Tearing at the Fabric

Of the space-time continuum


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Our words still swirl around

CAUTION: SWEARY, RANTY, VENTY POST AHEAD!

At this time of the year, it is inevitable that those of us who are still pretty unsettled about their lives battle those swirling thoughts. I am (dripping with sarcasm) SO surprised that I fit into this demographic.

So, in order to try to put them down for a bit, and get on with my transcription work for both my own thesis, and my supervisor’s research, I thought I might try to dump some stuff here, this darling little receptacle for such annoyances.

I am constantly told that I am doing everything wrong. Constantly. And the thing that really pisses me off about it is that although I am a pretty strong person, a lifetime-feminist, latterly-scholar, and know my own mind, it gets to me. Being told you are doing life wrong is shit. The worst offender is Roger. He always tells me, not in an overtly unkind way, that I am continuing to make poor choices. Yep. He actually says that. Because he’s such a great decision maker, right?

You see, that’s the fucking point. He has been, historically. He makes good decisions, a lot. And me, not so much, quite often. So, yeah, self doubt occurs. And it pisses me off, because I am so aware of the power shit going on here. I know that unconsciously, he is using all he has always known, all our past, to try to convince me that I am wrong. That my brain is wrong. To listen to my heart. We had words the other night. Over our eldest daughter and something she was messaging me about. It was a mechanical issue with her car, and she was about to drive up here for the Christmas/New Year break. She did not message her father, who admittedly has more mechanical knowledge than I do. However, I did my best (I am a farmer, and a practical kind of person) to guide her, to advise her, and he let loose on me afterwards, telling me how wrong I was/am. I tried to point out to him that there was a parenting style difference here, I was trying to guide her, and provide her with information to make her own decisions, and he was trying to dictate what she should do. Maybe, in this case, he might have been right, it was an urgent problem. But hey, at least try to see what I was doing, and note that although we may be ‘mere females,’ we can problem solve, and at least let us try! He thinks I am ‘using’ gender as a trope. But he has never lived a female life. He doesn’t understand that we need to show our independence, that our learned shit from societal attitudes needs to be mindfully overcome. And yeah, in doing so, sometimes, horror of horrors, we make mistakes! He. Just. Shut. Me Down.

Then, he made me feel terrible for not agreeing to go to his sister’s for Christmas. One of his sisters who has never given a crap about me, with his parents, who have also never given a crap about me, and play nice, for the kids. I talked to the kids, didn’t make any big deal about it, just said that I was pleased they were being able to reconnect with their cousins and family – we used to be very close – or so I thought! But, that I wasn’t a part of that family anymore. I did not go into the facts, for example, that they tried to sue us, engaging one of the top barristers in our country. Or that they tried to get us to pay for their children’s private educations (whilst we could only afford to send our own kids to the local, very average state school, when their state options were of a very high standard, ugh.) Or any of the other degrading and vindictive things that they did out of spite and jealousy, back when we were really happy. I am no longer prepared to push my own feelings down to make other people comfortable. But I was ‘wrong’ there, too. I was being petty. And not helping myself heal, and … well, you get the picture. Besides, WE ARE NOT A COUPLE ANYMORE!!! I don’t have to compromise my life for his feelings anymore.

But the problem is, I don’t feel any better living this way. I feel sad, and quite bloody lost. Quite a fucking lot. So, his words – and those of so many others around me -telling me I am doing everything wrong do sting. I see images of happy people and wonder why I can’t get there? Should I have just sucked it all up and carried on with the remorseful man? I feel I tried that, but felt resentful and weak, at the end of the day. I could manage for periods, but then would drop into the depths of despair, that I had let this arsehole treat me like shit, infect me with lifelong diseases, and he was getting a ‘better’ version of me than ever, in some respects. It pissed me off.

Maybe I should just re-title this post, Life Pisses Me Off!

And all this thinking just ties me in knots. I can’t seem to put it all down and get on with life. It sends me down rabbit holes like this one:

wedding

Was I wrong, all along? Should I have agreed to marry him, to show public love? I thought it was a private thing, something special, and sacred for us to cherish and protect. But was I wrong? Did he need to put it in writing, to have a big party, to see people see us being quite intimate? I didn’t need that, and he SAID he didn’t either. But Leanne bought a fucking wedding dress for God’s sake! I mean, WTF??? He says that shocked him, that he told her he didn’t love her, and that even if he did, he wasn’t going to marry her. But what the fuck do I know? Nothing. I only hear what he tells me, so who knows what the truth in life really is?

And yeah, maybe I need to get off Facebook, too. I thought I was able to dismiss the bullshit, etc. However, this one got to me this week. There is a couple we know, the wife of whom had a long and deep affair with a client of her own business mentoring company a few years ago now. She left her husband and two young sons, and he left his wife and four young children (including a baby) and they galloped off, so-in-love, into the sunset. Only to have his parents reject her entirely when he tried to introduce her to them. She ran back to hubby and two very confused and hurt little boys that she had said she didn’t want anything to do with. Yeah, he took her back. They then built a huge new house, he bought her a flash new car, they have overseas holidays constantly. They are “super happy and in love.” And my former BFF tells me that she tried to talk to the wife – a good friend of hers – and suggested some counselling to help them both (but mostly the husband, who BFF and her husband were supporting for the two months she was gone) to come to terms with WTF had happened, and to learn to grow their love and be kind to each other. Wife answered, “we don’t need that, we are really in love.” Oh God. Face palm. They are currently holidaying in the States (again, they were also there earlier in the year) for three months, and posting “loved up” photos. With their friends commenting about ‘young love at its best’ – they’re late 40s and early 50s now – and how loved up they are, and how proud everyone is of them. Instead of feeling pleased for them, I just feel absolutely sick. I mean, how high does this guy have to jump now??? This marriage itself came out of a cheating episode (which EVERYONE has conveniently forgotten, as marriage somehow legitimises their selfish crap!) He had a long-term (seven years living together) partner, and she ‘stole’ him off her – yeah, some prize, I know. And she is a selfish bitch (was going to use the word I prefer, which starts with ‘c’ – but know my American friends would be super offended! I have developed an even filthier mouth since cheating marred my life!) Always has been, a real gold digger/social climber, with no real empathy – hell, she was happy to walk away from her two little boys, because they were an inconvenience to her happiness!

And, if I can’t be happy (at least sometimes) in this ‘new life,’ the one I am trying, labouring, to build, then WTF is all this struggle for? Maybe I should just try to ‘settle’ with a remorseful cheater, who promises it was a breakdown, and he has learned so much, feels so awful, and would never make me feel less again. Yeah, right. Because I feel less every fucking day, either way.

I look at that image above, and it looks like us. It looks like how I danced with him under the fairy-lit trees in our garden, hand-made fire blazing, barefoot and blissed out, in a summery dress, to the band who stayed all night, until milking time the next morning – when I went and milked alone for him, so he could get some sleep – on the night of his 40th birthday. It looks like how I always felt when I looked at him, when he would look across a crowded room, and everyone would just blur into the background, it was just me and him, and he might wink, or not. But, we would be instantly melded together, and he would later tell me I was beautiful and that I made him so happy. What a total crock of shit! Why did I believe his lying, whore-flavoured lips?! Argh!

There, there is some of it. The honest thoughts. The thoughts I struggle to push away every minute of every day, in order to try to live authentically with myself. And, honestly? The way that Roger is so adept at twisting the story to suit his purposes, to make me feel like an uncompromising bitch! I know he doesn’t mean to, that he is trying to get the best outcome for all of us, but he is good at this, he has been doing it to/for/with me for 29 years.

And yeah, there are huge doubts. All. The. Time. I just don’t think I can be truly at peace, or joyful-even-a-little, since he cheated and made me sick. The struggle is exhausting, and disabling. I just want a whole new fucking brain!

 

 


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Endings

This title is perhaps not so PC. Today is my youngest child’s last ever day of school. Nineteen continuous years of primary and secondary schooling have drawn to a close for me, thirteen for her. That rhythm. That routine. And that is okay, I was looking forward to it. But sadly, yesterday a young man, two years her junior, was killed in a freak car accident involving four young men who were working together to raise money for a school rugby trip to Argentina next year. The driver failed to safely take a corner on a no exit, rural road, during the middle of the day. I get to say, “last day of school” for my baby, and that young man’s parents will never get that privilege.

bad-things-good-people

It is always sobering when you contemplate a death. A young person’s one always has you reviewing your own, and holding your own children that little bit closer, at least for a while.

We had another shock death earlier in the week, the mother of one of my son’s childhood friends died 48 hours after being admitted to hospital with end stage breast cancer that she had not told anyone, including her children, (maybe her husband knew, it sounded like that may have been likely in the wording of her obituary) had returned. She can’t have been even 50 years old?  I can’t quite work that out, did she want to spare herself the pity of others? Her children the worry of losing her? Or what else was the motivation to not let her family say goodbye properly? The younger of her two young adult children is my son’s friend. She is not doing well, she has just turned 20 years old, and the closest woman in her short life has disappeared.  I try not to judge other people’s choices, when it comes to their own bodies, etc, but I am a bit sad that this lovely young woman is left wondering what the fuck just happened, and why her mother did not trust her enough. So yeah, I must admit, I don’t agree with her decision here, just quietly. I think it was such a wasted opportunity to impart some final worldly love, compassion and support to those she had to leave here.

So, while I looked forward to celebrating the last day of school, ever, we are all doing so at the school very sombrely. The kids feel there have been too many young losses in the past two years. My son’s small year lost three in twelve months, the last not long before they finished school, also in a car crash. It is not a large community, nor school.

So, what has that got to do with my usual blog material? Nothing. Not really. Except that I so often feel that life has taken a dark turn. I can’t decide whether I just notice more of the darkness, or whether it really has. Loss and grief seem to follow me, and I can’t quite work out how to shake it off. I did laugh, as I had a hair appointment this morning, and my hairdresser shared how her mother, whom she loves very much, can be draining. She has let life’s sadnesses get her down. I have a father who does the same, and have always been so conscious that I have 50% of his DNA, and worked hard to emulate my much sunnier mother’s attitude. She had more to be sad about than many, but rarely let life get her down. I know I naturally tend more to the dark, but felt I had a good balance, was very self aware, and could steer the ship back to calmer waters when required. I managed the shittier parts of life pretty well. Until the bloody affair! And on the surface, by life’s measuring wall, it is in no way the worst thing that has happened to me. Do the setbacks stockpile? Is there really a camel with an aching back, ready to crack? For all of us?

Or is it just me? Did my supply of resilience run short? I need more directions to the store so I can restock today.


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Shit. Just. Got. Real.

So, as you can see from my recent self-absorbed posts, I am starting on my Masters research. Friday was the last date for submission for research applications to my uni’s human research ethics committee. I got there.

Shit. Just. Got. Real.

I really am writing an academic thesis linked closely with this awful journey I have been on the past few years.

And my thesis was again somewhat changed along this journey. My supervisors and myself discussed what we called the “vanilla-isation” of the project (on the surface.) I was concentrating on the effects of infidelity on home spaces, but they gently started to prod me to look at ‘break ups’ and their effect on same. I was happy to take this on board, as it is only a year, and I need to be able to gain enough local participants. But I really wanted to include those who had relationships that ‘survived’ infidelity – as from personal experience, my home spaces have been changed irrecoverably by this, even though we did not break up – for years. So, the new working title, the one I submitted to the committee is this: “‘Home is where the heart is broken?’: examining the impact of intimate relationship challenges on meanings of home.”

broken-home

At first, I was worried that it wasn’t going to be easy to get people to think their relationship ‘challenge’ was ‘enough’ to feel they could be involved. I was worried that cheating was the major way that people got challenged in their feelings about their home spaces, I know because the affair happened in and on my properties, that I have very intense feelings about space(s). My more senior supervisor said to consider that I will still get a lot of respondents who have been challenged by infidelity, but that this casts the net a little wider, and offers a perspective that suggests that infidelity isn’t the only stressor to the construct of home. I agree. I invite all genders, all sexualities, ethnicities, etc, to be involved in this. So, the longer I sat with this idea, the more focused I became about what I am interested in. I want to know what happens to people’s thoughts and feelings about the material and spatial aspects of their ‘homes’ – and what home/homelessness even means/meant to people with regards to fucked up/broken/healing/better/different-to-they-were-before/etc, relationships. There is a bit of literature about love and homes, and home-making, but not a lot on what happens to place when things fall (apart) outside of dominant discourses about monogamous relationships in a Western context. I especially want to explore the fluidity of feelings about home – I know I can love it one minute, and loathe it the next. And this has spilled over into all spaces – I can be very uncomfortable, very quickly (anxiety) in some really weird and totally unrelated spaces (on the surface) to the affair – and that never happened to me prior to my world being torn asunder. My experience with betrayal has made for permanently shifting sands.

So, I now have to wait to hear what the committee says, whether I have covered enough bases (sensitive research is always doubly scrutinised) and I certainly do not expect approval on the first submission – this is quite rare. I submitted three times for my last project, and you really think you have it sorted by the time you have agonised over it for a month or two. In the meantime, I can make some progress by assembling more literature, and organising some themes and possible theoretical frameworks.

Best of all, I am assisting one of my supervisors with her post-doctoral research on a rural group of people, and I am really enjoying it. (Well, the transcription, not so much!) But we had a really good chat about it on Friday, and she noted that we have been very careful with this as it is a sensitive area – animal welfare and human stress are two of the things we are very aware of, especially when conducting on-farm interviews – and she mentioned that when she applied to the ethics committee that no one mentioned anything about any of the things we have both identified (separately) as touchy. We are both rural people, with rural upbringings, and we were quite surprised at the lack of any thoughts about this by an academically trained, normally sharp critical thinking, probably mostly urban, committee. And we talked about how she will address this in her findings. The research is funded to the end of this calendar year, and she has a journal article about to go to print on methodological challenges and workings. I am really enjoying working with her, and she gives me very encouraging feedback. She said the other day that she would have struggled with this with a younger, non-rural grad student as she trusts me to understand the nuances and sensitivity of going on farm walks with our participants – not to mention that I have drummed up about half of the research participants through my rural contacts! She was struggling with support, as people are wary of talking to academics – especially social scientists – about their farming businesses and practices – let alone their FEELINGS! We have found our participants to be mostly a little wary, but once we have gained their trust (we are not on a crusade to bring down farming) they have been warm and shared valuable insights and perspectives.

Add to all of that the fact that one of my dearest friends in the world messaged me from our biggest city yesterday, in an absolute panic because she had just walked into the same shop as Leanne was in! And, I laughed. Yep, I am this far out, I laughed. This friend used to share a house with Leanne thirty years ago. They were once very close. I said to sidle up to her and say, “hey! Long time, no see. Fuck the love of anyone else’s life lately?” She laughed and ran out of the shop without Leanne seeing her. And said that if she had to ever speak to her, that it would NOT be even that ‘friendly! She then said that “I simply can’t abide women who go after other women’s men – period! And ones that do so under their roofs are even more despicable!”  Not gonna lie, I cried. I have not had one ‘friend’ be that loyal to me in this whole mess. Most still speak to Leanne, they play nice. One of my oldest and I thought dearest, friends, sits and drinks wine with her at their ski club lodge. Because not to do so would be rude, right? So, this friend saying these things to me, telling me that her heart was pounding and the blood was boiling as she spied her in the homewares store made me love her even more than ever.

Let the eight hours of interviews transcription, this time around, begin! (SHIT!!!)


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Metamorphmagus

… or something like that.

My thesis topic is melding into something a bit different. I chose the original topic, because I was a little afraid. Afraid of carving too deep, too close to my own bone. I thought if I could keep it about a ‘different’ set of circumstances to my own – albeit that I did experience cheating by a gay dad (now identifying as bi – not quite sure of the reasons for the change in his own labelling system 30 years on, but not my place to police another’s sexuality) on my straight mum – so had a degree of separation. Now the title is this:

‘Home is where the heart is broken’: examining the impact of infidelity-prompted relationship disruption on home and sexual subjectivities.

Hmmm. Now, the main reason I was afraid wasn’t really too much about exposure. I have been exposed, and I am over it. There was nowhere to hide when the affair was announced from the town square to all and sundry! I did try to keep my personal situation away from my academic life, but that didn’t work either. So, here I am. Embarking on an academic examination of home, and challenging dominant discourses (yet again) about ‘home’ as a safe, loving, nurturing environment. Nothing is new here. We have known forever that the pretty picture is often a facade, and not something that occurs in reality for a lot of people. Homes are also where abuse happens, where mistrust, anger, hidden sexual desires and sexualities, etc, etc, etc, lurk. Where the very image of home is turned on its head.

home-upside-down

 

When I briefly mentioned that I was a bit concerned at this being “too” personal, my supervisors were quick to reassure me that they want to keep me safe. Both emotionally, and of course, physically. And they have been very sure to keep me focused on the GEOGRAPHIES of this topic. This is a GEOGRAPHY thesis. NOT a psych one. It is my experience that my homes and my whole sense of place – including every part of my environment, indoors and outdoors – has been severely disrupted. Home has fluid and contrasting meanings to me now. Where it was once a place of sanctuary, a bit of pride, and definitely of love, nurturing and warmth, it teeters away from that towards an abject place of loathing, and place that was desecrated, etc, to back again. My sense of all spaces is now exceptionally fluid. I don’t have a love for or loathing of certain places, they all swing wildly about on the scale, and I can never predict what my reaction will be at any given time. I still have (far less, thankfully) moments in the car when I weep, torn by the betrayal, still. This is the same in my holiday home, local town, in our nation’s largest city, at racecourses around the country, on my farm – you starting to get the picture? To explore and give voice to a group who are so often ignored, or are made to feel that their perceptions of space and place are wrong. To get over it and ‘be normal’. Okay?

It helps. Oh lord, does it help!

So, I am still in the ethics phase of this, and doing well, justification, objectives, research methods, potential risk to participants, conflicts of interest, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah, check. Until I got to the design of a semi-structured interview schedule. When I realised I was asking ‘the wrong’ questions, in ‘the wrong’ context and with ‘the wrong’ perspective. NOT PSYCHOLOGY, PAULA!!! I am re-working this, and sweet baby cheeses, it is HARD. Predominantly open questions, with the right focus, and avoiding ridiculous ‘how does it feel’ as a leading and psych kind of leaning. Also, the recruitment of local participants <shiver>! Designing a poster to whip up interest, without pushing any ‘agenda’ aaaaargh.

Along with all of this going on, I am also an assistant to one of my supervisors with her current research. I am really enjoying it. It is an interesting topic, but one we are really struggling to recruit participants for, having spoken to about half the number she originally hoped for. I am at the leading edge of this, as the target group is one I am close to, and feeling a little pressure to produce these people. My supervisor is not putting this pressure on me, it is all myself. Dumbass that I am! Work has also ramped up, with the breeding season upon us. I interviewed seven people yesterday from a shortlist I compiled to share my job – from an inundation of applicants that we did not anticipate – while my boss was overseas last month. The worst part about that was that she came in early in the day, and let me know that a former colleague of hers, a terribly capable person, has let her know that she is interested in the job, that part time works for her. So, the time I spent with these candidates (and there were some great ones) was wasted. My time, and theirs. And I still haven’t got the August accounts out to clients. Luckily, the job applicants do not know this. But, yeah, I hope my boss’s old colleague works out!

Not quite sure why I shared that last paragraph. Maybe I am just doing my usual drainage of the brain. And the tears that still fall at times are related to protecting my heart, letting off that pressure valve. I never used to cry much. I was a tough farm girl. Yeah, I felt stuff, and there were times when the tears fell, but not like this. I think of this blog more and more as that space – the pressure valve. And I know that I have made progress in recent times, because I use it far less than I once did. Or I manage the pain levels far better than I once did. I think it is a little of both.

pressure-valve

 

Whatever the reason, I am glad I made this space, even if it was probably far too late to save what was once a beautiful life, with a beautiful man, that I was beautifully happy with.

And that pretty inane wisdom folks, is all for now.


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“So, what is your thesis on?”

Well, hmmm.

Yes, this semester has seen me embark on my Masters thesis. I went to a workshop the other day to help prepare for a possible tilt at my uni’s heats of the Masters version of 3MT (3 Minute Thesis – a competition that has traditionally been run for PhD candidates.) I can’t compete, because I am taking D (youngest daughter) and Frenchie (exchange student living with us) to Wellington for a long weekend, and the heats are one of the days I am away. To say I am relieved is a bit of an understatement! I am not good at public speaking, and as you all know, I am also not good at keeping things brief! But, I thought I would go along to learn a bit more about it, and push my boundaries. I will need to hone these skills as I progress through my thesis, and beyond. First question as I sat beside a Masters candidate (in German) was, “so, what faculty and department are you from?” And second question was, “so, what is your thesis topic?” Hmmm. I don’t have a title. And I barely have a long synopsis. So, I stuttered through a brief outline, and the reply, “how is THAT Geography?”

PMSL.

It is a common reaction. I am a human geographer, and even fellow grad students, from the same faculty don’t get it. But I will try to outline it here.

pray the gay

I am interested in what happens when we label people. And people don’t fit in those boxes. Or do for a while, then outgrow them. Or someone tries to “re-pot” them in another box that is uncomfortable, and is a bad fit.

That kind of thing.

So, my original proposal was to do with what happens when plural, or fluid sexualities unfold in a previously imagined “hetero” monogamous long-term relationship? Kind of a bit autobiographical (my parents) as in, a look at betrayal, and hegemonic ideas about what marriage and monogamy look like in Western contexts. I wanted to see what happens when we look further down the line from some of the literature on “falling in love and committing to one person of the opposite sex.” And the spatial and material arrangements of that. As in, does it mean automatic separation, or can the space be (re)configured somehow? What about when there IS separation, and children are perhaps involved, and the experience of both them and either one or the other, or both parents confronting “matter out of place” in a sense – in that maybe some familiar objects are relocated, maybe in mum’s new house, and it feels disconcerting (or whatever?) This seemed like a way of unpacking what society says about romantic relationships, and challenging it in a bounded framework of sexuality. I then thought, geographically, about space and place, and thought, “yay, I can use some of my existing online networks, to drum up interest in participation.”

Go me!

But last Friday, I had a meeting – only my second, I am only in my third week of this – with my senior supervisor (I have two, and love them both!) She has pointed me in a slightly different direction. She now has me reading the literature and unpacking spaces of home, love, intimacy and kinship. And here’s the kicker. She wants me to ground it (as after all, it is a one year project, not a PhD) in a specific geographical context, eg, my local region.

At first, I was a little taken aback. Oh no! How will I recruit participants? This is a little personally exposing, a bit “close to home” – good ol’ geography! But, I am open to it, I get what she is suggesting, and I agree. Start at the beginning. Start at how we conceptualise love. Then watch it implode, lol.

So, in order to try to make sense of how to approach this, I am reading like a madwoman, and I thought a brief post here might help me start to play with the working title, and start to arrange some order of approach. At the moment, it is all swirling around in there in a big tornado of thought, with no sequence. I am not a particularly orderly person, so it’s like herding cats. And I know my working title is nowhere near what I want it to be, and it needs to be far snappier, but I will record it here to put a peg in the ground. A marker of the origins of this thesis. I do it very nervously, as it is so far from what I need it to be yet, and I am struggling with the idea of a “fixed” sexual identity versus a fluid one – and how to incorporate that properly in the title without contradicting myself with, “okay, so one of these people has a static sexual identity, but that is not the case for everyone….”

sigh

Queering long-term ‘heterosexual’ romantic relationships: querying the effects of a romantic partner’s fluid sexualities on constructions of monogamous love in (insert geographical region(s) here.)

Aaaargh, I HATE it!

(Press publish, ewwwwwwwwww)


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Moods

It’s been a very quiet weekend. The youngest flew to the city her brother is at university at yesterday. The uni has its Open Day tomorrow, and she and a friend went together to check it out. So, Mother’s Day weekend has been spent doing my final two interviews and transcribing them. I have a bloody sore typing wrist! So, I will try to keep it brief.

crying-depressed-depression-fake-favim-com-1832803

I guess, from what I have posted on this funny little piece of online real estate, I looked like I had a blissfully unaware, spoilt rotten life prior to the affair? Right? Well, not quite.

I had fairly brief periods over the years when my mood would be pretty low. I think it was probably mild depression that would hit from nowhere. It would be years apart, and usually I could shake it off within a month or two. It hit particularly badly when my eldest was about eight months old, and I ended up in tears in my GPs surgery, with his older practice nurse being SOOO amazing, and saying that she had suffered with post natal depression, and had some numbers of good counsellors. They prescribed meds for me. I never filled the prescription, and battled away until around the eighteen month mark, when it seemed to lift. I have no idea why? I had stopped breastfeeding her a couple of months earlier, and I mostly enjoyed that. I think just talking in the doctor’s office that day helped ease the burden a bit. I think it may have had something to do with the fact that I was a bit isolated, in a way. I was only 25 when I had her, and none of my friends were partnered up, let alone mothers yet. I think I felt I had failed a little at life, a two time university dropout, had to return early from her OE due to a unplanned for baby on the way. Bit of a lemon really. I knew I wasn’t, that those narratives were in my head, and that I loved and was loved. And I made a huge effort. If I had to be a mother, I was going to be the BEST damn mother I could be. I had a great role model in my own mother, but I hadn’t ever really thought too hard about parenthood. I assumed the urge, if it ever came – and to be honest, I hoped it wouldn’t – would hit somewhere in my 30s. My girl short circuited all of that. And I have no real regrets. Motherhood was the making of me in many ways. And don’t get me wrong, I adore my kids. Totally.

A couple more times in the next couple of decades, I recall some lowish moments. The worst was when I started to have suicidal ideations, or basically, I went and sorted out how to make the practicalities of a car gassing work. That was absolutely (by far and away) the worst I ever got, and I never went through with any attempts. It seems almost surreal to tell the story now. Like only crazy and terribly messed up people get that low, right? (Answer: of course not!)

I recall a friend having a real struggle in dealing with her teenage step-daughter being diagnosed with depression. Like it was pretty stigmatic (to her.) I remember asking a few questions, like is she getting help, is the ‘help’ actually helping, etc. Then I made a remark that may seem flippant here. I said, “well, you do remember that it is a teenager’s job to be depressed, right?” I didn’t mean it to sound as harsh and as dismissive as it no doubt did. The friend looked at me like I had taken a dump on her white carpet! “What the hell are you talking about?” I answered, “well, we’ve all listened to too much sad music and taken it to heart, felt completely heart broken and misunderstood as teenagers, haven’t we?” She was sure I had dropped from another planet. “NO!!! I never felt like that.” Boy, did I feel like a weirdo, and I realised, for the first time, that maybe not everyone DID feel like that a lot in their teens? I mean, I had a great childhood, there was plenty to do, see, eat, play, etc. I was pretty privileged, but never over-indulged. It floored me. Did I do my teenage years all wrong? I thought her step-daughter (who is my god-daughter, I was good friends with her mother before their divorce) was just having a tough, but pretty ‘normal’ time of those late teen years. She was, but did require some medical help for a while, maybe she still does, she’s 25 now, and it matters not, as long as she is okay. But maybe it isn’t always like that? A revelation. And not a pretty one. I was somehow a ‘deficient’ model off the assembly line. Damn! I LOVED all that emotional music. As an 80s child, I LOVED listening to Morrissey speak my truths. Michael Stipe, Robert Smith, yes, Prince, Bowie, Siouxsie Sioux, Billy Bragg, so, so many more, all of my musical loves, they KNEW how it felt to be me, to not fit the round hole as this square peg. And she was telling me I was wrong.

I figure that I was given an incredible capacity to feel. Mostly is has been an amazing gift. I loved, I laughed, I empathised, I supported, and I mourned with those I care about. But, the flipside of that special coin, is that you feel pain (and anger!) more intensely than most. You are usually a loyal and fierce person. You will FIGHT anyone who hurts ANYONE you care about. It might not be physical, but you will form whatever barriers you can. I would bloody well near die for you if I love you! Even if you were nice to me once, lol! I spent a great deal of my younger life learning to rein the anger, and indignation at injustice in – to a societally acceptable level. I met a very calm and loving man, and he helped me in this endeavour. Interestingly, he sort of understood it, even though he rarely feels the heights and depths that I always have. He knows it dwells in him, having watched his father, who is not a bad man in any way, shape or form, instead is a pretty sweet and caring man, but who had an explosive temper – never directed at animals or humans. I have been checked twice to see if I fit a bipolar profile. Apparently not, but I believe I may sail pretty close to that ley line at times. And I knew it. I recognised my passions were possibly a bit more intense than many.

So, a friend posted about a song that moved her as it always reminded her of a family member who lived with the torment of addiction, and who, sadly, eventually took his own life. It set off some triggers, but not in that heart-stopping, awful way of the immediate period of post D-day. More just led me down this rabbit hole. I have blogged earlier about my affinity with music, and the themes and lyrics that give me goosebumps, and plumb the depths of my soul. I know I am not alone in that. And it reminded me that I didn’t have a picture perfect life before the affair (ha! I already knew that, but…) that I had had a moment where I really did contemplate ending my life, because I was not coping with the pain of … life. I know I am susceptible to depression, but have never really had a severe episode of prolonged, deep depression, more my – self-diagnosed, I admit – dysthymia, where I just can’t feel content. And this is what has set in after the affair, and after the first years of being pretty sure we would manage to climb out of the shitty place he put us in. Dysthymia, it’s a shit of a place to live, and I can’t seem to raise a mortgage to get out of it!

All that said, it has been a productive weekend, but I need to exercise. I have the last two interviews completed for my dissertation paper done this weekend, but yet to transcribe, and I was hoping I would have made a start on the coding and writing by now. The joys of what seems like permanent studenthood!

So, (not a real) dog, WALKIES!!!

 

 


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Desolation

In the months after D-day, I started to realise that what I was feeling was more than just “a bit upset,” or, “having a bit of a sad moment.” I was grief stricken. And it took me a little while to process why. Fully.

I had been very young, but very deliberate and communicative about the start of our relationship. I told Roger, when he invited me to move in with him – as the lease on my flat was up, it was late summer, my “summer” job had been offered to me on a permanent contract, and I had decided to take some time out from trying to find what it was I wanted to do at university (I had already tried two different unis and three different degrees, two were conjoint) – that I wasn’t the kind of person to just take the easy way out, to just move in with a guy I had only known for a few weeks, for fun. Living with a man was something I only wanted to do once, and do it with both of us fully committed. I think I knew I never wanted to marry, and that this was my version of what so many people do in getting married. So, I discussed it in a fairly serious way with him. He said he wanted me to be with him forever. So. We did it. I moved in. I was “hitched.”

See, I always knew that happy relationships are one of the keys to longevity and contentment. I was absolutely sure he was the right guy for me. Since that day, we had always planned and discussed how our lives would be, and how lucky we were to have found someone who “got” the other. We were really in love. And we stayed that way for twenty years. I stayed that way for even longer. I knew that I wanted to grow old, to watch him change, mature, age, etc. I wasn’t scared we would find each other unattractive as the wrinkles pressed themselves into our skin, the grey hairs sprouted (everywhere!) and the bodies started to sag. I wasn’t worried he would find someone else. He was not about appearances, our bond went far, far deeper. I KNEW we were one of the lucky couples.

This morning, I read an article entitled, “Single Again.” About death of a partner later in life. And how soul-destroying it can be. It was a piece on social networks as life savers to the elderly on widowhood. The first widower interviewed spoke of how he met his wife – a little later than many of the era at 37 – and proposed to her after meeting her only two or three times. They went onto share a wonderful marriage that lasted until her death 13 years ago, after 34 years of very happy marriage. “It was heartbreaking. It was hard. I’ve got no advice on how you cope. It’s your own fault for being happily married.”

grumpy cat grief

Friends matter. Studies have shown that a life spent among friends is more important than losing weight, exercise, or giving up smoking. The loss of a partner can disrupt social networks that couples have created together over a long period of time. “If you have some sort of damage to your social network, then you have higher rates of isolation and loneliness; if you have higher rates of isolation and loneliness, you are more likely to experience low mood; low mood has a strong correlation with depression; and depression has a high correlation with morbidity and mortality.” Men tend to have less complex social networks than women, and their tolerance to loneliness is higher, whereas women require more extensive and established social networks.

Reading all of that was no surprise to me whatsoever. I am not the most social animal on the planet, but I had a sure and select group of friends, whom I spent a great deal of time with, caring for them, loving them as my “family” that, due to the nature of small towns, white, middle class coupledom and parenthood, had a strong correlation with Roger. I instigated some of the friendships, he some of the others.

After D-day, I drew on the select few within the select few, that I felt would be most supportive and understanding of my utter desolation at losing the primary relationship I had left in life. My bloody fab mother had tragically died almost ten years earlier, and I had pretty ordinary relationships with my other family members. A depressive, absent father, an alcoholic, absent brother, and another this-time-physically-absent brother who lived far away. I didn’t tell any of them. I did eventually email my sister, who had recently divorced in very painful circumstances (no cheating that I know of) and told her. She lives quarter of a planet away, and has done since I was ten years old. She was comforting, but distant (as usual.) So, I had adopted Roger’s family as my own. I was close to his sister and his mother. But two years prior to D-day, he had made business decisions that tore us apart from them, the sister raged, spat and spewed lies about us all over town. In his betrayal of me, he had ripped me away from the only support systems I knew. And none of my friends really got it. He had been naughty, he was sorry, he won’t do it again, end of story, get over it love.

I felt desperate and suicidal. I attempted twice. You see, I had never seen myself as needy. I was independent, I ran committees, businesses, charities, kids, a partner…… but I had always envisaged loyalty and love from the man I loved truly, madly, deeply, and to whom I gave all my love and loyalty. We often talked of how cool it was going to be when the kids were all launched, and we would be back to us, the older, but still avid lovers who shared so much, talked, laughed, made gorgeous and passionate love…..

We nearly got there. The first was about to launch, I could see the travel destinations, the food, the wine, the fun, the quiet times just holding each other, knowing that this time a child wouldn’t knock on the door, or squeeze their body between ours. We had worked our arses off for this. But he stole that away from us. My grief is at the loss of my worldview, I am deeply suspicious of even “friends” now, I don’t see the best in every situation, or every person. I am watchful, ready to run, to protect myself.

I had a night with an old friend, her twice divorced sister, and the sister’s divorced-and-happily-remarried-to-her-AP (brief, she left her husband and a marriage they had both decided was over five years earlier, but hadn’t separated, a week after meeting this guy)-for-thirteen-years friend. The conversation, after several wines (I was not keeping pace with them, I am a quiet sipper these days, keeping my guard up) turned to relationships, as “girly” nights can. The friend, J and the sister, C (who is closer to me than any of my own biological family) talked about sex, and relationships, etc. I was very quiet. I had nothing to say, and I was not thrilled to discover yet another cheater in the midst. After about two hours of chit chat about “girls’ shit,” I quietly spoke up. “Why, after being married to your first husband, whom you knew you didn’t love, whom you saw as needy an weak, whom you had discussed that your marriage was over with, didn’t you leave him? Was it economics?” She looked at me, kindly, (not knowing my own history) and said, “yes, I think so, that, apathy and lethargy. I just couldn’t get my life sorted on my own, so I lazily stayed. Until I met H, and I knew straight away that I had to leave. I left the week after I met him. I should have gone years earlier.” She has a very workable relationship with her ex and his wife. They have co-parented their three now adult children well.

calm-down-bitch-im-already-in-a-commited-extramarital-affair

I know this post isn’t saying what I sat down to write. I was trying to elucidate that I had this future of happiness, warmth, fun, connection, and love taken from me. I might have even had my other social networks, and important friendships severely disrupted, at the expense of my health. Roger talked with me this morning about some stuff, and I spoke quietly with him about this, the long, loving relationship that was important to me. He apologised again, and later quietly said that he had also robbed himself of that “dream” that he saw us as a pair of happy old coots always – and it hurts him every day that he can’t right it. That the eco-bach and the veggie garden, the chooks pecking away, the trips off to intrepid destinations, those things are gone, and he understands and is so very sorry. I told him that the girls had had a bit of a chat. And that I can never explain this to anyone, because they think it is about me just not getting over his little mistake. He changed my whole view of who I was, who WE were. He took my agency over my own life, not just by fucking a whore, but by discounting me, by leaving me out of big life decisions he cut me off at the knees. Everything I worked for was wiped out in one fell swoop, by the person in the privileged position, him. He has recently admitted that maybe he wouldn’t have been so dismissive of me being more involved if we had been legally married. He says he never thought of it that way, that he just believed that what he wanted, I wanted too, and he saw it as him acting as my advocate. He had to fight hard to get things done, family committees are bloody slow-moving! His focus was narrow, he had his eyes on the prize, and my feelings and empowerment was only in his peripheral vision really. He had always been adamant that not being married had no effect. But the more he has analysed it, the more he can see that all the negotiations he had over buying property off family, sorting our Family Trust issues, all of that stuff, he did very nearly alone, and I was screaming at him to think of me, to include me, begging him to name me on more land titles, to have me more present at legal meetings – but his parents also discounted me. And all because I never wanted a stupid piece of paper. A marriage certificate is legitimacy to those in positions of power. I hadn’t calculated about family businesses and power politics when I refused to marry him. I just wanted to be with the man I loved because we chose to be together. Not because we were legally bound to be. I underestimated things really badly. All because I didn’t want to have to do what everyone else was doing. I didn’t want to have to have the stupid white dress and be someone else’s legal “property.”

What a naive little girl I was.