My husband and I had a very long, heated conversation last night. It started around 9 in the evening, and ended around 1 in the morning. Most of it took place in our front yard, and most of it was accompanied by tears, both mine and his. (Which is a fucking rarity indeed on his behalf).
It all started with a t.v. show. A FUCKING t.v. show, for cryin' out loud. The Wizard of Oz was on TNT, or some channel or another, and it had already been on once, so I asked if maybe we could find something else to watch. I said it kindly, without any hint of sarcasm or puns, which is usually the star of our witless banter to one another, but I figure, hey, I don't want him to feel any disrespect just because he's a fan of the Cowardly Lion, and I ain't. So then he retorts with, "Yeah, I'll change the channel. I'm sure we can find SOMETHING with plenty of people killing other people." My mouth was ready to bolt out, "FUCK YOU", but my heart, the sucker of my being, suggested otherwise. I had been putting up with this kind of bullshit from him all week though, and ignoring it wasn't going to solve this issue. My heart felt like it was going to explode with hurt and rage.
Let's rewind to earlier this weekend for a sec....well, actually, earlier this week, to be exact. Tuesday evening, I'm at my therapist's office, working hard on past childhood hurts. Ones that still affect me to this day, unresolved issues that cause me to lack in my performance when the chips are down. Ones that can somehow magically be dealt with by pretending to talk to your mother, when really it's just an empty fucking chair, because you are terrified like the child you once were, to tell her how hurt she made you feel when she did/said certain things. So I am safe in this four cornered room, with a nun dressed in black, telling me it's okay to say whatever's on my mind. So I do. I don't yell, or cuss, or rage. I cry like a fucking baby, telling her how much it hurt me that she thought I was capable of protecting myself at such a young age, and that I wasn't capable, and if I was ever, that I surely would have done so. When all was said and done, my therapist asks, "If there was anything your mom could have said or done to make you feel better, what would that be in this moment? What would you want her to say or do?" My heart wretches in more pain and agony at the thought of this possibility, as I'm crying uncontrollably, and I sputter. "I just want her to hug me and tell me sorry. I don't want her to be angry or defensive. I just want a hug." Mother Katherine lets it all soak in for me, and she says the one thing that forever changed my weekend...."So that's all you want is it? That's all anybody ever wants. Someone to hold them and say "I'm sorry". They don't have to take it all back. They don't even have to have an explanation. They just need to hug you and tell you sorry."
Now I can fast forward a bit to this weekend. At Barnes and Noble. My therapist had suggested a book, for all the "work" we've been doing in therapy. She says it can be helpful in dealing with "triggers", and all the everyday stress and anxiety that accompany those said "triggers". "Getting Through The Day: Strategies for Adults Hurt as Children" by Nancy J. Napier, is what she suggested. I go into Barnes and Noble, half expecting it to be there, but my hopes where mostly on "Touching from a Distance" by Deborah Curtis (Joy Division's Ian Curtis' wife). I had watched the movie Control late night Friday and into Saturday morning, and so I was inspired to learn more of Ian Curtis's wife's perspective on the relationship between the 2. Whoever played the role of Ian in that movie did a fan-fucking-tastic job of doing so, he was so much like the real Ian, I just couldn't take my eyes away, even when he started doing his famous flailing to and fro dance, which is utterly fucking ridiculous, but insanely endearing at the same time. So yeah, anyways. I'm running away with myself yet again. I get to the information desk with more stock put in "Touching from a Distance" than "Getting Through the Day", and again and made an inner fool for my thinkings. Deborah Curtis' book is no longer in print. But alas, the latter is readily available for my reading pleasure. The bookstore clerk kindly hands me my book, and I'm on my merry way to the sit down area of Starbucks, to get a start on this quest. I have no idea what I'm in store for. I haven't a clue how much help this book is going to offer up, how many chords it strikes in my own heart to read this published piece of literacy. I'm nowhere near done, but 1/4 of the way through the book, I'm constantly putting into place my husband's situation as well, as he's had it far harder in life than I, and the emotional scars of neglect are far deeper than mine could ever be. He covers the scars up very well these days, with "love" and "forgiveness". But to the ones close enough, we can still see the blood of those wounds leaking through those bandages of his definition of "forgiveness" and "love". I think about how much of an impact it has on our relationship, our ability to thrive as a family in the crazy fuckied up world we live in today, and I feel a sense of overwhelming panic at the thought of where we could ultimately end up, if we don't learn to get our shit together. On the surface, we look okay to everybody. MORE than okay, to be truthful. And we are, for the most part. But behind closed doors, where it really matters, where the real life takes place, it can be quite another story. This is where the real hurt exists. This is where we can be ourselves. Where we are safe to bleed and let our bandages fall. And so you see, this is where it isn't as "picture-perfect" as many of those who know us think it is. It's comparable to Scarecrow's ward on Batman Begins. Loonies here and there, and not many nights of restful sleep and peace. There are cries out in the night, and people needing to be locked away and pumped full of valium. But somehow we are given free reign, allowed to scrape these lowly halls, in our own vicinity of survival and past childhood terrors. So I'm thinking, maybe we need to learn to be safe in our own closed quarters...Maybe we can learn to know that behind closed doors, it doesn't have to be a repeat of what our own childhoods were. Maybe we can let it be a place of refuge, not only for Mike and I, but for our children too. It actually is for the kids, we've learned to perfect that dance for our children, but for ourselves. We need to learn to value ourselves enough to care about having a place of safety. And in our own midnight hauntings of past hurts, we haven't been able to see that place for ourselves. It's been so scary and hurtful that all we've cared about was how in the hell to get away from that pain and misery long enough to catch our breath. But now, it's time. It's time to start looking for a "place of our own" behind closed doors. One where Snookms and I can be "safe". A garden of serenity, of peace, of refuge, of control. Where only WE are allowed to give permission of who does what, and how and when and where. We are masters of our own towers here. Sometimes you have to fight to become master though. And even sometimes you have to fight for the terrain to do so.
So that's what I was doing in the front yard at ten o'clock last night....
Fighting for our "terrain". Our tower of refuge and freedom.
More of a spiritual fight, with spiritual weapons, because old demons resurface here, in these realms, where one is reaching out to another in safety. They like to think they have a say so in these sorts of things. These old demons of the past. Insecurity disguises itself as an overcompensation for competition. Fear comes out as false bravado, and the desire to be loved and accepted but never having to pleasure of either one, comes out as "I don't give a fuck what you think". Keep in mind that this is all a "spiritual" battle we are fighting, and in most cases, out there in the "real world" is where all this "false bravado" and "I don't give a fuck what you think" should fall into place. NOT in our own private lives, between "soulmates" when it all comes down to the core moment of being with that kindred spirit, and one's eyes meet another's in humility and compassion. You know those moments. Those are the moments we see as a child, when we think we want to marry Elvis because he's just absolutley beautiful, or Darth Vader, for that matter.
So when Mike replies to me that he thinks he can find a show with plenty of people killing people, I know he is sneakily trying to insert a "past childhood hurt" reply to me, and I take a minute, amongst all the past tsunamis of hurts and let the pain go to that inner child part of me, the one that's always wanted to run at the first sight of verbal abuse, and let it flow into her. My adult self asks my inner child, what does it need to say or do, in order to gain control of this situation, other than run. She tells me, quite plainly, "Take a stand for what it yours".
So I do.
I tell Mike that it is hurting more and more everyday to hear him say these hurtful things and that I don't know how much more I'll be able to tolerate. I then ask my inner child what else she needs to do, and she wants to go sit out on the front porch, and enjoy the beautiful summer night. She's always loved those. She loves watching the fireflies, and breathing in the humid night air, and hearing the June Bugs humm their encrypted tune into the midnight air. So I calmly close the curtains and blinds for the night, grab a bottle of water and some cotton candy ice cream, and go outside and sit and do exactly that. I feel a peace come over me that I haven't felt for years, in the midst of taking a stand for what is mine. It's a small step, I know, but here I am. I enjoy hearing teenagers giggle to one another down the street, trying to live out these last few weeks of summer vacation, before school starts up again. I hear the neighbors across the way, packing up the last of their worldly belongings in a giant U-Haul, because their moving to North Carolina in the morning. I am jealous of this, but at the same time happy for them. I take pleasure in living vicariously through them, pretending Mike and I are the ones at the wheel, our kids and our belongings packed away in the back, on our way to new adventures. I imagine the sun on our backs, and the beautiful scenery on the way there. I even take care to imagine what it'll be like once we get to our destination, and how the new home looks, and the excitement of unpacking our belongings. Setting up each of the kids' rooms, the living room, wondering where I'm gonna hang my Anakin/Darth Vader posters. I find a simple and sweet joy in all this. It was a means of escape as a child, when I had no control over what I could do to soothe myself outwardly.
Mike saunters out 20 minutes later, apologizing. I know he truly is sorry, and I accept his apology, and his hug. But I know this isn't the end of it. We make small talk, and the subject of our neighbors moving to North Carolina comes up.
This is where Mike always gets antsy...The times when it comes to other people and their "successes in life"... and the conversational flow becomes limited, stopped up, if you will, like there's a dam of forbearance that's been long held at bay, and Mike's powerful will and inner struggle to keep it under control comes into play, and I can feel this. I can sense this the way Master Yoda senses the attack of the clones. I always do, so I always let Mike do what he needs to do to gain control of himself, and allow him to tuck away yet another facet of his soul.
But not tonight.
I press further.
I ask questions.....
"What if" questions. Questions I've had in the back of my mind since the day we've met, but never had the balls to ask.
"What if I was somehow able to come across as the sole provider for the family, and I brought in enough income for us to live ANYWHERE we ever wanted to live?....Where would you wanna live?"
I knew his answer: "I don't know."
More uneasiness ensues, yet I press.
"Where have you always dreamed of living?"
"Here, I guess." He weakly replies.
"Here? Really?" (which there is nothing wrong with, but his uneasiness tells me he isn't speaking the truth.)
"Hmmmm. I've always pictured us living in other states. Like maybe Colorado, or Arizona, or hell, maybe even North Carolina".... I trail off.
He quickly spouts off the whole "Nice place to visit, but wouldn't want to live there" bullshit that he always chants, but I'm not buying it. I can sense so much of his anxiety in the air that you could cut that shit with a knife.
So I do.
"How would you feel if I really did somehow become the "breadwinner" of the family? Would you be happy for me?"
I already know what his answer is, but I have to get to the bottom of his reasoning. He tries to hide his displeasure in talking about this, as he dishonestly replies that he would be happy.
"You don't seem too confident in that answer. Would you really be happy for me?" I ask in earnest.
"For you, yes. For me...I dunno", he mumbles.
I sigh with relief at his willingness to be honest.
-Now we're finally getting somewhere....
"So why wouldn't you be happy for yourself? You're unsure of this, why?" I prod.
"You just don't understand. That's all. You're not looking at it from my perspective." More uneasiness from him.
Little does he know that that is ALL I do, is try to look at it from his perspective. I can understand his need to feel like "head of household". But does he understand my need to get out and try my chance at soaring? I ask him this very question....
But he doesn't have much to say. His ocd tics start up, and he's ready to go in for the night. This is the usual way things play out. I start crying through all this, because it's very hard for me to take a stand for what's mine.
But I'm doing it.
He says "I'm done" and walks back into the house. I am allergic to when Mike does this, because in my child like eyes, it's abandonement. He's walking away from me, a familiar feeling. I cry in this moment a desperate cry. I begin to pray quietly out loud, asking God for answers. Asking myself, "Where am I going with all of this? What is it that I want?"
I make up my mind that I want Mike's support, the same way he gets mine. I want equality. I don't want it to be so easy for him to give up and walk away on me and my complicated emotions, my difficulty in relaying what's on my mind.
But then, I ask God, in complete earnest, "Is what I'm asking for too much?"
I cry at the thought of this even more. I want to be reasonable. I don't want to be ridiculous in my requests.
A minute later, Mike is walking back out to me. He's not apologetic, but that's not what I was hoping for anyway. Just another chance to talk.
He tells me that "Just because I've got some book telling me that everything everyone does doesn't mean it always has to be about what happened to them when they were a kid. It just doesn't!"
In this moment I want to fight for my right to defend my case, to cry out "YES IT FUCKING DOES!!!LOOK AT US!!"
But I don't.
It hurts so much to hear him say these words aloud to me, that instead, I begin to dissassociate. I picture a means of escape from this pain. It's the only way I can sit through what he's saying and still look human. I picture myself dying a pain-free death. I think of the least painful way of dying, and go with it for as long as I can. At least until he is done saying what he is saying. The adult part of me is still listening though. Hoping somewhere in there is a breakthough.
He says, "Maybe not always this is the case. But sometimes, maybe it is".....
His voice breaks.
"Maybe sometimes, that person is always feeling wrong, with everystep of the way that they take. Maybe that person is always feeling horrible, like they don't deserve anything that's ever been given to them. Maybe they just want to be happy, but no matter how hard, they just can't.
Maybe that person is afraid"....
Tears flow like a river, and a relief washes over me for his willingness to be vulnerable, to be truthful.
I get out of my lawn chair and slowly walk over to Mike, wrapping my arms around him gently, kissing the tears that are running down his own face.
"I'm here for you Mike. I always will be. I will always be a safe place to go, when nothing else is. And I want you to be that for me. We can be that safe place for each other."
"I just wish I could be happy. I just wish I knew which job out there would make me happy. One I could be excited about getting up and going to everyday. Framing is like that most of the time, but it has no future for us. No security when I get too old to work. I don't want to have to struggle the way my dad is now, the way your mom and dad HAD to".
I tell him that no matter what kind of job anybody has, that it has to do with an inner peace that one carries around with them, so that it doesn't matter what one's place of employment is, they can have the ability to be happy no matter WHERE they are, or WHAT they are doing.
-They could be shoveling shit, and STILL be happy.
Then I tell him that we both need to find that inner peace, because that will provide more security for our future than any financial means could. And I also remind him of what my dad spent his whole life doing, and where it got him in the end.
(He spent his early years of marriage and being a father dedicated to getting his Airframe and Powerplant mechanic license. Later on, he was able to pursue a career as an airplane mechanic, and eventually a supervisor at United Airlines. When 911 took place, all of that took a shit for the worse, my mom and dad lost their house, their cars, and everything else they had spent their whole life working so hard for. Much later, they were able to get back on their feet and eventually get approved for 100% on VA disability and Social Security, but not before taking it up the ass by life and it's fucked up way of dealing.)
I then compare my parent's experience with his father's, not much different from our own, minus that fact that Mike doesn't drink, do drugs, or neglect us as a family. His dad was a framer practically his whole life. He took a shot at other opportunities, which didn't seem to work out to well, like car mechanics, and remodeling. But Mike's dad always wound up back in framing.And now he has no retirement, and doesn't even have the energy it takes to battle for his right to Social Security Disability, because he spent his years breaking his back building houses for everyone else.
When Mike was a kid, his parents constantly fought, both physically and verbally, causing even more stress in Mike's already nightmare environment(he didn't know all the issues he was struggling with as a kid had anything to do with OCD until he was an adult) and resulting in severe migraines everyday for Mike as a child. Mike's dad truly did love his family, he just didn't have what he needed to make it work for everyone, so he resorted to drinking and doing drugs, which of course, only made matters worse. When it came to having to acknowledge that the family could no longer work with him being a part of it, you can imagine how devasting this was to Mike's father. So he fought it with all his might. Until, of course, he realized how much pain it was causing Mike. He then was left with the bittersweet choice of learning to let Mike's mother and the family go, or only making matters worse by being the cause of all Mike's migraines. It was then that he sacrificed his life-long dream, warped by bad choices and barely liveable circumstances, so that his son could live a life that was free of so much of the stress he had caused.
I still see/hear that sacrifice in Mike's dad's eyes and voice every time we see him. Behind his surliness, and unwillingness to show emotion is a lost and alone man, only hoping a praying for some semblance of hope. I can imagine the prayers he is praying to whatever God is in existence for him, if any. Even just the utterances of sacrifice he offers up, to take one last stand against life, and the bullshit circumstances it so awfully manages to present:....
"Dear God, or whoever could be listening... Please let my children be everything that I couldn't. Please let them fullfill everyone of the promises that I wasn't able to. Let them feel the love that I was unable to express, but always felt, and let them be able to share that love with their own kids someday. If I was unable, dear lord, let them be able. I sacrifice my chance, so that they may. Let this be my redemption for my past transgressions. Let this be my way of saying 'I love you'".
I say all this, out loud to Mike, and it seems to bring a clarity to Mike's way of thinking, way of feeling, way of showing his own love, that I have never seen before.
An understanding, that it's okay to feel safe, it's okay to feel good, it's okay to be successful, and to be happy for others when they've succeeded in doing so.