Holding it Together

Holding it Together

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life. The last time I wrote, my friend C was in the hospital, expected to die within a few days. Miraculously, he battled his way out of there in two weeks and returned home. Days later, he was back in the hospital and then out again. I think this is what Stage IV cancer looks like– lots of ups and downs, things really are just day by day. In these moments, when death feels so real, I find myself particularly susceptible to quotes and self-help sites. I feel somber and yet more certain of perspective, like I’m able to better categorize the “small stuff” vs. the important stuff.

The situation with John is good– better than before. We are doing things together, but still, I feel a loss, an emptiness. Honestly I feel alone. I read a quote recently explaining that loneliness isn’t a lack of company but a lack of connection. He works a lot (still). In the past, I had so many people available and ready to fill the void of not having my best friend around. Now, people are busy with their own lives, their own projects, their own developments. And who can fault them? Life is complicated; people have their own BFFs. What void are they looking to fill?

When C was in the hospital, F was there the whole time. This is a woman who loves fashion and shopping and cooking and being at home with their two cats. But for two weeks, she never left the hospital. She didn’t care what she was wearing. She didn’t care what she was eating. I’ve commented before that she’s ridiculously co-dependent, and clearly, there are things about their relationship that I don’t envy. But there was something almost Notebook-esque about how she had to be there with him the whole time. He was cranky and irritable and she oftentimes didn’t understand medically what all was going on, but she would have it no other way than to be there at his bedside.

I see these snapshots of life– whether they are real life or in Hollywood movies– and they make me think of my marriage. If I were in the hospital, would he be there by my side? This seems like a simple enough question, and years ago, I would never have given it more than a second’s thought. I would have responded, almost instinctively (with a hint of incredulousness even), “of course! Duh!” Now, I’m not so sure. I think if I were dying, then yes, probably. If I weren’t dying but just hospitalized, yes, likely. How could I think such things? How could there be any doubt?

Relationships are about the big things, of course. In those big moments of life and death, who can you truly rely on? That list of people feels like it should be obvious, practically second nature. But beyond those big happenings, life is also, surprisingly, about the little things. Sure, people say don’t sweat the small stuff, but what if the small stuff are really indicators of big stuff?

What is important to him? What is important to me, and how do we honor those values for each other? I don’t like feeling pensive, because more often than not, it causes me to feel sad and down. The way I counteract my overthinking is to focus on keeping it together, outwardly in hopes of overriding the inward anxiety. Specifically, my tactics for coping include obsessing over things that only involve me– they way I dress (clothing), the way I look (skincare, makeup, exercise), the way I feel (eating, exercise), the way I think (classes)…

For example, every week I turn to Pinterest seeking style inspiration. Yes, it’s fun and it’s a hobby, but really? Spending HOURS a week trying on different outfits and concocting new combos in my mind? Is this too much? Oftentimes I think, well, what else would I do with my free time?

Maybe it’s a way to develop a skill, to be good at something. I should consider it a celebration following all those years I spent hiding. I would never complain about putting effort into looking and feeling nice… it is a luxury I feel so blessed to have now… but sometimes I wonder: is this purely a celebration, or is it some warped attempt to distract? Am I controlling myself to compensate for my lack of control in other realms of my life?

I read an article recently about perfectionism. I don’t think I’m a perfectionist (maybe about just a couple things), but there was a quote that resonated with me: The worse I feel about me, the more I need to be perfect. Lately, I have been feeling a stronger pull to change myself.

For example, I felt like I was eating a bunch of junk and getting bloated, so I went on a quasi-diet of sorts (10 days? 2 weeks) and lost 3 lbs. I’ve noticed that recently, I’ve been feeling more dissatisfied too with what I see in the mirror– it’s always something: the hair, the freckles, the scars, the Dumbo ears, the bulgy shoulders… I have to actively remind myself of how far I’ve come to overcome the scrutiny. Then there are all these psychoanalytical questions. Do I have a confidence issue? Am I starving for attention? Why do I call myself a latch-key kid? How do these feelings of loneliness fit in with my ideals of feminism, of independence, of self-sufficiency? See why I have to distract myself with activities?

Today, I feel fine about myself. The pimple on my nose and freckles on my ears aren’t bothering me today. I’m feeling ok about my relationship. We have good moments– the weekend in SLO, the chocolate dipping party this weekend, breakfast/dinner at home yesterday. But I want Noah and Allie. It doesn’t have to be all consuming, but the relationship should be more than it is. He’ll argue this, but he’s stingy with his time. He doesn’t even admit to “working a lot” until he clocks in 70+ hrs/week. But it’s not even about the quantity. Whatever, he never gets it. And then he just pulls out examples where supposedly I neglect him, because I have a shitload of household chores to get done. Maybe I should just clump housework with my regular job, and then we are both workaholics. In the end, I just want acknowledgement that work gets top billing. Just come clean by admitting that much. Don’t make me demonstrate/prove the case.

So maybe now this has turned into a case of having to be right. A big no-no for relationships. I dunno. Things are the way they are. I eat dinner alone, because I eat light during the day and get too hungry to wait for him to get home 7p or later. I go to the bboy dance-off alone, because he’s not interested and because he has to work. I go to the spa alone, because he doesn’t want to go and has to work. I go horseback riding alone, because he already went last week (the first time in several months) and took photos and he has to work. I’m going to be taking a harmonica class alone, because he’s not interested. I’m taking a financial investment class alone, because he is not interested.

I’m not saying he should accompany me on every activity, but let’s just list out the activities that I do and see which are done alone and which are done with him:

– walk the dogs in the p.m.
– yoga class
– Bay Area Geek Girl dinner or any other tech related talk
– shopping
– horseback riding
– watching tv before he gets home (movies, WNTW, SATC)
– crafts
– household chores
– biking with Benny/Tina (1x/week)
– class during the week

He does these things alone:
– walk the dogs in a.m.
– grocery shop
– cooking 3x/week
– gym
– watching tv before bed

Yeah, he invites me to go with on some of these but 1) I sleep in because I have insomnia and I wake up around 6 a.m. to feed the dogs 2) Grocery shopping is a chore to me– I’m not about to add yet another chore to my list. 3) I don’t like Tosh 2.0 and whatever other crap he watches.

We do these things together:
– activities with friends (3x/month)
– concert/show/open mic (2x/month)
– biking (3x/month)
– movie (1-2x/month)
– meals (4x/week)
– weekend travel (1x/month)

Does this seem balanced? I dunno. Now my head hurts thinking about all this shit. And my friend is coming over this afternoon. She looks dangerously skinny to me and well, I’m planning to talk to her about it. I didn’t think I was stressed, but I had a dream about the talk the other night. Hope she is receptive.

Life goes on.

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