Year End Reflections

I married him in the late of summer. He didn’t want to see his bride in sleeveless so I wore a long sleeved white dress in the hot of day. My hair was down, sweltering on my neck. It couldn’t be put up, it wouldn’t have been suitable for him. All the details of that day were as he desired. The floral arrangements, the bridal band, and bridesmaids’ dresses were all in his favorite color. My special color was too feminine for his special day.  Everything was suited for a day as he dreamed and we set off for a honeymoon as he always imagined.

This was the first day of the rest of his life. It was the  first day ending my independent life. There was no longer a “me” but an us where he decided what was best for the two of us. I was there that day. I stood before the closed sanctuary doors sick with fear. I recalled the day he proposed. I wanted to run then and I wanted to run at that moment. I thought I was in too deep but I was expected to consider his feelings first in all things.

I was expected to relinquish myself and become his wife. In that moment, on that day, I inherited the responsibilities of a wife. I was solely responsible for cleaning, laundry, and meal preparation while remaining physically pleasing and readily available to him. There was no fair turn in the marriage as my attire was rebuked down to my undergarments while he slowly allowed himself a great deal of comfort with his hygiene and appearance. The small requests continued until larger uncomfortable desires were expected to be met with silent submission. After several years I no longer thought about what I wanted, I just did as he asked. My hair was to a length he preferred, my eyebrows were favored at an appropriate width, and money was never at my disposal. He refused to part with the mutual earnings to allow spending that would not  be a benefit to him. I worked full time but found myself in tears when making the agonizing choice to purchase much needed items, even if it were for my career. I was also not allowed the security of a cell phone after accepting a job forty miles from home. When my salary met his own, my position was downplayed as subjacent to his own.

I was not perfect but I don’t believe he thought what he was doing was wrong. We both had flaws. I was immature and I had a temper. When my requests to talk about marital issues were met with complete silence, I would blow up in frustration. For him, the only problems with our marriage were the issues I refused to drop. The bad fights started with requests to put down the toilet seat, brushing teeth before bed, or my desire to include my family and friends in my life. For me, marriage became about isolation, unresolved issues and silence. He thought his marriage was perfect. He was shocked when I finally left.

The weeks before I left became littered with fights and broken furniture. One afternoon we had the last fight of our marriage. I left for my parent’s home and he never came for me. He spent his time calling me and asking me to come home or making accusatory calls to me while I was at work. He wanted me back but was angry that I was not doing as he asked. He also had too much pride to follow his wife to the ends of the Earth, or a mere few miles up the road.

Some say divorce is worse than death. I can agree with this on some level because running into an ex can almost be like seeing a ghost. I haven’t seen mine since our disillusion was final. I was thankful we had no children thus making the separation of our lives a clean cut.

You may wonder why this would be the subject of my next post in light of the holiday season. New Year’s Eve fifteen years ago, I was laying on the bathroom floor my ex and I shared wondering if I wanted my life to continue. I heard the laughter from the party going on in the basement beneath and felt it was not for me. Against my natural desire to live grew this terrifying thought grown out of depression. Marriage was not like most things in my young life, it would continue until death. I realized I had no second chance and I should have felt more desire for my husband and my marriage. I had ignored my heart and did what I thought was “right.”

I stayed for a few more New Year’s Eve parties until I matured and made the difficult decision to make our separation permanent. The day I left, I had no idea how I would come to that choice but when he never came for me, it was easier to make. I had to be worth the fight.

………….

Years later, I married him on a cold spring day in the dress of my dreams (it was sleeveless) and prepared confidently, knowing however I came down the aisle, he unconditionally loved me. My heart and my mind were no longer at conflict.

During the approach of the holiday season, many thoughts turn to resolutions or putting behind a bad year. Isn’t it silly to think the same problems won’t follow through to the next year or resolutions will be easier to keep because we can open another calendar? Making a resolution to run away from problems does not work any better than running from them the remainder of the year. What happened to accepting the year we were given and using the short-falls of that year for our betterment?

My New Year’s advice for you: look back and enjoy this year. Do not be in a rush to discard it. Fifteen years ago when I was laying on my bathroom floor, I lost hope. My life was certainly going to be more of the same disappointment but that disappointment led me to where I am. My husband was worth the previous years I was ready to forget. If I would have known the heartache I experienced would bring me to where I am, I would have met it with more joy. There can be joy in our sadness. Unfortunately we don’t realize all that is meant for us until it has come to pass. Don’t regret an entire year based on difficulty, remember the clay is stronger when burned by fire. The heat may sometimes be intense but it is preparation for many things yet to come. Be patient. True happiness is always worth the wait.

Happy New Year! Wishing you the confidence to make the hard decisions and waiting for the best return the new year has to offer.

*d*

Homemade Pizza and Prozac

I made an awesomely beautiful homemade pizza tonight. My grandmother, who’s staying with us for the winter and loves pizza, was very impressed by its tastiness. My husband, who thinks he’s a pizza aficionado found it to be “amazing.” In all fairness though, he thinks a Quarter Pounder with cheese is “amazing.” While yummy in the throes of an insatiable grease craving, I would never say the burger is amazing. Regrettable, Indigestion inducing, Nap inspiring, those are all terms I’d use to describe the sandwich. But, the pizza was really good.

Anyway, pizza is something we don’t often break out the good china for. We spare my blue and white farm animal print dishes and use paper plates with those plastic support things under them. The practice has always been to use the plastic thing, throw away the paper plate when finished and put the supporter back in its place in the cabinet if there’s nothing crusted on it.

(Thinking of my last post about the horrors of germs on towels and the obvious contradiction this plate policy represents makes me wonder if this is why no one can seem to follow my rules. No, that couldn’t possibly be it.)

For whatever reason, my husband, an engineer, has never been able to grasp the supremely difficult procedure and leaves the plastic supporter lying on the counter RIGHT BELOW THE CABINET IT GOES IN. Without fail. Every time. I’ve asked nicely. I’ve yelled. I’ve brought the plate back to his office and laid it down on his desk saying that there must be some mistake and that perhaps he’d like to try again. He normally apologizes and puts it away but I’m dumbfounded at why he won’t save himself the extra steps and me the inevitable eye twitch. It’s true that I could just put the plate away but I have a long-standing belief that I married a man, not a child. That belief is tested on a regular basis but I don’t feel like I should be supporting his efforts to make me into his mother.

So, tonight, when he again left the plastic thing sit, inches below where it was supposed to be, I asked him to explain it to me—explain how he can’t add one more step to the process and just PUT THE PLATE IN THE CABINET.

“I think it’s because I sit the plate down there on the counter and take the paper plate to the trash and then I just never go back,” he said.

I fight back a quivering eyelid. “You walk past the trash can on your way to that counter. Couldn’t you throw the plate away and then walk to the counter?”

“Uh, I don’t know.”

This. This is why I’m medicated.

 

~L~

Toweling Off

For years I’ve tried to figure out what I’m good at. Moreover, what I’m good at that I can make money doing. As it turns out, the only things I’m good at won’t make me much money. What I’d really like to do professionally is write. I’ve been writing stories since I was able to construct sentences. I’ve journaled for years, blogged, and even wrote a novel. What most people don’t realize is just how hard it is to make a living as a writer. Hell, I had no idea it was going to be this hard until this past year. The amount of work that goes into perfecting a manuscript and getting it published is unfathomable to anyone who hasn’t tried. So, while I struggle toward publication, I have to do something to pay for those haunting student loans and the English degree that has yet to earn its keep. So, I turned to the only other thing I feel that I do well: cleaning.

I started cleaning for a friend and got referred to her friends and family and so on and so on. So I clean for several folks in an effort to pursue my writing and still keep the loan collectors from taking me to court. It’s pretty hard work sometimes, not to mention gross. Especially since I’m a functioning germ-a-phobe.

I’m all too aware of the germs on and in everything. I think about the nastiness on every surface I come into contact with and shudder if I accidentally put my fingers in my mouth before washing them (I have a horrible nail biting habit). But I don’t let my awareness keep me from doing anything. I just wash my hands regularly. I still use hand towels in my home bathroom because I can’t bring myself to use paper towels since I’m also keenly aware of the environment. So, I change the towels about every two days as a way to compromise and to try to keep the nastiness to a minimum. Maybe that’s psycho-level often, but it makes me feel better so I do it.

I take into account that I am border-line insane when it comes to a lot of things including my germ awareness. However, if you never change your hand towels, I feel okay judging you. You know who you are. You can’t see me, but I’m shaking my head at you.

The truth is that not everyone washes their hands the way the CDC would prefer but you can bet that they’re still drying them on that towel. That means it’s not just water clinging to those absorbent fibers. If I can see discoloration in the spot where I know everyone’s been drying their hands or if the towel crunches when I pick it up, you have surpassed the time limit for a single towel to be displayed. Your towel’s 15 weeks of fame are up. I think a good rule of thumb, for the non-crazies out there, is to change the towel at least weekly. When I see the same towel hanging that was there the last two months or better, I tend to take some paper towels into the bathroom with me. I mean, what’s the point of washing my hands and then wiping them dry with the crusty germs of everyone that’s used the towel in the last half a year. Also, if you have pets, don’t put out what’s supposed to be a fresh towel and let me pick it up to dry my clean hands only to find it covered in pet hair. Despite their cuteness or lovability, their hair on a hand towel is disgusting. If I wanted to wipe my wet palms on pet hair, I’d dry them on your dog.

http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html

~L~

Life’s Sucker Punch

Have you ever been hopefully optimistic after a long line of difficult days? Some days aren’t easy in my home.

My youngest son has a rare and incurable disease. He is multi-disabled and suffers from a number of different issues because of his primary diagnosis. He has been having a number of good days lately. He has adjusted well to his first year of school and has been gaining ground developmentally. Two of his many diagnoses are Autism and intermittent explosive disorder. Needless to say, he is prone to meltdowns, sensitivity to everyday stimuli, hitting and screaming. Aside from having some neurological setbacks, he has been communicating more efficiently, interacting with his siblings and sleeping better. I have been quite optimistic. This is against my nature. I don’t call myself a pessimist, just a realist. Realistically, life for us will be a bit more difficult. Today snuffed out my recent optimism.

Since having my fourth child, I have been having increased problems with my joints. I have issues walking up and down my stairs and more recently, using my hands for simple tasks. I visited the doctor and my blood was taken. I got a call this afternoon that confirmed my suspicions. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is still sinking in. I keep thinking of a number of people I knew who suffered with RA. They had disfigured fingers and could not get around without some assistance. These people were twice my age. I know this is a progressive disease and I am still young, but I once again can’t imagine the future. How will it be in several years when I will be caring for my son and he will most likely be twice my size? I suppose I must continue to live for today and take steps to ensure a better future.

I tell myself frequently that life is about trade-offs. Some people seem to have it all but those people may suffer deep emotional stress. Others may live without life’s essentials but are full of joy. I sometimes feel envious of the seemingly perfect family pictures on social media. I really don’t know what their life is like at home. I imagine my family can also look seemingly perfect. In this instance, a picture may not say a thousand words, just hide them.

So I ask myself if I can live with my trade-off and if I can once again find joy in what I cannot control. Can I find the purpose in yet another disappointment? I am sure I will, it will take some time. It will take time to once again find optimism. This most likely will happen after adjusting to my new normal. Life will continue to hand out the sucker punches, it is a good thing past difficultly has me prepared.

*d*

The Follow Through

I am bad at following through. When I ask myself why I am this way, the whole “nature vs nurture” debate plays out. As a kid my parents were great about getting me into activities, for one year. Dance class, piano lessons, plans to change the course of my life all occurred in the span of a year.
These days plans to change my outcome or improve myself take a great deal of determination. I never really learned to follow through. I have learned to feed the leering instant gratification monster. I can handle small life changing decisions like banning fruity pebbles (I clean the bowl but they are never really gone), limiting the verses of SpongeBob sung in the van, or how many times I will ignore the growing noise downstairs. The life altering decisions require effort but are usually worth the work.
This month I have decided to start over and make some small positive changes. Probably for the 142nd time. I have come to embrace my flaw. I make plans and often don’t notice how I have once again failed to integrate the difference until I am deep in my familiar loop. So I allow myself to keep starting over. Most people wait to start fresh until the first of the year. What good is a resolution without a year of failure preceding? Others wait for Monday. A new start may as well wait for a new week, right? I just keep trying. I keep trying to make those small improvements once a month, a week or even several times a day if needed. It doesn’t always work.
Failure is necessary. We must fail for growth. We must fail so we can understand ourselves and embrace our flaws. We must also admit our imperfection. Sometimes failure is a hard thing to recognize. I am a mother of four. There is a large supply of people to point out my mistakes. And that’s okay. Keeping on track takes work and it takes support. In the end, fighting to keep a desire for positive change yields the most results.
I will continue to make the simple  choices my kids can’t seem to live with: limiting screen time, finishing homework, or making sure they try everything once. I know I will fail to teach them something but I don’t want them to fail to try again.
As for me, I try to remind myself that I am worth the effort. The monotony of motherhood sometimes leads to a void of self-worth. Beauty is usually hiding behind a shirt used as a tissue, jeans speckled with cheerios and hair arranged in a fashion slightly resembling a pony tail. And the phrase “take time for yourself” is joke-worthy. I am on an uphill journey well worth the experience. My follow through could happen on a Thursday afternoon and that could change my life.

Ignoring a Five Year Plan

Next year marks my ten year wedding anniversary. This is significant for a number of reasons. For the significance of this post, it means my husband and I have been together for a couple rounds of “where do you think we will be in five years.”
This used to be such an entertaining game. Even before he and I met, a sported round of this game was always worth a spin. Here is how the three previous rounds have summed up since I was somehow declared an adult.
Round one took some casualties. I lost friendships and a marriage but I gained the confidence to live on my own and try to start asking what I wanted with the next five years.
Five years later and I was remarried. I had two children. We were both employed and happy. It was also in this five years we found out one of our children had a rare and incurable disease. Five years down the road began to look more bleak.
Sadly my husband and I no longer question where we will be in five years. My life is very different than I could have imagined and it demands that I live for today. Planning tomorrow ended years ago in a hospital room when we realized how quickly today can change tomorrow.
Five years from now is scarier than it used to be. The older I get, the less I would want to know. In everything there is joy but only with a share of heartbreak. I think I can wait for it all.
Today I will start a new game called, “making today’s decision at the crossroad count.”
*d*

Five Year Plan

When we graduated high school and were making plans about where we were going to be in five years, I don’t believe any of us really had a clue. I know I didn’t. I certainly wouldn’t have predicted that I’d be living with a cheating drug abuser, finishing up my last year of college and my English degree, and working four small part-time jobs just to be able to afford Dollar Menu dinners every night. Nor would I have been able to foretell the five years after that that included my druggie boyfriend leaving me for my cousin, me re-living my early 20’s out on the dance floor of the local dive bar, and numerous gentlemen floating through my life. None of that is what I imagined. The last five years has been a surprise too. The pleasant kind. I met my husband, finished writing a novel I started in 2005, and quit my job to—well, mostly I quit because it was awful. Also, I wanted to finish my book. I had intentions of getting a job once the novel was done, but finishing it made me want to be a part of the writing community. It made me want to see if I could make money doing what I loved instead of barely being paid to do what I hated. Even though I’ve found that it’s a long way from the last keystroke on your manuscript to the first paycheck, I’m excited to have come this far. This whole experience has pushed me to make choices about who I am, what I want, and where I’m going.

It’s a scary thing to be 33 and not have a clue where your life is headed—to be staring down the barrel of Life, pointed right in your face. Every day I feel inadequate and incapable and dare I say, like a failure. I wonder where I go from here. What’s next for me? Where will I be in five years? The only thing to do is to make a choice and pursue it like my life depends on it. I have to accept that just because I stumble, it doesn’t mean I’ve chosen the wrong path. There are bumps in every road.

~L~