Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

March 7, 2011

The Cloud Breaks, Momentarily

My dark cloud must have temporarily lifted because I'm able to sit here and casually admit that my life has been pretty shitty lately--not only with the tragedies of the past year and my physical health, but also with Wine Guy.

Of course, now that I actually see it in writing, it sounds ridiculous. Of course my relationship --any relationship for that matter--would be negatively impacted by all that has happened in the last two years.

Wine Guy has been amazing in the wake of my family's sudden and tremendous loss. And I treasure his calming, stable presence during awful moments like that. Thankfully those moments are an aberration, but it's the regular old day-to-day living where we're having the problems.

It wasn't always like this. We lived together for over a year and were doing just fine, with the occasional flare-ups you'd expect from cohabitation.But it's amazing how destructive chronic and worsening pain can be. I've gone from someone who craved being around other people, to a recluse who can barely bring herself to answer her phone for anyone other than her boyfriend or mom--not that anyone else calls anymore.

I had a dream last night that I'd intentionally done something so awful that all of my friends dumped me, walked away without a word. I spent the rest of the dream surprised at how relieved I was, as if I'd done it intentionally. And the more I thought about why I did it at all, the sooner I realized that I had done it on purpose (I really don't remember what "it" was, but it was some sort of lie I told that ruined people's lives).

My dreams are usually obvious in their meaning (I' ve never been known for my subtlety), and this one is no exception. While I haven't lied or ruined lives (to my knowledge), I'm guilty of behaving badly in order to push people away. Not on purpose, of course. But I knew deep down that all of the anger, self-pity and unrestrained impatience I've embraced in response to my situation would eventually drive people away.

A few friends appear to have dumped me or, if you want to put it nicely, put me on the back shelf. I can't really blame them, I'm sure I'm no fun. And I'm not exactly burning up the phone lines making plans with the friends that remain. Plus, most of them have children and are so overscheduled with birthday parties and play dates that it takes them weeks to notice that they haven't heard from me. Makes my gradual disappearance pretty easy to pull off.

So now we're down to the two poor souls who stuck around - Wine Guy and my mom. You can imagine how much shit they have to put up with from the likes of me.

Yes, I have been going to a counselor who specializes in chronic pain and uses mindfulness exercises, guided imagery and good old-fashioned cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It's helping. Not with the pain which is, unfortunately, worsening. But with learning how to separate out the things I can control from the rest of the crap that is just plain unfortunate. As a result, I've been more proactive with my surgeons, no longer intimidated by the monolithic Kaiser organization. Turns out that this little power grab gave me an emotional boost and actually got the doctors to step up their game. I actually felt proud of myself.

I've also learned how to recognize the beginnings of a downward spiral and, if I'm lucky, prevent it from happening with some simple CBT techniques or, sometimes, with one of the dorky recordings I made of my counselor talking me through a guided imagery. Whatever, it works--for a little while anyway.

But with Wine Guy, nothing's working. He shows a lot of empathy for what I'm going through, but he walks on eggshells around me. Apparently he's been doing that for awhile. I only found this out during a recent meltdown that ended with a painful but sincere exchange of perceptions about our relationship.

I found out that he's pretty much afraid of me. I can be harsh when I'm feeling this low (a nice way to say it would be "sharp-tongued"). I know this because I went through my late teens and 20s under this same fog of physical and emotional pain and I recognize the signs of that special kind of loving fear that only I can inspire.

Seeing that stormy bitch again was a shock. I really thought she was long gone after my breakup with Only Child, when I moved into my own apartment, made new friends, finished grad school, got a terrific job, dated. I felt more me than I had since middle school (which remains, strangely, the happiest period of my life so far).

They tell you that this moment -- when you finally know who you are-- is when you're supposed to meet the guy for you. That's who I thought Naval A-hole was, right up until he disappeared without a second thought. I was--and in many ways still am--deeply scarred by that experience, but I put myself back together as best I could and soldiered on (funny how I revert to "Warfare" lingo again here). After dating so much that I had to start a blog about it, I met Wine Guy and told myself once again that this was the real thing.

I don't know if I believe that anymore. I no longer trust that Wine Guy ever did. It's been almost two years that we've lived like this. Who remembers what "we" were like anymore?

Everything I've written here, Wine Guy knows. He's even willing to try couple's counseling to see if we can unlearn this unfortunate pattern and get back on track. I'm just as open to the idea--but not yet. Not until I get my body back to a reasonable state of health and, most importantly, put a stop to this chronic pain. I want to give everything I have to rekindling our bond, but I simply can't do that while I'm under this cloud.

If I am to believe my surgeons, my body can be repaired and the pain alleviated (though no one can avoid the aches of aging). That's when I hope to kick this moody bitch to the curb yet again and let Wine Guy reacquaint himself with the spunky Trooper he met and (hopefully) fell in love with.

We both seem OK with this holding pattern. Actually, Wine Guy seems better than OK lately - which is the reason I sat down to write this in the first place.

With my sedentary state, our very active lifestyle has turned into a marathon couch surfing session and we've become, well, fat. But almost three weeks ago, Wine Guy got fired up again. He's doing Pilates every night, taking 1-2 hour vigorous walks around our hilly neighborhood (dog in tow, she's gotten out of shape too), and counting calories using his freshly purchased BodyMedia armband, which cost something like $200 (plus a monthly subscription fee), but now seems worth every penny.

When I came home tonight after running some errands, Wine Guy was headed towards the door, zipping up the jacket to his brand new track suit. Yes, a track suit. Understated with its black and grey color palette, but a track suit nonetheless. I was a track athlete, so I actually don't think they're all that funny in and of themselves. But trust me, for Wine Guy, this is funny. And cute.

He gave me a proud little smile, said goodbye and stepped into the chilly night, bound for the beach a few miles down. His healthy, happy energy was just a little contagious. So I came downstairs and began to write. But he's just returned, so I better go and try to soak up some more.