Tuesday, March 30, 2010

scenes from a marriage

Mr. Curry and I were in a fight last night, which derailed, as it often does this last year, into a fight about how we fight, who is doing what wrong and how often they do it and why it makes us crazy and unable to get anywhere. You interrupted me! I told you how I felt and you responded without even acknowledging my feelings! You talk too long! You take to long to get to the point! You changed the subject! You already said that! Are you having fun yet?

We agree on certain rules: no cursing (which if we are alone sometimes is jettisoned and a few shits or damnits come out) no name-calling (maybe the most important rule which we always stick to) no loud shouting or screaming (occasionally a shouting begins but we catch it). Outside of that, our arguments have deteriorated to the point where we really can't get anywhere when we are talking about an emotionally loaded subject. Our lives have a tremendous amount of stress, and always have, and there is no doubt that this greatly weakens our ability to think clearly and carefully when touching on painful problems. We have had incredible, overwhelming financial stress, which some of you would simply not believe, as many of you probably have not seen my past posts on my medical crisis and the ensuing surgeries, or Mr. Curry's loss of the business he worked so hard for; these two things left us absolutely crippled financially during one of California's worst financial times of stress than I can remember. And I can't wait to have a baby until things are right. I'm 35. I have Stage Four Endometriosis. It's happening soon or it's not happening. The mental illness in our family is the other specter, the thing that also reveals our status in society: poor. The poor get shit for help when it comes to mental illness. We get help, and I AM very grateful for that. But who can stay grateful when their family suffers? I have been dogged and as thrifty and clever and determined as I can to get the best help for our family, but it has been a long road and one full of psychologists so painfully uneducated or out of touch that I could talk them under the table about the latest treatments and research regarding our issues. It is the result of incredibly stubborn people and love that endures and rises back when killed that we are the family we are.
But problems in our marriage simmer. Threaten to boil.


I've read that the most stressful kind of stress is the kind that we feel powerless over, and I know this has been true for my entire life. My father's rage and untreated mental illness, pathological lying and abuse were terrifying and horrible, not just because they were, but because as his daughter, I was helpless before them. It was one of the greatest realizations of my adult life, to truly internalize that to take charge of your own life means always looking over what you cannot control, and focusing in on what you can do, what you can ferret out come hell or high water to make things better. I recognized that the essential truth was that a victim who perceives themselves, who identifies as a victim, is always a victim, and that the world is absolutely uncaring and aloof if you feel you can't do anything to help yourself. In this way, it was also one of the greatest challenges of my adult life, to accept that I, and only I, could change my life. To someone who has grown up with little self-worth or self-esteem, being hurt and terrified and feeling stupid, ugly and rejected by the world at large, the idea that you alone are responsible for your life is simply terrifying. Who would put me in charge of anything? you think. Does this mean no one really loves me, if they are leaving me to deal with this? you believe. You feel abandoned and furious and resentful and terrified out of your mind at what you will find when you look at yourself. You don't understand why other people don't put up with your problems. You are still a child. You are looking around and pointing fingers and assuring yourself that surely, this can't be all your fault. The debris of your life seems fateful, not something you let happen, or even more hard to contemplate- something you created. This is the emotional landscape of a person who is either fresh out of a terrible childhood, or who has never faced what their childhood did to them and gone after the help they need to be a whole person. It was mine in 1995.

I faced my own terrible truths with the help of a therapist I found after my son was born. I am not, and have never been, the type of woman who calls people 'my angel'. No. But Dr. Thorpe- that woman is my angel. She, with her fantastic over-sized double lined spectacles, wild curly untamed hair, thin awkward frame at 6 foot easily, great enormous smile and shining eyes, bumbling ways and tiny office- she saved my person-hood. She did the one thing I absolutely needed most: she saw me as loveable, wonderful and full of potential, and she demanded that I work hard to grow up. Over four years with her, I did. I wept, I sobbed, I spoke of my gut level deepest fears ( was I irrecovably fucked up, is what I really, really wanted to know ) and I did my part. I did the homework she assigned me: wrote myself reminder notes to listen every night to the tapes she gave me, dutifully did my journal entries (which felt pointless for months..until they didn't) and read the books she told me to. I was as honest as I have ever been in my life, to the point where I would leave her office and feel like vomiting, so terrified and mortified that I had told her the things I did. But I kept at it, like a drowning swimmer keeps twisting to find the break in the water to the air: because I had no other choice to live. Because I had a son who I REFUSED to bring up with a broken jagged edgy loveless mother.

So Mr. Curry and I must find another angel. Another person who is meant to do what they do, guide couples in deeply troubled and dangerous waters to a place where they can love, honor and respect each other again in the way we all yearn for, and our children deserve to see.

I want to move past the opening arguments and get to the make up sex.
Annje said...

I hope you find your angel. I don't know what else to say. I wish you weren't dealing with so many levels of anguish and that you could just enjoy being pregnant.

CrowNology said...

...best of "luck" to you all...
Though as you and I know it is not about luck but work...
So good work?
xo
Andrea

svasti said...

Wishing you and Mr Curry all the very best of luck in finding the right angel to work with, and making it to that all important make up sex...

Annie said...

Painful as it all is, it's great that you know the steps to take to make things better, and finding the right therapist is the best first step. I like your rules for arguments. It sounds like your arguments are still getting circular, but at least, you do show each other respect; and you both should be proud of yourselves for that major effort, which most/many couples neglect. I'm hoping you find your angel soon.

Just.Kate said...

I wish you a good, hard road leading to deep, lasting make up sex (and all its causes and effects).

Much love.

Sometimes it is all you can do but fight to breathe. That's okay.

Mary said...

We have individual angels J and I but need to find that joint angel who can steer us past old hurts and new stresses and support us in finding happiness together - I hope you can find such an angel for you and Mr Curry soon

Angie Muresan said...

The make up sex is the best. I admire your honesty about this, Maggie.

Terresa said...

It's a hard thing to own up to being our own selves, responsible for our own crap, trash, vomit, etc, real, emotional or otherwise.

I say burn through the rough edges to find the smooth. They are there.

Irish Gumbo said...

Good luck and godspeed to you both. Thank you for putting that out there. Flying a prayer flag for you...

Elisabeth said...

It sounds tough. What can I say? Hang in there. Fight the good fight and survive.

Lydia said...

You will fight for the right to make it right again, Maggie! I'd bet on you guys coming out of this in fine shape.

This is the emotional landscape of a person who is either fresh out of a terrible childhood, or who has never faced what their childhood did to them and gone after the help they need to be a whole person. Bingo! That describes my dear mother, who, even at age 80 would yell on occasion, "It's not my fault!" Having grown up with that I did not realize that I carried it with me. Yes, I had one counselor who did wonders for/with me in the course of less than a year and really nudged me into adulthood at age 42. But it wasn't until a boss who I admired deeply compared me to a co-worker that I absolutely could not get along with by saying, "You and Carol share the same problem...you both see yourselves as victims," and it was my Ah-haH! moment.
Fine and dandy, except I am married to a man who has that same problem/trait (which I have recently been gently pointing out to him). Only lately did I realize that many of our arguments are, at their core, "The Victim" v. "The-I-Refuse-to-Fall-Back-Into-Being-a-Victim," battling it out in an endless cycle. We had counseling in the first (miserable) year of our marriage almost 15 years ago. It was wonderful (our angel reminds me of yours). We're at an impasse where it would be of great benefit again, but I doubt he would go...

starrlife said...

"a victim who perceives themselves, who identifies as a victim, is always a victim,"- You have found so many truths and been so brave. Stress like yours eats away at many marriages, my husband and I have had so many similar conversations! Deep breaths and raw hope and survivalhood - marriage, and life, is a wild ride and not always as we'd like to think it will be. I hope that you find the therapist that is helpful. Hugs Maggie.

Jessica said...

I do hope you find what (and who) you need.

Rachael said...

Hope you find the right angel.

I love the last line in your post!

Ms. Moon said...

Maggie- this is so heart-felt and so truthful and so full of awareness that I am in awe of your mind and your ability to put it all in words. You are not afraid to be afraid. You are not afraid to try not to be afraid.
I had an angel too. I felt like I was vomiting nails in her office. And she would hug me and sometimes, she even cried with me. She made me realize that a lifetime of trying to shrug off the past with a "it wasn't so bad," served no one.
She showed me my strength and my humor.
I hope you and Mr. Curry can find an angel now. I am so glad you realize it is time and know what must be done to get to the good part, which is not just make-up sex but so much more.

Ida Mae said...

Thanks for this. It comes at the perfect time, reminding me that I am not alone in these feelings (or fights that seem to go nowhere!) I am sure you and Mr Curry will come out on top :)
~Ida Mae

Lola Sharp said...

I hope you find your angel, Maggie. You guys have made it this far, I have faith in you both, and your marriage.
And Biggie Pea needs two healthy parents as much as the rest of your children do.

Be kind to one another.

Love,
Lola

Beth said...

Find that angel. You have something very much worth keeping – something to treasure and hold on to.

erin said...

Jeremiah and I are in the middle of one of those long drawn out 'can pick up at any moment' fights right now. It's just right under the surface, threatening to burn me in the ass.

And I feel the same way you do. Less tension, more sex. Please? PLEASE.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Sounds like you know what to do, Maggie. I wish you luck and love.

SB

Mwa said...

I had an angel, too. For exactly the same reasons. You write all the things I don't dare to write, Maggie.

I'm lucky to have a (reasonably) non-fucked up husband. We do have the rule "show respect" when fighting. Doesn't always work, but it's a good rule. I wish you the best of luck finding another angel.

clearness said...

The only time my husband and I fight is when I'm PMSing. I hate how my uterus makes me insane for a few days each month. I even get short with the kids during my worst days. I just want a pill to take for a few days.....a magic pill that will make my brain all better and right.

Still Life With Coffee said...

Leave it our children to force us to fix ourselves. I loved your line about having "a son who I REFUSED to bring up with a broken jagged edgy loveless mother."
Children really are miraculous. There is a line from Karen Maezen Miller's Momma Zen about how in marriage "true friendship takes far longer to cultivate; tested by the shared trauma of parenthood, it may yet flower." Here's to your relationship with Mr. Curry flowering abundantly.

Lacey said...

I love your strength so much.

I am thinking good thoughts... that an angel and make up sex are both in your very near future. :-)

mrs mediocrity said...

A very touching, very moving post. I get so much of what you said, came from a similar place I think. Here's one thing that really helped me. "The only person's whose behavior you can control is your own." Period.
And sometimes, with the husband, you have to agree to disagree. Let things go. Its hard, but it works.
Stay strong. Because you can.

Erika said...

The right angel will come along when you least expect it and everything will be magical again. Just believe! :)

katiecrackernuts said...

Sigh. I feel for you. I really do. I know that roundabout you talk of, can luckily say my partner and I are in a good place, but we haven't been. For sooo many reasons. Good luck hon. What more is there to say. Good luck.

Vespersparrow said...

Dear Maggie, you have created yourself anew, a person with such beautiful tensile strength, it hums like a tuning fork through so many other lives--thank you for your courage, your clear imperatives. You are the very light you've left in the window for us. The threads of your present stresses will get teased apart. You have the patience and steadiness to find your way.

www.LivingShallowLivingWell.blogspot.com said...

You are a good writer. I feel for you guys. Keep on hoping.

Anti-Supermom said...

It's an argument that makes to acknowledge that you both find your relationship is *worth it*.

Here's to the make up sex ;)

Lisa Page Rosenberg said...

Hold hands and keep on.
And then still, keep on.

Petit fleur said...

There is a somewhat cheesy method that Mr. PF and I learned in counseling called IMAGO. It really really works. I don't remember all of the rules, etc... but it's similar to reflective listening where you repeat back what the person has said for clarification. I like a talking stick too. That helps as long as you don't use it to bonk someone! :-)

Hope you get to that make up sex soon.
xoxo pf

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

...just wanted to say that not only are you an amazing writer but you seem to be a person with so much heart and soul.
Tough times are never fun, but "the good stuff" (as I call it) often comes from going through trials. If we can weather the storm, it makes us stronger when we open ourselves to learn from what we are going through and face the crappy things head-on. It sounds to me like you do just that. And all in all, from what you've described, I think it says a lot that you both agree to certain ways to fight/argue fair. That's huge. And once this is all in the past, your relationship will be better for it.
I continue to say prayers for your pregnancy and for you during this time.

deb said...

Didn't I just look at pictures of deep for better or worse love...?
you find that angel and figure this out.
you all deserve to live free of any burdens of something other than

marie said...

My first time to your blog. I have been in your shoes as a child-victim of not one, but two, very ill parents. Your post reminds me how far we can come in recovery if we just keep at it. I hope you find peace regardless of your circumstances. Many blessings,
Marie

玉苓 said...

thank u........................................

A Write Life said...

Heres to make-up sex. The tough times make you strong. Being flexible means you will not break. My thoughts are with you.

Elizabeth said...

I want this for you, too. Hang in there. The angel surely will come to someone who wants it, needs it, is neither victim nor weak.

krista said...

i don't have any wise words to add. but just some love and some recognition, here and in between the lines.
xoxo

Ellen said...

I am sitting here after reading your post wondering how I am not able to seek guidance from a therapist. I keep telling myself I can do this I can move beyond those walls of darkness. I read your post and felt your pain. I am in awe of your perseverance to seek out the help to create a peace for yourself. That path must be hard and yes the release of words and emotions that you have bottled in ..to release them, to utter those feelings out had to be so hard. But you did it. And in doing so you let out bit by bit what drags you down. I am in awe of you to do this. It gives me a sense of the possibility of this.
Find the calm...feel your child growing in you...heal for the both of you and it will heal all of you...bit by bit. Hug...

Rashel Saak said...

i love people who can say what's going on and not sugar coat it.
to me, people who are like this have a fighting chance.
here's to positive thoughts your way.

Evangeline said...

"I recognized that the essential truth was that a victim who perceives themselves, who identifies as a victim, is always a victim, and that the world is absolutely uncaring and aloof if you feel you can't do anything to help yourself. In this way, it was also one of the greatest challenges of my adult life, to accept that I, and only I, could change my life."

Chills. You write with such truth and wisdom. I hope you and Mr. C. find your angel and get back to the makeup sex very, very soon.

karen gerstenberger said...

I love your honesty, and I believe you will find your next "angel." What's the saying? "When the student is ready, the teacher will come." You sound ready; I pray that the teacher is on his/her way to you.

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