Posts Filed Under cohabitating with a man.

Invisible labor and the “small space” that’s ours.

by renegademama

Alright, I’ll admit it. I am having a rough time. Here’s what’s up: When I left California, I left the support network I’d built over 18 years to help me raise four kids and work as a writer. And now I’m without that network, starting over, and the domestic load is fucking killing me.

I used to have close friends within walking distance, my mom, and Mac’s mom. I used to have an office out of my house. I used to know how everything worked in my world, so I could get it done fast or easily send somebody else to do it. Now, I’m feeling quite alone with all this.

The details of my situation here are irrelevant. I could go through my day and the particulars of our marriage and house and schedules but it doesn’t matter. It’s not a fucking competition, and the more details we share, the more we’re held up for uninformed scrutiny from the masses. As soon as you say “This is hard,” half the world looks down on your sorry self and instructs how you could manage better, how they’ve learned what you haven’t, how if you’d just try harder you wouldn’t be having such a hard time. There’s so much you want to explain, so much nobody sees.

And I’m sure from the outside a person looks at me and thinks, “You live in the Netherlands surrounded by cobblestone and affordable healthcare. Shut the hell up, ya ungrateful shitbag.”

And that is true. Occasionally even the shitbag part.

But some things don’t change no matter where you live. In fact, for me, in this particular arena, life is quite a bit harder here.

The most difficult part of talking about the unequal division of domestic labor is that there’s no way to do it without making your husband sound like an asshole. There’s no way to talk about the bulk of the invisible labor on your shoulders without implicating the person you’ve partnered with, are happy with, and love, a lot.

So, we keep silent. But this isn’t about an individual man and it isn’t about my particular marriage or the idiosyncrasies therein. It is an oversimplification to say, “Your husband should do more.” It is a minimization to say, “Some men are better than yours.” This mentality is not understanding how deep this problem lives within him and within me.

We are products of the world that raised us.

For example, when I said “I do” at age 22, I didn’t come up with the idea that I would assume responsibility for damn near everything from start to finish. I didn’t go into marriage telling myself “You know what? THIS IS ALL MY JOB AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE.” I just knew it was. I didn’t even question it until I’d been married a decade and saw that my career, a career I cared about all the way to my bones, would be eradicated and impossible unless we, as a couple, changed.

If it involves the kids, finances, health, school, the house, overall social and familial relations, I tend to assume I own it. As in, it is mine. Sure, I can delegate it, but I will then manage the delegation. I will make sure it gets done. I will follow up, because it’s still mine, it’s just parsed out to somebody else temporarily. Ultimately, I feel it is on my shoulders to complete. And in fact, it is.

Who the fuck decided that?

In other words, the invisible labor of thinking, remembering, asking, tracking – the mental space required for all that – is still consumed in my brain. All the space in there feels taken up, largely by shit I never asked for and probably don’t care about.

It isn’t that I particularly enjoy or am uniquely interested in household organization and cleaning out drawers and getting new lightbulbs and making dentist appointments and planning playdates, it’s just that somewhere along the line, this became “women’s work” in addition to our regular work and I, for one, pretty much just do it. Or did it, unquestioningly. Some women find this stuff interesting, and that’s wonderful. I do not.

Here in this new country, I’ve started at zero again, and my whole brain is taken up.

Do you know what writing takes? WIDE OPEN FUCKING MENTAL FUCKING SPACE.

 

Motherhood is always more immediate. It’s always right here right now. And Mac’s work is outside the house. He has people who he’s building things for. Of course he needs to leave and do that work. But it feels sometimes a touch unreasonable that I, too, have work, hard work of a different kind, plus the burden of damn near all household management.

This arrangement feels a bit shitty for women and a bit awesome for men.

I was thinking recently about something I did a few years ago that felt like a radical act. I was trying to write my book and it wasn’t happening. I quickly realized “write book” was simply added to my to-do list, as if I could just carry on doing all the things I did before plus write an 80k word manuscript that didn’t suck.

After a small breakdown one Easter, I began leaving on occasional weekends to write for 18 hours. I knew something had to give. I just said FUCK IT and left my life, the mess, the kids, all of it. I booked myself into a motel room and worked. I got my whole book done that way. During the week, I’d barely write.

Now, my whole life looks like those barren weeks, and I don’t have the money to run off and write. I am erased again, it seems. How quickly we get eaten up if we aren’t paying attention.

Anyway, around that time, when I was fed up, I began asking every one of my kids’ teachers to add my husband’s email to their lists and always email both of us. This was a tiny, obvious step in making sure he had access to the same information I did. Despite my requests, many of the teachers still didn’t email him when problems arose.

So, I simply replied with a copy to Mac and a message that said: “My husband is handling this.” Sometimes I just emailed back “Please tell my husband.” Or I would forward it to Mac with the words: “Yours.”

It’s interesting that our default is to email only the mother. It’s interesting that even when I asked, people forgot to include him. It’s interesting that I didn’t fight this default setting for a full seventeen years of motherhood. It is all very fucking interesting.

 

Do you ever wonder how many things are simply assumed to be the woman’s job? Do you ever wonder how much more we could do if our brains weren’t consumed by so much monotonous drivel of daily life? By activities so opposite creativity and possibly individuality? By things that take and take and take and take and do you ever wonder why Sylvia Plath put her head in that oven?

Yes, depression. But could it also have been that she couldn’t bear a life of erasure? That her art, her writing, her purpose, was impossible in the context of her life and she couldn’t go on? A room of one’s own, indeed.

I don’t have answers. The truth is I move from resignation to gratitude to rage and back again. I look for words in stolen moments. I give up again. I ask somebody and nobody, “When the fuck did all of this become my job?”

I read the women who’ve gone before me, like Toni Morrison:

“I have an ideal writing routine that I’ve never experienced, which is to have, say, nine uninterrupted days when I wouldn’t have to leave the house or take phone calls. And to have the space—a space where I have huge tables. I end up with this much space [she indicates a small square spot on her desk] everywhere I am, and I can’t beat my way out of it. I am reminded of that tiny desk that Emily Dickinson wrote on and I chuckle when I think, Sweet thing, there she was. But that is all any of us have: just this small space…”

Sweet thing, there she was.

There we were.

How do you look at something and see your whole beloved life and the threat of erasure at the same time?

 

****

Speaking of carving out spaces for ourselves, there are five spots left in my Memoir writing workshop in April. We need your story.

Oh, and here’s my book. If you’ve read it, would you consider reviewing it on Goodreads or Amazon? And if you haven’t, maybe consider doing so if you like my work. I’m still over here talking about it because this book’s sales help me get the opportunity to write another.

I HATE MARKETING SO MUCH BUT I SURE LOVE YOU.

 

United against the children we birthed

by renegademama

Fine, I birthed them. That particular portion of the situation was mine and mine alone. But we made them together, and now that they’re here – all freaking four of them – I’m damn glad you’re here, Mac.

It’s funny, the way marriages change. The way you start out all in love and innocent and shit, dreaming of the family to come, or, in our case, drinking Captain Morgan and trying to raise a baby while getting to know each other and yelling.

And then you spend a few years realizing the person you married is, in fact, their own person, which seems rude and unnecessary, because as my partner I know how you should behave and if you would just follow through with my ideas of how you can improve yourself, we’d all be better off, dude.

And that begins the portion of the “Let me mold you into what I had in mind” stage, which can go on for years, and, as far as I can tell, culminates in either acceptance of the parts of the other person that will not change – or divorce.

Maybe an affair? Don’t know. Never considered that route. Sounds like too much work and a serious dick move. That’s what she said.

It’s fine. I’m a grown up.

Anyway, my husband and I are often told we’re like “the most in love couple ever,” which is for sure not true, because my grandparents existed, and they used to hold hands on the couch and flirt well into their 80s, and I watched their faces pressed together as my grandfather was dying, recounting their lives together, and I thought “They are the most in love couple ever.”

I mean, we like each other, which seems like something of a feat. I guess we flirt. We like to piss our kids off by making out in the kitchen. We’re definitely best friends.

It wasn’t easy getting here. We were separated twice, once for two years. We’ve gone to years of therapy. The screaming matches could shatter all the glass in the county. We’ve threatened divorce approximately 9000 times and twice on Sundays. When people ask us how we stayed together, we say, “We never hated each other at the same time.”

To this day, when we fight, we like to yell “Fuck off” to each other, which I hear is not the kindest or most productive option, but to them I say: EIGHTEEN YEARS, MOTHERFUCKERS. And I still want him with me more than I want any other human with me.

So get the fuck outta here with your “effective marriage communication” workshops or whatever the hell you’re selling.

Anyway, lately I’ve felt more connected to dude than I ever have in my life and it’s a new type of connection. I think it’s because our kids are unbearable, and against the wall of wailing child death trap, all I’ve got is him.

There’s really something nourishing about texting somebody “I’m gonna kill your kid right now” and have them just respond “What now?”

And: “Thank god we aren’t having any more.”

“Holy fuck (insert kid name) is really pissing me off.”

“What’s wrong with that one?”

“I think they’re defective. Maybe we stopped parenting. Did we give up?”

A well-placed “Entitled little assholes” goes a long way, too.

And yesterday, when we finally got into bed, after having decided earlier in the day (STOP READING NOW, DAD), that we wanted to have sex, we were straight up blocked by kids everywhere.There was nowhere to go to be free. We have a rule of “no kids in our room during the weekends,” and last night was Monday, and we had said they could sleep on our floor, so one kid was on our floor, and two more were in their room, and the other was in her room, and the living room and main room are too easily accessible by wandering children of any type, so we just kind of laid there and laughed and got annoyed and kissed.

“My god, they’re everywhere,” we said.

And they are everywhere, except where we are, in this bed, alone. We’re surrounded, but there’s a place that’s only ours. I don’t think I’ve ever quite realized how lucky we are to have that space. My mom didn’t have it.

 

The teenager with her tornado tantrums. The teenager-light with his silent brooding and passive aggressive retaliation. The 8-year-old with her endless projects and scream fests and the toddler with all of the above. Every damn day it’s a fight to get that one dressed. They bicker with each other and whine and bicker some more and ask for food and shit and then bicker about the thing they just asked for and I am over all of it right now. It’s a rough patch. The roughest of rough patches, maybe.

Or maybe this is how it is from here on out. Whatever. Things are hard, and yeah, today we cried looking at Arlo’s first day of preschool picture. That’s how this goes. Get me the fuck outta here. Please god don’t ever let it end.

There’s something sacred about having a friend to cling to in the maelstrom of nonsense. Just when you think your last shred of energy is used up, your friend comes home, or you mention what you’d like to do to him tonight, and it’s you and me against them.

The them we’re terrified to lose. The them we worked so fucking hard to keep, to bring back around, to heal. It isn’t us against them, is it? It’s us beneath, behind, above and around them – they’re like swirling winds.

It’s nice to be a rock with you.

And it’s nice when you sing me those songs.

The other day we were talking about the years when Mac and I were in the same twelve-step group in our little town and he was batshit and I was unable to remain sober, and how when I finally got sober, and our family was reunited, we kind of became the couple the older alkies pat on the head and smile at and feel a part of, like they watched us get our heads out of our asses and grow up, and things like this don’t happen too often with addicts like us.

Mac looked at me and said, “We’re like the little losers that could.”

Stick that shit on our headstone, cause it’s good enough for me.

 

*****

People have told me that book I wrote is a love story to Mac.

I didn’t see it at first, but it’s true,

it’s a story of people who for sure shouldn’t have made it but stuck around until it got good.

 “We were always good friends, I guess.” I wrote that. It seems true. That’s the story we found.

BTW, I have three upcoming book events: two in northern California and one in Vancouver, BC. Learn more here.

18 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | September 4, 2018

My husband and I went to Chicago and remembered we don’t hate each other.

by renegademama

How the fuck is somebody supposed to stay married and happy while raising children? Is that even a thing?

Oh, whatever. Fine.

Mac and I are “happy,” sure. In the bigger picture, if you zoom way out and look at us from, say, Saturn, we’re the happiest motherfuckers who ever lived.

But on a daily basis, we more resemble two individuals who low-key hate each other. I’m something of an irritable, impatient asshole, and he eats chips too loudly.

See?

No for real though, I don’t get to shred my husband online because I’m not that big of an asshole, but he has idiosyncrasies that often make me want to stab myself in the eyeballs with small sharp sticks, and I have those too, and we’re just fucking over our lives a good portion of the time.

Maybe we’re defective. We’re definitely defective.

We bicker a lot, lash out at each other regularly, but the big shit is gone. Separation is not on the table. We haven’t been a question in at least 9 years. And yes, if you do the math, we’ve been together 17. IT HAS BEEN A LONG ROAD, OKAY?

It isn’t that we don’t like each other, it’s that our daily lives don’t offer many opportunities to remember how much we like each other.

We are overwrought in general, and he’s the closest person to me, and I’m the closest person to him, and thus, we take that shit out on one another. We aren’t having BIG problems: cheating, abuse, total and complete emotional distance.

We have more of what I’d call: I’m tired and you’re irritating me.

Those Instagram couples traveling around the world with their legs entwined and chakras aligned, enjoying deeply spiritual sex next to a lake and strategically placed canoe, are living a slightly different life than we are.

We work. We drive. We take care of kids. We clean the house. We cook. We try to pay off student loans. We plan.

And in between, we try to be a married couple.

 

It’s a lovely idea that we “put marriage first,” but in my experience, this is easier to say than do. Kid needs are more immediate. It’s easy to set marriage aside when being pummeled by ninety different kid issues.

And yet, we’ve done okay at it.

Sort of.

If you lower the bar significantly.

I’m not sure if it’s self-centeredness or a mature devotion to Keeping Our Marriage Alive, but Mac and I have always insisted on going out together, alone. Let’s say it’s the second one, although really, does it matter? We are vaguely old and definitely tired, and it’s often a huge pain in the ass, but fairly regularly, we go hear bands or see plays or go to dinner, alone, or with friends” sans small people.

We didn’t fucking disappear when we had kids. We’re adults, goddamnit. We like things. We like things that don’t involve children.

We are primarily able to do this because we have grandparents nearby. Lots of them. That was part coincidence and part choice. One of the reasons we’ve never left our area is, um, to have grandparents nearby, lots of them.

But the truth is, even with our little “dates,” which often leave us doubly exhausted the next day, we sometimes spend our time together rehashing bullshit in our family – talk the whole time about some kid, or some situation, or a fight we had five years ago but must address again just for funsies.

And sometimes, if we go on long enough like this, I can forget what we are, what we were, what we’ve always been.

Friends.

For the first time in fifteen years, Mac and I went on a trip together, alone, for more than a weekend. We spent five nights away together, in San Francisco for a night, then Chicago.

And we remembered we like each other.

It was a celebration for the publication of my book. I wanted to make sure he came on tour with me at some point, and since neither of us had really been to Chicago, and it’s quite far from our lives (and thus feels pretty special), I rented us a fucking 39th floor condo (with a rooftop hot tub) in downtown Chicago and we went to Hamilton and ate the best food in the world (for real, wtf, Chicago? How is your food so good?), and we strolled around the Art Institute and slept in and had a lot of sex (sorry for saying that, Dad), and held hands walking down the street at 1am and at one point, I looked over at him and realized I was remembering that he’s the best friend I’ve ever fucking had.

And still the hottest man I’ve ever seen.

And maybe the kindest, and warmest, and with everything stripped away, with a few days of “just us,” I saw our 17 years together, with all the distraction and mayhem and separation and beauty and pain, as nothing much beyond “just us.”

At its core, it’s always been “just us.”

We went to Chicago, and remembered we don’t just love each other. We really fucking like each other.

I’m not telling you to do that. We were lucky as hell and it was a great privilege (as I say, once in 15 years), but I guess what I’m saying is that such things are possible, and I wonder if we really tried, if I could pull from those moments a little more often, to look at him and see my friend – my friend, apart from the rest, always, just a touch – and trust he’ll see me the same.

Or that we can, at least, head back to Chicago, if not in body, in a little bit of soul.

 

I took a selfie but caught him looking at me instead of the camera which kind of gives me feelings.

***

Hey friends, you’ll notice that there’s a little slide-in pop-up with my dog’s face asking you to subscribe to my newsletter. I have written this blog for seven fucking years and never engaged in such behavior (the pop-up. dog face is irrelevant).

In short, I’m doing it now because Facebook is a fucking dick who shows my posts to virtually nobody, and I don’t have $2k per post (not kidding) to throw into ads, so IN OTHER WORDS, I have been forced by The Man to invent ways to get my work to you to feed my family and sell my book to keep writing and you know what?

I hate this. It’s weird.

But the facts remain. Here we are, and I’m immensely grateful for every single one of you.

Also, your messages and emails and comments about said book. I am overwhelmed, but more on that later. I think I need to talk to you in a Facebook live video (and…back to that bastard). I can’t explain it all right now.

Also, when you sign up for this shit (my newsletter), you will get an ebook I wrote called “To the Mom who Thinks She’s Disappeared.”

No answers, of course, but I definitely see you.

GET ME IN YOUR INBOX

15 things I’ve learned over 15 years of questionable marriage

by renegademama

1. The top-secret trick to staying married is not getting divorced. (You can thank me later for that little gem.)

2. Sometimes, the reason you don’t get divorced is because the thought of going through this process with yet another human makes you want to bury yourself alive. And yet, that is somehow enough.

3. The thing nobody tells you though is that if you keep going for whatever reason, you may wake up one day and realize all the shit that used to plague you is gone, though it hasn’t necessarily been resolved. You just don’t care anymore and it’s freeing as hell.

4. I spent a lot of years trying to change Mac into more of what I had in mind. Eventually I realized there is one question to ask myself: “Are his flaws deal-breakers?” If yes, leave. If not, accept that shit and move on. HE WILL NEVER ORGANIZE THE CLOSETS, JANELLE. But you will probably always yell on Sundays.

5. Playing the “who’s a bigger dick/does more work” score-keeping game ends in nothing but hellish resentment (and somehow me always being the “better partner” even though let’s be honest I’m pretty much always the asshole). For example: “I did the dishes 9 times so you owe me 6 laundry loads also I birthed the children so you owe me your entire goddamn life but then again you have done ironwork for 10 years to support us but still I’m higher on the pole of marital glory because, well, from my perspective I’m the victim here. Also, I multi-task and you can’t find shit in the fridge. Ever.” No. This is a pointless routine. He sucks and I suck but we suck differently and therefore we will be perpetually annoyed. Cool. Now let’s watch Netflix. (Also, sometimes I AM in fact capable of doing more and sometimes HE is. There is balance, but never spreadsheet “equality.”)

6. It’s not about deciding how I need to be loved and punishing him for failing to meet my fantasy. It’s about opening myself to the ways he shows love, in gestures and songs and movements perhaps I never even thought of, and could never see before because I was too damn busy focusing on the ways he was failing. Mad love is built, not found.

7. In related news: I thought partners were supposed to “fulfill me” and “make me whole.” Now I know I have to make myself whole so I can love another completely.

8. You can base an entire marriage on friendship and it will still mostly work, even if you suck at being adult life partners (e.g. “sound decision-making,” general maturity, budgeting, “household organization,” keeping dog shit off the lawn, et fucking cetera). Last weekend we celebrated our anniversary by Christmas shopping for our kids, eating sushi, and hanging out in a hotel room naked watching movies and eating gummy bears in bed. We are really good at hanging out, and sometimes that’s all we’re good at, but it’s ENOUGH.

9. Which reminds me: Fuck Hallmark cards. Fuck Meg Ryan movies. Fuck commercials. Fuck the neighbor’s marriage. Fuck all the comparisons. We are us.

10. Kids don’t make a marriage better, but they sure as hell make it bigger.

11. When I focus on not being a dick, somehow my husband becomes less of a dick. (Weird.)

12. Once, Mac told me, “I can always trust you to be exactly who you are” and that’s the most romantic thing he’s ever said because he trusts me to be me and sticks around anyway.

13. The other day, after helping me the ten-thousandth time with the same ridiculous task, Mac teased me but said, “It’s okay, Janelle. I will always help you again.”

14. And I think that is what this whole thing becomes: Two people who say, “I will always help you again.” I will always come back, come near and come close, to be with you because you are you, and I am me, and together we have something worth keeping.

15. I always thought love felt like floating in the clouds. Now I know it feels like the ground beneath my feet, and the sense of a friend sharing the sunlight.

Happy 15 years, Mac.

I will always help you again.

oh, and you can start your marriage drunk, stoned, and too young, and still turn out alright. THEY LIED. ALL OF THEM. (Don’t do drugs, kids.)

 

51 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | December 19, 2016

“Can two people be in love forever?”

by renegademama

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“Can two people be in love forever?” – CL

 

Dear CL,

First, I don’t know shit about marriage.

Second, I somehow ended up in a happy one.

Overall. Generally speaking. Mostly.

As you may have observed, cohabitating with one human is never fun all the time and anyone who says it is is definitely lying. I realize these fabricators seem real on Instagram with their sun-kissed beach photos, but All-the-Time-Blissful Marriage is not a fucking thing.

Generally Happy with your Life Partner, though, IS a thing.

And that’s the thing I have.

 

I’m not sure how or why we ended up here, and while I’d like to say we fell in love got married bought a house and built a life in some organized trajectory of soul-mate goal-setting, the truth is we did everything wrong.IMG_8045

Well, apparently not everything. I mean, look at George. >>>

We met too soon, had a kid too early, and separated for a year or two, here and there. And yet, on December 19 we will celebrate our 14th anniversary, and I will probably think “Well I’ll be damned, I’m happy,” and I love him, a lot, even more than 14 years ago, which surprises me, and feels odd.

Sometimes, I want to kick him in the shins because he drives me around the bend. But I don’t want him gone. And I never think of my life without him because I don’t want it. At the last, he’s my best friend, and I like hanging out with him, and I like the life we’ve got going together, and that’s enough for me.

So I don’t know if people can be in love forever. I don’t know much about marriage or love, but I’ll tell you everything I’ve learned so far.

 

I think we’re sold a lie about marriage and romance. I think it starts with romantic comedies. I think we grow to believe “real love” looks like the first 6 months of a relationship extended over a lifetime.

I think that’s bullshit.

I think we’re told that if our love doesn’t look like the end of a Meg Ryan movie, all the time, even 7 years into it, there’s something wrong with our relationship, when actually nobody’s love looks like that. So in other words, YES, there is in fact something wrong with it.

There is always something wrong with it. The point is to get okay with the shit that’s wrong, or leave. We spend so much time trying to “fix” what’s wrong. What about asking ourselves “Can I live with what’s wrong?” And if the answer is “no,” then I guess we work like hell to get better, or we leave.

But often, I’ve found, the answer is “yes.” I can live with that. It’s not perfect, but it’s okay. It’s not a deal-breaker.

I think a lot of Happy Marriage rests in letting shit go that doesn’t matter, even though our egos may tell us it super dupes matters. And this extends to personality flaws. Sometimes giant ones. For example, my tendency to yell and swear-off our marriage altogether at least twice a year, and his, well, flaws. I’m sure they’re there.

I jest. He’s not perfect. But I don’t feel compelled to put Mac up here on the chopping block since he can’t defend himself. I will say, “He will never be the man who straightens the fringe on the carpet” (we have no carpet with fringe but I’m using that as a metaphor people). He will never be the one carefully planning shit in our lives (wait. I don’t do that either. WHERE IS OUR FAMILY PLANNER? Oh right. Ava.) He will probably never organize the garage. He will definitely always forget to put the kids to bed on time.

He will never have the Type A, assertive, GET ER DONE attitude that say, his wife has, and that annoys me sometimes because I can’t do everything! But then again now that I think about it you’re totally going to do it wrong so please just let me do it.

For example, he lives with that. And I live with his tendency to leave giant metal objects on our front lawn. No, leaning against our house. He’s moved on from the lawn.

Improvement!

 

No but seriously, we have some differences in communication (in short, I move IN YOUR FACE and he moves IN HIS SHELL) that are tough, and sometimes we go months in this push-pull thing of me demanding WE ADDRESS SHIT and him pretending I’m not there.

But eventually, we come around. Both of us. He talks to me and I remember I’m sane and the truth surfaces and we end up together, maybe in tears, maybe holding hands or hugging, but for sure remembering who and what and why we’re here, and that we fucking like each other and our kids as a little unit and would rather have each other than not have each other. And that’s our Meg Ryan movie.

We know we will get okay again, and that it will be enough.
I think we’re told our partners need to “fulfill” us. I think this is bullshit. I think we “fulfill” ourselves and bring that to the motherfucking table, as a service to our partner, and ourselves. I don’t want to be responsible for “fulfilling” anybody. I’m a broke-ass broke down human. I can support the shit out of you, and tell you the truth, and be your friend and kiss your lovely lips, but I don’t want your identity on my shoulders. I can hardly handle my own thankyouverymuch.

Nobody can fill the gaping hole in me because they’re too busy running around trying to fill the gaping hole in them and we’re all just pathetic little humans full of fear and wonder and selfishness and I will absolutely let you down. I gotta fill my own shit. I gotta get okay with the tragedy and beauty of my own gut situation before I can look at you, be your friend, your lover, your anything.

I think this is a truth nobody talks about but we should teach in schools: If you want your life to change, look within.

It’s not fun. It’s much more fun to blame everybody us, but in my experience I am pretty much always the problem. Even if I’m in a genuinely fucked-up situation, one may ask “Um, okay Janelle, sure this situation sucks donkey balls, but what got you here in the first place?”

Or, my personal favorite: “Why, pray tell, are you still here if you hate it so much?”

OH FUCK YOU VOICES.

Then again, sometimes things happen for no reason other than because life is a torturous bitch. One IMG_8316day she’s got three of your kids watering the Christmas tree under the light of your son’s headlamp. The next day she’s taking your friend in a car accident. That actually happened. RIP, beautiful Vanessa.

These are times I need you. And you need me. Let’s be there. That matters. That’s friendship and support, not existential fulfillment.

There’s a difference.

 

I spent a long time analyzing Mac’s faults. I spent a long time trying to fix him to meet my expectations, mold him into my vision of Perfect Fulfilling Life Partner. I spent so much time focused on that I failed to see him for what and who he is: A damn good, loving, loyal and kind father and husband. Things started to change when I got so desperate I stopped looking to him to “make me feel good” or “make my life meaningful.” I said “Fuck it. Fuck everything I know about ‘love.’ Fuck the Hallmark cards and Meg Ryan movies. I guess this is it.” I decided to focus more on what I could give than what I could take.

And I finally felt in love. This was weird. I did not understand this.

I think we misunderstand love. We think it flows from outside into us, which is true, we feel it from others, but mostly in my experience if flows from me outward but the effect is the same and I can only see clearly without resentment and expectations and fear. And love is the only thing that gets rid of resentment and expectations and fear. It seems very active to me. Like a choice, not a thing that merely exists or doesn’t exist between two people. It’s not passive. It moves. It lives.

I guess I learned that my ability to love comes from me. Not him.

Love flows out. And then it flows in. Can that last forever? Maybe. I don’t know.

But I think it’s enough for today.

 

I think sometimes we give up too soon. I think sometimes we stay too long. I think it’s hard to face the truth. I think mistakes can end up in beauty. I think sometimes our love gets buried beneath so much fear and resentment we can’t see which fucking way is up. I think sometimes love goes underground and we have to just keep showing up until it pops up again and I think over the years love changes from gazing into each other’s eyes to seeing your whole history in somebody’s eyes and that transition isn’t expected.

One day you look at a man and realize they’ve been with you since you were 21, and damn near all your memories hold their face and rather than a fiery romance of hot sex on the couch your love becomes steadily burning flames in the old woodstove nobody notices, but realize it’s just as powerful and hop in the fucking sack at year 14 of marriage, 4 kids, 2 people, taking it easy in a bit of love.

Can that last forever?

Who the fuck knows. I don’t know about forever. I only know I’m happy to meet him today for falafel, with my other dear friend Sarah.

And that’s enough for now. And old Emily Dickinson says “forever is composed of nows.”

Oh god, I’m quoting poetry. Way to make me soft, CL.

Love,
Janelle

 

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Heyyyyy, there are only 5 spots left in  my January writing workshop.

You should probably grab one of them. Or all five. TELL YOUR FRIENDS.

bastards1

34 Comments | Posted in Ask Janelle, cohabitating with a man. | December 10, 2015