Friday, November 30, 2007

A Hostile, Barren Environment

A friend I made in St. Louis moved out to the west coast with her husband and daughter, to a city about 4 hours away. She is someone I felt an affinity with very quickly when we were new to her hometown, and I was delighted to have her within visiting distance.
When we had a reunion in Astoria shortly after their move just over a year ago, I found an ease and simple happiness in being with her that I hadn't felt for some time. They came for a visit just this past Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Gary had hesitated a little when I proposed her visit. Once it became clear that there wasn't going to be enough snow to make a ski trip worthwhile, and his father said it wouldn't be a good weekend for us to come visit *him*, he said I was free to invite her.

On Friday when she was within an hour of arriving Gary said he didn't want company. This was the 'only time' we'd be able to 'have our time as a family'. I said it was too late to withdraw my invitation. It was 5:30; he'd offered to 'get' dinner (warm up Thanksgiving leftovers). I said I wanted to wait dinner for their arrival so they could eat with us.

When they arrived he made it very clear that he'd been inconvenienced by having to wait dinner. The presence of his resentment was the elephant in the room and a fact for the duration of the visit.

Sun 941

Helena and Emma are here; arrived Fri evening. Gary very resentful and a negative presence. The kids self-centered and restive. Not quite what I’d hoped for in terms of atmosphere with Helena. I’m sorry, because I feel like this subjected her to some real discomfort, coming into this atmosphere where Gary’s attitude was more of a weight than I’d expected. I just feel sad, and have with just about every hourly check-in.


I feel really low. I feel about as low as I did at Christmas in 2004. I feel beaten down. Ground down.

Yeah, this visit with Helena sat heavily. Part of it because Gary was truly unfriendly and passive-aggressive, from the start when she asked him how he was and he said he was “not in a good mood”. I’m not sure it entirely recovered, the visit, from the spectre hanging over, that Gary resented the presence of my guests and didn’t do much to conceal it. Helena asked me about it and at first I denied that Gary’s behavior had anything to do with their presence, that he was just mad at me in general, but a part of me felt uneasy in denying her perception and experience of the truth. I felt weird lying about it and conflicted: would telling the truth be indulging MY uneasy feelings at the expense of hers? Would telling her that yes, Gary HAD changed his mind about it being ok for me to invite them (but he’d done that AFTER they were already en route) be worse for her? I told her that he would have been resentful about anyone I’d invited because it was a way he could express his resentment toward me. I apologized several times for her having driven 3-4 hours only to have to be subjected to that atmosphere

There was a 24 hour hangover after the visit, where I was reminded of having slipped off a rubber raft as a child. I sank to the bottom and laid there on my back looking at the sunlight that was illuminating the lake. The water filtered it and made it appear yellow-green. I felt a sensation as if I had always been there. I had no urgency to breathe and no fear. I might still be lying there had my father not pulled me out. I had the same sensation after Helena left, of having reached some sort of bedrock from which I could go no lower.

Now I see that I was living in 'a hostile, barren' world. And the contact with it sapped my will to a point where I lost the will to keep myself from sinking. I guess I have to have respect for Gary's personal power, to have been affected to this extent by his smoldering anger. How did he do that? For that period of time it was as if the very atoms of the world were constructed from a base of resentment; it was the air we breathed.

And what precipitated it was he changed his mind about whether or not it was ok with him that we have company. I have been in situations too where I've wondered what I was thinking when I gave a permission or agreed to something that I fiercely regretted. But my agitated feelings belong only to me, in that case, because I did give my agreement. I can be angry with mySELF for my short-sightedness, but I really can't legitimately be angry with the person I made the agreement with.

It seems that if this is true, then the threshold for setting off one of these cold wars is pretty low. That suggests that staying may mean more periods of nuclear winter, set off by just about anything.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Don't know if this makes a difference...

I had a protracted time in the mate-search. Met Gary at 31, re-met at 33 (long story), married at 35. Then, with the casual assumption of youth, that motherhood would be available to me any time I wanted, we waited 4 years before attempting pregnancy. Passed our 5 year anniversary with me 7 months along with Connor. I was 40, 4 months from my 41st birthday when he was born. Again the casual assumption that the opportunity would be there for me when I felt ready to add a sibling to our family. I'd heard a 3 year spacing was optimal and it made sense at the time. In the meantime we'd moved from our city in the Pacific Northwest to the midwest. Pregnancy did not come easily this time, in fact we scraped together what funds we had and a credit card for our one shot at fertility treatments: injectible fertility drugs and interuterine insemination. To our enormous good fortune this resulted in Scott. We had a 4 year spacing between the boys, and I was nearly 45 when Scott was born.

My own baby gave me baby hunger and for a while I intensely longed to try again and to hell with spacing. Fortunately there was no pregnancy before Scott's turning 3 with an older sibling sobered me up quick. I was pretty maxed out with two, and the dynamic between them.

So, I became a mother in my forties. Since the oldest is now 10 I'm 51. Married for 15 years. An at-home mom for 8 years (our move to the midwest was partly motivated by the prospect of a family wage by one earner so I could be home with the kid(s). We moved back to the northwest just 3 years ago after 5 in St. Louis.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Information Needed to Guide My Decision...

I realized recently how much my historical approach to decision-making impacts this. It's only recently that I've realized how far back it goes, or to what extent it affects my life.

The book, "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy spoke directly to that issue, and made me realize how I've always tried to decide-by-not-deciding. Blind to the fact that not-deciding is a decision too. In this story a man and his young son are survivors of a nuclear holocaust (I presume) and are on the move (the boy born within days of the event). The boy's mother survived the disaster as well, but at a certain point has chosen to opt out of the life that's left. She's deaf to the husband's pleadings saying she'd rather not wait for the inevitable to happen, and that she would have 'taken' the boy too had it not been for him (her husband). It is an unrelentingly bleak book, with a constant struggle for food and shelter. It made the instinct to survive seem sub-human and terrible. Things were going well if they were 'only' struggling for food and shelter. There was constant threat of marauding bands of degenerated humans who'd sunk to cannibalism and other barbarities, such as enslavement. There was no indication that life would ever be different. Obviously the father had made HIS decision (and the boy's), but I questioned it at every step. In such extreme circumstances, wouldn't the most ethical thing to do be to kill the child and put him beyond the reach of the horrors of this world? Is it not a cruel thing to do, keeping him alive and suffering? It seems the father's motivation was to have the chance of propogating a bit of decency into humankind's future. Which trumps which--the present suffering of one's child, or the duty to humankind?

In my mind I could not decide this, and I could see that this was a situation where clearly by not making a choice one is making a choice. Kind of a roundabout way of making a choice, the purpose I guess is to obscure one's own responsibility in a matter. Otherwise, why not just make the choice you'd have 'chosen' anyway by not-choosing?

So I either stay married to Gary, or I don't.

The question I really need answered that I don't think is unambiguously answerable is if it's doing harm to my sons to be in the environment of this marriage. And since it's not possible to both raise them in this marriage, and raise them OUT of this marriage and then compare the two results to see which has the best outcome, I'm not sure. Are they being impacted in insidious ways by the tension in our marriage, the culture they're growing up in? When Scott (6) has been aggressive at school is it due to an internal agitation that he can't name, but still lowers his thresholds for acting out? He was such a sweet baby. Yesterday my older boy, Connor darted out in front of a car. Not close enough that the driver had to slam on brakes, but enough to scare me. He said he 'wanted danger'. He's affected bravado and professed to admire a sort of outlaw lifestyle (such as skateboarders), and is quite fearless skiing and playing sports, but I've never seen him do something stupid like that before. Is this a manifestation of his internal state that comes from exposure to our mutual atmosphere?

I don't expect them to be able to tell me if and how it's harming them. But intuitively, it seems that a culture of happiness would be an entirely different base to be operating from. Surely that would affect their trajectory?

Gary is truly dealing by not dealing. The marriage is mine to leave because he's not going to make a move to leave it, or a move to heal it. His choice is to ignore it and hope it will go away, and even the prospect that it's harming his sons isn't enough to make him take action.

So the choice is mine.

The counseler I'm seeing I saw for 7 years 14 years ago. When we ended it was a very unsatisfactory way of terminating a therapy relationship. We pretty much had no contact for the 14 years, last year about this time I was reflecting on the gift that her therapy had brought me--the ability to 'listen' to internal processes while suspending judgment--and I contacted her. I'd found she was leading a study group of an author I was interested in, and I wanted to see about joining. She asked me to come in for a session first, and to bring my dreams. I agreed, but I thought it was to talk about the study group...I had no sense of a need for therapy.

In the years since I saw her last she became a Jungian analyst (hence the dream assignment). In the dream I brought her my youngest son was in my arms. We were on a beach on the bank of a stream that had cut its way through the sand. I was annoyed with my son who was squirming but fussing when I'd try to set him down. Then he fell into the stream and there I was, poised above, angry, and I couldn't decide whether to jump in after him as he floated downstream, or run along the top calling assurances to him and getting him where the stream met the ocean.

Sharon's take: I'm facing some important decisions, and I sense danger to my son. She feels she has the skills to help me 'have all of myself with me' when I make those decisions. I agreed to return.

I'm still not sure what it will look like to 'have all of myself with me' in making my choices. For again, I suspect this about much more than a divorce.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Under Construction

This blog is under construction while I learn the skills to customize it and make it more viewer-friendly.

I'm a diaryist (?) and have kept one since I was 14. It's been a place where I can speak with my authentic voice; though sometimes that Voice comes through obscured by the straitjacket of the darker, more authoritarian side of western, quasi-Christian, 'traditional' (50's and early 60's style) American values.

So why would anyone want to read my thoughts?

I honestly don't really know. But, along my way I have often read and listened to other voices that were speaking from a place of authenticity and have felt enriched and helped in my journey. I've used my diaries to explore what may be themes common to humanity. (*Some* kind of theme has led humanity to seek a god, to seek salvation.)

In reading over my old diaries I see a process of unshackling my thoughts and being able to claim them as mine. The thoughts of others before me have encouraged me, and my hope is that I can give back some of that encouragement to others who are seeking.

My current manifestation of a theme of choosing and being responsible for my choices is a decision whether or not to divorce my husband of 15.5 years. We have 2 sons, one 10 and one 6.

As I weigh my options and potential consequences I see that this is about much more than divorce.

So I'm going to take a leap and write my process.

I'm in therapy with a Jungian therapist right now, and I'm all about archetypes and metaphors. Making this decision about whether or not to divorce has exposed layer upon layer...of whatever it is that has gotten me here. When I set up the blog I was asked to choose a name. I couldn't think of anything better (I'm terrible at things like that), so I chose excavator, but I don't know if I'll keep it.

Everything is under construction, this site, my decision, my life.

I have to go pick up a son from school for his vision therapy.