Tiny Bit of Crazy

A chronical of the laughter, revelations and transformations that are possible when you embrace the crazy

Held Hostage September 15, 2012

I cried in the middle of CVS the other day. But what’s important is not that I cried, but that I only cried a little bit, and not for very long, and there was no screaming or throwing of products up and down the aisles.

Because given the circumstances, that’s super impressive.

Chris and I were in CVS because we were waiting for his prescription of Oxy-codone, because he’d just gotten out of the hospital after having surgery on his shoulder for the second time. Only this time, they also did a bone graft from his leg. So he has double the pain, and double the difficulty getting around. We’d arrived at the hospital the day before at 10:30am, and now at 6pm the following day, all we wanted was to get his pain meds and go home and forget the laundry list of frustrations and indignities he’d been subjected to (including waiting in pre-op for 4 hours because his surgeon was late, having a random part of his leg (not near the incision) shaved with what I can only assume was a dull butter knife, being catheterized, having to ask for hours for ice for his leg, and being forced to eat hospital food, to name only a few).

For my part, I’d been at the hospital the day before from 10:30 am until 11pm, and then gone to work the next morning and then to the hospital at 3 where I sat with him until he was discharged at 4:30. We got lost getting out of the hospital, (completely my fault. I suck at being in charge), and it meant he had to walk really far on his bad leg. Now we were at our second CVS because the first didn’t have any Oxy in stock, and now there was a problem with the DEA number on the prescription that the intern had written. We’d been in this CVS for over an hour, I was freezing, and hungry and losing patience with the entire medical system in this country. Chris’s pain was etched all over his face and for the millionth time in the last two days I had to see that and know there was nothing I could do about it.

As we stood in the middle of the store trying to find something to distract him from his pain induced nausea, I kept thinking “We’re hostages. Hostages of the medical system.”

That’s when I wanted to start screaming, like an actual hostage would, in the hope that someone would hear and be able to rescue us.

Because it wasn’t just Chris who was captured in the system and divorced from all agency and recourse. I was trapped too.

And not just because I am Chris’s partner. I have my own medical dramas going on.

See, about 6 weeks ago, I found a lump in my breast. I’d had a benign lump removed about three years ago, so I assumed it was scar tissue.

After seeing my doctor, and getting a referral to the Breast Diagnostic Center where I had my first mammogram (a story for another blog post), and an ultrasound, I was scheduled for a biopsy. And around then finally accepted that it wasn’t scar tissue.

After the biopsy, the radiologist decided I actually had two lumps, and she’d only biopsied one of them, but needed me to have a breast MRI so she could better visualize the second lump before doing another biopsy.

So I made an appointment for the MRI. All of this took place in the span of about 2.5 weeks. Everyone I interacted with from schedulers, to techs, to the doctors themselves were helpful, warm, pleasant and reassuring. I felt confident that the lumps were nothing, and that everything would be sorted out and it would all be a distant memory by Thanksgiving.  I was really calm and remarkably unstressed out. For me, anyway. I mean, I was still a gigantic baby about the biopsy and acted like I’d had a piece of my boob removed with a hunting knife, but for ME, that counts as being a trooper.

Then, the day before the MRI was scheduled, I got a call from the Breast Diagnostic Center that they had to cancel it because my insurance company declined to pay for it.

Cue screeching record sound.

There were a lot of calls and messages back and forth between me and the radiologist, the radiologist and my primary and my primary and me. At the end of the first week, the theory was that only my primary could sort it out.  I talked to her and she promised to handle it and to stay in touch and that if she didn’t follow-up, that I should call her. In the week that followed I left two more messages and she hasn’t called me back yet. Which seems out of character for her, and so my theory is that the women who answer the phones aren’t giving her the messages because they always seem super annoyed that I insist on talking directly to the doctor instead of leaving a message in the physician’s assistant’s voice mail.

The last message I left her was right after they took Chris into surgery, and I’d been waiting on pins and needles for her to call me back.  I was really  needed to have an update, some information, so I could have a sense of agency, of control,  over this one part of my life, since I had no control over anything happening to Chris.

But no. No call back. No information. No forward motion. Also, I’ve become convinced that in the downtime since the MRI was canceled the lumps have tripled in size. Like they know they’re unsupervised and are running rampant.

And there’s nothing I can do. Again. I’m a hostage of a medical system that lets insurance companies make decisions about care, and receptionists that think they know everything.

I want to scream, and tear things off the shelves in this CVS, and kick and scream until someone hears. Until someone rescues us.

But really, I know that’s not going to do anything but get me arrested. And that would definitely be a step backward in this whole quest to be in control thing.

So instead I cry. (But JUST for a minute or two.) And Chris shifts into the position of caretaker, gently hugging me with his one good arm.  And I’m aware that I’m supposed to be taking care of him, not the other way around, and I start to cry more because I feel like a terrible girlfriend/person. But then I think, “Who am I kidding?” because these are the roles we’re most comfortable in anyway. Chris is a caretaker to his core, and I’m constantly in need of care, and I think this is a big part of why we work.

Once I stop crying I can tell Chris’s energy has shifted, and he’s gone from withdrawn and cranky to  cheerful (albeit forced), and when the pharmacist calls his name, he acts like a man receiving a prize as he limps up toward the counter, like he’s not at all frustrated, or in overwhelming pain, and I can’t help but smile.

So fine. I’m being held hostage.  But if I’m going go through this, at least I’m going through it with him.

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There Will Be Blood July 12, 2012

This weekend is Chris’s family reunion.

Which is a milestone.

Which is awesome, right? Because we all know how I love milestones. And its a pretty big one as far as these things go.

What’s less awesome are the activities associated with this family reunion.

When Chris first told me about this event he prefaced it by saying “My family isn’t a sitting family, like yours.”

I was like “Huh? What else is there to do when you get together with your family aside from sit around and talk and tell stories?”

Well, a lot, apparently.

Saturday morning we meet at 8am to get into a van that will drive us to the top of a mountain, where we will get on mountain bikes and ride down the mountain along a 17 mile trail (which is not actually entirely down hill. Bike peddling will need to occur.)

I have a few issues with this. They are, in no particular order: 1. the down a mountain part, 2. the being on a bike part. 3. the 17 mile part. 4. the 8am part.

Plus, we have only two hours to do it, non-negotiable, because then we have to get cleaned up to get the picnic. Which means “Suck it up” and “Push through the pain” and “that’s barely bleeding at all” will be phrases I expect to hear frequently.

Then there’s the picnic. Which is the real heart of this reunion, with dozens upon dozens of Chris’s family members.  And in case that wouldn’t be anxiety producing enough on its own, there is also rock climbing involved.

Now, when Chris first explained this day to me, I thought he said that we have to climb these rocks/cliffs/instruments of death in order to get to the picnic.

That’s the part where I started to cry. Seriously.

Now he has clarified that we drive to the picnic but that the rock climbing is just an activity that people do. Which makes me feel much better, because I’m sure not everyone will participate, so I’m going to become BFF’s with whoever seems least inclined to impersonate a billy goat. That way, I can be all “I’d love to climb that big rock, but I feel bad leaving my new Soul Sister. Sorry!”

After the picnic, there are fireworks. This part I’m actually looking forward to. I love fireworks. From a distance. So I’m going to let Chris go with his cousins up to the hill and set things on fire, while I sit back at the house with my BFF from the picnic and try not to imagine all the different types of death by pyrotechnics that can occur.

Sunday morning we get back in the car to drive home. Assuming I haven’t been hospitalized.

Talking, sitting, and storytelling are really my only solid skills. And if Chris came from a normal family, AKA a “sitting family”, I would have only the normal level of anxiety about meeting all his people.

But instead I keep picturing myself being introduced to a family member with my face red and splotchy from the heat, my hair in a wild disarray (possibly with some leaves in it) dirt smeared across one cheek, and so out of breath, either from the activity or the anxiety attack brought on by the activity, that I won’t even be able to engage in conversation. Which, if you remember, is the only thing I bring to the party on a good day.

My biggest fear is that at some point, maybe while I’m trying to arrange a helicopter to pick me up from the side of the mountain, or while I’m digging a trench in the grass  with my heals as Chris drags me toward the climbing cliffs, that someone, or perhaps even several someones, will say “Why’d he have to bring HER?”

Ok, that person likely be me.

But at least I should get some good stories out of it. Near death experiences usually make for good material.

Assuming I live.

 

If You Can’t Beat ’em… April 16, 2012

I had a little run in with Chris’s crazy neighbor the other day. Remember her?  Well for the last year she’s gone out of her way to avoid talking to me, even as she went out of her way to talk to everyone else, including Chris’s daughters and their friends, routinely holding them captive on the sidewalk or half inside their cars.

But apparently she’s had a change of heart.

It started small – one day last week I passed her on the sidewalk and she made a random comment about something to do with her kids and playing in the parking lot.  I offered an unconvincing laugh and something along the lines of “oh… hmmm” as I continued walking. She called something else after me as I turned the corner so I gave an even less convincing head nod and vague hand wave as I continued on my way. (At that point it occurred to me at perhaps Chris and his girls simply aren’t rude enough.)

Then this week, as I walked up the sidewalk toward Chris’s house, she came out of her house, her gaze locked on me, and I knew with certainty that we were going to have a conversation.

Part of me was a little excited that I was going to get a “Neighbor Lady” story of my own to share when everyone else told theirs.

As we came face to face in front of her car, she reached out to put her hand on my arm, surprising me so much that I froze in my tracks, thus eliminating any small hope of escape that might have existed.

“Can you talk to Chris about,” she said, and my brain immediately shifted into slow motion and several things moved through my mind:

“She has a problem with Chris?”

“How can she have a problem with Chris? Nobody ever has a problem with Chris.”

“What could this bitch possibly have to say about my boyfriend, and why does her tone suggest I’m his mother?”

“Should I set my bags down in case I need to scratch her eyes out?”

And then I realized she was still talking, so I clicked my brain back into gear and rewound the tape so I could get the rest of her sentence. Which was:

“…about recycling.”

Ok, so I should explain. Chris doesn’t actually recycle. I know, its shocking and you’re probably suddenly worried that you’ll be guilty by association for reading a blog by a person who is in a relationship with a person who doesn’t recycle. (Don’t pretend you weren’t doing it.) I don’t want to get sidetracked from this story with a meta discussion about social shame and recycling, so I’ll just say that I asked him why he doesn’t recycle a few months ago, and what I took from the conversation is that he’s not adamantly opposed to recycling like some right-wing nut who thinks it’s another way for the government to control us. It’s more that he sees it as just one more thing to coordinate and deal with on top of all the other things he has to deal with and coordinate in his life. I got the impression that if someone else wanted to take responsibility for it, he wouldn’t object.

So back to my conversation with the Neighbor Lady.

Once I process her statement, I realize she’s staring at me waiting for a response. My liberal shame and social guilt is quickly replaced with glee as I realize she’s giving me blog content.

Me: oh yeah…um, well… sure…

NL: Because really, he should recycle. Why doesn’t he recycle?

Me: Yeah…I don’t know. He’s quirky like that.

NL: I can get him a bin. I think if we just make it really easy for him, we can get him to do it.

Did you see what she did there? “If WE just make it really easy for him.” WE. Apparently she and I are now a team. Apparently since she couldn’t get rid of me, she’s going to partner up with me.

My personal opinions on recycling are replaced by my desire to not be a team with her.

Me: ah? uh huh…

NL: I went through his garbage the other day and I noticed that it’s mostly plastics and so if he even just started with that…

Yes, she said that. Unabashedly. I had to contain my glee at how good a story this was going to be.

Me: yeah…he does use a lot of plastic…

I say this just to have something to say, but I then immediately feel disloyal. Saying something like that is not going to demonstrate that I’m on Chris’s team, not hers.

NL: I mean, if he just did plastics and maybe some cans…

Me: yeah, that would make a difference

Crap! I’m the worst teammate ever. I’m torn between getting away and getting more material.

NL: But really, why won’t he recycle?

Me: ahh, yeah. I don’t know…he has a thing about it…?

I know it doesn’t sound like it, but this is actually me being a good teammate. I’m not going to explain to her why he’s not recycling because that will reveal too much about him. But I’m also not willing to engage her in a conversation about the reasons against recycling because that will make it look like I care what she thinks.

NL: You know, if he doesn’t start recycling its going to make the trash pick up cost more. You need to talk to him! For everyone’s sake. They’re already doing it in Alexandria. 

Me: Oh really? I’ll tell him that.

Part of me is shamefully, secretly, enjoying her presumption that I have power over Chris – a presumption based in a recognition of my legitimacy as his long-term girlfriend. She’s gone from inviting Chris to the singles group at her church, to assuming I’m the kind of woman who is in charge of her man. I have this urge to go with it, to let us be those suburban women who stand on the sidewalks of their subdivisions, possibly with a glass of wine in the early evening, talking about “our men” and how hard it is to keep them in line.

.

Worst. Teammate. Ever.

.

NL: You know he has daughters? Who are educated!

Her tone implies this could be new information for me. I hate her again. I start to walk away.

Me: yes, he certainly does.

NL: They are going to college. They understand…

Me: yes, they do go to college…

Now I’m laughing. I’m suddenly giddy with how ridiculous this conversation is, how much material she’s feeding me. I want to ask her again about going through the garbage, but instead I keep walking.

NL: Tell him to recycle for them! So they are proud…

Unmoved by the argument, I keep moving, not looking back at her.

NL: They’ll get married some day! I assume. They are going to have babies. And those babies are going to want a grandpa who recycles!

This makes me stop, and I look at her for a second, tempted to tell her that of all her arguments, that’s her worst. There are few topics more likely to agitate Chris than talking about him becoming a grandpa, and all that that implies.

I try to stop laughing long enough to give some sort of appropriate response. But then decide that laughing is probably as appropriate a response as any.

She’s yelling things after me as I walk away, things about how she teaches recycling in the schools and can teach him. I offer a vague wave of my hand as I continue walking away, trying not to skip in my excitement to tell this story to Chris.

.

Of course, I’m sure you all now realize that as long as Chris lives there, he can never, ever, start recycling.

Sorry Earth, but seriously, what did you expect?  I’m a terrible teammate.

 

Ambien Conversations March 6, 2012

credit to toothpastefordinner.com

Last night, Chris took his Ambien, but then failed to fall asleep for almost an hour. Here are some of the things we talked about.

Me: Why aren’t you asleep yet?

Ambien Chris: I probably am. Everything’s all sparkly.

****

AC: (snuggling up against me) You’re just radiating heat!

Me: What else is new?

Several seconds of silence

AC: Well, I don’t know what else is new.

Me: (laughs softly).

At least a minute of silence passes.

AC: Did you wear your new jeans today?

Me: Yes…(not sure where this is going)

AC: well then there! That’s what else was new today! (pride in his voice for figuring it out)

Me: (trying really hard not to laugh) Yes, that’s true.

AC: and probably your new shirts too. (I can feel him smiling against my shoulder at his own cleverness)

Me: no, those are for Spring.

AC: well then that’s what will be new on Thursday because its supposed to be 70 degrees then.

****

AC: So, you finished the Quarter Quell huh? (out of the blue reference to the Hunger Games Trilogy which I’m currently reading and he read a few months ago.)

Me: yep (I’m trying not to encourage conversation in the hope that he’ll fall asleep)

AC: Everyone’s run away and are headed to (*BLEEP*edited to avoid spoiling the end for anyone who hasn’t read it.)

Me: yep.

AC: So know you know they were right about (*BLEEP*)

Me: yep.

AC: and now they’re all living in the (*BLEEP*)

Me: (before I can stop myself) No, they’re still in the hover craft

AC: the hover craft? Then how can you know about (*BLEEP*)?

Me: I’m only on the second page of the final book.

AC: Then why do you keep yepping me?

Me: Because I want you to go to sleep.

several seconds of silence

AC: fair point.

*****

AC: so that Speakeasy thing is on Saturday, right?

Me: yep.

AC: where is it?

Me: Dance Place

AC: is that near anything?

Me: not really. (I’m tempted to bring up my thoughts about going into the city early and going to some museums as he’s been wanting to do, but then remind myself I’m talking to Ambien Chris, not Real Chris.)

AC: is there a dance party this time?

Me: Nope. That was just for my show

AC: We could have one anyway. We just need an iPhone and a Pandora station

Me: yep.

AC: And then we just need a cord and we can run it to a speaker and then we’re all set.

Me: great idea. We’ll have our own dance party after the show.

AC: ok.

****

After an hour of these conversations alternating between me rubbing his head and back hoping to put him to sleep, we go about ten minutes without him moving or speaking and I decide he must finally be asleep. I roll away from him onto my left side so I can fall asleep.

As soon as I’m settled I feel him sit up.

AC: Giving up already?

Me: Yep.

 

Threesome February 17, 2012

I have a confession to make.

It might shock some of you, but I’m hoping you won’t judge me too harshly.

.

I’m dating two different men.

Seriously.

.

Ok. So you all know Chris, the sweet, patient, exceedingly calm and easy going man who has been the center of my world for the last year? Well, he’s still here. And we’re doing fine.

During the day.

But sometime back in December I met this other guy.

It wasn’t something I planned, or was even looking for.

But it never is, is it?

Believe me, my life would easier if he weren’t around, but I don’t think he’s going anywhere and I can’t ignore what happening any longer.

.

His name is Ambien Chris and I only see him at night.

It started slowly. I saw only glimpses of him once, maybe twice, in a month. It wasn’t until very recently that I started seeing him more regularly. Sometimes even several nights in a row.

He has very little in common with Real Chris.

Where Real Chris is gentle and patient and always puts me first, Ambien Chris is impatient and focused on his own needs.

Take the first time I met him, for example.

Real Chris had a broken collar bone and was in constant pain while waiting for surgery. Real Chris slept with roughly 2 dozen pillows under and around him to make sure he wouldn’t move or be moved by me.

But Ambien Chris feels no pain.

Ambien Chris wanted to spoon.

Ambien Chris wanted me to do things that would make Real Chris, with his broken collar bone, cry at the thought of them.

I tried to reason with Ambien Chris, but he would have none of it.  The more I tried to convince him to go back inside his pillow fort, the more insistent he became that his shoulder was fine.

Finally, as a last resort I burst into tears begging him just lay down and stop moving his arm.  He stared at me with a confused look  for a few seconds before finally saying, in a tone laced with irritation and confusion, “Fine then. So we’ll just go to sleep.” As if this had all been my idea.

.

Real Chris is very organized and routine oriented.  Ambien Chris is illogical and possibly a prankster.

Real Chris irons his clothes every night for work. He uses a specific cup to pour water into the iron, which he keeps on the top shelf of his closet.

Last week Ambien Chris took that cup down from the closet and brought it downstairs where he hid it in the rarely used powder room. Real Chris didn’t find it for several days.

.

Ambien Chris interrogates his daughter.

One morning at breakfast Real Chris asked his younger daughter what time she’d gotten home the night before.

Her: What do you mean? You were up when I got home.

Chris: No I wasn’t.

Her: Yes you were. You came down and stood with me in the kitchen and asked me a million questions.

(Chris and I looked at each other, eyes wide and our mouths open.)

Chris: You met Ambien me!

Me: OMG did he say anything weird?!

Her: No. (Then she rolled her eyes in the way that teenagers do while Chris and I laughed hysterically over what could have happened during her first run in with Ambien Chris. )

.

Ambien Chris has no concept of personal space.

One night I’m laying in bed with my back to Ambien Chris. I’m drifting off to sleep and as I’m lingering in that hazy twilight between awake and asleep, WHAM! something hard slams into the underside of my ass, jolting me awake and scaring the crap out of me.

My heart pounding, I sit up wondering what just assaulted me, and slowly realize it was Chris’s knee, which he moved in his sleep.

When my pulse finally starts to slow, I lay back down in the same position and quickly drift back towards sleep. And as I enter the twilight stage, WHAM! his knee connects soundly with the underside of my butt. Again. Fortunately I have ample padding to absorb the impact, so while it didn’t hurt, it did jolt me wide awake.  Again.

Trying to contain my irritation, I slide a few inches to my left, away from him and toward the edge of the bed.

Just as I’m about to drop off into dream land, I’m vaguely aware that Chris has also moved a few inches to his left, and before I can think about that, WHAM! I’m kneed in the posterior once again.

Now I’m pissed.

I flip over onto my back and say out loud “What the hell!! Leave me alone!!” and Ambien Chris responds by snuggling closer to me.

My irritation subsides a little and I decide to try to fall asleep on my back with him curled into my side.

As I drift off to sleep, I unconsciously roll over on my left side and pull my knees up, which is my preferred sleeping position.

WHAM! Ambien Chris nails me again.

I wonder for a moment if the snuggling was his way of lowering my defenses.

I straighten my legs so my butt won’t be in his knee’s trajectory, and feel a rush of satisfaction as I hear his leg move and feel his knee barely brush me.

Point, Mer.

But as soon as I fall asleep, I curl my legs up again and next thing I know, WHAM! 

Point, Ambien Chris.

I flip over onto my back again, this time landing half on top of him. I pick up my pillow and in a fit of uncontrollable frustration proceed to beat him with my pillow for at least 15 seconds.

This has absolutely no effect.

“What is your problem!!” I cry out, as it dawns on me that I’m sleeping next to a stranger. I vaguely wish Real Chris were here to help me with Ambien Chris.  Ambien Chris reminds me of that drunk frat guy in college who would randomly pass out in your bed or on top of you on a couch and was too heavy to push off by yourself.

I brainstorm solutions that include sleeping on a pile of clothes on the floor before I decide, for some reason, to lay facing him and pull my knees up to where my butt would have been.

A few minutes pass and I see his leg begin to move under the blankets. I watch as his left leg straightens and then bends at the knee and begins its sweep up toward me.

THUD. His knee connects just below my knee, but doesn’t hurt me at all.

Ambien Chris lets out an annoyed grunt.

“HA!” I exclaim, thrilled. “How you like me now, bitch?!” I say out loud over his unconscious body, talking not to him but to Ambien Chris, who I know can hear me.

I lay back down and wait and less than  a minute later, he makes another attempt and once again, instead of the supple and warm reception of my posterior, he finds the cold hard reality of my knees. I grin against my pillow as he grunts again, and then rolls over, away from me, with an irritated sigh.

Point and Game: Mer

.

Ambien Chris is also condescending and a little bitchy.

After several nights of nearly falling off the bed trying to dodge Ambien Chris’s knees and arms I decided to start fighting back.

I let him knee me in the butt twice before I punch his thigh.

“What’s wrong?!” Ambien Chris asks partly sitting up.

“You’re kicking me.”

Ambien Chris responds by rolling over onto his stomach. Then once situated, lifts his head and says, in a tone dripping with condescension and sprinkled with irritation, “THERE. Is that BETTER?”

Clearly Ambien Chris feels I should be honored to have him knee me all night.

Another night, I was laying on my back and was awoken by Ambien Chris flopping his body down half on top of me. And not in a fun way.

I put my elbow against his chest and pushed until he rolled onto his back. Upon landing he said with irritation, “Arggh. Happy now?”

And most recently, he was doing a combination of kneeing me and wiggling his whole body so the bed shook, so I started punching him in the thigh until he woke up with a panicked “What’s wrong?!”

“You’re kicking me.”

Ambien Chris let out a heavy sign before he rolled over on this stomach and scooted over so he was almost off the edge of bed. Then he picked his head up, looked me right in the eye and said ‘How about THIS?! Does THIS work?”

“Why yes, Ambien Chris. That works just fine.”

.

Real Chris has no memory of these interactions and he’s always apologetic.

But I tell him he doesn’t need to apologize for Ambien Chris. Ambien Chris is responsible for his own actions.

Especially since I’m not going to apologize to Real Chris for the bruises I give to Ambien Chris.

 

This Side of Normal February 8, 2012

You know what’s normal? Having a romantic relationship last a year.

You know what’s NOT normal?

This girl.

This is me. Crazy eyes.


See, Chris and I celebrated our one year anniversary this week. And unlike our 6 month anniversary, I was totally calm leading up to this milestone. I wasn’t even a little bit superstitious, afraid of jinxing it, or even particularly emotional.

See how much progress I’m making?

Yeah, don’t get too excited…

Our anniversary technically fell on a Sunday, which I think we can all agree is the least romantic day of the week, plus I was going to be gone at rehearsal for the show I’m co-directing from 1:30-5:30, so I suggested we deputize Saturday for purposes of celebration. But we didn’t really plan anything specific because it came at the end of a long and stressful week for Chris and so the most appealing option for both of us was just having a quiet weekend together.

Saturday morning we decided we’d take a trip to a brand new gluten free bakery for treats, and as we were leaving the bakery we decided to stop in at a coffee shop, sample our GF confections and do some people watching. It was perfect.

But as we walked back to the car through cold rain we started to rethink our plan of dinner in Old Town, and opted instead for Cheesecake Factory where we had our second date.

Traffic was terrible and it was a stressful drive. We waited for more than an hour to be seated, and…well, all I’m going to say about the actual dining experience was that Cheesecake Factor hates people with gluten allergies.

But returning home to the leftover GF chocolate chip cookie lifted the mood considerably.

Sunday morning we made breakfast together and slow danced in the kitchen to “If It’s Love” by Train while the sausage was browning.

And then I used the sausage to make a frittata. Which I may or may not have burned. (But the burned part stuck to the pan and the part you could actually scoop out was delicious, thank you very much).

Chris made dinner while I was at rehearsal, and we had a relaxed and intimate evening where we ate, watched most of the Super Bowl and ate our dessert of strawberries with cheesecake and whip cream in bed before exchanging sappy cards and going to sleep early, our stomachs bursting from the cheesecake and whip cream. (Ok, the truth is, I was the only one bursting from the whip cream. I kept overfilling my mouth when I sprayed it in).

It was a really, really, great weekend.

And yet…

That night as I tried to fall asleep, some weird thoughts started poking my brain.

Things like:

It WAS a great weekend. I love the fact that an afternoon spent in a coffee shop feels special when I do it with Chris.

And while things didn’t go perfectly (bad traffic, bad dinner, burnt Frittata etc.) it didn’t matter, and that is something special. I like that we’re past a point where I need to pretend his driving doesn’t stress me out, and we hardly notice a burnt frittata.

BUT at the same time, it could have been any weekend. Does that mean something?

I mean, there really wasn’t any sparkle in the weekend. You know that little bit of fairy dust that seems to cover all parts of a new relationship, when you go out of your way to surprise and wow each other? That’s sparkle.

At first, I was fine with a sparkle free anniversary weekend, in part because I still find comfortable and familiar to be novel and exciting.

Until I started worrying there would never be sparkle again.

Were we already in a rut? Is that what happens at the one year mark? Because seriously, I have no idea what happens at the one year mark. I’m so far into unfamiliar territory I feel like I should have a passport.

This makes me panicky.

Suddenly I have perfect recall of every episode of shows like According to Jim, ‘Till Death, and Everybody Loves Raymond. Shows where wives are always nagging their husbands to be romantic and the husbands are forever rolling their eyes and reluctantly agreeing while clearly resenting every minute. Shows where the comedy comes from a premise that romance and long term relationships are mutually exclusive.

Is it funny because its true? This is what I’m trying to decide at 2am.

I’m scared that, by no choice or effort of my own I will become one of those sparkle starved nagging women and Chris will become one of those lazy, anti-sparkle guys.

What if that’s as unavoidable a law of nature as the ones that make it so your boobs eventually rest on your belt, reality TV seems disgusting, and driving faster than 30mph always feels excessive?

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In the light of day I struggled for perspective.

I tried reminding myself of the facts because I like to believe this will help to quiet the crazy.

Fact. I have hit the jackpot with Chris, of this I am sure, and for the last year every day with him has felt above average and full of sparkle, so it was silly to get worked up because a weekend – which just happened to be one year from the day of our first date – had only the same amount of sparkle that every other day had.

Fact. I’m not the type of girl who needs lots of sparkle. I’m low maintenance. I like the steak more than the sizzle.

Fact. A good bra will always keep the girls in place.

This never works to quiet the crazy. I seriously don’t know why I bother.

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Part of the problem is that I’d been focused on the one year milestone for 364 days.

Every milestone I invented between days 1 and 365 were like a relationship advent calendar meant to break up the days and distract me with treats until the big day.

Getting to the one year mark represented achieving normal. It meant not being the girl whose relationship history consisted of crazy stories and responses like “Where do you keep finding those douchebags?”

I told myself that at one year I’d be able to trust that he wasn’t too good to be true and that I’d have figured out how to do the whole functional relationship thing and I could stop worrying I was going to ruin it by saying the wrong thing.

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And all of that happened, but it actually happened somewhere around the 10 month mark. At some point I just started to relax, feeling confident I was going to glide over that finish line.

Which I did. And then sailed right past it.

Into…whatever comes after one year.

I had no new goal to focus my anxieties on. No new advent calendar to start to break up the time and distract myself with chocolate.

I felt unmooered.

I felt like I was flying without a net.

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Which is why the night after our anniversary was spent with me randomly dissolving into tears.

Each time Chris would calmly wipe away a tear or hug me and ask me what was on my mind. And I would say I didn’t know while crying harder, and he would say “Ok, well, whenever you figure it out I’ll be here to listen.”

Which, to be fair, is a conversation we have about once a month. Sometimes the crazy just builds up to the point where tears are the only way to release the pressure. True story.

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Anyway, in the past it could sometimes take many hours before I could talk to him about whatever had fermented the crazy that time.

But on this night, I thought about the New Year’s Resolution that I was given to use my words more than my tears, and I worked really hard to find words sooner than later.

After only about an hour of off and on again crying, I managed something along the lines of “What about the sparkle?” And somehow Chris understood exactly what I meant, and we were able to have a good talk about feelings. And I have to say, words really are SO much more useful than tears. Who knew?

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We talked about the appropriate application of sparkle in a relationship that already feels above average.

I agreed to stop pretending I’m low maintenance, and to own the fact that I need a little sparkle now and again.

Chris explained the difference between TV and real life, and how we can decide what kind of couple we are. And also that we’ll always enjoy reality TV together.

I promised to keep working toward being able to have feelings conversations that involved more words than snot.

As I started to feel better I tried to explain a little about my unmoored feeling.

“I’m just not sure what to do on this side of…”

“This side of normal?” Chris asked with a smile.

Yes! Exactly. A relationship that lasts more than a year is normal. Being happy and secure in a mutually rewarding relationship is normal…and that’s where we live now.

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I’m so screwed.

Anniversary Self Portrait

 

Gift Therapy December 9, 2011

When I was six years old I broke my arm. It was ugly, and was the moment I first learned my body could be the cause of much pain. And trauma.

Probably more trauma than pain actually. Because the whole experience was traumatic. From walking the block home from my friend’s house clutching my wrist, to watching my little brother screaming as he was restrained from getting in the car with us, to every second at the hospital.

My god the hospital. Nothing but a blur of scary looking strangers moving too fast, talking too loud, and making my arm hurt more. My clearest memory is of being in the X-ray room and desperately begging and negotiating with the doctor for my mom to come in with me. Which was a huge effort for me since my major life goal at six years old was to talk to strange adults as little as possible.

So I think it was more the trauma than the pain that led to me cocooning myself on the coach for the first week or so. I don’t remember much about that period other than making a decision to never, ever, move my arm, or any other part of my body ever again. Ever.

My memory of my time on the couch is through my 6-year-old, prone eyes. I see the high back of the couch,  my cast encased arm in its blue sling, the blankets and pillows that surrounded me, and a bunch of small glass animals lined up along the back of the couch, along with random other trinkets and toys, because my dad kept coming home from work with presents for me.

Specifically he hit this line of little glass animals. They were probably marble more than actual glass, and they were all the same brown and white swirl, but they were every kind of animal you could think of, and each day he brought me a few new ones. I remember laying on the couch and seeing these little presents lined up all along the back of the couch, and wondering why I was getting so many treats when it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas. Eventually I figured out that they were meant to somehow compensate me for my pain and suffering. I think my most vivid memory from that time is of everything lined up on the back of the couch, my parents hovering in the background, because it was a few days before I was willing to move enough to touch them or play with them.

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Chris broke his collar-bone last week while playing street hockey. The thing about a broken collar-bone is that there’s just not much that can be done about it. We saw a specialist and he told us that Chris didn’t require surgery. He said that it was 50/50 whether surgery would make him heal better, and that either choice Chris made, surgery or no surgery was a valid choice. Chris opted for no surgery.

For him that means a sling, a prescription for oxycodone, and just waiting for the bones to start to knit back together, (which in people over the age of 30 can take as long as 6 weeks.) It means pretty constant pain and discomfort for him, because while the pain killers seem to take the edge off, he’s never completely comfortable.

For me that means just watching him suffer. It means trying not to notice when his lips turn white as he braces against a wave of pain, of trying not to flinch when he does this one kind of exhalation that he only does when he’s hurting and can’t get comfortable. It means not being able to really hold him or offer any help in making him comfortable. Above all else, it means feeling endlessly helpless.

I find myself constantly wanting to buy him presents. Because I apparently have the same coping skills as my dad.

And now I totally get where my dad was coming from. It’s really frustrating to see someone you love be broken and not be able to fix it.

But my dad had it easy. I was a six year old girl. He could buy me glass animals, doll house furniture, Barbies, anything pink. Plus I was prone on the couch, and so he could literally shower me in presents and at least look down and feel like he’s done something.

But I’m dealing with an almost 39 year old man, so my options are lot more limited. He’s sticking to our diet, so I can’t shower him with cupcakes and apple turnovers, and even if I could, he won’t sit still, so anything I’d pile on him would just get all over the floor and I’m not wasting frosting like that.

So far, all I’ve come up with is spicey kettle corn that I got at a farmers market last weekend. I wanted to dump it on him like confetti, to try to achieve that feeling of showering him with gifts, but he insisted on just eating it straight from the bag like a normal person.

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My only option at this point is to put all my pent-up gift giving urges into shopping for his birthday next week, and then Christmas. We decided to do stockings for each other, and so my most pressing issue at the moment is finding a stocking that is approximately 4 feet long and 2 feet wide.

Also, if anyone knows where I can get a moon bounce and a fire juggler who will do adult birthday parties cheap, let me know. Thanks.

 

 
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