Saturday, November 04, 2006

Lessons learned the hard way

Two months ago, when my husband and I separated, it was with the intent that we would eventually come back together stronger and better. That's still the hope. However, two months of home just being my daughter and me have taught me some lessons that I didn't expect. Last year, the husband lost his job and hasn't found another since. I've been the larger breadwinner by a small margin for a good chunk of our married life, and I didn't mind him staying at home to get his head back together again. My years of recruiting indelibly pressed on me the devastation losing a long held job wreaks in a middle aged man. This was a Katrina to a soul that always reminded me of New Orleans; spontaneous, clever, and fun, moving at a pace that heard only its drum and not that of the world, full of beauty, unafraid of the dark even though the monsters that dwelt there were both dangerous and known, with areas of heartbreaking poverty but always ready to celebrate and welcome whoever came his way. Then he became sad, frustrated, then empty, and he just eventually gave up and just closed down.

The sadness, the silence, the moodiness I could handle. Giving up I couldn't, and he gave up long before I asked him to leave. The womanchild thought I should have done so months earlier. (She had taken to calling him Ghost Dad because of the cold emptiness that was there instead of him.) Doing so was the only thing that I hadn't tried to help him. I finally realized though that he had to find his own fighting spirit. Mine was nearing empty. This was just the latest in a string of Big Things to hit my life, and I have been tired for some time from the work caused by death, illness, caregiving, changing careers and the financial restrictions all of these had brought with them. I couldn't give my own fighting spirit to someone who wouldn't take it and have anything left for myself, especially since the bare essentials were getting harder to hold onto.

He moved in with his mother. A year plus of not working and my having a commission based income in a rapidly cooling market left him no other choice. I didn't want to see him homeless, and neither did she. Thank God, she hasn't made it easy for him. I've known few women who got hit harder with empty nest syndrome than my mother-in-law, and holding close to her oldest son, especially after she lost her husband, was always important to her. However, she didn't put up with the bs and got sick of it far quicker than I did. He started getting up in the mornings. He put energy into trying to get a business started, and finally he's taken on a contract job that will last for a little while. He's finally doing something to take care of himself, instead of just leaving that to the women in his life. Wife, mother, daughter, we've all mourned what has happened to him, but damn it, if he wasn't going to care, why should we? And why would we let him bring us down with him? This isn't about his earning an income again, though I'm proud of him for that. He's actually doing something now that holds the potential to make him happy, something the job he held for seventeen years never did.

This isn't enough for me though. I've learned that not only does the man in my life have to care about himself, he has to care about me. I freaking well deserve it. Someone who has known and cared for us both intimately has said that he abused me by neglect. Part of me winces at that because I don't think of myself as having been abused, but I also recognize some truth in it. The neglect came before the job loss and subsequent depression. I wonder who and what I may have been if I had been supported in the ways that I gave to him. I also want a sincere apology from him. I want him to understand what he's done to me and our family, and I want him to feel real remorse. He's hurt me badly, but this isn't the desire for emotional vengeance. Emotions like remorse, while painful, are necessary for growth.

I've also come to appreciate how much I like having a man around to take care of some of the dirty work. I can change my own oil, but I don't like doing so, and I hate waiting around mechanic's shops while I feel like they're trying to take advantage of me. (Hey, guys, even the most feminine of women may know that an engine doesn't need to be flushed three times in one year, so quit trying to sell me.) I'd greatly prefer him to take out the garbage instead of me having to do it, but I don't think I should have to ask him to do so when he can see that it needs doing, and I'm working on something else. I can do my own dirty work, but you know, if the man in my life isn't doing anything else, he can expect to do that for me. This little recognition makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I'd like to think that I'm better than this.

I've learned that I still love him, but I don't know why. I'd like that back, and I think that if our marriage is to work, I need it. I like seeing him sometimes, but every time I do see him, I'm a bitch, and I need to get past that. I don't want our life together to be a battlefield anymore than I want it to be a wasteland, and I won't accept that. I know that I have to grow here.

This separation has helped me shed the martyr's robes I'd become too comfortable wearing. I don't like the long-suffering, self-sacrificing and oh-so-aware-of-it-even-if-she-won't-admit-it Cyn. She's a pious, depressing pain in the butt. I'd much rather be a 'yeah, things may suck for the moment, but screw that, I'm going to live well anyway' kind of woman now. I've stepped into my shadow self a lot in the last couple of months and come back stronger. I've come to realize that I am a remarkable woman, and I'm finally starting to shake off the gutless wonder part of myself. It's still in process, but I'm coming along.

Doing what I felt were the right things when my family needed me has meant separating from myself over the last few years. I've had to listen to the silence left in the house while the womanchild was building her own life to find more of me again. I've had to keep my eyes wide open. I haven't liked every detail I've seen. It's been that first look in the mirror upon waking in the morning and then realizing what I'm seeing is the toll of the psyche restoring itself as it does in the world of sleep and dreams. The building may look shattered, but the foundation is intact again, and each step of the process is putting a better face out into the world.


Blogger Wenda said...

I'm not sure I have words with which to comment meaningfully on this profound piece of self-awareness and personal growth, but I don't want to have stopped here without letting you know how much I learn about you and about me from your self-revelation.

November 04, 2006 6:12 PM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

Another post loaded with all kinds of food for thought.

November 04, 2006 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



November 04, 2006 9:37 PM  
Blogger ChasingMoksha said...

I sure hope he see a doctor for depression. It seems that women are expected to go but men somehow can get over it.

"I wonder who and what I may have been if I had been supported in the ways that I gave to him."

Wow. Tell me about it. You may be the president of the United States. I think of graduating (with honors) and think how NO ONE, NO ONE helped me. I had to juggle everything to make it happen. It did not bring in money so it was not looked on favorable. At the end of the path, at the PhD it will make less money than his job, so it still gets no respect. yada yada yada...

Stay strong.

November 04, 2006 9:52 PM  
Blogger alphawoman said...

I was downsized from a job and it is a devesting feeling. A hit to self worth and self esteem. It is a promicing step for him to be working again.

November 05, 2006 5:33 AM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

My hope, my prayer for the two of you is that as you come together and see and know the changes in one another this era has wrought, that the two of you can fall in love all over again. Sometimes, because people do change and seldom stay the same, that is a necessary part of making it for the long haul.

November 05, 2006 11:44 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

You've been through a lot, Cynthia. To me it sounds like you are handling it all with grace and with your wits about you. It is very hard to live with a depressed person (I have been there, too). Like so many other diseases (alcoholism, addiction) depression can only be cured by the person who has it, the cure can't be imposed from the outside. I'll be thinking of you.

November 05, 2006 4:44 PM  
Blogger sunflowerkat119 said...

Oh Cynthia...
I'm sorry it's been so long since I've been by here. I had no idea you had seperated from you husband. This post reflects just how important it is to you to grow from the experience, no matter what the outcome. I just hope you find your way to a happy and peaceful future. Somehow, I'm sure you will.

I won't be a stranger any more....

November 05, 2006 10:45 PM  
Blogger Theresa Williams said...

This post sounds so positive. Good for you. I am enjoying the new look for the blog, too. I like the large Capital letter that sets off each post. I say to you "Zaytuch"! (that is the word verification this time around.)

November 06, 2006 12:15 AM  

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