And Still Thankful, November 2018

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My father-in-law is coming over, tomorrow. He’s going to help my husband with some of the little and not-so-little tasks that have been making him insecure, and me rather cross, for the past few months.

I cannot express to you how embarrassed I am, at the thought of someone who lives in his house (desirable location, large and well-decorated, with a garden and several bedrooms, what an estate agent would refer to as, “finished to a very high standard–early viewing recommended” if it went on the market) looking at my house. Don’t tell me he’s family–I know he’s family–I’m still ashamed at just how much is wrong with this place.

I spent 6 years doing a 3-year university degree, around my wonderful, very autistic children, and for what? To still be stuck in this falling-apart house, awake at silly o’clock in the morning, trying to talk myself into not being ashamed of the fact that I can’t study full-time or work at all, whilst caring for my babies properly. Dad (in-law) is going to see this house, and I will figuratively die of shame.

But. But, but, but. Even if he judges me, and my husband, and even the kids, I have no doubt that he will help us. Not with infuriating platitudes or enraging advice; he will help with actual, hands-on, practical assistance.

This is more than can be said of approximately 95% of the people who have seen the inside of my house. What’s even more than that, I imagine he will offer the help more than once, until the house is in a reasonable state. At the very least, after tomorrow, I’m sure we’ll have a toilet that we can flush using the handle, and a drainpipe that actually attaches to the house, again. 

For all these things, I am thankful.

Still Thankful, November 2018

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When I wrote my last entry, it was on too little sleep and much too little reflection. There was still more to say–to my husband, and he had more to say to me–and the conversation did not, I assure you, read like my previous blog post.

It did, however, pass.

I love/loathe platitudes, especially biblical ones–they corralled so much of my childhood and adolescence, and their use is always faintly bittersweet at best, and genuinely triggering, at worst–yet I doubt I’ll ever stop using, “This, too, shall pass.” (Not found in the Bible, by the way; I checked; but commonly attributed to King Solomon, and it has a biblical/Abrahamic theism flavour, nonetheless.) I digress.

After the conversation with my husband (which took 24 hours, off and on, as well as a lot of crying from both of us) I feel like we’re on a steadier footing, now. He has to be a bit more grown-up, about living with us; I need to back off a little, and let him find ways he can pull his weight, so to speak, without my constant supervision.

He is delighted that we have a plan in place, now.

I am thankful that the plan was his idea.

I loathe making plans about non-leisure activities–things like housework are just there, why do you need to be reminded they need doing?–and the thought of spending any additional time thinking about housework, grocery shopping, cooking, banking, etc, when I spend 5-10 hours every day engaged in those tasks, plus safeguarding and personal care for the kids… bleurgh.

Hopefully, now, I won’t have to spend 5 hours every day (and often as much as 10 hours) trying to keep on top of things. Hopefully, now, I will have regular, un-nagged-for help; which will allow me to nag less and rest more, and Husband to feel more in control of how/when he pitches in around the house.

The kids will still be autistic. The house will still be too small, really, and not in great repair. But if I’m not constantly fighting a solitary battle to keep the house clean (we don’t often get as far as tidy, but clean I maintain) to keep the kids bathed and fed and comforted, to organise all the household bills etc, I think I will be more kind. Unrelenting (or at least, rarely relenting) kindness goes a long way, towards making cramped/un-ideal living spaces more bearable.

Keep your fingers crossed for us, friends.

Thankful, 22nd November 2018

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I had a fight with my husband, last night. I was nagging him off and on all day (Thanksgiving is hard for me–I live 4,000 miles from my folks, and haven’t shared a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal with anyone in about 15 years) and he finally snapped, and said some ugly things to me.

Nothing I said was remotely close to what he said. I felt like I’d been sucker-punched, and I just didn’t expect that, from him. We’ve been married a little over a year, and to the best of my recollection, this is the first time he’s ever said something so out-of-line, to me. (It’s certainly not something he does regularly–he is not generally a deliberately hurtful person.)

I am thankful that my husband saying something unkind to me, felt like being punched; I am thankful that I was so surprised, shocked even, that it took my breath away. I am thankful to be with someone who usually endures my moodiness and mercurial nature with such inexplicable grace and supportiveness, that I literally cannot believe it at first, when he says something genuinely mean.

I am thankful that my husband, who had work at 6 a.m. this morning, refused to go to sleep when I left the bedroom around midnight (I was far too agitated to go to bed myself) before we at least tried to talk it through. “Never let the sun go down on your anger,” and all that jazz… it worked. When we went to sleep, neither of us was angry with the other, anymore.

I am thankful that my marriage is made up of 2 people who, despite being personally very sensitive (some might say overly so) are also capable of putting aside those feelings, to extend empathy and understanding to each other. I am thankful that every time we have an argument, we make up, and usually learn something about how to improve our marriage or household or both, during the making-up discussion.

In lighter news, I am thankful for coffee, since I’ve had about an hour’s sleep, and the kids are at the dentist’s office later today… seriously. I have so much to be thankful for, and I am. I hope you have at least as much to be thankful for as me, and I hope you’re in the right place to be able to feel and experience how lucky/fortunate/blessed you are.

A Death in the Family

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She wasn’t a blood relative, nor even a relative-by-marriage; she was the younger sister of the best friend I made when we were 8 years old. She cannot have been more than 31 or 32, and her little girl is surely younger than both of my children. Her 4 siblings are heartbroken; her mother, in a grief that defies words like “devastated” and “destroyed.” I don’t know what to say to them, and I know there’s no way I can help.

I haven’t taken it in properly–I haven’t seen her in years, I live thousands of miles away from our hometown, and she still lived there, within touching distance of our families and old friends–how do I lose someone, really, when I’ve already lost most of the love and friendship and intimacy of all my childhood and adolescent relationships, by moving to this foreign land?

It’s disloyal to say it, but I thought she was the most beautiful of them all, of the 4 siblings who were mostly teenagers when their youngest sister arrived. My best friend was undeniably beautiful, clever, athletic and artistic and a damn nice person besides, terrifying popular and utterly without meanness or spite, always ready to shield me from the horror of socialising, and equally insistent that I had to be invited if she was… my childhood best friend was and is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen, inside and out.

But–her little sister, the one closest to her in age (and as they grew up, the one closest to her in the ways that count, I think)–was a different flavour of beautiful, one that I, attractive in a common way, found fascinating. Pale and fine-featured, with huge clear eyes and a shy, faintly scared expression, she made me wonder what there was to her that I couldn’t quite see. Even when we were children she seemed to have something of the saying that still waters run deep, about her.

I don’t know how it happened. It was an unexpected, unplanned death, and her family is left reeling, and–as always happens, when someone back home is hurt or in need–I am far too far away to do anything of use. I sent messages to her mother and older sister. I’ll send sympathy cards, which will arrive days or weeks after her funeral.

Her funeral. God. How do you plan a funeral for a woman who died suddenly, in her early 30s, leaving behind her parents, her partner, 4 siblings, and a child who’s probably still in primary school… I can’t, I just can’t. I’ll try to write more tomorrow, or in a few days. But God, this is so sad.

November, 2018, 1

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After my last few entries, I present to you… my efforts to chill dafuq out:

(My next entry may well be a review of Robert Wright’s book on Buddhism, and you won’t understand what he means by “Buddhism” unless you have a basic idea of secular Buddhism, so… here you go.)

https://tricycle.org/magazine/secular-buddhist/

PS: No, I wouldn’t describe myself as a secular Buddhist; I’m not any kind of Buddhist; but understanding more about mindfulness meditation (and actually making the effort to practice it, which is where I usually let myself down…) has me closer to being back on-track than any other thing I’ve done, since my summertime depressive dip.

Memories, October 2018, 1

Why did she tell him things about me, that I had long since told him? Did she think I would hide anything from him? The fact that she and her fuck buddy are natural liars (in things of consequence, as well as things of no import) and have a deep-seated terror of being truly known by anyone else–or being known by themselves, maybe–doesn’t mean the rest of us are like that.

Any time I messaged my alleged friend (her fuck buddy) within a few hours, she had responded by sending half-truths and whole truths and outright fantasies to my love, trying to get him to dislike or distrust me. He asked me a dozen times or more (I like the romance of the phrase, “a dozen times or more,” but in reality, he probably asked 40 or more times, in about two months) if he could please just block her, and let’s be done with her obvious, weak-minded efforts at shit-stirring; he found it unutterably dull, more than anything else, but he also saw that it upset me to see how much she had lied in pretending to be my friend, and how desperate she was to hurt me, despite my still trying to wish her well.

The more my “friend” took her side, and made excuses for her behaviour–all the while playing on her well-documented instability, and trying to have us both in his life, without either committing to her properly or agreeing that we had a right to protect ourselves from her, i.e. by blocking her texts and other messages–the more it became clear, we couldn’t remain friends. Eventually, he was only contacting me to complain about my Vaguebooking (yes, often about this situation–but minus names, and if he felt guilty when he read some of the particulars, he should’ve tried to make amends, not harass me for offloading about my own hurts) and so I blocked him, and her, and several of the other people who had harassed me on Facebook, the previous year. (By harassment, I mean criminal offences–cyber bullying, threats of bodily harm, slander/libel, etc–which I was too forgiving, and too loyal to my “friend”, to go to the police about.)

I’m happier, now. I try not to think of them at all, or if I must, to remember their good points… that, I concede, is a struggle. What is the “good point” of two people who (with the benefit of hindsight plus the counsel of your loved ones) you now believe only ever lied to you and used you?

The main comfort I have, is that two such consummate liars deserve each other. They proved, repeatedly, that they were most adept at lying to themselves… so whether they’re happy or not, perhaps they’ll convince themselves they are, and stay together. I can’t think of many fates worse than that–so even if they enjoy living in a web of mutual falsehood, I can’t actually comprehend that, and deep down, I think they must be suffering in a way they’ve earned. And were they happy in truth, I’d still be done with them, and grateful for it.

But. Little things still niggle at me, from time to time, and yes, I’ll admit, still make me angry… the thought that she, a two-faced bitch who was lying the entire time she knew me, thought she could tell my (now) husband *anything* about me, that he didn’t know? Who the fuck does she think she is?

No. Who the fuck does she think I am, to keep secrets from the man I love and will spend the rest of my life with… does she think I’m her?

Recent Memories, September 2018, 1

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She called herself, “Spin”–one of her alter egos, one of the media through which she accesses the verbal communication the rest of the world seems to take for granted–and she spent an hour with me, playing on my phone and laughing at our shared jokes. I can tickle her again, it seems (and I *promised* her there would always be tickles, 6 and 7 and 8 and more years ago, and I KNOW SHE REMEMBERS, so I’m glad there are tickles now, just like I promised) and she laughs again, not every day, but at least she’s not crying every day anymore, and this may not last forever (what does?) but it’s good right now.

He plays Uno with us, almost every day. We’re about equally good at applying the rules, he and I, and perpetually appeal to the other adults for further instruction (I should be an adult, but I understand why I sometimes don’t seem like one–I catch on so slowly, at team games, at rules with variations, at anything with social give-and-take, so of course my own children are sometimes tempted to see me as one of them, just a strange older child who sometimes tells them what they can and cannot do, and makes their food, and sends them to their rooms to calm down when they get agitated). I digress.

We spend so much time laughing, the 2 of us more than anyone else in the room, and I help him, I suppose I “make” him cheat, to be quite frank: “If you do x, y will happen to me/Jake/Douglas…” and I chortle in my joy (yes, that’s from “Jabberwocky,” and yes, I had to look that one up, and no, it’s not a perfect quote even though I did look it up) and I don’t even care if he knows he’s my pick to win every game we play, even at (especially at?) my own expense, because what *is* a mother, if not the person you can count on to always be on your side, to tell you right from wrong and then turn around and declare that, ultimately, she would still love you and your sibling(s) best no matter what evil you committed?

And besides: he really *doesn’t* understand the rules, yet. When he’s a little older, we’ll stop reminding him to say, “Uno!” every time he’s down to one card. Or we won’t, and he will hardly be the only autistic teen/adult in the world, who gets some special dispensation so he can join in with everyone else, now will he? And if you don’t like it: FIGHT ME, BRO. It is right and just and good, for the more vulnerable to be given more help. I doubt my stance on that will ever change.

Stop digressing! Okay, I will.

She watches us, sometimes. She’s not yet confident enough to play, but I wonder if she would try if it were just the 3 of us? I’ll ask, in time; but only once I remember the rules better myself… that’s not a bad idea, generally speaking. How could it be bad? It’s a chance for me to properly be the adult, in the only situation where I’m convinced I can really be fair: arbitrating between the 2 of them, each the only entity I love in the same way, and with the same ferocity, that I love the other.

Ancient Memories, September 2018, 1

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We met in York, in person, that first time. I was still young enough that I didn’t wear make-up regularly (I barely knew the rudiments of applying it, at age 20) and I made sure not to wear any, before meeting him. That was one of the last times I remember wanting a man to see me, really see *just* me, before… well. Before meeting my husband, to be honest.

I still love York, and York Minster, and some coffee shop I’ll never remember the name of (was it in a library, or a bookshop?) for his sake. But I was married to my first husband then, and I stayed married to him for years, after that; and more to the point, marriage aside, I treated him so very badly, in the end. Some days, I can hardly think of him, without cringing–that’s a hard-to-admit fact, considering we’re still friends, and chat online a few times some weeks, and at least a few times most months–but it’s true. I hope his knowing that, won’t damage his affection for me.

But I won’t talk about that, today. It’s my prerogative to tell my own past as I wish, and it’s not as if he’d object, is it? He messages me, not most days, but many days, and I’m married to someone else now, I’ve had 2 kids since I broke his heart, and he’s engaged to a lovely woman, with a child of his own, and I can recall the bits *before* I ghosted him (near enough) if I want to.

I was still young enough that I was wearing a perfume (body spray?) I’d bought from a drugstore, that I liked better than the Dior fragrance I got one Christmas when I was about 14. It was sweeter, and I didn’t mind the hint of alcohol underneath the sweetness… when I think back, that seems like a metaphor for something–some childish refusal to look beyond the surface of anything, including things far more important than which $10 scent I wore–but what do you expect? I was young, young in years, wise in some ways (my friends’ mothers would tell you I was always abnormally wise, well beyond my years–“a sage at age 9,” one called me, earlier this year) but in the realms of human interaction, especially where physical attraction was concerned, I was woefully, embarrassingly, tragically naïve.

We kissed and held hands. I was married to someone else, but we kissed on street corners and held hands, and walked all over the city, for 9 hours or so. On the train home, I wrote 3 poems about him, and 1 about me, from his point-of-view, and I shared them all with him, and I couldn’t wait to see him again.

I remember I was still American enough then, to think that he sounded posh. (He does not have a remotely posh accent–it’s just a South-eastern English accent–but what did I know, then, about British accents or anything else?) I was fascinated by the way his mouth formed the words, the glottal stops and slight lisping over “r” sounds and the near-disappearance of “th” (which was usually replaced by something like a cross between “f” and “v”). Does he know that he almost never sounds a “th,” or is it something you don’t hear, growing up where he did? I’ve never been *quite* rude enough to ask him: a rarity for me, to deny myself an intrusive question (especially one about words/accents) but then, I suppose I figured I’d hurt him enough, and gratuitous rudeness at him was never to be tolerated, even from myself.

I said I wouldn’t go on and on about my guilt, didn’t I? Stop it.

His eyes were so shockingly blue I’m not sure how to describe the colour, and his mouth was such a deep, rose pink, it almost looked as if he’d worn lipstick. Navy blue and rose pink are my mother’s favourite colours, and the appeal is easy to see, when they show up next to each other on a human face. I’ve always been more attracted by colour than by shape… I’m pleased to say he photographs well, and even now (when I have faded and wrinkled and gone more silver than I care to admit) the startling blue and unparalleled pink are still very much trademarks of his general countenance, and his hair still looks mostly dark sable, as it did almost a decade and a half ago. But then, he’s led a good life, considerate, compassionate, and I? I’ve spent too much of my life either running from my mistakes, or trying to atone for them. Neither is conducive to retaining a smooth brow, hair pigmentation, or healthy colour in the lips and cheeks.

Fucking hell. I knew this would happen, if I tried to write about him. Back. On. Task.

He did a dozen little things, that still make me love him, so many years later. When a cynical voice whispers in my ear that he’s keeping tabs on me to see if I suffer as I deserve to, I remember the things he said to me, when I was 20; you’re too clever to work for a bank for the rest of your life, you should apply to a university, you should read more, write more, take more care of yourself, be kinder, kinder, kinder to yourself; and he still says the last two now. (He can’t tell me to go to uni, anymore–I finally did, and he was there to help me with my dissertation, an unsung hero who never got a thank-you on my acknowledgements page, because he didn’t want to be named.)

He’s still the yardstick (pardon me, but I *am* American) by which I measure other men; I don’t always listen to my own better judgment, but if I did, I’d have spent a lot less time hurting myself with poor choices, in the past 15 years. The guy who poked me in the face for smiling (not even laughing–smiling) about him? Never, never, never, if I had held him to the appropriate standard. Our relationship would have died an instant death that very day, IF it had even made it that far (he’d pitched verbal tantrums long before that day, hurled wild accusations, been deliberately hurtful, etc). All things… the guy I’m writing about now, I can’t think of a pseudonym for him… would never have done. (I know this, because I hurt him far worse than I hurt Face-Poking Eye-Blacker, and he never retaliated in any way; just told me I’d hurt him, and forgave me, and it was awful in its way, but it was the kind of awful a person actually deserves, unlike abuse, which is never the appropriate punishment for a partner or friend.)

My current husband reminds me a little of every person I’ve ever loved, and it’s that gentleness, that sweetness of spirit, that he shares with Guy Who Has No Pseudonym. My husband is not infallibly sweet and gentle–we’re in each other’s pockets A LOT, we’re raising 2 kids, my mental health is not as robust as we’d all prefer–but he never hurts me deliberately, and he forgives me if I hurt him. You would think that wouldn’t be so terribly rare, yet it is. He offers real forgiveness, not saying nothing at the time and using his pain as ammunition weeks, months, years down the line…. no, my husband–like Guy Who Has No Pseudonym–tells me in the moment if I’ve hurt him, and waits to see what I’ll do, and I am humbled into gentleness myself, by his sweetness and willingness to forgive me (the humbling happens much faster than it used to, now, as I’m ever so much more than 20–yes, that’s a line from Peter Pan–and I hope I will improve more, as I continue aging).

It’s a funny happenstance, when someone from your past is both a fond memory, and a cautionary tale; I don’t think it happens often. Most of the cautionary tales I know centre around people or behaviours I should avoid, red flags in relationships, tricks that people use to lull you into a false sense of security and then laugh at you, etc… it’s refreshing to have the converse happen: this is how not to treat a person who treats you well, this is what real kindness looks like, this is both a type of person AND a chance you don’t want to squander.

I would like to think that this time, I’ll actually hold onto the lessons I’ve learned, and by extension, the person I’m with now. Like I said, he’s the first man (the first person, possibly) since No Pseudonym who’s actually looked at me, seen through my bullshit, and found the person underneath the façade… at almost 35, I should be better than I was at 20, at holding on to someone who–despite my myriad flaws–loves me exactly as I am.