Archive for December, 2008

Difficult discussions

“Some of the biggest successes in life correspond to our willingness to participate in difficult discussions.” That is a rough translation of some wise words by RĂ¼diger Dahlke, which a friend of mine sent me to encourage me to start talking! As a matter of fact, I’d already had the discussion, but her words encouraged me to keep going. One discussion is not enough.

How did I do it? Well, first I made him some supper, then I opened a bottle of red wine and poured two glasses. After he finished eating, I asked him if he was up for a long talk. (As a recovered bulimic/eating disordered person, I know better than to start such discussions during a meal!) He was.

So I said what I needed to say, but in a loving, constructive way. I said that we’d both given it our best, but it just isn’t working out and I want to leave. We are still young enough to start over. We both still have a lot of life before us. We both deserve to be happy. He remained calm, said that several accusations come to mind, but that he didn’t want to get into it. I countered with the friendly statement that I was sure I had as many accusations as he did, but that I also don’t think it would be productive. We both made many mistakes over the years, but we always did the best we could. Right now, only the present situation matters.

My fears were unjustified — every one of them. He is not a monster. He never gave me reason to fear him, but I did. Those fears came from somewhere else. This process with him enabled me to name and face those fears, and to allow them to dissipate into air. He asked me what I wanted. I told him. It went quite well, actually.

The next morning he gave me a long hug and said that we can’t just throw away 25 years. He added that I won’t be able to get rid of him so easily. I responded that I don’t intend to throw away the 25 years, and added that even if/when we do separate, the children will always connect us.

I won’t give all the details, but there were a few points that I found extremely important. I told him that I’d never wanted my kids to go through the same misery I did, which I why I stayed for so long. But now it is clear to me that they don’t have to have the same experience. We are admitting to the fact that we don’t belong together and we will separate peacefully. We will tell the children the truth — that it didn’t work out and we are finally accepting that fact. And we will assure them that even though we are splitting up, we want the best for them and will act accordingly. They can discuss things with us.

The way it looks, I won’t move out right away. Neither of us wants to live without the children. We have lived fairly amicably during the past few years with this rapidly deteriorating relationship, thus we can imagine spending a few more together, if necessary. I imagine it will be somewhat more relaxed, as things are clarified. When I move out is not important at this point. I imagine that won’t be an issue until one of us has a new relationship. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Another thing I decided is that we will do some marital therapy. We’ve been through this before — on the brink of splitting up, then we have a good talk, then things seem alright, then we slip back into the old patterns and start all over again as if nothing had ever happened. We’ve done that enough times, so I want a change. My motivation is not to save the relationship, but rather to establish a better basis of communication. It can help us now, and it can help us in the future — even in future relationships.

I assured him that I appreciate all he has done for me over the years, that I don’t hate him, and that I wish him all the best. He deserves it. We both do.


December 30, 2008 at 11:08 am 2 comments

When it’s time to change

This is a continuation of the previous subject. If you are thinking to yourself: “She’s just rambling because she’s trying to convince herself to do what she said she’ll do,” you are absolutely right! So I’d like to reflect on all the things I’ve tried.

I tried to be neater than I am. I tried to be what I thought he wanted. I sought happiness and fulfillment in my children. I tried drinking. I tried smoking again. I tried to get out of the house as much as possible — through student life, going out with friends, and visits home to the States. I spent endless hours writing a book, writing songs, practicing guitar, reading, listening to music. Those are all wonderful activities — even diversions — but they are not long-term solutions.

You may think I’m nuts, but, yes, I did consider consciously turning to alcohol to dull my brain a bit. (That was after we spent the first several years drinking rather heavily in order to avoid looking too clearly at things. Didn’t I hear the bells of alarm? Yeah, but I thought it was the alarm clock and have a tendency to turn it off and sleep a bit longer.) Conscious escape does not work.

This past summer I decided to start smoking again — after five years of not smoking and not missing it. For years that was a major point of contention with my non-smoking husband. I thought: “I feel like smoking, so I will.” Well, after 6 months I realized it didn’t make me feel good and my throat was awfully scratchy. So I stopped again.

When I’m honest, why should I do such self-destructive things like drink or smoke, just to numb myself out because I’m not happy? It doesn’t make sense. But it’s not the reasonable aspect that has such an effect on me. I just plain don’t feel good when I drink too much or smoke.

The hobbies, on the other hand, are a much nicer diversion. Not only do they keep my mind occupied, but I have something to show for it as well. There are results. That worked for several years, but once again my consciousness has caught up with me. When I am aware of the fact that I am using my hobbies to run away, they stop giving me the same satisfaction. In addition, I’m such a bundle of nerves that I’m not really enjoying them these days anyway. So much for that.

How about turning to food? Same problem: Consciousness and awareness. That alternative I used for 13 years, but it doesn’t work anymore either. It also boils down to not feeling good if I do it, which means I harm myself. Through bingeing I would punish myself because I’m not happy. That just doesn’t make sense.

However, being reasonable and making sense are not exactly my strong points. I’m a messy dreamer who likes to sleep late. So, after reviewing all of these useless alternatives, I feel like I’ve backed myself into a corner and really only have one option: Be brave, address the issues, have faith, trust my intuition, and make the necessary changes. What a minute! That was a bunch of stuff. The one option is: By myself! Or more poetically: “To thine own self be true.”

December 27, 2008 at 10:34 am Leave a comment

The countdown begins

Well, I’ve made it through the first round of the holidays, now it’s just New Year’s Eve that is alternately looming ahead and beckoning — depending on how I see things at the moment. In this moment, things are slightly blurry. Night shift and an extra cup of coffee yesterday afternoon kept me awake until 3 or 4 am, and then one of the house residents woke me up at 6 am singing prayers. I got up, asked him to pray quietly (weekends no one is supposed to be up before 8 am) and went back to bed. At 7 am the washing machine was beeping. I guess he decided to do laundry if he wasn’t allowed to sing. The washer beeps repeatedly and non-stop until you get up and turn it off. A wonderful invention for the forgetful housewife, but not for the sleeping counsellor! I scratched together a couple hours’ sleep, but decided not to go skiing today.

Since I couldn’t sleep, my thoughts did wander a bit. The pressure is on just slightly, as I promised myself to resolve things by the end of this year. That sounds really good, but this year is rapidly coming to an end. Last night I lay awake thinking about what I want to say, and how, and then realized I am tired of thinking ahead of time about what to say. That has become an awful habit. It started because I didn’t want to ruffle his feathers. Then I didn’t want to break the eggshells I was walking on. Then I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Other times I was afraid of him. Still other times it was one or all of the above. Multiply that by nearly 25 years and you have one hell of a bad habit!

Last night I decided I have to learn to swim or fly. I’ve been treading water and flapping my wings long enough. It’s time to get things moving. It is a strange thing. After we’d been together just a year, I thought: “Oh, we’ve been together for so long. I can’t just leave.” After five years, I said it again. Ten years later, ditto. Twenty years later I thought: “If I’d known back then how much longer twenty years are than just a couple of years, I would have left.” But back then I didn’t know. I didn’t want to believe that things wouldn’t change if I stuck around long enough. That is a typical characteristic of myself. I wanted to say of a bulimic, alcoholic, etc., but I don’t feel like labelling today. It’s just my very own personal style of dysfunction. Oh, and need I say that I did indeed keep trying harder? (Yes, I still have my sense of humor!)

So dear friends, this is it. It has to be today or tomorrow, because then I work again and I don’t want the discussion to be exactly on New Year’s Eve. I’m going to have a little chat with my higher power now, because I’m counting on H.P. to help me get the right words out and support me when things get rough. This is the big challenge — to go ahead and take the risk, not knowing ahead of time what the outcome will be. That has been my biggest fear/impediment up until now. I don’t think I want to drag it along into 2009. Enough is enough!

P.S. I take back what I said last time about competition among perfect housewives. Some of them actually like to bake so many cookies! And I can’t say I didn’t smile with gratitude when my sister-in-law brought me a plate of her beautiful cookies on Christmas Eve!

Oh, one last thought, to finally dissolve my fears. If I don’t write after this, either we had one of those awful family tragedies you hear about on the news, or I ran away from home. Or else I just dissolved into air. But if you want my opinion, I think I’ll be back to write about how things went! đŸ™‚

December 27, 2008 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all the best… Here’s to the future!

Die Toten Hosen

December 24, 2008 at 10:05 pm Leave a comment

Hard to let go

I know I claim to be a recovered control freak, but it is sometimes so hard to let my children act their ages! They are 16 and 14 years — not months — old! Last night I had night duty, and for the first time, they were alone. My husband was away on business. I explained the deal ahead of time, called once in the evening to make sure all was well, and then again at 6:15 this morning to make sure my son was up and on his way to school.

What a sense of relief when I got home this morning! The house is still standing, there was no wild party, my son is at school, and even the cats were fed. From the looks of the kitchen, I can ascertain that they did in no way starve. All in all, it looks okay.

But it’s so hard not to worry! When my son goes skiing and I hear the avalanche warnings, I tell him for the 100th time: Make sure you stay on the designated slopes! No straying into the deep snow for fun! Sometimes I go along — as if my mere presence on the same mountain could protect him.

My daughter goes out on the weekends. That, too, is about dealing with the outside world. With all the crazy people! She has to deal with that herself. Her plans for the future are somewhat uncertain right now. When I bring it up, she gets angry at me for interfering. I have to be patient and let her find her way. I vaguely remember being angry at my mother for not letting me find my way and go at my own pace. Of course, she meant well. And so do I.

Oh, it is hard to let go and let my babies look out for themselves. My heart aches as I yearn to protect and guide them. But they aren’t babies any more!

December 23, 2008 at 9:41 am Leave a comment

Four people sharing a roof

This afternoon and evening my daughter bugged me at various intervals with the wish to be allowed to go to the movies. But the film wouldn’t start until 8:45 pm and she wouldn’t get home until midnight or so. It’s Sunday night and the rest of us have to get up early tomorrow. So I said No.

As usual, my son provided comic relief and said: “How about you sit down with me and we do equations together? That would be lots of fun.” (I’d been bugging him all afternoon to bring his math stuff down to the kitchen and get to work, as he has a test on Tuesday.) He said it in the perfect plastic happy-family voice. (Kind of like Bart Simpson’s neighbors. I forget their name.) She laughed and sat down. Then it occurred to her that she had a few more Christmas present wishes. My son took the notepad and wrote down a few things himself. “A walnut. An almond. A Teddybear. A Barbie house.” It made my daughter crack up. But back to the main story.

Oh, one more aside. She complained that her girlfriend was allowed to go out tonight, and her mother has to work, too. She has to be at work by 8 am, whereas I don’t have to be at work until 4 pm! Well, I have to wake her brother up at 6:15 and then I’m up for the day. So there!

I suggested that she go to the movies on Wednesday, since we have vacation/off from work. Then it wouldn’t matter if she came home late and I had to pick her up from the train station. I was mixed up and thought Wednesday was the 23rd. We celebrate Christmas here on the 24th — which happens to be Wednesday. She asked her father, and he was the one who told her that Wednesday is Christmas Eve. She came back to me and said: “Okay. You said I could go out on Wednesday, so I will. Papa said it’s a family celebration. But for us it’s no family celebration. We’re just four people living under the same roof!” Wow, that was quite a statement!

Funny that she would say that just now, as I’m trying to decide whether to have “the talk” with my husband before or after Christmas, but in any case before the end of this year. It has taken me years to get this far, but that’s okay. I’m a slow learner. The more I think about it, the less dramatic “the talk” will be. It boils down to something quite simple: We both gave it our best shot, but it didn’t work. We aren’t happy, so what are we going to do about it? Priority is, of course, the children’s well-being. I want clarity. Even if we continue living together for a while, it doesn’t matter. I just want clarity. “It” is over. I wish the best for all of us. Gee, when I write it and read it, it looks so simple!

The pressure has been building. I noticed it when my husband asked me what I want for Christmas. The first thought that came to mind was: “a peaceful separation”. That’s a rather atypical Christmas wish. I changed the subject and asked him what he wanted. He said: “I asked you first.” End of discussion.

My fears are dissipating one by one. I think I’m near the last one. I thought: What if he says he’ll make my life hell? (Financially.) Well, if it’s only financial, I think I could stand it. The way it is now, I am going crazy. I need clarity. That’s the bottom line.

December 21, 2008 at 10:42 pm Leave a comment

Losing a friend

There are various reasons that have led me to lose a friend. One old friend that I’d known since kindergarden died four years ago. Her heart stopped beating and that was it. We had lost touch over the years, and then reconnected at our 20th high school reunion. We were both very happy about it and wrote some long emails back and forth for a few years. Then I was in the end spurt of getting my degree, so I slacked off a bit. I thought I would write again as soon as I was finished. She died just a few days after my graduation. After that happened, I swore I would never again put off writing to someone. It was a bitter lesson.

In that experience is another way to lose a friend: We lost touch. After high school I moved to New York City, and she eventually moved away as well. We both always asked our mutual friends about each other, but just didn’t get reconnected for many years. That does happen. I have experienced it with other friends as well. One of us moves and starts a new life elsewhere, and the phone calls and emails slow down after a while. That is understandable, as it is simply impossible to keep up with everyone. I get caught up in daily life as well, and so do they.

I have also seen a change of interest and priorities cause a friendship to dwindle away. That was especially clear when my children started in elementary school. As long as they were infants and toddlers, I thrived on the mother & baby get-togethers. It was wonderful to meet and discuss breastfeeding, dirty diapers, recipes, child development, stress, housecleaning, relationships, and everything under the sun which was related to being a mother of small children. But as the children grew, we mothers began to focus less on every fart and burp. We resumed our lives as individuals. Many went back to work. As that happened, the mutual interest through our children faded and our personal interests and differences came to the forefront. We just kind of lost touch, as we realized that we didn’t have that much in common anymore. If we happen to meet, we talk, but that sense of connection is no longer there.

Then there is another kind of loss which comes through a major disagreement or misunderstanding. Up until now, I hadn’t really experienced that. I do recall having some strong arguments with my friend Stacey back in the old days, which included some phone slamming and catty remarks, but we always managed to talk again and clear things up. But recently I lost a friend, and I’m not really sure what happened. It started out okay, and then took a sudden swerve. Our communication lost clarity and I suppose we both got caught up in the heat of the moment and our own strong feelings. I think I’ll only speak for myself, though, as I’m not really sure what happened for her. I was very upset.

After much thought and sleeping on it, I calmed down somewhat. Eventually I spoke with her, and things seemed to be okay again. I hoped that as time went by we would resume our friendship and use the insight from the conflict to help us grow — individually and in our friendship. We both said what we had to say, and that seems to be it. I don’t see anything happening to change it. As time goes by, all I feel is a big hole. This is not what I had expected. In this case, I don’t have a predictable answer or solution. I’m going on the intuition that I have to let go and see what the future brings. Just as fate brought us together, so it drove us apart.

For all of these losses, I feel the same. I am happy to have had the friendship and treasure it for what it was. But the loss through death as well as conflict continue to be accompanied by sadness. I hope that eventually I will find a way back to my friend who is still alive. The other one is gone and all that is left are the memories — of which there are several. They still make me smile.

On the brighter side, there are friends who have been there for over 30 years. We may have left a year out here and there — or even two or three, but one of us always manages to contact the other and keep things rolling. The magical aspect about these friendships is that no matter how long we haven’t spoken, we reconnect immediately, as if we’d just been on the phone together yesterday. These friendships are definitely a case of til-death-do-us-part, for which I am ever grateful. Friendship is truly a wonderful thing. Like love itself, it grows with experience.

December 21, 2008 at 7:58 pm 2 comments

Older Posts

What's on my mind