Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fighting Dirty...

Hello. I need to vent. I feel stuck. I don't want to whine, but I find that the only good way for me to think through something is to write, so here I am.

So what do I need to vent about? Me. The World. My kids. My husband. Things just aren't going well these days. I can't really figure out why. If you look at my life you'd see that it is a pretty good life. I have a good man for a husband. He is steady, he doesn't drink, he doesn't beat me and doesn't chase other women, he works hard, he is honest, and is a good father. My children are beautiful. They are smart. They are mostly for the "I'm a kid so I need to test you" phase they are going through that should last roughly about 30 years or so. I have a nice home on a quiet street with good neighbors. I have a dog and a cat. No one is terrorizing me. I am living the American Dream by all accounts.

So why am I unhappy?

I started off thinking that I was angry with my husband. It appears that he lied to me when we married. He said that he knew that I was no June Cleaver when we decided to get engaged. He knew not to expect that I would find all my fulfillment in cleaning the house and preparing his dinner and having his children. I just am not equipped to be standing at the door when he arrives home with a drink and a shoulder massage at the ready. I cannot sit dociley by his side and listen to him fill me in on his day and pretend that I don't feel stress too.

While he is sharing the frustrations of his day, I am barely able to hear him. The phone is ringing. The dog is scratching at the door to go out and go potty. I am making macaroni and cheese. My children, angelic cherubs that they are, are tugging at my sleeves, calling to me to please pay attention to THEM, not Daddy. I am feeling tired, drained, like there is nothing left. I know I should be giving him my attention, but I just don't have any to give. I feel frazzled. I need to escape.

I feel stressed. I don't feel appreciated or understood.

What's worse? I know that he is stressed and misunderstood too. My husband has made a conscious decision to return to a sector of the working world that he found, shall we say, unpalatable the first time around. When he worked at this company before, he didn't particularly enjoy the glory-grabbing, ethically lazy, corporate climbing atmosphere that is in abundant supply there.

So why did he go back? Why return if he was being sucked dry by the energy and creativity vampires at work? His work is underappreciated. He is devalued. Those he works for seem to get what they can from him and give very little back. Sometimes they seem to even go out of their way to see to it that he doesn't feel valuable in any way.

So again you ask, why go back? Once you shake the dust off your feet, shouldn't you continue down the path of your life to more fruitful locales? Haven't we learned that throwing pearls before swine is a pointless exercise?

Unfortunately friends, the swine seem to have the upper hand. In this economy, the swine seem to be able to sling mud and filth and get away with it. The rest of us are just trying to get by. So when I answer your questions about why my husband has chosen to go back, what I will tell you is this: shelter and stability. He has responsibilities to his family. He takes those responsibilities seriously, and as noble as a work ethic, creativity and integrity are, they have to coexist with lack of appreciation, glory-grabbing, lazy ethics and Machiavellian corporate climbers who will throw anyone under the bus at the first opportunity if it means that they aren't going to wind up there themselves.

So when he comes home drained, I get it. I understand that he is mentally fried. He is looking to recharge so he can do the dance all over again tomorrow. I know that he has accepted that this is the sacrifice that he needs to make in order to see his children be cared for, protected and thrive. He knows that indignantly stomping out of his office after telling them what they can do with their job is not really an option he can afford. Not if he wants to provide the kind of stable life he believes his children need.

So what's the problem? To oversimplify it, here it is in the nutshell: the damn television. My white knight comes home on his trusty steed (minivan), removes his armor (polo shirt and dockers), dons his sweatpants and grabs a snack. He then plunks himself in front of the television and watches any one of a myriad of programs that he seems to like: the Celtics, Weekday Wings, Battle 360, Top Gear, or anything on the History Channel.

At first, I thought the main issue was that he seemed ignorant to the fact that I too would like to be able to sit as he does. I thought I was resentful of the fact that he seems oblivious to the need to set the table, make dinner, clear the table, get the children into pajamas or give them baths, help them with homework, read stories, or clear the table. I thought that I was aggravated because most nights when I come down from reading the bedtime stories the dishes are still waiting to be loaded into the dishwasher, the leftovers are still out and the table needs to be wiped down. And those things do irritate me, no doubt. But that's a cliche'. We poor women are not appreciated. We have to be all things to all people. Blah blah blah. We can't bring home the bacon AND fry it up in a pan, all while looking like the sexpots the media says we should look like. (By the way facebook, I don't CARE if Jennifer Anniston is my age but looks younger). Please spare me the phoney baloney.

But that isn't the main reason I am aggravated with him. The main reason I am aggravated with him is because he seems to prefer the television over me. He is developing a relationship with the television these days. He laughs while watching the television. He smiles, claps his hands and becomes deeply entranced in almost anything the television has to say. He used to act that way around me. I used to be able to make him feel good. Now I just make him feel used. The television has become his mistress.

He barely listens to me any more. Mostly, probably, because I represent more stress for him. I worry. There are bills to pay, appointments to go to, chores to handle. I try to communicate with him about what is going on in our family's lives, but I think he feels my stress and tunes out. How could he not? By the time he gets home most days I am out of juice. I just cannot be patient for one more minute. He barely has time to come in the door before he is assaulted with the stuff going on at home.

I am failing as his wife and I have to look that in the face every day and accept that I am failing. I just don't know how to cope with that. The really sad thing is that I know it's a character flaw of mine that is causing most of the troubles in our marriage. I feel it was a flaw handed down generations, and I have no idea how to fix things.

I can feel you there saying, "She's being too hard on herself." But really, I'm not. I can see the problem quite clearly. I'm nowhere near as good as I wish I was. I can logically understand what is wrong with me, but I don't seem able to change it. It isolates me. Makes me feel alone and afraid sometimes. I am surrounded by people who think I am a nice person. Who think I am good. But I know that inside, I really am not. I'm just too afraid to reveal who I really am. Afraid of the repercussions. I want to be wild and free, but I am afraid to be. So I conform. To please others. And I hate it.

I was driving home from work yesterday morning. I usually call my mom on those drives, mostly to keep awake. I love my mom, but we just don't see eye to eye on much. She's all into pop culture. Always has been, always will be. She gets her relationship advice from Oprah, Dr. Phil and Maury Povich. She hangs on their every word. She's a gossip-monger too. She has to let me know, "because she cares," that Cathy (my sister) is worried that I am upset with her. I haven't called her in a couple days. Now, I know that Cathy isn't worried. She and I understand if one or the other person doesn't get back to them it's because they have stuff going on. It's nothing personal. Besides, Cathy is busy enough with her life that she probably doesn't really think all that much about whether or not I am upset. She's in school, she works, she has a dog, she has a boyfriend, she has friends. I just don't occupy that much space in her mind. Again, nothing personal, but I don't really believe she is that worried about whether I call her back or not.
It's just that my mother makes up stuff. She doesn't feel that we kids are doing all the right things to show how close we are as a family. She tries to orchestrate opportunities to create closeness. She doesn't get that just because she doesn't see something it doesn't mean it isn't there. And if it isn't there, there is nothing that she can do to create it. I don't know how to not get upset when I listen to her talk, because most of what she says is pure, unadulterated bullshit.

She is a chameleon. I know that sounds judgemental, but she really is. I suppose we all are chameleons, but I feel it most when I talk to her. She talks to me as if her faith, her marriage and her family are the most important things to her. But when she talks to my brothers she is all about partying. She smokes pot, she drinks, she swears, and she is pretty free with the ethics and morals. She once told me that the man she most respected in her life was her grandfather and the best advice he ever gave her was, "Never use your own money. Always use someone else's." She followed that up by asking my husband and I if we wanted to go into business with her. I had to stifle a laugh. Hard.

I think she thinks that I don't know about her other lives, her other selves. My brother shares stories with me about her that would curl your hair. But we won't get into that. I digress.
I don't really want to spend time in my blog to bash my mom though. She is who she is because of the circumstances that surrounded her and because of the circumstances that continue to surround her. She is neither a saint, nor a demon. She just is. I mention her only because I want to share a little story with you to illustrate a point. My point? My point is that she is a narcissist, and so am I. She is on husband #4, she has no retirement income to speak of if you believe what she tells you, and she is so lonely for her family. But she doesn't get that you reap what you sow. She doesn't understand that you have to be there for those you love if you want them to love you back.

What do I mean? I mean, she says that all she wants is a close family. That is what is most important to her. But she threw out every one of us kids when we were teenagers. Every one. Because she needed space. She needed to move. She needed respect. She needed a fresh start. Pick a reason, any reason, but it was her need. That came first, always.

She doesn't want to be alone she says. But she won't be with anyone either. Her current husband is in West Virginia with his family, attending a memorial service for his aunt. Now I won't fool you into thinking that I am close with him. I'm not. He seems like a nice guy, but I don't really know him. But what my mother told me on the phone, while I was driving home from work, was that she was upset with him for leaving her alone. She felt that it was a really bad time for him to be going to be with his family. He shouldn't be leaving at this time since they are really short on cash. He should be working. He does, after all, my mom said, have a wife to support. He's off with family and she is all alone in this "big castle" of a house (some friends have loaned them their home while they are on a 50-day cruise). He's too attached to his family she thinks.

She doesn't get it. She doesn't get that if family really IS important, you go to the memorial. If your husband matters to you you go with him, even if you didn't really know the aunt. You go even if you think you can't afford it. Because money will always be tight, but family should be tighter. She knows that she can't figure out the relationship thing. She has said as much. But she won't listen to anyone who tries to help her. She is too invested in the idea that she is the only one who will look out for her, and she doesn't get that she is not always going to be the center of anyone's reality.

So I get frustrated with her. But I understand her too. I understand feeling drained and tired. I understand wanting to be taken care of. I want to be the center of someone's universe. I wake up every day feeling like I need to recharge somehow and I truly don't know how to get that recharge. I want to be a good wife. I want to be a good mother. I want to be able to be available to my husband and children. I do. But I am so depleted that I can barely function. I sometimes think about running away from it all. Not because I don't want to be with my husband and children, but because I know I am failing them in some very important ways and I just can't face it all the time. I think about divorce for the same reasons. I can't be what I know my husband and children need. I'm not improving with time, and I am not happier. All I am able to manage is to be.

When the highest aspiration you have is existence, you know that you are in a bad way. I'm not really sure why I feel so depleted, but I do. I wish I could find a church or a group of friends that I met with regularly that really reenergized me. The best I have managed so far is facebook. I can check in with other people's lives on facebook, I can see what is making others tick or not tick as the case may be, and I can check out of my own life for awhile. To put the narcissist away and not think about how unhappy I am. I look at flair and laugh, I play scrabble, and I quiet down the inner critic that is telling me that I should be spreading rose petals on the bed, baking cookies and hosting the block party of the century.

Meanwhile, my husband quietly waits for me to notice his depleted state. Help.

My five things:

1.) I am grateful that in this economy my husband and I have enough to care for our children
2.) I am grateful that I get a new chance each day to do it right
3.) I am grateful for facebook (really)
4.) I am grateful for my ability to learn from others
5.) I am grateful that my shift at work is 1/2 over

My bucket list:

1.) I want to be sure my sister knows I love her
2.) I want to show my family that I love them every day
3.) I want to become more ecologically responsible
4.) I want to stop being afraid to be real
5.) I want to help my husband feel recharged


Anonymous said...

I believe you cannot give what you do not have.

I also believe that the most unselfish thing to do in life is to take care of yourslef.

Be wild and free a little bit each day, why not?

Also....a great friend(Dave) told me once that you are what you hate the most. I have found that the times when I have hated mom the most were the times I was the most like her and the more accepting of her I become the less I am like her :) Mission Impossible is possible I promise :)

Anonymous said...

Yourself! there I spelled it correctly. I messed it up twice.