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.



Shanna P. said...

Hey there... so sorry to hear this, and I can commiserate, as the last two years have been a chronic pain nightmare for me, too, since a car wreck. And add on a ton of steroid injections, and, well, I am just a peach!

Can ya' move around at all? Even light walks together can help with the moods. Or moving about in warm water is supposed to be great for pain. I say this as I was grounded from most exercise last week. Sigh. And I discovered a book called the Mood Cure that's bringing a lot of clarity, too.

Can I recommend couple's imago therapy or an imago workshop? It's amazing the understanding it brings to a relationship and the embedded patterns. It was totally eye-opening for me and my partner. (We're now married, but this post totally hit home for me. He left our relationship when my anxiety had him on "eggshells"--his words--and he had just lost a family member. We took some time, then got back on track... But the word eggshells can't help but make me think - if you want it - save it before it's too late!)

Ok, how's that for a lot of rambling and suggestions from a random stranger on the internet? But I have read your blog for a long time, and our lives sometimes seem oddly parallel, so I wanted to chime in.

I wish ya all the best!

Kate said...

I'm also sorry to hear of the emotional and physical pain you have been going through.

I can also really recommend imago couples therapy and I know you have a counsellor but if you are ever interested in a different approach, have a look into Gestalt therapy. It helped turn my life around and the emphasis on body work and how we hold trauma in the body is both a revelation and incredibly effective.

Sending you love across the ocean and it is always good to read your blogs.

Loverville said...

Big, big hug! No advice, but I like what the others had to say.

It WILL get better, and it sounds like you're on your way to turning that corner -- keep it going.

Another big hug -- I have a feeling I WILL see you in NY, hopefully later this year!

Anonymous said...

Backup to what Loverville said. Everything I can think of to say sounds like cliches (and I can't even do the accent aigu for the e),
but I'll say a bit anyway: do whatever it takes to keep going in a better way. For some people, and I know I'm one of them, everything is harder, so work, love, friends, just existing - all take more deliberate effort. Just keep on making that effort, and do the therapy, or the writing, do everything and anything, because the alternative is giving up. Don't do that. -- I was so glad to read about WG's little smile as he went out to exercise! That's a small victory -- that he could feel it, that you could see it -- and if you hang in there, there will be more of those.

I hope this is semi-coherent; it was written on only 3 ounces of coffee.

xoxoxoxo Mimi

Anonymous said...

By all means, get the medical care. I don't think for one minute that I personally would act okay if pain ruled my days.

One thing to ask yourself - do you think that your anger is caused by a combination of physical pain AND feeling impatient with Wine Guy's level of commitment?

Could it be that it's a lethal combination?

Just asking because it's the first thing that came to mind.

Anonymous said...

Also I recommend that you practice coming to the realization that Naval A-Hole's actions should not be taken personally.

He's damaged goods. What he did says something about HIM, not YOU.

You could have just as easily met someone wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Is this blog for real?
I just read this one page so far and I could not help but think Alan Funt was going to jump out of the bushes.
I love bloggers that complain about their men and the reason they can’t keep them. This is the best one yet. If this guy stays with you it’s definitely for pity. I can’t imagine being with someone that walks on eggshells and is afraid of me. Especially someone that pays ½ the mortgage. What kind of person does that make him? Pitiful in his own right. Where is his self esteem? Wait, did I see that you called him “Whine Guy”? I can only imagine the fun times that are to come. Hold on, there is a Naval a-hole and only Child plus one that caught on before it was too late for them. I don’t know the whole story, but this small bit of info should be a clue to: RUN Whine GUY, I mean WINE GUY, run and keep running. The weight loss will do you both some good.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that last comment is truly uncalled for. U hope you can easily dismiss it as though you never saw it.

I was so happy to see you post something again, even if it's painfully reflective of what a tough year you've had.

I wish you all the best and hope you will continue to check in with us periodically.


Sonny Amou said...

To the anonymous comment two up from this one - you’re an asshole.
Let me repeat myself. You. Are. An. Asshole.
I’m betting that you’re reading this, too. Based on SiteMeter trends from my old blog, pricks like you return to see what kind of reaction you elicit. It’s the Internet version of that ding-dong-dash game kids play. Always hiding behind the neighbor’s bushes, snickering like a vindictive brat, patting yourself on the back at how clever you are.
And of _course_ you’re an anonymous commenter. Only an anonymous jerkoff such as yourself would write a post like that without having the cojones to sign it. It’s a passively vindictive, mean girlsy thing you guys do. Proud of yourself? Kicking someone when they are down? Classy.
Ever have debilitating pain? And I’m not talking about a cat scratch or a mildly sprained ankle that you can walk off a day later. I’m talking about injuries that require lengthy hospital stays, surgery, paying off bills through credit card specials because the health insurance is tapped out. Trust me, it changes you and everyone who lives with you. I wrenched my back years ago and it was over six months before I could even walk one flight of stairs again. And that’s not even factoring in the meds, which changed my eating habits, reduced my drive to exercise, and seriously messed with my head when I stopped taking them.
That’s kinda what Trooper’s dealing with now. I’ve seen the crutches and I’m generally familiar with the results of her operations. And unlike you, after I read this, I called her, and a second time, just to make sure she was okay. FWIW, her conversational tone is quite upbeat, even a little goofy at times. You wouldn’t know that by reading this post, but then again, you admitted you just read the one post.
Something for you to think about, dickhead. And seriously, think about it the next time you read a post that is driven by raw emotion. Consider what event(s) might have prompted it. If possible, get out of your own shoes for once and try to discern the Chapter One of that person’s life. Not everyone has it easy. I get it. You don’t.
In the meantime, while you think about that, please spare everyone your opinions. Turn off your computer, don’t come back, don’t leave your house, don’t breed, and don’t intermingle with the rest of us in general circulation. Acknowledge to yourself that you are a waste of space, and that posts like this don’t change that you remain a self-hating troll. Please stay under the fecally-encrusted rock in which you hide. Because when you crawl out from under it, you interfere with the general enjoyment of life for everyone else.
P.S. - Trooper, my offer to grab a beer at the German joint in our neighborhood still stands. If you want, Charlotte and I can swing by and pick you up. I apologize to everyone else. Ask Trooper: on most days I’m a mellow person. I just hate general jackassery like the comment I read above. I’m in a bad mood today, and I took it out on someone. The difference is, I save it for those who deserve it.

Anonymous said...

hey sonny boy...Did you call her before her pitiful post or after she sounded like she was going to jump off a cliff? Were you one of the minions or friends that dropped off and not called her and now you feel a little bad about it and so you think just because you defend her and use asshole a lot you are now her hero? You are just as pitiful as the whine guy. The purpose of blog just in case you didn’t know is to talk about yourself and get responses. I am anonymous because in the scheme of things, it should not matter what I say. But thank goodness for you. Make sure you and Charlotte hit up that German Joint..sounds fantastic.

Janaya said...

Ah, trolls... any whoo...

I've been reading your blog since the beginning, Trooper, and I have to say, you really live up to your moniker. The past year sounds really awful and intense. Try not to be too hard on yourself. While it is good to recognize where you need to work on your relationship, and when your behaviour isn't the best, beating yourself up for it just generally makes things worse. I hope you can be gentle with yourself while you heal, and build up the energy needed to focus on your relationship.

This post, strangely enough, inspired me to contact a few people I've been hiding from this year. I've hunkered in and been a home body - had some things happen this fall/winter that made me want to duck and cover - and let a lot of friendships lapse. Thanks for the reminder of the value of outside relationships. I actually really needed it.

Wishing you the best with your surgery, and with Wine Guy.