Monday, July 06, 2009

My Tantrum, Dissected:

At 10:00 last night, I got home from Tahoe where I'd been spending the 4th without E. I couldn't wait to see him. Vacations mean family, so it pains me to be without him. Ad and Hank zonked out about ten minutes before I got back, so I called E as I drove up to come outside and help me. He obliged. We scooped monkeys and dumped them into their beds then unpacked the car methodically. I put away all the cold groceries, saving the pantry for the next day. He dumped bags of laundry near the washer. I kept looking at him, convinced I'd given him ample opportunity to make his affections known.


I chased him down and hugged him, like I always do. Told him I missed him. Told him I was glad to see him. He responded in turn, then asked me if I wanted to watch True Blood with him. I felt excited that he "saved" it for me... Thanks, TiVo. "Saving" a show to watch with your spouse is the new bouquet of roses. Unfortunately, we'd both forgotten that True Blood packed up and went on vacation this week. Bummer. We caught up on our separate weekends, talked about the month ahead at his parents' house, joked a little, but nobody was in the mood to take a joke the right way. After a weekend alone with the monkeys and my whole family, I was exhausted. I went to bed. Told him I wanted him to come talk to me for a while. By then I was already feeling like my coming home after leaving so he could study all weekend was going unnoticed, and I was beginning to panic. Tomorrow, he leaves again.

He obliged once more, grudgingly. We talked, I joked. More of him not really taking it right. We entered the clich├ęd pattern wherein I get my feelings hurt when he doesn't take my pitiful jokes the right way or do what I want him to do without my telling him. More of me just wanting him to take me in his arms and be glad to see me, being tender with me, being loving. More of me wanting to be hugged, to be loved on. More of not that, which is directly related to my inability to express what I always believe he should already know. Let me do the next half hour for you on fast forward: crying, storming out of the room, arguing, more crying, a stubborn walk back to the room, things settling down, truce, then restless sleep.

This month is crunch time for us. Anyone who has ever spoused a person through a major intellectual chore like law school (or even more specifically, the final stretch to the Bar Exam) knows it's an "us" and not a "him" venture alone. His schooling has taken its toll on our family, his health, our finances, and most definitely on our relationship. We're down to weeks until the Bar. We're so close, but our relationship is wound so tight that it feels like it wouldn't take much more stress to send it screaming through the air, snapping like a bungee cord pulled to excess.

My inner pessimist is rearing her ugly head. We're still pretty new into this reconciliation. Things are good (in fact, great) but that doesn't make them easy. I'm afraid.

I want E to succeed. I want him to have the best possible chance to do so. I can see that's not happening here because there are so many distractions pulling at him. The night before I left, we talked about it and decided he's going to stay with his parents for the next month. It's nothing at all like our separation--in fact, I think he's going there so we can protect both our relationship and his chances at passing the Bar--but it's hard. It hurts me, it's so hard. It is difficult enough taking the kids to Tahoe or Yosemite without him once again. It's been years of time apart for the good of his education. It's already hard knowing that my needs, especially petty, selfish ones like wanting to be missed and/or cuddled (read: valued) when I get home, are once again on the back burner. Those things, yoked to the fact that I'm going to miss him badly over the next month and I'm anxious for him to pass the Bar, just make one big ball of suck.

It has been such a long stretch of being on that back burner. I've set up camp back there. It's really a struggle for an emotional person like me to postpone the desire for feelings of connection and affection, particularly when moments of strife are when I need the most. We're not in crisis like we'd been before we separated and made the decision to divorce; I know it's different now. But you are who you always were. He's stressed, so his wall is up. He's got so much on his mind. I'm lonely, so I feel like I need him more than ever. Post-Retrouvaille, we know how to get through to each other, but like anything that takes time and commitment. It's not necessarily happening. Don't freak out on me, Blog. This isn't a post at all about how I think our relationship is doomed. It isn't. Nobody is going anywhere. I'm just struggling. I'm nervous about holding out for one more month. I am wondering when (and I know this sounds REALLY selfish) it gets to be my turn to be the one getting my needs met or being supported and comforted so I can go out and conquer the world. I wonder when it will be my time to rest rather than to be on that back burner, biting my lip and stifling my own needs.

I don't know if I can do this month. I don't need very many people in my life, but I sure need E. And I know for a fact that I need him to need me. Spending time apart doesn't taste as bitter if someone is telling you they can't wait to see you again. I just found myself disappointed last night when I got home and he had pulled back into his shell of stress and worry and wasn't giving me what I thought I needed. Marriage is hard. The end. I know it's worth it though. The end again.

Okay, not the end. One more thing. I'm going to do something I haven't done before, which is to use the Retrouvaille style of writing a "Dialogue" here. Without going into the "how" of it too much (if you're really curious, I suggest you visit Retrouvaille's website and go to a weekend yourself--it's much more than a writing exercise, it's a whole experience and it will change your relationship for the better), it is a way to describe how you feel (hopefully) without blame, judgment, or hostility. The English teacher in me wants to add that it's very rudimentary and prescriptive and initially I was put off by that because I couldn't write how I wanted. The human being in me wants you to know that because of those two things, it's the most effective communication tool between spouses that I know of. I'm a little nervous writing like this here, but I haven't spared any other details of our journey... here goes.

Prompt, chosen semi-at random this morning from the Retrouvaille website (again, you have to go to a Retrouvaille session and then you can access this stuff):

At this time of my life, what I need most from you is _____. How do I feel about that?

Lord, I pray you'd guide my writing so that I'm able to truly write from my heart. I pray that you would allow us to communicate about what we're feeling in a healthy way. Please be with us during this next month and give us strength to make it to the end of July.

Dear E,

One of the things I admire the most about you is how much you love our kids. I was listening to you talk to Henry this morning when you got up, and I love how good you are to him. You're a great dad, and I hope you know that because our kids sure do.

At this time of my life, what I need most from you is reassurance. About that, I feel anxious, needy, and restless. The strongest of these three is restlessness.

My restlessness feels like the bite of the walk-in freezer back when I worked at that smoothie place in college: cold I want to escape so I can be more comfortable, but I feel like I have to stay in it until the job is done. On a scale of 1-10, my restless feeling right now is about an 8. If it were a color, it would be green. I don't know why, but green just doesn't seem like a color that's able to calm down all that easily. It just seems kind of anxious and loud.

If my feeling were like something in nature, it'd be like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the winter. I feel a compulsion to stock up on good things because I know we're headed for a tough month. My feeling is like Henry's legs at night when they can't hold still, or like Lady MacBeth rubbing her palms together, but I'm not sure if you've read MacBeth. :) As a shared memory, my restless feeling is like when we don't know if we have enough money to make it to the end of the month, but we don't know what we can do about it.

I'm looking forward to talking to you about this after you read it.

Love you, Nerd.


“Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.” - Oprah Winfrey

1 comment:

  1. I admire you writing about your journey on this blog - I feel like I am a fly on the wall in your house. I can completely understand the need for affection, it is such an important part of our mental and spiritual health. Every human being has the desire to be affectionate and loved.
    Hang in there for the next month, you two have been through a lot - nothing's going to stop you now.