Friday, January 25, 2008

In the Bleak Midwinter

You know it's bleak midwinter when your color photos come out white, black and brown. Sometimes my thoughts come out that way too, to match the landscape.

I have been too distracted to write on this blog lately, and unfortunately, the distractions are unwelcome, such as the one concerning the threat of drastic changes at work. Since I choose not to discuss work on my blog, my readers are spared the details.

On a day like today it is more challenging to find things to appreciate. But I did catch a glimpse of my dog looking like a frog on a lilypad, basking in the sun flooding through the windows. It's good to live in a house with southern exposure, I see. I didn't even think about that when I bought the house. And speaking of the house, I have a 4.5% interest rate on my 15-year fixed mortgage. So I'm not one of the many homeowners who is now rushing to the bank, desperate to refinance.

The garbage truck just emptied my trash container. That may not sound too impressive, but I read recently that public trash collection was the most effective disease control policy ever undertaken.

The sun shines today. Being of Irish decent, I much prefer gloomy skies, but I tell myself that we need sun to live. Not only does it heat the planet and grow the vegetation, but the benefits of vitamin D are well-documented. And word has it that sunlight improves people's moods. I am going to assume that my mood will continuously improve with every moment the sun shines today.

The birds found the food I left for them today. On days like this, bitterly cold and snowy, I worry about the birds. They found it immediately, and their chirping sounds oddly upbeat for a day like this.

My furnace works- a big plus. It's pretty old, and today's a good day to have it working. And while we're discussing house mechanics, I have a lot to be grateful for in that category. There are no pressing issues that need to be addressed. Sure, the bathtub faucet leaks, the garbage disposal issued its death rattle several weeks ago and the gutters drip, but none of those things really matter. I've lived here 7 years with no major expenses. Hurrah!

Then there's the newspaper. It's delivered every day, no matter what, unconditionally. There's something comforting about that. I may be one of the last people in this city who actually reads the paper version, but I like it. And I read with scizzors nearby, in case I want to save anything. Today's newspaper featured fascinating stories about tax rebates, mortgage rates and frogs in the salad.

I'd continue counting blessings if I had time, but I must leave for work. And that's a good thing....

Monday, January 14, 2008

origins of over-independence

The other day a friend asked,"Why is it that you insist on being independent? What caused you to be this way to a fault?"

I quickly dismissed the questions, unconsciously filing them away for later consideration. The questions became a pest, popping out unexpectedly, persistently, yet I refused to answer.

Now I'll try.

This week I became aware of an embarrassing truth about the way I see things. In a strange twist of perception, I actually associate intimate relationships, such as the type resulting in marriage, with weakness. Rationally, I know that's nutty, but in whirlingbettyworld it's reality.

It's easy for me to tell where this idea came from: my family of origin. My mother was a smart and beautiful woman who allowed her life to be marginalized by her husband. He cheated on her and controlled her. Even as a very young child, I was appalled. Is it any surprise that she died an early death from pancreatic cancer?

My older sister, also beautiful and intelligent, became pregnant as a teen and married the Catholic father of her fetus. Three years later, she had three out-of-control kids, a rented house worthy of condemnation by the Health Department, and a newly obese body. Her husband left her. I was not yet 10 years old by the time all of this had occurred. Was I influenced? You betcha.

The same sister decided not too long after her divorce that life would be better if she snared another man, so she quickly lost her excess weight (temporarily) and before long, guess what? She had a beau. Within a few months, said beau had absconded with what little bit of money my family had, including my grandmother's life savings. He had convinced my sister (who convinced the family) that he was about to become rich from a South African diamond mining deal. After he fled the country with my family's savings, he was never seen again.

My sister moved on, first to a drug addict, then to a psychopath who sexually molested her daughters and then held them at gunpoint while threatening suicide. Weary of men, my sister gained back all her weight and then some.

As for my big brother, he has been a member of Sex Addicts Anonymous for years. He has had hundreds of "partners". He married one of them, a 16-year-old model, for 6 months when he was 38.

And then there's my hero- my grandmother. By the time I was born she was long divorced, unheard of for an Irish Catholic. According to family legend, the American she married not long after landing on Ellis Island turned out to be lousy at earning a living. She took matters into her own hands and got a good job at Ansco Camera. She was proud of her job, very proud. Her ne'er-do-well husband eventually succumbed to the flirtation of the woman next door, who coveted not only my grandfather but the shiny new car my grandmother had just bought him. I knew my grandmother as a single, independent woman (there was no man/albatross around her neck!), and she was the only happy woman in my family. She was the only one who smiled.

It's easy to see how I came up with a negative view of intimate relationships. But now I'm an adult, unencumbered by the unfortunate escapades of my immediate family members. I'm left with nothing but my self and my idiosyncracies. Every human has a need or desire to be loved and appreciated by another, right?

Sometimes when the going gets rough, I do feel sorry for myself and wish that there was somebody around who could offer me a soft place to fall. A child cannot fill that role.

But most of the time I numbly forge onward, oblivious to basic human social instincts. Before The Child entered my life, I did seek the companionship of a partner- several in succession, actually. But once I had the relationship going, in each case I then sought to abandon it and shop around for a better guy. Paradoxically, I wanted to be available while harboring a boyfriend. I never imagined myself getting married- I wanted to play the field forever.

Once The Child showed up, I was somehow finished with men. I'm not sure why. But it's just as well, considering my inability to form a lasting relationship. Maybe on some level I was aware of how hard that would be on The Child.

Am I unwilling to trust men? (Look at the doozies the women in my family ended up with!) Do I think I don't deserve a longterm committed relationship? (I suffer from self-esteem issues.) How do I get by without intimacy in my life?