Sunday, December 27, 2015

"...a person's teenage years (last) well into their fifties.” *

I was just thinking a bit ago, as I told Pat that something was "cool", that there are times my voice sounds like that of a 12- or 14-year-old. It's always been higher pitched, unless I've deliberately made it lower - as when I was working in radio or when I answered phones in the offices I've worked in. Once, when I was in my twenties and newly married, a commander of my Army husband's called the house. When I answered the phone, he asked if my father were home. As someone feeling rather grown-up as a newlywed, I was quite miffed at the time.

But it isn't just my voice that sounds young. There are times I still feel young. As if I were still 16 or 17.

Music can trigger all kinds of memories about different stages in my life. Not just because the music was popular when I was that age, either. Sure, music from the 1970s - especially disco - reminds me of junior high and high school to a large extent. But other songs from different eras, which I discovered at other ages, reminds me of the person I was when I was first hearing them for myself.

For instance, when my daughter was a toddler, some 27 years ago, we heard the song "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)" together for the first time. When I hear it now, I don't think of the 1940s as much as I think of the mid-1980s when I was a young twenty-something.

I know that I am more mature in my behavior than I was in my teens and twenties, but there is something in me - maybe in all people - that doesn't believe that I'm as old as I am. I think I should have the energy I had back then. I should be able to stay up late and get up early and be okay for an 18 hour day. But that's not the case now. More often than not, I'm in bed by 9:30 or 10:00 and sleeping in until 6:30 and hoping that's enough for the next 15 hours.

I make better decisions...based on research and reasoning...than I did in my teens and twenties. But the desire to be rash, to be impetuous, is still there.

Sometimes, I wonder how much of this just how everyone is. The immortal thinking we have as youngsters and young adults doesn't give way so easily as long as our bodies are working well. Knowing that the "spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" is a hard concession to time and age that I'm beginning to struggle with.

But sometimes, too, I wonder how much this dichotomy of feeling has to do with my bipolar. Sure, I'm ready for bed at an earlier time and I'm getting more sleep. But is it because my body needs it or my emotional well-being needs it? I've started taking my psychiatric meds earlier because they make me more able to sleep. By taking them earlier, I can get in a full 8-10 hours of sleep, which is what my mind needs to feel rested and not go to racing thoughts on a regular basis. It's what I need to avoid hypo/mania and the behavior that borders on immature. Definitely it can be impetuous and have some repercussions that come with impromptu, unconsidered decisions and expenditures.

That feeling of invincibility -- that I am impervious to pain, consequences, sickness -- happens when I am hypo/manic. I *can* go without sleep, I *can* be ultra creative, but not without the threat of a drop in emotions as I become exhausted both physically and mentally. Hypo/mania rarely ends up reverting to a balanced emotional state, but instead drops into a depressive state. It's as if all the good endorphins become depleted and I have to recuperate.

I'm sure that is true to some extent, though I haven't studied it myself.

And maybe that euphoric feeling - which I associate with being a teenager or a twenty-something -- triggers that sense of being younger than I am because when I was those ages, I was already bipolar, but not diagnosed. I used to go days and days with a few hours sleep and maybe catnaps during the day. Sometimes, I would go 48-72 hours without sleep. Wildly creative, talkative, impulsive, and sometimes even more productive. That was hypo/mania. Argumentative, agitated...that was often there, too.

Stability has been hard won. It's taken medication, new habits, an amazing support system, and a lot of effort on my own to curb my whims. I'm not always successful.

Whether it's because of maturity or just being tired of the rollercoaster of emotions, I try to stay on top of things now. And so far...so good.

But I'm still going to keep saying things are cool.


*Derek LandyMortal Coil

Saturday, November 21, 2015

"If you come home as happy as you leave, you have had a good vacation." *


Pat and I just took a vacation to Texas over the past week. It was one we greatly looked forward to, in spite of both of us having an anxiety disorder. It was a time to reconnect with family and friends, and we did everything we set out to do except hit 6th Street in Austin for the night scene. True, though, we also did a few things we hadn't planned to do that were happy events.

We had good flights all around - no turbulence, no long layovers and yet no rushes to make the next flights, and gorgeous weather. I had some pretty hefty anxiety on the flight home, so I took a Klonopin to calm down. Klonopin at full dose works *extremely* well at 38,000 feet and I finally learned why people take anxiolytics recreationally. If I need one on a flight again, I'm not likely to take a full dose.

We arrived in Wichita Falls in the mid-afternoon of Friday the 13th, picked up our rental car, loaded up, and headed to my parents house. Dad and Pat went to Willie's Place to get bbq for us all and we enjoyed some slightly salty ribs. Emily and Chris came over when she got off work and we all enjoyed some good conversation and catching up.

Saturday morning brought some more visiting with Mom and Dad, then Emily came to get me for our tattoo appointments. On the way over, she suggested that we each get the word "journey" on our forearms, with each written in one another's handwriting. So I have a printed word in her hand, while she has a cursive word in mine. I then started getting the bee that I originally came for and ended up with the violets that I had been considering, too. The bee represents Emily because her first name - Deborah - means the bee. The violets represent the three babies I lost to miscarriage - Katie, Corrie, and David. The tattoo is beautiful and I would recommend Elia at Classic Tattoo in Wichita Falls to anyone who wants a meaningful work of permanent art. She is still an apprentice, but she is an artist, too, and it shows.

Saturday evening, Pat and I went to Emily's apartment to visit with her and Chris. Em colored my hair for me -- a nice deep red (ruby, by L'Oreal) while we all watched "Crazy, Stupid Love" with Steve Carrell and ate pizza. It was a good visit with them.

Saturday night we spent with Mom and Dad. We were preparing for an early Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday, so Dad cooked the giblets and I made the cranberry sauce. Mom told me that her secret to it was adding cinnamon, so I did and now I know what the missing ingredient has been to my version all this time!

Sunday, my brother Jay, sister-in-law Tina, niece Briella, niece Amanda and great-nephew Tucker, Emily, and Chris came over for turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Tina made sweet potato casserole from scratch, while I made green bean casserole, the stuffing, and poured the Heinz gravy into a pot to cook. We had so much food left over! Alas, Pat and I left town the next morning so missed out on turkey sandwiches and reheated dressing. Sigh!

Sunday night, my great friend Rhonda Saenz came over to visit for a a few hours and we all had an enjoyable time laughing, chatting, and catching up on the latest in each other's lives. It was sooooo good to see her as  I miss her greatly.

Monday, as I said, we headed out of town to Austin. I made Pat take the "back way" down there so we could stop at the Koffee Kup restaurant in Hico. Famous for its pies, its regular food leaves a lot to be desired. I should have stuck with the BLT I normally get, but I opted for Chicken Fried Steak since I can't get it here in the 'burbs of Atlanta. It was awful, much to my dismay, but the pie did not disappoint. Pat had Key lime and I had a piece of Doctor's Office. Then we bought a blueberry banana one to take to his sister Chris in Kerrville.

After lunch, we journeyed on to Austin, where we spent two days in the nicest bed and breakfast I have ever been in. The room was appointed with wooden doors all nicely stained, with medallions in the upper corners. There were skylights and beautiful wooden floors. There was a working fireplace, a tiny but full kitchen, and all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore. It was right in the middle of downtown in an historical neighborhood and we weren't far from the shopping district or Sixth Street.

That evening, we went to meet and visit with "Mike TV" and his girlfriend Katy as Mike recorded an hour-long concert. He is doing 40 concert podcasts in 40 days and we were lucky to be in on the 3rd or 4th one. Afterwards, we visited for an hour or so, discovering that we have much in common, and Katy added me to her facebook friends which is great since I was just about to ask if I could add her to mine. :)

Tuesday we puttered around downtown Austin after having a leisurely morning in the B&B. Pat and I spent a good hour or so in Toy Joy - a fun and opulently unique toy store on 2nd Street (also known as Willie Nelson Boulevard). We picked up some Harry Potter candies and treats for Emily, a coloring book for our friend Ami, and a toy duck for my great-nephew. I have a sense of deja vu that he may already have one, but a kid can never have too many rubber ducks, can he?

Then we headed to the Laramie restaurant on 2nd which serves some of the finest brisket I have ever had in my life! The crust was perfect and not too salty, the meat was fork tender but not falling apart, and the marbling was spot on. For a side, I had macaroni and cheese. But the most fun were the appetizers! We had deviled eggs with caviar, along with miniature peppers of some kind that were crisp, crunchy, and looked like little green olives on stems.

Back to the B&B for a long nap for me and some reading for Pat, then we went out to meet his brother Mike for dinner. Mike was in Austin from Oregon for a conference and it was nice to spend a couple of hours with him. This is the third occasion we've been able to spend time with Mike and I've enjoyed every minute of it.

Wednesday morning we headed to Kerrville where Pat's sister Chris and her husband Clark live. We spent all of the late morning into the mid-evening with her just chatting and laughing. She prepared a veritable feast of salads for us to enjoy including a green salad, chicken and tuna salads, a carrot salad, and an apple salad. There may have been more, but it was all delicious and I need her recipes for them all! (She's promised me a recipe for green bean casserole in time for Thanksgiving here in Georgia that I'm looking forward to.) I was able to get the scoop on a couple of things Pat did as a wee lad, and I had a good laugh with them both about how someone could "ruin (his) happy day!"

We went back to Chris's and Clark's the next morning for a couple of hours before we headed back to Wichita Falls. Then Emily joined us for dinner at the Jalapeno Tree, which is my favorite restaurant in all of Wichita Falls and has the best spinach enchiladas anywhere.

On the trip, we saw a family of deer in Chris's neighborhood, a buck with a huge rack of antlers on the road north to Wichita Falls, and a wild turkey that almost hit our car when it flew across the road.

All in all, we had a most enjoyable trip. We looked forward to spending time with the people we love and we were able to do just that. It was low-key, which we had also been looking forward to. And we came home as happy as when we left. There are still two days left on our vacation before we return to work for a three day work week. Still more low-key and just relaxing. It's been an especially enjoyable week.



* Unknown

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Two souls, one heart." *

I wish Pat were writing this post, and maybe he will write a rejoinder, because he knows how he meant for the story to go, and all I can tell you is how it went.

Back story:

Pat came up behind me on Monday evening and told me to be thinking of some place to go for dinner on Friday night. "Pick some place we haven't been before, or some place that you particularly like, and we'll go out. My treat." When he treats, it's guaranteed that it won't be Burger King which may be what you end up with me treating, depending on what bills I've got to pay in a given week. So, off and on throughout the week, I thought about where we might go.

It was a rough week for me with pulling some extra hours, still being behind in my work, and dealing with a lot of the bipolar symptoms which had been decreasing but acted up again. Wednesday, Pat was going to take me out to dinner when we went for a ride, but I had so been looking forward to Friday that I asked him not to. I made dinner at home and we had a nice long, lovely ride.

Thursday started out with a moderate depression and some intrusive thoughts, and I considered going in to see my counselor as a walk-in that afternoon. As it worked out, however, the mood started improving around lunch time, and by the time I got home I was back to normal.

All that to say that it had been a bumpy week for me emotionally, but throughout it all, I was just very much looking forward to going out on Friday because Pat had been so sweet about it.

Thursday evening, I still didn't have a place in mind, so I went to a website that offered the top 30 restaurants in nearby Roswell. There were a large number that we hadn't ever been to, nor had I ever heard of, so I decided to make a game of it. I picked four that sounded intriguing and asked Pat to check the page and do the same.

It was funny to me how we picked the restaurants. I picked some edgy ones that were only moderately priced. Pat was picking some really pricy places. One we've been to before and it's excellent, really, but I laughed and reminded him that we have a wedding to budget for and turned him down.

We both did pick a crazily named place, The Swallow at the Hollow, an upscale barbecue joint. So we opted for that. After all the overtime I'd put in the last three weeks, I was really looking forward to going somewhere nice but not too dressy and just enjoying some good food and conversation with Pat.

Friday turned out to be a good day for me. I started off with some hypomania, so work went well, my mood was up, and I was looking forward to going out with Pat even more than I had earlier in the week. Things were looking up and I figured dinner would just be a nice way to end the week.

The restaurant was crowded when we got there that night, but the patio was open, so we opted to eat outside. The weather was warm, but not overly so. There was a large bunch of reed grass surrounding the corner of the porch we were on, so there was the lovely sound of a breeze through the tall reeds. Nearby trees hosted a small symphony of cicadas and crickets. There were a few other patrons outside with us and the whole atmosphere was total relaxation.

We each ordered ribs, macaroni and cheese, and another side. It's the best barbecue I've had in Georgia so far! We both enjoyed our meal heartily, and even ordered dessert. Pat had the chocolate chip banana pudding and I had cherry pie. Yum!

Finally, we were waiting for the check which was a little slow in coming.

Pat looked at me and smiled.

"It's been a really great day," he said.

"Yes, it has," I agreed.

"Work was good; you're in a good mood; we've had a great dinner; it's a beautiful evening. Only one thing would make tonight perfect," he continued.

"If we were on the bike?" I asked (I'd turned down a chance to ride it earlier in the evening).

"Well, that would make it better," he said. "But no."

Then he repeated, "Only one thing would make the evening perfect."

"If we had music?" I asked.

He stopped, looked at me, and made a kissing motion toward me.

"Oh!" I thought. "He wants some cuddling later tonight."

But before I could say anything, he said it again: "Only one thing would make tonight perfect." And he reached into his pocket, pulled out a small jewelry box, and slid it across the table to me.

It was the engagement/wedding set he bought for me that wasn't supposed to get here until late August!

I quietly squealed -- like the girl I am -- and just said, "Oh, Pat! Now?"

And he asked me quietly, "Will you marry me?"

And I, of course, said yes. Because it would be silly to say "no" when we were already planning a wedding on November 21st.

Pat teases me that I kept interrupting him, but to be honest, I misunderstood him. When he would say, "Only one thing would make this night perfect," I thought he was asking for input.

I've got to learn to listen better.

Anyway, folks, that's the story of our engagement. And yes, two souls are sharing one euphemistic heart.

* French proverb

Sunday, July 5, 2015

“You can't patch a wounded soul with a Band-Aid.” *


I've been through some pretty awful things in my life. Some due to other people. Some due to my own choices. A lot due to undiagnosed mental illness in both my spouse at the time and myself. Some of it is worse than what others have gone through in their marriages; a lot of it is far better than some people have gone through. We all have our own private hells, I think.

My personal hellish relationships were over five and fifteen years ago in a matter of two divorces. Though the longer one continued past the divorce because we share a child in common and therefore had interactions with each other for a much longer time.

The shorter marriage - the one over for only five years - still involved a four year period of separation, so we were technically only together for four years. It was loud and obnoxious and fraught with arguments, but the hell more due to my as yet undiagnosed bipolar disorder and severe anxiety than anything he was putting me through.

My first husband, though. Wow. I was very young when I married him, and did so against everybody's better judgment, including mine. I had been asked if I loved him after he proposed and I honestly said, "Not yet, but I will." Because I thought the flutterings I had were love in the making and would be the stuff of which great marriages were made.

They weren't.

There was a lot of verbal and emotional abuse in that marriage. And because it wasn't physical, I didn't think of it as abuse. But the constant put downs and neglect took a heavy toll on me and there are still things that I'm working through even now.

"You can't put a bandaid on it" is true.

I came through the relationship and left it in the past, I thought. But I never dealt with the abuse. Never grieved the person I'd been at the beginning that got lost in 16 years. I took my wounds and scars and heavy scabs out of the relationship and into another marriage, then carried them out past that marriage and into a single life that was insulated within my family and a few close friends. There was no need of tending to wounds that weren't constantly being inflicted anymore...or so I thought.

Long story short, I've been working with a counselor that is alternately good for me and not worth much, but he is what my insurance affords me and he is available and means well, so we are working together. He's wanted me to write about the abuse and the relationship. I've resisted because I saw no need to revisit anything.

But I finally put pen to paper...all of twice...and the results have been scary.

The first entry in my journal left me angry and agitated. I cried some, and shared the entry with Pat so he would know what was going on, but it was the residual anger that developed into barely contained rage the next day that surprised me. It was as if I'd opened the lid to a cauldron and now it was boiling over. I was mad at me. I was mad at my ex. I was mad at the situations he put me in. I was mad over the loss of trust I'd experienced. And I was trying to work, too. I ended up angry with Pat over something relatively minor, though I didn't take it out on him, and we talked for a long time about where the anger was coming from. It helped to diffuse it. He's better than a journal for diffusion.

The second entry was in response to a video I watched. It was an apology to women who have been married to sex/porn addicts from a man who is a recovering addict. Everything he said rang true with me. I tried to write that day and got only a paragraph in before I through the journal and pen away from me and went to the security of my bathtub where I ran hot water and sobbed deep and long for all the anger, rejection, hurt, and shame I'd felt when with my ex-husband.

Apparently, all those wounds had been covered with mere bandaids. Because I wasn't being hurt any more, I thought they'd gone away. I'd known that some of the pain had been coming to me in flashbacks since I started dating Pat, which made no sense to me as Pat treats me the polar opposite of either of my exes. But he would do something wonderful, tender, and sweet, and I would flash back to something awful, cruel, and mean that my first husband had done or said.

The counselor recognized that I needed to pull off the bandaids and let the purulence out. It's a slow process, because I can't handle more than a bit at a time, and I don't know that I'd survive ripping all the bandages off all at once. I'd be a raw mess, I know.

But I'm working on it.


* Michael Connelly

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Saturday Morning Musings

I'm reading a book by Rachel Held Evans called "searching for sunday: loving, leaving, and finding the church." It's about a "millennial" raised in evangelical churches who left because there wasn't room to be found inside one for her doubts and true concerns that beset her since they went against the stands of the church.

I left church for other reasons, and haven't gone back for still more, but it isn't that I don't want to. It's because I'm still scared of what I will find.

Before I get into what I've been thinking about, I want to post this quote from Brennan Manning that Evans uses in the middle of her book:

"When I am honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty, I am trusting and suspicious, I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer."

I don't even have to get down and dirty honest with myself to realize those things anymore. I do feel bad about feeling good. Pat says I would be a great Catholic with the amount of guilt I feel about being in a healthy relationship and having a good time in my life.  And yes, when I find myself NOT feeling guilty, I worry that something is inherently wrong with me that I don't.

I have left behind a life time of legalism, found even in evangelical churches and non-denominational churches, but especially in a plain Mennonite church. For the most legalistic of all, if they knew anything about me now, they would all be aghast with how far gone I am on the road to hell. I cut my hair, I wear jewelry and makeup, I've been divorced then remarried then divorced again, and now I am living with a man and enjoying what the world calls a healthy relationship -- all without the benefit of marriage at all (even though they would not recognize it even if I had legal documentation).

The fact of the matter is, if I am going to hell, I'm pretty sure it would be because of things that happened or didn't happen when I was a loyal-every-Sunday-morning-and-Wednesday-night-and-daily-prayer-and-worship practicing Christian.

I always doubted. I always feared. I often felt great love from God, but not always within the church, and always with tentativeness.

The great hymns spoke to me of God's majesty, Christ's sacrifice.

But Margaret Becker and Rich Mullins spoke to me of the possibility of God loving me in spite of all my doubts and many sins.

For they are many.

I have always struggled with being judgmental. It is my single biggest failing.

But in the past, I was judgmental about things that "Good Christians" were allowed to be judgmental about: homosexuality, liberalism, sexual sins, etc.

Now I'm more judgmental about people with unaccepting, close-minded attitudes. I am more angry about people bashing Caitlyn Jenner and hurting animals than I am about homosexuals asking for equal marriage rights. I'm less concerned about Martin Scorcese than I am about Joel Osteen. I'm less inclined to be forgiving to Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker knowing what I know about how they were just the tip of the iceberg. I'm less worried about wearing the right clothes and being modest (though yes, I still dress pretty conservatively for a woman in 2015) than I am about people thinking my friends and relatives who are gay have a legitimate reason to say they are -- because they were born that way. Not chose that way (too many of them have said "who would choose this" - meaning "in the world's present climate" and not "because the idea repulses me but I can't help it"); not made to become that way, but - gasp - the possibility is strong that even God knew and still made them. Because what a person does with his or her body is not as important to him as what they do with their hearts.

I never knew Jesus.

There, I said it.

I learned about him. I read stories about him. I prayed to him, but never felt comfortable doing so.

I think we got it wrong so many times.

Even Jesus said to pray to God. And pointed to him as our father.

So that I could do and that I did.

But having a relationship with Jesus eluded me.

I think I would like to get to know him. But I want to know the one who hung out with sinners...since I am the biggest one I know. I want to know the one people say loves me enough to love me the way I am...but too much to let me stay that way...and doesn't withhold anything while I'm trying to come along.

I think God loves me where I am at. I think he's disappointed with me for some of my choices. Maybe even the one that has brought me the most happiness I've ever had in my life.

I don't know if that's true...it's just what I feel should be true.

Because when it comes down to it...I don't feel good enough for him.

You know what I like about myself? A lot more than I used to. I like my feet, and how I write, and how I love words, and how I laugh, and how I love people, and how I am open to new things.

But what I don't like is how I doubt so many things.

That isn't to say that it was easier when I was so sure about things, because it wasn't. When I believed everything about the Bible the way it was presented to me, it was less brain-intensive, but not wholly satisfying. I think when I've struggled and fought to know what I believe, it will be more meaningful to me.

Anyway. I'm struggling. And wanting to not struggle. But I know I need to struggle more.

It's like my weight. I lost weight. And I want to be at my ideal weight. But I'm tired of trying. And I know I need to lose more.

Nothing worth having comes easily.

It's going to be a while, I know.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“It is never too late to be who you might have been.” *

I can remember, when I was young, that I saw the world stretching out in front of me, and I had no idea who or what I would one day become. Every day was a chance at something new, and I followed a path that I set for myself.

There came a time, though, when the only thing I saw stretching out in front of me was time. I saw nothing to challenge me...nothing to do more than to draw me from one day to the next. I saw no possibility of change...of adventure...of becoming more than someone who went to work and came home, only to restart the process again the next day.

I was asked yesterday how it was I came to find the courage, the willingness, the chutzpah even, to resurrect my life and make the drastic changes I made.

It was a challenge that put it all in to motion.

"Kim," I was asked, "what is your passion in life?" A pause while I thought...and found no answer. "Or do you even have passion anymore?"

And I had to admit to the friend who had gently asked me the question that no, I no longer had passion. I had been going through the motions. I had been taking one step after another on a long familiar road that only led from one day to the next. I had no deviation, no experience outside of work and home, no plans that were not made for me to follow.

I thought about that question and remembered that my passion used to be words. I had been a newspaper editor and reporter. I made my living investigating stories, attending meetings, writing about the events in our town in a way that people who had not been able to attend would understand them. I had a column. I wrote humorous insights into daily events. I wrote inspirational columns because I thought deep thoughts and still could. I read every day...all kinds of books. I spent my free time writing to friends and communicating with others.

So I took that question...that challenge...and took a step off the path I'd been on. I decided, at age 45, to go back to school and get my degree before I was 50. At 46, I started school. Almost every day for the next four years, I poured myself into writing and did receive my degree in Creative Writing and English one month after turning 50.

It wasn't enough to get my degree, though. With the confidence I'd built in doing well in school, it was time to step out of my safe job as a cashier in a retail/restaurant establishment, and start doing something that made a difference.

Just before my 50th birthday, I became a Peer Provider at a mental health facility in my hometown in Texas. It was now my job to share my story of depression, bipolar, panic and anxiety...and how I'd come to live beyond my diagnosis and become my own person again. It was a step I'd never dreamed I would take...but rekindling my passion, pursuing my education, and deciding that the status quo was no longer satisfactory made taking that step not only possible, but necessary.

Now I'm 51. I have decided to enter into a relationship with my long-time friend, Pat. We've BOTH made a conscious decision to stop thinking we had to be alone the rest of our lives, and started entertaining the possibility of being part of a couple. We are 51 and 55 and I for one don't feel old. I feel rejuvenated...rekindled again...resurrected as my client mentioned yesterday.

Who will I be in five years? I will be strong, confident, and sure in what I'm doing. I don't know what that is yet, but I will know it when I see it. Until then, I will be strong and confident and sure of what I do and do not want. I will be bold in going after the things that I feel passionate about and not be afraid to think outside the box or be held back because I'm a woman of a "certain age".

It's not too late. It's never too late. And I will still be exactly who I might have been. :)


* George Eliot

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"No one can grow in the shade." *

I've been in three major relationships in my life.

I married a man at 20. I divorced him and later married another man in my 30s. We divorced in my mid-40s. And at 50, I entered in to the relationship I am in now.

At 20, there were a myriad of reasons that I chose to get married. None of them were good enough to base a life-time commitment on. I barely knew the man, who was older than me...who had been out in the world...who had embarked on a career. I was young, had never seriously dated anyone before, had never worked out a compromise in a relationship, and had only worked the typical high school/college jobs. I had no clue about how a relationship was supposed to work, so I decided to take his word for How Things Were Supposed to Be and tried to submit to his ideal of What A Wife Should Be.

Seen and not heard. Maybe not seen at all.

He preferred attending military functions, which typically included the spouse, on his own. He preferred shopping different parts of the store than me when we were out.

Shy. Submissive. Subjugated.

Which I'm not. Which I tried to be. Which I became.

And what growth I managed to do in the shade of his attempted control turned out to be rather stunted.

So in my 30s, when I was manic, and I married again, I made sure not to marry a controller.

Instead, he wanted me to be in charge of everything...and he wanted to be close. All the time. Overwhelmingly close.

I couldn't leave the house without being called every few minutes to "see how you're doing." I couldn't talk to my friends or family without him interrupting me to make jokes or ask questions that could very well have waited. I couldn't leave the room without him asking where I was going.

And in the shade of his clinginess and smothering, I did not grow at all.

I was also very unhealthy at that time -- in the throes of a bipolar roller coaster, not yet diagnosed, and desperately needing help.

When I got help...when I started to get healthy...when I tried to take back some of the strength I had gained when I was on my own...the marriage (always shaky) quickly died and we separated, then divorced.

I became strong. I began to grow.

Slowly, and with the help of family and friends who did not try to control me or smother, but always encouraged me and supported me as I began to take steps to set my future in place.

Now, in this third relationship, I started out healthy and strong on my own. My friend and I met on equal footing, in a long-term supportive friendship, and built on that. We talk...about everything. We discuss important things and chat about silly things. We celebrate both our similarities and our differences. We explore each other's thoughts, dreams, likes and dislikes, discovery ways to interact and connect. We support each other in the decisions we have to make. More than a girlfriend...more than a lover...he wants a partner. He doesn't want me to be anyone but me. He doesn't want me to put myself under his control...he wants me on equal footing. He doesn't want me to be his mother or his constant-every-minute-of-every-day-touchstone...he wants me to be his companion. He wants us to have our own interests independent of each other, as well as things we enjoy and do together.

It is the healthiest relationship I have ever known.

I had to grow and get healthy to find it.

I could not grow in the shade...but in the nourishment of family and friends whose love was unconditional.

* Leo Buscaglia