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“This is my family. I found it, all on my own. Is little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.”

I haven’t been sleeping well the last few nights. Lying awake at 1:12am, I’ve been trying to figure out why. It occurred to me that my mind keeps wandering back to Sunday, when my ex-boyfriend came over to pick up T for a movie and dinner. I haven’t seen him for about a month and it must have shaken me more than I thought. I must be still mourning the loss of what used to be.

While waiting for T to get ready, he mentioned that he had tried to watch an old movie, but couldn’t because of the memories of us watching it together. I told him my own story of when T had wanted to watch Lilo & Stitch, a family favourite, but I wouldn’t let her because I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold myself together for it. Mark shook his head and agreed, “Yeah, not that one. Not yet.”

We saw ourselves in the movie, of course. A woman and a girl struggling through life on their own. While a spaceship crashes to Earth in the background, the little girl prays to God to bring her an angel. “It’s me again. I need someone to be my friend. Someone who won’t run away. Maybe send me an angel! The nicest angel you have.”

Cut to the crash scene, and a twisted little alien climbs free of the wreckage and laughs manically.

Stitch needed a lot of spit and polish before he was even somewhat presentable. And even then, he caused a lot of trouble. But Lilo and Nani, both feeling like freaks themselves, eventually accepted the third freak into their family. In the end, Stitch’s reckless past catches up with him, and he’s about to be hauled off by authorities. He takes responsibility for his actions, and defends the others. “This is my family. I found it, all on my own. Is little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.”

That just kills me. Little, broken, and good. Yep, that’s my family.

It’s unlikely that a Disney movie could trigger renewed pain and loss of our –now even more broken- family. But that’s the way it goes with triggers: you never know when it’s gonna hit you or where it will come from.

My vision is slowly clearing up from the frosted glasses I wore in my last relationship. For me, three months is a long time to snap out of it. I am used to feeling freedom and joy almost the instant I get away from whatever man I’ve leeched myself onto.

What explains the gradual drift away from him, rather than a sudden snap to consciousness? I’d like to believe it’s a sign that I have grown as a person enough to leave a relationship before I am on the edge of despair. In the past, I have left relationships as a last-ditch effort to survive. My grieving the betrayal and loss of most relationships occurs while still officially in them. This time I left earlier in the process, and so maybe I continued the grieving once I was gone. Maybe I’m getting wiser.

In any case, my cathartic experience was Monday, when I finally moved the last of my stuff out of the house and over to my new rental place. In the process of hauling stuff out of the basement, I passed a sickening sight. He’s got a bunch of trash and furniture strewed at random along the side of the house. Who knows how long it’s been there – a month? Plastic, wires, broken things, tools, and painfully- furniture. For example, a pine hutch for the kitchen with cupboards and a drawer. It was in perfect condition when I left. It is now beyond salvage; warped and bleached from rain and weather. One of the pieces was a large oak entertainment center that I had come to get. He had at least laid a piece of plastic on top, but the base was in three inches of standing water. The bottom trim is warped and blackened with mold.

“Just like common white trash,” I thought to myself. “Leaving a bunch of stuff outside in the yard to get ruined.” I wondered: Who is this person who is so thoughtless and careless?

And it hit me: there is no difference in this behavior than anything I knew about him in our six years together. This is how he has always been. He has carelessly smashed half our dishes over the years. When we moved he piled everything in a jumble in the moving van so nearly all our wooden furniture is damaged now (that is, the stuff that wasn’t totally ruined). He stacked spare tires on a rocking chair, so that when we unpacked the chair the fabric cushions had ground-in black rubber. Ruined. It doesn’t occur to him to place any extra value on things that are expensive or of quality construction: to him, no things are valuable. In one way, it could be said that he is not beholden to material objects, but on the other hand – since we have often struggled for money – he was thoughtless and careless not to consider that everything he ruined had to be replaced. For a price. Sometimes the things he ruined had nostalgic value to me and can never be replaced.

The difference is that I am no longer there to walk behind him and clean up his messes.

My transformative thought was that the whole damn relationship was probably me! The catharsis is that I am relieved to know that I was correct to leave him. He isn’t only careless with furniture; he is careless with his life. He does not cherish his friends, and he does not cherish his family. I thought back over all the catastrophes he helped create and maintain, and I thought back over the lies that I told to my family and my friends to protect and support him, and to protect myself from my embarrassment and shame. Like when he was unemployed for 14 months and I helped him maintain all his excuses and lies about why he wasn’t employed. Yes, the economy was bad – a perfect alibi. But I didn’t tell anyone the truth. Such as the time he got a job offer, and let it go.

I am angry at myself (No, not at him; I feel sorry for him.) for not learning this lesson yet. I am a world-class enabler and after forty years and hundreds of relationships (well, it SEEMS like it!), I just cannot seem to learn to stop it.

I need to stop valuing people according to their potential, and begin placing value on what they actually do with their potential. I glom onto a man believing that with support and encouragement, he could be the man he truly is inside! I give, and give, and give until I am sucked dry, and there is nothing to show for my investment. And my bonus gift is that they always (Always.) find a way to spin it so that I am the one who betrayed. I am the one who let it fall apart. I am the evil trickster.

He said to me recently that he has watched me fall into deep depression in the past two years (actually, I have indeed been depressed a lot). He said I am the most depressed person he knows. “I am truly worried about you without me there to look out for you,” he says. “Now that you’re gone you will withdraw from life and sink more deeply into your depression. It drives me crazy because everything you want, I give you, but you can’t be satisfied with anything. You think leaving me will solve all your problems, but you had all you ever needed with me, and refused to see it.”

For the last year I’ve believed him when he told me what a dark soul I was, dragging him down when otherwise he would be happy. Today I say back to him as Eowyn said to Wormtongue, “Your words are poison.” I will no longer listen.

I am now free to try again to live up to my own potential. It is a beautiful, limitless path with brilliant possibility.

A tree in Mt. Tabor park, a few blocks from our home

{Note: I last edited this post on November 30, 2010. On March 1, 2019 I was digging through my WordPress account and found that this one had only been published privately, whatever that means. I changed to public and clicked Publish again. So no, none of this stuff is current.}

November is when I left the house on Morrison St and moved my daughter and myself into a new home. Goodbye to that painful month.

My current internal conflicts are a teeming cacophony in my head. Setting all the stuff aside about my own faulty inner mechanisms, I detect an expanding category called: Pain I imagine I must be inflicting on my child. I have been vulnerable to crippling doubt when it comes to parenting, ever since I left her dad when she was only 8 months old. Translation: for nearly her whole life, I have suspected that I am a parental loser.

When it comes to my own wants and needs, I am confident. I could care less if any portion of the narrow-minded collective American public disapproves of my words, or ideas, or actions. But now it isn’t just me; it’s us. Making a wrong decision on behalf of myself might only result in harm to me, but the world takes on a different shape under the immensity of parental responsibility. Remember how Rhett Butler swallowed his instincts and became a whole new person in order that his beloved Bonnie would be accepted in society when she grew up?

I agonize over how much sacrifice is required to protect my baby. Where is the balance between having a safe male role model vs. a happy mother? The two apparently don’t come together. This point was reinforced when I called my Grandmother Thursday to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving. She took the opportunity to tell me I might be ruining my daughter’s life and that she wanted my assurance that I wouldn’t date another man till she was 18 years old. Her stance was insulting on so many levels I didn’t even try to respond. Through my choking tears I cut her off in mid-lecture and said I didn’t have the constitution to hear the rest. I understood she felt she needed to say it because she loves us, but she had to stop.

After six years I concluded that I had to leave him for my own mental health. Like every parent who wants to leave a partner, much of my consideration was given to whether I should stay for HER sake. But too often I have seen examples that it is a faulty line of reasoning, beginning with my own tumultuous childhood. Two miserable parents are not better than one happy one. Still… It had taken four of those six years for him to finally let his walls down to her. Now they are tight. She calls him her step dad to all her friends, and on the school emergency call list. They are crazy about each other. Finally. The relationship I have been yearning for between them finally happens, right when the relationship between him and I looks irreparable.

And the house! She had the perfect little princess-in-the-tower space in the converted attic with her own bathroom and loads of teenager privacy. She told me she never wanted to live in another house because that one suited her perfectly. Being in that house was driving me mad. It seems one good rainstorm away from disintegration. I hated living there and seeing it slowly fall apart around me while we never had the money to repair the place.

The new place is beautiful and clean and safe and warm, so I tell myself it’s good. But how much does a whole new life disrupt a child, even if it’s a comfortable safe one? I moved every few years as a kid, and I recall that I LOVED it! I was told years later by a psychiatrist that moving is a horrible trauma to nearly every child, and I should completely discard all my own memories of moving. On this occasion, we moved three blocks from the old house. How bad could it be? At parent teacher conferences Monday, I found out she hasn’t turned in any homework for any class in the previous two weeks.

Of course I’ve got a girl who keeps her feelings inside (just like me, go figure), so I can’t get anything out of her. I’ve tried. Since she’s a teenager, I anticipate several more years of not being sure of what’s in her head. I have to add my detective’s cap to the psychiatrist’s spectacles I have used so frequently in her upbringing. I need to act, and watch for a response, then interpret it correctly. That is our communication.

A couple of days ago I purchased our first new furniture. We’ve got nothing here other than bedroom furniture. Not even a dining table. I have been using the living room as a place for collecting the giant pile of Junk I Moved But Haven’t Put Away. It was super depressing. When the new couch, chair, and ottoman were moved in and set up, they made an inviting living space. I intentionally chose furniture with deep seats to accommodate extra pillows, and soft throws, and legs curled up under. Her cat was the first of us to weigh in. Cookie took turns napping on each new piece before we even had them set into place. And, curiously, my own sweet girl followed suit. That evening she asked if she could sleep on the new couch instead of her bed.

I don’t understand it, but I feel that this is a communication of something good. She’s making the new place hers? I’m not going to pass up a sign like that! I suggested that it was time for a table too, and she said she wanted to pick it out with me. We went out together and chose our new table and chairs over the weekend, and they will be delivered today.

I am moving out of my house on Tuesday, November 2. Election Day. I elect to run away from my problems. Again.

The House on Morrison Street still has my name on the mortgage, so I’m going on faith that Mark will do his best to try and make the payments. His mother, Rene, will still be living with him, and he’s seriously considering inviting his best friend and the friend’s girlfriend to move in.

The new house is only three blocks away. I would have preferred more space between us, but only to help sharpen my perceptions of how clean the break is.

I discovered that Mark remains in the conversation if I talk in terms of moving out, and not in terms of breaking up. “Breaking up” is too big; “moving out” is easier to negotiate. It’s been the most respectful, adult form of separation I’ve ever experienced. So in that way I see that my own partner choices have improved. Thank god this hasn’t been full of screaming threats and raised fists and me having to sneak around to conceal my plans of escape.

And besides, I don’t know for certain it’s a breakup. I just have to go. This house is like living with Jupiter’s gravity, or living inside of giant magnets or something. It’s so heavy. Truly, truly, I am a person with an inner buoyancy. When left alone, I bob back up. Sadly, I connect too tightly, too empathically to those I love to remain buoyant when they are not.

Additionally, I frequently reach toward others hoping for their magic to fill my cup of need. I keep ending up with partners who can’t manage my weakness well. They are confused and emasculated when I beg to be saved. I need to be told: “Knock it off! I care about you and I see your pain and you’ve got to fix it for yourself.” I wish for the perfect dose of arrogance in my partner who can say to him/herself: “Crystal is in a sad state, but I’m fine. Hopefully she pulls out of it soon.”

Rather, my weakness and my partners’ weakness twist into knots, feeding off each other, and gathering dark strength from outside attacks (bad jobs, financial stress). Yuck. I just want to go back to that light heart of twenty-something and start over with the knowledge that I now have. I had hope, hope, hope then. Now… not so much. I am losing faith in myself. Why can’t I learn to be strong with a partner? Why do I sink as though I am rescuing someone who can’t swim? They never asked me to come, why do I still feel their frantic struggles and dead weight?

And what is up with my desire to run? It’s always easier for me to take off and nurse my wounds in solitude. With enough time alone, I come up shining and new. Perhaps I can make peace with my strength as an individual, as a friend, a mother. And give up on thinking I should try a romance.

One of my many guises

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