Weekend Coffee Share, On Relating and Forgiveness

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Natalie the Explorer, accompanied by the music of Agnes Obel. It’s a good day to invite tranquility in. I’m getting my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine today and following up an eventful, slightly stressful wake packed full with just, well, too much for my liking. Still, I managed.

State testing was the first challenge, though nothing compared to handling the emotions of my son moving out ON THE VERY SAME DAY. However, I focused all day on the positives and paced the aisles as the students whittled away at their thoughts and words for a state writing test. My ex had flown down to help my son move and get all things in order as possible. The students had my attention; I kept the thoughts at bay. I felt happy that my son is stepping into independence, happy that I may have a new sort of freedom now that my son is moving out on his own. All the while acknowledging that I felt relief and a little worry at the same time, but knowing that this is a necessary step.

My son and my mother, circa 1997-98.

I got to see it after work on Wednesday. The place is small, a studio apartment, but the landlords put in a new stove and ceiling fan. There is faux wood flooring which looks very nice. He got his bed and long dresser in there, has to keep his bike inside, and there’s a bookshelf. There is no room for a sofa. Mom and I decided to get him some folding cloth chairs and TV trays.

After seeing the place, my ex-husband took me, my mom, and my son out to eat a steak dinner. My son was so tired, and my ex was talking a lot about details and ways my son could improve his life, get a car, etc. I’ve mentioned before that my son had a bad car accident three years ago. He also has a mood disorder that is mostly kept in check. He gets lost in the details, and it is not wise to throw too many at him at once. He truly needs to take it one day at a time, but I am proud of how he lined up all he needed to do to get this apartment. He does not have a high-paying job but makes enough to pay me rent, so now he’ll see what true independence is.

It is true that my ex-husband can worry a detail down to a fine thread. Sadly, I guess that is one thing we had in common. He is more of a “You’ve got to do this” sort of person. I am more of a “You need to do this, and if you don’t get that done, what is your back-up plan?” gal. Obviously, we did not get along well enough to stay married; it only lasted 5 years, so dating and marriage for us lasted seven years, and my son was only 2 1/2 years old when I had to leave that marriage, after two failed marital counseling attempts. I felt controlled, manipulated, trapped. He would get onto me about who I befriended and talk them down to me, also accusing me of affairs with male co-workers (which did not happen at all). He stressed me out a lot.

In the years we were together, I had some depression, had a rough post-partum year, and his drinking was problematic. Sometimes I wonder if stress during pregnancy led to my son’s emotional state. I have often been very wary of my ex when he’s back around. I sent my son to live with him one summer six years ago, and it did not go well at all; my son was anxious to come back a month later. I have to try to avoid blame, yet I do feel I’ve forgiven him.

There’s a funny thing about forgiveness. It means “to grant pardon” or “cease to feel resentment.” It is healthy for us, they say, and can prevent the toxicity of such feelings to ruin us. Still, I want to point out that forgiveness does not mean letting down boundaries, which exist for a good reason: self-preservation. In my past year of self-improvement and looking inward, I have been re-establishing and exercising boundaries in relationships with family, at work, and with others. You can forgive someone, but still keep the boundary up. I’ve given past relationships a second chance and learned things didn’t work the first time for a reason. It is not a lesson lost.

My mother is impressed in the changes she sees in my ex. Yes, I’ll admit there is some goodness in that man and he seems to have straightened up. He is here when my son really needs him. I am allowing him to do that. He bought a microwave and some other things for my son’s apartment. The two of them may be bounding, and that’s good. So, I sat at dinner and enjoyed it whole-heartedly, telling him what a handsome son we have and how I love my son.

It is notable that, I have been divorced from my ex for twenty-two years. I dated a few other men after, but I have currently been dating the same man, Kenny, for eleven years now. That relationship provides me some freedom to be my own person and has allowed me to determine what I want: to come forward in my writing, to communicate with the world instead of hiding. I relate to others more freely and have found it benefits my teaching by showing I care and have empathy, benefits how I relate to co-workers, and not being afraid of relating to others makes me feel better about myself. I had a past full of secrets kept from my mom, a therapist, friends. Where I learned I shouldn’t tell my husband everything for fear of being judged or having it spun out of context. I have learned I’m imperfect but pretty awesome as I am.

My current boyfriend, Kenny, has boundaries and likes an amount of time to himself. I am finding that, so do I. Therefore, I am happy with all that has come about. I do wish some things had happened differently and had gone better for my son, but I am going to make the best of today and perhaps make it better.

So, I sat across from my ex-husband, with my son to the left of me who looked quite tired from working the usual hours and moving in the afternoon. My mother was to the right of me, raising a glass of wine, wishing for a good transition and new life opportunities, smiling at us all. I smiled and thanked my ex-husband for the dinner. I hugged my son and said “I love you” as they left. Then, I went to Target and happily bought some chairs and TV trays to support my son in his move.

Thursday I had a usual workday with Spring-springy middle schoolers and evening time to myself for exercising. Friday after work, I had dinner and caught up on my sleep. It has also been a wake-up-at-2 a.m. and struggle to sleep again week. I made up for it last night. So, this morning it is coffee and a vaccine shot at 11 a.m. I look forward to more rest later!

Have a good weekend, my friends. I wish you all a reconciliation with your past events and/or decisions, a present that cannot be controlled but only appreciated, and a belief in a hopeful future!

Weekend Coffee Share. Bursting the Bubble

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Natalie at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Today I’m having half-caff coffee. It has been green matcha tea pretty much all week. I’ve been trying to imbibe just healthy things and sleep well at night. I slept in today and feel I can handle the coffee; life is short, right?

It has been a full, busy week at work with the end of quarter progress monitoring tests. It always means we must be on a modified schedule, which seriously throws me off. I believe I have a slight touch of OCD, because I like to know when certain things are happening, and where to find things, in order. It’s probably a byproduct of anxiety, if that’s possible. I know those two things can co-occur at any rate. The change in routine leaves me seriously tired in the afternoon. I survived the week, though, somehow, and Spring Break starts in seven days!

Tuesday morning I woke at 4 a.m. and didn’t sleep again. I had a therapy appointment and dentist visit. I took medicine for a tension headache, and it helped. I got home and ate dinner, then just relaxed. I remember my boyfriend calling and that at one point, I said “I’m not really able to talk much. I’m soooo tired.” He said I kept falling asleep on the phone. I believe it.

I did something difficult Sunday, and I’m proud of myself for taking the risk… My studies on pain, anxiety, and repressed emotions, learned from books by Schubiner and Sarno, have reinforced what my metaphysical friend told me once: “You’re holding in resentment from the past. It’s what has caused some of your health issues.” (I’ve had cysts in several places, had some removed, and was told 10 years ago I had one on my liver that could not be removed and might just deflate on its own, and not to worry. No sweat, right?) I know I’ve had resentment for my ex-husband, my almost fiance of 2005, sometimes my mom, and yes, my dad.

My dad is a recovered alcoholic, active in AA since 1989, which is very admirable. I was out of high school then. But when I was a child, he was ‘drunk dad,’ man without a filter, a little sexist and careless as to how his words would shape me as a person. Some of those words stayed with me for so long. It comes up in therapy a lot. I think of bubbles of resentment inside me, burping them up, internalizing them as cysts, and I think of bursting a bubble of resentment. I metaphorically stuck in the needle and started that process Sunday.

When you’re a child, you kind of live in the world your parents create for you. Maybe that’s why I am so keen on creating worlds now, and creating an atmosphere for my students in my classroom. As a child, you might easily stuff things down. Maybe you learn that you can speak up for yourself, but I did not. Mom’s religion taught me to turn the other cheek and be ladylike. Dad’s blackhole of a philosophy taught me to try really hard to be good out of fear of his temper, but his words taught me that I was a growing female fit to be mocked for the changes occurring to me, and that I was not good enough–to get a training bra, to wear bright lipstick, to gain a few pounds and still be beautiful. I brought it all up Sunday. Does it seem to you I was carting out past skeletons that are already dead? Well, they’ve been rattling around in my head inside that imaginary bubble.

At age 15, pictured with my brother.

I’m ready to bury past beliefs I developed from my childhood that caused me to date jerks and marry a man who was a mess and latched onto me for a sense of normalcy, yet blamed me for so much and held me back with his possessive nature. Past beliefs made me keep quiet when I felt wronged or when I saw something going on that I knew was wrong. I expressed all of this to my dad, (on one of our weekly long-distance calls) and he said he didn’t remember most if it, (not surprising from a foggy, rum-soaked mind), but he was sorry.

He said that he was sorry, and he thanked me for telling him these things. No admonishing me for trying to give a guilt trip (something I’d heard him say years and years ago). I am a grown woman past the age of forty, but I still remember being a small eight-year-old, being an awkward ten, being 13 with some baby-fat, turning fifteen and noticing I suddenly had hips, graduating from college and wearing red lipstick, which I thought looked very striking and daring. I remember all of that and should not have been ashamed of the changes I went through. His upbringing did not need to become my upbringing, but I can break through all of that! If I wear daring clothes or bright lipstick, it doesn’t mean I should be labeled. It doesn’t say anything about me except I felt daring that day. And now he and I have an understanding.

College graduation, age 23. Even with bright lipstick, it’s still me!

I said, “I haven’t felt like I really know you in ages…you’re not the man I grew up with. Sometimes you still joke with me like you’re really comfortable, but I am not comfortable with you. I’ve been afraid to tell you how I feel or if I’m upset about something, because you live states away and we might become even more distant. But lately, we’ve just had phone calls in which I tell you I’m in therapy but not what I’m discovering about me and why I am this way or about the way I want things to be. And I’ve felt that if I’m not comfortable really telling you these things, I don’t really know you at all–which makes me just not want to talk to you.”

I know men have had their own narrow gender identities taught to them and reinforced through fear or religious guilt, especially those of my generation or the one before it. I had a lot of that, too. I couldn’t say ‘crap’ for fear it would be unladylike, as if I was disobeying the Lord by doing so. It taught me I could not express anger; likewise, a young man may have been brought up thinking he could not wear pink or express sadness. Well, bursting this bubble has freed me somewhat from that thinking as well. Thank God, the changing tides of time have also loosened these definitions and judgments!

So, you, dear reader, may have never met me before, you may somewhat know me, or you may know of me. I do not mind you knowing these things. Maybe you had a similar upbringing, maybe you suffer ongoing, chronic pain/tension or anxiety. Anxiety can run through the DNA, it can develop from your upbringing, or may be a reaction to a temporary lifestyle. But I feel that acknowledging and letting out things that make you uncomfortable or anxious can loosen the grip anxiety holds on you. Maybe you’re still young, but I want you to know, life can get better, and this is the one joy of adulthood. You CAN take charge. I’ve often worried what people think of me, but I do not want to be fake. I have struggled, and I have overcome many things. That makes me incredibly strong, and why would I be ashamed of that, ever?

I have burst a bubble of silence and fear, for I am not afraid to be who I am, to acknowledge where I came from, to change the parts of it I feel were wrong, and to feel proud of what I have done with all that I was taught and all I was given. The bubble has been burst and that which festered will leave me, in a sneeze, in a conversation, or when I spit out my toothpaste. I don’t expect it to happen all at once, but I am confident that it will not rule me anymore.

Thank you for reading my Weekend Coffee Share. I’ve been a writer for a while for many purposes. I have a book in the works, and I write blog entries and poetry. Here is my most recent poem on kindness: https://pamelascanepa.wordpress.com/2021/02/23/cake-it-poetry/

Have a a great weekend and an even better week to follow!