Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The one I'm afraid to post

"Every couple has their ups and downs."  

How many times has this tired piece of wisdom been trotted out, often by someone who is trying to be helpful or comforting.  But so often, the person saying it is speaking from a place of "up".  It seems that deep down (or maybe not so deep), they're thinking, "I'm glad it's not me."  

And it's not really all that comforting, because who ever wants to speak of the real and true "downs"?  It's one thing to gossip with our girlfriends, rolling our eyes at our doofus husbands who drop the ball on our birthdays and bicker with us over what take out to order on any given night.  It's another thing to truly communicate the burdens of our hearts, the things that scare us about the future of our relationships.  

Conventional wisdom teaches that you should not complain about your spouse to another person because, when you forgive your spouse and move on, your confidante does not have the benefit of your positive experience and often builds up a bad opinion of your spouse over time.  There is definite value to this method.  It's important to guard our tongues when we speak to people about our spouse.  It's critical that you speak fondly of your spouse to your family and friends, much more often than you air the complaints.  

However, in my relatively short marriage (almost 5 years), I've come to believe that it's vital to have someone (or a few someones) to confide in about the deep stuff.

My husband and I lived with my parents for 2 years, which ended when we moved back to our house this past June.  It was wonderful, but it was also extremely difficult at times.  Our marriage and family life took place in front of an audience, and our children were toddlers who daily (every other minute, to be more accurate) tested us as we learned how to be parents to two bundles of energy and activity.  I have struggled with depression and anxiety for more than three years, and that has also taken a toll on my marriage.  It has been far from easy. 

But you aren't supposed to talk about the dark stuff.  You're supposed to laugh and smile and put your big girl panties on for the world, so you don't look weak.  You're supposed to pick the trivialist of the trivial to discuss with your friends over drinks, and you must always qualify it with, "Oh it's so funny.  He's so crazy.  But I love him, though."  

You must not talk too much with your mom about it, because this is her son-in-law and the father of her grandchildren.  You don't want her to hate your husband, and worse, you don't want her to side with him.  You don't want to tell her the things your husband gets upset with you about, because then she might validate his points and you come out the loser.  Then you find out that what your husband says must be true, and you are lazy or selfish or demanding or impatient or just plain wrong.  And that hurts too much.  

You don't want to tell anyone about it, really, because that is exposing your jugular - the soft underbelly of your grittiest self.  So you tuck it away inside.  And slowly, it builds.  Without you seeing it at first, it starts to grow and take on a shape all its own.  The pressure mounts and expands to every nook and cranny of your heart, and suddenly you're screaming at your husband about the fact that he bought the off-brand of brownie mix and why in the mother effing hell would he ever do something so insanely stupid and selfish?  And you know you're wrong, and he knows you're wrong, but your heart is a bottle full of baking soda and vinegar and the top is about to blow.

And you can't talk to anyone about this, because you're just looking at the superficial wound.  You tell your friend that you're pissed about brownie mix, and they laugh because they think you're doing one of those trivial wine stories again, so you quickly shift into "drinks with the girls" mode and do the standard eye rolling, performing, "He's a goof but he's my goof" bit.  And the baking soda and vinegar get pushed back down, ignored; you hope it'll just go away on its own.  

One evening, I had a disagreement with my husband that, on the surface seemed minor.  But lurking below were a thousand frustrations and insecurities - some tied to the specific argument, some unrelated but untreated that had festered and become infected over time.  I stormed off to my friends to exercise, slamming the door behind me and stewing the entire way over.  But as soon as she answered the door, I pasted that smile on my face and once again pushed the baking soda below the surface.

But afterward, as we sat in her kitchen chatting, I felt this uncontrollable need to be listened to and understood.  This woman was one of my closest friends, and we had known each other a long time.  She knew who I was and she liked me in spite of it.  I decided to risk it.

Tentatively, I put out the statement, "Um...I kind of having a tough time with something, and I'd really like to talk about it."  When someone tells me they really need to talk, something inside me opens up to them immediately, honored that they chose me to talk to and ready to do what I can to be what they need me to be to them at that time.  I hoped it would do the same to my friend.

Terrified, I mentally willed myself to say what I wanted to say, exactly the way I wanted to say it.  "Um....do you ever....like....hate your husband sometimes?"  And then it was out there and I felt immediately nauseous.  Who hates their husband?  Further, who hates their husband and admits it openly?  

But my dear friend, she immediately said, "Yes.  Yes I do."  And the volcano erupted and I poured my heart out to her.  And she understood and she related to me.  And she told me some of her own experiences and it was beautiful. 

That talk lasted no more than 20 minutes.  But those 20 minutes were among the most therapeutic minutes I can recall in my recent life.  I felt heard.  I felt normal.  I didn't feel ugly or shameful or embarrassed, which I believe are typical fears that surround the act of admitting that marriage can be downright sucky at times.  

In this world of divorce and broken relationships, we are afraid to confess that our marriages are troubled.  We don't want to appear as though we don't have it all together.  We hate the thought of people thinking poorly of us and our spouses.  We don't want to betray our marriage by confessing the troubles that plague it.

It is good to be prudent when discussing our marriages with anyone other than our spouse.  It is crucial to be prudent when choosing who to discuss our marriages with.  But it is necessary to have someone to have these discussions with.  

Some might read this post and scold me for over-sharing, for revealing my dirty laundry to the world.  But I am tired of paying the emotional and mental price for burying the truth inside of myself.  The fact is, we all have dirty laundry, and sometimes in order to get that laundry clean, you need to bring in outside help.  

It has become my personal mission to try very hard to be open with people.  This is my natural inclination anyway, and for quite sometime, I was ashamed of it.  It felt like immature attention whoring.  But I have realized that being open with people sometimes has the effect of opening them up to me in return.  I can't stand the thought that I might understand what someone is going through, but that they'll never know it because it never came up.  And they'll carry their secret pain for who knows how long, as it whittles away at their soul.  

So I'm going to click "publish" on this post, even though I had every intention of relegating it to the "draft" heap when I started it.  And I'm going to share it on Facebook, even though it's going to scare the shit out of me and I'm going to be beating myself up all night for doing so.  And tomorrow I'll read over it again and mentally kick myself for being such a shameless open book.  But maybe someone will read it and have the relief of knowing that they're ok, and that I understand what they're feeling.  Because I do.  

Marriage is great, but sometimes it sucks big fat donkey balls.                  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ode to Eating Out

It's an odd thing - cooking.  I don't mind the actual process.  In fact, I often  quite enjoy it.  There's something satisfying about bringing a pile of raw ingredients together to create a (hopefully) delicious meal.  It's the planning that kills me.  Which is funny, because if you'd ask me if I'm more of a planner or more of a "fly by the seat of my pants" kind of girl, I'd definitely say I'm a planner.  But planning meals?  Not my strength.  It's ok.  I'm owning it.  And I'm trying to work on that.

In the meantime, my family eats out a lot.  We're getting better about this, because it turns out that eating in restaurants is a tad pricey.  But when I drag myself through the door at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday, and the kids are tired and crabby from daycare and my husband is 2 seconds away from losing his mind because the house is a mess and the dog won't stop pacing around and getting in the way....cooking a delicious meal seems about as possible as me losing 30 pounds overnight and getting into single-digit pants.

It's like a game between D and I.  We start by saying, "What do you want for dinner?"  And we run down the list of what's in the house.  It's a short list, and usually goes something like this:  Moldy leftovers from 3 weeks ago, chicken that was purchased an unknown number of months ago and is still frozen rock solid, the broken bits of a box of cereal, and not enough milk to use even if we had enough cereal for everyone.  It's times like this where I wonder, "Where the heck does that $150 go at the grocery store and why can't I get the hang of this 'responsible mother' thing?"

So after going down the list of options, it's like the first one to suggest eating out loses in some way.  Like you're giving up.  And also you're afraid to get shot down because you don't know what the other person is thinking.  Are they thinking they want to eat out too, or is this going to be one of those times where they're on a "we need to save money and eat healthier" kick and are going to shoot down the suggestion of eating out?  And then you got yourself all excited to eat out and are thinking where you want to go, and they're sitting there all pissy because they just want what's best for the family and you're sitting there sabotaging their efforts and you are the bad guy and they are the martyr who wants what's best for the family but is willing to sacrifice the best for the sake of compromise.  And you're sitting there thinking, "Sheesh, it's just a restaurant for crying out loud, not peace in the Middle East."

So then you go out to eat.  And you're happy and warm and excited at the reality of no cooking and the delicious food you're going to order, and you smile at the thought of enjoying a nice meal with your sweet family.

And then you get to the restaurant and are seated at your table.  And somehow your husband gets to sit by the older toddler who is quite content to play games on husband's cell phone, or do one of the puzzles you wisely put in your purse before leaving the house.  And you have to sit in the booth with the younger toddler who would rather walk through fire than sit still for any quantifiable amount of time.  And you begin to wonder why you wanted to eat out in the first place, but you resolve to enjoy it and pray that the waitress knows what it's like to have young kids and that she'll bring the bread and chocolate milk quickly so that Toddler 2 will switch from dumping salt all over the sugar packets to stuffing her face.

But the bread only occupies Toddler 2 briefly, and she quickly decides that the yummy, warm, soft bread is not as interesting as the disgusting floor under the table.  So you have to turn your attention away from said delicious bread and try to find things to occupy Toddler 2 so the crabby couple at the table next to you will stop giving you the stink eye.  You vacillate between embarrassment and indignation.  You desperately try to think of games that will entertain toddler.  Tiredness begins to creep in, and you start to wonder why you thought eating out was such a good idea.  You make a mental note to just order in next time.

Finally, the food arrives.  You and Husband resume your man-to-man defense, as he prepares Toddler 1's food (who is freaking pissed that he has to stop whatever he was doing to be forced to eat the food he didn't ask for and certainly doesn't want).  You cut up Toddler 2's food, who is still way more interested in the salt shaker than her food.  Being the ninja that she is, she senses your weakness and begins her defcon 5 op against whatever side dish came with her meal.  Fries, fruit, etc. are shoveled into her mouth at an alarming rate, and your day late and dollar short efforts to take away the side dish are met with ear splitting shrieks.  Normally you don't give in to these tantrums, but you're tired from a long day at work and from the mental beat down you're giving yourself for deciding to eat out.  So you give the stupid french fries back and decide you don't give a tiny rat's ass whether she eats her food, as long as you get a few minutes put together to try to enjoy your meal.

So you regroup and decide to make an effort to talk to your husband, in some semblance of having a nice family meal.  Husband is busy trying to coerce Toddler 1 to eat his food, and your attempts at drawing Toddler 1 out of his needlessly crabby mood are met with attitude.  Attitude is met with threats of punishment, and you pray to sweet baby Jesus that Toddler 1 doesn't push you to follow through on said threats, because you really, really don't want to take him to sit in the car while Husband pays the bill and boxes the food.  It's just not the same when you have to eat the food at home.

The small inklings of tired turn to fall on waves of exhaustion, and you notice that your waitress has chosen that inopportune time to disappear from the face of the earth.  You pray that the kids will keep it together just for a little bit longer.  You snap at your husband for no reason, because the anxiety and frustration is building inside you like a volcano, and since he is tired and frustrated too, he snaps back and now everyone hates everyone at the table and isn't this lovely.

Finally.  Finally.  The waitress brings the bill.  Husband pays and you box up the food so you can throw it away at home in a week.  You tiredly walk to the car, and make your way home to do baths.  You wearily look at the clock and count the minutes till bedtime.

You walk in the door, and decide that maybe it would be a good idea to take up cooking.