I want it to be Friday

Five times that I’ve gone to equine therapy, and now each week seems to stretch out a little longer between sessions.  Getting in touch with feeling splashes of sanity and happiness have also seemed to intensify feeling the impact of his crazymaking, and the result is I also feel more angry.  And a little more afraid…

Can I do this?  I’m not even sure what ‘this’ is as I write it out.  Will all this make a difference?  Will I really get stronger and and clearer, or will something implode (as it has in past efforts over the years) and I’ll find myself in a forever kind of twilight zone of being stuck and just fade away until I’m gone.

I love him and I hate him.  His recent bad behaviors aren’t anything new; in fact, it’s the same kind of loneliness that caused me to cry myself to sleep as a newlywed.  Withdrawing and being aloof, pulling me close, pushing me away, justifying it and blaming me, withholding intimacy and lying about it, then in the end he feels sorry for himself.  This mix includes him working, helping with the pets, meals, and errands, and I appreciate that.  I do appreciate it, and I tell him so and thank him.  The problem with the good stuff is that it seems to be used as fodder for his resentment.

The change is that I feel my anger escalating to the point that I imagine picking things up and smashing and breaking them.  It feels like I want the inner pain to have an outward expression.  The pain feels almost unbearable, but I don’t want to do something stupid (again).

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I don’t want to be passive aggressive

Right as I was finishing the previous post, I got up to talk with him before he left to drive to town on errands.  I had a short grocery list, and checked to make sure he remembered his wallet.

We both just looked at each other, and I said, “I don’t want to fight.”

He said, “I don’t want to be faithless anymore.  I don’t want to be passive aggressive.”

Then we just stood there and silently hugged for half a minute.

“Drive safely,” I replied.

What was that?

I’m asking myself what it means, and asking in prayer if it means anything.  Is it just the same broken litany of shallow good intentions?  Does integrity ask me to respond with mercy and grace?  Can I survive another possible gutshot if it comes?

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No reason to stay

His passivity about his abusive behaviors, and his self-pity are driving me crazy.  Really.  Like I want to shout to the world just everything.  Every gritty, ugly, and humiliating detail.  Let the chips fall and the cookies crumble.  And I said as much to him.

Last night I told him that I didn’t think I could take much more of this pain, and that I just want to find a way to stop it. I told him that one option could be my moving out, but that I’d be taking our daughters with me wherever I went. (Seriously?  I have no idea of how I’d do this, but I felt like a trapped animal ready to chew off a leg to escape a trap.)

This means he’d be living here with sons.
One is battling some kind of illness since being deployed.
One is in a slow recovery from a bad accident and head injury.
One graduated from high school last year and just found his first decent job (albeit low paying).
One other son is an actor/musician, in rehearsals for a scholarship paid choral junket abroad.  He’s also bonded closely to the brother who has the TBI.
Three of them work for their father.  All are vulnerable in some way, and deserve stability and the ability to plan for change.

When I said, “I don’t know what to do.  I can’t keep hurting like this.”
He just gave me a sad-woe-is-me face.

When I said, “I could move out, but I’m taking the girls with me if I do,” he replied,
“If you do that, I’ll just go.  I’d have no reason to stay.”

I said, “No reason?  What are you saying?  Do you mean that?  Please think before you answer.”

He looked irritated, wary, and resentful and started and stopped in his reply, “No… yes…I hate it when you do this!  Yes I’d leave. Why would I stay?  You’re the only reason I’d stay here.  Otherwise it just doesn’t make sense.  This place would be too much to keep up financially and I wouldn’t have any reason to be here.”

I didn’t ask him … what about our sons?

Something deep inside of me cringes, backs away, turns away, like seeing something that would be unbearable, so I can’t look at it.  He must care.  He must just be stupidly angry, foolishly petty.

I just said, “Okay, if that’s how you feel, then we can start to discuss what it would take to sell this place.”

As far as I was concerned, there wasn’t much left to say at that point.  I actually felt some relief mixed into the pain.  A possible dreadful sensible solution.  Sell the home that I’ve wanted to stay and grow old in.  This place that I love, that nourishes my soul every time I look out a window, or step outside and soak in the beauty of its setting. Sell the home that my baby was born in, but process that it may be the only sane solution in the days to come.

I started to feel strangely relieved in the pain that there could be any solution, and began to get sleepy.  I could feel and hear him stirring in an agitated way near me.  He said, “Would it make any difference to you at all if I said I was sorry?”

I replied, “Would it mean you’d stop hurting me?”

Then I did fall asleep, but silently wishing so hard that he would miraculously really care.

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Name that feeling

Questions that I hear in therapy:  What are you feeling right now?  Where do you feel it?  Which part of your body? 

The same wonderful white horse was waiting for me again.  This time I was ready with some apple bites (organic of course).  Oh, how I love that white horse!  She lets me know when I need to breathe and calm and focus, and she validates my efforts.  Yesterday she paid me a great compliment by getting sleepy while I was talking and brushing her.

Last week I was able to share something that was an extremely painful memory, but I was able to tell it without tears or symptoms of PTSD.  My equine teacher helped me to do that.  I didn’t feel shaken, or that I was reliving it.  It was like being stabilized while something powerful coursed through me without harming me.

Yesterday, my gentle and powerful friend gave me a new lesson.  She taught me that my affection is valued and enjoyed.  There was no hidden agenda.  She accepted that I was in the moment, and truthful.  What I was giving her was welcome, and there was no waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under my feet.  Just trust between us.  The kind of trust you build slowly and rest in.

As I stood there with her, I felt something so different, like a beautiful scent that floats to your awareness and awakens memories.  I’d felt it before, but so long ago that it was like a gradual awakening from a long sleep.

I asked myself, What am I feeling?

Happy… yes… Yes!  This is happiness!

This morning it feels like a hidden flower in my pocket that leaves that same soothing scent on my fingers when I reach to touch it.

I can still touch happy.

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Counting apples

I had our piano tuned yesterday, and I feel almost amazed that I’ve gone from what was a very long time (financially) of counting apples (to make sure there were enough for school lunches), to being able to pay someone to tune the piano. I’m now plotting and planning to get my daughter the piano lessons she wistfully and wishfully asked for.

Going back to that long grim stretch of years, I still remember getting very upset with my youngest son if he ate a second or third apple in the same day, because then there wouldn’t be enough for the other kids for the week.  I’d then proceed to feel upset and disgusted with myself, because what kind of a mother is upset at her kid for eating fruit?

Today we had the septic tank serviced, and without going TMI, it was so much in the nick of time that I felt sorry for the guy that had to do it.  I’m so relieved (grateful) that there was money set aside for that too!

I’m still looking for a car, and if it’s halfway decent, I may become giddy with hope 🙂  What a difference it makes to get a rung or two up from the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid.

These are the things I remind myself of anytime I’m tempted to not be involved with his work.  It’s draining to me, but ever so slowly, the tides are turning.

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Never sure

Part of the impact of living with a passive aggressive man, someone who gaslights, is never being sure of myself, not even of my own thoughts or feelings.

I’ve spent (too many) hours of my life trying to understand who my husband is, and what makes him tick. I’ve vacillated between seeing him as an arsehole or a pathologically disordered man; someone who is hopeless or gives me reason to be hopeful.

Presently, I’m focused more on what I need to crawl up and forward. Even so, I continue to research and attempt to move informational puzzle pieces around to make a clearer picture of him.  I’ll often manage to purposely just not think of him in those ways.  Instead, I try to be mindful of him just as a human being with his own needs, wants, hopes, fears, aches, pains, strengths, and weaknesses.  Just another made of dust human being.

It’s difficult when it seems like he’s pushing my buttons, intentionally or unintentionally.  In the flight, fight, or freeze spectrum, I seem to be returning more to the fight response.  Now I’m trying to remind myself that disengaging is not freezing or running, but a proactive response.

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Courage and fear

It seems so strange, but just three times (so far) of being able to connect with a horse, an animal that I’ve always admired and loved, has been awakening both courage and fear inside of me.

I’ve found myself thinking of things once lost as though they may be found again.  I’ve scheduled our piano to be tuned. (This may sound puzzling to many, but coming from years of financial instability, it was a step towards living for me.) I plan to get the bow from my decades unplayed violin rehaired.  I even allowed myself to dream a teeny bit of getting a better violin and playing as well as I could with arthritic fingers… just because.
I dreamed one night that I was dancing, young and twirling freely.  I threw out rusty muffin tins and ordered new ones.

I was able to find the courage to go to a funeral last weekend.  In the past, it’s exactly the kind of thing that I’d kick myself over and over for ‘failing’  at because I couldn’t get myself to leave the house and go out where people were.  It’s sad how much I’ve missed because my ability to cope met its limits at my own door.
Later that same day, I kept a promise and took my youngest daughter to see the movie Cinderella.  (It did sort of take a lot out of me, many hits of waves of anxiety that left me feeling exhausted by evening, but I did it.)

The fear and anxiety also has a new kind of ebb and flow.

What if suddenly a session goes badly?
Where would I turn then?
What hope would be left?
What if the therapist really dislikes me?
What if the therapist meets my husband, is charmed by him as counselors in the past were, and then I slide into gray invisibility again?
What if it’s too late for me?
What if I don’t have anything worthwhile within me that could lead to financial independence?

Along with the fears, I can still hear my own harsh judgments and criticisms.

You should never have let it get this far.
Why was I so stupid?  So blind?
What was I thinking?
What’s wrong with me?
kick kick kick… I haven’t: sorted through the bins of my mother’s stuff; started very many seeds for this year’s garden; joined a gym; used the sprouter kit; organized the bins of photos; started learning yoga etc.
kick kick kick

I don’t listen to the fears and condemnations for long.  Instead, I take a slow breath, and let the courage rise back just enough to keep moving forward.

I look in the mirror and say, “It’s okay.  You’re getting there, so one step at a time, and that’s okay.”

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This morning’s argument

Our two youngest daughters have been sharing the responsibilities for the cat we adopted from their older sister.  This cat has won the hearts of the entire family, but he’s also been battling cancer, and so gets special supplements on schedule with his meals.  He’s an emotional kind of furball, and very needy and clingy to the two girls particularly.

At some point not long ago, the older of the two girls decided she didn’t want to take turns feeding him anymore, and told her younger sister that instead she would take over care of the cat’s litter box.  I felt some unease hearing about this, but had let it go for the time being.  It’s turned out the the older sister has not been responsible for the litter box.  (Normally, she is a responsible kind of kid.)

This morning, my youngest daughter shared a concern with me about her sister only ‘loving’ their cat when it was convenient, or basically enjoying his cuteness without being patient with his needs.  The catalyst for her sharing this concern was her sister scolding the cat for waking her up this morning.

I listened to her, and then told her that I felt it was a valid concern, and that I’d think about it more, and possibly talk to her sister about it.  At this point, her father came out to the kitchen.  I asked him to listen to her concern (without sharing my thoughts) to hear his perspective.  I thought his perspective was somewhat different, but good and his feedback to her was good.  (He felt it was reasonable to scold the cat to deter it from behavior that was unwanted by her sister.)

Then our youngest daughter asked us not to talk to her sister because she was afraid that her sister would resent her for talking to us (and basically treat her poorly because of it).

Her father responded immediately to that.  He said something like, “That’s a serious thing, and it’s important to understand how it can affect your life.  It’s a problem that Mom and I struggle with.  When people treat us unfairly, and we put up with it because we worry about them taking it out on us or making us suffer from talking to them, or hurting the relationship if we try to address it, then that’s unhealthy.”

I think he actually said a bit more, but in the aftermath fog, that’s my best recollection.  What jumped out at me was, “It’s a problem that Mom and I struggle with.”

When he finished speaking, I said, “I think that what you’re addressing is so important, and spot on, except for one thing you said.  Concisely, what did you mean by, It’s a problem that Mom and I struggle with?”

He gave a blank glazed look.  I said, “To clarify, I want to know specifically what you meant by that.”

He glared at me.  Glared.  In that moment, I saw that he knew and he just plain old resented my asking.

He started to say that he didn’t understand what I meant (but I knew he did), so I responded by saying, “If every morning when we walked by the laundry machines, you punched me in the arm, that would be a problem.  If you said to someone that we had a problem hitting each other when we passed the laundry machines, I’d feel angry, and I’d want to find a large heavy object and hit you with it.  In fact, I think you do know what I meant when I asked you to clarify what you said, and I am feeling angry right now.  My therapist encouraged me to be in touch with how I feel, and anger is definitely what I’m feeling.”

Then the turds began to fly.  He was tired.  He didn’t get enough sleep.  He accused me of making assumptions about what he said, judging him, and having double standards.  He said he was sick of putting up with ‘this’ and that now he was angry, and stomped off saying he was going to get ready to leave for Costco.  (A trip that he usually extends by a few hours, avoiding helping out with anything I actually want him to help with… as I said, a busy guy.)

It’s a crummy way to start a day, but better crummy than gulping for crumbs.  He quickly flipped into funny friendly dad mode, something that in the past years was more effective when I’d be frozen in place and depressed.

Not today.  I’ve already asked my oldest son if he’d be willing to use his car for a Costco trip, and I plan to have a nice outing when we do the food shopping.  I still only wear what are really pajama lounge pants, but by golly, I’m going to forget that and smell the fresh air today.

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Reflections on shopping

I’ve been thinking about my shopping comments from this post.  To those who aren’t familiar with my background (or passive aggressive men), it’s another subtle dynamic that plays out.

My experience with my husband is that when I’ve gotten to participate in something, have something, or get something, it was a problem unless he got to do/be/have something equal or better.

In the past this has meant he could resent me for jobs I may have enjoyed or that held potential, taking a class, joining a group, buying clothing, traveling to see my family, playing an instrument, being noticed for an accomplishment, or even just watching a show on television.  I learned to ‘have’ or ‘be’ by making sure that he was included or compensated somehow.

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What I still feel

I’ve been concerned about how dull I’ve felt.  Gray, washed out, and non-caring.  I’ve felt little enthusiasm about starting plants for the garden, and because of that, already missed opportune windows for starting some from seed.

Morning began around 5:00 a.m. with a dream about my youngest son.  It was a half waking moment when you instinctively transition to prayer.  At some point, I knew that sleep was finished, and tiptoed out to start working on the kitchen mess.  Around 6:30 a.m., I’d finally just finished when I heard voices at the door.  It was my youngest son and his friend.  S5 has been gone for a couple days (this has become routine and we’re working out the best way to address it), but was apparently coming in to catch more sleep before he starts work later this morning.  (At least in the pattern of self-sabotage, he’s hanging in there with keeping his new job.)

I was suddenly grateful for waking early.  I was glad that the kitchen was cleaned up and peaceful.  I was in a good head and heart space to see if they were hungry,  and get a pillow and blanket for his friend to rest on the couch in the family room.  I felt sadness and concern, but not anger.

When we talk soon, if my youngest son chooses to not abide by the house rules and boundaries we set down, I want to not be reactive and angry about what I might feel are poor choices.  I’d be sad, but I’d rather just feel that, and let the parting be as peaceful as possible on my side.

I’m aware of the chronic pain in my body like an unpleasant kind of white noise gone awry, but I’m calmer.

I feel a little more alive.

Thank you Lord, for creating that beautiful white horse, and making the way for me to return to counseling.

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