Friday, December 21, 2012

Finding happiness in the dark

For the most part, I am a positive person. I try to look at the bright side of things and choose not to focus on the bad shit that happens. Bad shit is always happening and it always will happen but those bright and shiny moments of awesome happiness are rare and fleeting and deserve to be celebrated. Those moments are what drive me; they are what get me through the dark spots and the bad shit.

Every now and then, the darkness is too much to hold at bay and I break. My positive attitude crumbles. The bright things dull a bit and the fog of depression rolls in. The last few weeks have been a struggle for me. I've tried to shake this cloud. I've told myself it is there and have been trying extra-hard to burn it away with whatever tiny rays of sunshine I can find, to no avail.

It just keeps growing.

Jay and I have anything but a perfect relationship and a lot of our problems are based on one of two things:

1) Our unplanned pregnancy, a month after our first date.

And

2) Jay's unresolved anger issues.

The first is something we've dealt with, for the most part. We've been together for more than seven years now and we've only had one very short-lived break up, before Phoenix was even a year old. It hasn't been easy, in any sense, and we've struggled to stay together. The second, his anger problems, is part of being raised in a house with a step-dad who was suffering from manic-depression/bi-polar disorder and was undiagnosed & unmedicated for years.

Let me be clear here. Jay is responsible for his own actions; there is no excuse for his outbursts or for the things he says when he is angry. He is in charge of himself and can blame no one for the things he does.

HOWEVER --

The environment you are raised in, be it positive or negative, loving or abusive, is the environment you become used to. It is what becomes "normal". When kids are raised around violence, it is easier for them to identify that behavior as normal, acceptable behavior and much harder to identify said behavior as 'bad'.

Think about it.

The foods we eat as kids comfort us as adults. The songs we listened to, books we read, places we visited or lived. We attempt to replicate the feelings of our youth in adulthood, to find the comfort we had, however fleeting or distorted it was.

I'm not saying it's okay for Jay to mimic the behaviors and outbursts he saw growing up, I'm saying I understand what he's up against.

He has to retrain his brain.

He has to learn new, appropriate ways of dealing with his stress and anger.

It is hard. It is not impossible.

The last few weeks have been really stressful, with Phoenix's birthday and Christmas coming up. He's been working a LOT and as much as he's working we are still behind. Way behind. It's hard on him to go to work, knowing the money he is earning is already gone before he gets it. I do what I can to save money, stretching the food stamps as far as they can go, waiting as long as possible to get things I have to spend cash on like soap & t.p., but it's not a lot. We've been fighting lately and I said something I should NOT have said during a recent spat and he flew off the handle. Wiped the computer clean off the counter, scaring the shit out of me and the kids, ripping cords out of it and busting the moulding on the monitor.

I've never seen him like this. EVER. It's the only time in our entire, fucked up relationship that I have been scared of him. It happened in the morning and we spent the rest of the day apart. I had the kids and tried to explain as best I could when Phoenix said 'Daddy is a bad man' that Daddy's isn't "bad", he's just making bad choices. REALLY bad choices. That night, I told Jay I'd leave if anything like that ever happened again and I will.

I'm not going to let my boys see that. I will not let them grow up thinking that is normal; I will show them how to be strong.

He agreed and he knows he needs help. Things were calm for a few days and I was grateful. So grateful. Then last night happened. Like I said above, I try to use our food stamps wisely and stretch them through the whole month. I thought I had $98 and change walking into the store last night. I DID NOT.

I had about $65. And NO money in the bank. This is not a proud moment for me. I had to leave a cart full of groceries in the store I ALWAYS shop at and go home to get money from Jay. Except, he said no. Great. Right now?? We're gonna do this, right now?? I honestly hadn't looked at the total and thought I had spent all $98 and was still $40 short. He flipped. How can I spend that much money of food? Wasn't I watching shit?? I thought I had been and couldn't explain or understand why I'd gone so far over.

I went back to the store, empty-handed, to try and figure out what to put back. THAT'S when I figured out I'd only had $65 in food stamps, not $98 and the total bill was $102.90. If I'd had that $98, I would have been fine. Totally fine. But I'd forgotten my most recent shopping trip and hadn't bothered to call the hotline before loading up the cart.

It was my fault. I had $103 dollars worth of groceries and only $65 in food stamps.

So I was at the customer service desk, apologetically trying to find food I didn't really need. I was mortified. MORTIFIED. Especially when another customer stepped in line behind me to witness my stupidity and poverty. I now have TWO people helping me and the lady behind me shuffles to the side and beckons to one of the workers helping me. I flushed instantly. "Oh god. I'm so slow. This woman is trying to get her shit and go. Ohgodohgodohgod."

I hear her ask him, 'How much does she owe?' He looks at me and says "$38.71." And I watch her as she hands him $40.

NO. THIS. IS. NOT. HAPPENING. 

Yes. Yes it is. This woman, this total stranger was paying for my groceries. I couldn't stop myself from bawling. I grabbed her and hugged her and thanked her & her husband over and over. She simply said, "Don't cry. Have a Merry Christmas. Go home and take care of your family."

I couldn't stop crying. I cried all the way out of the store. I cried all the way home. I was so pissed off that I had been put in that position, so angry I had been forced to stand there and humiliate myself. And so thankful that a total stranger had been there to help me. I didn't say a word to Jay. I made dinner. I ate. I put the boys to bed. I sat down and knitted until ten and then, I went to bed. I still haven't told him how I got those groceries home and I don't think he cares. I think he feels like he was right and I'm not talking to him out of pride or shame that I was wrong.

He has no idea that we didn't have as much in food stamps as I thought we did; he has no idea that I was "on budget" for what I thought we had. He thinks I spent $98 on food and STILL needed another $40 and I can agree that that would be kind of ridiculous. Nowhere near as ridiculous as refusing to give me money for food but still, slightly ridiculous.

All of this blackness, the dark cloud that placed itself over me, took away the great feelings I had from getting 300+ fans yesterday. It took away the joy I was feeling and the excitement. Big things have been happening here and I've been patiently waiting to spill my beans. It's just been so negative, it hasn't seemed right. I'm not happy and don't want to celebrate when I should be shooting rainbows and sunbeams out of my eyeballs, screaming about how AWESOME life is.

I woke up this morning, feeling pitiful, angry and bitter.

Then I remembered: I HAVE SHIT TO BE HAPPY ABOUT. Yes, Jay was wrong and fucked up. It's over though and I can't do anything differently now.

I'm not going to let it go.

I'm not going to forget about it.

We will talk and things will change. One way or another, things will change.

We have a responsibility to these kids; we are obligated to show them how to love each other in healthy ways.

Relaying all this to you, I feel like I sugar-coat the relationship Jay and I have quite a bit. Maybe I do it because everyone expects us to fail, expects us to be 'the couple with problems'. We're not married. We have two kids out of wedlock. We are not the typical family.

Is it really a sugar-coating though? Or am I simply doing what I do and trying to focus on the good, the positive? There is good happening to us right now too. It's just being over-shadowed by this cloud. I wish the cloud weren't here and I could share the joy we're experiencing instead of this lingering blackness but that's not really how life works.

Sometimes, you get shit on your boots when you're picking flowers. You take the good with the bad and roll with the punches. You pick yourself up when you fall, dust yourself off and get moving again. Find the silver lining in that black cloud and wrap yourself up in it. Remember even the prettiest rose has thorns and you can never plant a garden without getting your hands dirty.

Stay positive.

Focus on the good.

Celebrate those bright and shiny moments of awesome happiness.

Our relationship is not perfect. It is flawed like we are but it is strong like us too. I know we will make it through this and I know we will love each other a little more, we will each be a little stronger and wiser and we will be better people, better parents, better partners for having experienced all our trials and tribulations.

We are happy together. We do love each other.

And we are pregnant

Yes, you read that right. In all this nastiness, there is a really bright and shiny, totally awesome happiness. We are expecting our third and final addition to this semi-dysfunctional-but-loving little family. I know this has added to the recent stress and anxiety. I know things will be harder with another mouth to feed, another body to clothe. I know the timing wasn't the greatest, even though we did plan this. I also know we can do this. 

We wanted this. We made this happen. We can do this and we will do it together, with love and hope and lots of hard work.

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