The ultimatum, part 4

A business acquaintance once said that he didn’t know any business owners who weren’t alcoholics or divorced.

My husband is a visionary. But he is more than that. He is a doer. He has the ability to take his dreams and put them into action. He sees the potential in the future. I can’t see tomorrow from yesterday. I look at the past for answers, he looks at the future…what is possible.

He had this vision for a start up company. No one else in the area had this business idea, it was a new niche. Running a business is more than just doing what you are good at. It includes many moving parts; finance, sales, marketing, HR, customer service, collections just to name a few. The pressure is immense when your name is on the door and you are the only one providing a source of income for the family.

Paul worked hard even when it took years to see any fruit from his labor. He worked when he was sick. I even dragged him to the office the day after he came home from the hospital from having major surgery. Many nights he came home from work just to work some more after supper. That wasn’t even enough. He wanted to learn everything he could about business. He worked on his MBA while running a business. Most mornings he would go into the office at 5 AM so he could get a few hours of studying in before the phone started ringing.

After ten years, I joined Paul running the business for another ten years. Looking back those were some of the best years of my life. We worked well together. Running a business was rewarding but very stressful. I wanted to be in control but I didn’t want to be in charge like Paul was.

He started having a few drinks after work to take the edge off. It was his reward for a hard days work. It’s an incredible amount of stress making high level decisions that effect the lives of other people. If an employee made a mistake, it was his problem. Every month Paul had a long list of collection calls. It made me sick to hear him have to make those calls. He had to calm down angry customers when they had technology issues that he barely understood himself. He had to make sales calls where he got the door slammed in his face. His phone was always on. We could never get away from it.

Like most things in life, we rarely heard from customers when they were satisfied. They usually called when there were issues and problems.

Getting together with business acquaintances usually involved drinking. Sometimes it meant trying to keep up with the heaviest drinker. Paul would usually say he drank as much as everyone else did. I really didn’t think much about it. Then one night he called me when he was out of town and we had a 20 minute conversation. The next morning he called apologizing profusely for not calling me the evening before. I thought he was joking at first. He didn’t remember calling and having a long conversation with me the night before.

I was starting to notice a new pattern. Paul wasn’t remembering our conversations. Sometimes he would accuse me of not telling him things that I clearly remembered telling him. Sometimes he would say things that upset me and had no recollection the following morning. Talking to him was like talking to myself. Sometimes I would just walk away. Why bother? He wouldn’t remember the conversation.

I didn’t know what to do. Running a business was his life, but the stress of the constant pressure was killing him too. Nothing I could say or do could change it. Then we sold the business. Eventually the high pressure and busyness gave way to a lack of purpose and boredom which wasn’t much better…until he was back in the game with a new business.

 

In health

Yesterday I had my first Craniosacral therapy appointment after the start of the pandemic followed by an appointment with my therapist. Afterwards, I felt great. I finally feel like I am making some headway with my healing process.

Fixing myself has been hard because I’ve been broken so long I got used to the cracks. It’s been an adjustment. It’s created some problems I’ve never guessed it would. Now that I am healing I’m starting to notice the brokenness around me more. For example, I find myself more critical of my husband because I feel like I am in a healthier place than he is. Before he was always the healthier one.

Since I started seeing the therapist a year and a half ago, I’ve gone through several crises. My therapist wants me to focus on letting go of the original trauma that I hold locked inside my body and mind. She thinks that once I do this all of the other stressors will flow through. I liken it to Tetris. If you clear out the bottom rows before everything starts piling up, it will be easier for everything else to flow through.

My therapist told me that with three teenagers in my house life realistically won’t be stress free anytime soon. What she says is true. Teenagers are stressful even when they aren’t trying to be. For example, our foreign exchange student Estelle wants to join in the protesting. I told her that she couldn’t because I couldn’t guarantee that it would be peaceful. I am in charge of someone else’s child and I want to feel reasonably sure that the activities she is involved in are safe.

Then Estelle said she wanted to run a mile every hour for 24 hours to raise money instead of protesting. Her idea was that she was going to run alone on country roads by herself day and night. She was rather upset when I said no to that idea too. Then she asked if she could run laps around the house at night and I told her it would be perfectly fine.

I think Estelle will be frightened running around the house at night. I took my brother Matt for a walk today and we saw 4 deer. We saw the cutest baby fawn. My autistic brother Matt is staying with us for a couple days. My mom is going up north to visit with her sisters for a couple days. I’m proud of her for not living her life in fear.

This means that I will be helping Matt with daily living. I will be fixing his meals separate from ours since he is on a special diet. I will have to help him shower, clean up himself after going to the bathroom, floss his teeth, and give him his medication. He is quite used to getting his way so I want to see how he will handle being with my family for several days. Someday when my parents are gone I will probably take him in once a month to stay with me if this works out.

If it doesn’t work out, I will take him back home to stay with my dad. I will just run over every day to check on him. My husband thinks it’s funny that my mom trusts me more than my dad to take care of my brother. But he doesn’t understand that is always the way it was even when I was a child myself. I hope this experience is not triggering. But I am mother henning right now which isn’t entirely unsatisfying since it is the last thing my teenagers want.

I am in a good place right now and hopefully I can remain here for awhile.

In sickness and in health

I wonder if wedding vows still espouse the traditional in sickness and in health. It’s been awhile since I went to a wedding, my own being almost 23 years ago. When I think of someone getting married, I think about young and healthy couples who probably don’t think that their love could battle health issues that might mess up their future dreams.

And the two shall become one. But what happens if one is sick? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately since I haven’t been well.

Currently I am drinking 15 liquid elixir shots and popping 21 pills a day of supplements. I’m getting sick of it. I still don’t feel well. I am now trying to eat two small meals a day. My stomach hurts if I get too hungry and it pretty much always hurts after I eat. It’s a delicate dance.

Over the weekend I ate only bone broth. It is disgusting. I watched as my family ate pizza, hamburgers, birthday cake, chips with nacho cheese, and ice cream. It was hard to watch especially since my bone broth didn’t make me feel much better. I got very weak. The last thing I wanted to do was clean the kitchen up after they feasted which is a chore that mainly I do. Thankfully I didn’t have to.

Sometimes they feel bad for me. I get barraged everyday by well meaning loved ones with an are you feeling better yet. Sometimes they feel guilty for eating my favorite foods which I cannot have in front of me. Sometimes they care more about themselves.

Yesterday my husband went for a run and was apologetic to me. I didn’t enjoy running, I’m only doing it for my health. I feel horrible they are apologizing to me for doing the things they normally do. It makes me feel bad. But their normal behaviors are tormenting me because I can’t do it anymore. I think it is wrong for me to be upset about that. But it does upset me.

Oh, and another thing since I’m being totally honest here. It is hard to live with three teenagers in the house. The other day my daughter Arabella was eating cookie dough for breakfast at noon. My husband confronted her telling her she needed to eat something healthy. It was the right thing for him to do. Since then she has been angry at us and is once again slipping behind on her homework. I can foresee a lot of problems and confrontation with her in the near future.

Stress tends to make me feel worse. I have zero tolerance for stress right now which sucks because I see no end to that in sight.

Other than not feeling healthy, my mental health has been a struggle too. I used to cope with anxiety by running and keeping busy. Now I sit around and worry. I’m depressed because I don’t feel like I am accomplishing much. My husband gets irritated sometimes that he has to pull more of the weight since I’ve been sick. I don’t like it anymore than he does. It’s not like I’m trying to deliberately get out of doing my fair share. I’ve never been much of a slacker. No one in this house understands what it feels like.

I’ve been depressed because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling this way. Now I think I understand why in sickness and in health are a part of the wedding vows. Will I still be loved if I am no longer the person I used to be?

For better or for worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health…If you stay with someone long enough, you pretty much see it all.

Bad luck Luke

I got some bad news today.

My brother Luke was diagnosed with kidney disease. It is irreversible. He is not to the point of dialysis and hopefully if he keeps on a strict diet it will not progress further.

How could something like this happen? My brother is a health nut. Why??

Apparently all it took was being very sick, taking too much OTC pain reliever, and becoming dehydrated to lose over half of his kidney function. Without a family history of kidney problems, the doctor could offer no other possible causes. Who would’ve guessed something like this could happen to someone young and healthy? Did lifelong intense stress weaken his kidneys?

Today when I found out about my brother I felt a lot of anxiety. But the strange thing is that I felt anxiety about something else. The first thing I did was worry about the garbage. Today is garbage day and I had this irrational fear that I threw out my son’s wallet when I grabbed the garbage out of his bathroom. Totally crazy!

Then I started to feel anger. Why would God allow this to happen to my brother! Then I felt sadness. I almost cried when I thought what it would be like to watch my baby brother die. What about his family? Life is just not fair. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do healthy people get sick?

Life, it’s taking the cards you have been dealt and playing your best game. It’s lifelong growing, building, and change. It’s not guaranteed to be pain free, but if you give it your best shot it’s worth it. Time is short and I want to look back satisfied that I did the best I could. I did not give up when things got rough, instead I tried harder.

I want a rock solid marriage. That is something else worth fighting for. Someday I might have to ask him if he loves me enough to donate a kidney. They are the same blood type if that matters, whereas the rest of us are not.

This post was originally written back in November. It was one of the drafts I saved because I was not ready to accept this much less post it. It’s hard to think of my brother as sick. Who knew that in a few months I would follow him down the path of illness. I feel bad because his life has been very difficult. It’s not fair. I wanted so much more for him. 

 

working well not working

My husband and I ran a business together for 10 years. We worked amazingly well together. Running a successful business with your spouse is a huge accomplishment that few couples wish to tackle. Both of us are rather type A task oriented people. There aren’t any back burner lists or room in our lives for procrastination. What can be done tomorrow should’ve been done yesterday. We worked together for a common goal.

At home discussions commonly were about our shared experiences. Our frustration about working with a difficult client. How we were going to solve a work related issue. Our kids got used to shop talk at the dinner table. It was a big center of our life and created a level of intimacy rarely found in most marriages.

Together we built something so amazing that it was coveted by others. It’s been over two years now since we sold our business. The new owners kept me on for the first year then outsourced my job to a centralized corporate branch. It was a huge adjustment for me.

One of my favorite ways to outrun my demons is to throw myself into the distraction of work. I didn’t have time to think about my problems because I was always too busy. I rushed to this and rushed to that. I had kids to race here and there. I had a new bigger house to clean. I filled every minute of my day. I started writing. I trained for marathons.

It was hard for me when I lost my job and my husband continued on. It was harder to push the demons down when I could finally hear the cries of my inner child. Then two out of three of my kids became adults. I was starting to feel the emptiness of losing them. My health went downhill and I haven’t fully recovered. But even worse, the foundation of my once enviable marriage started to crack.

My husband’s hours were drastically cut. He is pretty much a figurehead for the company we sold. They wheel him out every now and then as needed. But he is pretty much semi-retired. Retiring early sucks! I’m just going to say that now. It’s a huge adjustment. You really can’t do anything during the week because all of your friends are still working. It is really hard for two task oriented workaholics.

So we fought. A lot. We fought about the big things. We fought about the little things. How come we worked so well together when we had so much stress and things to do? There was no longer anything new to talk about. Our relationship got stagnant like putrid water. Everything he did annoyed me. Everything I did annoyed him. I tried to fix him. He tried to fix me. Many times we wanted to throw in the towel but we still both wanted to keep working on our marriage.

It was hard because there was nowhere to go for advice. Neither of us wanted marriages like our parents. Most of our friends are on their second or third marriages. Where do you turn? We kept talking and working through our issues, some days that was all we accomplished.

We decided to start a second business where we could once again work together. Things were going pretty well.

Then this whole coronavirus hit. Once again we were forced together with nothing productive to do. Everything we were looking forward to is now gone. My structure and routine have been replaced with chaos and uncertainty indefinitely. We are getting ready to launch our new business. How will that work in this economy? Plus the money that we were counting on living on is simply not there. Who knows when and if it will rebound? Then we started fighting again.

We are still working on our marriage. I have to be a healthy me and Paul needs to work on himself. We can’t fix each other. If I learned one thing about being married over twenty years it’s that. Both people need to be willing to work on themselves to work on their marriage. We will get through this too.

This stinking sinking boat we’re in

I think the numbness has worn off and it is starting to hurt now.

I’m struggling today. Just the other day I was thinking about how hard it would be to be trapped inside the house with toddlers. But, you know what, it is hard to be trapped inside with teenagers.

It came to my attention yesterday that my daughter Arabella is behind in her online schooling. I had a sneaky suspicion about that although she has never had issues with grades or school before. I didn’t think I would have to micromanage my teen. I would almost rather teach common core math to a grade schooler right now. It would probably be less frustrating.

I can imagine how hard online schooling must be for a teenager. It takes a lot of grit, maturity, and strength of character to have self-motivation. When your whole world is falling apart you still have homework to do. The world is ending, but math..

The girls were supposed to go to prom this weekend. They had appointments to get their hair done. Now their beautiful dresses hang on a rack in the back of a closet. I could go on and on. The musical. Concerts. Going to state. Track. Spring break trip. Goofing around with friends. ALL GONE!

Why bother when the only thing left is the thing about school that most teenagers don’t want to do?

I have been angry. YOU NEED TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I have been frustrated…impatient. How do you help your teenager cope with disappointment? Now my daughter dug herself into a hole she might have a hard time getting out of. How do you deal with that? Should I ground her from her phone? She hasn’t seen her friends in a month. What else is there to take away?

How can you be upset with someone for feeling depressed right now?

It is hard to deal with disappointment if you never learned to deal with it at this level before. My daughter clearly is not at her best. All she does is mope around and eat junk food. Over the past year she worked really hard to lose 50 lbs. Now she is packing on the weight again and it is awful to see.

Our remaining foreign exchange student is not fairing much better. She has been sleeping a lot and not eating much. She hardly weighs anything as it is. It’s hard for her to find the motivation for school as well since this year does not count for her when she goes back. This is no longer the American experience she paid a lot of money for.

Also, her mother was going to visit in June and they were going to go back home together. Estelle just found out that her mom won’t be coming and she is not even sure she will be able to go home as planned. So far her departure is the only remaining thing left planned on my calendar.

So here we sit. What do I do? My just do it mentality is not working. I see everyone around me falling apart and I can’t motivate them. I’m trying to be supportive and understanding but it isn’t working well.

I’m not sure what to do about it but I can’t be the only one in the same stinking sinking boat.

Would it kill you to be nice?

What if I told you that my son had a couple of friends overnight last night? Would you lecture me and call me stupid?

What if I told you that the two boys were brothers who got kicked out of their house by their single mother who went off of her medication for severe mental health issues? What if I told you that when she is like that she is violent towards her children? Would that change your mind?

What price is too high to pay for human kindness?

What if I told you that the day our foreign exchange student went home Paul asked the coordinator if there were any other children in dire need of a place to stay? Who willingly takes on more teenagers in a time of crisis? Who steps up to take the children who have nowhere to go?

My best friend Cindy took in a teenage boy who is friends with her son. He was going through a hard time at home. Yesterday Cindy took this kid to the ER for what might have been kidney stones. Would you risk getting sick by taking someone else’s child to the ER right now?

What if your parents were in need of groceries and were afraid to leave the house? Would you spend over two hours in the store to get them everything that they need even if you didn’t have a mask to wear?

All of these things happened within the last couple days. It’s the new moral dilemma. Do you put yourself at risk to help others? There are so many people who are struggling right now.

What price is too steep for human kindness? Seriously, I want to know. Is the risk too high to help others if you are healthy? Would you donate blood? Would you try to make a difference in this world even if it means you might get sick?

I think of all the doctors and nurses who are stepping up to save lives at the price of losing theirs. What is that worth? There are many people out there making a difference in other peoples lives.

Would it kill you to be nice? Maybe it would this year.

At Eastertime I reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for us. What would he want from us? I think he would want us to be caring and kind towards the other people he placed in our lives. In times of struggle it’s hard to do nothing if there are people out there that need help.

 

scratch this

My husband woke up with scratch marks on his neck yesterday morning. Five red raised welts caused by what looks like a left hand based on the markings. He didn’t wake up. He only knew because it burned while he was taking a shower in the morning.

I didn’t wake up either. We both slept deeply that night. That was the day we woke up very early to take Clara to the airport. We were both very exhausted. I knew I slept deep. I had that awareness. Did I have a nightmare and not wake up this time? Did I attack him? It had to have been me. He would have had a hard time scratching himself at that angle with his left hand. Plus I am left handed. Could’ve I attacked him without either one of us realizing it?

I have been keeping busy since Clara left. After she left I cleaned the house. The day after I met with my therapist. Afterwards I went grocery shopping for my mom. She completely quarantined herself since the coronavirus. She is freaking out. She will not leave the house even to go to the store.

The first couple weeks friends and family dropped off food at her house. This time I told her I would go. It felt like my obligation as her daughter. Plus with the special diet, I felt like I was probably the one person who could get her the items she wanted. She sent me a picture of two full handwritten pages. It took me 2 and a half hours. I got her 11 bags of groceries so they should be set for awhile.

Paul didn’t want me to go grocery shopping at first. He was angry and wanted my mom just to eat the food everybody else does. He was worried that I would get the coronavirus and have a weakened immune system because I am taking antibiotics. At his prompting, I called the pharmacy who told me it wasn’t a concern.

I haven’t been feeling the greatest. I have been feeling very tired, nauseous, dizzy, and have a headache from time to time. These are all common side effects of the medication. Also if I mix the medication with ANY alcohol (even with aftershave the label says) I could have a very serious reaction. So I stopped taking the elixirs from the wellness clinic because they have alcohol in them.

This also means I stopped taking Ashwagandha which helps maintain proper cortisol balance. The last time I went off this my PTSD symptoms went haywire. I asked to be put on it again after I figured out what changed. This time I feel fine off it or so I thought. Now I noticed that I am startling easy to noises. The anxiety and hyper-vigilance is starting to kick back in.

But even more troubling, I feel paranoid. Maybe Clara left because she wanted to get away from me. My therapist is angry at me. My best friend is out to get me. She is going to blab everything I’ve ever told her out to the world. My husband doesn’t love me, he doesn’t care. Yesterday when I called my brother Luke for his birthday I felt like he didn’t want to talk to me. At times I am afraid to talk to you.

Wait! It isn’t logical that everyone started hating me simultaneously. The problem isn’t them, it’s me. I’m being paranoid but it feels so real. I see it clearly now. I have another week to go to heal my body before I can go back to healing my mind. I hope I don’t totally lose my mind before then. At least I have awareness which I suppose is some consolation. It was more than I had yesterday.

Now if I could only figure out how my husband got scratched while we were both sleeping at night. I just hope I am not up all night worrying about it.

The new normal

I’m doing okay with this isolation. It’s not that I don’t like isolation, I like having a choice. I was supposed to be on a beach in Florida right now.

Things are breaking down. The DVD player broke that I watch my exercise videos on since the gym closed. Thankfully my ancient laptop has a DVD player. Our main TV died. I don’t think it responded well to the surge of overuse. Or maybe it didn’t like being the bearer of bad news. Or maybe it got a virus. Oh wait, that only happens to computers.

We dug out some puzzles. After sorting the pieces of three puzzles in a row on the same day, all three were missing multiple edge pieces so I threw them out. Then Clara and I opened a brand new puzzle still in its plastic wrap and that was missing an edge piece too. We searched and searched but all I found was some dried up dog puke behind the couch. Now I remember why I hate puzzles. I had to walk away for a few days. The last remaining shred of my sanity was on the line. Seriously!!?! A brand new puzzle had 4 pieces missing.

This corona virus is the new crisis in my life right now. It’s not that bad really after the last couple months of crap going on. Being lonely and bored has been an adjustment. It’s hard to sit still and not to feel like I should be rushing around doing something. I almost feel guilty about sitting around while essential employees are working hard with people getting sick and dying.

I worry somewhat about my loved ones getting sick. I realize that my husband and most of my best friends are over 50. Having my mom, husband, and close friends all be older than me is slapping me in the face hard right now. It’s forcing me to look at death. Thankfully at this time all my friends and family are healthy.

My daughter Arabella got her old job back at the grocery store. The last couple weeks its been like the day before Thanksgiving there. They recruited her hard. They gave her a raise and put her back in the bakery packaging products and washing dishes. They told her customers would probably be rude to her. Arabella was happy about this. At Culver’s she used to run orders out to people’s cars. People treated her kindly and gave her tips whereas they chewed other employees out except for the ones with special needs. Then she started worrying that the customers thought she had special needs because they treated her differently than everyone else.

Our foreign exchange students are still here. They could stay if their host and real family still wants them to as long as school is in session. Online schooling is scheduled to start on Monday. They both realize they could be stuck here beyond the time they planned to go home. Estelle is feeling homesick and Clara was also crying about it this week. They are keeping a journal of their experiences and hopefully some day it will make for an interesting historical book.

It seems like all of our plans have been washed away. The trips we were planning are gone now. Financial security. Gone. Paul and I are working on starting a new business soon. How will that go in this economy? My structure and routine are gone. The gym is closed. I won’t even be able to see my daughter graduate from college.

I worry about death more. I even worried about what it would be like to become very sick from the virus. After running outside I felt a little wheezy from seasonal allergies. I wondered what it would be like not being able to breathe. My workouts are lackluster. Why bother? The races I might sign up for this summer might not even happen this year.

I have to hope that soon we will get through this and it will be on to the next crisis.

Enviable ignorance

This week my autistic brother Matt celebrated his birthday. He was rather upset he was not able to celebrate his birthday with family at the bowling alley like he has done every year for over a decade now.

His program he attends for autistic adults and children was also shut down. The group home he lives in closed its doors. They don’t have enough staff to cover the hours at the house where its residents were previously gone.

Matt was sent home disrupting his day to day routine just like the rest of us. This was rather disturbing for a population of people who don’t understand why the change is happening. But as they say ignorance is bliss. He is happy to be at home because he likes it there. He adjusted really fast to having my mom dote on him.

Matt wasn’t upset the day the police officers showed up at my parent’s house to talk to my dad. But that was the day the rest of our lives changed forever. You see, the police came on a Friday. That was the day Matt was scheduled to come home for the weekend and all was well for him.

Matt isn’t worried about the corona virus. He isn’t trying to stop touching his face. He is not worried that our parents who are in their 70’s might die. He just worries about whether his food will show up on the table when he is hungry just like a small child or household pet. He doesn’t have the responsibility of a family. He doesn’t even have to take care of himself.

In all honesty, sometimes I wish for that ignorance. Dementia doesn’t sound all that bad to me because who wouldn’t want to forget all of the bad things that happened to them. Maybe sometimes I just want someone to take care of me.

I wish I lived in a world where there weren’t so many things to worry about. I envy Matt’s ability to remain calm and worry free in times of great chaos and unpredictability.

There is something attractive about having a child like faith and sense of wonder in times of struggle. I want to be like a carefree child who dances and plays. I want my only worry to be about whether or not someone feeds me having the security that they will.

Yet I have been given the gift of reason. With this gift comes a great burden. Difficult decisions need to be made. It’s hard to break free from the stress and struggles that awareness brings.

I don’t want to be like Matt but sometimes I envy him.