Monday, May 5, 2014

Baby Steps and Body Armor =)

Monday morning.

And, after a full weekend of watching, feeding, bathing, and playing with two COMPLETELY rambunctious boys, and trying to keep them QUIET (!!!!) from the time they woke up until roughly noon-ish every day (so their father could sleep, because he was on night-shift) . . . I am completely exhausted, and REALLY ready to start my weekend.

(My husband works a rotating shift, and seems to handle it really well.  I, however, do not do such a great job.  . . . I don't sleep well when he's on nights, my schedule and Took's gets turned on its ear, and we only really get to see Mister for a couple of hours each day.  It sucks.)

So I'm sitting here, sipping my coffee out of a Phineas and Ferb cup that I KNOW I did not purchase, and looking at the interwebz while Took munches on his breakfast and sings along with Daniel Tiger.

. . . seriously--- who brought these Phineas and Ferb cups over here??  They're really nice, a good size, sturdy base. . . and fit in quite nicely with our collection of Star Wars, Mickey Mouse, and Avengers cups.  But they're not ours.  Sooooo. . . if you're reading this, and YOU'RE the person that left these two cups here, just let me know and I'll get them back to you.  I LOVE a good plastic cup. . . but I don't want to take someone else's.  =)

So anyway, I'm just sitting here, decompressing from the hectic weekend, and fiddling with some ideas that I might want to write about.

. . . and there IS one thing on my mind that I MIGHT want to write about. . . but I've spent most of the morning second-guessing myself about it.

. . . I was speaking with a friend (who lives in another state) once, and he revealed to me that he fairly regularly read my blog.

I was, to put it mildly, AMAZED.


He is a very fun, but very professional gentleman, seems to have his life very "together", and I was just frankly amazed that he ever took the time to read the things I'd written about.  (But this, essentially, is the same gut reaction I have WHENEVER someone reveals that they read my blog.  It's not that often. . . but it is always just staggering for me.  Such amaze.  Wow.)

Anyway, while this gentleman and I were speaking, he told me that he enjoyed my blog, and that I write like "no one is ever going to read it."

. . . and I thought about that for a while.

He was right.

I mean, I can look up my blogger account (after trying a combination of 18 different email addresses, and six different passwords. . . my memory sucks), and see how many views each post has gotten.  But mentally, there's a big disconnect there.  For some reason, there's a huge difference between seeing that your post has had, say, 17 views. . . and actually SPEAKING with someone that has read what you've written, and comments on it.

It's actually kind of wonderful and flattering and really, REALLY unsettling.

But I enjoy writing.  I do it because I'm attempting to express myself, keep a log of experiences for my children, and hopefully relate to others.  I don't pretend to be fantastic at it.  But I try.  All I really know to write about are my own experiences, and doing so usually allows me to look at my life from about 8 steps back, which happens to be quite helpful, I've found.

So I sit here, turning it over in my head . . . what am I going to write about this morning??

And this morning I decided that I would write about a facet of myself that I am currently battling, and I hope that it is well-received.


For the first 3 or 4 years of our marriage, my husband and I did not fight.

And I am completely serious.

We didn't argue, didn't fuss, didn't fight with each other at all.

It was an extended honeymoon period, and it was wonderful.  And very deceptive.  It raised our expectations for our relationship to a ridiculous level, and put in our heads a completely unreachable ideal of perfection.

Because no matter WHO you are, if you spend a great deal of time with someone else, EVENTUALLY you are going to go through a period where you don't get along, or have issues to work out.

And, though the honeymoon period was GREAT while it lasted, we DID eventually come to that place where things were no longer peach-ice-cream-with-sprinkles.

(We became, without placing blame on anyone's shoulders, the turd in our own punch bowl.)

We still loved each other very much, but it was like one day we woke up and just had all these ISSUES with each other.  (Which I, personally, think comes from the simple act of living with another imperfect human.  And by "imperfect", I am referring, of course, to my husband.)



We BOTH had a lot of baggage.  And a lot of it was stuff that we had shoved in our respective nasty-trunks when it happened, and never opened it up or examined the incidents again.

Speaking for myself, I thought this was a GRAND way to deal with things.  

"Ohhh, that's a particularly NASTY memory. . . so IN THE TRUNK YOU GO!!"  

And then I'd go play Sims or something, and try to never think on it again.  Which always worked.

. . . until I tried to go to sleep at night.

THEN, every embarrassing thing I've ever done, every painful, awkward moment I've ever experienced, would come back in horrific detail, to dance behind my closed lids and haunt my head, until I eventually fell into a restless sleep.

. . . sounds INCREDIBLY healthy, eh?  =)

So this was how we progressed for quite some time, shoving the nasties in our trunks, and going about our lives.

It worked pretty well for a while, until suddenly --- IT DID NOT.

And then my husband and I spent months upon months in an emotional cold-war.  . . .which, consequently, makes THIS song pop into my head:

La la laaaaaaaa. . . I digress!!!!

So we advanced and retreated, and nipped at each other's heels for months on end.  He was too THIS, and MUCH too THAT, and I felt like *I* was pretty much completely unacceptable in every way.

What I'm saying is:  We fought.

Like cats and dogs, covered in peanut butter.

And it got us nowhere.  Changed nothing.  And only really resulted in fostering untold amounts of resentment between us.

And I'll just go on and say that I had NO idea what to do about it. We weren't communicating.  We weren't getting ANYWHERE with each other.  And I was really, REALLY scared.  That we were going to LOSE ourselves.  To this pettiness, and these hard feelings we (unintentionally) nurtured, and the fact that we seemed to be waking up every morning and focusing on the shadows, instead of basking in the sun.

It was a tough time for both of us.

Then came February, and we were going on a cruise.  On Valentine's Day!!!  JUST the two of us!!!  . . . and I sincerely almost stayed home.

Why should I go on this trip?  I thought to myself.  He doesn't even LIKE me.  Why would I leave the little boy that I LOVE, that loves ME, at home just so I can spend a week with someone that can't stand me??

I was conflicted, I was very scared, and I was completely unsure what the best course of action was.

So the only thing I knew to do was to keep reminding myself of this: You love this man.  He is wonderful, but he is not perfect, and neither are you.  This IS a rough patch.  Everyone has them.  Trust. Have a little faith.  Close your eyes, and hope for the best.

. . . and if you HAVE to push him off the ship. . . at least you'll have a cool story to tell the kids.  (Also:  DOLPHINS!!)  =p

So we went on the trip.

And it was awful.

. . . there were periods of great enjoyment. . . interspersed with periods where I wandered the ship by myself, trying not to cry, and not doing a very good job of it.

Then, a couple days into the trip, the ship docked in Freeport, and everything came to a head.  We walked around, buying souvenirs for the kids, then sat down on a picnic bench to discuss whether or not we needed to try a trial separation.

It was one of the worst times in my life.

. . . thankfully, we still loved each other.  Even if we weren't doing a great job of SHOWING it at the moment.  And neither of us really WANTED to separate.  So we had THAT going for us, which was nice.  =)

So we hugged, we said we loved each other, and we vowed to set up an appointment with a marriage counselor as soon as we hit solid ground.

And I'm not embarrassed to admit this.  . . . more to the point, I don't even really UNDERSTAND people that would be.

Like everybody else, I'm figuring it out as I go.  And I'm so very FAAAAAAR from perfect.  So maybe, just MAYBE, if I can share this, and it helps someone else to maybe feel like they're not so alone, like everyone really has basically the same problems. . . then maybe some good can come from it?

After all, that honeymoon period lasted a WHILE.  So much so that some people started to referring to us as "the lovebirds", and some others made remarks about how perfect our relationship was.

And I'm not trying to diminish it --- we are GREAT for other.  Like we were MADE for each other, honestly.

I am the "Live and let live" to his "You're doing it wrong."

And he is the responsible voice saying "Rein it back in" when I get too out of control.

But again. . . nobody's perfect, and thank God neither of us was too proud to say ". . . a little help here?"

So we went to the marriage counselor.

It only FELT like complete failure, but it was actually morphing into what I can only describe as some very restorative moments.

So yay us.  =)

. . . but it was WHILE we were in the process of working things out in our relationship. . . that we each realized that we were both going to have to do some fairly intensive work on OURSELVES.

And it is at this point that I will stop speaking for my husband.

If he ever decides that he wants to share the ongoing work he is doing on himself, to try and make himself a better person, that is his prerogative.  But I can really only speak for myself, and I refuse to bring to the surface anything that might be difficult or painful for him, just in the name of a writing exercise.

So here's what I discovered about ME:


Or, in layman's terms:  I have social anxiety.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I don't think I've ever really delved into what it MEANS.

And what it means, for me, is simply that I am a rather nervous sort.

I'm private, and I'm introverted.  I've always been this way.

But I am also. . . well, anxious.  I have a hard time around people. Truth is, most of the time, I honestly don't KNOW how to interact.  I get around people I don't know that well, and I just. . . freeze.  My mind goes completely blank.  I can think of NOTHING to say.  I start sweating.  I'm afraid they're judging me.  It becomes painful.  I don't know what to do.  And so I've gotten into the habit of just reacting in a manner of self-preservation, which is:  When you don't know what to do --- RETREAT!!!!!!

And this is no way to live.

I've been thinking on it a LOT lately.  I'm not sure exactly when it started to get so bad. . . but I guess that doesn't matter.  Not as much as FIXING IT matters.

And yes, part of it is the fear that someone is going to hurt me.  People CAN'T hurt you if you never let them get close enough, right?

But down that path. . . lies madness.  Surely.

But it's really the fear of being hurt, COUPLED with the fear that *I* am going to inadvertently hurt someone else.

I ALREADY have a difficult time sleeping. . . I don't want any more horrific situations added to the Nightmare Reel that plays in my head every night.

And so, it looks like at some point I decided that I would solve this prickly little problem by just keeping everyone at arm's length.


And it seemed like a fine arrangement for me. . . for a while.

I had friends, I had people I loved. . . and, in my head, the thinking was:  We were friends.  You know I love you.  If we haven't had a falling out. . . then I still do.  End of story.

And I didn't really PUSH everyone away (at least. . . I don't THINK I did), but I did proceed to pretty much completely shut out the entire world.

Sure, I still talked to my parents. . . and I feel at ease with my husband and kids. . . but that was pretty much IT.  Cousins that I've known my whole life. . . I didn't know how to talk to.  My extended family and friends, people that loved me and would never intentionally hurt me. . . I was uncomfortable around.  Social functions of any sort?  A completely exhausting disaster, every time.

And for the longest time, I couldn't even stand to make eye contact with anyone.

Seriously.  =/

It was just too personal.  Too intimate.  I felt like once someone looked in my eyes, they could instantly SEE all the insecurities and flaws and shortcomings, laid bare and in living color.

It was just, on every single level imaginable, too, TOO MUCH.

And so I retreated inside myself, and I stayed there.

And I invested a LOT of time, when I DID have to perform socially, focusing every amount of energy I had on appearing "normal."

Eye contact was, and still is, the big thing.

I meet someone, even if it's someone I've known for YEARS, and while we are talking I am usually completely exhausting myself with trying to expertly keep on my lovely little mask of normalcy.

"Normal people make eye contact.  Normal people don't find that hard to do.  MAKE EYE CONTACT!!!  . . . one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi. . . surely that's enough?  Certainly normal people look away from time to time. . .  Oh, sweet Lord, this HURTS. . .  Okay, you can break away for a minute now.  Deep breath. . . and, look back.  Eye contact.  MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT. . .  Okay!  It's been a lovely party everyone!  Drive safe!"
And then I need a nap.

And, even though it seems completely absurd to even contemplate. . . I lived like this for a looooooong time.  I still do.

Honestly, I tried not to examine it too much, and just kind of hoped that EVERYONE went through their days like this.  Until at some point, I realized. . . Hey.  Wait.

. . . perhaps expending so much effort on trying to act "normally". . . ISN'T NORMAL???!?


My husband and I have talked about it.  And, in part, he seems to be of the opinion that it has to do with a lack of confidence.

And he is, at least partially, correct.

But not 100% correct.

. . . a while back, I had this dream.  Even when I don't sleep well, I've always had exceptionally vivid dreams.  And I remember a LOT of them.  (To my own detriment, at times.  I sincerely cannot COUNT the times I have had a dream that Mister was cheating on me, then woke up and found myself furious with him all day.  I know-- it makes no sense.  . . . but he DIDN'T EVEN APOLOGIZE!!!)

Anyway, in the dream, I was at a wedding reception.  Tons of people everywhere, no one that I really knew, basically a typical nightmare-experience for someone like me.

And I was walking around in a two-piece bathing suit, while everyone else was wearing suits and ties.

(This did not appear in any way remarkable until after I woke up.)

So I'm at this reception, and I'm in my bathing suit, and I'm ME. . . so I quickly make up some excuse to go outside and smoke and get AWAY from everyone.  So I excuse myself, find the exit to this lovely little moonlit courtyard, and light a cigarette.

And when I look down, lying on the ground is this huge, black, Me-sized turtle shell.

And without thinking twice, and by switching my cigarette from hand to hand in the process, I strap the shell on my back.  Then I walk back and rejoin the party.

And then I woke up.

Pretty weird, right?

Nope.  Not at all.

Because I knew precisely what this dream meant.

First, my confidence is just fine.  I mean, I was walking around in a bikini at a wedding reception, for God's sake.  But I only have acceptable confidence levels in certain areas.  For example:  Do you have any idea how hilarious I am?  Because I am seriously funny.  (It's not bragging if it's true.)

Also?  I think I'm pretty sweet.  Not in a "sweet" slang kind of way. . .  I mean, I actually think I'm a kind, fair person.  And I like that about myself.

I'm not particularly confident when it comes to my appearance, but I've never really thought it to be an issue.  Of all the things to worry about. . . that just never seemed like one of them.

Secondly, this was one of those "real" dreams.  I wasn't casting magic spells, and I wasn't levitating (as so often happens in my dreams).  No, I was just behaving as I normally would, in a perfectly ridiculous situation.

And what did I do?

I beat a hasty retreat, I smoked a cigarette, and I put on a turtle shell.

Only, in the dream it was a turtle shell.  In real life, it is any kind of wall I can construct around myself to make sure that others keep their distance.

It is metaphorical body armor, and I've been faithfully putting it on every morning for as many years as I can remember.

And. . . if I COULD walk around in full body armor every day?  . . . Yeah.  I probably WOULD.

Even sitting here right now and pondering this. . . I have to admit that it seems VERY practical.  

And perfectly reasonable.

. . . and also?  A pretty cowardly way to live a life.

I haven't made it this far, and survived what I've survived, only to hunker down in a hole and catch up on my reading until the Zombie Apocalypse gets started.

But it took me a while to realize this.

And, had it not been for my son, I might NOT have.

But realize it I did, after the boys and I sat down to watch Frozen one night, and I had a shocking moment of clarity where I was just like: 

"Holy crap.  . . . I'm Elsa."

Stay back.

And I immediately conjured in my head an image of my precious son, fully grown and sitting in a shrink's office one day.  And answering the question "How is your relationship with your mother?" with:  "Fine.  I mean, I know she always loved me. . . but she was just very distant."

So last week, I went and saw a counselor/therapist person.

. . . and I am harboring NO illusions that this is going to be FUN.

But I know who I WANT to be, and who I DON'T.  And it looks like, to get to what I WANT. . . I'm gonna have to do some work.  (A sledgehammer would probably be RATHER helpful in this instance, but I'm practicing my patience.  And taking baby steps.)

Seriously. . . WHERE is Dr. Leo Marvin when you NEED HIM??!!??


This is something I'm doing.

And in case you don't know, just take my word for it:  it's scary as hell.  You build up these walls, in an effort to keep yourself SAFE. . . and then one day you realize that they're keeping the ones you love OUT.

And you know what?

Yeah.  You're just gonna have to go ahead and tear down that whole damned thing.


So here goes.

The roller coaster is poised at the top, and I'm about to come rushing down.

Pretty scary.

But also a great excuse to yell:  "WHEEEEEEEEEEE!!!"

Fingers crossed, and cups raised.

To a complete lack of body armor, and better versions of ourselves.



1 comment:

  1. Good luck, hon. It's tough, but worth it. I know you'll do fine. Let me know if you need anything.