The first few days at work

The morning started rough. I awoke bleary eyed. I haven’t been sleeping all that well since I started the census job. My body, always resistant of change.

I went to feed my pets which all mornings is rather uneventful, well except for today that is. I opened the lid of the cat’s food container reaching inside only to find a mouse feasting on the food inside. Freaked me right out. Not the kind of excitement I needed to start my day.

I feel tired but good. I have my drug back. Work. The days go by and I find I don’t think about anything except for what I am doing. I’m not overthinking. I’m not anxious. My mind almost completely void of troubling thoughts. Then after the day’s work is done, my thoughts turn to mush. No worries, no grand stories. Nothing much.

Not only do I have a greater appreciation of those who travel door to door, but I am now thankful of people who clearly mark their houses with their house number. You wouldn’t believe how many times I turn around just looking for the street address of one house even with the map app on.

For the most part, people have been nice. I appreciate that as well. I have been doing a lot of walking. It’s funny but the first couple of days my legs and feet have been sore and I am a runner. I have a new respect for people who are on their feet all day at work.

It’s nice to spend the day working outside on these warm summer days. I haven’t had to go house to house in a downpour yet. Then I might be telling you a different story.

Things at home have been piling up. The dishes have yet to be done and the laundry needs folding. But for a few minutes I thought I would slip away to let you know that as for today everything is okay.

Gratitude week 31

  1. I’m back after a short break! I’m grateful I didn’t fall off the side of the planet too. But isn’t the Earth round? Who knows anymore…
  2. Summer! I can’t get enough of it. Seriously, why do I still live in the frozen tundra??!?
  3. I’m grateful to have a wonderful spouse to enjoy 23 years of marriage with.
  4. I just started the census job yesterday. It feels good to be out working again. I’m trying to put in 40 hours a week. I’m hoping I can still find some extra time in the day to blog.
  5. I am grateful most of the people I’ve talked to have been nice for the census job. I have a new appreciation of people who go door to door unannounced, even more so now during the pandemic.
  6. I’m grateful that my husband and I were able to get away for a couple days of sailing for our anniversary.
  7. I’m grateful that my loved one ended up being released from the psych ward the end of last week. This person has some previously undiagnosed medical issues that may have been contributing to the depression they were experiencing. Not to mention this whole time period in general has been stressful. I am hopeful they are starting on their healing journey.
  8. It’s my moms birthday this week. I’m hoping I can talk her into a visit and maybe sailing.
  9. My daughter is visiting this weekend so I am looking forward to seeing her and can’t wait until she moves back home.
  10. It’s been over a year and a half since I worked so I am grateful to be contributing to the family income. Plus I have been feeling nervous/anxious/excited about working again even temporarily. A little excitement at my age never hurt anyone.

Gratitude week 30

  1. Summer! I’m soaking up the hot days as much as I can.
  2. I no longer have any drafts in my WP queue. I am happy to be done with the ultimatum series. I thought it would be healing to write about but instead I felt a tremendous amount of stress about it. I started it and then no longer wanted to do it, but I finished it anyway. I feel kind of burned out with writing in life in general right now. Maybe some time off would help.
  3. I took the little vacuum cleaner my daughter bought me for my birthday and thoroughly cleaned the inside of my car.
  4. I got a haircut this week. My hair is now 100% my natural color. I cut off the last remaining blonde ends. It feels strangely freeing to be myself.
  5. My loved one who is depressed ended up getting committed to the psych ward this past week. I have been overwhelmed with sadness about it. But I am grateful that for the moment this person is safe. I also feel like this person is finally asking for and getting the help they need.
  6. My husband and I are planning on getting away for a couple of days sailing for our anniversary. The weather looks perfect for it.
  7. I had my orientation for the census job this past Friday. Maybe I was too optimistic, but I was hoping to start the online portion of the training Friday afternoon and being done today. I didn’t even get the emailed link yet to begin the training process which has been incredibly frustrating because I’m afraid I might have to postpone some of the plans I made for our trip. But I am grateful to have a meaningful job, some extra income, and the opportunity to bury myself in work to get my mind off of things for awhile.
  8. Paul and I took care of the area coin shortage by taking in our jug of coins we have been saving for the past decade, $262.47.
  9. I was able to talk to Estelle via Facetime for the first time since she went back home. I’m grateful for the technology to be able to easily and affordably communicate with someone living in another country.
  10. I found a new author I really like. I’m reading Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell. It’s a psychological thriller with relatable characters. The best part is that she has written quite a few other books.

The ultimatum, part 10

After taking a couple weeks off of drinking in January, Paul had a new plan.

He was going to drink a bottle of wine every other night. His doctor said he shouldn’t have more than 14 drinks per week. With this plan, he was pretty close.

He didn’t have a problem not drinking when he didn’t drink. But he found the nights when he had a bottle of wine more challenging. Frequently when he was on his fourth glass, he no longer had the discipline to not drink a couple more. What if it was an extra large bottle of wine? Did that still count as one? He had a hard time leaving extra wine behind because that would throw off his count. What if he had a couple of mixed drinks and then started a bottle of wine?

I found myself angry and triggered on the drinking nights. If he went over I knew. At times I threatened to dump all the alcohol in the house out. He said I was wasting my money because he could just go to the store and buy more.

I tried to ignore him on the nights he was drinking. That also did not work well. It seemed to bother him that I avoided him and usually lead to an argument. Sometimes I would confront him if he started his fifth drink. That also didn’t work. The one that says please help me when he is sober also says leave me alone and stop controlling my life when he is drunk.

After several months he discovered that his plan did not work. He devised a new plan. He could have 2 drinks every day of the week. If there was a special occasion, he could have 4 drinks a day if he had two drinks at two separate times of day. For example, he could have two drinks at lunch and then two drinks at suppertime never having more than two drinks in his system at a time. If he had 4 drinks per day he would have to give up drinking another day of the week. This would keep him within the 14 drinks a week limit.

He had it down to a science. I told him if he followed this plan I wouldn’t give him a hard time about drinking ever again. Things were going well, really well in fact. But then he slipped this past week. I confronted him on it. He was upset at first, but he knew I was right. I am only trying to hold him accountable because I care about him.

I don’t like to be in the position of being the person that has to help him control his drinking. I don’t want to have to be the bad guy. He’s told me countless times that without me he would probably drink himself to death. I want to think that he would be fine without me. I think it will be something he will always struggle with.

He had made a lot of progress in this last year. For that I am thankful. I am happy to be an influencing factor in that change. He was willing to address his issues and grew a lot in the process. I have to give him a lot of credit for being willing to look at some negative things about himself. It hasn’t always been easy.

It’s our anniversary next week, 23 years. We are planning on getting away a few days on our sailboat. This year I am confident things will go well because we are taking a different path.

Gratitude week 29

  1. Summer!!
  2. My birthday was this past week. Although the weather didn’t cooperate with my outdoor plans, I was able to go out to eat with my best friend Cindy. We went to a gluten-free restaurant. The food was amazing. They even had gluten and dairy free cheesecake. Plus it was open mic stand up comedy night. I’m thinking that would be a fun hobby. I’m planning on doing stand up in the near future.
  3. My daughter came home this past weekend. We started looking at places for her to live. It is starting to feel real that after 4 years she is moving back home. She also bought me a puzzle and mini vacuum cleaner for my birthday. It was everything I wanted but didn’t ask for.
  4. I spent a lot of good quality time with my daughter Angel and son Alex over the last few days. We went out to eat and did a painting class along with Paul and Angel’s boyfriend.
  5. I got a massage for my birthday week. Plus Paul gave me a gift card so I can go again.
  6. I am starting the training for the census job this week. It should be interesting!
  7. Paul and I took the church leadership sailing. It was very windy, but thankfully everything went well. We took them out without ‘taking them out’ which was a win.
  8. I am grateful for my daughter Angel whose birthday is tomorrow. I can’t wait until she moves back! It was nice to celebrate our birthdays together.
  9. I’m grateful to be busy since Estelle left. I miss her!
  10. Although I was supposed to be getting back from Europe this week and don’t have any vacations planned in the foreseeable future, I am grateful to have a sailboat we can get away on.

The ultimatum, part 9

I felt a lot of anxiety leading up to his birthday. He did it, Paul went without drinking for almost 2 months. He said it was a piece of cake.

He said he would try to quit drinking until his birthday.

But then it was his birthday. I was worried. Now what would happen?

That night we had a few friends over. They had pizza and he drank a bottle of wine. I felt a sense of loss. I didn’t belong. I felt like an outsider. I had been dairy free for over a month by that time. As they ate pizza and laughed, I brooded in the corner.

I felt triggered by Paul drinking again. I felt angry and hurt like I did on the night of our anniversary when he drank too much. Paul was in a jovial mood. He drank another bottle of wine out by the campfire while I sat inside.

He wanted me to sing while he played guitar. When he pushed close, I pulled away. He was gone and I felt like I couldn’t trust him anymore.

What was going to happen going forward?

Slowly and steadily he started drinking more but nowhere as close to as much as before.

We got hit pretty hard in the next couple months with bad news about my dad. It will be a long time before I am ready to talk about that. I can tell you this, my dad struggles with addiction. My mom ignored it. She buried her head in the sand. I have to wonder maybe things would’ve turned out differently if she gave him an ultimatum.

I think I did the right thing. I never wanted Paul to stop drinking. I just wanted him to be in control of it instead of it controlling him.

I found myself triggered by so many things, not just Paul drinking. What happened with my dad threw me into a deep depression. I wish I could say that trauma only happens from your parents in childhood. Sometimes it tends to be a lifelong roller coaster ride.

Paul thought he was going to lose me this time. He was so stressed out that he started to drink more which stressed me out more.

Because of the ultimatum, he knew it was a problem he needed to address. In January, he stopped drinking for a few weeks in a time of prayer and self-reflection. Then he came up with a new plan.

The ultimatum, part 8

Paul struggled with what it meant to be a husband and a dad. He never had a dad and barely remembered his mother’s brief marriage when he was 4 to a man that was supposedly abusive towards him.

His only parent was very childlike herself. They were dirt poor. He spent the first half of his childhood in low income housing in the inner city of Chicago. His mother was slow and uneducated. She also struggled with mental health issues that I would guess were trauma related.

Martha’s dad died when she was 12, so Paul didn’t have a grandpa either. He wouldn’t have made a good grandpa anyway. He was known to abuse his children and cheat on his wife. He wouldn’t be my chosen father figure for a future husband.

Martha didn’t always make the best decisions but she was a good mother. She always told Paul he could do anything he put his mind to. She did the best she could with the hand she was given.

Sometimes I feel like Paul was more of a parent to Martha than she was to him. But that could be because I saw him give her advice as an adult. She would argue that credit cards were money. She wasn’t a drinker but I think she was addicted to gambling. I’m sure that is why Paul is obsessed with keeping our finances in order.

Martha also had a really bad temper. She was very reactive and emotional. She often was angry and thought people were out to get her. Or you could be the best thing that ever happened to her. In those times you could do nothing wrong. She was crazy fun, exciting, and impulsive.

After her brief marriage, Martha didn’t have a lot of boyfriends. She worked a lot. Sometimes she lost her jobs due to her chronic tardiness. She married for the 2nd time right before I met Paul. Her husband Darryl is only 15 years older than Paul. He had kids but his ex took off with them and they spent most of their adult life in and out of prison. Maybe if Paul was still a child he would’ve been a good father.

I wish I could say that my own dad was able to take him under his wing. If anything, my dad taught him what not to do as a husband and a father. It seems like we both had to parent our parents more than they parented us. It caused a lot of stress shouldering all of that responsibility.

There was no one, just a big empty void of abandonment. He was expected to be good at something he never learned how to do. He didn’t have a dad to play ball with. No one taught him how to fix things or work on cars. He was never disciplined. He didn’t have a dad to embarrass him or give him advice on girls. Like most things, he just had to figure it out himself.

I tried to gloss it over and glamorize it by saying that at least he could develop his own style. But it wasn’t easy. I think he is a wonderful father and husband despite his insecurities. When he screws up he apologizes and tries harder to be a better person. He is doing a wonderful job and I appreciate his commitment.

He could’ve walked away like his own father did. Instead he was willing to roll up his sleeves and work on himself and our relationship.

The ultimatum, part 7

Paul said he was willing to try to stop drinking until his birthday almost two months later. He wanted to see if he could even do it. It was a step in the right direction.

What did that mean though? Could I still have a few drinks with my friends around him? I was willing to give it up too. His close friends asked if he wanted them to stop drinking around him. Some friends just stopped drinking with him when he stopped. I think everyone was a bit uncomfortable doing this new dance at first.

Paul said he didn’t want everyone to change the way they lived their lives. But they did. I really didn’t realize how much we influence other people with how we live our lives. When he quit drinking quite a few of his friends cut back too.

It changed the dynamics of our relationship big time. I was angry and we argued a lot at first. But after the initial anger wore off, I noticed another change.

His drinking gave me a lot of power and control. I didn’t realize it until it was gone. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted him to stop or at the very least cut back. I nagged and nagged him to stop which didn’t work. It only made things worse.

Every time Paul and I got in an argument I would never look at my own negative behavior. I would throw back in his face that I would talk to him about my issues when he stopped drinking. I held the trump card of remember when you screwed up _____ with your drinking. It gave me a get out of jail free card that I used in almost every argument that wasn’t in my favor.

Now I could no longer avoid talking about some of my issues. Not only that but without drinking he now had the upper hand. He was working through his issues. That meant I had to work through some of mine too. I started seeing a therapist to work through my anxiety and depression.

In some ways I envied Paul. I wanted to leave my issues on a shelf, to not drink of that bottle and then they would be gone. But I’ve learned so much since then. Battling addiction is more than just leaving the bottle on the shelf. It’s the longing to reach for it like the embrace of an old friend in sadness and celebration.

I had to face the fact that my anxiety and depression also scared him. He’s had to reach into the darkness to pull me out many times. I can’t seem to escape the trauma I’ve experienced. At times it still threatens to drown me.

We both had to work on our issues. We were both broken people in need of a fix. It wasn’t just about him and his drinking. It was how we learned to cope with our trauma at our very core. It was exploring every crack and crevice that was tearing down our foundation.

We spent those two months rebuilding our relationship. We got along better than ever before. Then after that things went a little haywire.

Gratitude week 28

  1. Summer! The weather has been perfect.
  2. For my days in the sun spending time on the sailboat.
  3. For a sense of humor. Our family went sailing on the 4th and I brought a whole stack of beach towels. One of the towels was of the British flag. So yes, I had a British flag towel flying off the back of our boat on Independence Day. Whoops!
  4. For the first pedicure of the year.
  5. For the baptism of my brother and niece today.
  6. For the start of my birthday week.
  7. I received my allergy testing results back. I can have eggs, blackberries, kiwi, rice, crab, and perch again! Yeah!! And my dairy allergy dropped from very high to low. There were a few things that didn’t change and a few new things were added like cranberries, but overall I am very happy with the results.
  8. For working hard and keeping busy yet still taking time to relax and read.
  9. Healing and growth.
  10. For having the strength to withstand difficult times.

The ultimatum, part 6

Honestly, I think he just wanted to fit in. He wanted to belong somewhere.

Sometimes he said he wished he would’ve been adopted. Maybe he would’ve reached his full potential for growth in an environment that promoted learning. Me, I’m just glad he wasn’t aborted.

His mother Martha dropped out of high school before she got pregnant with him as a teenager. Intellectually she was slow. She tried as an adult to get her GED but she couldn’t pass the test even with the help of tutors.

By some freak of nature, Paul is one of the smartest people I know. He has a brilliant gifted mind. I would guess his IQ was almost twice as high as his mother’s which caused a lot of frustration on the part of both parent and child.

One of the smartest things Martha did however was pack up her car and leave behind the inner city of Chicago with her mother and 9 year old Paul in tow. I know the story would’ve turned out differently if he would’ve stayed.

The family moved to northern small town Wisconsin. It was quite the culture shock. Imagine moving from one of the largest cities in America to a small town of residents whose families lived there for many generations and probably founded the town. Jobs were scarce and the town didn’t attract a lot of outsiders.

Paul struggled to fit in especially in that time period without having a father. One of his teachers made an example of him by spanking him in front of the class telling him he needed a good spanking because he didn’t have a father.

On parent day, Paul stood alone. He didn’t fit in with the smiling children of two parent families. He wore ill fitting clothing because they struggled financially. Martha worked long hours in a factory just to afford their modest home. She couldn’t afford to take off of work for every school event and his grandmother didn’t drive.

Paul struggled in school. He didn’t have a parent that could help him with his homework. His mom didn’t pressure him to study or do his homework anyway. He was never disciplined. Everyone knew his mother was slow and assumed he was too. The kids laughed at him and called him names. No one really even cared if he graduated.

He made it into college anyway. He created a new life for himself. He joined a fraternity and finally found a place he belonged. All he had to do to fit in was drink. A lot. Those were the years of hazing and dangerous drinking. It was nothing to wake up the next morning out on the lawn.

He got so involved with partying that he flunked out of college for a semester. He returned home and worked alongside his mother in the factory. After that experience, he decided to apply himself. He discovered he had a thirst for learning and figured out he wasn’t the idiot everyone defined him as. He was told he was stupid so much he thought he was.

I met Paul after he earned his Bachelor’s degree. By the time I met him, he was working on his Master’s degree. He fully accepted the fact that he is an intellectual. He tested me when we first met to see if I was smart too. I am an intellectual myself but nowhere as smart as he is. Sometimes I found this intimidating. But it was more threatening to Paul. It separated him from others.

He didn’t fit in with his family either. No matter what he did, he couldn’t bring them up to his level. But he could bring himself down. He found he could fit in when he was drinking. He could be social and fun. It helped him find the place where he could be like everyone else. It was a place he belonged.