How Do You Maintain a Friendship With Someone Who Isn’t a Good Friend?

This is a confusing point of my life.  I am in the process of divorcing my husband.  Almost exactly 2 years ago, he began working out, losing weight, dying the hair on his head, and manscaping his body.  In six months, he would turn 50.  He signed up for and completed a Spartan race.  He traded his two year old Hyundai for a 10 year old Jeep Wrangler.  He, also, began telling me all the ways he found me deficient.  I didn’t have an issue with the changes he wanted to make with himself and even our marriage.  I wanted a more active life, too, so I quit my full-time job to go part-time.  We began biking and hiking together on the weekends since I was no longer working weekends.  I began addressing the aspects of my body that he said he didn’t like.  Still, he couldn’t seem to be happy with me and refused to perform any action I thought might make our marriage better(counselling, casual physical touching, working from the office on any day I had off so I would have some solitude).  I knew what these changes meant but chose to ignore them hoping he would just choose to stop.  His personal policy, as he himself has stated, is to deny, deny, deny.  In pursuit of this policy, he concocted elaborate lies and denials even when he was caught flat out.  I will simply state that he was caught in many liaisons with other women and even participated in a swinger’s group.  I don’t know how to justify my having stayed with him through this period of time except to say that I understood his abrupt confrontation with his own mortality and his search for sexual virility, even though I made it clear that I was not OK with it and that we would have to divorce if it continued.

He had long been overly critical, and this was noted by multiple people, but he began criticizing every aspect of my life.  This included my job choice, my appearance, my driving, the way I prepared a cup of coffee for him, and that I failed to greet him occasionally when he came through the door.  It should be noted that he never prepared a cup of coffee for me or greeted me when I came in. Even the way I took a photo of him- “Your instincts are terrible”(said twice).  Any contribution I made to our marriage or lives was discounted.  Mowing the yard, cooking, handling the mail, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, working- nothing rated notice, much less thanks.  He, also, cut me out of parts of his life.  There were no recent pictures of me on his Facebook profile, and I wasn’t allowed to go with him on a couple of trips he took to interesting places.  I know he chose to share his trip to Puerto Rico with some one else, and I found naked pictures of her in the folder on his computer.  He chose to spend our money exploring a new, exciting place with some one other than me.

He says he didn’t want the divorce.  He says he has a sexual addiction, and he says I am the love of his life.  I do love him.  We have two young adult children.  We weathered 12 years caring for a medically fragile third child, including that child’s sudden death.  We have made an effective, loving team in years past.  We have been married twenty-three years, 21 of which I see as mostly good.  We, also, share guardianship of our granddaughter.  The nature of our relationship has to change, but we must still be in some regular contact.  In pursuit of that change and of my own happiness, I have chosen to move back to our home state following the sale of our house.  What I thought I wanted was to maintain a friendship, but I am just now confronting the fact that I would not choose to remain friends with any one else who treated me as poorly as he has.  Even when I try to separate the marriage from the friendship, I have to face the fact that it wasn’t much of a friendship for years.  How much text contact do I want to maintain.  Do I really want to continue to exchange texts where we wish each other good night?  Right now, we have a standing “date” on Wednesdays where I make dinner for him, he spends time with our granddaughter, and we watch  a movie on Netflix together.  I set this up with him for several reasons.  I wanted him to continue to have contact with our granddaughter, I wanted to maintain a friendly vibe, and I didn’t want him to just drop in when he felt like it, which is what was happening.  I told myself that this was only short-term until the divorce process was complete, but the process is long.  I know that distance will help, but it will still be months before I can move.  Yesterday was the first day in a long time that I have allowed myself to acknowledge how hurt I am by the choices he made and that he made those choices knowing they would hurt me.  Deliberately hurting me over a long period of time.  How do I stay friends with some one who does that?  Do I really want to?

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

I believe that saying, I really do.  Once I realized that it’s OK to be a C student in something, I understood that it is better to continue, get that C, and not give up than to just throw in the towel and get the F.  That was a difficult lesson for me to learn, since I had rarely been a C student before college.  After college, marriage, and two healthy children, I found that it worked in maintaining the health and life of our third child, who contracted E Coli meningitis at three weeks and was subsequently medically fragile and multiply handicapped.  He was in a wheelchair, was deaf, was completely G-tube fed, had epilepsy, and functioned at the level of a 12 month old baby until his death, when he was almost 12.  I had been a child protective social worker for 5 years, so I knew how to get him services.  I was very organized with scheduling his appointments with his 11 specialists and with staying on top of his medical needs even though he was completely nonverbal.  It’s difficult to describe him to other people because so much of what I describe involves his health issues and limitations, which someone would have to know in order to understand him.  What really made him who he was, though, was his near-constant joy and happiness.  So many people told me that they wouldn’t want to live life in that condition, and I can understand that.  But, he really didn’t know another way of being, and he was very much a Zen master of experiencing the art and joy of simply being.  He knew he was loved, that if he cried(rarely) someone would take care of him, and he understood the world as a good place.  I really don’t believe anyone was ever mean to him.  It would have been a travesty to hurt him deliberately in any way, and even young children seemed to understand this.  I had a therapist tell me once that there is an order of monks who devote themselves to working with children like him because they believe it’s the closest they can get to Jesus in the real world.  I know that all my efforts on his behalf extended his life, as there were several emergency surgeries that saved his life based initially only on my word that something was wrong, even though he couldn’t tell anyone.  In the end, though, it came as a shock that I didn’t have final control over his life or death.  He died one night at home while we were asleep.  He had been laughing that night.  Everyone played with him while we watched a football game, and when we woke up, he was gone.  He was not quite 12 years old.  That was seven and a half years ago.  We all knew it was a possibility, and that is always how I imagined his death occurring, but it was still a shock.  They didn’t do an autopsy.  I had someone tell me that when the coroner does an autopsy, they’re looking for some catastrophic event that stands out in an otherwise normal body.  Logan’s body wasn’t normal, and it would have been difficult to sort out the one issue that was unusual enough to kill him.  His neurologist said he was a prime candidate for Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy Patients(SUDEP), but it took me a long time to accept that I will never know EXACTLY why my youngest child died.

I, also, had to accept that despite my very great will and efforts, I could not make my marriage work, either.  I tried to fix all the things that my husband said contributed to his unhappiness, but in the end, I again had to admit that I just didn’t have complete control. I had to realize that I can’t make another person be who I want them to be.  If they aren’t going to be that person, then all I can do is decide if I am willing to live with the person they have decided to be.  It wasn’t an easy decision to decide that I wasn’t willing to continue to be with the person he had decided to become, especially since he had been the person I most wanted to be with for so many years  It’s humbling and galling to admit defeat, especially when it is something I want so badly.

Letter to Anyone Who is Thinking of Harming Themselves or Committing Suicide

I wrote this letter to my husband last week.images

Dear Will,

You told me twice that you had thoughts of harming yourself, and I didn’t respond because I didn’t know what to say, which is why I think people generally don’t respond.  I don’t think asking, “Why?” is really all that helpful. I, also, don’t think harping on about whether suicide is selfish is helpful.  We are, at our core, selfish people. On the drive here, though, I thought about what would be helpful.

As you know, I’ve had thoughts of harming myself before, the last time being about a year ago.  The earliest incident that  I remember was when I was about 19.  It’s possible that there were other times between that I’m just not remembering because the first and last times are so traumatic.  The first time was the worst, since I didn’t know if the depression would ever end, and I was afraid that I would never feel happiness, much less joy, again.  I had mononucleosis at the time, and the severe depression did last a long time- somewhere between six months and a year.  I never received anti-depressants then.  I don’t know if they weren’t prescribed as much or if I just didn’t know enough to go to a doctor.

This last time, I did know to go to a doctor, and I think it helped, although it may have just been time and the fact that I KNEW I would feel happiness and joy again.  I, also, know you will feel it again, too.  Right now, there are major life changes going on.  Give yourself permission to feel the grief and loss from all of them.  People go through the loss of a parent and come out the other side.  You do lose the padding between yourself and mortality.  That alone would make you question your life.  Divorce does that, too, I’m finding out. But, you’ve lived a worthwhile life, and the next page is fresh.  Avoid going where you imagine hurting yourself and get rid of whatever you see yourself using.  That’s why I asked you to throw away the rope.  Get outside for 15 minutes a day,even if it’s raining.  This isn’t just a platitude, it’s something that works.

You are loved by me, however complicated that love is, and you will make a new way for yourself, however you may have made missteps in the past.  You will experience happiness again even if you feel pain, guilt, and loss now.  Wait it out, keep waiting it out, and you will see.  This is what I wish some one who knew had said to me.

Nasty Skeletons Out of the Closet

My daughter, Kylie, called three days ago.  She was driving in from Asheville, where she had been living in her car.  I have no idea how she got the gas money to get here, but she wanted us to buy her a couple of cartons of cigarettes and a tank of gas.  She said she and her boyfriend were on their way to a new detox facility that’s within a 30 minute drive of us and that it will be completely covered under insurance.  That’s good because we’re still paying off her bill from the detox stint in November.  I guess that means she’s been using(heroin) enough to where going straight to a sober living facility wouldn’t likely be successful.  I’m trying to be supportive emotionally without getting my hopes up too much.

I blew up at her last week.  My husband’s, Will’s, mother died.  He had been taking turns with his brother and sister sitting with their mother around the clock during her last days at the hospice, which is in our hometown in another state.  I brought our granddaughter, Kylie’s daughter, up with me and got to see his mother the day before she died.  We were all under a lot of stress.  Faith and I were staying with my father, and Will was staying with his sister when he wasn’t at the hospice.  He had assumed that I would stay with him at his sister’s house, but we’re in the process of getting a divorce.  I just didn’t want to share a bed with him.  Also, Faith is a typical two year old.  Not only is his sister’s house not really safe with its steep stairs and inside balcony walkway, but also I just didn’t think it would be helpful to him or his sister to have her running around, loud, and into everything.  He didn’t want his mother or his extended family to know about our divorce, and it was difficult to appear to be a couple.

Kylie came to be with us.  We had to pay for a hotel for her and her boyfriend since none of our family will let her stay with them because she’s stolen so much from my husband and me.  After she arrived there, I learned from my son that Kylie and her boyfriend had gone to our home in Atlanta two days before and let themselves into our house knowing that we would be gone.  My son said he knew she had gone into our bedroom and had told her that he would tell me.  I felt completely betrayed again.  She knows she’s not allowed in our home when I’m not there, much less our bedroom.  If I know she’s going to be there, I put a padlock on my bedroom door, but I hadn’t even done this before I left.  I was upset because I had no idea whether she had stolen anything from me.  Many times, I don’t figure out what she’s stolen from me until months later, even though I look. I am so tired of being on guard.  When I found out, I yelled at her in front of the relatives that were there.  Luckily, they already knew the score.  She said she and her boyfriend just hadn’t had anywhere else to go.  I told them both that if I discovered anything missing, I was going to call the police and press charges against both of them.  It was a nasty scene, and I felt like a nasty person, but I was sick the rest of the time I was there wondering what might be missing.  I still don’t know, even though I’ve looked through the things she was likely to steal.  Maybe that was the impetus she needed to get into detox again.  Or maybe it’s as simple as the fact that she’ll have a bed and food for the next 28 days.

Grown Ups Come Back

Today, Faith and I watched Sesame Street.  Hulu has 42 seasons, so there’s enough viewing material for a long time.  There was a song on the show called, “Grownups come back”.  I know what they were trying to achieve with that.  They were trying to get kids to understand that grown ups may drop you off, but they’ll come and get you again.  They aren’t going away forever.  While this lesson is important, the song just isn’t true for my granddaughter.  Her second birthday was Sunday, and her father did come at my invitation.  The last time she saw him was at Christmas.  He hasn’t asked for a visit since then, and he doesn’t see his other daughter by another babymomma at all.  Faith knows who he is because I have a picture of him in a photo album that she can look at.  My daughter and her new(er) boyfriend also came.  Faith’s favorite person in the world is her Momma.  When Kylie’s here, Faith won’t give me a hug, even though she loves for me to hug and kiss her.  I guess she feels she’s being disloyal.  They left four days ago, and Faith still calls to both Kylie and her boyfriend “Agu” up the stairs, where Kylie’s bedroom is, hoping they’ll respond.  I have to explain every time that they’re not here, and that they had to go to their house.  If I keep saying that, I know one day she’ll ask why she can’t go live at their house.  “Agu” is in a male sober living facility in another state, and Kylie is homeless.  They’re both heroin addicts.  Whenever a parenting couple is on TV, Faith will start chanting, “Momma, Dadda, Momma, Dadda…”  She lived with both of her parents in our basement for a year and a half before we had to ask Kylie and Faith’s father to leave because they stole so much from us.  I will have to think of something else to tell her when she gets older.  It will need to be some version of the truth but something she can tell her friends without censor.  I’ve arranged for Faith’s paternal grandmother to visit with her tomorrow.  She lives in California and has custody of Faith’s half-brother.  I worked in child protective services with foster kids for five years, and I believe strongly that it’s better for kids to know where they’re from, even if some aspects of their families aren’t so great.  Besides, “Nana Donna” is a very nice, normal person, and I feel sorry for her knowing that she has Faith and one other granddaughter out there that she either can’t see at all or not very often. She sends presents. If Kylie had been a boy, that would have been my lot.  Faith, also, has an aunt by her father and a cousin the same age who live in town.  They are decent people, too, and she sees them every couple of months.  I send pictures to all of them, as well as to her paternal grandfather, who lives in another state and who has said he would like a visit at some point.  I’ve made contact with Faith’s half-sister’s grandparents, who have custody of her.  They say they’ll probably arrange a visit at a local playground before we move out of town, but they don’t want us to introduce the two as sisters.  Their granddaughter is only five and is in family therapy because of all the havoc in her life.  But, at least, we’ll have pictures to show Faith when she gets older, and some of these relatives may end up being a resource for her at a later point.  My husband has a picture in the album, too, although he still sees her once a week and will until the divorce is final and we move to another state.  He was living here up until 5 weeks ago.  So, you can debate what it means to be a grown up, but they don’t always come back.

Rebuilt me

I have my last appointment with the ear, nose, throat doctor this morning.  He’ll be checking the inside of my nose where I had my deviated septum repaired.  I think maybe I should go out and celebrate tonight.  The personal party would not be because I can now breathe so much better, even though I can, but rather because this marks the end of the list of items to fix on my husband’s behalf.  I won’t deny that completing the list has benefitted me, but I was never really bothered about many of them until he told me I should be.

It began with him telling me that I needed to lose weight and quit smoking or he would divorce me.  He said he made a lot of money and had lost weight himself in the last year, and he deserved someone who was more attractive than I was.  So, I quit smoking and lost 30 pounds.  Rather than be happy, though, he said he felt like a chump because it was so easy for me to quit smoking, but I didn’t until then.  It wasn’t easy to quit smoking, but I still did it because I valued our marriage.  I had quit smoking for a period of four years earlier in our marriage, but it was during that time-frame that he had the first affair that I know of- and it was with some one who smokes.  It wasn’t easy to lose the weight, either, and I did resent that, since he and I lost the same amount of weight, but I still found him to be attractive prior to the weight loss.  Later, he stated, “I never actually said you were unattractive.  I may have implied it.”  I, also, exercised and lifted weights to firm myself up.

Then, I had the sunspots on my hands lasered, since he said they weren’t attractive.  I’ve never had attractive hands or fingers.  My hands are rough, and my fingers are wide.  I admire his long, artistic fingers.  But my hands are very strong and have done many years of hard work.  They are capable hands that raised two children to adulthood and changed diapers, pushed a wheelchair, and connected feeding tubes for another child for twelve years.  They are hands that allowed me to plant my garden and become a master gardener, and they saw a lot of cleansers and sun exposure as a result of the gifts and demands of my life.  Maybe they’re strong hands because they’re unlovely.  Perhaps if I had beautiful hands they wouldn’t have had to work as hard.

The deviated septum repair was to address the snoring that he was angry about- and he was angry.  It was almost like he thought I snored to annoy him, and he told me most mornings that I had cost him sleep due to my snoring.  I don’t know whether that was really even true.  Sometimes, I suspected that he just said it to make me feel bad. Losing weight did reduce the frequency and loudness of snoring- for both of us, because he certainly snores, too.  But, it didn’t completely solve the problem for me.  I don’t know if I snore anymore now, almost three months following the surgery to repair my deviated septum, because he’s no longer here.

The Case of the Man With the Too-tight Tie, Sunday Flash #7

clownzI really must tell you about the English gent applying for a position as my boy toy last week.  He was trying to sell me on his attributes, chief of which is an incredibly long life line.  The lady who took his money had explained that this foretold a life where he could pamper a wealthy woman (I was wearing the cubic zirconia earrings) for a long time over her otherwise dreary life. He also implied that I could infer that other attributes were similarly sized.  I responded that I usually don’t like men who wear plaid unless it’s soft flannel that gently brushes over the nape of my neck as he’s massaging it (my neck).  I was also concerned about the bags around his eyes, as they indicated a man who had a lot of drama in his life.  I don’t need drama.  The last five men I’ve had as my boytoys were mewling, demanding creatures who wouldn’t take care of themselves, much less me.  Speaking of which, I had last been to England in my early twenties, and the dental care there at that time was, let’s just say, a bit substandard.  Imagine my surprise when he opened his gob to let me inspect.  In the end, I had a waiting list for the boytoy position that was already too unwieldy, so I had to decline with some mixed feelings.  After all, he did have that long life line.

On Daydreams

kill billI daydream.  I should daydream more.  In these dreams, sometimes I’m a sort of Kill Bill uber fighter that everyone admires because, really, who wouldn’t want to be that badass?  Other dreams are more directional.  They might center around how I would like my life to look.  Sometimes, I’m even motivated enough by them to make a plan of action to try to achieve that life.  And occasionally, I do the hard work to follow the plan of action to completion.

Making New Year’s resolutions are often part of that plan.  Those are easy plans because I expect to make them.  I expect to sit down once a year and draw up an outline of things that I need to change to get to a daydream I have about myself.  Usually, I complete some but not all of those actions, and there have been multiple years where I’ve listed the same actions. Those actions reappear because they require more from me than I’m really willing to give, even though I recognize that they are the most important, hence their reappearance.

For about five years, I was a member of a website called 43Things.  On that website, the idea was that you listed up to 43 things that you wanted to accomplish.  These weren’t always bucket list kind of things but also included the mundane, like “Clean my garage”.  There were people who listed completely unrealistic things like, “Fly to the moon” and people who listed “Be a part of a threesome” as they tried to recruit you to actively make their goal come true.  But there were many more people who really took the time to think about their goals.  Some people made one or two entries that lived on in perpetuity for years in cyberland long after they had forgotten that they had made the lists (usually around New Year’s).  There were many other people who wrote regularly for years, like I did.  We formed a loose friendship, support group, and community.

I joined the site after I heard myself saying, “I’d like to [fill in the blank]” one too many times.  I realized that I would regret not actually having done these things at some point, and I was forgetting what they even were until the next time it occurred to me.  I accomplished a lot due to that site and my participation on it.  I completed “The Artist’s Way”, I painted an oil painting, I went out to see a live band, comedy routine, or sports event once a month, and I hiked a lot.  The site is now defunct.  Many of the people went on to rejoin another site, Popclogs, and I have a profile there.  I never really flushed it out, though, because I felt like I was becoming too goal oriented.  I needed to be more fluid and just live life for a while.

My dreams for myself are in flux now, as I decide and then make new decisions on who I want to be, where I want to be, and what I want to do following my divorce and move.  There’s still a lot I don’t know about what the post-divorce me likes, much less wants.  Even my decisions on what to buy at the grocery store or pull together for dinner are different.  I should daydream more.

On Creatures and Cartoons

wyliecoyoteToday, when Kylie and her new(er) boyfriend left, I wanted to have my husband, Will, next to me to share in that sense of loss and sorrow that arises in the wake of her leaving.  I want her to leave, don’t get me wrong.  She’s doing better about cleaning up after herself when she’s here, although she still has to be reminded.  She goes to bed really late, though.  I end up having to wake her up at eleven in the morning, which makes me resentful, since I’ve already been up hours by then caring for her daughter.  I will have to set firm boundaries when she’s next here.  I’m also relieved that I can stop worrying about locking my valuables in my bedroom or what she’s doing when she leaves the house during her visits.

But Faith cries, and I’m trying to comfort her on my own.  I don’t know exactly where Kylie will go.  She says she is staying with a friend.  I, also, don’t know that she’s safe or healthy.  No one really knows that about their young adult child who is attempting, however poorly, to live independently, but a child who is addicted to heroin and likely to be tossed on the street really brings this home.

I miss my husband.  I wanted him to leave, don’t get me wrong on that, either.  There’s just too much hurt between us and too little trust.  I read Cheryl Strayed’s collection of essays from her book, Tiny Beautiful Things.  She talks a lot about that voice that some people hear whispering “Go” and about how no person should ignore it.  I heard that voice many times over the course of many years.  At first, there were so many more voices whispering “Stay” that it was difficult to hear the lone voice telling me to leave.  Gradually, some of those voices whispering “Stay” instead began singing “Go” until I was finally left with only one voice echoing on every register.  And it was telling me to go.  So, I’m going.  I filed for divorce a month ago, and my husband moved out that night.  He says he didn’t want a divorce, but his actions for years prior indicate otherwise.  It’s only lately that I’ve wondered whether he had a voice whispering for him to go, but he just wasn’t courageous enough to do it before he caused so much harm.

One thing that helps me is imagining myself on a long walk.  As I have done many times, I pick up something wild while I study and hold it.  Eventually, it wiggles and gets so distressed that I place it back on the ground or branch or leaf.  We both then continue on our separate paths, with myself a little richer for the experience and the creature no worse for wear.  That is the goal I imagine and am trying to pursue for myself over the course of our divorce and beyond.  I don’t want to become a bitter person, and I would prefer that he didn’t think too badly of me.  I’ve avoided blaming him outright even though I know he blames himself, anyway, and I will try not to speak badly of him to our children.  This is a lot easier to do when we’re not still together, and I think the only way for me to really forgive him is to not live with him so I don’t have to play any part in his deceptions.

I miss my husband, but every time I think of trying to continue in our marriage, I picture myself as a cartoon character who is slogging through a large pit of mud and shit.  It gets deeper and deeper and hardens around me until eventually, I cannot take one more step forward and can’t even move my limbs. I’m sort of a frozen-in-motion Wylie Coyote.  The only way I can move at all is to move in a different direction, and I must move forward at all costs.

Question: Why Hire a Babysitter When You Already Have An Adult Who’s There?

Answer:  Because you don’t trust the adult that is there.  My daughter, Kylie, is staying with me for the weekend.  She’s 22.  Faith is her daughter, and her birthday is this weekend.  I had already hired a babysitter for the night before I knew my daughter would be here, but I didn’t change those plans because I simply don’t trust Kylie.  It’s not that I think she’ll run off with Faith, but I don’t absolutely know that she’ll make good decisions, either.  She was kicked out of her sober living facility about 3 weeks ago because she failed a drug screen, and she’s supposedly living with a friend in Asheville.

Three months after we kicked our daughter and her boyfriend out into the streets with no place to go and no money, I had a doctor’s appointment.  My husband and I had been caring for our granddaughter for those three months, and I asked Kylie if she would watch Faith for two hours.  She took Faith out to the park.  About two hours after I had returned from the doctor’s office, I received a text saying that she had been arrested for using heroin and that I needed to come and get Faith or she would go to child protective services.  I called, and the officer answered.  Both Kylie and her boyfriend, who is Faith’s father, had been arrested for shooting up in the car in a parking lot downtown with Faith asleep in her car seat in the back.  I was so grateful to the officers for allowing us the 30 minutes it took for us to get there.  My husband drove our daughter’s car back home.  I had already been home for two hours before their arrest.  All they had to do was bring Faith back before they chose to drive down there.  What were they going to do afterwards-drive home while high on heroin?

It hurt to tell my daughter that I was still asking the babysitter to stay, and it was awkward for the babysitter, too.  Luckily, she is an adult friend who knows the situation.  It still cost me $60 to pay her so that I could go out to the appointment and to a movie afterwards.  Kylie is supposed to leave on Monday, but she and her current boyfriend, who is also visiting, have already just disappeared, driving off three times for a couple of hours at a time while they’ve been here for less than three days.