Sunday, April 1, 2007

Prepare For Take Off

It's been a roller coaster whirlwind of weeks since I received my involuntary separation package from work. I've been to the heights of hope and happiness down to the depths of despair and depression.

Two weeks ago (was it only two weeks ago,) I was ready to move to DC. I thought I had a job offer in the bag and I was ready to leap to my "happy place." But the days ticked by and the emminent offer never materialized. The law firm gave it to someone else.

With each day that passed, my excitement ebbed and in flowed all the pain of losing my job, of being without a routine, of being without my friends, of not having a future, of not being productive.

For four days, I listened to my husband switch between unbridled enthusiasm and obstinent territorialism. I endured his chest-thumping, his putting me down, his scared chatter to make himself feel indispensible, needed, important, superior. Add to this my four-year-old son who cried or threw tantrums if I left the room without him for five seconds, who demanded constant attention because that's what Mommy had always given him whenever we were home on weekends. Throw in sheer exhaustion from sleepless, worry-filled nights.

Stir.

Place in oven.

For a woman who has only tentatively begun to accept her place in humanity, this was more than I could handle.

Lock oven door.

Turn up the heat.

For these four days, I wasn't able to talk on the phone without others listening in; I wasn't allowed on the computer (either because my husband needed to work or my son pestered me incessantly to play with him.) Journalling was impossible with my husband's paranoia that I was divulging lies to the world, like how horrid and insensitive he was being toward me.

I felt more alone than ever.

I couldn't even get out to walk - the weather was too cold for my son to sit in a stroller and he refused to go anywhere (unless I bought him something, which we can't afford.)

By Wednesday morning, I had had it. At 3:00 am, I awoke with wide eyes. From the bed in Jack's room, I paused to listen for sounds of my husband. I sighed when strong snores eminated from the living room. I tiptoed to the computer nook, which happens to be in the living room as well. I logged onto my email, hoping to find a few inspirational words from a friend. Something, anything to make me feel less lonely. Preferably something in response to a note that I was able to sneak out earlier.

So, when I read a note from Aaron that basically started out saying that my separation from the company would be hard for all my friends; my friends will drift apart because I wasn't there to organize lunches; life would be just awful there now; I snapped.

For weeks I had suffered through tirade after tirade from my husband that *he* was the most affected by *my* job lost. The last thing I wanted to hear was how my separation affected anyone else. WHAT ABOUT ME????

I was under the impression that when someone lost her job, it would be about *her.* When I vented to my friends about Todd, before my last day, they validated this belief.

But then I read this note. To me, it validated everything that my husband had said for all these weeks. That my feelings and thoughts weren't worth the air to speak about them.

I was angry.

I let loose.

I, more or less, told him that if he was so lonely, to get off his duff and walk to someone's office or lab - he had that privilege; I didn't. If he didn't and was still lonely, then I didn't want to hear about it. I told him that I made an effort to stay in touch - despite all the obstacles, both internal and external.

I had had enough. I was tired of everything being about everyone else and I let him know it.
I thought as I wrote this flame that he was yet another example of how no one cares about *me;* they only care about the things I do for them. And I was angry.

I felt betrayed. I had exposed my inner self to him over the past few years. I had trusted him when he told me that nothing inside me could ever be that bad; that true friends, like him, liked me for me, not what I happened to do for them; that he had broad shoulders, could handle anything I had to say; and that I should never, ever hold back.

The letter to which he had replied had oozed self-hatred and pain and frustration. Underlying all of it was anger. Lots of anger. From my point of view, his reply was selfish and callous. I read in that note that all he cared about was himself, even though I happened to be dying inside (literally and figuratively.)

And it pissed me off.

His reply to my rant was that I had hurt him. That all he had meant to convey was that I would be missed.

I answered, "Didn't you think that that was the very last thing I would want to hear?"

After all, I hadn't come that far from the girl who never wanted the spotlight, the girl who wished to be number three in high school so she wouldn't need to make a speech, the girl who preferred to be invisible, the woman who only wanted to disappear.

True, I had made a move to take a stand for myself, to use my voice to say what I want, but I was (and am) far from comfortable in this new role. I thought my friends understood this. I thought they would realize that I needed all the support and tenderness that they could spare. I had asked them for tangible proof of their support (before I left) - pats on the arm and hugs. I needed them to remember my requests without reminders. I needed proof that my thoughts and feelings really do matter to those about whom I care and who say they care about me, especially since my husband and in-laws were proving otherwise.

In my mind, my friend had let me down, crushed me. And I was angry.

Despite my anger, I did apologize numerous times for hurting him. For while I felt I had a right to be angry, I was sorry that my words wounded him – because that had not been my intention at all.

As the days passed and my friend still wouldn't speak to me, I became angrier.

My friend expected me to mind his circumstances – he was sick, his home life was a zoo in the best of times and had gotten worse that particular week - and yet, I didn't see how I was being granted the same consideration by him for what I was going through. This only validated the voice inside me that said that I didn't deserve such consideration - I was less than human after all.

Email after email, he accused me of being awful to him, yet he apparently felt blameless. Once again, the thought that someone else's thoughts and feelings mattered more than mine was being validated.

I was angry at him - really, really angry.

That is until Edie stepped in with her mirror. She deflected the anger back to me, where she reminded me that it had always belonged.

And I believed her. How could I not? It's a familiar, comfortable feeling for me - hating myself, thinking that I'm below pond scum on the food chain. I kowtowed and apologized profusely to my friend, indicating my regret for sending the letter in the first place without thinking it through numerous times (cleansing it of the volatile content my inner thoughts contain.) I told him over and over again what I horrible bitch I was (and am.)

He eventually forgave me, asked me to forget the whole thing (with a few final jabs about how wretched a human I was and how I should grow up and learn to be considerate.) I told him that I wouldn't forget. He scolded me with his advice to learn to forgive myself and not continue to use this as an opportunity to beat myself up some more. And then, he had the nerve to tell me not to triple think to the point of stifling myself.

Uhm. You just raked me over the coals for days after I spoke my mind and now you want me to speak freely? Sorry, I don't downshift that fast.

While this was happening, I alternated between days of starvation and binging. Luckily for me, I have another friend who was (and still is) able to give me the support I needed at the time. Nancy has a unique perspective - her life is a similar kind of hell to mine. Her husband and mine both have delusions of grandeur and are completely blind to the thoughts and feelings of others, especially those whom they claim to love.

She met me for lunch on each of the days I was in Rochester. She asked me about my life, often and sincerely. She shared in my excitement and was saddened in my despair. She reminded me of my dreams when I thought all was unattainable, when my hope was all but lost. These were the days when I would look at my son and for a moment wonder, "Maybe I can take him with me if I kill myself so he wouldn't be subjected to life without unconditional love."

Nancy didn't mind putting her concerns on the back burner for a little while (even though her concerns are more troublesome, more important than mine.)

Looking back, I realize that she did the same types of things for me that I did for her when her life was turned upside down just a few months ago.

One week after the "incident," Nancy and I had lunch together. Well, she had lunch; I had coffee. I was in the worst depression of my life. I didn't believe I was worth one moment of anyone's time, let alone a morsel of food. Everything was an effort. Even breathing. I wanted to die, but was too much of a weakling to end it.

We talked and talked. She expressed her worry over my rapid decline. After about two hours of conversation with her and her blatant concern over my well-being, I was convinced that it would be okay for me to eat something. In the van, I munched on some rice cakes. I went to my favorite coffee spot and ordered a cup of soup, a sugar-free steamer, and a slice of chocolate peanut butter pie. And I savored every scrumptious bite.

And when Edie came screaming, I wrote in my journal.

And when that didn't work, I called Nancy for reassurance.

I went home that afternoon with the intention to starve, but I splurged instead. I journalled a few battles in the war between Edie and me - between death and life.

The next morning, I chose death. Mainly because I had given Aaron an opportunity to bow out as my accountability partner and he took it - a sure sign, Edie said, that I was an annoying brat who didn't deserve friends.

Later that day, I found out from Nancy about some of the added stresses in Aaron's life and I decided that I needed to do something - I needed to release Aaron from my inner world.

After three drafts and a hundred interruptions, I finally sent him an email that said that I felt like he has been forcing a connection through frayed wires. I wrote that I understood that he has no more bandwidth to spare and that it was okay. I promised to let him know about the major events in my life (to keep him "in the loop.") I reminded him that I care and am interested in his life. For me, I was shutting the door of my inner world to him.

Once I logged off my computer, I found a voicemail from my mother-in-law. "Uncle Mike found two jobs for Jeanne in Syracuse."

Anger flared. Through this whole situation, my in-laws had been the least supportive of anyone. They have fueled my husband's 180s like lighter fluid on a barbeque.

I called her, found out that I wasn't qualified for either (sigh of relief,) thanked her (and Uncle Mike) for thinking of me, then passed the phone to Todd who had come in while I was on the phone.

He hung up and, once again, tried to convince me that we are better off staying in our house and in this area, even if it meant me going back to school.

I firmly stated, "It is too early in my search to give up." My translation, "I'll be dipped in shit if I give up my dream of getting the hell out of this house and shaking up the stagnant state of our current marriage where I'm in a subservient role."

And then, I closed my mind to his monologue.

I did it, just as Nancy had suggested over lunch the day before and it worked.

I was back in control. I ate thoughtfully that night without feeling like I binged.

I even had a few moments of quiet to reflect. I realized that the past few weeks, once again, proved that everything happens for a reason. I had to push Aaron away in order to give myself room. I needed to lose my trust in him, so I could learn to trust myself.

Aaron was my crutch. Every time I spiralled, he was there to help me up - sometimes forcing me up before I was ready. Until this last time when he pushed me down.

But this time, I got up on my own, with a little coaching from Nancy.

But *I* did it. This is *my* accomplishment. Mine alone.

For once, if only in my own mind, it's all about me first.


Author's Note
It was exactly two years ago from the day that I wrote this chapter that I "came out" to Aaron about my eating disorder relapse. Two years ago I took a tiny step and trusted him to help me. I relied on him often in these two years. Without him, I would not be the woman I have begun to become.

Thank you, Aaron.

However, it is time for me to fly. On my own, but not alone. My ground crew is on the horn, ready to offer me suggestions should I need them.

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