It is okay

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I think it is okay for a woman to be alone, with herself, single again at 36.

But then again, I have to be.

Because I am.


I did not ask to be alone.

I established and defended a boundary.

A boundary he could not–would not–respect.

No, I told him, I will not pay for all of couples counseling.  No, we do not have to do it on Monday nights.  If Mondays are off the table for you, I will honor that.  Wednesdays are off the table for me.  That leaves three other weekdays.  

You aren’t compromising at all, he replied.

I restated my boundary: Couples counseling is a must if we are to reconcile.

Then we’re over, he said.

Okay, I replied.

He’s said he misses me.  But when we talk, he cannot help but pat himself on the back, lauding, through jokes and comments, how great his presence is.  When he shows me listings of houses he’s considering, I excuse myself to another room to cry.  When he finds me upset, he asks why.

Why?

Because through his actions, I can tell he’s been done with this relationship for a long time.

Because all I’ve ever wanted in this relationship is for him to choose me.

He retreats back to his old stance: If you could give me just one thing, one thing I need to do and tell me that’s all I need to do, but you’ll never be satisfied, he said.

Commitment is demonstrated in words, thoughts, and actions, I respond.  It’s about consistency.  It’s certainly not maintaining dozens of 20-something single women as “options” on Facebook.  It’s definitely not messaging other women.

He does not defend himself.

When I ask, he says he’s not talking to anyone else.

That wouldn’t be a good way to start a relationship, he says.

I remind him he’s said that before, and within 24-hours, he’s begun pursuing others.

What, am I serial liar then?, he asks.

I want tell him yes.  Yes, you are.

But I don’t.

Instead, I calmly tell him that I’m not asking for anything extraordinary.  What I’m asking for is normal.  I deserve to be a choice, not an option.

He scoffs again.

That’s a Facebook meme I see all the time, he says.

You follow hundreds of single women, I point out.  That stands to reason. 

In the end, he called me manipulative again.  What I want–commitment, to be a choice, not an option–is a trap, he said.

Then he asked if I still wanted to get dinner.

When I asked him if he was expecting me to pay for him, he referenced an article he read stating that 69% of women are in relationships for free meals.

I did not date you for the free meals, I reply.

I took myself to dinner.

I cried alone in the booth.

The words on the menu ran together.

Nothing made sense.

Nothing does when someone you still love stops loving you.

Today, my attorney will draft a letter to him.  I want to keep my home.  If I can.

Oh, how I wish he’d simply go away.

Maybe then I could breathe again.

 

 

Road Trip

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As I was driving up I-77 last night, a friend’s voice filled my car: “This seems a little crazy, but also epic at the same time.”

Yesterday morning, I decided I’d drive to Green, OH, to visit my favorite my clothing boutique.  It would be an 8-hour drive non-stop, which meant an 11-hour drive, if done right.

I had no place to stay, and as I needed to work Monday, it’d be a turn-and-burn.  Of epic proportions.


 

After agreeing to couples counseling every Monday night, he made other plans for the following two Mondays.  Let’s begin in July, he said.

One of his conflicting “appointments” was a four-day roadtrip with his oldest son to visit family and hike a Virginia mountain he did when he was his son’s age.  It would be a rite of passage.

He left me sick in bed with a fever.  I can care for myself.

But over the next four days, there would be no phone calls from him.  No messages sent asking how I was feeling.  Nearly two days after he left, he asked me how my day was, and when I responded that I’d spent the day home from work, he told me where I could find some NyQuil in our kitchen cupboard.  The check-ins were sporadic.  There were no “I love yous,” and as he was driving home and I told him I’d missed him, there was no response.

Withholding of affection.  Again.

At some point, I said I’d like a date night that week.  His response was, “Yes! Where are you taking me?”

I replied, “You’re taking me.”

Later, he’d cancel saying I was manipulating him, that I should be doing something nice for him.  He did pick up the tab from our dinner the night he returned home.  I offered to pay, but he declined.  And he cooked dinner the following night for me, his daughters, and their friend, which I thanked him for, though he made snide remarks, to suggest I was unappreciative of him.

“Your good-for-nothing boyfriend is cooking you dinner.”

I replied minutes later, “I’m sorry you feel that way about yourself.”

He canceled our date night the same day I sent a Facebook friend request to a woman whose only mutual friend was him–and she immediately blocked me.  When I let him know what had occurred, and asked him why she’d do that, he immediately shifted the blame onto me: It must have been something you posted or said. 

He never would answer how much interaction he’d had with her.  And he wasn’t going to engage me on the topic any further.  He shut me down.  Quickly.

As I met with three good friends over ice cream that evening, one shared with me that he’d seen him messaging other women while driving home from a recent beach trip.

He’s still predominantly friending 20-something single women.  As he’s explained, he likes to keep his options open.  They’re fun to look at.


After hearing he’d been messaging other women, I asked him if the offer stood to still look through his phone.  He said yes, but that he’d have less respect for me.  Though it lie next to him within arm’s reach, he made me get out of bed, and walk around to retrieve it.  I found nothing.  No messages to other women.

He was upset.  He said he wanted out of this so badly sometimes.  Then he moved to the couch, insisted on my giving him back his phone–right now–and told me he didn’t want anything more to do with me.

Because I’m codependent and cannot easily let go, I eventually went to him, asking him to talk. He repeatedly said, “It’s all your fault.” He said I was the one making this a bad relationship.  He would not comment on his withholding of affection from me.  He accused me of being Hitler.  And then he shut down.

The following morning, I apologized.  He accepted without returning one.  He got aggravated again.  He told me I had acted like a bitch the night before, that I was never satisfied, that I was unappreciative of the fact that he bought our dinner and that he cooked me dinner.

And then he pulled out of couples counseling.  He was angry, banging his hand on the coffee table to drive in his point.

“I’m not going to do counseling. I don’t want to do it. I don’t need to change.”

I calmly reminded him that couples counseling was my condition for reconciling.

“Then I guess we’re not reconciling.”

The couples counselor–who began meeting with me individually, until or in spite of whether my boyfriend “decided to get with the program,” stresses the importance of listening to my body.

I was listening–and I could not stop shaking. I realized that I’d been shaking for more than 24-hours.

I knew I could not stay.

“You’re making me question my entire reality,” I told him.

I’ve never more powerfully felt the effects of gaslighting, and I felt just hours or days away from a mental breakdown.

I packed my bag, shaking.

I walked past him, shaking.

I announced my intention, shaking.

I sat down, shaking.

I nearly didn’t leave.

The typical paralysis set in.

But I did.

I walked to my car, shaking.

I drove to a meeting at the bank, shaking.

I set off on the highway, shaking.

I stopped at a gas station, shaking.

I crossed the stateline, shaking.

But, as I put more miles between us, the shaking lessened.

I listened to music.

Stopped when I needed.

Backtracked to find an amazing taco shop.

Took pictures.

Called friends.

Called family.

I did not cry until I hit the Ohio state line and realized that while he’d interacted with my Facebook posts, he had not reached out to me.  No phone calls.  No texts.  I was devastated.

But I made it.

And I arrived not shaking anymore.

I found a popular lakeside bar and grill and ate an amazing burger with peanut butter and jalapenos, at the bar, on a large outdoor deck with lights strung overhead, boats motoring back and forth, and the roar of a packed house.

I found an amazing hotel.

And for the first time in days, slept deeply.

Today, I shop.

Today, I eat tomato soup and grilled cheese for lunch.

Today, I go home.

 

Elephant Ears

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I love elephant ears.  There is one at our home, in an otherwise forgotten corner behind the front porch.  I almost always forget it exists every winter when it’s retreated into the ground.  Every early summer, it surprises me by pushing through the dirt, its long, green, thick stem emerging from it’s winter nap, just before unfurling those incredibly large leaves.

It’s one of my most favorite things.


 

I have strayed from my meditation readings, though I’ve continued to push through the Steps.  But even those have been put on pause to make space for DBT work.

You were not born this way, you were made this way. 

A personality disorder is really about learned behaviors.  Behaviors can be changed. 

The word ‘Borderline’ has made it back into my life.

And so has the insinuation of body dysmorphia.

And so has the word “abuse.”

You’re swallowing gobs of abusive behavior and I do not know why–you don’t need to.

I know that when you look at yourself in the mirror, it’s as if you’re looking at a funhouse mirror.  That is sad because you’re an interesting, smart, and very attractive woman.

I’m more aware of my anxiety responses.  I recognize them sooner.  I also have new coping techniques.


 

The rejection letters keep coming in my job search.

I often wonder if I should move to the West Coast.  I find more jobs of interest there.  And I’d be so close to the kids.

And then the fears set in.

It’s too expensive to live there, you’ll starve.  Or be homeless.  

What if you get there and nothing changes in your relationship with the kids? 

You’re finally starting to make real connections here.  Don’t quit now. 

You’ll be utterly alone out there. 

Last night in bed, I shared with him about my job search frustrations.

“Let’s strategize my job search,” I joked. “What should I do differently? Because if something doesn’t pan out soon, I’ll be financially dependent on you for the rest of my life.”

The joke is that I’m not.  Our finances are completely separate.  I am holding my own.  Though I want more peace of mind.

He talks about how low the girls in his office are paid.  They’re paid less than laborers he tells me, and while I express disdain for this, he says it makes sense–they’re all fat and just sit in an office eating chips. 

Initially, he suggested I’d experience less rejection if I applied to fewer jobs.  And then he suggested I move.  He knows I do not limit my job search to this area.  Perhaps I’d be valued more elsewhere, he suggests.

“After all, it’s a low-budget here.  A job desert.  So am I.”

I began to probe.

“Why would you call yourself low-budget?”

“Look at me, lying in my wife beater on my $60 bed.”

He’s feeling insecure.

“Are you telling me to leave you? But what about us?”

He scoffs at me for making it about us.

“Maybe I am.”

He won’t talk any further.  He starts calling me ridiculous.

“Sometimes, I feel like you’re telling me an uncomfortable truth but cleverly packaged so it’s not entirely clear.  And when I am close to seeing the truth that’s there, you call me crazy.”

Silence.

Then.

“I didn’t sign up for this beating.  You started out this conversation beating me up.  Now you’re beating me up again.  I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.  I’m not feeling well.  You know this.  You have no respect for me.”

He turned over, away from me.

I did the same.

This is not me.  This is not mine to own.

This is what happens when you’re dating someone who is emotionally abusive.  Who has narcissistic traits.  Who lacks empathy and commitment.

Are you listening?

 

Whore

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Last night, I dreamt I attended a work function with him.  We stood in a massive, empty warehouse.  The energy was electric as we milled about.

His Human Resources Manager was the only other woman in the crowd.  She stood out among the sea of men, her long black hair striking against her tall, narrow frame.

She began greeting everyone in attendance.  In her announcement, she listed off names of those present, concluding with, “and a whore.”

All eyes were on me.

I searched the crowd for my boyfriend’s face.  When my eyes found his, he simply shrugged his shoulders.

I was embarrassed, upset, and felt abandoned.

I turned to those next to me and added my own sarcastic post script: “Yeah, because his dick leapt into me of it’s own volition.”

And then I repeated that line to everyone who would listen.


 

I am to begin Step 4 work this week.

Step 4 involves a making a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of ourselves.  What it looks like is identifying the many people and things we fear, resent, and have caused harm to, and then analyzing why.

The goal is to begin identifying unhealthy patterns within our own behavior.

My sponsor has already identified resentments she’s expecting to see listed: my boyfriend, my ex-husband, and my coworker.

There will be more, but oh, my coworker.


 

If I linger in bed longer than I should this morning, it will be to avoid going to work. Which, for all intents and purposes, is a tragedy.  After all, I love my job.

But since starting my recovery journey, a distance has grown between my coworker and I.  Where we were once very close, I cannot put enough space between us now.

Her negativity is repulsive to me.  Her sarcasm caustic.  Her loudly shared belief in the superiority of her ideas maddening.

I resent her selfishness, her disregard for others, her lack of respect for those we work for, her proclivity toward complaining about everything, her reliance on weed, and I most resent her flippant attitude toward recovery.

In conversation with my sponsor, I shared my frustrations.  I wish I had never invited her to my first CoDA meeting.  I’m angry with her for disregarding the steps, for shaming my emotions during meetings, and assuming she knows best. I am angry that her negativity remains unchecked. 

I cannot control her.  I cannot force recovery upon her. 

I can only establish healthy boundaries between us.  

I want nothing to do with her. 

“I wonder if my disgust over her negativity is recognizing something in myself,” I told my sponsor.  “Her and I were once great friends, and to be that close, I know I had to have been that negative, too. I had to have repulsed others with my own behaviors.”


 

I am aggravated.

I don’t want to go to work.

Mass-ive

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I wanted to write about holding the hand of a friend who learned this weekend that her husband cheated on her.  I wanted to tell you about the experience of watching her numb her pain through a lot of alcohol, and those moments when it surfaced still–her contorted face, her tears, her quivering lips.  I wanted to tell you how I empathized with her as she questioned everything she could have done–change her hair, improve her smile, work on her body.

I wanted to write about how spending time with her triggered me.  And taught me.  I wanted to share how validated I felt when my boyfriend confirmed that I’d been on both sides of that situation–I’ve cheated and I’ve been cheated on.

And maybe I should, but not today.

Today, it’s my weight that I will share.

Not the number, but the impact.

I have always struggled with my weight.  I went on my first diet at the age of 10.  I felt shame when in 4th grade, I had to present an “About Me” poster to the class and others whispered about my then 100 pounds.

When I was even younger, my father brought my attention to the stretch marks in between my thighs and told me I had them because I was gaining and losing weight and gaining it back again.

In my childhood home, Richard Simmons was a household name.  Workout videos had space on our shelf.  Weight Watchers meetings were family affairs for my mother and I.  I knew of Atkins, South Beach, and a thousand unnamed soup diets.

In college, I developed an eating disorder that cost me my hair, my grades, my major, and taught me a false security in controlling food.  I had to stand on a scale backwards at the college nutrition center.  In my adult life, my now ex-husband saw me return to Weight Watchers and throw myself on the bed, bawling when I gained 5.0 lbs.

My current partner has engaged in body shaming.  He’s pointed out the many things wrong with my body.  He’s taken me to a consultation for an expensive weight-loss program he heard advertised on the radio.  He’s pushed me to try on smaller sizes I knew would not fit.  He’s insisted on my wearing pantyhose and covering up my legs.  I’ve lost a lot of weight in our relationship to try and amend his unkind behaviors.

Most recently, I signed up with a health coach who tried to combine nutritional training with pseudo-psychotherapy.  He was supportive, but lived his lifestyle unwaveringly, and I couldn’t do it.  Correction, I didn’t want to do it.  I found it stifling and too restrictive.  I found him too overwhelming and oppressive.  I constantly felt I was doing it–getting it–being wrong.

I’ve weighed nearly 300 pounds.  I’ve weighed just above 160 pounds.  I do not know where I sit now.  Under 200, above 170.  Somewhere that puts me in a 12/14.

My mother was severely overweight.  And she still is.  She’s also in Stage 5 kidney failure and is currently refusing dialysis.  I do not want to be her.

I write all of this to say that I’m at the point in my codependency recovery where I can recognize unhealthy behaviors and patterns in myself.  And one of the most pervasive is around food.

Controlling it.  Giving it a higher power status beyond what it is.  Struggling with guilt and shame before, during, and after a meal.  Eating my emotions.

I obsessively wrap my fingers around my opposite wrist several times throughout the day to measure how big they are.  I can tell when I’ve gained weight, when I’m bloated, or swelling by this very simple move.  I’ve stopped using the scale because I’m afraid of it.  I know I am not as small as I was a year ago–still deep in the throes of grieving my lost relationship–and yet I’m not at my highest either, a seemingly small but important “win.”

I once joked with a friend that I was going to join all the 12-step programs.  Overeaters Anonymous is a thing.  I’ve engaged in compulsive eating.  I’ve engaged in emotional eating.  I’ve stood in my kitchen, not exactly hungry, but not emotionally satisfied, so I ate to restore the good feelings I couldn’t seem to find on my own.

But I don’t think I need another 12-step program right now.  I need to find a better way to approach food.  A healthier way.

I’m not sure what that is.  His mom is a member of Weight Watchers and says it’s helped her.  Do I dare try this for a third time?  Is this a sign of insanity?

I don’t feel I can do this on my own.

Sure, I’ve had great success losing weight in the past.  I’ve lost 100 pounds simply by exercising and eating as if I were a diabetic.  I was also on Metformin to help me get pregnant at the time.  I lost 100 pounds again years later by cutting out sugar and most carbs and counting macros and calories and bouncing from health coach to health coach to health coach.  That seems like madness to me.


 

The bottom line is this: I want to be healthy and happy.

I want to make healthy choices.

I want more energy.

I want to stress less when I pull my pants on in the morning.

I want to enjoy clothes shopping again.

I want to make my outside match my inside.

I want to make me a greater priority.

 

 

 

Dreaming

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There is a song that goes,

I’d rather be dreaming than living. / Living’s just too hard to do…In dreams I can fly. / In dreams, I don’t die. 

I do not want to die, but I sometimes wonder when I’ll start living into my dreams.

I’ve had some beautiful moments this week.  I rediscovered a long-forgotten online account holding 905 photos from my first years as a mom.  I found myself able to emotionally detach from a very negative coworker.  I practiced self-care.  I had a near perfect, heart-swelling text conversation with my second-oldest.  I  received a Mother’s Day card signed by all of my kids.  I’m expressing my needs to know shared schedules so that I can plan other meetings.  I decided to–though haven’t yet–rejoin a gym.  With.  A.  Lap Pool. 

But the more I act independently, the more the codependent in me seems to fight for air.  I’m learning that it’s ok to express these feelings.  “I’m feeling the codependent itches,” I texted my sponsor.  Even last week, I felt myself so much on a codependent bender–triggered days before by unkind words about my weight–that I took myself out to dinner and started with dessert first.

(Note to self: We’ll tackle emotional eating later.)

Many of my CoDA friends understand the difficulties of being in a relationship with someone who is not in recovery, and I feel I’m living with those realities on an almost daily basis.

Last night, I was admittedly feeling insecure.  He has decided to pay more attention to his health: eat healthier, drink more water, rejoin a gym, too.  I began asking questions about his health goals, including when he expects to join the gym, what workout routines he’ll use.  I knowingly and fully revealed my insecurity when I asked him half-jokingly: “Are you planning to leave me?” He responded with a joke: “Yep, I’m getting in better shape for all them hoes”–a reference to a joke he recently saw on Facebook.

Dinner was lackluster.  I planned to eat my Chinese leftovers from Mother’s Day.  He scrounged up an assortment of things I know left him unsatisfied.

When we left to work on our side job, he acted as if I was intentionally delaying our start, insinuating through various comments that we had to get the work done.  So, when I started walking past the truck and to the shed, he asked me where I was going.

“To get the shop vac,” I said.  “We’ll need it.”

He had forgotten.

As we began driving away from the house, I asked if he had grabbed the underlayment from his work truck.

He had forgotten, so backed up, and retrieved it.

Halfway down the road, I surmised something was off.  When I asked, he said I was getting on his nerves because I was “bossing him around.”  Quietly, I tried to review my words and actions from the evening.

“How have I been bossing you around so I can be more aware of what I’m doing?”

He went on to explain: I was asking him questions, I was interrogating him, I was talking about our relationship, I was criticizing him.

“I ask questions to learn more about the people I care about,” I said. “It wasn’t my intention to interrogate you.”

We went back and forth.  At one point, I expressed how small I was feeling.

He became increasingly animated, his voice raising, until he was hitting the steering wheel with his open palm.

“I’m getting so angry!,” he yelled. “I’m angry all the time!”

Then he backed off.  “I’m sorry I’m getting frustrated.  I need to stop.  Let’s just get to the job so I can get a break from all these questions.”

I grew silent then.  I did text my sponsor.

For the rest of the evening, I intentionally avoided asking many questions.  I rephrased everything in my head before opening my mouth.  If he wanted a reprieve from questions, I’d give it to him.

When we tucked into bed, despite my own focus on emotionally detaching from him, I laid my head on his chest.  He kissed the top of my head.

I do ask questions.  Though, I don’t think it’s the questions that aggravated him.  I think it was his own insecurities about forgetting things we needed for the job that I–not he–remembered.

Still, I do not deserve to be the scapegoat for his insecurities.

I’d like to think that by speaking my truth, giving voice to my feelings of insecurity when present, and sharing with him the fear-ridden narratives I’m silently telling myself, I’d be creating between us an intimacy where we can both practice authenticity and vulnerability.

Instead, I feel as if it only repulses him.

He is emotionally unavailable when I need him.

As my sponsor says, “This 100% belongs to him.  He needs to figure out a different way.  This lack of control of his emotions is not OK.  You are not required to take it.”

And I’m not.

And I won’t.

And sometimes I wonder if choosing me will be our end.

And if it is…

 

The Worst

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In retrospect, this wasn’t the worst Mother’s Day I ever had.

I took myself to brunch at a beloved French cafe, where I sat at the “bar”–a perch overlooking the crepe making and enjoyed my first poached eggs as part of a “Country Benedict,” with a fruit and fresh creme–always, fresh creme.

I brought a book with me though most of my time was spent chatting with fellow patrons–an elderly woman and her daughter, a middle-aged couple to my left, and another single-diner to my right.

I spoke with my CoDA sponsor, received text and Facebook messages from friends.  I called my mother.  I also called my daughter who surprised me with a “Happy Mother’s Day!,” and then, “Did you get your card?”

I spent the afternoon at a favorite coffee shop where I finished that job application, and ran into an old acquaintance.

When picking up Chinese for dinner last night, the woman behind the counter wished me a Happy Mother’s Day.

But from him, I had to ask.

Will you please tell me “Happy Mother’s Day?”

He looked at me tenderly and did.  Then we kissed several times.

And then I braved discussing the fight from the night before.  Through tear, I had sought empathy from him and he was incapable of giving it to me.  We argued and he left me alone in our bed.

We argued again last night.

The grief I felt missing the kids was not grief at all, he told me.  I wasn’t missing my kids, he insisted, I was using my kids and my separation from them to manipulate him into doing something.  The rest I remember in mostly one-liners:

This was your trap, your plan and it backfired on you.

You’re lying to me. 

I did nothing wrong.  I did everything right and it still wasn’t enough for you. 

I don’t think I can do this relationship anymore. 

You’re a pain the ass. 

You are exactly like my mom.  Why do you both have to be so needy? 

Everything is a crisis to you and has been for weeks. 

I wasn’t planning to do anything for you for Mother’s Day.  You’re not my mom. 

You make me angry all the time. 

You’re constantly on me at home, and while you’ve gotten better while I’m at work, if I didn’t keep constant reign on that, I know that you’d slip into old habits. 

I tried my CoDA tools, I relied on “I” statements. I tried to discern the difference between what I was saying and what he actually heard.  And then, I grew silent.  As did he.

He decided that he did not really want to breakup.  He wants a break from the headiness.  He wants a break from my sharing my feelings.

Our walk to the Chinese restaurant was silent.  I felt like a Zombie.

Inside, he leaned casually across the counter and wished the woman behind it, “Happy Mother’s Day.”  Inside, I reeled.

Later, I would lie next to him and tell me I felt very emotionally distant from him.  He responded simply, “At least we’re lying in the same bed.”

I looked through the blinds covering the window on my side of the bed.  I saw the corner of the house where the living room wall butts out beyond our bedroom.  And inside me, I felt pain.  I’ve spent countless nights looking at this same view while I silently cried myself to sleep, or could not sleep for feeling so depressed.

“Sometimes I feel depressed,” he said.  “But it never lasts long.  It does go away.”

“But I don’t feel depressed,” I said.

“That’s good.”

Resentful of the view from my window, I suggested we sell the house.

“Why?”

“Just to sell it.”

“I want to live here. It’s close to my kids. I’ve wanted to live here for years. If we sold, I’d want to look for something else here.”

“We could move closer to your kids,” I suggested.

“I want to live here,” he repeated.  Then, “If you want to sell, I guess we can.  I’ll just go along.”

When he left this morning, I hardly noticed that he hadn’t told me he loved me when he kissed me goodbye.  He would say this at the bedroom door, but I was not pained to not hear it when I normally do.

He is not a emotionally safe place to land, and I’m not sure he ever will be.