Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Selective memories

"But most of what will happen now is way out of our hands, so just let it go, see where it lands."

I'm happy to say that I've walked around the lake six times in six days. Twice alone, four times with Neil. The weather has yet to be as pretty as the first day. It's been overcast, windy or on the cool side. I had shin splints after my second walk but I pushed through them and now I'm doing fine.

As far as glass goes, I've been moderating my torch time and taking time to think about where I want to go with my art. I've made more sets using limited colors, which has been fun, but the jury still is out on whether or not they will sell. Here is a photo of my bench a few days ago, my rods laid out for my next torch session.



And the beads I made with those colors.



I'm also tapering off the medication that I think has stymied my weight loss efforts. It's a theory anyway. I've been taking three separate prescriptions for the anxiety that was crippling me a few years ago. I felt so much better on this combination than I'd ever felt before, with the possible exception of a manic phase in 1998.

I felt a little too good back then. I didn't recognize what I was feeling as mania. It was medication related. I had just separated from my first husband. We'd been married for almost 15 years, and our relationship was a war zone. Where do I even begin the story? We came from different worlds. I married a bearded artist and then grew angry because he wasn't a successful businessman, a good provider. I own my share in the disintegration of our marriage.

I'd been hurt in my mid-twenties by a man I loved. We met when we both started law school, the evening program at Bates College of Law. I was 24, with a history of outgrowing the men I dated, the men who loved me. He was 27, divorced for about five minutes, with a 3 year old son. He was the first man I ever wanted to marry.

We were together for four months, September through December, and it was a beautiful and life-changing time for me. A therapist later characterized our time together as a typical transitional relationship for him, the one that reassured him he was still desirable. I was merely an unintended consequence (although we learned in our first semester of tort law that you take your victim as you find him, the "thin skull rule"). I gave my heart too soon, I was in love and vulnerable. He told me right after the New Year that he wanted to focus on his son, his job, his classes. He wanted to be "just friends."

I was devastated. I felt bereft. A very difficult year followed for me and if it hadn't been for the support of my friends Sarah and Eileen, who knows how (or if) I would have pulled myself out of the quagmire of depression that engulfed me. Somehow that season I started a new job. I continued to pay my rent and the note on my little Dodge Omni. And one night that winter I stared down a bottle of pills that were the only thing standing between me and death. OK, I probably wouldn't have died, just made myself really sick, but I didn't know that then.

After I surmounted that nadir and made the huge decision to live, I slowly started getting well again. But for the next two and a half years, I met no man who I wanted to marry, and I confronted the notion that "all the good ones" were taken. When I met my future ex-husband, I had no expectations that he would be different from the commitment-averse toads and frogs I had been hooking up with. He was different though. He liked me and he was persistent. He didn't get discouraged by my initial total lack of reinforcement of his advances. He just kept asking me out.

And one hot Sunday in August, when my roommate was working at her job at Houston Public Library, he called and said he and some friends were going to grill some steaks and drink some wine coolers. When the phone rang, I thought it was my mom, and I was all ready to burst into tears of loneliness and frustration. Instead I thought, why the hell not? So I went and ate steak and drank wine and fruit punch, and his friends were a really nice couple and it was fun.

He called me when he said he'd call, and asked me out every weekend after that. Today, all these years later, I don't remember ever really being smitten. I must have loved him but I don't remember being in love. I remember feeling insecure, jealous of his women friends, waiting for the other shoe to fall, the week when he would stop calling. Yet Christmas found us exchanging gifts and by spring we were making plans to live together.

In retrospect, I know that I married him on the rebound, from a true love affair gone south and the long months of lovelessness that followed. I may even have reasoned that if I loved him less than he loved me, then I'd have a certain immunity from being hurt again. I replay the movie of my life in my head, and I see that there were times of happiness. We adopted a kitten. I met more of his nice friends. We went to the Renaissance Festival, and when I said I wanted to buy a little gold ring with a unicorn, he asked if he could buy me an engagement ring instead.

Even as he went down on one knee, or maybe both knees, the emotions I remember feeling were fear and doubt, and a sort of melancholy that this man was proposing to bing himself to me. I felt unworthy of love, if you want the truth, and that is never a good time to get yourself hitched. But I pushed through it. My friend Shawn used to tell me to trust my gut feelings. I think I was messed up enough back then to not recognize a gut feeling if one smacked me upside the head.

I admit that I look back at my first marriage through heavy filters of all the discord and alienation that came later. I'm sure there must have been love, we must have been happy together at one time, I'm just unable to remember the love or the happiness. I remember the first year of marriage being a difficult one. Jon left his job, the one he'd had since we met, and then lost two subsequent jobs by the time we'd clocked our one year anniversary.

One of things we had in common, despite our differences, was the desire to have children. The year I was pregnant with our daughter Kandace was the last happy year that I remember. After that it was our mutual love for our child, our children that bound us. My mother used to ask me why I had a second child when I was so unhappy with my marriage. My answer is, I loved my daughter so much that I wanted to give her the gift of a sibling. I was close to my brother and I wanted that for her, and I wanted to be pregnant again, to try to recapture the magic of that first time. I have no regrets about that decision whatsoever, although we remained stubbornly unable to recreate any semblance of peace and harmony.

We stayed married for ten more years after we accomplished our last joint goal, getting pregnant with our second child, but there was no joy in Mudville. Wait, no, there was much joy, I loved my children with all the passion missing from my relationship with their father. Why I stayed married to him is a seriously complicated equation. I felt that I'd made my bed and now had to lie in it. I loved being a family despite him. I felt trapped in a morass of fatigue and disappointment, despair and inertia. I wasn't so much afraid of being alone as I was terrified of how despicably he'd behave in a divorce. As bad as things were, he did not want to end the marriage. But he didn't take action to make things better either.

I think he was truly shocked when I told him that I thought the horrible anxiety I'd been suffering from would not get better unless we separated. I suppose when you systematically undermine your wife's self-esteem lo these many years, you will de facto think that you have broken her, decimated any initiative she might take to seek freedom. I'm amazed to this day that I did it. The grief and remorse I suffered when he moved out were almost overwhelming. If he'd entreated me with love to try again, to keep trying, I would have knuckled. I'm grateful that he choose to respond with anger and bitterness instead.

Shortly before the demise of our marriage, my GP suggested I medicate my depression. I resisted first, then tried and failed my first psycho-pharmaceutical experience. It was after that that I began to have panic waves severe enough to send me to bed. The second medication was the one that precipitated my mania. I started feeling good, really good, aggressively good, as my doctor kept increasing the dosage.

I didn't know I was manic, I just had all this energy, I was awake at 4 a.m. cleaning my house, I was super-creative at work and for the first time in forever I was getting attention from men. I was also frightfully impulsive and self-indulgent. I ran up some impressive credit card bills. I wasn't sleeping though, and months later I self-combusted from physical and psychological exhaustion. I titrated the meds and began coming to terms with my new normal.

It was a rough ride for a while, but I've nothing but gratitude for the manic energy that steamrolled me forward through the divorce, along with the new friends I'd made online, thanks to being an early adopter of interactivity on the World Wide Web. Day or night, someone was out there to talk to about getting unmarried. The next years were a gallimaufry of highs, lows and in-betweens, and all the while I rode the merry-go round of better living though biochemistry,

A story for another day.

"So we went rolling on down through the years taking time off we could steal
Until the thief of things unreconciled stuck it's stick into the wheel
Now we're tumbling in a freefall, no one's gonna go unscathed
But it's not because you held back and its not how I behaved ...

There are avenues and supplements and books stacked on the shelf
Labyrinths of recovery in search of our best self
But most of what will happen now is way out of our hands
So just let it go, see where it lands."

(Amy Ray and Emily Saliers)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz