Sometimes, my partner, Dave, blows me away with his wisdom.
Some days he is a pain in the ass, when he tickles me, chases me around the island in the kitchen with his cold hands, or pokes fun at me, but I pester him as well. We have a great relationship when it comes to tormenting each other and laughing about it. We have ongoing banter, private jokes, and daily laughter.
But some days, I am dark.
I have to be honest and say that I am guilty of hiding feelings and keeping shit bottled inside of me, until the lava overruns, and the volcano erupts. He is usually the victim of my eruptions, even though he has done nothing to deserve it.
I Have Been Working on This.
My ex-husband used to jokingly (half-jokingly) call me his oyster. He said, that I would hold tiny pearls of anger inside until they became shiny, white, and ripe. Once they were ready, I would spit them at him, like a machine gun. The “Pearls of the Past” would be anything and everything he had ever said or done, to piss me off, and I would fire them out like gunshots.
I usually wasn’t even angry at “Him”. It was typically PMS related, stress, anxiety or my family, that would start the pearls processing, and unfortunately, he would get the pearl bullets. I sought help for this while I was married, through talking with a therapist, and determined, it was because I was incapable, because of fear, to say how I felt when I felt it. I let words or accusations, and hurt feelings, simmer and stew until I couldn’t remember why I was upset in the first place. All of my thoughts were tiny grains of sand, that turned into powerful, mean pearls. When it didn’t just “go away” it would come out in redirected bombshells, that I launched out of my shell.
It made me sound like a crazy person.
So, in THIS relationship, I have made some changes. It has taken me a while, but I feel like Dave and I have found our groove. It’s been almost 9 years, and I catch myself with pearls in my mouth on occasion, still.
This week, I FORCED myself to make a change, and holy shit, am I glad I did. I have forced myself to get feelings out when they first affected me, over the past 9 years, but sometimes, it ends in an argument, and that makes it all worse. So I am careful which battles I choose, and I “try” not to process, in case it affects my relationship. It has been one of the hardest challenges of my life, saying how I feel, when I feel it.
This week, I have been struggling with words that came from my sister’s mouth, regarding Christmas. I know she probably never meant ill intent toward me, but our communication can be jaded and strained, because of our age difference and our past together. (That’s entirely another story).
I won’t get into details, because it’s not worth revisiting, but I felt as though I was being shamed/guilted into seeing her and my “family” this year at Christmas.
I simply can’t.
Although I am a very strong woman, with a huge heart, and WAYYYY too much empathy for my own good, I am not mentally capable of surrounding myself with people who don’t respect me, or who don’t have the ability to build meaningful relationships with me. I have very high anxiety, and borderline depression, for which I am medicated. Dave and I have had a very stressful year, as we both went through surgery and treatments for cancer, and I simply don’t feel like it is my responsibility to make the “move” to be a good daughter or sister.
Not once, during our cancer recovery did my parents call to see how we were doing. Not once did my brother ask me how I was feeling, and my sister never reached out, other than occasional text messages to see how we were both managing. It was three months of learning, healing, and Dave and I leaning on each other. No one else seemed to matter, and that was okay. Our good friends and neighbours sent us care packages and shovelled snow for us, and stopped by to see if we needed anything. Even our new neighbours, who were wintering in Arizona, sent flowers and gifts for us through Amazon and the local florist. But, Family? Nope. Only my daughter came to be with us, which I am so very grateful for.
My sister has asked me to come for Christmas, and see the parents, because “it may be their last one”, and that set the oyster reeling, processing tiny bits of sand, until this morning when my mouth became full of pearls.
I had to spit them out. But, how?
I had been out of bed and was stirring my first cup of coffee, while Dave rested in bed. As my coffee spiralled with the spoon stirring it, so did thoughts of regret and shame. As the clouded cream turned beige and I took my first sip, I felt instantly overwhelmed. Tears flowed down my cheeks without warning. I took a deep breath, and climbed back into bed, beside my guy.
“I need to talk with you about something, please”, I choked.
He set his phone down, rolled onto his side, and perched his head on his hand, his elbow bent into the mattress, “Sounds serious, you okay?” was all he said. His eyes searched my face and he wiped a tear away.
“It’s about Christmas”, I avoided eye contact with him, knowing that this is a hot topic in our house. This time of year makes me overly emotional.
“Let me guess, your sister wants us to go there this year,” he knows me so well.
“Yes, but, I want you to hear me out”, I could see his eyes roll, and he lay back on his back, biting his tongue. He was assuming, I think, that I was telling him we were making the 3-hour drive Christmas morning. We had had the same talk last year, and it headed toward an argument. I tightened my fists and found the words.
Dave is ALWAYS the protector. He would take a bullet for me, or stand in front of a bus that was driving toward me. He would also lose his shit, if I let him, on anyone who hurt my feelings. It is his role in our relationship to protect me from the hooded claws, just as mine is to be the “peacekeeper”.
I looked at him, laying on his back, and told him, “I don’t want to go. I want to stay home”, and tears flowed and flowed. He bolted up and sat beside me, reaching his protective arm out to hold me. I backed away and reached for a tissue. I knew I had to get it all out, and not become enraged, as I felt the emotions rising to the top of my volcanic throat.
“I can’t be guilted or feel regrets for not going. I can’t be pulled and pressured into trying to make a Christmas work, with strangers who will glare at me with expectations, judgement, and conviction, and I won’t put you through that either. I just want to have our little Christmas day, within the safety of our walls and our home. I just want it to be MY family. It’s bad enough my daughter can’t be with us, but I don’t have the mental capacity to deal with people who hate that we share the same blood, just because I feel guilty”. I took a deep breath, after I had blurted out the words, and blew my teary snot into the clenched Kleenex.
I had been working on these grains of sand, since my sister called me on Tuesday, and it is now Saturday morning. It had been 5 days of rolling the grains of sand into pearls, but THIS time, they weren’t “spit out” in anger or rage. This time, they fell out as teardrops, and as words that I uttered, that weren’t aimed at anyone. They were just “said”.
“Babe, we will not put you through ANYTHING with those people. I have your back 100% and we will stay at home, in our house, as our own family. It will be OUR day. You don’t have to worry.” He rubbed my back as I sobbed, and pulled me close.
I told him that I felt like I am the only one who makes efforts to form some semblance of relationships in my family. I stammered as I told him how my brother had said he wanted to plan a “family Christmas” in the spring while Mother was in the hospital, but unless “I” made it work, it would never come into fruition. I just don’t need the pressure or complications in OUR life. He agreed. If I, the youngest of the family, didn’t assert the effort of such plans, they would never work. No one else seems to want to take the wheel.
As I regained my composure and sipped my coffee, we sat quietly on our bed, as he kept his arm around me. “You know,” he broke the silence, “you could always extend an invite for them to come here.” I looked at him as if he was crazy, or on some kind of drugs.
“Are you crazy?” This is OUR house, in our walls, and my protection from all the shit!” I calmed down and took a breath, “I cannot imagine everyone piling in here, and being a part of our home. It would be too weird and awkward.”
Then, My Dave said something that will stick with me forever. It was one of the smartest, most profound sentences that I have ever heard in my almost 50 years of living. He looked me right in the eyes, with a small grin on his face, as he wiped some hair off of my tear soaked cheek.
He said matter of factly, “Just because you invite them here, doesn’t mean you have to let them “in”.
No truer words have ever been spoken. Pearls of Wisdom, rather than Pearls of the Past came from his lips.
And, that, right there, is why I love him so.
I don’t think he realizes what a powerful statement that actually was, but his grin, and the spark in his eye when he said it made everything make sense.
Now, I am looking forward to our Christmas together. Just him and I, and no pressure.
I hope all of you have a wonderful Holiday Season, with no pressure, no regrets and no pearls of the past.
May you have the gift of Pearls of Wisdom