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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I don't like ice cream.

This morning I sat in a square of sunshine on my living room floor and ate salted caramel gelato for breakfast. I did this because:
1. It's not good for me.
2. I'm lactose intolerant so it's REALLY not good for me.
3. It tasted good.
4. I wanted it.
5. I'm an adult and I don't have a mom to tell me I can't eat ice cream for breakfast.

I tell people I don't like ice cream. This isn't untrue--I don't really like it. But sometimes I want it because everyone else in the world seems to love it and I feel I'm a bit of a freak because I don't. I've learned to choose wisely, however, when I try ice cream to see if I still don't like it. I choose a variety that is very expensive, high quality, and includes ingredients I like outside of the ice cream (like nuts or salted caramel), and I don't eat very much of it. I've learned to stop after my third bite.

So, to be accurate, this morning I sat in a square of sunshine on my living room floor and ate three bites of salted caramel gelato for breakfast.

Then I ate an apple. I think this is a very good breakfast. Darrin doesn't. So I made myself a lactose-free protein shake and drank half of it. Protein shakes do not taste as good as apples. Or gelato.

DJ moved in with us last year so he could save money to go back to school, and recover from his knee surgery. He went to one part-time semester of school, and also got his EMT certification. Now he just wants to be an EMT. No more school. But EMT jobs are scarce.

Adam has been telling us since he was 17 that he was moving out soon and going to college in Australia. He's been looking at apartments and going to school. But last year he began having migraines--3-5 weekly. We were alarmed. He was missing a great deal of school and felt miserable. So I took Adam to a neurologist who prescribed an epilepsy medication. From the day he took the first dose, Adam has not had a migraine. However, he did experience debilitating fatigue, fogginess in his brain, and a complete personality change. Once again, we were alarmed. Adam is now medication-free and migraine-free, and slowly returning back to normal. But his grades during the first year of college were terrible. Adam petitioned the scholarship department, explained the situation, and his scholarship was reinstated for this year, but last semester wasn't stellar. Adam now tells us that he has no plans to move away from home. He's sticking around for awhile until he can figure out how to manage money, keep a good job, and not fail at life.

Tabitha planned to live at home for a year, complete gen-eds, apply to the nursing program in the fall of 2014, and leave home to attend said nursing program at that time. She's been working and going to school full-time and last semester was pretty tense as she tried to figure out how to fit 25-30 work hours, 16 credit hours, homework, and sleep into her life. She did it, but just barely. Now I understand that the current life plan has changed. She's not leaving home in the fall, she's staying another year and completing an Associates degree in psychology.

Darrin and I have a bucket list of things we will do when our children are gone. I want to do those things.

Don't get me wrong. I love having these kiddos at home. But it's kind of like living with three roommates who haven't figured out how to be grown-ups yet. And they don't like it when I say, "You're adults. Stop asking me to intervene in disagreements. Clean up after yourselves. Don't take it personally if you have to make meals, do laundry, and pay for your upkeep. We'll help, but you need to learn to be your own person."

Nor do they like it when I remind them that the upstairs bathroom is not their exclusive property, but is also our guest bathroom so they need to keep it clean and keep toilet paper on the proper bathroom appliance.

Darrin says I'm just feeling cranky lately, and he's right. I actually love having these three amazing people living with me. But solitude has been more than just a little bit appealing in the past few weeks, and it's rare in our house. DJ keeps to himself, so I actually don't mind it when he's home. But Adam wants to talk constantly and expects me to respond, and even though Tabitha just wants to talk (no response required), that can become a little trying, as well. Adam and Tabitha find me no matter where I go, and they always have something to say. Darrin says I'll miss this when they're gone. Probably he's right.

Darrin asked me yesterday what bugs me so much about having my children at home right now. I thought for a moment, then I said, "Their rooms are scary messy and they're too old now, for me to tell them to clean them."

I really do think that's the problem. And when your kids are too old to be bossed around anymore, you just have to sit in the sun and eat three bites of gelato. . .

Saturday, January 25, 2014

This will be a very odd post, which means, of course, that I've been doing therapy stuff. This particular thing has been hanging around for years. I've been kicking it back, avoiding it--probably because I know what it reveals about me and I don't like it. But not liking something doesn't mean it's not real.

I've noticed that when things in my life become stressful, I'm more inclined to look honestly at myself, which makes me more likely to finish tasks from therapy. I sometimes think I should wait until I'm feeling better, but that never happens. When I feel level and happy, I'm more likely to just accept whatever is amiss inside me. It's not bothering me, so why expend effort trying to figure out what it means? So I've been working a great deal lately, on things that Therapist and I have discussed for the past ten years.

Therapist used to tell me, "The only relationship in your life that REALLY matters is the one you have with your spouse."

In my head, this is how that translated:

People come and go. Some stay longer than others. But it doesn't really matter because in the end, the only one you're really tied to is your spouse. No matter how much you try to foster any other relationship, it will end. Your children will leave you to find spouses of their own. Your friends will leave or die. Your progeny will eventually regard you as the laughable old woman who, at dinnertime, rolls food around in her mouth because she can't chew it, then puts it back on her plate, sits in her chair, and mutters. Only your spouse remains with you and remembers who you really are.

My interpretation of that translation: Relationships are sort of pointless. Except spousal ones, of course.

Therapist says this is not what he meant at all. Therapist's translation:

Your spouse is your major source of love and support. You've made covenants with one another that you will never leave, you'll work on always building the relationship, you'll forgive and move forward, you'll be best friends and lovers, and each will always come first in the other's life. Other relationships are not built to be as close or resilient. Children leave parents to make their own lives and families--but they remain in their parents' lives, just not as present. Friendships wax and wane because they have their own families and spouses which must, of necessity, come first. But no one really forgets their friends, and when time permits, they rejoin and spend limited time together. However, your spouse is a constant and should always be given priority over any other person.

Therapist's interpretation of this: All relationships are valuable, but emphasis must always be placed on those that are spousal.

Therapist is correct. I've always known that. And I don't disagree, necessarily. But I have always had difficulty maintaining relationships--always. Therapist traces this to the breakdown of the childhood relationship I had with my parents who were largely unreliable and unavailable, emotionally, and who discouraged any closeness or intimacy I might initiate. When you're a little girl and you really need a hug, you go to your mom or dad, I think. I was too afraid of my mother. My dad would hug me briefly, then move away. My little girl impression of the act was that touching me was embarrassing to him.

Little girls form friendships quickly and deeply. Holding hands and cuddling are part of that--at least they were when I was a child. Perhaps in today's world, where homosexuality is a hypertopic and people are highly sensitive to how their acts with another person are interpreted, little girls are encouraged to touch less. I don't really know. I'm hypothesizing. I hope I'm wrong. Such touch, for me, was the only real affection I received between the ages of six through twelve.

As I grew up, I had no interest in dating boys--but they seemed interested in dating me. So I did. And I had boyfriends. And I let them cuddle and kiss because I really, really wanted that. However, it seemed to affect them more deeply than it did me, and after awhile I was finished with that. I wanted nothing more than to be held and loved. The boyfriends definitely weren't satisfied with only that.

Darrin, alone, seemed to understand my need to be touched without strings attached. Granted, he was the first person I told of the sexual and physical abuse in my life, so he understood my background, but it was clear to me that he would allow me to call the shots when it came to our physical interaction--which is one of many reasons that I married him.

And for a long time, Darrin WAS all I needed. He was my most important relationship--my only important relationship. After my children were born, I experienced new levels of relationship depth. Other people came and went. I enjoyed them but had no desire to work to make secure friendships with them. That desire has never been paramount for me. And when they left, I felt a tiny shock of loneliness, then turned immediately to Darrin to appease it.


No doubt about it. And I was lonely. I ignored the loneliness and filled my life with other things, other temporary people, other books to read or music to play. I learned new skills and got new jobs and refused to think about loneliness or friends or anything that caused me discomfort. After all, in the end, I had Darrin, and that was all that mattered.

Ten years ago I began to face the things that haunt me. I went to a therapist (or two...or three...or four...and then finally found a good fit in Therapist). I stopped running. I decided to look at the things that scare me. At the top of my list were "People". I told Therapist I was going to learn to have real relationships outside of Darrin and my kids. He looked alarmed and immediately told me that those were my most important relationships. I knew that. I just wanted to see if I could have more--other relationships with other people--relationships that could last longer than a few months or a year.

So I did. And I wrote about it in my blogs. A lot.

Maintaining longterm contact with people was difficult for me, and very stressful. There were many times when I just wanted to cut everyone loose and never see them again. Sometimes I would hide for a week while I collected myself, gathered strength, and decided to keep trying.

I don't expect anyone to understand this. I know of many people who maintain their relationships with no problem or conflict or stress. I'm not one of them. It's hard for me. I'm afraid of people.

In spite of everything, I've had quite a few friendshps that have endured nearly 8 years now. That's a very long time. And I think I can truly say that I did it--we did it. I'm not eternally damaged by abuse and rape and I can be as human as the next person. But what I've noticed in the past year is that my drive to maintain my relationships is waning. I don't love the people less. I still want them. I just don't feel that, should the relationships become less important to all parties concerned, it doesn't say anything about me or my ability to interact with people. And at this point, all of us have spouses--and our spousal relationships are supposed to be the most important.

I guess I'm just feeling that after all is said and done, as close as we've been, as important as I might be (which isn't hugely important, I admit), I'm not really irreplaceable, and should I no longer be in the picture (for whatever reason), everyone still has their spouses, and that's what matters. But Therapist says it's not a black-and-white issue, even though that's what he said at first. And he says part of the reason he feels that way is because in the last decade I've convinced him otherwise. While he still believes that spousal relationships are parmount, there are equally important relationships that serve different purposes which should be nurtured and cherished. And he says I'm really not replaceable.

I don't know that I believe him. I often feel that I'm a convenient diversion. I don't object to being that. But sometimes I would like to feel that I make people's lives better and that they seek me out because I provide something they want and need.

My parents hug me now. It's awkward and I don't like it. They do it because they understood, too late, how hurt I was growing up and they DO love me, and they want to make things right, somehow. They can't--but I let them hug me anyway because it seems to make them feel better. It doesn't make me feel better, but it doesn't hurt me either. I guess that's what I don't want my relationships with other people to become--something they allow to happen because, even if they don't really like it, it doesn't hurt them and it seems to help me. That, in my mind, is not honest or healthy. I want more.

And maybe that's the entire problem expressed in three words. I want more. But maybe "more" is a figment of my imagination. Therapist says it's not, but he also says he was wrong about the importance of non-spousal relationships, and quite frankly, I don't think he knows any more than I do.

Last night I questioned a number of people who are currently present in my life about this topic. They all think I'm delving too deeply and I just need to let life happen and enjoy it. Maybe they're right--but it also illustrates how little they know me.

Okay. I'm done. Time to go to the gym.

Monday, January 20, 2014

I don't watch movies with an R rating.

Some people will suppose that this is because LDS people have been cautioned to use good judgment when choosing what they watch (and R-rated movies have been specifically mentioned as things to avoid), and I am part of that group. But anyone who knows me understands that blind obedience isn't really my style, and it's rare for me to do something simply because I've been told to (or told not to, as the case may be). Imagine having me as a child...yeah...I was a bit obstinate. So I'm not an adherent of the popular saying, "When the prophet speaks, the debate is over." I'm pretty sure I'm an Old Testament candidate for flood victim, wilderness wanderer, or pillar of salt. That's just who I am.

My choice to avoid rated R movies (and some PG-13 movies) was made when I was quite young and I encountered my first triggering violent movie. Television is not the big screen, and I found that my tolerance for violence (especially sexually related violence) went way down when it was large and in my face and I had no control over the volume. I've often said that I don't identify with movies and I'm constantly aware that an actor is playing a role--and I appreciate it when it's done well. But there are times when something triggers a memory, it could be a sight, a sound, or just a situation, and when that happens, I'm no longer watching the movie on the screen but am, instead, a victim of that triggered memory.

I recognized, after a rather unfortunate date, that if the violence in a PG-13 movie could trigger me, probably the degree allowed to be portrayed in an R-rated movie would be lengthier, or more intense, or more frequent, and because I was embarrassed that I left the theater with my date with no idea of what had happened in the movie, I decided I would not put myself in that position again. And I didn't.

My resolve to stay away from R-rated movies was further strengthened when I spent a year living with my outspoken, rather loud, mother-in-law, who declared her undying enthusiasm and enjoyment of slasher movies based on real life (I believe her favorite was Scar Face). I found her need to describe the bloody Hollywood depictions of the horrific crimes, with not a word spoken about the victims or their families, to be ghoulish at best. Mother-in-law was not accepting of my assertion that I just didn't want to watch--so the mormnorm edict became a convenient crutch for my escape when the movies were shown in the evenings, and I was grateful it existed.

It's rare for me to go to a movie theater and choose from the list of available movies. I will almost always research what I wish to see so I know what I'm up against, before deciding whether or not I'll be safe when I view it. It's just a good idea for me.

My reluctance to view films with sex and violence has been misconstrued by many people. And some believe I judge them harshly because they choose to watch movies I do not. I'm often overwhelmed with excuses or explanations of why the movie has merit, in spite of its rating. I'm told that they know we're not "supposed" to watch rated R movies. I'm prodded to just watch it with them and they'll edit out the "bad" parts.

They don't understand. I don't really care what they choose to watch. It changes nothing in my opinion about, or love for, them, any more than knowing that they eat ice cream daily would alter my feelings or opinions. But I am frustrated that they cannot accept my decision not to watch, and I feel a great deal of stress as they attempt to goad or persuade me. They don't know that I feel I am less of a person because my ability to process the types of situations I see on the screen is diminished by the violence I have experienced in my life, and that I am embarrassed and a little bit angry when I have to explain. I feel, instead, that they do not care about my feelings when my quietly spoken, "Maybe we could choose a different movie, please?" is met with resistance and little understanding.

So for future reference, should I decline a movie invitation, please go without me and enjoy yourself. Or if you wish to spend time with me, help me choose a different movie or activity we both can enjoy. Let's just forget for a moment, that there are any religious guidelines that apply to me, and just believe I'm an adult who makes good decisions for myself--because sometimes I do that.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Marriage--specifically, mixed-orientation marriage

When I began blogging, this was something that greatly interested me. I wanted to find others in MOMs who were happy, as I was--people like me, who somehow, against great odds, had found fulfillment and joy with a partner of the opposite sex. I think this was important to me because my marriage experience was greatly different from opposite sex attracted married people. Maybe I didn't want to be the "only one". I think I wanted dialogue with people who understood my situation. Regardless, the topic was on my mind and I wanted to talk about it.

Once I began speaking, there were quite a few people who entered the conversation. I learned a lot--which was also something I was seeking. To my dismay, I learned that two camps exist on the topic and both of them have strong opinions and speak very loudly. Personally, I have a strong opinion about my own marriage, but I really don't have one about any other marriage. I'll talk about mine, but probably not yours. And I strongly resist joining either of the two camps.

Camp One: Mixed orientation marriage is unnatural and should be avoided (actually, I've heard the words "should not be an option" in the place of "should be avoided" more often than I'd like, and it bothers me because it sort of dictates who one must not marry--in the same way some states' laws do). It will ultimately end in divorce, which is harmful to any offspring, and also to both spouses, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Those who are in MOMs and who attest to successful marriages are being dishonest and their words should be disregarded.

Camp Two: Gay people choose their orientation. They have an agenda (no one's really sure what this agenda is, but certainly it is EVIL and will bring about ARMAGEDDON and the world will die because of it). The only reason they can't change is because they don't want to. If gay people meet the right person of the opposite sex and get married, they'll live happily ever after and never be gay again. Just like Samantha. We use marriages like Samantha's because it proves that gay people are imaginary.

Clearly these are extreme views. I don't really have extreme views about anything. Except, maybe, chocolate. I love it. Extremely.

Over the past decade, I have been approached several times to talk about my marriage and my life in different venues. Those invitations have come from several different sources, not all extreme, and some for very good reasons--reasons I support. However, in making a video, writing a brief essay, participating in a podcast, writing a guest blog, or being interviewed, I understand that once my words become public, they can and will be misconstrued.

People from camp one will mock my marriage, question my honesty and sincerity, accuse me of attention seeking, and wait for my marriage to fail. People from camp two will harm gay family members and friends as they press them to "change" or to date members of the opposite sex, or twist my words to prove that gay people are inherently wrong or evil. I have no interest in providing fodder for either camp.

I believe the majority of people are more moderate and really don't care about me or my marriage. I'm an oddity worthy of three or four seconds of perusal, and that is all. But even without the MOM aspect, my marriage is remarkable. The average length of a first marriage is 8 years. Mine has survived more than 20 years. That's a long time. And I suppose that's what I've been thinking about.

My reasons for finding other MOMs are no longer as important to me. What I've learned is that every marriage is unique and some have greater challenges than others. Being gay has not caused me as much stress, perhaps, as it causes others in MOMs. I've been more challenged by the abuses of my past than by my sexual orientation mix-match of the past two decades.

I've also learned that sexual compatibility can be problematic for anyone, regardless of whether or not they marry a person of the same orientation. Things that seem to guarantee longevity in any relationship are linked to common interests, ability to weather changes and crises, desire to remain in the relationship, willingness to work out disagreements and find common ground, enjoyment of each other's company, and intense interest in each other. Sex is a component of that, naturally, but one that can wax and wane based on age and health. Devotion plays a large part in marriage longevity.

That last paragraph is not advisory. I don't give advice. It's simply a list of observations I've made as I've researched and studied marriages over the past decade--including my own. Darrin and I have had our ups and downs (still do). But I believe, at the core, we both want to spend our lives together--and WANTING is a huge motivator.

So I've said no to the invitations to discuss my marriage in public (with one exception--Darrin and I were once on a panel about mixed orientation marriage, and in that experience I learned that my view differs vastly from views of others who share marriages like mine, and I've not participated again). What I have decided is that it doesn't really matter what people in camp one think about me. I'm happy. I don't believe my children are maladjusted or dysfunctional. In fact, they seem to be intelligent, open-minded, devoid of gender bias, and are some of the most non-judgmental people I've met. I like them very much. I see no reason to expose my marriage to those who will mock it or expect it to fail, and who attribute many of society's woes to people like me. I understand many of them speak from experience--but that is not my experience and I do not expect it ever will be.

And I would never, ever, provide fodder for people in camp two--those who do not respect the right of their gay family members and friends to choose for themselves. That right to choose, I believe, is God-given and irrevocable. Yet the people closest to us are often those who punish or ostracize if we exercise that right to choose and our choice does not align with what they wish for us. The hurt that springs from such pressure to conform, and the damage to the soul and psyche, are often irreparable and always avoidable. I do not need my marriage to become a bludgeoning instrument for those who think they can "make" someone believe, or choose, or become. That right to believe/choose/become belongs to the individual, not to the masses.

Which leaves me at the end of this train of thought. My decision to silently live and love my spouse, for me, is the right one. It does not nullify the importance of voices like my friend, Josh, who chose to tell the world about his experience with mixed orientation marriage. I support and applaud him. I believe he did what was right for him, and helpful for many people. As can be expected, the extremists used his words, and some people were hurt by them--but this was not, and never has been, Josh's intent. I believe he has a right to speak, even if there are those who object to or misinterpret what he says. But I also have a right to remain silent, which has a reflection only on me.