Tag Archives: Marriage

The Good Summer

My son enjoying a quick climb on the Badlands this summer.

My son enjoying a quick climb on the Badlands this summer.

I almost titled this ‘The Good Enough Summer’, but changed my mind before typing one word.  When you hear good enough, regardless of the context, doesn’t your mind bend slightly to thoughts of something mediocre, like whatever turned out to be ‘good enough’ was still not quite satisfactory, and the party reaching said state did so under protest?  When my husband and I were discussing this year’s summer plans, our conversation ended with the blanket statement: “Well, it’s just going to have to be good enough.”  Everything was going to have to be good enough, each family member would have to pull their weight, and expectations would be lowered to get through the summer.   I didn’t know if it would work, but I wanted to be optimistic.

I wanted summer to be good because we were under stress.  We sold our house in Kansas and bought another home in Missouri.  The mortgage application process became a prolonged nightmare, but in the beginning we were oblivious to what lay ahead.  Our focus was on the six weeks of summer during which we would technically be homeless.  Although this was not a problem since we had family and friends to visit during our vacation time — very convenient for gypsies who like to travel — no amount of obsessive planning can totally prepare a person for the creeping feeling of general terror when facing the truth of simply being unable to go HOME.

We had to be ultra conservative to get through summer without going into debt.  I counted my daughters’ shoes and made a pile of nearly two dozen pairs between them.  After playing in mud puddles, running up and down dirt roads, cruising zoos and water parks, the pile would diminish to one or two usable pairs by the end of summer.  I expected most of their clothing to become outgrown or worn out, too.  My plan was that the kids would wear things out as we traveled so I could squirrel money away for back to school shopping in August.  I wanted them to learn that consumerism is not a hobby, that money does not appear on a whim, that we should use what we own, like old tennis shoes, reuse what we can, like ripped blue jeans, and replace things when the time comes.  This summer would be a perfect time for such lessons.

Our new puppy Teddy enjoying the beach on Lake Kampeska this summer.

Our new puppy Teddy enjoying the beach on Lake Kampeska this summer.

I have to constantly keep my children sane, happy, fed, entertained, and alive!  Are my treasured art investments actually in storage or on the Black Market? Did I remember to pack my jewelry?  There are 500 pairs of shoes in this car and it smells like there are 500 pairs of shoes in this car.  I have to schlep 1,200 pounds of the Most. Important. Things. Everyone. Owns. around for the next month. WHY do my kinds think they each need five stuffed animals, 18 books they won’t read, and 600 loose Crayons, which are presently melting all over my car?  These thoughts filled my head as we hit the road.  Two adults, three children, and one yellow Labrador puppy growing at a rate of 2.5 pounds per week crammed into my SUV to drive thousands of miles and live like nomads for the next several weeks.

My daughters looking at the geese at a botanical garden in Missouri.

My daughters looking at the geese at a botanical garden in Missouri.

Packing light was a goal, not necessarily a realistic concept.   Anticipating our temporary homelessness and wanting to be practical, two week’s worth of clothing for each person, all the shampoo that we currently owned, and a couple bars of soap. By the time we reached South Dakota, we had to ship an enormous foot locker and a large cardboard U-Haul box back to Missouri.  We were already overloaded before our trip had officially begun!  We had decided to travel in one car, which began having ‘technical difficulties’ in New Mexico.  So much for the money for my back to school shopping spree.  I kept telling my husband that we could get rid of an extra set of bedding we used at the Carlsbad KOA cabin, but ever the Boy Scout, he wanted to hold onto it in case we needed it later on.  That turned out to be a fantastic idea, since several strange things happened requiring ingenuity as well as sheets, blankets, and so many garbage bags.

Regardless of our agreement that this summer would have to be good enough (in other words, we would all have to tough it out), I spent much of the time worrying. I missed my friends and had no outlet to work through my emotions about being uprooted.  Everything that could go wrong seemed to.  The underwriters harassed us nonstop for proof to further prove our proof of various documentation (and I know how ridiculous that sounds, but it is exactly what they requested).  My car was in the shop during our entire visit to Texas, and it started to malfunction from new problems during our trip from Texas back to Missouri. Our dog almost drowned, our oldest child turned into a moody teenager, and we were always at the mercy of the family members who took us in.  Every day was a new mini drama.

A quiet moment of reflection at the Oklahoma City Bombing Museum.

A quiet moment of reflection at the Oklahoma City Bombing Museum.

All I wanted was something better for my family, because we deserved a really great summer.  Hell, I deserved a really great summer!  My husband and I argued a lot and fought a little.  There were days when I wanted to run away from my family and establish a life as a fabulous hermit/diva somewhere in Europe.  I stress ate, when I actually remembered to eat.  When we limped the broken SUV into our new town in Missouri, we were met with empty promises from the bank, so we ended up in a horrid little motel. Our room had a mysterious, overpowering odor later identified as the mold and mildew that spawns after extensive water damage.

We arrived at our house for the walk-through feeling dirty and dejected, smelling of mildew, sleep deprived and slightly malnourished (having eaten nothing but ham on white bread for what seemed like years).  The seller, who happened to be a realtor with nothing to lose, took pity on us because we had essentially become the delightfully comical Griswold family from the National Lampoons Vacation movies, and she agreed to a temporary rental until the underwriters were finally satisfied with their scrutiny of just about every aspect of our lives.

Food for thought at my favorite sculpture park in South Dakota.

Food for thought at my favorite sculpture park in South Dakota.

Everything worked out in the end, but more work and a lot of introspection was required to get to this point.  ISummer is winding down, and as I go through photos of the family, I realize that maybe we actually did have a good summer.  Maybe our expectations were exceeded, and we didn’t have a merely mediocre time.  Sure, on some days there was crying, swearing, and fighting, and sometimes we were quite miserable, even pathetically so.  Looking back, at more happy memories than sad, I have realized that I am an ignorant woman. It took me the entire summer to figure out that when it comes to family relationships, there is no such thing as ‘good enough’.  There is just love, and try, and care, and time.

~G

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The Art of Conversation

Mouth

The dynamics of talking (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earlier this year my husband had surgery to correct quite possibly the worst documented sleep apnea in history.  He snored so loud I am certain that our closest neighbors also went without sleep. The Army gave him two weeks of convalescent, and by Day Eight of Recovery, I wanted to check myself into the psychiatric ward of the hospital.

Van’s surgery turned out to be prolonged torment; afterward we both agreed that if we had done any serious research, we wouldn’t have committed to such a sadistic idea. It was actually five procedures in one.  A uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (go ahead, sound it out), or U-triple P in medical jargon, is a procedure that trims away all or part of the uvula, some of the soft palate, and part of the back of the throat.  Since my husband still had his tonsils and adenoids, they were removed, so he also underwent a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.  The doctor expanded his sinuses using tiny balloons and fixed his deviated septum, adding sinoplasty and septoplasty.  All five procedures took less than two hours to complete, and in that time I was able to leave the hospital for an unhurried if not totally relaxed sit-down lunch, but I sped back to the hospital to be present when Van was wheeled out of recovery.

The waiting room was mostly empty and very quiet.  A middle aged black man kept looking between his cell phone and the television blaring in the corner, a firestorm erupting over the events in Ferguson, Missouri.   After a while, the man and I tried to ignore the repetitive tickers flashing across the screen.  I took ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’ from the loan shelf and skimmed enough to figure out that Dorian met a gruesome demise.  A neat old lady walked in carrying a Hy Vee bag, sat down across from me and popped the tab from a soda.  She smiled at me and asked if I knew how to turn off Airplane Mode on a Trac Phone.  I scooted next to her and proved to be useless, but then a conversation began.  She was a whip smart Marine’s wife.  Her husband had been in Vietnam; when he came back his miserable job was to knock on the doors of the wives whose Marines had been KIA.

“Then one day two of our friends came home in body bags at the same time, and he had to go knock on the doors of their wives.  These were people we knew quite well.  After that he didn’t see any point to any of it anymore, so he got out as soon as he could.”  She smiled and met my eyes steadily and we exchanged a knowing look.  We understand so much more than we ought to.

A nurse peered into the waiting room, and I recognized my husband on the gurney in the hallway.  Van looked fragile and frantic, but I smiled brightly into his face, and he clutched my hand tight.  The nurse said, “He won’t be able to talk for quite a while.”

“Then he can listen to me,” I winked and smiled back down into his face again and he squeezed my hand harder.  Before the procedure Van told me that there was no sense in my sticking around, I should go have lunch and get some air.  I had joked “Well that’s not very clingy of you!”  He responded “Oh, that will come after the surgery.”  I could see how much he needed me now.

It’s amazing what we take for granted.  We had recently decided to work on our communication skills and be better mates to each other; now suddenly communication had become quite nearly impossible!   Van had to learn to communicate without speaking; I had to learn how to really listen and interpret his nods, gestures, frowns, and sometimes angry emphatic flailing, and then try to give him whatever would make him more comfortable  — or in his case, less miserable.  Everything slowed down to a crawl, and every minute for us was filled with trying to communicate better.

I had to remind myself to speak much less.  As much as I wanted to talk, as lonely as I felt without banter from my favorite conversationalist, I knew Van was exhausted and didn’t have the capacity for long talks.  I kept a lot to myself, and it wasn’t easy.  For example, the college student daughter of the middle aged black man in the waiting room…was so upset because her mother was also at the hospital undergoing surgery that she hit his truck in the hospital parking lot while we were waiting to be discharged.  Yeah, I kept that to myself for a couple of days until Van was lucid enough to process the information.  Instead of making sentences longer and full of detail — one of my habits — I tried to keep things short and to to the point so that he could get the important information and make a decision quickly or tell me what he needed without having to exert too much energy.  I’m telling you, it was exhausting, and it didn’t always work.  Sometimes I wasn’t intuitive.  Sometimes Van wasn’t patient.  And there were evil forces at work.

We had to live on New Baby new schedule.  Van required round the clock pain medications, so neither of us was getting eight full hours of sleep.  I was lucky if I got three hours of sleep at one stretch, and Van claimed he never slept for more than 30 minutes, but he was really whacked out on the pain medication.  Around Day 3 of Recovery, I woke up to a bloodcurdling scream around midnight.  I figured my daughter was having a nightmare, but I was shockingly incorrect.  She had covered her entire bed in vomit.  Being already somewhat sleep deprived, I could hardly process this new horror, and I had a hell of a time cleaning it up.  The mystery virus swept through the household, causing stomachaches, fevers, and headaches, but no one else vomited.  I was terrified that Van would catch it, but luckily he was the only one who didn’t.

I had to drive across town to pick up Pedialyte and crackers at Wal-Mart, but I didn’t have the energy to change out of my pajamas.  I “dressed” them up with a pair of jaunty red moccasins and an over-sized vintage bleached Levi’s anorak.  My youngest daughter was appalled to see me leave the house in pajamas because my primary rule of fashion is to NEVER, EVER, under ANY circumstances, leave the house in pajamas!  I couldn’t give a shit.  When I looked in the restroom mirror at Wal-Mart, I nearly jumped back at the reflection, much like Dorian Gray must have when he began to see his transformation.  Oh no, could it be?  Was it me staring back?   My eyes were glassy and red, and when I had applied my lipstick, I had put it around my lips, not on them!

On Day 5 of Recovery my husband became a food critic.  The mashed potatoes were too salty, the Jell-O too acidic, the Cream of Wheat too sandy, the soup too hot, the water too cold, the ice too hard.  I started to lose my shit in the kitchen.  I knew it was just because his throat was very sensitive, but when someone tells you that they cannot handle water, that water possesses qualities making it too harsh for consumption, it becomes hard not to just give up.  I smiled at my husband, said “Okay, I will try to find something that works for you,” and went into the kitchen to weep silently while Van watched old Chris Farley movies on television.

On Day 7 I took Van to the hospital for his follow-up appointment.  I was soooo over the hospital.  I’d already been there twice to refill Van’s pain medicine, each visit making me more resentful of free medical care.  I had tolerated the overly complicated customer service ticket kiosk, suspicious pharmacy techs interrogating my intents with the pain meds, and a protracted fire alarm malfunction.  The last thing I wanted was to visit the hospital again, but here we were.  Van leaned on me slightly as we walked into the hospital, and I got a premonition of what old age might be like for us.  The doctor said Van should start do feel much better after getting the stints out, and then I made the mistake of watching the stints being removed.  It was like an alien extraction scene in a sci-fi movie!

Van had taken a turn for the worse the night before, so the doctor sent us to the ER for an IV.  This would add another 2-3 hours to our visit, but it would make a world of difference in his recovery.  There was a young soldier in the waiting room with a huge bloody gash across his forehead.  He had wrecked his truck his wife left him in the same week, but this was still the best day he’d had in a while, so he said.

We sat in a large room for a long time after triage, Van getting an IV and sleeping.  I was so tired that I wanted to cry, but I just sat against the wall and closed my eyes.  Van still couldn’t talk, but I sensed when he needed me.  I opened my eyes, and he motioned for me to come near so he could whisper into my ear.  “I’m ready to get outta here.”  I was ready too.  But it would not happen before we overheard the ER doctor give an overly detailed description to the patient  on the other side of the privacy curtain of all the things that could go wrong during his spinal tap.  I now knew too much.

Day 8 I left the house in my pajamas again, but this time it was much worse.  I didn’t even bother to put on a bra or shoes.  Fortunately, I was just driving a few blocks to pick up my youngest daughter from a sleepover.  I think I cried during the drive.  My friend took one look at me and said “Whoa, you want some coffee?”  I really wanted to stay home and sleep but I had to get out and pick up meds again, so after my daughter and I cleaned up our act, we headed out.  I was hoping to just pick up everything at the Post Exchange, or PX, common on Army bases.  Unfortunately, one of the prescriptions — in fact, the most important one that Van absolutely needed — could only be filled at the hospital, so we would have to go there too.

While we were at the PX waiting for our ticket to be called for the other medications, someone puked all over the floor, creating a veritable minefield of vomit.  I couldn’t believe it. I had dealt with more bizarre things in the days since Van’s surgery — rude Kansas drivers, suspicious pharmacists, sleep deprivation, crazy ER doctors, and so much vomit — and all I wanted was to be able to have a real conversation with my husband, then sleep for an entire week.  Maybe in reverse order.  But those things seemed so far out of reach.

It was a long time before we started communicating again.  Once Van began to talk, he also began to formulate plans.  There were things that he really wanted to accomplish, and I just wanted to catch up — on conversation and sleep! I began to feel a bit resentful.  Was I nothing more than a supplement, a convenient presence during Van’s recovery?  After all, I had been there, serving his every need, never giving myself the luxury of wasted time or leisure. I literally burned myself out just trying to keep him alive and well, and all I really craved was a simple conversation with him, to know that at the very heart of the nightmare that we were going through, we still had our humanity.

Looking back on the whole affair one evening several weeks post-op, Van told me something that made me realize that despite his impatience and anger over being exhausted, uncomfortable, and in constant pain, he saw me as the only source of hope and contentment in his situation.  He told me that when he came out of surgery he kept asking for me.  The nurse wouldn’t let me come into the first phase of recovery, but Van continued to demand that she bring me back.

“I never stopped talking about you; I kept asking for you.”  he said.  “I kept telling that nurse, “bring my wife here.  She can feed me ice chips.”  I don’t know why the nurse didn’t just let you come back there and take care of me.”  What he said made me think of the moment we arrived home from the hospital.  I had to somehow get him up the stairs and onto the couch.  He is taller and bigger than me, but I somehow managed to help him walk slowly, with him leaning heavily on me for support, up the driveway, up the front porch stairs, and up the entry stairs into the living room, where he could rest on the couch.  He leaned so completely on me.

Since the surgery, we have been communicating better, occasionally worse, but we are talking more than ever.  We’ve had a few arguments, a fight or two, and we have opened up and started communicate in ways that we have neglected for years.  Having the form of conversation to which we were accustomed taken away suddenly showed us what we had been taking for granted and pointed out what we needed to repair in our relationship.   We both started leaning on each other more, and now I feel more valued and appreciated by my husband since this incident, and I have stopped taking for granted the simple act of having a conversation with him.  For the first time in weeks, we sat down this morning to have a cup of coffee, argue about the leadership attributes of the ridiculous number of Presidential candidates, discuss lawn care techniques, and exchange banter about the fun that we could encounter throughout the day.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.

~G

What I’ve Learned After Ten Years of Marriage…

…Or my tips for success.

Aren't we adorable?

Aren’t we adorable?

This week Van and I celebrated ten years of marriage, the accomplishment being even more sweet because the week was an absolutely insane carnival of mishaps, chaos, and confusion, and the fact that we both survived was an unprecedented miracle. We’ve all had weeks like this: a kind of demented Butterfly Effect where one fucked up event creates opportunity for another, until you find yourself hitting new lows.  “Inconspicuously” changing your clothes in your car because you no longer have time to practice appropriate hygiene in between all the obligations you’ve signed on for.  Being mean to the children of people who you barely know (in my defense, the little bastard was trying to take my last potato chip).  Questioning the inner workings of the universe while cleaning elephantine piles of dog shit off the living room carpet.  This was my week.

On Monday evening after a lovely turkey dinner, Van had some kind of mysterious reaction to something.  I suspected the eggnog immediately because eggnog is a disgusting mixture of two things that I cannot digest properly: milk and raw eggs.  Even though he was clearly having a reaction to something, he continued to drink the eggnog until the rash that started on his face had spread to his chest, arms, and back.  At that point he wanted to go to the hospital.  My next door neighbor, an absolute angel, told me to leave the kids with her overnight.  We laughed a little on the drive to the Emergency Room “Ha ha!  What a funny way to spend our tenth anniversary!”  We weren’t terribly concerned about the reaction, and our anniversary wasn’t actually until the Tuesday, so there would be plenty of time to get the rash cleared up and be on our way for some merrymaking.

Once he got checked into the ER, the full effects of Van’s decision to seek medical attention set in.  He started complaining that he didn’t want to be there because it might take several hours.   “Well what did you expect?”  I asked.  “If it’s an allergic reaction, we need to get it treated.”  When the triage nurse saw us, Van went all out, claiming that I had sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions, and when he was asked about mental problems he stated, “You should probably ask my wife; she will give you a better answer.”  She looked at me with something like sympathy and I said “Just check the mental problems box, but NOT the sexual assault box.”  I kind of wanted to slap him but reminded myself why we were there.  We were ushered back to the waiting room, where one T.V. was blaring Fox News and the other was blaring Disney Junior.  Oh good, the inner circle of hell.  Luckily,  I had brought along my copy of Les Miserables so at least I had something to do.  Van had nothing to keep himself occupied, so he wandered around talking to the young mothers with tiny babies.  I’m sure the last thing they wanted was a bright red lobster man looming over their babies, asking questions about eating habits.

Before long, we were taken to an exam room.  I wondered if it had something to do with my husband complaining a swelling feeling his throat, but I didn’t know if he was just saying that to get through the exam and treatment process faster, or if he really was having trouble breathing.  Either way, we were in and there was no backing out. The room was small, and I had nowhere to sit except for an uncomfortable molded plastic chair shoved up against a scary garbage can used by everyone who came into the room.  The entire process took around five hours, with various medical staff coming in to perform diagnostics. Van remained in character, harassing everyone within ten feet of his bed.  He wasn’t going down without a fight, anyhow.  The doctor determined that he absolutely needed an Epi Pen injection with a steroid chaser, and some monitoring afterward.  I was tempted to ask if I could do the honors and re-enact the Pulp Fiction scene where Uma gets the adrenaline shot in the heart, but held my tongue because Van was being obnoxious enough for the two of us and I didn’t need to start doing or saying anything to keep us there longer.

The shot went, disappointingly, into his arm, and within a few minutes, his face looked clearer and he was actually dozing off.  Go figure!  While I sat in the uncomfortable chair, my legs and ass going numb, Van snored very loudly for about two hours.  Towards the end I passed out across the garbage can (gross) which is probably why I am sick with a mystery virus now.  When the doctor came back to check his vitals, Van said that he could breathe much better, which convinced us both that coming to the ER was the right decision.  We were told to never second guess an allergic reaction, since it’s difficult to know if and when it could cause the throat or tongue to swell.

So you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with marriage, right?  Van and I both woke up right after midnight on Tuesday.  I smiled at him across the room and said “Hey, it’s our anniversary!  We made it!”  Van smiled and asked, “Do you want your present?”  I looked at him, a bit bewildered, and said, “Well I kind of feel like I deserve one after what you just put me through.”  Van said, I’ve got your present right here; do you want it or not?”  So I said okay, yeah, I wanted it.  And do you know what he did?  He stuck his tongue out at me!  So I flipped him off.  But then he pulled a little ring box out of his pocket, and popped it open to reveal a gorgeous Black Hills Gold ring.  I was more than just a little surprised.  Van had that ring in his pocket, and at some point during the jackassery he thought to himself “Hey, I can give Georgeann a ring right here in the Emergency Room!”

This summer at Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, South Dakota.

This summer at Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, South Dakota.

So, this event set the stage for one of the weirdest weeks I can remember.  Van is okay.  We never found out what he is actually allergic to (which makes life even more mysterious and exciting).  Despite the strange week and all the challenges, we have been very close as a couple, which has led me to want to share my advice to couples who don’t yet know what ten years of marriage looks like, as well as to those lucky ones who do.

1.  First of all, it takes work.  Van and I didn’t get to this point without romantically pursuing each other constantly, appreciating each other’s qualities, and maintaining a special friendship.  Anyone who says marriage is easy is full of shit.

2.  Next, be patient with your partner.  So many times at the ER, I had to draw on my reserves of patience, and I am glad I did (I got a ring out of it!).  I didn’t feel great that night, and had been looking forward to a bubble bath and an early bed time.  No such luck, but that is part of a relationship.  We often have to put our needs on hold and be patient because our partner might need our understanding, and that becomes the priority at the moment.  It all evens out, so don’t keep score.

3. Don’t be afraid to have fun.  Van and I had to take a hard look at our resources, goals, and limitations this week, and reframe the definition of “fun” because it turns out that the fancy anniversary dinner we had planned for this weekend isn’t quite so practical for us right now.  We are still exhausted from Monday’s trip to the ER.  And cleaning up dog poop off the carpet on Tuesday.  And decorating for an office Christmas party on Wednesday.  And attending said Christmas party on Thursday…and, well, you get the picture.  What is more practical and within our capabilities right now is a pizza and movie night at the house. One of the best gifts I could give my husband this year was this statement: “I don’t need to have fancy steak dinners or big gifts as proof that we love each other.  I just want more time with you, and I will never outgrow that selfish desire.”  This was actually before he gave me the ring, so try not to find hypocrisy in this.  A solid relationship requires an investment of time, not money, and fun doesn’t have to be expensive!

4.  Say please, thank you, and I love you.  A lot!  Couples forget to say these phrases.  I feel spoiled because I have a husband who says these things many times a day, and on top of this, he does little helpful things for me, which makes me even more eager to reciprocate.  Let me tell you, nothing made me feel better than waking up this morning to a clean kitchen with loaded dishwasher full of clean and dry dishes, and neatly lined up CLEAN pots and pans, ready for cooking!  It allowed me to sit and write this post.  So when he wakes up, I will be in such a good mood and feel like helping him with a project.  Provided the dog doesn’t poop on the floor or the kids don’t flood the downstairs bathroom…

5.  Learn how to communicate.  This really ties into to my first piece of advice.  Van and I went through a long spell where we really weren’t communicating but we didn’t realize it.   I tend to use a passive aggressive tone, and he got to the point where it was just easier to tune me out.  So it took a lot of courage for us both to decide to develop better communication skills.  It has worked wonders for our relationship in just a few months.

6. Spend time together, but be individuals.  Van and I like to do things together.  We hunt, work in our garden together and sometimes we cook together.  We also have individual hobbies that allow us to have circles of friends who offer us support and advice to bring back to the relationship.

7. Last, because I like the number 7, but also because this is a very important tip, take care of yourself.  If you don’t practice good self maintenance, how are you going to take care of your partner and family?  This includes being your own best friend, caring for your needs and learning how to make yourself a consistent priority so that you feel taken care of.  Even if it means locking yourself in your bathroom so you can take a bubble bath without being interrupted by the entire neighborhood (which is my problem when I want to use the bathroom), it’s worth the effort to find time for yourself each day.  Doing so will create more energy for you to be open and loving toward your partner.

The Red Hammer sign next to a sculpture at Porter Sculpture Park reminds me of our marriage.

The Red Hammer sign next to a sculpture at Porter Sculpture Park reminds me of our marriage.

Last night we had a little dinner and some friends came over.  We cracked open a bottle of wine that was part of a case given to us ten years ago when we got married.  The first bottles were consumed years ago, with the last one drunk at our five year anniversary — and it was still good then.  We were not sure how the wine would taste last night, and when we took a sip we discovered that another five years of Army moves, bad storage choices, and general abuse had turned it into weird funky grape juice.  We laughed about it.  After our guests left Van hugged me and said “We outlasted the wine!  Should we keep the bottle as a souvenir?”  I said “Yes, let’s.”  Van gave me a kiss and said “You know, we still have one bottle of that stuff left.  We need to keep it and open it in ten more years.”  I giggled “It’s a date!”

~ G

So…Turns Out My Spirit Animal is a Witch

Lately my priorities have involved self reflection and goal setting.  And just in time for Halloween, I discovered that the path to my good mental health meant allowing my inner bitch to have some breathing room.  She is part of me after all!

Are you sure my spirit animal is a witch?

Are you absolutely sure my spirit animal is a witch?

I’m just a Wicked Witch trying to get by as a Dorothy in this Land of Oz.  Of course I want to be nice, and people are always telling me that I’m too nice — ugh, typical Dorothy behavior.  But it’s not healthy to suppress my inner bitch when she’s trying to look out for my best interests.  The truth is, I have a terrible time saying no.  It isn’t that I can’t ever say no; after I do manage to say no once in a while, I make a concerted effort to feel guilty for as long as possible.  I have also spent much of my adult life making important decisions based on the input of others who feel compelled to tell me what I should do (like they know anything).  I tell you, that makes it quite difficult for a gal’s agenda to progress, whether it’s raising a family or training an army of vicious flying monkeys (practically the same thing, by the way).

I have lost the ability over time to listen to my own voice and make decisions with a clear conscience.  Guilty feelings about saying no to people who have certain expectations only feeds anxiety and self doubt.  In order to get true respect from the world, I must first respect and love myself, delightful flaws and all.  This is where being a bit of a witch really pays off!  I decided that the best way to amend my problems is to reconnect with my inner bitch and allow her some breathing room.   Since she is part of who I am, perhaps she could teach me how to reclaim my true identity and learn to listen to that identity with a clear mind.  I did have to be careful when unleashing this powerful force.  Honestly identifying my feelings and personal goals rather than fixating on distractions made me feel courageous and motivated.   There is a difference between expressing oneself with emotion and just fighting dirty.  For me, progress isn’t about executing a vengeful agenda to get a higher foothold on the ladder of life.  The inner bitch is simply there to remind me of who I am and who I can be, if I focus on what is really important.

It wasn’t long before my confidence was put to the test.  While attending a harvest festival at the local dairy farm, I ran into a friend from the school where I used to work.  She asked if I would be coming back.  “No,” I said simply, and smiled.  “But we really miss you there!”  The guilt started to creep in, and part of me wanted to make promises to appease her expectations, but I stood my ground.  “I don’t know what to say, other than I’m not planning to come back.”   No longer a Dorothy, I was free of the guilt and broke the cycle of letting other people make my decisions for me – finally.   I would run into more friends and former co-workers from the school throughout the month of October.  It was very nice to see them again, but they did not change my decisions.

For Halloween I followed my daughters’ advice and dressed as a witch.  After my adventure of self discovery, why not?  I was originally going to be Dr. Who (the Matt Smith version) but the girls convinced me to throw on a black dress with some witch-y looking black boots, and my husband helped me find an amazing red hat with feathers and black veil.  I painted my lips ruby red, practiced my witch cackle, then sat on the front steps in the freezing cold for two hours welcoming a steady parade of children dressed in an array of colorful costumes.  The highlight of the evening was a visit from an eight year old Dr. Who (Matt Smith version), and his costume was much better than mine would have been.

I am glad that I finally identified with my inner bitch and understood how she fits into my personality.  I can pretend I am a Dorothy all day, but I AM a Wicked.  Instead of skipping down the yellow brick road with random maniacs who pop out of the hedges, I would rather shutter the windows, light some candles, shove gingerbread men into the oven, and watch extra dark episodes of ‘The X Files’.  And I will continue to consult my inner bitch for purposes of self empowerment, if not for evil (although that can be tempting!).  Without her, I wouldn’t be me.

~G