Random equations in the mathematics of life

Posts tagged ‘marriage’

Around and Around

3652748184_4993cb315a_bA few years ago, I planned a trip for the family.

It was a crappy time in our lives. The Scientist and I had just barely come off of a 6 month legal separation. My father died after 4 months of being in and out of the hospital. The Ambassador was dealing with the disintegration of his relationship with a cousin whom he used to worship, who had now turned into a bully. His physical bruises were numerous, but the emotional ones took a lot longer to heal. The Professor and the Artist were navigating the treacherous waters of teenagers. All in all, it was a mess.

So I planned a trip.

I told the kids I’d chosen a spot with “something for all of us”. We were going to Idaho. At first, they were shocked, incredulous, and even protesting. Then they figured out I was outright lying, but couldn’t figure out the real destination. I explained that they’d need passports in case we crossed over into the Canadian Rockies. Those beautiful dress clothes? Well, they’re for the formal barbecue and hayride, of course. All throughout the spring, I would expound on the beauty of Idaho, and all the cool stuff we would see there. The kids would roll their eyes, and wonder out loud where we were really going.

The week before we left, I gave the kids a puzzle with about two dozen questions on it. The answers fit into numbered spaces, and all were about, you guessed it, Idaho. They hunted down the answers, and kept the papers until the day we left, salivating over the final clue they’d unscramble.

We packed the car, got in, started driving, and stopped for breakfast. I handed them the last piece of paper – the holy grail containing our true destination, simply by placing numbered letters into the spaces.

Almost.

Remember Ralphie, from A Christmas Story, and his secret decoder ring? Yeeeah. Theirs said, “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine” too!  I found this hilarious. The kids? Not so much. The Ambassador didn’t speak to me for half an hour!

We got back in the car, and I handed over my laptop. On it was a Power Point, set to music (Two Tickets to Paradise and Guitars and Tiki Bars), detailing our cruise ship, along with each port and what we’d be doing there. The kids freaked out. They forgave me incredibly fast, amazingly enough, and the fun began.

That trip was really good for us. We spent time together, away from the outside world, reassuring each other that no matter what else, we would always be a family. But there were tensions. The Scientist and I were in a really bad place, and though we covered pretty well, we both felt it just the same. I was fine being on the trip with him, but would’ve preferred not to share a cabin with him. We do pretty well when we travel together, but even the Caribbean couldn’t erase the problems in our relationship. Our friendship was crumbling around us, and that had always been the foundation for the rest of the family. We were in danger of losing everything.

2 months after that trip, I asked for a divorce. We separated once again, starting the one year clock required by our state before a divorce would be granted. A month after that, we started therapy, not to rebuild a lost marriage, but to at least attempt to sew back together the shredded fabric of a long standing friendship. Quite honestly, I thought it was a lost cause. While I would never speak against their father, I was done, and simply wanted to move on to parent the kids and try to pick up the pieces of my life.

Now, 4 ½ years later, we are headed back to Idaho. We’re going to a different area, but Idaho just the same. This time, our friendship is in a really good place. Our relationship has changed in so, so many ways, but we are still best friends, and now we’re both much better parents to our kids.

This year, like 2009, has also been tough. The Scientist lost his father after almost the same amount of time as my own father. We’ve lost some friends in sudden, tragic ways. The stresses have slowly eroded us, but we know the island sunshine, and the bond we have as a family will help us put each other back together.

We’ll miss our friends while we’re off the grid for a few days, but it’s a much needed break. There are times in which social media is great, and times when it gets in the way. This week, it would get in the way of the rest and reconnection we so desperately need.

Hopefully, everyone will find the peace they seek this holiday season. There is no perfect world, but maybe, just for a little slice of time, we can find our own version.

A Remainder of One

4604500425_0d3b924ab6_oThis week kinda sucked. My headspace went straight to hell about a week ago for some inexplicable reason. I realize this is not statistically significant – it happens to everyone on occasion, and I’m no different.

The only problem with this particular time for me was the fact that it’s careening headlong into the holiday season, which can exacerbate pretty much any emotional state that’s left of center for me. The holidays bring Golden Boy back into the neighborhood, along with my mother’s manipulative attempts to guilt me into doing whatever whim she’s focused on at the time. Last time she lied to both me and my sister, in an attempt to get me to attend the “family” gathering. My sister approached me a few years ago about not doing them anymore – I agreed, as our kids have grown apart, and everyone felt a bit forced. This was fine, but I should’ve seen her suggestion for what it really was, because now, the rest of my bio family gets together except for my crew. I’m sure I should feel upset and betrayed by that, but really? I actually find it funny.

But the impending tension does set me on edge. So when I wind up in a conversation with the Quilter on Sunday about the fact that I don’t have the capability to be “in love” with anyone, it took a slide and shoved it into a spiral. It wouldn’t have been a huge deal, but that conversation was then followed by a related one the following night with the Professor and the Scientist at dinner. Follow that up with the 6 month mark of the Moore, OK tornado that took Sydney, mix in a horrifically stressful week at work, and I’m pretty well done.

Feeling broken is something with which I’m quite familiar. I’ve written about it before. It’s still hard to explain though, to someone who thinks that the inability to be in love is a choice. This isn’t something that I’ve chosen; I am not denying myself some level of bliss by design. Instead, I stagger through my world, seeing people falling in love, having that light bulb turn on, and resent the fact that I can’t comprehend it. There was an internet essay about how a special needs child is like planning a trip to Paris and winding up in Holland. Different, but beautiful. For me, this is more about wanting desperately to plan a trip overseas, but being ineligible for a passport.

I’m not going to bore you by rehashing why I suck at marriage. You can always go read it if you want.

But seeing my kid struggle to comprehend why her mother isn’t in love with her father, and hates the concept of marriage, but has chosen to stay in it anyhow, really broke my heart. She worships her dad, as well she should, and she knows that it hurts him. I didn’t have the words to explain it to her any more than I could explain myself to the Quilter. All of my talents at “translating” information, which make me an amazing teacher, failed me.  There are things in my past that my kids will never know. No one knows some of the things in my past except the people who were there, and that’s the way it needs to stay. However, the Scientist will tell anyone who asks that I’m a “fabulous wife”, which amuses me to no end. It’s true that I try to be good to him. He is a truly wonderful man, as a father, as a person, and as the best friend I’ve ever had. I live with the guilt every single day, knowing the selfish choice I made and why I made it, but he has decided that this life with me is better than the alternative. I still feel, and will always feel, that he deserves better than me. People have tried to reason me out of that, and guess what? It hasn’t worked yet, and it won’t work. So save us both the hassle and the boredom, and don’t bother.

As much as I deplore a particular coke-headed neurologist who tried to pass his psychotic ramblings off as scientific fact, I do agree that we learn a basic sense of trust versus mistrust from day one. Your very first intimate relationships are with your caregivers and family, and when those relationships are destructive, that foundation is too damaged to hold up anything else. And like any other permanent structure, once it’s built, you can’t go back and fix the base. Laws of physics and all that.

Having this mess swirling in my head all week has definitely been a double edged sword. The one side of the blade is that it reinforced the fact that I am, by nature, a loner. I spent a lot of time in my head, ear-buds firmly tucked in, music blaring. However the other side of blade reminds me that, on occasion, as soothing as my solitude is, it can also be a lonely place. Despite the fact that I am almost never alone during the week (with the obvious exception of my hour-long commute to and from work), I felt little shards of loneliness slip in here and there. Such an odd feeling, as it’s quite rare!

As the week wound down, my headspace started to settle at least a little bit. Being swamped at work helped that, as I didn’t have time to brood about my messed up head. Some creativity this weekend is a priority, as that will help more than anything else.

At some point, I hope I can learn to realize that even though I’m broken, I’m functional – maybe even more so than some others!

Repeating decimals

I’ve often been asked why I feel like I am a failure at marriage.  My explanations, no matter how carefully worded, always wind up wracking me with guilt, and so I basically just mumble something about being a loner at heart (which is true) and let it go at that.

The problem is that, no matter how much I own my feelings, no matter how much I stipulate that this has nothing at all to do with the Scientist as a person, it still makes me seem like a horrific bitch who hates her spouse.  And while the first part may well be true…ok, who are we kidding here?  It’s true…the second part isn’t.  After three and a half years of therapy, the Scientist has become my best friend again.  While I may not be “in love” with him, Cinderella and those wenches are overrated anyhow.  And Prince Charming?  Eh.  Have you ever seen Prince Charming when he wasn’t dressed and acting like a prissy stick-in-the-mud?  Nope.  I’d rather a guy who can look good in jeans and a shirt, sweaty and dirty from working in the garden with me, thanks.

So, at the risk of having my Facebook friends’ list chopped in half, and whatever miniscule readership I have on here bailing too, I’m going to lay it out in the open and just be honest.  Don’t feel bad about it if you’re one of the ones who shakes your head and walks away; I can’t say I blame you.  Sometimes I’d rather walk away from me, too.

The short answer is quite simple: I view the concept as a leash.  A well intentioned, sometimes beneficial, leash, but a leash nonetheless.

The explanation isn’t quite as easy, and this is where things make me look selfish and mean.  Since I was a child, I have had wanderlust in a really bad way.  I’m never so happy as when I’m traveling, especially somewhere new.  The Scientist doesn’t have it quite as badly, but through me, scuba diving, and Geocaching, he has definitely developed a love for travel and exploration.  That being said, I also have other people in my life who love to travel, and with whom I would love to travel.  Here’s where we start to get dicey.

The Photographer, for example, is my twin sister from another mother.  We’re so alike it’s scary sometimes.  Her wanderlust matches mine.  She and I have made a promise to each other that has two parts: first, we will go on an African photo safari together, and second, that neither of us will go without the other.  I take that seriously.  There is truly no one I would rather be with on that trip, and if I had the money to go right now, I wouldn’t do it, simply because I know that for now, she cannot.  End of story.  Now, in this particular example, if the Scientist were to join in, it wouldn’t bother me at all.  I think he’d have fun, he adores the Photographer (and vice versa), and it would be a fun group trek.  But if he suddenly wanted to go, just the two of us?  No.  I wouldn’t go with him because my promise to my twin sister would be the priority.  In marriage, prioritizing someone else over your spouse is generally considered to be a huge no-no.  But that’s how I feel.

The Trainer and I have discussed, on multiple occasions, two trips in particular.  We both want to go to Thailand and to India, and we want to go together.  But on those trips?  I wouldn’t want the Scientist, or anyone else along with us.  Those trips are for us.  We’ve talked about them, made little plans here and there of certain things to do, places to see, and that’s our adventure.

Now, let me be perfectly clear about this next part.  All, and I mean every single one, of the Scientist’s objections to the idea of me taking off with the Trainer for a week or so, on two separate occasions, to see parts of the world we’ve only dreamed about, are absolutely appropriate, reasonable, and rational.  They are ones that any normal person would make at the idea of their spouse going off like this.  So please do not think I am trying to make him sound like the problem; he isn’t.  I am.

Money is the big one.  “Our” money funding “my” trip, one in which he isn’t welcome to join.  The next would be if he wanted to see the destination, too.  Why should I get to experience that when he’d be left behind?  He’s already a bit jealous/upset that I have spent some time with the wild ponies at Assateague and he hasn’t.  I cannot even fathom his reaction to, “Bye, Honey, I’ll be back in a week or so.  I’m going to Thailand!”

That is a more extreme example, of course, and not one that will come up any time soon.  (Seriously…have you looked at the economy lately?)  The more basic level concept is, when you’re married, you almost always have to take someone else into consideration.  Compromise is vital, and while we have both done it a lot over the years, I freely admit to resenting some of it.  Petty?  Probably.  But fights about anything from naming the kids to paint colors in the new house and everything in between are always occurring.  Let’s say you love the color sage green.  (No, I don’t love it, but it’s an example.  Work with me here, people!)  You’ve had the idea for a perfectly decorated living room for your new house, you’ve picked out accent pieces, artwork, whatever.  Your spouse, however, hates the color and wants to paint the living room blue.  There are three options here.  1. You paint the room sage green and your spouse is pissed off every time he walks into the living room until you sell that house.  2. You let him paint the room blue and you resent it every time you walk into the living room until you sell that house.  3. Neither of you wins, the room gets painted yellow, and you both resent it.

I feel like the last twenty-ish years of my life have been one big compromise.  Has he compromised too?  Absofreakinlutely.  He gets full credit for that.  I know it seems like I’m beating the dead horse, but I feel the need to reiterate – this isn’t about him.  It’s about me.  And I’m tired of compromising.  It could be that I chose to have kids so young; when you’re a parent, your life is simply not your own anymore, by definition.  My kids are getting to the point where they’ll be off doing their own thing, and I have hit my metaphorical wall when it comes to giving in.  I’ve become selfish in my old age (shut up, 41 can be old!), and I want my own life.  If I want to blow off cooking for several days because I have more creative things to do, then so be it.  If I have time off available and I want to vanish to the coast to breathe the salt air, listen to the oceanic rhythms, then I’ll do so.  I want to paint the walls the colors that I like, spend my evenings and weekend however I want without consulting someone else’s schedule.  I want to be able to go off on “girls’ weekends” without guilt.

But the marriage leash pulls me back.  For now, the benefits outweigh the deficits, but what happens when the kids are out on their own, and we no longer have them as a central focus?  The Scientist and I are best friends, but we literally have almost nothing in common.  I’m worried about will bind us at that point, because right now, I look around and don’t see a shred of rope, a bit of duct tape, or anything else that will suffice.

And that, boys and girls, is why Mick sucks at marriage.

Across the hypotenuse

So it appears that we may have a preliminary decision for the island destination.  Now, this is by no means set in stone, and I am not unrealistic when it comes to the changes that can occur over the next five years.  That being said, I feel like you have to start somewhere if your goals are to be attained.  You need a focal point, of sorts.

That focal point, barring any unforeseen complications, will be St Thomas, USVI.  The backups are about equal in priority; they are Grand Cayman and Barbados.  (I’d rather Barbados, he’d rather GC.)

I do think the USVI will work well; easy access to the rest of the VI, and easy access to the kids.  We can spend the day on St John or Tortola, spend the day at the Baths in Virgin Gorda, or go watch the sunset over Christianstaad.  That ease of access is why Barbados isn’t #1 for me.  It’s pretty far away, and we want to be able to get to the kids fast if we need to, and we don’t want it to bankrupt them to come to us, either.  I’m slightly concerned about the fact that it is still a US territory; part of the point here is that I want out of the political firestorm that’s brewing.  If by some change, the republicans win the election this fall, life is going to change for women.  (In fact, it already has!)  The good ol’ boy club wants to set women’s rights back a few hundred years, objectifying us as property and taking up permanent residence in our vaginas.  Not my idea of fun.  So part of the research for me will be to see how far the laws on the mainland affect the “territories” that the US controls.  That could definitely cause a shift in priority, depending on what I find out.

There’s a little part of me that does wonder if the Scientist will back out.  It isn’t like I’ll be pissed off if he does, especially since I know full well that he doesn’t do change, and this will be one of the biggest changes of his life.  We’ll see what happens, though.

So that’s where we’re at, for now.  I’m a bit more at peace, having a point of reference so I can start the processes.  Tax laws, ex-pat laws, citizenship considerations (for the backups), all of that has to start somewhere.  It’s nice to feel a little more settled into some semblance of a plan.

In the meantime, I offer this shot of the Charlotte Amalie harbor, in St Thomas:

Off on a tangent

OK, so not really…but the math concept works.  Shut up.

So last week, I posted a blog on why I hate marriage.  (Read that one first if you haven’t yet, or you’ll be clueless as to what the heck I’m talking about here.)  I got some interesting responses, almost all of which were sent privately.  (No, I would never call those people out!)  I guess reading a hard topic is bad enough, but agreeing with it in public is even harder.  Not that I blame them, really; it was hard enough for me to write!

One question that came up, and I guess I should’ve clarified in that previous post, is whether or not I am not filing for divorce.  The immediate answer is “No.”  It would be interminably stupid of me to screw us both over financially at our ages when we work just fine together as friends.  And yes, I do realize that it kind of flies in the face of my last post to say that.  Our relationship  is non-traditional enough to support the boundaries that we set to it, so if we find other things that need to change, we can work it out.  The Scientist dates whomever he pleases, as do I, and at the end of the day, the friendship that we built, destroyed, and built again stays solid.

But then, how do I find a balance between straining against the leash and leaving the stability alone?  Not sure yet.  I know I’ve been unhappy lately, and I also know that it is almost entirely due to my work situation.  I’m trying to change that, but the simple fact that the unemployment rate in my state hovers around 10% is rather detrimental to that goal.  So while I have seen other people around me getting new jobs, I have been unsuccessful so far.  I’m working really hard to make it happen, and won’t rest til it does.  In the meantime, I find joy in the rest of my life.  My kids are, as always, my whole world.  I love talking to them, laughing with them, just watching them mature into the amazing adults I see.  I also seek solace in spending time with Alejandro, which is always a Very Good Thing(tm).

As for the rest of it, I still feel like I’m wandering in the mist.  I can’t see the path, and I don’t know where I’m headed, but all I can do is keep moving in a direction that I think is forward, and deal with any obstacles I encounter as I meet them.  I’d like to think I’ll find my way out, but for now, even that’s wholly uncertain.  I have to reach the clearing eventually, right?

 

Finding my own derivative

I need to preface this post by making one point very, very clear: this post is not about the Scientist.  I realize that, at first, it may seem to be, but it isn’t.  Please understand that I am strictly speaking in conceptual terms here, and that my feelings would not have changed whether the Scientist was the victim in question or not.  It’s just his unfortunate fate that he is.

So here goes:

I do not like marriage.  Yes, that is what I said.  I do not like marriage.  I suck at it, and it is just not something that I see changing.  Now, I realize that many of my peers perceive marriage as the ultimate in security, the pinnacle of emotional success, and the goal of  any sane adult.  For me, it’s a leash.  You can have a puppy on a nice long Flexi Lead, and she will prance along, happy as can be.  The sun is shining, there are great smells in the air, and all is well.  Curiosity will inevitably come calling, and the puppy bounds off on a new adventure, and *WHAM* the leash reaches its maximum yield, and she is yanked back on her butt, wondering what the hell just happened.  And yes, I realize that for a puppy, leashes are a safety measure…spare me.  One, I do not need someone looking out for my safety, and two, it’s an analogy, people!

In a marriage, there is almost no decision you can make without it affecting someone else.  This, of course, increases exponentially when kids are brought into the equation.  Case in point: I recently planned a surprise party for a teammate at work.  Instead of just picking a date with the other person who was helping me, we both had to make sure that it wouldn’t have any sort of adverse effect on our respective spouses or kids.  Again, please remember that this has nothing to do with the Scientist.  He is by no means a jerk about me doing my own thing, or about scheduling issues.  This is about always having to figure out everyone else’s needs first.  It’s the Butterfly Effect in my every day life.

I’ve been job hunting for a few years now; no secret there.  But I am severely limited in my options, not just because of my profession, but because I can’t move.  I’m tied here (as is he – this definitely goes both ways!)  Vacations, whether major expeditions or quick getaways are really the same.  I have to take someone else into consideration every single time, whether he is coming with me or not.  And sometimes, I feel like I really don’t have the option of going by myself.  If it’s an interesting or new destination, there’s the unspoken (or sometimes it is spoken!), “You’re not seeing/experiencing that without me!”

I can see my readers now, shaking their heads and thinking, “Holy hell.  I had no idea that Kel was such a selfish bitch!  I feel so bad for the Scientist!”  And you’d be right.  I feel bad for him, too.  This has been such a gut-wrenching thing for me to even contemplate, much less admit to myself, and then the world.  I look around me at people whose biggest goal in life was to find a partner, and I’m envious of them.  This one, for some inexplicable reason, wants to keep on not just holding the other end of my leash, but wearing the one that’s looped around my wrist.  I simply cannot fathom why.

I truly wish I understood why I feel this way.  Why did I get left off the list when starry-eyed romance was handed out?  How come I got shortchanged in the desire to find “true love” and live “happily ever after”?  My therapist is an amazing woman, but how would I even phrase that?  “Hey, V, can you help me be normal like other women, such that I love being stuck in the marriage cage?”  Hmm.  Might need to revise my phrasing…

Anyhow…

My solitary nature has gotten me into trouble over the years of being married.  It occasionally makes me uncommunicative, not by deliberate omission, but simply by a lack of realization.  It just doesn’t occur to me to tell him, and this pisses him off.  I’m definitely working on it, but my deficit is still pretty glaringly obvious.  I have to make a conscious effort to let him in on my emotional state, or when I’m dealing with things, but I am trying.  However, I have said in therapy on numerous occasions that, without wanting to sound “emo” or anything, I truly do not believe that I am cut out for this kind of relationship.  I don’t think I’m good for the Scientist, or anyone else in that capacity, and that kinda hurts.

As usual, the future is a secretive bitch.  But we’ll see what comes, and see if maybe I can fix yet another thing about my soul that I don’t like.

Order of Operations

PEMDAS.  We all learned it in math class as kids, but how do you apply it to your adult life?  Prioritizing the various stressors in my life has always posed a challenge for me.  I tend to get very down on myself if I cannot handle Every. Single. Thing. on my own, so being organized and being able to see the game plan helps to alleviate some of that.  When I think about prioritizing my loyalties, that has never been an issue.  Not ever.  But what happens when those two things overlap?

My first loyalty has always been to family.  No exceptions.  But lately, I have had to make some very hard decisions in order to protect not just myself, but my own kids as well.  In doing so, I had to face an enormous amount of guilt and some pain, too, in knowing that the people I once put above all else no longer deserved to be there.  I gave second chances, I let stuff go, I ignored behaviors, and I made excuses.  The end result, though, was that none of it worked.  The problems didn’t miraculously go away, and I had to take a step back to realize that Stephen Covey has a very good point.  “You cannot change someone else’s behavior; you can only change your reaction to it.”  He offers up a concept he calls a “sphere of control” that made a lot of sense.  Part of our stress and our worry comes from trying to control things outside of that sphere.  If it is not in your power to control it, and you waste time and energy fighting that, you risk losing the more important aspects in your life in the process.  Instead, figure out what in the situation you can control, and do that.  Then step back.  When things hit, you have a choice in how you react.  Yes, it is still your own choice, your own responsibility.  But you choose the reaction, and you own the ensuing processes.

I tried to put this theory into practice, but that guilt I mentioned was pretty strong.  It wove its way into my heart, making it heavy with sorrow and with loss.  “You’re the one giving up here, Mick.  You’re the one bailing, not having faith.”  And the worst one was, “You are being disloyal.  This is family you’re talking about here.”  Loyalty is so very important to me, as I’ve had it betrayed on numerous occasions by those I thought were trustworthy.  So the insidious little voices of guilt knew exactly which button would get me to second guess myself.  And trust me, I did so.  Repeatedly.

But that’s where the prioritization comes into play.  No matter how much we might like to say that we love and value people equally, that’s a big ol’ steaming crock of…well, you get my drift.  The fact is that different people are ranked in different ways in our heads, our hearts, and our lives.  What I had to do was own that, admit it to myself, and then act on it.  There were no big announcements, no banners on Facebook, no overt actions.  None of that was necessary.  What was necessary was the way I approached things on a day to day basis, the way I considered my own actions in response to those of others.

The bottom line, for me, is that there is no one that will ever come before the Scientist, the Professor, the Artist, and the Ambassador.  No one.  And if I do not prioritize them, and make it clear that my first loyalty will always be to them, then not only do I damage them, but I destroy myself.  In being true to them, I am true to myself.

This isn’t to say that the broken bonds don’t bleed.  They do.  They leave behind a great deal of sorrow and loss, as an open wound that will take a long time to scar over.  But at the end of the day, I know that I am doing the Right Thing, and I know that the people who matter are better for it.

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