Monthly Archives: January 2014

When “Hard Work” Becomes Too Hard

As children, we’re bombarded with cartoons and movies depicting romance and love as something effortless and perfect. The prince meets the princess, some really bad villain tries to keep them apart, but their love is so strong that they defeat the bad guy and they live happily ever after. To compensate for our ridiculous childhood fantasies, our parents, society, and extremely well-paid relationship counselors/authors tell us that no, it doesn’t work that way. Relationships are hard work. Sometimes you want to strangle the person you love, sometimes you wish your eyes could make their heads explode, and sometimes you just wish they’d put down their cell phone long enough to have an actual conversation with you. So basically, we spend our childhoods learning to believe in love and the rest of our lives dealing with the fact that true love isn’t a fairy tale. True love takes effort. And you know, that’s true. But I for one believed it SO much that it caused me to fight for a relationship for which I shouldn’t have fought. When does the effort become too much effort? And how can we tell it’s become too much?

I had the increasingly rare childhood experience of having two parents who loved each other. Their relationship was absolutely NOT perfect. But by God, they love each other. Their ability to overcome what they did gave me faith in the idea of true love. Why else would someone fight so hard to keep a relationship alive? And when they are happy, without any issues whatsoever, it makes total sense. They both say so many wonderful things about each other behind the other’s back. Considering my parents have been married for 29 years, that’s pretty dang impressive. They still get on each others’ nerves, but they’re human, so it was bound to happen.

So, with my faith in true love and all my experiences and society teaching me that making a relationship work is hard work, I went forth into the world of romance with what I thought to be a healthy outlook. Whew, was I WRONG! Sometimes a relationship is just doomed from the start and there is NO reason whatsoever to exert all that effort into keeping it alive. It just eats at you and kills your soul, little by little, til you’re left a pessimist at best, a romantic misanthrope, a deluded desperado, or worst, a person who just doesn’t care about love anymore.

Now, some people are going to read that and think “Well what about the valuable experience that gave you? It made you who you are and led you right to the right person!” Yeah, ok. You go ahead and you think that. You go ahead and think that, if not for the suffering in a bad relationship, you never would have found the right person. I believe everything happens for a reason. As someone who believes in God, there’s always a touch of Fatalism in my reasoning. I believe in fate. I also believe that, regardless of the paths we take, we always wind up exactly where we were meant to, good or bad. I don’t believe destiny is so fragile that making one choice versus another completely throws the timeline off-kilter and we wind up on a separate plane of existence from where we would have been. And if you don’t believe in destinies or fate, just that the conditions created by the bad situation also created the optimum conditions for you to meet the love of your life, that’s fine too. I would argue that we have positive outcomes with less-than-optimal conditions all the time. For example, a couple with fertility issues may, after years with no success, somehow conceive a child and carry it to term and have a healthy baby. So you really didn’t NEED the optimum conditions, you just had to have the barely-passable ones.

Moving on, then. I spent my entire high school experience in a relationship of some kind. Except those days in there where I was broken up before getting back together or transitioning from one guy to the next. I have utterly NO experience in being single. Since I was 14, I’ve probably spent about a month and a half altogether outside of a relationship. And even when I was “single”, most of the time, I already had another guy on the line or was planning to get back together with the guy with whom I’d just broken up. I maintained a very unhealthy relationship for years because I believed that I could make this relationship work if I just tried hard enough. The fact of the matter was that we both had our issues and we weren’t right for each other. We both had to work on our issues separate from each other AND accept the fact that we weren’t right together. I make absolutely no assumptions about his feelings either way, but I fought like crazy to keep the relationship afloat and alive when I should have let it die. While we both walked away alive, we were both damaged from the experience. We stay in contact from time to time nowadays. We both acknowledge that trying to save that relationship was a mistake. But I don’t believe it was a mistake to have been together at all. There were good times that I won’t ever forget.

Speaking of “good times”, that is another concept that reinforces the idea that, with enough hard work, you can make a relationship work. I thought as long as we had good times in the past, we could have good times together again in the future. At some point, we stopped having good times. But the promises of the past hung before me like a carrot on a stick. And I got caught in the trap every single time. No matter how distant the memories became, I clung to them like a lifeboat. If I could hang on long enough, I’d reach shore or someone would rescue me. The fact was, I had to let myself drown before I could be rescued.

Sometimes, hard work can’t save a relationship. Sometimes you should NOT put the effort in. While the circumstances to my meeting Tom contributed greatly to our being able to form a relationship, I don’t think I wouldn’t have met him or been open to being with him had I not just come off yet another tenuous, stressful breakup. The possibility simply had to be there. Not every experience is one you NEED to have. Not every relationship can be saved. And knowing the difference? That’s what society should focus on helping us to see, not pump us full of propaganda about counseling and “making the effort.”

As for Tom? Well, we’ve had some stressful stuff to deal with. But I know that it’s worth the effort because I can remember the last good time we had like it was just this morning. Oh wait. It was. And it just feels right. Even putting in the work feels right. I enjoy working through the stressful crap because it leads us back to each other. If I knew then what I know now, I think I would have spared some guys and myself some heartbreak. I certainly wouldn’t have made the first year of my relationship with Tom such a hardship on us both. But hindsight is 20-20. And with that, I think I’ve piled enough cliches into this post.


It Might Be Hormones, or Maybe the Questions Really ARE Stupid

Don’t joke about eating your baby after it’s born. Apparently morbidity is not an acceptable sense of humor when you’re expecting a child. It doesn’t matter how stupid the question is or how many times you get asked. I have learned from experience that the following is not a society-approved manner of dealing with irritability at someone’s mundane questions (keep in mind, I see this woman every other week):

Her: It’s getting closer to your due date, isn’t it?
Me: Yep.
Her: Are you getting excited?
Me: Oh yes. My family has been preparing for the ritual sacrifice and consumption of a newborn for YEARS now.

Ok, so I didn’t actually say that. But I WANTED to. I’m so, so, SO sick of the stupid questions. Yesterday I had THE baby conversation TWICE.

People: Are you expecting?
Me: Yes.
People: When are you due?
Me: March 11.
People: Is it a boy or girl?
Me: Girl.
People: What’s her name?
Me: Charlotte.
People: What’s her middle name?
Me: Rayne.
People: (various murmurs of approval) Is this your first?
Me: Yes.
People: Are you excited?
Me: (something that means yes.)
People: How do your parents feel about it?
Me: (something that means they’re happy, too.)

Why, God, WHY??? I would rather spend my time with my head hanging over the toilet bowl than have that conversation AGAIN. I’m considering crawling under a rock til I go into labor to avoid meeting another human being and having to answer those stupid questions again. And the first lady I was talking about? I have that conversation with her every other Wednesday. I’m so sick of talking about the blah facts of my pregnancy. I would love to share stories about my birth board, vent about the things people do that get on my nerves, joke about my food cravings, etc. But I hate the “how are you feeling?” and other typical questions.

See, now this is where Facebook comes in handy. I keep people updated on how far along I am, I talk about the new and interesting things in my pregnancy, and people who ask follow up questions have questions I actually enjoy answering. I get questions about her kicking, about the nursery, about the supplies we need for her, how Tom is doing, and specific questions about how we’re coping emotionally. Not “so, are you excited?” or “how are you feeling”, but like “What does Tom think about all the pink?” and “Can’t you just see Tom with that little girl? He’s going to be so cute” and then we proceed to speculate about tea parties and how wrapped around her finger Tom will be. Cute stuff. Personal stuff. Stuff I can gush about happily as I look forward to the birth process.

But I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. Hardly anyone has tried to dump on me the horror of their birth experiences. I’ve had some commiseration from my mother, which was completely solicited and actually made me feel better. But no one said “Oh yeah, I was like that too, except a lot worse” or “well it might be going fine now, but the doctor could do this really horrible, painful, disfiguring etc thing to you…” Thank goodness. God help me if I become one of THOSE women.

The Third Trimester – Is There an Exorcist in the House?

I’m 32 weeks and some change now. I’ve been in the third trimester for a good solid month. I have to tell you, I’m ready for the hospital bed. If the baby could be born today perfectly healthy and with absolutely no complications, I’d be there. But she needs about 4 more weeks to not have to go to the NICU, 6 to be almost absolutely sure she won’t have any trouble feeding, and just under 8 weeks til she’s due. But I’m not worrying about it. We’ve made it this far, she’s moving around pretty often, and she gets herself into positions that are unbelievably painful for me every day.

She dropped about two weeks ago, but popped back up. Mercifully. I think she may have dropped again, as my discomfort in walking, sitting, moving my legs in any fashion, and sciatica are back with a vengeance. But other than the predictable pain and slight humorousness of my struggle to waddle quickly, I am in a pretty good place in regards to the actual birth process and mothering of the child. As for everything else, well, I’m a powder keg right now. I have so many bad dreams and negativity keeps trying to eat its way into my life. Talking to my mother has helped tremendously. And I’m making every effort to be open, honest, and patient with Tom. Tom has been making every effort to be supportive, helpful, and also patient with me. Some things just take time. Like this pregnancy.

I was going to write about how calm I’ve been lately, despite all the GRRR I’ve been feeling, when I realized that I’ve been irritable, angry, grouchy, weepy, and really obnoxious all week long. And people have noticed. They’ve told me I’ve been grouchy. But everything seems to be moving so slowly, so maybe I felt like I wasn’t showing it as much. But no, if I’m really honest with myself, I’ve been GRRR outwardly, too. My inner monologue is very calm, almost Ben Stein-esque in its tone. (Bueller? Bueller?) It’s convinced me that I’ve been blunted and boring. I’ve been a Tasmanian devil! I’ve been a storm of negative emotions. Just none of them are about the baby. I’m so excited for her to get here and can’t wait to meet her. But just about every other human already on this planet is driving me up the wall. It’s just a matter of time before I start speaking in tongues while my head turns 360 degrees and I shoot green slime at people who come near me. If I haven’t begun that already. I have been known to sit straight up and talk in my sleep. Even walking at times. Who knows? Maybe we should just call me Reagan. 😛

Anyway, the baby is gaining about half a pound a week now. Everyone who looks at me asks when I’m due, if it’s a boy or girl, what we’re naming her, if it’s my first, and then I get the occasional odd question. A clerk at Target, for instance, asked if we plan on dressing her up for Christmas. Um… huh? Random!!! The lady who cleans our office every other Wednesday keeps trying to push natural, unmedicated childbirth on me. To which I told her it was none of her damn business. (More politely than that. This was before my crab-walking-backwards-down-the-stairs days.) And everyone has something absolutely VITAL to tell me about having babies, whether they’ve had any or not. Especially men. Whose tongues I then fantasize about ripping out of their mouths and wrapping around their heads in a cartoon fashion. With women who haven’t had babies yet giving me advice on parenting decisions or coping with pregnancy symptoms, I just think about how soon I will be able to have my revenge in the form of being the most obnoxious unsolicited-advice-giver in history. When they get irritated with it, I’ll just smile knowingly and patronizingly. I may even pat them on the arm with a condescending “there, there. Don’t want to upset the baby.” And run. And laugh maniacally as they try to catch up with me to hit me but they can’t because they’re pregnant and have to waddle. MWAHAHAHAHA

I’m not above the petty revenge thing. But I have made a concerted effort in other areas, such as wedding planning, to not butt in with “well when I was getting married…” or offer any advice for which I have not been explicitly asked. When a friend is having a baby, if he or she has not been up my butt with ridiculousness about my pregnancy, I will give every effort to not butt in then, too. I’m going Old Testament here: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a pain in the butt for a pain in the butt.

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