Time On My Hands

Time On My Hands

“Kathy, I’m lost”, I said,
Though I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching and
I don’t know why.”

I am looking at motorcycles-researching is too strong a word. For a while I looked at scooters, but then I realised that if I wanted a scooter with a 50cc engine I would need a motorcycle license. If I’m going to need a motorcycle license, then I may as well get a motorcycle. I’m thinking a Triumph or an Indian or a Victory or a Norton (if my legs are long enough) but I haven’t ruled out a Honda. I’m partial to cruisers and touring bikes with their low slung bodies and graceful lines. Moto Guzzis are cool but I would have to resist the temptation to transform myself into Delphine Seyrig in Daughters of Darkness. Then again, maybe I should. BMWs, with the exception of the R Nine T and the R Nine T Scrambler, look like insects. They have exoskeletons not bodies. I want a body.

I look at these bikes and think where do I want to go? What route would I take? What am I running from?

This morning I received a text message from my ex asking if I wanted the Weber gas grill. She is “making me give mine up,” he said. I squinted at the screen, knowing what was coming and wondering if he had the balls to actually say the words. It’s your house, I told him, why are you giving up your grill when it’s your house? Hers is bigger and supposedly better, he replied. I told him I couldn’t have a gas grill. Still nothing. Finally I asked if she was giving him her grill, that’s when he told me they were moving in. She’s moving in with him. Next month. I can’t even get a date and she and her kids are moving in to what was my house. The deed was in my name. The mortgage was in my name. He bought me out of the house when we split. The children going to share the guest bedroom because he’s not about to give up his office. I texted my sister and told her. She replied that the text exchange wasn’t about the gas grill, it was to tell me that they were living together, except that when it came down to it he didn’t want to tell me. He never wants to be the bad guy. He wants to have coffee. He wants me to find someone. He wants everything to be nice. I want him gone. I want to erase him from my mind. I want to turn back the clock. I want to punch him in the face. I want to call him a coward.

Last Wednesday, I got the results from my latest prolactin test and it is elevated again. Basically, after seven years of normal, my prolactin level has doubled in the past year. Doubled. Given my history, I had a transphenoidal ademomectomy in 2009, either it’s some kind of pituitary hyperplasia or it’s another tumour. Either, my endocrinologist said, can be manged by radiosurgery or medication or both. Recurrence of hyperprolactinemia is not all that uncommon. It occurs in ± 30% of patients, particularly those with macroadenoma (tumours ≥ 1cm). My tumour was approximately 9mm. It did not respond to medication and was removed. The recovery was awful. I never want to go through that again. My MRI is on Friday. I told my friend Kristina and she cried. When does it end for you? she asked. I’ve asked myself that question a lot recently. It has been 10 years of compound stress. In 2006 we were waiting to hear if he had a postdoc. In 2007 we headed out west for his first postdoc and I was out of work for six months. In 2009 we moved again, I had kidney surgery, brain surgery, was out of work for a year, and he lost his funding. In 2010 we moved again and it was the beginning of Infertility Follies. In 2012 I had a hysterectomy. In 2013 the company I work for was bought out for the first time. That company was bought out later in 2013. I lost my job in 2014. Infertility Follies and my marriage ended in 2015. My brain went on the fritz again in 2016.

Lately, though, I have been thinking about what comes after-apart from picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and starting all over again. I’ve had the luxury of lots of alone time to think. I’ve been thinking of my part in the demise of my marriage. There are lots of articles about why marriages fail: you fall out of love, you see each other more as siblings than a married couple, you grow apart, you’re too compatible, you’re not compatible, you don’t communicate. I have yet to see one that mentions that you were not able to fulfill your biological imperative. I know when he stopped loving me, but when did I stop loving him? When did I start to fear him? When did he become so irrational? At first I thought that I stopped loving him when we first moved here. I didn’t think I would have taken part in Infertility Follies if I didn’t care about him. and there was the difference. I had stopped loving him but I hadn’t stopped caring about him. I was so beaten down by everything I wasn’t strong enough to say no more. I was a willing participant in something I didn’t want. We’d also stopped talking to each other. Instead of talking to me he talked at me. He pontificated about subjects that mattered to him, but wasn’t interested in my opinion. When I tried to communicate my feelings, they were wrong. His slights were not slights but my over-sensitivity. He told me flat out one day that he didn’t care about my job and didn’t think it was worth discussing. I decided that if something as basic as the workday wasn’t worth discussing and I didn’t want to get into any more bouts of belittlement, I should just keep my mouth shut, which is exactly what I did. He dictated conversation we stopped engaging.

I’m beginning to think I should have dusted myself off and started over somewhere else. Everything I’ve read says this is an emotional response. I shouldn’t act on these impulses. Don’t move. Don’t switch jobs. Ride out the anger and the grief and the resentment. Wait before you jump on your iron horse and ride. I keep thinking of my life in parallel universes and they are never that different from this one. In all of these universes I am alone filled with a longing, an itch I cannot scratch. I’m supposed to wait until I have healed. Every time I think I’m healing something comes along and removes the bandage. How the fuck am I supposed to heal. Something will come along when you least expected it. With 122.6 unmarried women for 100 married men, I doubt it even more than I did yesterday. Fuck it. I’m getting a motorcycle. I’m gone.

“Counting the cars
On the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come
To look for America

the best way out is always through

the best way out is always through

So says Robert Frost.

One afternoon, my now ex and I were discussing adolescent rebellion. He said that while he had rebelled completely, I had not. Oh really? How do you rebel so completely, I asked. He gave me the usual litany: long hair, earrings, the goatee he still wears, his music, his friends, his non-traditional career path. In my mind he barely rebelled at all apart from the usual trappings. That he had chosen a non-traditional career path was true, but then again his father had chosen a non-traditional path as well. The rest was window dressing.

When you grow up, as I did, in a household where expressing emotion is, well, discouraged dealing with strong emotions, hell ANY emotions, can be difficult. It is best to bury or sublimate; tuck your feelings away or find a more socially acceptable outlet for them and move on. Maintaining the facade, a facade built on secrecy, of the good family was paramount to my parents. My parents prided themselves on a what goes on in the house stays in the house policy. My sister and I were free to say whatever we liked in the house, but it went no further. The strange thing is that I don’t remember us talking about anything, ever. My parents may have discussed politics, current affairs, church, work, but I don’t remember my sister and I contributing. What conversation there was was never animated. One of the few outbursts I remember occurred when my sister took my mother’s “you can tell me anything” speech to heart and told her she had slept with her then boyfriend. Our mother called her a slut and a whore and damaged goods. She told my sister no decent man would ever want her. She threw my sister out of the house, then sent our father after her when she tried to leave. You think I would have learned from this lesson, but I didn’t. I tried talking to my mother about what it means to be a modern, single, middle-aged woman in the world. I try to talk to her about work, friends, dating, love, sex, feeling invisible. I so wanted to believe that I could tell her anything. It’s like going to the hardware store for groceries; you won’t find strawberries amongst the screwdrivers.

In short, I am woefully unequipped to deal with the emotions that I am experiencing. I want them to go away. They can go out for drinks or hang out on the therapist’s sofa for a while and leave me in peace. So here goes. Here’s what I’m feeling. (These are in no particular order except the one that percolates from my brain):

Relief

  • I’m glad it’s over and he’s sailing further and further away. He just told me he is leaving our synagogue. I don’t think it will be long before he is out of my life entirely. I wouldn’t be surprised if I get a wedding invitation. Maybe I’ll go.
  • I think he is mentally ill and I am glad to be away from him.
  • I’m relieved I never have to worry about whether he will hold down whatever job he has at the time. My mother recounted an episode where he told the head of the department his study was flawed. Shortly after that his bosses informed him that they didn’t have the money to fund him. Few things are as stressful as waiting to hear whether your husband’s grant funding came through and whether you will be a single- or dual-income household.
  • I’m so glad I got the cat. Just the other day I was telling a friend how we had been through a lot together the cat and me.
  • I see glimpses of the man I fell in love with and I know it won’t last. He is on his best behaviour right now but eventually the facade will crumble. I see him for what he is.

Grief

  • I mourn the loss of the man I met and fell in love with. I had him for two years then he vanished.
  • I mourn the life I gave up in New York.
  • I mourn the loss of the woman I was.
  • I mourn the end of a relationship.
  • I mourn the loss of a companion and partner. While it is better to be alone than in a bad relationship, I’ve still lost something.
  • I mourn the end of the good times.
  • I mourn the loss of regard. It’s one thing to not care about getting someone’s good opinion, it’s quite another when your spouse no longer respects you and you don’t know why.

Anger

  • I’m angry at myself for staying.
  • I’m angry at him for not having the courage to leave when he was so unhappy.
  • I’m angry that he didn’t take me up on my offer to be a bicoastal couple.
  • I’m angry that I dropped everything and moved around the country; sacrificing my career for what?
  • I’m angry that I didn’t see the writing on the wall for what it was.
  • I’m angry that he ignored me when I asked for help around the house.
  • I’m angry that he found someone so soon. My male friends tell me that they moved on quickly when their relationships (not marriages) ended. My therapist tells me it demonstrates a lack of regard for the relationship. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.
  • His sense of his own self-importance is maddening.
  • This whole episode has done a number on my sense of self-worth.
  • I’m angry that I didn’t see the same behaviour patterns in my now ex that I saw in my father.
  • I’m mad that I wasn’t kinder to myself. I should have treated myself better.

Surprise

  • I’m surprised at how much I don’t miss him.
  • I’m amazed at how quickly that happened.
  • I’m surprised how many people were concerned for my safety. That they said nothing until after does not come as a surprise.
  • Considering that I don’t miss him, the depth of sadness that comes over me at times has caught me off guard.
  • That we still have amicable conversations comes as a surprise.

Longing

  • I miss intimacy.
  • I miss sex, even though I’ve probably never had good sex in my life.
  • Yes, the two are separate and interconnected. Personally, I’m not the type for one without the other. That’s why I’m not on Tinder. I missed out on most of the online dating thing, so to me being 46 and on Tinder is the sort of thing The Kids in the Hall would have lampooned.
  • I am firmly ensconced in my blanket fort with my cocoa and my graham crackers and my books and some movies. I don’t want to hear about flirting or crushes or dating. I don’t want to hear about other people’s sex lives. I don’t want to see people kiss at the end of services. I don’t want to hear about soul mates. No wedding blessings please, unless the phrase, “it’s a trap” is included. And I will do just about anything to avoid a baby naming. The professionals call this cocooning and it is normal. Wikipedia, however, likens it to agoraphobia and hermiting. I will continue to labour under the delusion that it is normal.

There are many more emotions swirling around, but these are the ones I can put to paper, as it were, today.

There’s A Light

There’s A Light

At my last session, my therapist sat back in her chair and said Y’know, you remember a few weeks ago when I said you were an attractive woman but you weren’t exactly sexy? You haven’t brought it up since. Why’s that? (I found her question a little strange as she also told me I have to pick a direction for future sessions and I chose the emotional abuse rather than my self-esteem.) I have brought it up, I told her, just not with you. I told her what my friends had told me: it’s being comfortable in your own skin, that she’s wrong, that it’s subtle, that it will emerge as I come out from under the shadow of my ex-husband. I told her I actually got checked out by a young man who, as far as I could tell, wasn’t homeless. It was subtle. I noticed his head turn as I walked by and when I turned my head he was looking over his shoulder at me. I smiled and kept going. Maybe they’re right. Maybe the shadow is lifting just a little. Maybe I’m not as invisible as I thought. Then I had a horrible week.

When I have bad weeks, I often chalk it up to external factors: the weather, my messy apartment, my ex found someone new almost immediately, my hyperprolactinemia. Wanting to die was something new and different. I texted one of my oldest friends, who has been through this twice, and I told her I wanted to die. I wanted all of this to end. I feel guilty and ashamed when I do this to her. I text and phone her at other times too, when I am not down, and we have riotous conversations. She is getting a law degree and a masters in pastoral counseling at the same time. She said, Don’t you want to see the woman you’re becoming? Don’t you deserve to meet her? Besides, don’t give him the satisfaction. The first two are why she will be an exceptional counsellor. The third is why she’s an exceptional friend. Every once in a while she will send me a job posting in Seattle and tell me to move out there so she can take care of me, take me dancing and to Korean spas, and introduce me to a community where I will find my house submissive. Every once in a while I think I might accept her offer, but my life and my self-made family are here. Besides, I’ve packed up and started over enough times and while this time it will be for me on my own terms it’s still packing up and starting over someplace else. I have another friend who sends me job posting in the DC area so I can move closer to her and she can take are of me.  In the end, it’s not that I don’t want to be taken care of, it’s that I need be able to take care of myself. I need to find my own strength again. I need to clean my apartment.

This past Saturday I was  heading back into my complex having purchased sumptuous provisions for Shakespeare in Clark Park when I noticed two young men behind me also heading for the door. Being a civilised person, I held the door open for them. One of them made eye contact. I had seen him at the pool and at an owner’s board meeting. He bought his place around the same time I bought mine. He is a powerfully built man with a massive upper body and what can best be described as a Persian beard. What I learned that afternoon was that he has large black eyes that are full of mischief. Maybe he wasn’t used to having a slight woman in an outrageous straw hat hold the door open for him, but I think he liked it.