Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I am a Word Nerd. I love words. They are significant in both sound and meaning. I need them. They have power in my mind: power to hurt, power to heal. MTL has learned and is still learning that the specific words he uses mean a great deal, and there are times when he has to think carefully about not just the intent behind the words, but the words themselves.

I imagine this makes life with me more difficult than not.

You would think, then, that I would be silver-tongued and fluid, always with the right words to say, ready to be said at the right moment. In some situations, this is the case. Put me in a classroom and I do quite well. Place me at a keyboard and I also do well. Usually.

Add stress and conflict and difficult emotions, however, and the story changes. Ask me to express my deeper feelings, my innermost thoughts, and my tongue trips and falters and stills.

Last night I lay with my head on MTL's lap, watching TV, and I turned to look at him. I reached out a hand, touched his cheek, and said, Do you have any idea how much I love you?

How much? he asked.

I should know better. It's not the first time I've said something like that. Not the first time he's returned the volley and called me out. How much do I love him? How do I express it?

I don't know how to bridge the gap between thought and tongue at times like these. Do I list all the things I love about him? It's an insufficient list. I feel like I'm only skimming the surface. Do I try to explain, as I cannot even here with the space and time to write it out, the way he has become an integral, essential part of me? How do I do that without making it sound like I've lost myself, become less instead of more? How do I say anything without sounding like a mawkish teen caught in the throes of twitterpation? How do I explain this without mimicking the trite phrases of Hallmark cards?

None of my words are enough. The only ones that make any sense are those written by others straining to put into concrete letters the intangible substance of emotion. I look mainly to e. e. cummings, who at least grasped that conventional language was not enough, and his love poems resonate like no others do for me.

Such as today, when I am overwhelmed with the evils and frustrations of the world, and leaden January weighs my mind, and so
in spite of everything
which breathes and moves,since Doom
(with white longest hands
neatening each crease)
will smooth entirely our minds

-before leaving my room
i turn,and(stooping
through the morning)kiss
this pillow,dear
where our heads lived and were.
            --e. e. cummings
I am struggling to feel sufficient: in my work, in my parenting, in my love, in myself. I am struggling to hold onto hope when my mind so much more naturally turns to despair. And how do I bridge the gap when my words refuse to take shape?

This much, I said, and I stretched my arms out and away from my breast, shoulders straining at their edge.

Is that all? he asked, laughing.

Hey! I spread my arms as wide as I could! It was an obtuse angle!

You're an obtuse angle! he replied, and he laughed again and hugged me close.

I don't know if he truly understood what I was trying to say, what I'm trying to express when I make those oh so limited sounds and gestures.

I wish he could see into my mind, feel what I feel, know what I know. I just don't have the words.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Giant Leap for Stepkind

There are small steps in this process. Unintended pun, but hey, it works: small steps in becoming a step-parent, a step-couple.

This week was a hard one for me and MTL, as old baggage and old issues raised their ugly heads again. It takes time, and I'm not good at patience. I want a quick fix, a quick solution, and that just can't happen when we're dealing with ancient scars that have etched themselves across the deepest parts of our psyches.

So. Small steps. Sometimes even step-backs.

The children, however, occasionally take leaps. When DramaBoy was dropped off by his father this week, he was clutching two pudding cups and sporting a huge grin. I have pudding! he crowed. One is for me, and one is for my stepbrother! I have a treat for my stepbrother The Padawan!

MTL and I conjecture that perhaps The Ex told DramaBoy that it's okay to refer to The Padawan as his stepbrother, something that DB wants deeply. A couple of months ago DB pointedly asked when MTL and I are going to get married, as he wants The Padawan to be his brother. I told him at the time that they pretty much are, so it's fine to call The Padawan his stepbrother, but he didn't do so until this week. So...some switch was tripped in his head, and boy was he happy about it.

Last night MTL handed me some mail, saying it was mine. Two envelopes were addressed to me; the third was addressed to "The Parent of The Padawan". Oh, I said, am I the parent of The Padawan? You sure this is for me?

Yep, you are, he said.

So I opened it. And then handed the contents over to MTL, since it was something from The Padawan's school. Heh.

But the biggest leap? The one that had me warmed up inside? Last night The Padawan reminded us that we needed to contact his friend's mother about having his friend stay the night this weekend. He called, and once the mother was on the other end, told her (and I quote): My parents are ready to talk to you. Here!

And he handed me the phone.

It's hard to read The Padawan sometimes. I know he likes me. I know he's very fond of DramaBoy and The Widget. But last night, hearing him refer to me as one of his parents...

That was a very big step.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


My brother recently mentioned that it's one of his goals in life to never have an Ex. That means no Ex, period--not just Ex-Wife, but Ex-Girlfriend. In other words, I believe, not getting into a relationship until he knows it will Last Forever From Day One.

As MTL and I said to each other later, after biting our tongues (for the most part), there's also another way to never have an Ex: never have a relationship to begin with.

It's all about risk, really. If you're not willing to take the risks, you never experience anything at all--joy as well as pain. And I will say, failing teaches us the most about life and ourselves.

That being said, there are definite drawbacks to having Exes, especially the sort that don't go away. A friend of mine recently got divorced after only two years of marriage, with no children involved. I'll admit to some jealousy, not of a marriage doomed so soon, but of her divorce reality: she is not tied to that Ex for years and years to come. She can, if she so chooses, simply never have any contact with that particular man ever again. They didn't even own a house together, for goodness sake.

MTL and I are in the relatively fortunate situation of having Exes with whom we are amicable. Since there are five joint children involved and we are doomed required to interact with those two people for, well, ever (at least to a point), I'd rather we all be amicable than otherwise. No argument.

But I'd much rather we didn't have to interact at all. I don't care how well we get along. I don't care how friendly we can be. I don't care how helpful we are. If I had my druthers, I wouldn't ever have to call or email or talk to or see either of them again. I'd rather not be Facebook friends with either of them--and interestingly enough, I am with both. (Don't bother telling me I can defriend them--there are reasons it's better to just keep things As Is. For one thing, it keeps them both thinking of me as Friendly. Heh.)

There are things that irritate me about each of them, enough to write a book. Lately, however, there's one thing in particular about MTL's Ex that has been driving me absolutely up the fucking wall, and I simply don't know what to do about it.

She calls him Almost Every Single Fucking Day. On top of the texts that I know she sends him, and which I don't see and honestly try not to think about. And yes, I know the kids are generally what the calls and texts are about, and yes, there has been lots of drama about The Dark One lately, and yes, I know that arrangements aren't quite as streamlined and clear as they are with me and The Ex and therefore there has to be more communication to handle things as they come up, and yes, I know that she doesn't really use email and therefore doesn't communicate that way as much as I and The Ex do.

I also know that MTL has absolutely no interest or romantic attachment to her whatsoever and generally finds her irritating and frustrating and doesn't particularly enjoy communicating with her. It's not a trust issue, not really. (Yeah, yeah, I know there's that infinitesimal part of me that has issues simply because they were married and have children as a common bond and spent way more years together than we have and all that shit. I'm working on it.)


I hate it when his phone rings. It's almost always Her. I would venture a guess that about seventy-five percent of the phone calls he gets are from Her. Sometimes he'll just reject the call when he doesn't feel like talking to her. Most often he answers, because it might be important.

He just got a call from her a little while ago. It's what put me over the edge into writing this post today. There was no reason for her to call--not a good one, at any rate. She has the kids this weekend. We aren't even picking up The Padawan today as we usually do on these weekends, because he has tomorrow off school and will be staying there until tomorrow afternoon. From the sounds of the conversation, nothing had happened with any of the kids. There was no pressing issue. She was just wondering about something.

I'm sure it was just a question that popped into her mind. So she picked up her damn phone and called.

That's what she does, so often. Almost every day. And every time she does, I feel that anger and resentment building up inside. Shut the fuck up, I want to say to her. Leave him alone. Leave US alone. Go the fuck away, you jealous bitch!

Because that's part of it, you see. Whether she wants to admit it or not (and she actually has, to MLT, a bit at least), she's jealous. It doesn't matter that she's remarried and even has another child with her husband. It doesn't matter that there's no way in hell they'd ever get back together. She's never completely let go of him. The life we're leading was supposed to be Theirs. The plans we're making were supposed to be Theirs. He was supposed to be Hers. 

It doesn't help that we are, in pretty much every way, much better off. We have good jobs. We aren't wealthy, but we are comfortable. We live in a nice and (rather importantly) large home. And she and her husband? Well, they really, really don't.

From a purely objective place, I can understand the jealousy. From a more subjective place, less so.

And I sure as hell wish she would just give us space. Even when all I'm talking about is the interruption of two minutes time when we're just relaxing on the couch.

Because this is OUR time. OUR space. OUR relationship. And it feels, every time that goddamn phone rings, like she's shoving herself into it, with the constant reminder that we will never, ever, be completely free of her involvement.

I know that I need to just let it go. But that's just logic.

Emotion has never listened well to logic.

Maybe that's because they can't talk on the phone.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


A blogger friend of mine (not a close one, but still) just lost her husband in a horrible and completely unexpected way. He was in the hospital for several days before they finally turned off life support and let him go. She is left, stunned and bewildered, with two very young children and a life turned upside down and inside out.

I found myself unable to reach out to her, unable to comment, unable to join the ranks of bloggers asking for prayer and support and love for our internet friend. When the news finally broke that he was, indeed, gone, the most I could do was leave a short and rather lame comment saying that I was saddened beyond words and sent my love for her and hers.

I couldn't even pray about it.

I'm not linking her blog here, because I have no intention to use her tragedy as the focus of this post, as it is essentially a self-centered (and selfish?) one. This tragedy SHOULD be about her, and instead I find myself utterly incapable of moving beyond the visceral fear it triggered in me. Because this is my nightmare, the ultimate fear of abandonment, one that I never truly had until I opened myself up to the risk that is True Love.

I've lost people here and there--my great-grandmother, my aunt, The Ex's grandparents, several students--and while I have struggled with their deaths, I don't think I've felt the loss like a hole that could not be filled. I don't think too often about what it would be like to lose someone even closer, like a parent or sibling or even a grandparent (as all four of mine are still living, believe it or not). Mostly, when the thought crosses my mind, I feel numb.

Perhaps it's all avoidance.

Here's the confession, however (and I've only told two people this before): there were times during my relationship and marriage to The Ex, when things were at their varying worst, that I fantasized about his death. Not murder, no--just, you know, some sort of accident or disease or something like that. It seemed like a cleaner way to remove a source of conflict and pain.

God, that seems cold put in writing.

It's not something about which I am proud. At all. I consider it a measure of how broken my mind and heart and soul were for so many years. And I'm glad he didn't die, because I think the guilt would be crippling.

But I did have those thoughts, and I never felt much more than the acknowledgment that the change itself would be a wrench, but that otherwise...well, otherwise it would be a relief.

I have never felt, at any rate, that the death of any one person would be shattering to me, even though I know I would grieve.

That is, until about six months ago. MTL and I were talking about his job and the dangers associated with it, and he mentioned the reality of metal poisoning, and how his life may very well have been shortened by the quantities of various metals that have made their way into his system. At those words, I experienced a visceral reaction I've never had before: the utter terror of what it would be like to lose him to Death's inexorable grasp.

I've been unable to fully escape that fear ever since. It's surfaced again at different times: when he mentioned a scare he had years ago over a potential lupus diagnosis; when we've talked about getting old; when the deaths of others bring home the reality that everyone, inevitably, dies.

I didn't tell him about my friend's husband for several days. Not that it is someone he knows, but still--I often mention major events in the lives of my blogger friends. Not this one. The other night, during one of my all-to-recently-frequent teary episodes, I finally told him about the fear, about how I realized that by letting him inside all those walls and that armor, I've opened up my heart to the potential for extraordinary pain. Not only do his words and actions have more power to hurt me than anyone else's; losing him would be a mortal wound.

I feel melodramatic writing this out. I worry that you, reading this, will worry that I have tied my identity up in him and developed some unhealthy relationship, because that's the sort of thing I worry about. You thinking that, I mean. (I'm not good at confessions, really. Too much showing the cracks under the pretty surface.)

Whatever. I'm not saying I would die the next day or do something stupid or anything like that: I'm saying it's a wound that would never, ever heal as long as I did live. And I'm selfish enough to wish that perhaps I could go just a little before he does, or even better--at the same time. Because I'm not so sure he would do very well either. I understand, finally, how it is that sometimes there are those couples where the one passes away not long after the other goes, as though with that death, life simply did not have enough hold any longer.

(I am definitely imagining a time many, many years from now. I'm not sure how to feel about the trend toward longevity on both sides of my family tree, I have to say. Both a blessing and a curse, perhaps.)

I think that's why I struggle so much with this blogger's story: it drives home the reality that the end may be far closer than we ever imagine. And she has to keep going, has to keep living, has to stay there for her children.

The reality is that I didn't truly understand the risks when I decided to love him fully. It's too late to turn back, even if I wanted to.

Which I don't. I suppose that means that I know every moment spent with him is worth the pain of any moments spent without.

When I told him about my fear, MTL was silent for a while, then told me the story of his grandfather's death. When he was fairly old, he became ill with cancer. At the end, even sitting for a while in a chair became exhausting. One night, he woke, turned over in bed, took his wife of many years in his arms and cuddled her close, and then died.

That will be us, MTL told me. And in the meantime, if we live each day fearing death, we won't really live.

And then he took me in his arms and cuddled me close, and I cried.