The Pergola Project

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Summer! Finally! I love this time of year when the warmth of the sun seeps deep into my bones and the pace of life seems to slow down. I am an outdoor kind of girl and love to putter around the yard, so it was no surprise to Will that I wanted to put up a pergola over our patio this year. After getting quotes and searching online for a ready-made pergola, we came to the conclusion that the only way to get exactly what we wanted, was to build it ourselves. This alone was slightly triggering. Let me explain.

In the past, Will would begin to argue, complain, attack, withdraw etc, the minute a project was proposed. What I know now, that I didn’t know then, was that he resented spending time on projects which he felt could be better spent practicing his addictive behaviors. All I saw was him telling me how my idea was stupid, that we couldn’t manage it, that it was too expensive, that it would take too much time…blah, blah, blah. He was completely unwilling to work with me and intentionally put up obstacles and resistance to thwart my plans. This made for a hellish experience when renovating our first home from pillar to post. Much of the work on that house was done by me…and my kids when I could recruit them.

So, when it became clear that building a pergola together was the best option for our plans and our bank account, I immediately bounced back to days when Will would disappear to make a Home Depot run…and didn’t come back for a couple of hours.  I thought of the many, many times when he promised to take care of some aspect of a project I couldn’t do on my own…and he never followed through. I remembered how he told me the kitchen renovation was not gonna happen unless I could do it on my own with a $500.00 budget. (I did and came in under budget at $380.00!) I know now that as we were building storage in our garage, Will was coordinating with the Skank for her trip to MY home, to sleep in MY bed and have sex with MY husband.  So…yeah, a building project with Will was an event that I both dreaded and needed to confront.

After receiving the lumber and spending a week staining and setting the footings for the posts, Saturday morning was the day. We started out okay…and then things quickly went downhill. See, Will is inflexible. He gets an agenda or method in his mind and if something doesn’t go as planned, he loses it. This is something he has been working n, but has much more work to do. So, he had in his mind a certain way to begin the pergola, and without going into the weeds here, it wasn’t a viable plan. I suggested we do it a different way and “Old Will” quickly emerged. He discounted what I was saying, began to be short and abrupt, interrupted me or spoke over me. It was not going well. But then…something amazing happened. He was on the ladder, I was on the patio holding the drill and lag bolts. He was on his way up the ladder and our spat had grown into an argument. We were sniping at each other and it was painful and ugly. He stopped going up the ladder and came down to where I was. He looked at me and said, “This is not us anymore. Let’s start over.” And we did. We spoke to one another instead of at each other. We calmly discussed our views about the best way to accomplish our goal. We apologized to one another and hugged.

Now, for some people, this is their normal. For Will and I, this was nothing short of miraculous. We worked together the entire day. From 8:30 am to our finished project at 9:30 pm. We have never, ever finished a project, even a much simpler, smaller one, in a single day. Ever. This was such a valuable lesson for us both. I learned that Will is truly changing and is trying to be present. Will learned that projects get done when he is here and present.

And we have a beautiful new 16’ x 18’ pergola that we have been enjoying every day.

Progress, people. Progress.

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The Weight of Our Words

I am sharing this post by Lorana Hoopes because it applies not only to politics which is the subject she writes about, but to life in general. And specifically to relationship…to marriage.

~by Lorana Hoopes. As a teacher I often tell students it’s not always what you say, but how you say it that matters. Today I was reminded of how powerful that statement is. At the end of my wor…

Source: The Weight of Our Words

Sarcasm…Just Another Service I Offer…

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I actually have a bumper sticker that says “Sarcasm:Just another service I offer.” I have had it for years…not on my car…but it was on my cubicle wall at a customer service job I had, under my desk blotter at another job, at my home office desk and it finally found a permanent home on the kitchen bulletin board. I have taken some sort of sick pride in my ability to have a quick, witty (read sarcastic) response to what I perceived to be idiotic behavior or comments from others. I truly thought I was HILARIOUS!  For instance, just recently, a friend who knows the situation with Will and our selling our home, asked where we were living while we built a new home.

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Yeah….Our travel trailer. Instead of just saying that however, I added that Will didn’t mind, he was used to sleeping with trailer trash.  Ha,ha,ha,ha…..ahem…. My friend gave me a slight smile and a “courtesy” chuckle but it clearly made her uncomfortable. In short, it just wasn’t funny. It was rude and crass.  I have learned that I do it to cover up for what I perceive to be embarrassing or uncomfortable situations. The problem is that it reverses the awkwardness onto others…diverting the feelings away from me. I do this a lot with Will but for different reasons. He bought a new fishing pole last week…

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Yes…it really is called an ugly stick. So when I saw it I said, “Oh, did you buy that to hit Skank with? …Nevermind, she’s clearly already been hit…a LOT!” A completely unnecessary comment. (True, but unnecessary 😏) I do it with Will to inflict hurt. To belittle and to remind him of his past behaviors. He told me the other day that he trusted my intuition. I replied that would be unwise as I had a history of believing a deceitful cheater. Ha! . . . Ugh! Why do I keep doing that?! It’s not funny, it’s just mean! It makes no difference if I say it in a laughing voice, with a chuckle or deliver it with a smile. Snarky is ugly.

Well….it stops here and now! It serves no purpose. Other than to temporarily (VERY temporarily) make me feel superior or vindicated in small doses, it only causes harm.

SARCASM. 1570s, sarcasmus, from Late Latin sarcasmus, from late Greek sarkasmos “a sneer, jest, taunt, mockery,” from sarkazein “to speak bitterly, sneer,” literally “to strip off the flesh” from.   (genitive sarkos) “flesh,” properly “piece of meat,” from PIE root *twerk- “to cut” (cf. Avestan thwares “to cut”).

I don’t want to be THAT girl anymore. That one with the smart-ass remark, the quick but sometimes hurtful comeback. I don’t want to be the one who always has something clever to say…even if it is at the expense of others. Particularly Will.  I don’t want to be responsible for intentionally causing harm to anyone by word or deed.  How hypocritical would that be? From someone to whom so much harm has been done? Trust me when I say that it will take Herculean strength for me not to speak out loud the quips that constantly pop into my head and I make no promises that one or two won’t appear here, just between you and me 😉, but I have to make this effort to soften my demeanor, to curb my sharp tongue and to move towards a kinder, gentler me. Not that I am some kind of snotty shrew who has nothing kind to say about anyone or am constantly critical or nasty…that certainly is not true. I am generally a kind and decent person. I just think my sense of humor has become warped over all these years and changed from what is genuinely witty to a sick sort of defense mechanism. THAT is what I need to be mindful of and what I seek to change. The hurt needs to stop now. With me.

Oh…this journey of recovery…

 

Being Invisible

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Last night, Will sneezed. This is not an earth shattering event…he sneezes a lot. I said, “Bless you.” Again, nothing unusual. But then he said, “Excuse me.” Which I think is weird because most people just say  “thank you”,  but the point is that he responded to me. I was in the other room (six feet away…we are in our travel trailer, remember) and I was brushing my hair. I kind of stopped….in a sort of “hmmm..that’s new” kind of moment…then my brain started spinning. I immediately realized that in thirty-seven years of marriage, I don’t think I have ever failed to bless him when he sneezed. In those same instances I can guarantee he never once thanked me and I cannot recall a time he even responded. I can, however, recall hearing him say  “bless you” to others and acknowledging their blessings. As I pondered this, I also thought about a couple of times in the last couple of weeks where I have said to him, “Are you listening?” Or “Did you hear me?” I started to feel a sickening pit in my belly. I started to feel the way I had felt consistently in our marriage before d-day. I remembered being invisible.

In the past, I would have confronted Will and accused him or ignoring me or being rude. I would have badgered him about common courtesy and responding when someone speaks to you. Blah…blah…blah…. But, I didn’t. I composed my thoughts and came out of the bathroom and sat down quietly across from him. I asked if I could ask him a couple of questions.  I asked him first why he said excuse me instead of thank you when responding to someone blessing him after sneezing. He had no idea why…didn’t even realize he said that. He agreed it was weird. I asked him why he had just responded to me for the first time in 37 years. He was shocked. And upset. And he had to take a few minutes to think about it. We discussed why, in general, he chose not to respond to me sometimes. Why I had to beg for a response or even an acknowledgement that I had spoken to him. He began to cry. He realized how much his anorexia had infiltrated his brain when it came to relating to me on even an everyday, humdrum basis. He had a knack of completely ignoring the fact that I was even present. He is still unsure why. He said that he did not think that some things needed a response. I then asked him if I had ever failed to respond to him when he spoke to me. He said yes and cited times when he thought I was in the next room but had gone outside. Or when he spoke to me then realized I had headphones on. He admitted that on those occasions he felt silly…like he was speaking to no one. Or felt like I was ignoring him because I was angry or something. On those occasions, he looked for the source of my non-responsiveness. I asked him what he would feel like if he had discovered that I just felt like I didn’t need to respond. He thought about it. He said in a trembling voice, hurt…and unimportant.  I said, yes…exactly.

I kept thinking about the “Parenthood” episode where Zeke tells Camille, “I see you, I hear you.” Of course, this is after marriage counseling and Zeke really has no idea what he is saying, but I want Will to get that. I don’t want to be some superfluous thing who happens to share space with him. I don’t want to be an afterthought, a sidebar, an extra, or worse, a nuisance in his life. I want to BE his life…THE thing in his life that he cherishes and thinks about and loves.

We talked quite awhile then about neglect and contempt. A Time magazine article recently suggested that one of the worst things you can introduce into a marriage is contempt (from a communications standpoint), and that contempt can take on many forms including: interrupting, ignoring, withdrawing (from conversation), condescension, and sarcasm.  We had a good hard look at the way we communicate. I am a master of sarcasm. I have honed my skills in large part due to being ignored. A caustic remark generally elicits a response. Well, you can see this ugly pattern. This is the cycle we have perfected over the decades and one which we are striving to break. It is not easy. My brain has been wired to be cynical and sarcastic and skeptical. Smartass remarks are quick to pop into my head….I have been slow in stopping them from jumping out of my mouth. Will has not responded to me largely in the past because he was focused on something (or someone) else. His brain was wired to tune me out and think about sex, or booze or anything else that would provide an escape from the pain of his guilty existence. I was the constant source of pain for him because  I was the one he was hurting..therefore I was the one he needed to escape from. What an insane vicious circle!

I discovered that the sick feeling of defeat I got last night was not because I felt Will was acting out, or fantasizing, or even deliberately disconnecting from me. It was because I recalled feeling unimportant, disregarded and virtually invisible to someone who claimed to love me. I realized that neglect is its own cruel form of torture which leaves scars so deep that they don’t really heal…one can only hope to not break them open again.  I was careful in my explanation to him of these feelings. He understood. He apologized through his tears. He saw me. He heard me. I am not willing to be invisible anymore. It is progress.