Involuntary

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.

I am tempted to write that it’s one of the hardest days of the year. And it is. But then so are the five days that are their birthdays. And Christmas. And Halloween.

As are the 357 other calendar days sprinkled in between.

Last year, in spite of our being broken up, he greeted me with flowers, took me out to eat, and spent the day with me.

You being alone on Mother’s Day is sad, he had said.

Last night, I asked if he could be patient with me this weekend. It is Mother’s Day weekend, I explained, and despite being a mom, I’ll get no cards, no handmade gifts, nor will I get to see my kids. I am responsible for my feelings and actions, I said, but as my partner, I’m asking for patience. I’m not going to do this weekend perfectly.

And then his daughter called at 3:42 am to tell him she was in the hospital and needed an appendectomy. And we collected his other four kids to bring them to our home. And took them to dinner. And bought extra food. And are helping his daughter figure out what to get her mom for Mother’s Day.

Sometimes their presence reminds me of my kids’ absence. And I feel it more than ever. Right. Now.

I’m sunk into a hot bath, with tears gently rolling down my face. I am triggered. I feel the grief stricken screams welling in my chest.

And he seems oblivious. And if he is, it may be because I’m stuffing it. I don’t want to be blamed for insensitivity or inflexibility. He does not understand my grief. He spends every Father’s Day with them, and now Mother’s Day as well.

I am consumed by jealousy. I am consumed by the pain. I am consumed by the guilt and shame of actions that have put me in this tub, in this moment–and not with them.

But there’s tomorrow. Tomorrow, an application is due for a position in Oregon. In a town two hours away from them.

If I cannot spend this Mother’s Day with them, perhaps I can make this the last one separated from them.

God, help me.

Not Now

Screen Shot 2019-05-06 at 6.41.06 AM

I believe we are indelibly marked by our experiences.  And in that way, we are forever evolving. Or devolving, as the case may be.

Yet, others’ memories of us are static, and often the memory does not match the moment.

We fought again this weekend.  This is no surprise by any means–the weekends seem minefields for conflict.  In the end, I summarized to him our relationship dynamics as I was experiencing them: He’s wanting autonomy and freedom, I’m wanting love and belonging.

He agreed.

And then he added: But there’s a specter hanging over our relationship of things done in the past.

I knew what he was talking about–it’s always the same thing: my involving his employer in our breakup. The email I sent with a warning about trusting him, and revealing intimate details about how’d he’d used company time and property to entertain female love interests, how he’d make suggestive comments about staff, and even how he interfered with employee investigations.

It’s no surprise that his employer counseled him, not to amend his behavior, but to rid himself of “this crazy person”–me.

In all fairness, I wrote that email in the height of crazy–a frenzy incited by rejection and heartbreak and anger.  I wanted him to feel the pain I felt.

And it backfired.

I became–I was–“the crazy one,” eliciting nothing but sympathy from his employer and advice that he could partner himself with someone much, much better–in personality and looks.

That stung when he told me.

And I spent nearly a year emotionally prostrating myself before him, so desperate to be deemed worthy of his love and keeping.  I begged, bawled, and acquiesced.  Until I didn’t.  But even that didn’t last long.  I wasn’t ready to leave.  And sometimes I wonder if my attempts to leave were not subconscious ways to try and manipulate him into changing his behavior. Which, of course, he didn’t.

I am not the same as I was a year ago.  And the truth is, that I’ve reached a peace about our relationship.  If asked, I’d tell you he was a great guy, but that doesn’t mean he’s the greatest guy for me.

And yet, the specter.

That specter of the pain, guilt, shame, exposure, and vitriol that surrounded our breakup last year.  The dent that cannot be easily removed.

I want to make this his problem.  This is his inability to let go of the past.  This is his continuing to cast shame on me.  This is his way of maintaining distance that he knows I hate.

But I, too, am holding onto a specter through which I interpret and predict his behaviors.  In my mind’s eye, I play out our breakup, and see his social media account plastered with pictures of them together.  In my mind’s eye, I see him refusing to honor my boundaries, and respecting another’s.  In my mind’s eye, I see his wedding announcement.  Or baby announcement.  Or simply an, “I’m finally happy,” announcement.

If he views me through a specter of the pain he’s felt, I certainly return that.

No matter how hard I may try to lean into the vulnerability, there is certainly a large “but” keeping me safely attached to the invulnerability.  The yes, but….he won’t listen.  The yes, but…I know what he’ll say.  The yes, but…I know what he’ll do.

And yet lately, he’s surprised me.  He has listened.  He hasn’t said what I expected him to.  He has made efforts to respond in healthy ways.

But there are times when he doesn’t–such as this weekend.  And I get so caught up in the irrationality of seeing him throw himself on the floor in front of me, that I stop seeing and listening in the moment, and start seeing and listening only to the specter that lingers between us.

I’m venturing to guess that this is something he’s doing, too.  And when we’re both engaged in giving attention to the specters above, we’re not giving attention to each other.  We’re not able to listen or lean into the vulnerability or practice compassion.

And that’s when we fail–not just each other, but ourselves.

Not Myself

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 9.54.45 AM

I’m not feeling myself today.

I feel burdened, weighty.

My thoughts are cloudy.

My shoulders easily slump, and with them, my spirits.

I leaned into the vulnerability and told him: I’m not feeling myself today.

Ok.  I hope it gets better. 

I’m retreating within myself and I’m not sure why.  Perhaps comments recently made are weighing heavy upon me.  Perhaps it’s a feeling of disconnect from my sponsor, and therefore from active recovery.  Perhaps it’s a lack of sleep.

Last night, I shared with him a comment made by a mutual friend.  She wants to meet for lunch next week.

Yes! Yes, let’s do it, she said.  I need some fat food.

Fat food?, he asked.  Why do people look at you and think fat food?

I’m not saying that they do, I replied.  But she made a comment that she had lost weight since she’s been home with a broken leg.  She said she was 115 pounds and is now 105.  

I laughed derisively.

105 is waif-like.  115 can’t be much better, I continued.

So, you need to break your leg, he said.

I looked at him, my eyes sharp.

What? It’s just a statement, he defended. Stop being so judgmental. 

It’s just a statement.  A joke.  Not unlike the comment my coworker made this week about how I always sound like a 5-year old, asking questions.

Or the remark my boyfriend made this morning alluding to his inability to escape our relationship.

You can go, if you’d like, I’d said.

I’m tired–at a deep level.

My inclination is to shrink within myself.  To grow quiet, pensive.  My mood is obvious to all.  I cannot hide it.

I’m not feeling myself, I tell others.

I’m feeling empty.  I’m feeling resentful.  I’m feeling lonely.

This will pass, my inner wise voice tells me.  One foot in front of the other.  One moment at at time.  What is the next healthy thing you can do?

Just breathe today.  Just breathe.

Connection

I’m craving connection.

My sponsor needed to cancel our phone call yesterday.  She was fighting with her husband–the kind of fight you do not want to tell your friends about.

Last night, I stayed home while he took his kids out. Our house guest chatted with me at the kitchen table.  He needed a sounding board.  His job is uncertain after a massive plant fire.

When he returned home last night, later than expected, he was tired.  We ate largely in silence–he quietly searched the Internet for a new pair of jeans, and I tried to make conversation.  And then we went to bed.  I wanted to connect, he wanted to sleep.

From bed, I reached out to a CoDA friend who shared that she, too, is feeling disconnected from her partner.  She’s restless, and left wanting.  And then she, too, was tired, and said goodnight.

Last night, I dreamt I was pregnant.  My belly was round and I could feel slight flutters and kicks from within.  I sat in a classroom filled with expectant parents, and yet, I was alone.  At some point, the father of my child entered the room.  He was beautiful, with long brown hair and dark eyes.  He didn’t say a word, but seemed remorseful for not being there for me.  Tears welled in his eyes, and my own began to fill with emotion.

And then, he began tiptoeing in circles, arms outstretched, taking on an otherworldly air.  In an instant, he transformed from a remorseful man to an overgrown child. And then he spoke.

I went on a date with Christie.  She’s so hot. 

I said nothing in response.  I felt my heart sink.  As I watched him walk himself in circles, I thought only that it was time to let go.  He was not going to change.  He did not love me.

So, I left.  I left to a foreign country. Or a different town, I could not tell you now.  There were shops and cobbled sidewalks. I was figuring out train schedules. I had a backpack with a snake wrapped around the strap.  I found it remarkable that it would not untangle itself from my bag and leave.

When I woke, my abdomen felt painful, slightly distended.

The sensation has since subsided, but the memory of my dream has not.

When he woke, he instantly left the bed and showered.  Then he primped and preened.  He slid on his new jeans, and fastened his new belt around his waist.  He looked handsome as he stood ready to leave for work.

As he got dressed, I asked him questions and received one word answers.

How did you sleep?

Good.

Will you be in Greenville today?

Yes.

What have you got on your agenda?

Working.

Eventually, as he leaned over the bed to kiss me goodbye, he asked me: What are your plans today?

Work and seeking connection, I replied.

Seeking connection?

Yes.

Then he kissed me and left.

Hours

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 8.38.38 PM

When his phone notifications sound in the middle of the night, I feel the urge to throw his phone across the room.  Or gently place it in another.  Or deftly change his settings to vibrate.

But then again, I no longer touch his phone.

I still remember how it felt in my hand when I took it from his bedside.  How my heart dropped from my chest when I read his texts to another.  How my heart raced as I walked it outside.  As I neared the bamboo glade, the phone felt weighty in my palm.  Surely, he’d be steps behind me, demanding its return.  My fingers quickly stumbled across the keys as I typed a series of brief texts to her–some blonde who bore the same name as the town she lived in, just 45 minutes away.

And then, with my heart now pounding in my ears, I turned off the phone, watched the screen turn black and threw it.  I threw it as far as I could into the bamboo.  I heard it hit the hard stems, a sharp crack, and then the brush below give way somewhere in the darkness.

I no longer touch his phone.

For months, he had his phone password-protected.  For months, I caught glimpses of a few numbers he used, but then he enabled fingerprint scanning and I let it go.

His phone still remains locked, but he has told me his password.

Still, I do not touch his phone.

Slowly, we’re re-establishing trust.

What he does on his phone is nothing I can control, I remind myself.  Nor can I control those who may be on the other side of those activities.  And yet, he does not hide his social media accounts from me.  He does not seem anxious as I lay my head on his chest at night as he scrolls through his news feeds.  Nor does he seem edgy when a text message comes through while I’m close enough to read his screen.

He is largely transparent with his online activities.

And I’m growing more transparent with my boundaries, as well.

No, I’m not comfortable with you bonding with your children by making jokes about how crazy I am.  Yes, I really appreciate you checking with me first before your daughter became a part of our weekend plans.  Sometimes I struggle to be in the present when I’m missing my kids, and no, I just don’t know what to do about that.  Yes, I would like you to pay me for half the groceries, as agreed.

It’s not easy.  When I do find the courage to speak out, I’ve surely already had the conversation to-be–silently and in my head–only for him to respond quite differently than expected.

I can see that. 

That’s something I can work on. 

It’s disarming. The stillness of the peace between us is eerie.  There is no raising of voices.  No hurtful defenses.  No name calling.  No escalating.

There is just–quiet.  And a deeper understanding, a greater compassion, and an unspoken vulnerability that suggests that a deeper connection may be possible.

Experience.  Strength.  Hope.  —at home.

 

 

Agency

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 4.26.39 PM

This painting.  It conveys shock and amusement and embarrassment and disbelief in a single strayed streak of lipstick.  The idea that she thought she had it all together, and then her pride was handed to her with her daily espresso.  Here you go, Miss.  And you’re welcome.

Yesterday, my Higher Power flexed His funny bone.

The theme of the day was: Agency.

Wait, what?

My sponsor bluntly pointed out that my feeling unable to plan the weekend because he frequently cancels said plans in deference to the kids’ whims–was my shit.  My therapist wisely suggested that our argument last Saturday–was a verbal one-two punch.  Later still, my sponsor would remind me that by not clearly setting expectations, I’m not giving him a chance to rise to the occasion–again, agency.

The damn Triangle strikes again.

Let’s be clear: Having agency is not the same as having fault.  Recovery requires new language.  We’re not categorizing by good or bad.  Rather, healthy and unhealthy.

When during our argument Saturday, he expressed that he often felt unsafe in our relationship, my first thought–always a codependent thought–thrust me into guilt and shame.  Was I the monster he accused me of being?  The ‘creator of codependents’?  The manipulative partner?  

If arguments have natural pauses, this was one.

I wish I had been in a better place mentally, emotionally, and physically to address this. In. This. Moment.  But I wasn’t, and I let it go. I let go the opportunity to say, “me, too.”

Moments later, I would express a way I did feel unsafe.  And he would respond in a healthy way.  But I missed my cue to healthfully respond to his expression of vulnerability.

Last night, as we were working a flooring project together, it occurred to me that perhaps–if we’re both codependent as my sponsor suggests, if he, too, feels insecure behind the bravado, if we are trauma-bonded, and similarly triggered–perhaps–perhaps he’s feeling similarly about our relationship.

If I think about it, many of my emotions are mirrored by his own.  Perhaps not as intensely or as frequently, but I am beginning to recognize them.

When my kids tested his boundaries and he expressed, “They’re being mean to me,” I took offense.  When his kids criticized meals I prepared and I expressed how unappreciative they were, he took offense.

When my kids wanted to sleep over at our home and he was unwilling, I felt he was putting me in a corner.  When his kids come to our home and I tense up about unspoken fears of the mess and lack of food they’ll leave, he feels put into a corner.

When he made comments about the cost of activities during our recent trip to visit the kids, I felt he was criticizing my wanting to spend money on my children.  When he complains about being broke and still agrees to pay for clothes, snacks, gas, and other kid must-haves, I want to roll my eyes.

Yes, I accept that he feels unsafe.

I accept that the unhealthy behaviors I bring to our relationship would make him feel uncomfortable and guarded.

And I accept that because that, too, is my own experience.

Unhealthy behaviors of one partner make the other feel unsafe.

Inconsistency from one partner makes the other feel constantly guarded.

Frequent criticism from one partner makes the other feel devalued.

And we both bring unhealthy behaviors to this relationship, that–in tandem–have begotten unhealthy patterns.

This vicious cycle that most recently took a year to fully play out, is of our own devise. Our shared traumas have become the Achilles Heel of our relationship, while our separate traumas are the knives we each yield–most often at each other.

If he is the shark closest to my boat, I am his.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy

Screen Shot 2019-04-22 at 9.10.14 AM

I slept in this morning.

In our bed.

I went home last night.  As he pulled weeds from the flower bed, he said that he had spoken out of anger.  He did not mean what he said.

We should talk about what happened, but not today.  And mostly likely, not tomorrow either.  I am in an emotional hangover.  And while I took care of myself yesterday, as best I could in the aftermath of my nightmare on repeat–I am still depleted.

While talking to my sponsor this morning, I told her how frustrated I am that I had a horrible Easter and he had a pleasant one with his kids.

He had a great time in my absence.  Perhaps this means I’m the wrong one in this equation. 

No, that’s your codependence talking.  I wish I could change your language on this. Perhaps he’s not the right fit for you.  Think about it.  What type of person fits into that situation? A very codependent one.  And you’re not that anymore.  You’re working on your recovery.  You’re making progress.  And you can’t take off those glasses once they’re on, my friend. Even though you want to right now.  

She’s right.

I cannot live under an open door policy where plans get cancelled, put off, altered at the drop of a hat.  I am a planner.

I tried to plan Easter.

Are the kids coming over for Easter? 

No, I don’t think so. I already had Easter with them. Let their mom do something. 

But then a package from his mom arrived, and she wanted to make sure he gave the kids their presents on Easter.  He wrestled with this Saturday.

I don’t really have time.  But she wants me to give it to them.  Maybe I should just give her presents to them on Monday when I see them.  

Yes, I said.  Maybe you could give them their gifts on Monday.

When we fought Easter morning, part of it revolved around this issue.  When at 8:30 a.m., while we were both still in bed, he reached out to his daughter about a good time to bring the package to them, her response was swift: Mama will drop us all off at your house after church so we can open it. 

Without consulting me, he responded to her: Sounds good. 

The entire day was changed just like that.  It would not be a work day.  And he had no further details to give me.

Will they be here for dinner?

I doubt it.

How long will they be here because I’d like to go shopping and cook dinner for us.

I don’t have those details. 

My boundary had been crossed again.  This is mine and his home–not his and his daughter’s home.  When I gingerly bring this up, still in my bathrobe, eyes swollen from crying myself to sleep the night before, he blew up.

NO! THIS IS MY BOUNDARY! I WILL DO AS I WANT WITH MY KIDS! 

Then he proceeded to fillet me with name calling and blame shifting.

You are a deranged mental case and I can’t fix you. 

You tried all day yesterday to guilt me out of delivering this package to my kids.  You’re bitter and pouty because you HATE MY KIDS! 

He was stomping, yelling.  He was clenching and unclenching his fists.  He said he had to leave because he was afraid something would happen.  He was afraid he’d get physical.

This relationship is NOT worth it!  I’m done!

And he left.

And I reminded myself that I promised never again to beg him to stay.  So I didn’t.

Through tear-filled eyes, I texted my sponsor: You still promise I’m not alone?

I wasn’t.

I talked to her several times.  Another CoDA friend met me for lunch.  My phone erupted with group texts from my CoDA family with holiday wishes.  I remembered how during Christmas I felt so alone as his phone constantly chimed with well-wishes from his family’s group text, while mine remained silent.  And here, mine was almost as incessant.

My sponsor stressed that he may not really be breaking up with me.  He may have just said that in anger.

My CoDA friend stressed her support, and reminded me that what’s said in anger is often more truthful than what’s said in peace.

My sponsor reminded me that I am in recovery and he is not.  He is not at a place where he’s ready and willing. And that’s ok, she eases. This means he is on his own journey.

My CoDA friend is sending me graphics card about loving myself and her hope that I’ll find someone who unfailingly loves me.  The latter stings a bit.

I am raw.  But I am not broken.

I’m falling back on my newest mantra: What is the next healthy choice? 

Tonight, he’ll take his kids rollerskating.  I will go buy myself those running shoes.  And then buy a rotisserie chicken.  And maybe a salad.  And maybe some gluten-free dessert to bake in my quiet home.  To eat while soaking in a very hot bath.