How struggles can make a relationship stronger.

My journey through life has been complicated.  Much of the complication I have brought on myself by making less than stellar choices.  However, some of it just is. I have been blessed with many great relationships, and some not so great.  I was blessed with two children from my marriage to my ex-husband, and for that I will be forever grateful for the relationship and grateful to him.

My boys in 2012.  Photo by Leila Wylie (leilawylie.com)
My boys in 2012. Photo by Leila Wylie (leilawylie.com)

The relationship I had with my husband was great for the first few years, but we had difficulties after that.  Both of us made mistakes, and both of us did things and said things that were not loving to each other.  I will never bash my ex and say that everything was his fault because that would be a lie.  Could I have worked harder?  Could I have stuck in there through thick and thin and stayed even when I didn’t want to??  Well, yes I suppose I could have.  But I didn’t.  I am not one to look back and regret my decisions.  I try to learn from my past mistakes.  I do not regret choosing to divorce my husband, but if I had it to do all over again, I am sure I would do things a little differently.  I would have still chosen to divorce him because I was very very unhappy, and felt that it would not get better. But I think I could have handled things better.  More kindly.

For the past 8 years I have been blessed to be in a relationship with an amazing woman named Karol. She brought herself and two children into my life, and that journey has been filled with joys, and sadness, difficulties, and fun!  Everything any typical relationship goes through.  I suppose the difference in this relationship than the other ones I have had as an adult, is the fact that I was finally ready for a committed, equal, loving, challenging relationship.

I know with all my heart that the relationship I am in now is the one I was meant to be in.  My partner Karol is absolutely perfect for me.  She completes me in ways I never knew were possible.  When she is upset, I remain calm.  When I am upset, she remains calm.  I am horrible at fixing things, she can fix anything.  I am great with numbers and budgets, she less so.  There are a million ways in which we complement each other, and I am incredibly grateful that I have been blessed to have her love.

Bluebell and I at a party.
Karol and I at a party. 2007 ish

Now don’t get me wrong, this past 8 years has not been a rosy path that we have just skipped down holding hands.  We have been bombarded by difficulties, and trouble.  My brother died, my father died, her grandmother died.  She has had cancer, and a brain tumor, and surgery to replace bones in her ear.

We have had countless arguments, usually about the kids.  Blending a family is not easy.  Some of these arguments have become screaming matches that ended with thoughts of leaving, yet neither one of us really had the heart or will to leave the other.   Because at the end of the day, when the dust settles, we always realize we are meant for each other and going through the struggles together is better than NOT being together.

We still have arguments, although they are less dramatic now that the oldest two children have moved out.  Many of our arguments have always been centered around our oldest child.  Karol’s 22 (almost) year old daughter has been quite difficult due to her lack of good decision making skills, and need for risky living.  Karol and I have spent many hours arguing about the way her daughter treated me, and Karol’s desire to enable her daughter.

Interestingly, even these arguments became less volatile as our relationship grew and we were better able to talk to each other and truly open up and be vulnerable and share our deep, honest feelings.  But boy oh boy, is that freaking hard!!!  It is quite difficult to stuff down that mother bear instinct, and really hear our partner say things that are difficult to hear about our children.  Our instinct is to rise up and protect our young, when in reality what the person is saying is true, and we know it.

So I suppose, what I have learned is that it is not easy to maintain a loving, equal, honest adult relationship.  Life is complicated and messy!!  A good relationship requires yelling and talking.  Compromise and conviction.  Passion and tenderness.  Laughter and tears.

And these are the things I want to do with Karol.

karolnyc

Until I draw my last breath!

 

Does anyone else’s brain work like mine?

If you are anything like me, you have lots of random thoughts going on in your brain at any given time.  Sometimes my brain is a scary place, I know it scares Karol, I am pretty sure it scares the NewYorRican, and I know it sure as hell scares me!!  I sometimes wonder if everyone else’s brain is as random as mine, so sometimes I share my thoughts with others so I can see if they think the way I do.

Just the other day I walked over to the NewYorRican’s house, and was thinking on the way there, (I mean really, there was nothing else to do but think as I walked) …well, I could talk to myself out loud, but then I am just solidifying my less than stellar grip on normalcy to anyone walking or driving by.  If I want to talk to myself out loud I need to go to someone else’s neighborhood, so people who see me will think, “That chick is crazy as shit, I sure am glad she doesn’t live in my neighborhood”.

Ok, so I am walking over to the NewYorRican’s house and thinking.  So to my mind my thought processes makes sense, but I am sometimes unsure so when I get to her house, I’m all, “Hey I am going to tell you what I was thinking on the walk over here.  Tell me if it seems normal to you.”  She’s all, “Sure girl”, giving me confidence that as my bestie she will be nonjudgmental……..
So I start telling her my thoughts and how one thought worked it’s way to the next.  It seemed like a perfectly plausible chain of thoughts to me, but I watched her face change from open and listening, to confused, to just plain horrified….(so much for besties who hide the truth for the benefit of their friend……sigh…..)

hme alone

When I was done telling her my thoughts, her face looked something like the picture above.

Just imagine the face in the picture with long dark brown hair, a beautiful caramel Latina skin tone, and voila…Janet Leigh becomes The NewYorRican.

So here are the thoughts I had exactly as I thought them:
“It is a pretty day outside, I really like how the leaves look.  It wasn’t this pretty last year, it was too warm.  Oh my gosh, the office at work today was so warm.  I was hot and sweaty, gross. I wonder if I was hot and sweaty because I haven’t taken my Mensosense in a few days?  Oh gosh, I think I am almost out of Mensosense, I better get the Vitamin Shoppe to get some more. Oh, maybe I can go there tomorrow when I see that patient at the Virginia Beach Office.  Oh and I really need to stop at BJ’s.  The boys don’t have any snacks and I should get them some.  You know, that reminds me that I need to ask the boys if that necklace I found on the floor in the hall belongs to any of them.  Gosh, you know, I haven’t called the jewelry store to check to see if my jewelry has come back from the repair shop yet. Maybe I can stop there on my way back from Virginia Beach tomorrow when I see that patient and get the boys some snacks.  You know the boys really need to clean their rooms tonight when they get home from school. Oh yeah tonight is Monday, Karol won’t be home tonight, she has class.  What am I going to make for dinner?  I better check that when I get back from having coffee with The NewYorRican.  I wonder what she is making for dinner.  Did I remember to tell her about that thing that happened last week? Gosh it sure is a pretty day out today.”

 

And then boom, I have arrived at her front door.  Please tell me I am not the only one whose brain works like that.

 

I survived my 30 year high school reunion!

So, I recently wrote about how Facebook changed my memories of high school and how my 30th reunion was coming up soon.  I decided a while ago I was going to go, and Karol (the woman formerly known as Bluebell) said she would go with me.  I was excited when the reunion was first announced.  I shared how people on Facebook had reconnected with me in such a positive affirming way, and that really reassured me that it would be okay.

However, I must admit that as the time for going got closer and closer, I became quite nervous.  I started having more anxiety about my weight, and my life choices, and the fact that many people had stayed in Connecticut and seemed to still be friends, while I had joined the Navy and never really looked back.  My parents stayed in Fairfield for a few years after I graduated because my younger brother was still in high school.  However, they also moved from Fairfield, and there was no reason for me to return.  Would I fit in?

My senior picture, 1983
My senior picture, 1983

The weekend arrived, and I was nervous, but excited.  So we packed, got into the car, and headed north.  The drive was pretty uneventful until we hit NYC.  After many bad words were spoken on the drive in from NYC, we arrived at the hotel, changed and went to dinner at Luigi’s Pizza!  Karol had been told by a coworker (who was raised in Connecticut) that she had to try pizza while in CT because it was like “nothing she had ever tasted”.  She agreed!!  The pizza was amazing!!

We headed out to the beach where some friends had gathered, and I nervously headed to the sand to look for them.  I found them pretty quickly, and was greeted with love and friendship!  It was so nice to get hugs and smiles, and to catch up with old friends! But that was just the beginning!

On Saturday we had lunch with a wonderful woman who was very close to my family.  She and my younger brother had dated for several years, and she really was considered part of the family! We met for lunch at an all organic restaurant in Norwalk called Savor Healthy Pizza.  The food was WONDERFUL.  Pizza, wraps, salad. My friend P had a chicken wrap which looked so yummy, and Karol and I had the chicken ceasar salad!

It is a good thing the restaurant wasn’t crowded because we spent over two hours together.  Chatting, laughing, catching up.  It was so wonderful to spend time with this truly amazing, beautiful, intelligent woman.  I didn’t know her very well because she and my brother are 4 years younger than me, and they didn’t start dating until I had already joined the Navy and left home.  After my brother Brian died she and I reconnected and have stayed in touch ever since.  To come together as adults and chat about Brian, and our families, and her son, and husband, and her life now was such a special treat for me!  It was wonderful to share memories of Brian with someone who knew him so well also! And beyond that, to reconnect as adults was amazing!  She is a very talented writer, and was actually was the one who encouraged me to start writing and blogging. For that and so much more I will be forever grateful to you P!!

After we left Norwalk, we headed back to the hotel to change and go to the reunion of Roger Ludlowe class of 1983!!

As we parked, my heart started to pound a little.  We walked up to the Seagrape (the bar where the reunion was happening), I took a few deep breaths, screwed up my courage and headed on in.  At the door I saw one of the three classmates who had organized the reunion, and found my name tag with my high school picture.  I looked around the room, and saw that it was full!  I was amazed how many people had come out to this event! I recognized so many people!

So many people!! YAY!
So many people!! YAY!

Immediately I saw a woman I had been very good friends with all through middle school and most of high school!  We hugged and chatted for a bit, and Karol and I started to make our way around the room.  While doing so the most amazing thing happened!

Over and over people greeted me, and hugged me and we chatted about where we were living and what we were doing!  I was so surprised by the warmth with which I was greeted. A recurring theme was that most of the people who I talked with also had hazy memories of high school, just like I did!  I thought I was alone, but we were all feeling the same way. We talked about the “girls” and “boys”.  How the “girls” all looked the same, but not all the “boys”. To be honest, most people looked as though time had stood still.

Again and again people talked about how they felt in high school.  Muddling through, feeling like they didn’t fit in.  My perception of them in school was so vastly different from their perception of themselves.  Everyone I spoke with had the same thoughts about adolescence!  As the night wore on, the years melted away, and so did the awkwardness. These people who were walking around hugging and chatting, and enjoying each other were an important part of each others lives. Friendships that had faded away were renewed and new friendships formed.

Throughout the night I noticed a few interesting things.  Most of the people in the room had outgrown the adolescent ideas of cliques, and separatism. Life has a way of doing that.  People who I wasn’t really friends with in high school would say hello and chat for a bit.  I noticed people who were in different “groups” in school mingling and that made me feel good that somehow time had removed the walls and as we all neared 50, we had let go of some of our old paradigms.  However, upon further inspection I found that wasn’t completely the case.  There was a particular group who I walked past at least 4 times.  I noticed they didn’t really socialize with anyone but themselves, and although they all saw me each time I passed, they didn’t speak to me.  This group was part of the group in school who wasn’t very nice to me, and although at the beginning of the night it bothered me, as the night wore on, it didn’t matter at all.  I realized that while 95% of us had grown and changed and become better people, some were just stuck in their worlds and opinions of themselves.  Some people really don’t change.  That seems sad to me.

I spoke about this with a classmate as we stood outside the bar and the party was winding down.  She pointed out that maybe people like that just haven’t had their world view change enough.  Maybe they had not experienced loss, or struggle, or other events that would cause them to shift their focus. What a gracious way to see the situation!  I decided to adopt her view on things, and see the positive aspect of the situation.

So many of us had grown through loss and life experiences.  We had been unemployed, lost siblings, children, parents, spouses, and life had given us ups and downs. They left their mark on us that were invisible to the eye, but visible in the way people were so generous and kind to each other.  Life had given us both positive and negative experiences, and caused bruises. To borrow a thought from a popular Train song, these bruises and experiences had made us all more equal.

One of the most touching moments of the evening happened about 30 minutes after we arrived.  I was making my way around the room, hugging and talking with one old friend after another when another old friend approached me bringing someone else with her.  She said she was so glad to see me and that the man she brought with her had something to tell me.  I looked over and saw a familiar face.  He proceeded to say that he was so sorry he was “such an asshole” to me in school.  He didn’t know why he was mean, but that he really felt badly about it, and wanted to apologize.  His apology brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart!  It was proof to me that in school we were all just trying so hard to fit in with our peer groups, and maybe we did things we knew weren’t right but had to do them to “fit in”.  I have him a big hug and told him all was forgiven.  His apology was a testament to me about the man he had become, and how could I NOT forgive him?

Karol and I with new and old friends!
Karol and I with new and old friends!

Not many of us brought our significant others, and I was concerned Karol would be bored.  At one point I was chatting with a friend, and looked over, and she was deep in conversation with a classmate who works at Sikorsky.  Her husband works there too.  Maybe Karol is planning a move to Connecticut?  The youngest child graduates in 4 years, so after that, anything is fair game.  She actually chatted with quite a few people, and it was nice to see her fitting in so well!!

All in all, it was a wonderful evening.  Not only were there people from our class, but also from the class a year ahead of us and a year behind us.  One of the girls I was in band with who is a year older than us was there and it was so awesome to spend time with her.  We were such good friends in school.   We spent an hour every day, 5 days a week together, hours upon hours at marching band practice, band trips, concerts, etc etc.  She was so much fun then, and still fun now!!

I could write more and more, but I think this post is long enough.  This was the first reunion I have ever attended.  I did not go previously because fear kept me away.  I went this time because I no longer had as much fear.  I am so much more self aware, and have the maturity and self confidence to be proud of who I am and what I have accomplished.  Social media had changed the landscape of my high school memories and friendships.  People I had renewed friendships with online really WERE that nice in person as well!! I was also quite surprised to hear people compliment me on my writing, and tell me they enjoyed reading it.  I had no idea people even knew I wrote.

So the evening was wonderful for me!!  I had a great time, and it was made even better because of Dee and Chris and Mike, and Brian and Peter, and Julie and Diana and Arlene, and Sharon and Jackie and Jacqueline and Kim and Kim and Kris, and Laura, and Claudia and Patti, and Erika and Sue, Mary Anne, and Sharon, Beth and Mark, Lynn and Lisa.  If I have forgotten a name, please forgive me, it was an amazing night, with so many people to talk to.  When I was looking at pictures on Facebook I saw so many people I didn’t even get a chance to chat with, but I will in 5 years!!

Or shall we do this again in two??