Two days ago I was so mad it gave me a rare, pounding headache.
The kind that makes your eyes bulge and your entire body hurt.
And last night I was the kind of sad that brings giant crocodile tears.
The kind that builds towers out of snotty tissues.
I’m sad because I realized, yesterday, for the first time in my life, actually heard the whispers of my gut, You’ve spent the past twenty-five years putting the lid on your desires.
Marriage counseling is hard, grueling work that sometimes breaks us wide open
It all started with a counseling session, where we gave Trish another peek into the way we quarrel.
We bickered and bantered and argued over semantics.
Over a business question I asked him in front of a friend.
He felt like I was attacking him.
“But what do you want him to know, Annah?” Trish interrupted my diatribe at one point.
“I want to be heard,” the words echoed what I’ve been saying for years.
What it now appears I might have been wishing for my whole life.
After one of our last sessions, I realized that through this round of marriage counseling, I not only wanted to make mine and Warren’s relationship better, our communication and understanding of each other’s needs stronger, I wanted to find out if we are going to be compatible in the next chapters of our lives.
If our hopes and dreams and wants and needs as we move into and through Middle Age and The Empty Nest are going to blend.
Not blend, really, for there is crushing and shredding and excruciating noise that comes with blending something.
More like meld, to bond in a quieter and much more beautiful way than the friction that has heated us up and sort of made us stick to one another.
Relationships are all types of dance: The Spicy Tango, The Flowing Waltz, they can be grinding and gyrating one minute, and easy and effortless the next.
But I digress.
Last night, as we sat in the car in our drive, I told Warren that I’ve been thinking a great deal about my relationship with my children.
I told him how hurt and mad I was to know that Beauty couldn’t recollect one single fond memory she shared with me.
“That makes me sad,” I sad.
“I’ve spent my children’s entire life reeling from Gavin’s death and your two affairs.” (zinger)
“I spent so much time fighting to end the dysfunction, trying to grow, trying to keep the family together…I realize that part of it is the simple dynamic that I was the disciplinarian and you were the go-to-fun-guy. Most relationships have those sorts of roles.”
“But at some point, I quit doing things with them,” I lamented.
“I did this. And that makes me sad,” I cried.
Our discussion meandered and then Warren said this, “Unfortunately, the things we like to do to relax are not the same.”
“We should do things because it makes the other person happy.”
“Not because you feel you have to or because you think you’ll get in trouble if you don’t,” our first therapist said to Warren many years ago.
“You’re right,” I said, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy being together. I don’t like hunting and fishing and that sort of stuff, the idea of killing an animal for any reason is just incomprehensible to me, but I know how much satisfaction you and the kids find in putting food on the table. So I give what I can. I take pictures of you all on the hunts, and I go along on fishing trips.”
“Yeah, but you can do that because you have your computer,” he argued.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a book or a computer or something to write with. The point is that I’ve insertedmyself into those events that bring you guys joy, because I want to be a part of it. Because I enjoy watching you enjoy yourselves.”
I’ve chosen to find a way to feel pleasure doing things that you like to do.”
He continued to bring up the computer, which has been his objection for many years, “You’re always on your computer,” and complained that he couldn’t be a part of “what you enjoy.”
The conversation continued to wander, “You want to travel and speak and do your thing,” he said, “and I’m okay with that, but, honestly, it makes me uncomfortable to talk about Gavin and the affairs.”
I get that.
But at that moment, I began to realize his argument as an excuse.
“I do write a great deal about loss and healing, because I think I can make a difference in the world,” I said to him, “but I also write about other things like how much I love my bed.”
“And my computer isn’t the only thing that makes me happy. If you really wanted to be a part of something so important to me, well, where there’s a will—”
“There’s a way,” he finished my sentence.
I can’t recall exactly what came after that, but Warren must have said something about him not seeing me as having any other type of relaxation outside of my laptop and my writing.
“I used to love going to the fair,” I said to him, “I actually used to dream about going back home in the fall, just to go to the State Fair…the people and the sausage and the smell of the air… All those concert tickets I bought Beauty for her birthdays…that was probably just as much about doing something with her, something I thought we’d both enjoy. But she doesn’t remember any of that, but I’ll bet she would have if you’d been the one to take her.”
My two favorites are the Ferris Wheel and the carousel. I’m not sure Warren and I have ever sat in one of those hanging baskets together.
Funny. Now that I mention it, he’s said it’s about not liking heights, but that’s never stopped him from standing on a three-story roof…
“Those are the memories I wanted to create with my children, but I let your reactions dictate what we did. I let my excitement die. Me I chose that.”
Sadness is exhausting and depletes the soul.
I wanted to be done talking and thinking about those things that made me melancholy, so I got out of the car and carried my weary self inside.
But as I sat on the commode (don’t you do some of their best thinking atop The Porcelain Throne?), my squelched fun hit me square upside the head.
“Carnivals and fireworks and amusement park rides,” I said to Warren as I passed him in the kitchen, on my way to join Big Guy in the hot tub.
He looked up from what he was doing and nodded a symbol of understanding. “Okay,” he said, “Noted.”
I could see the wheels turning in his brain, “When does the fair come to town? Where will we be on the Fourth of July?”
Alone in the hot tub after Big Guy finished his soaking, more buried enthusiasm flashed before my eyes.
Horses and horseback riding…
I was so excited when we moved to a farm with a barn and acres and acres of pasture.
Dreams are like damaged goods when negativity is attached to them
“We’re not buying any damned horses,” Warren said in some variation or another, each time I brought up the subject.
Eventually, I closed the drawer on that dream.
And when he told me the same after Beauty showed an equine interest, the best I could do was sign her up for lessons.
I watched from behind the ring and justified the lock on my bin of dreams by telling myself there wasn’t enough money to open it.
Warren’s many protests resounded in my ears, “Fairs/Amusement parks are a giant waste of money/Nothing but a waste of time. I hate rides. I’m not going to the damned fair.”
“I did this,” I said to Warren, “I chose to squash my dreams.”
The pattern has finally revealed itself to me.
This has been the Days of Our Lives: Warren blusters. I retreat.
In the past twenty-four hours, I’ve come to realize that I’ve probably spent a good share of my life capping my enthusiasm.
Somewhere along the way, I formed an opinion that my needs and wants and desires don’t matter as much as those of the people around me.
That it’s easier to find something else to do than deal with someone else’s negativity.
But in the past six years, I’ve slowly come to realize that I want to be heard, and that I want to be valued.
I’ve slowly been accepting the fact that I deserve the same treatment I give to others.
Change doesn’t necessarily have a domino effect
And yet, as I’ve made these changes in my life, I’ve come to realize that other people aren’t necessarily on board.
Adapting the way I want to be treated doesn’t necessarily mean others are going to want to alter the way they think and live and act.
I’ve been mourning friendships that have fallen prey to the effect, and I’ve struggled with these questions, “Is it worth it? Am I doing something wrong? Am I just being ridiculous?”
But the resounding answers are that I am worth it. I deserve to be treated with the same kind, thoughtful consideration I give to others.
I’m sad about the loss of those relationships that were once so valuable to me.
Since I’ve always preferred quality over quantity when it comes to friendships, I find myself in a little lonelier place these days.
Writing is a solitary place as it is, and were it not for my need to connect with people, a great drive for human interaction, I could easily become a hermit.
But you, each and every one of you who stops by are what keeps me going, keeps me focused on my desire to write and share and relate, to make a difference.
One person at a time…
Thank you for being here. For reading, listening, sharing, and caring…
Here, with you right now, I’m a little less sad…
What about you? Have you allowed another’s disparaging comments to stifle your enthusiasm? Ever made changes in your life that caused conflict with others? How did you handle it? What happened to those relationships?