A conversation over Margaritas and bad nachos

Manager's happy hour ;)We’d been there for more than an hour, nearly two, when she casually turned to me and said, “Did I tell you that my husband and I broke up?”

I turned to her, startled. My eyes big, my face frozen, I silently shook my head in response.

Her words were nearly drowned out by the noise in the room. We had been sitting in a sports bar with an important soccer game blaring from what seemed like 200 big screen televisions. The crowd was rowdy, especially two hours in. We’d all had a few cocktails by that point. And the game had been especially frustrating.

Still, she spoke quietly enough that the other friends at the table didn’t hear her, just me. I was to find out shortly that the others knew already, had known. I was the last to find out in our little group.

Her timing was beautiful. In that crowded, noisy room I couldn’t give her the third degree that would normally follow that pronouncement. I couldn’t ask her when it happened, what pushed her to make the decision, how he took it. I couldn’t ask her how she was handling it, where she was living (did he move out or did she), or how her family was reacting to the news. I couldn’t force her to answer tough questions.

I think that was the point.

She told me, in brief sentences, the bare basic details. And that will have to do, for now. I expect that, down the road, we will actually talk about this. But it’s not going to be anytime soon.

I’ve known her for nearly 20 years. One of the few friends I’ve kept from college, some years we are closer than others. I attended her father’s funeral and held her up during the funeral of her best friend. But I wasn’t at her wedding. I wonder now, five years later, if it was just that that was one of those years we weren’t that close, or if it was just the beginning of a long pattern that ended in tonight’s pronouncement.

Thinking about it, about the timing and the fact that she didn’t tell me until she literally had to (because someone else might have) I start to put things together. She’s been impossible to get this year. I’ve tried in vain many times to schedule a lunch or brunch. She’s busy busy busy, and never proposed alternate dates. But that’s happened before. Sometimes we go months and months between offline conversations, so I hadn’t given it too much thought. Now I know, though, that she was acquiring a new situation.

She’s told me, many times, that she and her husband have been together a decade. They’ve been married for half that time. In all those years I can count in single digits the times I’ve met him. I used to tease her that he was imaginary. The imaginary husband that’s only real in photos and hazy recollections. And we would both laugh.

The truth is that, for me, the pattern of what a marriage is comes from those within my immediate family. My mother, my sisters all have very traditional, old-fashioned marriages. They are a couple and rarely do things apart. If one attends an event, it’s more likely that they’ll both be there.

That’s not the case with my friends. Most of my friends have separate lives, separate friends from their spouses. They spend time apart and it’s not considered odd.

But, truthfully, not many of my friends are actually married. At least, not many of my close friends.

Odd.

And so, I had a non-conversation about a pending divorce with a bar scene in the background.

* * *

Credits:

The people that I trust in my home

My living space
original photo by nick southall

I don’t invite many people into my home. I meet friends and coworkers at restaurants, cafes, lounges, stores and offices. We get together at nice, public, neutral places. Places that don’t belong to me. Places for which I’m not responsible.

I spent a lot of years living in a full house. My mother and my brother moved in with me just after I graduated from college. And I became the head of household with all that that entails. Arianna moved in shortly after, with the pretext that she was going to help with the bills. After that there was never any room, never any privacy. I didn’t invite people over.

And many many years passed.

It was just a few years ago that I got my space back. A quaint, comfortable little apartment in the middle of town that was perfectly perfect. Big bedroom, big closets, and small living room and dining room. Just enough space for me. And not enough space for anyone else.

In the two years I lived there I only hosted two dinners: one for friends and one for family. Both were within a few months of moving in. Then I never did it again. I did bring a few friends in, casually, but that didn’t go well and it only reinforced my natural hermit tendencies.

If I invite you to come over to my place, it’s rude to just bring someone else without checking. It’s mean to tell me that the place is really small, “so cozy,” 50 different ways in a condescending tone. It’s hurtful to tell me that I’m wasting my money on rent and should be a grown up and buy a house.

If I invite you into my home, you should be a good guest.

I’ve lived in this new place for nearly a year and just this week had friends over for dinner. Not family, who are here frequently but I haven’t actually had over for a formal dinner, but friends.

Immediately after making the invitation i looked around and I worried. There were piles of shoes on the floor of my bedroom… my tiny bedroom that looks like the dorm-room of some college kid. There were piles of dishes sitting in the sink and stacks of mail on my coffee table. And I had a laptops and stacks of files on the dining room table.

And so I cleaned and organized and washed and got things settled. and then I worried… Did I clean the house well enough? Is everything organized? Will they like it? Did I get enough food? Did I get the right food? Etc., etc., etc.

In essence, what they think would matter. By inviting them over I was giving them the opportunity to judge me. And that’s what I was worried about.

My home is my safe space. Why would I invite you into my safe place if I don’t trust you?

***** Written on my ipad. I promise to proof and edit it later (maybe). ******

Supporting Adoptive Families

One of my best friends recently adopted a baby boy, and by “recently” I mean he’s about a month old. She and her husband went through an open adoption. They’ve been tring to have a child for years and have quite literally tried almost everything medically possible. Earlier this year they decided that it was time to look at adoption as a serious option and started the process.

Some other time I will write about the heart-wrenching steps involved in adoption, and the judgment she suffered from family, friends and coworkers. There’s not enough time today to get into all of that.

However, I have noticed that since she started the process and I learned so much about this, through her, I’ve seen adoption articles everywhere. Stories online, in print, on TV about adopting, about giving up a child for adoption, and about raising an adoptive child. I thought I’d share this one since it actually applied to me: “5 Ways to Support New Adoptive Families” in mamiverse. Here’s the short version:

  1. Before the new arrival comes home, drop by some meals that can be frozen and served for their first few days as a new family.
  2. In the family’s first few days home, resist calling too much…  Then, once you are more regularly connecting, always call before you stop by.
  3. First and foremost, respect that the parenting experience in adoption is always unique and that the parents in that situation know the most about what to do.
  4. Offer to come over and give support to the parent—doing laundry, cleaning, mowing the lawn, etc. 
  5. Ask questions.  How are you doing?  What can I do?  What is going well?  What’s hard?  How can I be more helpful?  What do you need?  How was the journey?  What have you learned?  What helps?  It is so nice to have a willing listener as you process the experience.

Read the entire article, these are great tips. It’s good to know I was doing one or two things right already.

I need help, but I’m not going to ask for it

Why is it so hard to ask for help? And I’m not just talking about asking friends and family for favors and support. I mean actually going to a professional to ask for help working through emotional and psychological distress. Or even just asking for pharmacological aid in making it through a tough period.

I have friends who are seeing a therapist on a regular basis. I have friends who are or have been on antidepressants. I have friends who are or have been in support groups. I have been on anti-anxiety medications.

None of use volunteer that information easily. None of us discuss it openly. And none of us approached the decision to ask for help as an easy one.

A few months ago I had this conversation with a few friends, over a catch-up lunch.

One of my friends was just beginning the process of a divorce, ending her 15-year marriage. Though she was confident in her decision to proceed, she was having trouble sleeping and found herself having panic attacks whenever she stood still and thought about the future. A perfectly reasonable reaction, I thought.

Another friend asked her (as a continuation on a previous conversation) if she’d given any thought to going to her doctor to ask for some medication. And thus began a lively conversation on the merits of “getting help.” At the end of it came out the real reason she was hesitating… her soon-to-be ex-husband told her that “only crazy people did that.” And, ultimately, she didn’t want to deal with that reaction from others. Because, truthfully, she believed it a little bit.

I guess we all believe that, just a little. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be hesitating in asking my friends for the name of their therapists (because I know that I need to start seeing one). Otherwise, I wouldn’t still be putting off going to my primary care physician and asking for some anti-anxiety medication (for the first time in over three years). Otherwise, I wouldn’t be keeping my recent behavior so close to the vest.

And here I am, outing it for everyone to see. My little way of committing myself to addressing this crap.

To my friends I need to confess that I’ve been falling asleep on the couch, with all the lights on and the TV blaring. This happens almost every night. I haven’t been to the gym in months. I haven’t been working on my personal projects. I’ve been overspending and overeating. I’ve abandoned all my organizational/clean-up projects in my apartment. I haven’t been keeping up with my friends. I haven’t been going out… almost at all. I’m exhausted, all the time. I’m distracted. I forget things, a lot.

There’s family crap going on. There’s economy crap affecting work, on top of the regular stress factors. I’m obsessing over my next birthday, and it’s nine months away. I’m obsessing over where I am in my life and the goals I haven’t reached and the road not travelled. I’m feeling my solitary life in a way I hadn’t before.

And that’s just the stuff that’s made it to the front of my brain.

I haven’t asked for help. I need to. I will… probably.

Daily log, January 24 — a day of rest (sort of)

I need to get in the habit of going to walk on the weekends, especially since I haven’t found a good alternative for rain days. Of course, the good thing about the weekend is that I can get up later, and go walking by myself. Still hasn’t happened yet.

10 AM — no breakfast today, because I’m meeting the girls for brunch at Seco’s. This is one of my favorite places to go for brunch. If you haven’t tried it, put it on your list. It’s this tiny place on Nottingham (I think) off Kirby, behind Ben & Jerry’s. They have one of the best Sunday brunches in town, good food and very affordable.

1 PM — Brunch was a success! The poor waiter at Seco’s had to remind us that they had another reservation coming in. We’d lingered so long I don’t think we would have left otherwise. But that’s what happens when you combine good friends and good food.

I don’t even remember exactly what I ate, other than the fact that I had two servings of dessert: bread pudding and flan.

Brunch was followed by a visit to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I went to see the Faberge exhibit with a friend.

10 PM — dinner was McDonald’s, consumed at my sister’s house as I washed clothes. Boring, boring, boring.

{{Written on my iPhone}}