Chewing Words

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Archive for the ‘family’ Category

On the Edge of 00:00:01

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I began this blog in the midst of radical turmoil. The things that occurred at the tail-end of spring, through the summer, into the autumn and followed by the winter of 2010, were things of the sort that either make you or break you. I’m not sure if it’s possible to pinpoint the exact moment when the foundation of a marriage begins to crumble. If it’s anything at all like the progressive deterioration of a building, it’s slow and clandestine, beneath the façade of what appears to be solid. Eight months of cataclysm underlined by venom and preceded by years of the slow crumbling of the foundations. To write what I am writing today seems impossible.

My struggle over our divorce has been especially acute over the past month. The process of thoroughly acknowledging my own faults began during that month. Consequently, I also had pneumonia. Being ill forced me to stay home. Staying home forced me to introspect. Being home without a child for 2 weeks of the month I was exiled began a process of introspection that has been one of the most psychologically painful and emotionally wrenching periods I have ever experienced.

Perspective sometimes helps; my current marriage is my second. My first marriage was one of those foreign affairs, the sort that begin in the romance of living abroad. Meeting an exciting man, traveling across the ocean multiple times for the heat of that relationship, I bet everything in my handbag of tricks for that wild sense of passion that is protracted by a hop-scotch of long distance then reuniting then leaving, over and over. He was Albanian, a man from a country of which I had never heard except in a Cheers episode. What I knew: he was beautiful, we were inseparable and I was truly madly deeply for him.

I brought him to the US, an assignment of pure will on my part. Immigration attorneys (Albania’s lack of economic relations with the US meant the need for legal assistance to acquire a visa), working multiple jobs to pay for the legal fees, dissecting my life (personal letters, phone bills, credit card statements – anything that could prove to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service that the relationship was authentic; they’re opposed to bringing an unsavory sort to The Land of Plenty).

He came, we married and through 4 years we discovered “real life” was very different than the romance novel we’d lived for 3 years in Florence, Italy. He fell into the seduction of Plenty and soon I had a fractured man whose mind was split by schizophrenic psychosis. My Italian romance was gone, replaced with a boogeyman who believed I was the Black Witch, sent to extract his secrets so I could bring his Albanian homeland into ruin. The day he beat me all over and across the kitchen floor, my legs bent back at strange angles, was the day I knew there was no such thing as “turning back.” It was also, strangely, the first day I began to have an inkling that there might be a God. When the steel-toed boot that was aimed at the soft spot at the side of my head was stilled by the singing of an unseen songbird outside, I wondered how that bird came to sit at that spot and sing at precisely that moment. Miraculous or coincidence, it doesn’t matter; the result is I was not killed or permanently damaged.

I can retell that story because it happened a long time ago. And I don’t tell it now to elicit anything other than a picture of comparison. That marriage and its ensuing drama do not hold a candle to what I have experienced in this period of what has seemed a certain divorce, a sundering of a decade of life together. There was no beating or infidelity or addiction this round. As I’ve said before, it has been very mundane. But the awful weight of failure on so many levels has been crushing.

To be given another chance, for the two of us to have recognized nearly simultaneously our faults and our responsibility in our marriage is, in a word, miraculous. I know of no other way to describe it. This place I am today is a place I could never have believed I would be standing 72 hours ago. My post from that day bears witness to this.

There will be a lot of stunned looks on people’s faces when they hear we are in the process of a serious reconciliation. There will also be many people I love who will feel the need to give a lot of unsolicited advice about what we need to do. There will be a lot of shaking of heads and conviction that I have lost my mind. He walked out on you! He left you holding the bag! My reply? He also asked for forgiveness. And I am as implicit as he is. I, too, asked for his forgiveness.

My species of selfishness is socially acceptable; it doesn’t appear to wear the cloak of the egoist. In the scheme of the world, a woman who works hard at her career while balancing her role as a wife and mother is considered worthy of esteem, in a sense. But I contend for some, like myself, it is a triumvirate of roles that attenuates one’s ability to keep all the balls in the air.

For a number of reasons that all seem worthy, I chose the role of business woman as primary over the role of wife. In doing so, I alienated my husband and cut the moorings out from beneath us in a way I didn’t understand until after it had already been done. And even then, I was so deep in the proverbial poo, I didn’t see a way out other than to keep hoping something would change. I blamed him for a lot, all of which he has acknowledged and accepted. But how does a man blame a woman for working too hard and being a great mom and talented in so many areas of her life…except in the area of being a wife? A man who does that is a man who ought to be quiet, suck it up and count his blessings. Never mind the complete emasculation of his role as husband, for when there is no wife present, how can a husband BE a husband? Husband necessitates the presence of wife, otherwise you are just him and her.

These lessons, when not learned properly, become exponentially more difficult to address as time passes. I stood on the edge of a brink, about to not learn this lesson. It’s that moment in the movie when the sapper is diffusing the bomb, wire cutters in hand, sweat beading down his brow. It’s the moment when you are about to die unless you can freeze those numbers on the timer.

I stood at the brink, foot balanced on the edge.

And my timer stopped at 00:00:01.


8/357: PostADay


Written by cr8df8

January 8, 2011 at 4:54 pm

The “P” Word Is the “S” Word & Vice Versa

with 7 comments

...magical things were always happening

WordPress asks today, Are You Stressed Out? My initial response was to throw my keyboard at the flat screen, which would have been an unambiguous response to the question. But I withheld the theatrics and was going to delete the email when the light bulb brightened ::TING:: (isn’t that a great sound-effect? TING). Because, WordPress, as a matter of fact, I am stressed. Like the whole flippin’ country. Well, most of it, anyway. And the thing about stress that can be scary is the way in which it bolts so easily into pain. And then you become the emo poster child, which is rather distressing.

I make light, much of the time, of my current situation. I am helpless, really. I don’t know how else to react. I joke and smile, holding up my head, trying to run a business and raise my 3 ½ year old LOVE and take care of myself and keep in touch with people who are concerned about me. But much of the time, I just want to sink into a blessed silence, where no emails or phone calls or face-to-face contacts can completely and utterly destroy me for the day or the week or perhaps even the month.

I am gutted by the helplessness. I can’t sleep, made worse by my daughter being gone for nearly 2 weeks with her father. Her presence, her smallness and need, keep me level-headed with no time for feeling sorry for myself. I’ve been holding it together for months. But the unraveling begins beneath the surface. Then the tell-tale signs appear on your exterior: black marks beneath your eyes, bad hair days, no make-up, weight loss. People, mostly your close friends and family, know what’s going on so when they see you, they want so badly to help you, to make you feel better. They read your face: Quick! Get out the Kleenex box!

I don’t like talking about what’s happening in my life with the people I see day to day. I don’t return phone calls, emails have a 50/50 chance. Marriage, business , finances – everything tubed down the chutes at the same time. Every bit of it, the Trifecta of Tragedy. I am, for the most part, a robot right now. How does one determine what is the “right thing to do” in the midst of so much upheaval? My husband walked out and asked for a divorce; should I have hired an attorney when there is no money? My business is tottering with the economic crunch; should I bail? My husband stopped paying bills and the mortgage; should I file bankruptcy? I don’t have any answers, though I have started praying an awful lot. Awkward and snotty, I don’t really feel like I know how to talk to God. But who else do I turn to when the answers I’ve given so far have earned me an “F” in the Pop Quiz of Life?

IT IS SO, SO PAINFUL. I hate it. I hate this uncontrollable emotion, the sobs and the strings of snot that get in my hair. I often wonder if it would be easier if there had been an affair or an addiction; I know it’s pointless to wonder. Our situation is so mundanely textbook as to seem ridiculous: baby, house, business – too much responsibility at the same instant, communication break-downs, long days & nights at the office trying to make it work, tight but manageable finances – everything hinged on balancing it perfectly. And failing utterly.

I would block the emails and the phone calls, but they are the only form of communication for talking about the needs of our daughter. I black out the attacks. I ask that we “not go there.” I want to stand on the higher ground. But in the middle of an abyss, the higher ground seems unattainable. I can usually ignore the parts in the emails that stand on the grassy knoll of my character assassination, but the sniper has more of a serial personality, and stalks me later in the day or week. After the 3rd attempt, I respond in these short, terse phrases that are interpreted as remorseless narcissism. And that pisses me off. Then all my promises to myself to hit “ignore” go unheeded. After running from the stalk all week, the pain and the stress make me shout, then cry.

That’s how I began my morning. Pained stress. Stressed Pain. One in the same.

5/360: PostADay

Written by cr8df8

January 5, 2011 at 4:37 pm

“‘Ey! Auntie!”

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I tolled the too-many bells of my 40th birthday in January of last year in Hawaii with a luau replete with 100+ family and friends from all over the globe and mayjah major ono kine grindz. I was there for 4 weeks, picking up and leaving my office. I wrote in my hardbound journal,

This year must have something in it that heralds joy. I still cringe at the thought of my office and dealing with clients who are irritating – my own definition. I don’t want that to define me.

I also left behind a husband who didn’t come to celebrate my milestone. The hurt of that should have been my light-bulb moment. But it wasn’t. Ever, as I have said before, the eternal optimist.

The crisis point…when (we) were not speaking and I wanted to run away and escape from my life…We are not happy, but there is a duty for each of us to change, to take responsibility for the things that are within the scope of our roles as husband and wife. I work in rounds of filling voids. I am always seeking — SOMETHING. Feeling validated, that elusive chimera. Hanging on to a dream of the unattainable; perhaps unsustainable is a better word.

Hele On Hula Auntie

Going back to Hawai’i to bring in my 40th year took us to our roots. The Aunties all came out in droves. Music, hula, food. 40 was just that; four decades that we celebrated on the Big Island where my Daddy grew up and where he met my mom when she left the mainland to go to college at University of Hawai’i.

I went there too, over 20 years ago now. An odd experiment at that time in books and covers. My cover, for the first time in my life, looked like most everyone else’s around me. On campus, if I stood in a group, I wasn’t the odd woman out amidst my blond-haired, blue-eyed friends. My hapa features weren’t so out of place. But  as soon as I opened my mouth, out popped the haole. People did double-takes. Locals stopped mid-sentence when I spoke to them. “Eh, you one haole, ah?” It didn’t take me too long to figure out that they were asking me if I was a white girl. At home no one ever quite knew what to make of me, either; I sounded and dressed like everyone else, but I looked…different. “What are you?”  What am I? Uhm, a girl. “No, I mean, are you Mexican? You don’t look Mexican. What are you?!” White, Hawaiian and a little sprinkling of Chinese. Going to school in Hawaii, it was the same all over again, just turned inside-out. My pages or my cover, something was always just a tad off.

Twenty years, though, smoothed over much of that. I didn’t care anymore. My Aunties were all there, in their muumuus and leis, plumeria behind their ears, ukuleles in hand. They cooked for me. They played for me. They danced for me. My cousins were there too, with their kids. They all came up to me, hugs and kisses and leis. And that’s when it happened. That’s when I realized I was already on the other side of something that I didn’t even realize I had climbed over. Because that’s when all the kids called me Auntie. Horrors!

I was an AUNTIE! Are these moments universal? The ones that are really not that big of a deal, but which still fall like Newton’s apple and bonk you on the head? Maybe when someone calls you ma’am, or you’re suddenly invisible in the grocery store aisle. You manage to side step the big stuff, like your husband choosing to stay home from the family vacation and from celebrating your big four-oh, only to have your whole existence recodified by one shrill, little voice saying, “‘Ey! Auntie! Happy Birthday!”

Auntie. Hmm. I don’t even know how to hula and tuning a ukulele is beyond me. But now I have something to look forward to. When they have their 40th birthday, I can sit back and drink a beer, comfy in my muumuu, leis piled on my neck, smacking my lips as I watch the look on their faces as they get called “Auntie” for the very first time.

2/363: PostADay

(Daddy got out his ukulele and jammed at the luau, but I don’t have any video of it, so I’ll share some “Mach 4” from Hawaiian ukulele maestro Kalei Gamiao. Did you know you could do that with a ukulele? I sure as shootin’ didn’t.)

Written by cr8df8

January 2, 2011 at 10:22 pm