M and I have house guests this week, runner friends we like and enjoy seeing as frequently as possible. They are interesting folks.
They are in their 40s, so about 10 years younger than us. Married just over 5 years, second marriage for both, they still seem to be in the smitten, lovey-dovey stage of their relationship, and it is a stage I hope last forever and ever, amen.
But she said something to me Monday night that has had me thinking off and on. Remember Jerry McGuire? The famous “you complete me” line? Yep, she went there. We were in the kitchen putting food away and the subject of anniversaries came up (they just celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary and have been together almost 7 years), and she said “[Hubs] completes me; I don’t even remember who I thought I was before meeting and falling in love with him.”
It bothers me to hear her say it that way. I know I am not a romantic person, and there are times when I feel a little (or a lot – depends on the day) deficient in this area. However, M is not terribly romantic either. We are a loving, demonstrative, happy couple. But the butterflies if they ever existed for us became flutter-byes a long, long time ago, and half the time I am being a sounding board for friends and family members and their relationships I am feeling helpless and ineffective in my understanding of modern romance. M puts me first; he is typically considerate of me and my feelings or ideas before making decisions or commitments with others. Probably 99% of the time I am fine with whatever he wants to do, because I want him to be happy. However, the other 1% of the time is me being selfish and wanting him to do what I want him to do. And mostly vice versa. I say “mostly” because I have a job, a business, and commitments from both tend to impact my ability to do everything I might want to do in my free time. Fortunately M understands that and is well acquainted with my work-a-holic tendencies. We make it work because we are a married couple who love each other and plans to stay together. In considering this, we are better together than we are as individuals. But completing each other? Maybe it’s just semantics, but it is semantics that kind of bother me.
If pressed, I would say our idea of romance is listening and trying to create an environment the other would enjoy. It comes back to communication, listening as well as speaking plainly. Which I could write entire tomes of posts about, having made so many mistakes in this area throughout my life. But the idea of suggesting M “completes” me leaves me cold. M enhances me – I am a far better person because of his presence in and influence on my life. But I was pretty much full assembled and off the assembly line when we met. Maybe M refines me? Smoothes rough edges? Polishes my dullness?
Probably just semantics. Our friend noticed my expression when she said that and smiled, said I probably thought they were silly honeymooners in comparison to us. I explained, or tried to, why the idea of M “completing” me made me feel weird and insecure. If that were the case, would I not just collapse like a house of cards if something were to happen to him or to us as a couple? I do not like even considering that I might be so vulnerable to incomplete inconsolability if that ever becomes reality.
Yesterday I had an appointment with TM. I keep thinking we’re winding down, concluding our project and 2016 business, and every time we meet it seems something has just happened and I am not quite ready to be released into the wild. He assures me it’s fine, says I can continue to schedule time and talk about whatever as long as I feel it’s necessary. It’s reassuring. I feel less fucked-up than I was 6 months ago, but there is still room for improvement.
If am am absolutely candid, which I nearly always am here on the blog, I can see significant improvements since we restarted this year. Just like my work in the gym, I have made strides; I have improved. It’s just TM’s efforts and expertise are not quite so visible. There are no sweat-drenched shirts after our meetings or heavier weights being moved to and fro. No, it’s far more subtle and yet influences all aspects of my life. I feel more confident, more assured. I am still concerned and influenced by my peers and public opinion, but I am less impacted by both.
After the day I had yesterday and dealing with those parents, I went to our appointment feeling like some sort of judgmental parental peer. On top of recent frictioning incidents with other friends, I am becoming quite certain my issues with interpersonal interactions – the problem is starting with me.
TM frames it different, as if is not a problem (negative) but rather part of my better health process (positive). No matter how I frame it, people who are woven into the tapestry of my life thus far have suddenly, abruptly gotten scissors and starting cutting those strings and ties. And is has been jarring to my nervous system.
I am also not sure I like it. On the one hand it feels like I have not really changed – I have always been pretty direct and not skilled at having a poker face. My better health quest has lead to contouring in my body, a slow dance with the scale’s display, and an improved, more positive outlook and sense of self. I have always seen myself as caring and compassionate, and I have always known my patience is not endless, my expectations for those I associate with pretty consistent. That said, I see these things as very good changes, and I do not believe I have become some sort of opinionated, my-way-or-the-highway, obnoxious diva. Surely someone would have pointed that out rather than talking about the size of my arms or how little my exercise and healthier efforts are showing on the scale?
Discussing it with TM, he points out these are very, very long-term friends who have known me throughout my various incarnations and life-related crises. They knew me as a little girl, and as a teenager, a young adult, a new mother, a divorcee, a single parent, and into life with M. They knew me through the anguishing periods and still do not know the underlying causes of my profound insecurity and shame. Is it possible that the healthier I become, the less control they feel they have in our relationship?
Put that way, I suppose sure, it’s possible. But why would anyone, much less a friend, feel the need for control in a friendship? (Said by someone who has had her own battles with trying to control everything in her own life and environment.) Why do any of us do anything? The point is that I am getting healthier, more confident, more assured, happier. While those who like and love me applaud and celebrate all my small victories and I do theirs, not everyone is completely secure or likes to see the cast of characters in their lives grow. It’s not ever that they want hold them back or have them be unhappy; they simply want things to stay as they are right now. Change of any kind is frightening, threatening to them, and they cannot or are unwilling to examine what it is that scares them so much. They only know fear and desire to maintain the status quo.
This makes sense. And TM helps me understand it is nothing to feel guilty about, or as if I have done something wrong or offensive that has caused as permanent rift in long friendships. It may just be time to say goodbye, or to accept that what was once a great and tender friendship is no longer needed by me or cherished by the other party. Or both. In the past I have been on the receiving end of the drift, or the severed relationship. This is probably the first time I have been the one making the conscious decisions that I will no longer accept being treated poorly for the sake of maintaining a friendship gone stale or worse.
I suppose it is never too late to cultivate, create new friendships, or to strengthen other existing bonds. It does cause some apprehension to imagine letting go of people I have known forever and thought I would still know well into my older and grayer years. Understanding I may not because of my personal quests to continue to grow up and become a better versions of myself … well, I suppose it’s easier than believing I have morphed into some new kind of asshat. Of course, I suppose the better version of myself could be some sort of asshat to someone else. But oh well; I cannot let negative girl’s imagination going wild deter me from my course.
After yesterday’s HR nightmare of dealing with the ultimate in helicopter parents, I am hesitant to even chat with my son about his present career-related difficulties. A couple of months ago he decided to take a chance and change careers, and unfortunately his gamble is not working out as he had hoped. The job is downright hard for him to perform, and he is not only unhappy at it, the job is starting to erode his confidence and feels to him as if he is fatalistically waiting to be released from it.
As a parent, it’s excruciating. To have my son call me on his lunch hour to ask me for advice on what he should do … on the one hand I am so glad we are close enough to have such honest conversations, yet on the other hand the mom in me wants to fix this for him. But I’m not that parent, so I gave good advice my best shot. Start applying for other jobs, now. And while I know he does not want to do it, talk to his former boss about returning to his job. He and K want to buy a home next year, and a stable employment history plays into that. Being a grown-up and leading an independent life sometimes means doing things we really do not want to do, like return to working for a boss we do not like and do not respect, but it’s a paycheck and can be viewed as a temporary waypoint until he finds the next better position and circumstances.
My son has a lot of pride, but he’s a realist. He absolutely does not want to go back to his former job, but he will if that’s what it takes to keep himself and his family afloat during the transition. I hope he returns to school, but this is not about me and what I want.
But dang, it’s hard. It’s hard to see him so unhappy and it’s hard not to want to find ways to hand him success on a silver platter.
And it is difficult not to be a little anxious about how this may impact his life and plans with K. Again, as a mom I want smooth sailing, happy lives for my kids. I want them to have the sun, moon, and stars if that’s what their happiness includes. That said, I also understand my limitations. He and C are independent, thriving adults. G will find his path to success, of that I am completely confident. I just want it to be easier, less bloody, sweaty, and teary than my own.
At least he has a supportive, encouraging, non-judgmental, and probably not an asshat for a mom. That is so much more than I had at his age and when faced with similar life transitions. I am not above coaching him on employment-related issues when asked, but nope, not going with him to interviews or calling prospective employers to negotiate salary and benefits.
Ugh. I think yesterday has scarred me for life.