Saturday, December 21, 2013

When We Were Forty

2003 was the year we all turned 40.

I remember going to Kitty’s house for my 40th birthday. She gathered her family together, and we had nice food and drink.

All my friends were busy during this time, I am sure. Raising kids, or focusing on continuing education and their careers. For me, this birthday was a far cry from my 30th. I remember when I turned thirty, someone gave me a large button to wear that read “30 And Still Rockin”. And I was! At forty, I probably deserved one that read “40 And Tired As Hell”.

Gone were the days of the Jackson 5 and "Thriller". Michael Jackson was being accused of inappropriate behavior with children. Madonna kissed Brittney Spears at the VMAs. Eminem, J-Lo, Beyonce, and 50 Cent were the popular artists. The "Lord of the Rings" triology was in full swing, and so was one of my favorites to this day, "Survivor" (I've watched every season).

During that ten year period, everything about my life had changed. I was 8 years in to an alcoholic marriage, and I now had two children. We had built a new home, and had just moved in to it four months before my birthday.

My son was 6, and my daughter was 4. My 4 year old was (and still is) extremely intense, and at the time, quite challenging. Sometimes she literally wiped us out. Although she was raised in the same environment as my son, I was told many times that I had “spoiled” her. People seemed desperate to put the blame for her intense behavior on someone. That someone was usually me. Even though I was now desperately codependent, and had become accustomed to taking full responsibility for the actions of almost everyone around me, I knew in my heart I had done nothing different with her. I knew this was her genetics, and her personality, plain and simple, and that I was not responsible for that. I fought for her and protected her with every bit of life that was in me--to nurture her and to teach her how to deal with the extreme feelings she possessed. I knew damn good and well where she got them, and I knew she either had to learn to deal with those extreme highs and lows, or give in to them and spend her life self medicating them as her father had done. My daughter was a main focus for me during this time.

My mother’s health was deteriorating.

I was fucking exhausted. I worked full time, then came home to start my second job—making sure the kids were fed and bathed, and my son’s homework was done. Usually my husband did not arrive home from work and the bar until 8:30 or 9:00 in the evening. By then he was usually in no shape to help me, or to spend any quality time with me. His drinking was at the first of two all time highs right about then. I felt out of control. I couldn’t control his drinking, I couldn’t control my daughter’s temper tantrums, I couldn’t control what others thought. People told me I needed to “put my foot down” with the both of them. As I’ve written before; I could have put my foot down til it busted through in China and not been able to control either of these situations. The best I could do was to manage them, and managing them was sucking the life out of me.

I got to the point where I didn’t care about getting dressed up for work. The days of my cute dresses and business suits with heels were gone. I was going for comfort. If that meant “old lady shoes”, then that’s what I wore. I rarely had time or energy for makeup.

I hated alcohol so badly during this time that I didn’t drink a lot. Mainly on Sundays with Scarlet. But I ate. Food gave me comfort. I started gaining weight.

Maybe I like the show "Survivor" so much because that's what I was doing. I think I was just surviving at that time of my life. Not living—surviving. Trying to figure out how to "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast". I no longer had time to lie in the floor and listen to Beatles music. I wasn’t the vibrant, beautiful girl my husband had married, and I realized that. Comfortable, practical pajamas took the place of sexy lingerie. But he was very different too. We were still "a couple" at that time, but the stresses of life were definitely affecting us both. I was exhausted. Alcohol had totally consumed him.

To say I still had everything I needed, and most of what I wanted would not be entirely accurate. Materially yes. Mentally and physically, my life was taking a turn, and it was definitely NOT what I wanted.

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