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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lessons from The Cookie Girl

Man alive, what a whirlwind couple weeks!!  I have sat here contemplating this post since my first Cookie Girl inquisition and I am a little shocked by the manifestation of so many other issues that have popped up and at this point I am more amused than annoyed (which is a good thing) and even more intrigued about human nature in general.

Let me recap for you.  Many, many months ago (I'm thinking it was well over a year ago actually) Jamie brought home "cookies" (they were actually muffins) from a gal at work, that she made him as a thank you for changing her tire, which was flat.  I didn't love it then and yet, nothing really came out of it.  I laughed it off and gave them to the kids and it was done, but then...

In the past couple of weeks, as we've gone through counseling (more on that below) she was brought up again, not by me, but by Jamie.  He explained this girl had gotten increasingly more friendly as the months went on, asking personal questions and sharing her own personal details, to a point where my husband felt it was bordering on inappropriate.  This came up as we were discussing what marriage means and what boundaries were there and what we COULD "give" other people while saving our most precious selves for each other.  This was a philosophical discussion, not at all an argument, but I told him how weird it was for me that the cookie thing was unsettling for me in light of all the food that's ever been brought home from other people (there's been a lot! Jamie loves food and people love him, so we've been gifted very often with yumminess!) and how I wondered, what that intuition on my part?  I found that idea fascinating.

I've been told I'm "blowing it out of proportion" or "giving her more power" and to this I've kind of been like "What? Seriously?  Do you even understand what is happening here?" and I will say I strongly disagree with this line of thinking.  Blowing this out of proportion would mean something entirely different...like accusing my husband of doing something wrong (never happened), thinking this person was this major threat in my life (I don't....more on that below) or being so upset and worried that I couldn't see the lesson in all this (and I do...)  And giving her power?  Not really.  I wasn't concerned with how often my husband saw her on a weekly basis, or what she looked like, or really anything about her, but I will say once he had the 'These are my lines talk" and she blatantly ignored him and started sharing even MORE personal information, that is when the indignation came into play and not because she was a threat to my marriage, but because....well...as dumb as it sounds, it was rude.  And y'all...that is my MO on any and every situation I run across.  The lady yelling at me at the gas pump to buy her gas?  Same reaction.  I posted on Facebook, laughed about it, pondered what on earth made this women think she could/should do that....and any number of interactions I've had with people on this planet who seemed to have been absent in the "Normal Human Behavior 101" class :)  What blew my mind wasn't that she had "caused problems" in someone else's marriage (again, see below) it was that after the "Dude TMI..." she shared...MORE TMI.  Right now, I'm grinning ear to ear about the irony of it, but honestly....that is not giving anyone "too much power" that is just being introspective and inquisitive about human behavior and in that, I'm guilty as charged.  I could list 100 things that have happened in the last year alone that have made me...O.O.....

And as always is the case in my life, I've learned a whole lot from "Cookie Girl" and the conversations with my husband and friends surrounding her, and have a few more "life tidbits" to add to my collection that I'm quite pleased to have ;)  Things I've learned through this:

#1- There isn't a one person who is a "threat to marriage" if that marriage is good to begin with.  I am not concerned with Cookie Girl's intentions because no matter what they were....without my husband "taking the bait" it's a moot point.  She could have baked those in a silky nightie, chanting a love spell and adding some special aphrodisiac to the mix for all I know (or care)  In the end, no matter what HER intentions are, it's only my husband's that matter in the mix of our relationship.  No one else's intentions can harm US, if OUR intentions are good.  A hook can't catch ya unless you bite down on it....you know what I mean?  Which made me so happily aware of.....

#2- My husband didn't bite down ;)  He handled it well, with grace and maturity and most importantly, awareness.  Of all the times anyone has been nice and friendly with him, he was aware enough to admit this was a bit different, and even though he was 100% sure of what the other person was thinking or feeling, he knew enough about his boundaries and comfort level that he gave himself permission to admit "Something ain't right here..."

#3- Communication is KEY.  The way we discussed this situation ultimately gave us a firm foundation of where our boundaries really do lie.  I asked him certain questions (No, not about what she was weraing LOL!!) but "What questions made you uncomfortable."  He listed several and I pointed out that most of these seemed rather benign and just normal curiosity, until he got the few about ME and our marriage and we both came to an agreement that if someone of the opposite sex is flattering us, sharing personal information about their lives and THEN starts asking us if we are "happy" with each other, we are shutting them down.  Anything else, we feel like is normal human interaction.  Poking a stick into our "marital happiness" is a line we aren't going to allow anyone to cross because it's not the appropriate venue to discuss marital issues.  If we have an issue with each other, an opposite sex kindafriend isn't the right outlet to discuss these things and the bottom line for us was this.  After 16 years of marriage, this is the first time we've ever even TRIED to define this and I felt like it was this huge "wow" moment.  I feel so secure knowing that we both agree on this...and that outside that, we can share whatever we wish freely with those we like to talk to.

And so, there was a lot to be learned from something so simply and that's how I roll. My BFF laughed at me though and pointed something out yesterday, "Well Melissa, you've sort of mentioned y'all are in therapy and getting counseling...and you know...there might be people who really think this is what it's about..and that Jamie is a big fat cheater and this is what the problem is..." And I laughed.  She's right, but really..no y'all, that's not what the counseling is about and since I am an open book, and have had a couple weeks to process it all, I'll share a bit about what's going on (if you haven't fallen asleep reading this yet!!!)

So Jamie started counseling on November 1st and after that first appointment, we have gone every week since then together.  And I know most people think "Counseling??? OMG, what HAPPENED???" and that might be a bit disappointing to those who love juicy gossip because it's really not that interesting.

One word: Stress.  Like over the top, all consuming, life altering and almost shattering stress.

But let's back up a little bit.  Most people know Jamie has a job that's high stress and high stakes.  Ordinarily, he handles it well.  But if you remember all my posts about him not being able to remember how to tie his shoes and forgetting everything all the time, while in class, understand this has been building.  Also, in the mix is that Jamie has always done excellent at every single thing he has attempted and he's done this without maximum effort. He's never taken anything lightly, but when he got his almost perfect GPA in Nuclear Engineering (in a TOUGH program!) he was also a supervisor in a high stakes job, still a hands on dad and even did math in our homeschooling back then.  During those years we moved three times, went through the death our son, his grandmother and his mother, had some major family falling out, a lawsuit to content with and hey, even had three babies.  Holy schmoly...and he still did AWESOME.  Awesome grades, awards at work, no complaints from me or his children about his role and importance in our life.  He was juggling all the balls and doing it well.

With this job...he put in MAXIMUM effort, and still didn't perform the best. He made it through.  He made the right grades and got through this round of training, but he morphed before my very eyes.  At first it was just supreme forgetfulness.  Then it became him just completely going zombie.  He wasn't exercising, or playing his banjo, or really doing anything he enjoyed.  Just sort of existing and I HATED it.  I knew the clock was ticking and eventually he'd be done and we'd be fine, but it was still going downhill.

I knew it wasn't okay when he started saying things to me like "I hate it when you put me down..." when I'd say "Hey can you throw your shorts in the drawer instead of the rack?  I made a space for them..."  Normal Jamie would have said to me "I just left them out so you'd know...I wasn't wearing them....(wink, wink)  Normal Jamie made a joke, most often sexual, at pretty much everything I said and I'd give it right back to him "I just left the light switch on...so you'd know...how turned ON I am...get it? Hahahah..."  And this banter between us completely stopped.  He said I was "belittling...making me feel like a child...you really don't respect me do you?"  And as much as I wanted this to piss me off, I knew what was happening.  Although not a therapist or anything near as smart, I asked him a question one day, calmly 'You really think I am putting you down Jamie?"  He answered "Yes..." and I asked another "Do you feel like it's just me...or do you feel like that with anyone else..." and his lips, pursed together...answered "Yeah, every effing day at work I'm told I'm not good enough...nothing is ever good enough...no matter how hard I try..." And it was like yep...bingo.  I wasn't going to make an issue of it even though my heart just ached.  I missed MY Jamie.  My  happy go lucky, everything is awesome, hey wanna go upstairs....Jamie....

Finally, on Halloween, some things came to light.  He believed, with his every cell, that I was getting ready to leave him because I no longer loved him, respected him or wanted anything to do with him.  Looking back I know exactly what conversation pushed him over the edge, and ironically, this conversation was one where I said "So this one issue we are having...now that school is over...I want to work on it.  It's been holding us back for a long time and I feel so ready....to just get passed it." And he completely and totally, repeating this conversation back to me, heard NOTHING positive from that even though saying these words, my heart was light and hopeful and feeling nothing but love towards him.  He was at rock bottom.  Or so we thought....

He went to a counseling appointment on Friday and it sparked a LOT of conversation and I thought, "Dude, FINALLY!!!" and we were both so hopeful and happy.  It was (it is) time to examine who Jamie sees himself as...as opposed to what the rest of the world sees him as (an awesome dude, he really, really is...)

Then the following Sunday he had to leave on a business trip and it was absolute torture for both of us.  We just got out of this stupid ass zombie training and he had to leave us and we just wanted to BE TOGETHER.  He got home on a Friday evening and a very, very, VERY stupid argument between us (about texting and driving....dumb.  It wasn't a big issue) had us separated from each other and all he needed was for me to tell him it would be okay.  I chose not to.  I chose to pout because all the feelings for months and months and months were welling up inside of me and I was just so mad that MY JAMIE was lost for now and I wasn't even mad at him really, but I was hurt.  He said I need you...and I said I need to be alone...just for a minute.  Looking back, his tone, his demeanor, his everything was beaten and broken.  I finally got over myself and realized....he needs me.  So I went outside to talk to him and said "okay...let's just go upstairs, we'll lay down together, get some rest and start fresh tomorrow morning ok?"  Apparently, he didn't hear me (common theme here) and so he did NOT follow me upstairs.  It was only ten minutes....I came back to see what he was doing...and he had a whiskey bottle in his hand...that was full (I asked him to buy it last winter for Kyle who was coughing to the point of vomiting, so only like a splash was used..)....half empty.  In TEN MINUTES he had downed half the bottle.  He doesn't drink.....

It only took a few more minutes for the effects to start showing up and in my entire life I have never, ever been so terrified.  He wasn't making any sense, he wouldn't answer me if he was okay, he was just dazed and confused (oh yeah, brilliantly he had also refused to eat dinner....)  He stumbled around, got himself some water and then the vomiting started.  Violent....horrific....it wouldn't stop and...I panicked.  I have never, in all my 35 years ever seen a person drunk.  I had no idea what it looked like...what was too much, would he DIE?? I was crying until I couldn't breathe, beating myself up, not sure what to do....so I called 911.  I wasn't going to lose my husband and I had no idea what the consequences would be, but I knew none of them mattered....only he mattered.  (All kids but Kyle were in bed at this point...) And so the paramedics came and it was an odd mixture of relief and supreme humiliation as they checked him and kind of looked at me like "You called 911 for this??"  Turns out, he was simply drunk.  Not in danger, not going to die from alcohol poisoning...and him not being used to alcohol....and not eating, just made him sicker and sicker.  Long story short, this was his rock bottom and the next day, he was a humble mess of "what the hell" and "never again"  He was SO SICK, but he had just simply had all the shit he could take.

The next day, we were in emergency counseling and it was intense.  The long and short of it was Jamie had reached the point of not caring.  Our counselor assured me this was not some great crisis where my husband was now going to turn to alcohol, that this wasn't about that at all, that he was honestly in a very good place mentally (WHAT?) and that we were headed in the right direction...we were there...we recognized how scary it was and neither one of us was making excuses, just wanted to be okay.  So we had this intense session and I learned some things that brought tears to my eyes.  The counselor told me he had never encountered someone as honest as my husband...that it was very rare and that his love and need for me was intense....

So that's what's been going on.  We have some work to do on the stress, how to deal, how NOT to deal and how to KEEP TALKING and LOVING.  Our second appointment, our counselor said even more things that choked me up. He told us that at our last appointment, people that had seen us...at our LOWEST point were commenting on what a "sweet couple" we were.  He pointed out that this may not mean a lot to us, but as a counselor he was in awe that in our worst place, our love for each other was that visible to the outside world.  He said we were in better shape than "99%" of the couples he counsels and that we aren't in the realm of "trouble" that as a matter of fact we have one of the strongest marriages he has been witness to.  I know that might sound all fruity and flowery, but y'all, this is a professional who sees so many people and his words mean a lot to me.  To hear out loud...that we really are strongly in love and not going to lose this thing that is so precious to us means the world to me.  I was totally at a loss over the last few months thinking "Why does Jamie see me as this person I am not.." and on the flip side him thinking "She is done..she hates me....I am worth nothing..."  Our counselor is working on this with us hardcore and Jamie has thrived in hearing someone else talk to me and then say to HIM "Do you hear her words?  Jamie, seriously....there is nothing about what she is saying that says ANYTHING about ever wanting to be away from you...ever...she has ZERO intention of going anywhere...do you understand that..." Hearing that...in a non-bullshit environment, from someone who has seen marriages completely implode has given him a hope that I can't really put into words.  He finally KNOWS.  That is something he has been saying so much..."For the first time, I really see you....how much you've stood by me and how that meant LOVE...you REALLY, REALLY love me....how could I not see that before?"

So our mission in counseling is to separate work/home....for Jamie to derive his sense of self in who he TRULY is and not in these meaningless things that ultimately do nothing for him.  He has a lifelong history of being told 'Not good enough...' and that is no longer going to fly.  He has always been way more than 'good enough...' and he's going to see that.  Besides our counselor is hilarious and totally gets our sense of humor, so it's been very easy to share some personal things that I swore I would never tell ANYONE in the entire world.  I shared something kind of embarrassing last week (explaining how I uhm....helped Jamie with stress) and the dude was like "OMG....I LOVE THAT...I LOVE that you said that...that's awesome..." and it relieved a lot of embarrassment and stress for me, who cringes at sharing private stuff. The smile on his face...on Jamies (and I swear, they were trying really hard not to high five...I just FELT it...) was really...what's the word?  Lightening...it made me feel like a huge weight was lifted.  Like I can really express who I REALLY am and not be judged or even disliked (he did say he was suprised at something I said, that was mean and dirty about someone else...like he couldn't believe I had a dirty mouth...now that's out in the open and that's also a relief!)

And so yeah, that's what's up.  I think I get an award for longest blog post ever!!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Not gone, just buried

One statistic that is mighty depressing: Most marriages do not survive the loss of a child.  I knew this  back when it mattered, back when we could have made the decision to safe guard our marriage and do everything we could to keep communication open and feelings shared and all that good stuff.  It was highly recommended by those who loved us, but there we were...stuck. No one to watch our children (NO ONE..that's what happens when your circle shuns you for your choices...those that devastated you)....no way to get just the two of us to the place we needed to be.  Plus, we had so many other distractions.  A death in the family right after, a fall out with another, a decision to not adopt our foster children, college, work, homeschool...life....We'd be okay, right? I mean WE didn't die...just our baby.  We'd be just fine.  We'd beat those odds.

And we did.

The next baby came along and we didn't think about the last. He as a he.  She was a she.  Everything we did for her was for HER.  Every outfit, every cloth diaper, every little thing we did centered around her being a her and enjoying this precious blessing that filled empty hearts and empty arms.

After her, HE came and that hit us hard.  It may not make any sense, but when you're washing the he clothes for the first time since you lost him it's way, way different and emotions surfaced that we didn't love and didn't know what to do with.  He came, and then 6 days later Jamie was off to his job interview and our new life a million miles away....new job, new life, new house, new everything....was the center of our focus.  New beginnings, far, far away from the sadness we experienced.  No time to think about the son we lost while taking care of the one we didn't.  We were fine, really....

Then she came along and was and is the most precious, sweet, loveable baby we've ever had.  Or maybe just that much more precious because once more, we skirted tragedy and ended up with what we wanted: healthy baby, free of defect or sickness...to love again.  But this time around, my ultrasound produced a panic attack so heavy, it was hard to breathe.  I just knew they'd find something wrong.  So relieved when they didn't and so happy when she was born just as we imagined.  And we were fine.  No, really just FINE.

And now we're not and have to face the fact we never were. Because burying something that isn't ready to be buried and not properly prepared to be buried has consequences you can't see until those consequences are so huge that they can no longer be ignored.

And finally, maybe....no definitely, we really are going to be fine.  For real.  Forever.  We needed help.  We're getting it.  We have sat on a cushy couch in a pretty office and been told we have an excellent marriage.  I've been told that my husband is one of the most honest men our counselor has ever met and that he loves me more than most other husbands love their wives.  And we've been told....to beat these odds says something about the strength of our love for each other and our commitment to being us, forever.

We have so much work to do.  So many things to sort through and it should suck.  It should suck more than anything, but it doesn't.  It's real and honest and raw and for the first time in a long, long time, I feel like the world isn't this place to just survive...it's a place to truly live.