or whether it was the alcohol talking, I do not know.  And I may never know.  But he told me he loved me.  He never said it when sober.  I never asked him to.  Mostly because I was afraid of the answer he’d give me when he was sober… if what he’d said when he was drunk wasn’t the truth, I didn’t want to know.

And I guess that’s when I really realized… it’s not about the flowers.  It’s not about the chocolates (it’s REALLY not about the chocolates).  It doesn’t really have to do with any of those things.  Because I’d gotten a gift the year before, and it had been nice, and I used it on my bed all the time.  But without any real emotion behind it, it was just what it was: a blanket.  And I suppose you could argue that Botboy’s words were just that: words.  Especially since, now that I look back on it, I don’t know whether he meant any of them or not.  But without actually having to give me anything, without having to send me flowers, without having to give me expensive pieces of jewelry, he said something to me that I’d really needed to hear.  Something that I hadn’t heard with any kind of conviction in nearly five years.  And I believed him.  Whether he meant it or not, I believed him.  Because I needed to.  And what’s more, I loved him too.  I still do (and he knows that). And, for the record, I am still afraid to ask whether the feeling is mutual, because I’m afraid of the answer.  Yes, I’m chicken shit.  Sue me.

This year, I’m on my own again.  At least mostly.  Now I’m waiting for Botboy to come back (back as in back from his adventures) again, but things aren’t the same as they were last year.  I’m okay with that – as I’ve said before – I’d rather sit here and wait for the possibility that I can have what I want, since the alternative is not waiting with the certainty that I’ll never have it.  I’ll be alone on Valentine’s Day weekend.  There may not be flowers.  There may not be electric blankets.  There may not be words typed to me over gchat while I am thousands of feet in the air and the speaker is a world away.  Would I rather it were different?  Of course.  But not in that I want to make plans to go out and do something fancy for it.  Not in the essence that I want to have some crazy gift exchange.

But there will be food.  There will be painting.  There will be… well… whatever I want there to be.  I won’t be sitting around here, moping, calling it “Singles Awareness Day” the way that some of my friends do.  I won’t be depressed because there is no reason to be.  It could have been different, of course, but it’s not.  And this time, it’s because I actively chose for it not to be.  I could have gotten a date.  I don’t have to sit here by myself if I don’t want to.  But in truth, other than Botboy, there is no one else that I want.  And pretending otherwise is not fair to them.  Or to myself.  And anyway, before he left, I told him I would wait.  And, whatever happens at the end of this “midseason break” as I’ve taken to calling it, I will wait.

So I’ll sit in my house on Friday night.  I already bought myself a Valentines Day present.  Candles lit, as usual, since it also happens to be a full moon.  I will probably walk several miles.  I will likely watch something completely un-chick-flicky on TV later – maybe stuff about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre… And that will be that.

All in all, not such a terrible way to spend it.  I mean look at it this way… I’m not getting dumped…  See? Things could always be worse.

Internet Dating Escapades Part XVII

singles23

 

‘Nuff said.

The Past Resonates

I had a vision a couple of weeks ago.  In a dream.  There were a lot of lights.  A lot of watches, clocks, circling, swirling around.  And a bunch of people I didn’t know, saying over and over and over that “The Past Resonates.”  I woke up.  I didn’t know what it meant.  I still don’t know, entirely, what it meant.  But I believe one of the meanings lies with this:

I think every girl has that one ex… the one who, despite the time, despite the distance, despite everything, the one that always seems to come back into her mind time and time again.  And who, if she’s lucky, still checks in on occasion.  “Sex and the City” would call this the Mr. Big effect.  Maybe it is.  I can think of no better comparison for it.

Mine is one I dated in college, I call him The Professor.  He was significantly older than I was… at 19 and 26, it was an unlikely paring.  He was working on a Masters.  I barely had a semester of my Bachelors under my belt.  But we met.  And we dated.  And it ended… not, for once, because we didn’t or couldn’t get along but because he was moving, and because I didn’t want a long distance relationship and I couldn’t follow.  It was more complicated than that, looking back on it, but being nineteen and arrogant, I figured I could replace him.  And anyway, after six months he’d never used the “L” word and the one time I did, he didn’t respond.  I could do better, I thought.

Fast forward over a decade later.  We’ve kept in touch.  It seems like every time I break up with someone, every time something goes a little wrong in my life (and even when things go a little right), he shows up out of the blue, for one reason or another.  I got married first.  And divorced.  He married  someone else.  They seemed happy.  I assumed it would last forever and despite the fact that he would try to engage me in sex talk occasionally, I wished him well.  Whatever happened a decade before had happened already.  It didn’t matter anymore.  Water under the bridge.  And while I, occasionally, would wonder what would have happened had I been a little bit older, had I had a little more experience, had we stayed together, I assumed things happened just the way they happened for a reason.  And I believe that even now.

I guess it was a year ago that we talked.  Really talked.  And that’s when he told me that he had been in love with me back then but hadn’t had the nerve to say it.  And then asked what I would do if he showed up at my door right then.  “Nothing,” I answered.  “You’re married.  And anyway, even if you did show up at my door, I highly doubt that given the prospect of actually doing anything about it, you would have the nerve.”  I meant that.  Despite the previous blog, I don’t mess around with married men.  His words made me think – made me realize that sometimes we do stupid things when we are young that change the outcome of our fates.  Had he told me that before he moved back in 2002, I thought, I’d have at least held on a little longer, to see if we could have made it work.

But it still didn’t matter.  He said what he said, and I heard it, but even still, he was married.  I jokingly told him to let me know when he got a divorce and I moved on.   I was with Gatsby, trying desperately to make that piece of insanity last.  Gatsby didn’t work out, of course.  And then I met Bot.  And I was happy with Bot.  And consequentially, that was the thing about Professor.  No matter what I was doing… no matter who I was with or how happy I was, he could always manage to swoop in, start asking invasive questions about my sex life, my relationships, and while he never exactly made me second guess what I was doing, I always felt a little dirty after the conversation.  I wasn’t going to let him soil the relationship I had with Bot.  Bot was so far away, and things were so fragile, and Bot had had that horrible experience with his ex that I didn’t want anything to spoil it.  So I cut ties.  And months went by.  Bot came in, left me high and dry, and left.

I hadn’t heard from Professor in all that time.  I’d thought about reaching out a time or two and then decided it was better to leave well enough alone.

And then, two months after the Bot drama, I got an email, telling me about his divorce.  My heart went out to him, it really did.  Their marriage had not been like mine.  Not what I had known about it anyway.  They’d really cared about each other.  I knew he was hurting.  And I began to talk to him.  Easily.  As a friend.  Because that’s what he needed right now… what no one tells you about divorce is that at the same time you’re having to move your shit out of your house and having to reorganize your life, your friend-circle significantly changes too since people begin to choose sides.  I did what I felt I could for him.

We talked about visiting… about seeing each other again for the first time in a decade.  I’m excited about the prospect of this, but I was adamant.  I’m not a rebound.  I won’t be a rebound.  And while some of our conversations can be infuriating at times as he struggles with his post-divorce emotions and his frustrating habit of turning everything into a sex talk (that I won’t be drawn into), it’s intriguing all the same.  Because this is the one that got away.

And still, I’m not putting my eggs into this basket.  Or any basket, really, and I’m certainly not making the same mistake of waiting indefinitely for a man I haven’t seen (ever, or in ages) ever again.  But he’s become a fixture in my life (at least for the time being).  His texts have replaced Bot’s.  His Skypes have given me a reason to use that program again in a way that doesn’t remind me of the evening Skype chats I’d have with Botboy.  I’m having fun.  And I’ve missed my friend.

But, of course, that’s not all there is to it.  He’s interested.  Of course he is.  Whatever we had ten years ago hasn’t died.  I’d say not on my part, nor on his.  And I’ve known that for awhile.  Since it all ended, really.  He’s being very careful right now, but his jealousy of Metalhead makes that even more evident.  It’s not just jealousy over the fact that I’m sleeping with Metalhead, but jealousy that Metalhead can tell me how he feels right now, can hang out with me right now, and he can’t (his words).  He won’t use me, he says.  And he has no idea, he can’t have any idea, how grateful I am to him for not using me… for not doing what Bot did to me after his divorce.

There’s a lot to think about, too.  He’s far away now… in Kansas.  And he has a good job.  But, then, so do I.  And I have no desire to do anything long distance either for any distinctive length of time.  I also have no desire to leave Florida for the Bible Belt and for a state that has “true” winter.  But, for the time being, we aren’t there.  And I’ve made a new resolution to take things as they come, despite the fact that my very forward-thinking brain likes to race often.  Thinking about what doesn’t exist yet, though, is only inventing problems.

And so, for the present, we’re going to Disney World.  Time to be determined, but I feel that it will be soon.  We are going to go to Disney, ride some coasters, have dinner together, and get to know each other again.  Taking it with slow, measured steps.  And I’m excited.  I haven’t been to Disney World since 1994.  I’m excited to see my friend.  I’m excited to see what comes of all of this.

But I’m nervous all at the same time – both at seeing him after a decade, and because I know that if something happens on either side, with Professor or Metalhead, someone is going to end up getting hurt and I’ll be the one to blame (I hate hurting people).  But… whatever happens, for the first time in a decade, I feel like I’m getting the best year of my life back (because that year when he spent half of it with me WAS the best year of my life so far).  I feel like I’m young again, before my divorce, before that nasty mess, before Buttface, before Gastby, before Botboy.  I feel like I’m getting the chance to really see what it might have been like had I NOT walked away.  I feel almost like I’m being given a second chance.

The past resonates.  Loudly and clearly.  I don’t always understand what it means, I don’t always understand what is coming.  And often, when it resonates, it resonates in the worst ways.  This time?  This time I’m liking the sound of the echo.

Communication

The next four weeks, for me, are a countdown of sorts.  And partially due to this countdown and partially due to some inspiration taken from one of my friends at work, I’ve decided to do a series on the four “pillars” of a successful relationship.  These are not the only pillars, by any stretch of the imagination, and your own experiences may have you placing a higher value on some of these more than others – or even replacing some of these with others .  But from my own experience, this is what I know:

I’ve had a lot of relationships.  And in all of them, I can honestly say that the one factor that really made or broke the relationship was communication.  And when I say communication, I don’t mean the amount of communication.  I don’t need to be in contact with my significant other all day, every day, every hour, every minute, and every second.  I don’t need to know everything that person is doing, I don’t need a breakdown of every detail.

No, what I’m talking about here is communication in the sense that both people in the relationship realize what they need and they find a way to communicate that to each other constructively.  Constructive communication is meant to build up the other person, to strengthen the relationship.  When you’re talking, communicating, having a civil, constructive conversation, each person comes out of it realizing what the other person needs, issues can be resolved, things get fixed.  Without solid communication, unless you are some sort of mind-reader, there are misunderstandings, chaos, utter breakdown – and, ultimately, bitterness which leads to failure.  I suppose what I’m trying to say is quality exceeds quantity.

My marriage, for example, was a complete failure.  Things broke, in this case, because we were two incompatible people that were trying to make things work when they weren’t supposed to.  Things became intolerable and unnecessarily inflammatory because we chose the wrong ways to communicate.  Frustration over the things we could not agree on got the better of us.  Emotions ran high.  We lost our tempers.  Simple discussions became screaming matches very quickly and while the divorce was probably the most civil part of that entire relationship, that isn’t really something to be proud of.  By the time the divorce was done, we didn’t care enough to fight anymore.  We were both tired and we both wanted out.  At least, I guess, that was something we could both agree on.

I suppose in this sense, yes, there was communication, but it was the inflammatory kind.  Emotions got too tied up into it.  He was an overemotional bastard and anytime I pointed out something that I needed or something that I wasn’t getting, it was as if I was making a personal attack.  Was I perfect?  Probably not.  I have a bad habit sometimes of thinking before I speak and I did that a lot in those days.  I’m sure there were times when I really was being inflammatory and was really irritating the already touchy situation by saying things I shouldn’t have said.  (Calling him a dumbass when he said he didn’t want his children to be booksmart like me is a very good example.)

Buttface, who I’ve also mentioned before, came after that marriage.  And this was the exact opposite.  Ironically, the relationship began online.  Chat rooms don’t give you the luxury of reading body language or facial expressions.  You type.  You talk.  You get to know someone else.  And so, when he and I started to see each other post-divorces, I assumed that communication would come easily for us.  The funny thing is, we had no problems communicating… we could sit and talk for hours about the most asinine things.  Sharing the same sense of humor meant we found the same inappropriate things funny.  The good times were really good times… he was non-confrontational and didn’t seem to mind if I did what I wanted to do.  I was passive enough after the horrific marital experience to not want to press any issues that I may have been upset about.  I went into it saying I didn’t want to fight, and we didn’t fight.  Ever.

But looking back on some of the things I wrote during those days, especially as things started to fall apart, I’ve realized that while we were fine when things weren’t important, we were horrible at discussing the big things.  I was intimidated.  Conditioned, even.   I’d gotten so used to being screamed at when I tried to express things that I needed that I didn’t have the balls to rock the boat in this new situation.

And he, well, I don’t know his excuses (and I don’t care to know) but we can safely say that when it came to the big things, he was never open enough with me to just talk about it.  There were plenty of things wrong in that situation… I know that now.  He wanted things that, had he asked, I’d have happily given him.  But he never told me, and I am not a mind reader.  I was so conditioned not to push matters, and so confused about how to ask the questions I needed to ask, that I was willing to let things drag on so that they could “fix” themselves.  But that’s not how solutions are reached, either.

At any rate, while we never had a knock-down-drag-out fight about it like in my marriage, I knew something was wrong when we stopped talking at all.  The conversations about the non-important things stopped.  He became distant.  There was never a conversation about what we needed to do to work things out, there was never the conversation about what he needed versus what I needed, there was never any middle ground reached.  Things just kind of went on the way they went on – he’d hang out with me (though not sleep with me), I’d still hang out with him, we’d eat together, he’d spend the rest of his time playing video games (and I’d play occasionally too), and I’d sit there wondering where it had all gone wrong.  How had we gotten from him telling me he wanted to “keep” me, to practically ignoring me altogether with the exception to the awkward hug I’d get when I’d leave to drive home?

The passive-aggressive treatment continued until, finally, I made the discovery that he was seeing someone else.  Not one to be passive-aggressive if I have the evidence in hand, I communicated this to him immediately.  I broke it off, cleanly, and with probably more words than I’d said to him in six months.  It ended, but I was still burnt up about it.

Sometimes I think passive-aggressive communication is worse than even the abusive kind… when that’s the monster you’re dealing with, you don’t know what caused it, there are no conversations about it, things just kind of fall apart and you’re left holding the pieces and thinking my god, what the hell just happened here?  Avoidance may look like the easy way out, but I can assure you, there is plenty of drama after the fallout begins and it’s much, much worse than the drama of just “dropping the hammer” so to speak.

There are many ways to communicate with people.  And I’ve come to realize that there are, unfortunately, more negative ways than positive.  Positive, constructive communication is simple:  you know what you need, you find a clear, logical way to ask for what you need.  Then you actually listen with an open mind to what the other person has to say (that’s really, really, really important), and then, if you really want things to work, together you try to find some sort of solution.  Constructive communication is NOT attacking the other person.  Constructive communication is NOT ignoring the other person, either because you don’t care enough to discuss the issues (if you don’t care enough, seriously, you should just leave) or because you are too non-confrontational to discuss the issues.

And as I mentioned before, listening is really important too.  That’s the key to any kind of communication happening at all.  If there’s no listening, you may as well be having a conversation with a brick wall.  And when you listen, you do it with an open mind.  You take the other person into consideration.  You try to understand what they’re saying, even if sometimes they do not express it in the most eloquent of ways and even if you don’t agree.  You internalize it, and you try to see it from the other person’s perspective.  Even people with polarizing opinions are able to reach a compromise if they really try, and compromise can only be reached by really, truly, listening to what the other person has to say, and, further, caring enough to take their opinions into consideration.

Relationships aren’t one-way affairs, communication within a relationship cannot be a one-way affair.  You don’t simply wake up one morning, on the same page, with everything neatly in place and a big bow on top of it.  It would be nice, but it doesn’t work that way.

Relationships are a lot of work.  And in order for them to work, you have to want the same things.  From that same blueprint, you share a dream, you think together, and you communicate those ideas to make that happen.  When you don’t, you flounder around without direction, without purpose, and when things go wrong, because there was never a common goal to begin with, there’s nothing left to talk about.  Suddenly, you’re fighting without knowing what you’re fighting about and, mostly, out of frustration because you don’t know where it is you’re supposed to be going.  Alternately, you’re ignoring it and hoping it goes away.  Ultimately, if there was no track to travel on initially, you have nothing to get back onto when you’ve had a disagreement.

And I’ll pose a question… rhetorical, mostly, though I would kill to know the answer to it if there even is one:  If communication is so easy in the beginning, if we can open up to each other, and talk, and share ideas, then why does it always seem that when we become “settled” into something, things become harder?  That something about the spark of the communication is lost?  Do we stop listening?  Do we become complacent?

Sure it’s easier to be passive-aggressive.  It’s easier to be inflammatory.  It’s easier to leave what is hard and go back to the beginning with someone new, where things are easy and uncomplicated.  But what happens when that gets hard, too?  When you have to find that blueprint? Do you keep jumping from place to place or do you try to make it work?

After all, doesn’t the old saying go:  Nothing worth having is ever easy?

Family Affair

It’s February 2008.  My then husband and I are sleeping in his parents’ basement, he on one couch, I on another.  Things aren’t great between us… separation has been brought up several times, divorce a few others.  For the time being, because of where we are, a truce has been implemented.  We visited his parents a LOT.  He was very close to his mother – calling her just to chat, calling her when he needed home repairs done, calling her when he got a flat tire and needed someone to fix it (she lived two hours away and told him to call a tow truck – same as I did, but he listened to her while he never listened to me).  I had gotten tired of it… her nagging, her telling me that I was not taking care of her “baby” correctly.  Who was I to feed him food with condiments on it?  Who was I to paint the walls green?

But I put up with it.  For his sake.  And because doing otherwise would cause an argument – a screaming, fit-throwing, object flinging, wall punching argument.  I’d had enough but for the time being had no other options, nowhere else to go.  So I stayed put.  And anyway we were in counseling.  We were “working on it”.  Right?  Uh.  Yeah.  She’d gone to work that night, to the post office, she wouldn’t be home until 3 a.m.  And when that time came, I could hear the garage door above me open.  I tried to go to sleep as the floor creaked above my head, sleep didn’t come.  He wasn’t asleep either, I knew, half laying, half sitting on the other sofa, listening for her.  I made no movement.  I didn’t want him to know I was awake.  The door to the basement creaked open, the dog ran downstairs followed by his mother who was whispering loudly for her to come back upstairs.

I didn’t say anything.  I just continued to remain still, my eyes closed.  The dog jumped on me, licked my face, I didn’t budge, and I could hear his mother walking down the stairs after her.  My ex, recognizing his mother, whispered something to her… I opened my eyes a crack to see what was going on and I could barely believe what I saw.  It was sickening.  There they were, the dog jumping between the couch and her legs, chatting amiably, as if it were the middle of the day, and he’s lying there, completely uncovered, wearing nothing but his tighty-whities and with his morning wood just hanging out there, making no move to cover it, not acknowledging it.  And what’s worse, even, was that she was standing there continuing the conversation as if there was nothing out of the ordinary.

But it WAS out of the ordinary.  This was not ordinary at all!  This was… this was… beyond anything I’d seen before – this was… Norman Bates creepy.  I can’t say that this is what made me decide to leave him… many factors played into that.  But I think I realized that night that there was something more abnormal about this degree of closeness that I’d failed to see.  And I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.

I can laugh about it now… now that it’s all well behind me, but after the divorce was final and when I decided to start dating again, I remembered that.  I remembered the years of disapproval I’d been through, I remembered the explaining I’d had to do to tell her why I wanted to go back to college (that was a fighting point too), I remembered the mommy-boner, I remembered how she’d get upset if I told her I wanted to go to dinner with my own husband and she was not invited, and I vowed that that would never happen again.  I was extreme about it, making a list of all the things I wanted (and didn’t want) in another human being.  A good family relationship was important… but not so good that you wanted to fuck your mother.  Jeez that’s awful to even think about.

I was optimistic at first.  I mean how many men out there, in their late twenties and early thirties can honestly say they let their mothers dictate their lives?  You’d be surprised.  More of them than ever, it seemed.  The dates I went on were more than once interrupted by mothers calling their sons, even if their sons didn’t live at home anymore (and even when they did – seriously, you’re thirty-two… grow a pair), to ask when they were going to be home and if they were alright.  Because, you know.  All 115 pounds of me can be so very intimidating.  Needless to say, I didn’t answer my phone when they called for a second date.  It was all I could do to ask if they were going to get grounded if they stayed out past curfew.  It was entertaining for a second to feel like I was sixteen again… but then I remembered all the bad things about being sixteen and I decided.. yeah… I was going to pass.

Then I met 3.0.  He seemed to have it together: his place, his job, his own life.  Sure he admitted that his condo, which was immaculately decorated, had been done by his mother but I let that one go.  A lot of bachelors have no taste and his place was aesthetically pleasing.  She didn’t have her own bedroom there, at any rate, and if that’s as far as the interference went, I was okay with that.  I didn’t say much either when he would chat with her or spend time with her when she needed something.  All of those things are normal.  She wasn’t intruding on our relationship, she never said much, and she tried to be friendly, which I appreciated.  And anyway, my standards are low then… as Buttface so eloquently put it, this was a step up no matter how I looked at it.  3.0 wasn’t walking around in front of his mother with a boner.

It was just that, as things got more serious and as our talks turned to the future, I began to realize just how much 3.0 really did idolize his mother.  And if that wasn’t enough, I began to understand too how much he really looked up to his twin brother.  If you’ve never dated a twin it’s an eye-opening experience.  You expect them to be close.  But I don’t think you can really understand HOW close.  I never could.  I managed to mitigate it for the most part.  His brother lived somewhere else, and we never saw him.  But when his brother decided that he didn’t like me, fuck, that put the whole relationship in jeopardy.  When his brother decided he wanted to go on a trip with 3.0, and it happened to be a holiday, I was left in the cold.  That was hard… it was annoying… it was frustrating… and it was worse to have none of it acknowledged when I voiced it, but I dealt with it.  I don’t argue anymore.  Not since the divorce, it’s not worth it.  I just take as much as I can take and when I can’t take anymore, I leave.  I hadn’t reached my breaking point yet.  I soon would, but hadn’t yet.

I reached it, though, on the balcony one evening, as we sat, talking.  Our talks turned to marriage and I remember hearing 3.0 tell me that no matter who he married, she would always come third in his life.  His mother came first, then his twin.  I was shocked.  I didn’t know what to do with that.  A normal person would have left.  I SHOULD have left.  That’s not how a marriage works, and if marriage was what I wanted and if this was going to be all wrong, I was wasting my time.  My marriage had failed, but I knew enough to know that for a marriage to work, you have to have your priorities straight… when you marry, your spouse comes first.  That’s the rule.  That’s how it works.  And it cannot be one-sided.

I tried hard to ignore what he said… I couldn’t.  I mitigated the thought of living in a loveless marriage with the fact that I wouldn’t have to work anymore, I could have the kids I wanted, I could live in this posh condo, and I could be free to work on my projects as I liked.  It was a business contract, I reasoned.  I’d give him what he wanted, he’d give me what I wanted, I didn’t need love in the middle of all that.  It was just a paper we’d sign, everything would be fine, I’d live happily ever after with my white picket fence and my cookie business.  What did I need with some silly emotion, anyway?  And yet that nagging voice in the back of my head knew that this is NOT how that is supposed to work.  And even if he ever did manage to bring himself to love me, did I want to be loved by someone that would always place me third in the hierarchy?  Waiting for his mother to die so I could be Number Two?  Always bested by his brother?  Having to compete for his affection?  The answer, despite all the perks, was and is still absolutely not.

As I’ve said before, I am jaded.  I have been through a lot, I have seen a lot, and it seems like it’s never been easy on me.  I don’t expect it to be.  That said, I don’t know what’s wrong with this generation of men.  I’ve either met all of the wrong ones that have all of the mommy issues, or it’s a widespread problem with this generation.  And if it’s not a mommy issue, or at least not directly a mommy issue, it’s an inappropriate closeness with one or more siblings – if your girlfriend, fiancé, wife, etc. has to wonder if she is always going to have to compete with one or more of your family members for your affection, it’s not a good sign.  Period.

Family is important.  No matter where you are, you’re always going to feel some loyalty to them.  As a teacher once said many years ago, home is where they always have to take you in, no matter what you’ve done.  I believe that.    And while I don’t always agree with everything my family says and everything they do, I love them dearly.  And in the beginning of my relationships, the priorities don’t change.  But when the degree of seriousness shifts, the priorities shift as well.  As they should.  Because, I’m beginning to realize, if they don’t, then that person isn’t ready.  Maybe he has his own place, maybe he has a job, maybe he has his shit together, but for all that’s worth, he may as well still be living in his parents’ basement, waiting for the impending family dinner bell to ring, comforted by the familiar and afraid to branch out into something new.

And I don’t have time for that.

Statistical Happiness?

While on Facebook a week ago, I came across a post that one of my friends had commented on about happiness and relationships.  His post, cited from some statistical blog (I don’t even have the source, so I can’t cite it – not that I would, I don’t put much faith in the relevance of statistics when predicting human emotion), declared that when it comes to general life happiness, married people are the happiest, followed by single people, and then trailed, last, by those who are divorced.  Now, being a divorced woman who prefers to call herself single, I took issue with that.  I didn’t comment, but it did make me start to think about those happiness levels; how true were they?  Can statistics really say for certain that married people are happiest of all?  Can statistics really suggest that we divorced folk are really THAT unhappy with our lives?

Now, truthfully, all I have to go on here are my own experiences.  I can’t suppose that mine are anywhere near normal – nothing with me is anywhere near normal – but since the blog is about being thirty (and on some level, a divorced thirty year old), my experiences here are the only ones that matter at this point, no?

I can admittedly say that there wasn’t a lot of time that I spent single, before my marriage, as a legal adult.  But I can tell you that those were good days.  I was at college, living on campus.  I had friends that lived in the dorm across campus.  We spent our days in class, we spent our evenings creating a ruckus around Louisville, Kentucky.  Sometimes we’d take evening trips to grocery stores, pushing each other around in carts.  Other times we’d tie ourselves to each other with shoelaces and go into Waffle House like this, one of us speaking in nothing but German until the check was delivered.  Some nights we’d sit in a dorm room watching goofy things on television or on the internet.

I dated some.  My relationships were serious, for their time, but they didn’t last long.  The breakups were just as superficial.  I lived a soap opera, and I didn’t care.  I was experiencing things and as soon as that one ended, I’d just go find another one to play with.  It was nothing to drive two hours in the middle of the night to visit my boyfriend who was a graduate student at Western, even if I had a class at eight the next morning.  Life was fun.  It was crazy.  I enjoyed it.

And then I met the man I later married.  Things got serious.  Things weren’t so much fun anymore.  We moved in together.  He had a temper.  He didn’t hit me, but he threw things.  The furniture would get broken.  The walls would get holes in them.  He’d tell me he wanted to marry me, then he’d back out.  My parents couldn’t look at the situation I’d gotten myself into, so they stayed away.  If I wanted to see them, I could drive.  It wasn’t so much fun to be single anymore – not if single meant this bad relationship.  So I did what any normal, sane person would do.  I married the guy.

I can look at my own marriage, if I want to.  I rarely want to.  It was a horrid, disfigured thing that still disgusts me when I look back at it.  Entered into in a large amount due to pressure, and in a larger amount due to the absence of other viable options (for living situations, not marrying partners), it started off badly.  I sat in that hotel room across from the wedding wishing I had a way to leave, not wanting to embarrass my parents who had put together a large, large wedding for me.  Repeating the nuptials, a voice in the back of my head echoed, “Well, I can always get a divorce.”  A stronger, braver Vic would have gotten out of there pronto.  I went through with it anyway.

I cried all the way home.  I cried in the shower during my honeymoon – my unconsummated honeymoon, if anyone cares.  Coming back home, I consulted with a friend who was also a lawyer about filing for annulment.  I didn’t go through with it.  I stayed because it seemed to be the right thing to do – might as well give it a chance.   Might as well try to make it work.

A year later, we had argued more times than I wanted to admit.  Every day, waking up, it seemed that it was simply a countdown to a shouting match, a screaming match that left me running up the stairs, trailed closely behind by my husband who wanted to “talk about it” but whose idea of talking about it was screaming about it some more until I simply gave in so that he would shut up.  If I locked the door to my office, he simply broke it down, to shout at me some more.  If I had to pee during these often six hour long shouting sessions, he’d stand outside the door and scream at me while I did.  Come to think of it, this probably explains why I now have a shy bladder.

I couldn’t please him.  The food was never to his liking – the gravy was called “orange stuff” and to appease his six year old palate, he’d scrape it off and take the chicken plain.  My $25 a week allowance was barely enough to make my own ends meet – yes, all my needs were provided for.  But there were no extra shoes, no new clothes.  My things were dreadfully out of fashion.  I was too smart, I read too much, I wanted to go to school, to get a graduate degree, and that was unacceptable.  I wasn’t going to get a job doing what I wanted to do anyway – there were likely no casinos nearby.  And kids?  Whatever kids I was crazy enough to want to bring into that house, I wasn’t going to get to have them.  His kids would not be “booksmart” like me, he said.  “Yeah, you want them to be a dumbass like you,” I’d retorted.  That turned into another shouting match.  I probably deserved that one.

Anyway, bottom line, by the time the marriage was over, I was exhausted with it.  I’d grown exhausted with it long before the end, relegating my ex to the basement for sleeping while I kept the bed upstairs, shared with the three cats who were preferable companions to the monster I’d married.  I was tired of feeling badly about myself, tired of feeling like a substandard human being, tired of being with someone who seemed only to want to be with  me because of the deduction he could take on his taxes.  When the opportunity presented itself to leave, I took it.  We divorced six months later.

I can honestly say that the divorce itself, while it made me sad – I hate failure, and I couldn’t help but feel, just a little bit, like I had failed – was a moment of celebration.  I was free.  And I was living a new life, a life full of parties and friends, and music, and dancing, and fun.  I was exploring Columbus, getting to know people there, making a new life.  I was in graduate school, exactly where I wanted to be, and was doing well.  I was playing World of Warcraft and having fun learning the world I was spending a large majority of my time in.

I was ME again.  I had grown up – I was eight years older than I had been the last time that I’d been single.  And I was happy.  I was alone.  And it was hard, being alone, having to pay all my bills, having to budget my own money, having to make ends meet.  But I was happier doing this in peace.  I was starting to see myself the way I had seen myself prior to the marriage.  I was independent.  And it was a good thing.

I suppose, compared to being married, I am happier divorced – even though, most of the time, I don’t even think of myself as divorced.  The marriage was so awful, and lasted for so short a period, that I don’t even like to count it as a part of my life.  I have to claim it, yes, when dating.  But to get out of something like that, with no joint debt, no drama, no children… I realize how lucky I really was.  I guess if I owe him anything, it’s that I didn’t have those non-booksmart children, after all.

Life now is, well, blissful.  I moved.  I relocated to Florida about two years after the divorce was final.  I got a job – a really good job – that spun into an even better job.  I have my own apartment, I am comfortable, and I am happy.  I can go where I like, do what I like.  I can play video games as much and as often as I’d like without being yelled at.  I can write my dark and demented literature and no one can tell me they don’t “get” me.  I can cook my food and no one asks me what this “orange stuff” is on the chicken.  I get up, I go to work, I come home, and I live my little life – the things, and even moreso, the people that I have chosen to let into it make me happy.  And if they don’t, I can choose to make them go away.

I realize that my experience probably isn’t something that is common.  I’m sure there are very happy married couples out there – my parents being one of them.  And yet, all the while, I can’t help but still get angry about those statistics.  Who are they to say that divorced people are unhappy?  How can they assume that divorced people are unhappier than single people?  And in fact, how can they really say that any one of us, divorced, single, married, are really happy at all?  To assume that assumes that you know at the onset how people feel – and numbers and statistics don’t have the capability to get into your head.  How can they be sure that the married people, or the divorced people, or the single people who are filling out these surveys are really speaking their true minds?  How do they know they are not catching these people on a bad day?  They don’t.  I’m not saying all statistics are bullshit, but for crying out loud, we should stop using numbers to justify where we are or where we’re not or where we are going in our lives, and especially in our relationships.  We should stop using numbers to tell ourselves that we have to be in “this place” to be happy.

Because the key, I think, to all of this – at least it was with me – is to learn to be happy with ourselves.  I had it when I was single.  I lost it when I was married.  I found it again after the divorce.  If we can be happy with ourselves, then we bring that into whatever situation we’re in, whether it’s the satisfaction of being single, the strength of the marriage, or the recovery after it just doesn’t work out.  Being happy with yourself is half the battle.  Once you have that, then everything else will follow.  And if it doesn’t, well, then you have the strength to take out the trash.