I cried when my sister told me she had a great overseas interview, it’s true, but since she IS going, I’m really glad because she deserves a great opportunity.  I hope it works out for her.

Em and I had another good talk about last week’s conflicts, and he apologized for hurting me so badly. Over time, the wound-up Em seems to be winding down – it does happen with guys – so I guess we’ll probably be okay.  But hopefully he doesn’t threaten to leave again at a moment when we’re in conflict like that…

He has a second interview for a really good and really nearby job opportunity, AND he has a strong personal contact at the company – someone he did some free PC repair work for.  So, woo hoo!  First 2nd interview. Ideal location, great pay, wish us luck.

I have an interview in the same general area tomorrow, and a high end recruiter called  very interested in pitching me for a couple of additional prospects – VERY good pay scale, esp. on the one closer to home – and scheduled a candidate intake interview for Tuesday to open up those opportunities for me.  And a contractor for my former employer called me today to see if I could do some consulting for him…so possibilities are popping up like spring flowers. Now if I just had some daffodowndillies on my desk…

Em is more like “himself” – that is to say, the man I love and with whom I have worked with for nearly 10 years now to build a family. He sees the torment as I broke down in tears several times today – news that my sister had a great job interview for an overseas job was bittersweet, and I was anxious about how and when to address my concerns with him.

I eventually worked up the courage to tell him this: that he needs to trust me, and not act as though I am attacking or trying to undermine his teaching efforts with the boys.  That his words last week made me feel very much that way.

He said that of course he trusts me completely. His actions last week were probably attributable to the hypertension.  Which makes sense. But I still don’t have to accept or like it…or forget.

He says he loves me, and that I could never ever understand how much he loves me.  He used to question my love for him – at least THAT has gone away.

He loves to proclaim how awesome he is: “Well I haven’t done anything wrong.  I don’t abuse you or the kids.  I take care of my responsibilities. etc.”  He admits, though, to manipulation and verbal attacks.  Those just aren’t a problem.

He loves to blame other people for my misery, even when he is the one who is at fault.  For example, he blames my family for hurting me by not accepting his alcoholic drinking, even though his alcoholism hurts me far more than my family trying to protect me from them.

He emphasizes how much I owe him, because he invested everything to move himself and his kids across the country for my sake.

Since moving here, he frequently threatens to leave me – to pack up his things and get in the car and go.

He downplays the actual extent of his drinking. In the hospital, he described his drinking as “about a six-pack a day”.  When it WAS six packs, it was more like 2 or 3 per day, and heavily spiked with vodka.  He’s on a tight budget right now, but it’s still about 10 to 12 double shots (nip bottles) a day at a very minimum, or if he feels he’s squeezed enough out of the budget, then a full fifth of liquor. At least 10% of our inadequate weekly income.

He then uses responses to his false drinking estimates to confirm to himself that he is not in danger: “Well, the doctor said I could cut back a little, but for someone my size, that’s really not bad.”

He makes dismissive and disrespectful comments interrupting and dismissing me from conversations with the boys, or excluding me from his conversations with them.

He sometimes goes on unreasonably and unfairly about my perceived failings as a housekeeper, and how I don’t take care of him.

He threatened to kill himself last fall one time when I said I was going to leave.

He used sex in a punitive way after that same argument. I participated without remonstrance, even encouraged it in some way, hoping to get it over with, hoping to salve my sense of guilt and remorse for threatening to leave him. He claimed to be shocked when I discussed it him with it afterward, but I felt used.

He has occasionally said “Maybe I should smack you around.”  And he has stated that he believes I would stay with him even if he did physically abuse me.  At least on that I’ve advised him he is 100% wrong.  Though the punitive sex thing was a compromise in the wrong direction for me.

He builds me up professionally, so it’s easier to overlook these things on the personal side of our relationship.

I feel like a complete failure as a mom, and as a woman. I cannot financially provide for myself or my children.

When I’m done posting this, I’ll convince myself it’s not that bad, because he really does love me.

We have a lot of fun, sometimes, and there are things about him that I truly love.  Most of the time, I feel professional, powerful and beautiful with him.

Also, our situation has made things much worse: both out of work, his son struggling with depression. And me. And him. I hope that this behavior is driven by insecurity, and will go away once he is working again. I will see this through and hopefully things will get better when our finances improve.  Every couple goes through some hard times.

But I have to write these things down because otherwise I won’t really believe them long enough to act on them if it becomes necessary.

“You know, in my heart I think that the only alternative to being a feminist is being a masochist.”

These words of Gloria Steinem strike me today with such force.

I contort myself to exist peacefully in this relationship of mine: giving up my bank account over to his control because it’s the only way to prove it’s “ours”; silently shrinking away when he dismisses me from conversations I try to join; allowing him to verbally claim “ownership” of me because I am just too weary to argue any more that I own myself, and choose to share my life with him because I love him.

I ask him to budget for a $35 pasta roller he can’t seem to afford after weeks (from my own child support and unemployment insurance benefits funds).  He wonders where he will get $500 to pay the OUI fine and restore his driving privileges. But he still manages to find at least $50 a week to spend on booze and cigarettes.

He says he came out so far on a limb for me, moving here, and that he has nothing left.  He never speaks of how much of that is his own doing: failing to file years’ worth of tax returns, spending money when he has it like it’s going out of style, rolling pennies in saran wrap and collecting returnable bottles just to find the resources for a few more nips of vodka or rum.  He says nothing of my risk: that I have invested everything too, and turned control of what’s left over to him in an attempt to give him some sort of sense of control and assurance of my commitment; that we are in real danger of losing this home unless at least one of us can get work and procure the money to make the repairs required by the insurance company by mid May.

I dreamed so long of providing a home for my sons…and now I am growing to HATE this place.  I almost long for the day when we lose it so I can be free.  Even if it means sending my sons back to their father in California, just so they will have a roof over their heads. I will have nothing left to show for my 43 years, and I may not even have anywhere to turn – my parents have shunned me and my sister is moving away – and yet it somehow seems like a dream of freedom.

If I even want to bring any of this up, he accuses me of not acknowledging the good things he has done and continues to do, as if the two were somehow exclusive, and that by voicing my concern I automatically negate any appreciation and love I have for him. I have learned to become silent with him and I scream here instead.  I try always to consider his side of the story, to give it equal weight with mine – and wind up diluting my own story to fit his reality.

I rewrite my story so that my pain is recast as a sort of martyr’s pleasure. Sounds like masochism to me.

Tomorrow he will come home from the hospital, but instead of joy I feel sadness because life right now seems to be trouble piled on trouble.  I think we will lose the house, and everything we have tried to build in these 10 years together.

How ugly these recollections look before me, collected in a few concentrated paragraphs of pain on a single page of undiluted truth. I know why my friend J wants to talk to me. My sister already has.  I know they are right. I just don’t know what to do about it.

Em had a heart attack today.  He is in the hospital and doing well.  The boys are running the house so competently  around me –  Em taught them all of that.

And a lot of people showed up today.

Mr. and Mrs. P bringing aspirin down to us before dawn, making breakfast for us before we head off to the second hospital, and sending us with leftovers to snack on and $20 to make sure we’d have gas and parking money.

Mr. G from next door popping his head in to see what’s up as soon as he got the news from the P’s.

My sister packing everyone – her kids, plus Carrie and Carrie’s boyfriend – into her car and waiting at the hospital by the time I got back there with my boys.  Paying for my parking, buying us lunch and giving me another $10 to help out.  I’ll be able to refill the tank to make trips back and forth.

Em’s mom checking in with me to see how he’s doing; and Em’s little brother – the one who hasn’t spoken to him in months – texting me to say he’ll be here on Thursday or Friday for a visit.

My parents never responded to my text advising them of the situation – no surprise – but our family came through in a big way today.  Thank you so much, everyone, for all you have done. You will never know how much it means, just knowing we are NOT alone after all.

I have been interrupting and undermining him, Em says. Hence his harsh and cutting dismissals. I will try again to get clarity on his side of the story tomorrow,  because I was far too overwrought to even begin to process what he had to say today.

He has done an amazing job getting up VERY early every day to get the house warm, let the dogs out and get the boys off to school.  His job search is also starting to show signs of opportunity,  thank goodness.  All the boys are growing in ability and self confidence,  largely thanks to his guidance.   Many other good things.  But the “woman, you are out of line” thing is a pretty big deal for me. Possible deal breaker in the long term if we don’t resolve back to mutual respect, as we each obviously feel very disrespected by the other on this matter.

So of course we had to discuss the whole dismissal and “woman” thing.  I had no problem with his conversation with Tardis, just with his rude way of shutting me out of it. I told him it was like something out of the 1940s, to which he said something along the lines of, ‘Yeah, I know – that’s what’s so funny!’ Which of course went over with me like a lead balloon.

Anyway, he basically said he’s not only going to continue deciding when to shut me out of his conversations with the boys,  but he will continue doing it in his [sexist and RUDELY DISMISSIVE] way.

If I ever spoke to him the way he does to me – I shudder to think how he would react. Obviously we have some work to do here, because this is far from satisfactorily resolved.

In fact, I have no problem with him having conversations with the boys that exclude me.  I just want him to be polite about it. I told him I had considered having separate conversations with the boys explaining to them how deeply offensive his manner is to me, and that if I ever heard one of them speak that way to the women in their lives, I would be on their case like white on rice. He said “Oh, of course they will…because they’ve heard me speak to you that way.”

AJ told me yesterday he had to carry the soda home on our walk so Em would not get after him for failing to treat me like the fragile treasure he idealizes me to be.

Now THAT is a HOOT: one moment I am a treasure, the next it’s “woman – you are out of line.”

He and I both settled down, as once I got clarity I saw no point in fighting further. But I am very depressed and I feel sick because he spent the day in absolute high spirits, and acting like it was all settled and resolved…

On a positive (?) note, he finally got confirmation that his brother – who has refused to take his calls now since about Thanksgiving – is okay, just avoiding him for some completely inexplicable reason.

Em has increasingly taken to dismissing me from conversations with the boys. It’s like something from the 1940’s.  I interject an observation and he reacts as though I am attacking him personally. He is also starting to find things to criticize in my housekeeping on an increasingly frequent basis. He addressed me as “woman” again today. And when I had the temerity to suggest I expect my 13 year old son to plan his trip to California for AFTER the last day of school, Em told me to stay out of the conversation – I was “lucky to be sitting in.” He literally said that. So naturally I left the room…and HE CALLED ME BACK IN THE ROOM!!!

A short while later, he asked me to tell Tardis about a news item I had shared with him the day before, interrupted me to correct a minor detail, then insisted I finish telling the story. And he wonders why I am distant and upset.

He blames it on job search depression. On my family.

He told me earlier tonight that he was a breath away from getting in his car and driving away, and when I asked him a moment ago how that jived with him saying “you know I would never leave you”, his explanation was “well, you questioned me.”

Right. I mentioned to AJ that the word “fine” has a negative connotation at times and somehow because I felt this was a valid point worth defending, this was “questioning” Em. To the point he was thinking of leaving me.

I will try to understand and explain Em’s side of the story later, but right now I just need to vent.

For a visual artist, my ability to describe a scene from memory is appallingly bad. But the music and the emotion…those I can recall. One of my earliest memories is of me and my sister sitting on papa’s lap, one on each leg. We must have been so tiny still!  He sang to us every night, it seemed.  “Lazy Moon”, “Always” and even the ribald “Makin’ Whoopee” crooned by my father in accompaniment to Harry Nilsson’s A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, complete with the pops and scratches of a vinyl LP on a dime store turntable.  If there wasn’t much money in those days, we were too young to notice: our needs were for a safe place to sleep, a little food to fill our tiny bellies and, above all else, the love of our parents.  These things we had in abundance.

At other times, Sis and I would sit at papa’s feet, displaced by his old yellow acoustic guitar. Papa had taught himself simple chords for a lot of Tom Rush songs back when he was in college, and now he sang to us of “The Circle Game”, “Urge for Going” and “Tin Angel”. But my favorite by far was “More Pretty Girls Than Two”. I know the original title is “More Pretty Girls Than One”, and I don’t even know which recording artist brought this piece to his repertoire – probably Ricky Skaggs and Tom Rice, since he does love bluegrass.  At any rate, my papa had two girls, and so he adapted the song to include us both. We had our very our own song, and that makes a girl feel very special.

Now, we’re all grown up, and he hasn’t sung to us in many years. He believes it’s wrong even to speak to us, because we don’t share his faith. Papa, this one’s for you.

What’ll I Do?
from A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night

Gone is the romance that was so divine.
‘Tis broken and cannot be mended.
You must go your way,
And I must go mine.
But now that our love dreams have ended…

What’ll I do
When you are far away
And I am blue
What’ll I do?

What’ll I do?
When I am wond’ring who
Is kissing you
What’ll I do?

What’ll I do with just a photograph
To tell my troubles to?

When I’m alone
With only dreams of you
That won’t come true
What’ll I do?

What sort of a woman knows herself so well that by age 18 she is ready to stand against the weight of an entire religious organization, to bear the ostracism of her family, and in the face of all this to declare her own truth and live without apology?

What sort of woman inspires that same family to achieve more than they ever dared dream of: leading the way with the family’s first Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and PhD, living, teaching and travelling all around the world?

What sort of woman never wavers in her convictions, never forsaking the love she bears for a parents who embrace her then ostracize her over and over again, never giving up hope that some day they will accept her simply for loving them with all her heart?

This woman is my hero. This woman is my sister.