I love this time of year.
It is an easy time for reflection, to check in with myself and what I had hoped to accomplish this year. The blessing is that there are truly still 3 more months for me to decide if my beginning of the year goals still feel right or if in the past 9 months things have changed so much that I need to think about my next steps forward.
In my Care Giver Therapy Group, the facilitators are very good at reminding you of everything you have shared that you have been going through and reminding you that are still standing. When someone has a particularly difficult week, some one always ask you, "So what good things are you doing for yourself?" Some people walk, some treat themselves to some pampering, but for most, the answer is that I carved out time to come to this group meeting. It is a very interesting and diverse group, all united by loving and caring for someone who has depression, anxiety or Bipolar and the extreme wear and tear faced by the care givers.
For me, self care is my writing, going to the group therapy and making time with friends. This weekend is what I am beginning to understand will be my annual pilgrimage to my girl friends house for a small retreat. She is someone who I very much feel at ease with and at peace around and she is a wonderful friend to while away the hours reflecting on all that has happened in our lives. She is someone who has witnessed me at my best and loved me through my worst and ugly moments. Her friendship comes with no strings, no judgement, no advice. Just a big ole hug, a glass of wine, a full belly and then a pat on the head as she sends me back out into the world. When I leave her home, I feel settled into my bones.
My life is very different than it was this time last year, but I am still a big ole mess.
July and August had taken it's toll on me at work. Going to work was making me sick to my stomach. Working six days a week, back to back to back and having people take their stress and anger out on me was causing me so much anxiety that my stomach was hurting, my guts were endlessly rumbling and I started bleeding, which is a sign I had irritated ulcers. I had no back up plan, no savings, and no job prospects, but I gave my two weeks notice. Being unable to pay my bills seemed a far better option than me getting sick and losing a portion of my colon due to the ulcers for work related stress.
I had not been able to afford the $1,300.00 a month medications with my current health insurance and had been off the medicines for about a year. When I showed up in a panic at my GI doctors office they were able to give me her "samples" and she and her nurse started collecting other doctor's samples to get me through until we could find another alternative to this medicine that I could tolerate. Two weeks of oral steroids, antibiotics and the expensive medicines and I was on the mend.
At work, my manager asked me to not quit. She basically told me that I would either learn to set boundaries at this job or I would have to start over with a new employer. Like me, she knew this would be a repeated lesson until I learned to set and maintain my boundaries. My employer agreed to let me reduce my hours and I decided the devil I knew was better than the next learning curve with the next employer. Discussions were had and agreements were made, so I stayed.
My relationship of four years was also in serious trouble. My boyfriend had begun hiding information from me. Things he decided I didn't need to know. After his actions were inadvertently outed by his son at the dinner table, I asked him why he hadn't told me. His reply was, "I thought I would have it all taken care of before you found out." That one sentence wrapped up the core of why our relationship continued to have problem after problem.
In the prior four years, he spoke of wanting to be a partner, so we defined to each other what that meant, but when push came to shove in any area of his life, he decided what to do and what not to do. He carried the weight and tried to shield me from the burdens. He was so overwhelmed and stressed that he could not get far enough away from the situations to see clearly what needed to be done. He made his decisions and justified them. It was awful to walk beside him through these difficult times. It was awful to be in my head during those difficult times. I did not speak kindly to myself about being the woman who would put up with shit like this. I could clearly hear what I would tell a friend in my situation. My thoughts were so self destructive and angry.
Last summer it seemed that we were making steps forward, that we were really connecting and hearing each other. We had spent so many hours talking about our relationship and what we each wanted. We had the most incredible two week vacation full of non-stop, one on one, 24x7 car camping with four kids. We had spent many child free weekends curled up in bed discussing the future.
Then, in one Sheriff's letter left on the door, I began to see that we were no closer to being partners than we had been two years prior. Which means in the four years we had been together, nothing had changed after many, many, many nights of conversations and discussions about what we each needed to do to create a strong and happy relationship.
The problem is I love this man.
There are huge aspects of my life where he makes me incredibly happy. I have never had a better lover, travel partner, bed partner, or friend to talk to. The problem as I see it is that he wants to take care of everything and be the man and the provider...and what I want is a partner. But partners don't hide things from each other. They don't make major decisions without coming to agreement. They don't lie to each other. They don't try to cover things up.
A couple of nights after that initial conversation about the lying and hiding of information, I mistakenly asked if there was anything else he hadn't been honest about. It was supposed to be a rhetorical question, but it didn't turn out to be. He told me that he had not been absolutely honest, more skirted around an issue with his parents that he had agreed he would be 100 percent honest with them about. This had been a huge part of the condition of us getting back together the year prior. I was tired of lying and covering and half truths when I was around his parents. I had asked for proof that he was ready to wipe his slate clean and start anew, and him being honest with them was the gift he would give me to show me that there would be no more lying, ever again. His parents could decide how they wanted to move forward, once they knew all of the facts.
I had spent a fucking year believing we were all on the same page.
Slowly, it sank into my heart that we had spent 4 years supposedly working on our relationship and trying to rebuild a foundation for our love, only it was all a lie. All of those nights talking were wasted. There is no definition of partner that includes hiding things and lying to each other.
That cost me the final threads of trust I had clutched tightly in my heart. I asked him to leave me alone, to leave my bed. I am not in a place emotionally to want to "work" on our relationship. I just know that when I look at him I get angry and I don't know what to do with that anger. I have been trying to figure out what rebuilding trust actually looks like and if it is something I want to attempt.
The fucked up part is that I have had many visions of growing old with him.
I have told him this several times, but the caveat in that vision is that it is very clear to me in that we are not together consistently from now through then. When he has asked me where do I see our relationship in 5 years, I have told him I am not certain. In 10 years, I do not see us together. Much later in life, I do see us together. I literally cannot imagine what turn of events happen that allow me to trust him again, but I know this is my issue and I will need to work through it on my own.
What magical event is going to take place in my life that allows me to take a risk with my heart again? I can't see how it all plays out, but I know that I end up just fine.
While all of my relationship drama was happening, a very dear friend of mine's husband was fighting for his life against a very aggressive cancer. Her husband ended up with many complications eating and was in a great deal of pain. He is the first person I have ever known who was this kind of sick. I spent a lot of time praying for him and his family and in my head trying to make sense of such why this wonderful man, attentive father and kind husband had been given this shit hand to play. I wrestled with guilt that there was nothing I could do but pop in to see him, hold his hand, make some terribly bad jokes and then run as fast as I could to the elevator to cry.
This was going to be my first friend to die.
Before heading up for my girl friend retreat last year, I stopped by the hospital just in case he died before I came back. I didn't want him to die without knowing that my whole life would forever be changed for having gotten to know him and his family and for the fact that he was going to die. That morning, he told me so. I gently hugged him, stood for a few minutes just holding his hand, told him I loved him and would miss him. He asked me to continue to be a good friend his wife and son. It was a moment I will never forget and that I linger in far too often.
I don't want to die not having lived the life I dream of. I don't want to die before I become the woman I know is in me. I am not ready to die.
I didn't see regret on his face when he knew he was dying. I saw resolve. When I met his friends from different stages of his life, they all described a man who had always been himself. He was the good friend, good man, good husband, good father, involved community member I had grown to know. He was steady and solid and just comfortably his real self.
If I were to die today, my friends would see regret on my face.
Being near death changes you. There is no way to be near death and not take stock of where the fuck you are in your life plan.
I was kind of a wreck when I got to my girl friends house. As much as I enjoyed the visit and the respite from reality, I was very preoccupied with thoughts of his death, my own death and most importantly what time I have left to live. It was like reliving my mid life crisis. I was not where I wanted to be. I was not who I wanted to be. I was not creating the life I wanted. I was not in a relationship with someone who I trusted. When I took measure of my life, I was irritated and pissed at myself.
That whole, I haven't come this far to only come this far quote kept cycling in my brain. To find myself at damn near the same fucking crossroad that I had stood at almost 6 years earlier trying to decide if I would put a single moment's more energy into my marriage or if I walked away, alone. The Universe will just keep recreating the same damn lesson, until I learn what I am meant to learn.
Am I willing? Am I willing? Am I willing? That is the drum beat I hear in my head from the Universe.
Am I willing to risk being alone? Am I willing to be alone to become the person I want to be? Am I willing to be alone to create the life I want? Am I willing to take risks? Am I willing to risk it all? Am I willing to be uncomfortable? Am I willing to be scared? Am I willing to fail?
There has never been a moment when I have thought can I be? Just am I willing.
At the end of 2016, I decided I was willing.