Explaining The Silence

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting. It’s just that this was the place where I found the funny side to life. I used it to record loveable exchanges between myself and my husband. I used it to muse on parenthood and books. I posted silly chiding notes to self about inside out underwear and life with a baby.

But lately I can’t think of a musing that isn’t tinged with irrational bitterness. There’s no point in sharing exchanges that mostly involve apologies to each other – me apologizing because I have failed at covering childcare and housework and regular work adequately, and he apologizing that I have to cover all those things alone.

I can’t find a funny side, these days.

My notes to self are usually along the lines of “suck it up”, “get off your butt”, “those dishes aren’t going to wash themselves, you know”, and “no one has ever heard of a laundry fairy, so start folding”.

If I wrote a post now, it would be a nihilistic reflection on personal needs and how little they matter, or a thought about the irony of picking the man who I knew would be a truly equal partner, only to have a disease rob him of his capacity to function as one.

If I wrote a post these days, I would shed tears over it.

So I will be back, I hope, when life has me a little less stomped down. It’ll happen. Just not today.

In Which I Call Bullshit on “Me Time”

I see this turn up in my Facebook feed nearly every day. 

It is always, ALWAYS, shared by women. Mothers. It is shared by the women, and apparently there are many because different people keep sharing it, who give too much. It is shared by people who, like me, spend virtually all of their waking hours either working or caring for their children. It is shared by people who no longer have time to relax in the bath or read a book or even just take a quick shower. 
And I hate it. 

I HATE IT. 

…Why do I hate a picture that delivers an important message of self care to a demographic which is notoriously overworked and under appreciated? 

Because it doesn’t address the root problem. 

When I was in my early twenties, my best friend got pregnant. It was  unplanned. In fact, she was on birth control. But she had the baby and loved her and never once complained to me about the cards that life handed her, even when the father turned out to be utterly useless. She didn’t let it stop her, either. She went to school. She worked retail on weekends to help pay for room and board for herself and her daughter. She basically sacrificed every waking hour to the triple demons of child care, work, and education. 

But she didn’t find it easy. How could she?

So she sought out the school counsellor for advice, because she felt like she was drowning. Maybe there was a grant available so she wouldn’t have to work. Maybe there was a free daycare program that she didn’t know about. Maybe help was available somewhere. 

The counsellor asked my friend a lot of questions about her life, and then drew a pie chart showing the distribution of her waking hours.Work. Classes. Childcare. Then, when the baby was sleeping, homework. 

There was no time left over in the chart. 

“There’s something missing,” said the counsellor. “Where is the YOU time?”

My friend stared at her. 

“You need to make some time for YOU,” said the counsellor wisely. “Self care is very important.” 

She said this as if it was news, as if my friend was some kind of automaton who didn’t yearn for rest and recreation. 

Of course my friend knew that she needed rest and fun. She didn’t need to be told that she deserved it. She needed help in getting it. But the counsellor clearly indicated that for the single working mother, you-time is a you-problem. Another thing that you are responsible to provide for yourself, making it magically appear out of nothing. 

All the mothers I know fret about how to get their me-time. Do father’s do this too? Do men stand around and try to help each other strategize ways to get an hour here or there that isn’t taken up with work? And if they do, why aren’t they sharing that goddamn tea cup?

I don’t think it should be a woman’s job to find time to care for themselves. Women will rest when given the opportunity. When someone takes on the burden of child care or housework or wage-earning, they will eat or nap or go out for coffee with a friend. 

Instead, though, women are tasked with finding someone to take this stuff on so that they can have that time. Which just adds another burden of work into their plate. Now, on top of caring for the kids and cleaning the house and going to work, it is her job to go around asking friends to babysit or to coworker’s to trade shifts, so she can get some much-needed “me time”. 

Many women are too tired to go to all that trouble, and so they go without. 

Meanwhile, do Dads feel this way? Are the men so exhausted by their daily workload that they feel too tired to arrange an hour to themselves? Do men give up golf and an afternoon watching sports on tv or naps because they are too overworked to arrange the free time? 

(if you arent following Man Who Has It All on Facebook/Twitter, do so immediately.


If so, why aren’t we worried about me time for men? 

And if not, then why the hell aren’t they offering to take on some of the woman’s burden, like making sure that she gets an hour or two of recreation time every week? 

Why aren’t men being brought into this equation somewhere?

A woman I know told me about how she got asked to work late after a busy day. She asked her husband to pick up their daughter (normally her job). He did. And then he did nothing else. When she got home from an extra shift at work, she discovered that her husband had been playing video games (he got his me time! Good for him!) and their daughter still needed to be fed dinner, bathed, and put to bed – way past her bed time. 

So not only did she do more work at work, but she still had the usual work waiting for her at home. 

And the worst part is that this isn’t an unusual story. 

I hear a story like this from a woman at least once a week. 

Then they share that god damned tea cup. 

No. 

No, it should not be up to you. 

If a woman is feeling like an empty cup, then something is severely out of balance in her world and chances are that inspirational images won’t fix that. 

I often feel like that empty cup. But knowing that my cup is empty doesn’t change the situation that I am in. 

I have a disabled husband.

 He is not the kind of husband who would play video games while our kid went without dinner. He is not the kind of person who would leave laundry or dishes for me and then complain about the lack of clean plates and underwear. 

He takes good care of the kids and the house… When he can. 

But the fact is that most of the time he can’t. His cup has a leak in it.  As it is, he is pouring from an empty cup when he needs to pick up Owl from school and Fritter from daycare on days when I work. He is pouring from an empty cup when he puts the kids to bed on nights that I train dogs. 

So I can’t very well ask him to pile another night of putting kids to bed while I go to a movie with a friend. I can’t even get him to go out with me. Our eighth anniversary, like our seventh, has passed uncelebrated. 

And it isn’t for lack of support. We got two gift cards to two different nice restaurants. One of our friends offered to take the kids. But we didn’t go because my husband’s cup is so empty that he can barely get his pants on most days.

So it doesn’t matter that his idea of a terribly draining day is my idea of a vacation (only deal with the kids for a few hours after school? I can sleep in and spend the day alone doing whatever and then someone will come home and put them to bed for me? Hot DAMN! I haven’t had a day like that in a year at least!). Because both of us are just doing the best we can and this is how it is.

 I could share that picture of the tea cup every day and it still wouldn’t make a solution magically appear. 

So I call bullshit on Me-time memes. I’m not failing at self care just because I haven’t pulled the time and money for a day at the spa out of my own ear. In fact, my husband even gave me a gift card for a massage but I haven’t used it because you can’t get gift cards for free time. 

So I will pour from that empty cup, condescending meme. WATCH ME DO IT. I refuse to blame myself for my own difficult circumstances right now. I will survive them and then I will get some me time and I won’t die in the meantime. 

So there.

Life and Death – Meyer Gender-Reverses Twilight And Still Somehow Manages To Be Sexist

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

I found out recently that in her 10th Anniversary Edition of Twilight, Stephenie Meyer basically re-wrote it with everyone’s gender being reversed, and called it Life and Death.

So of course I had to read that.life and death cover

As you probably already know, I have had a few things to say about Twilight, especially when it comes to sexism.

So I was intrigued by the idea of a gender reversed Twilight.

if you imagine a domineering, aggressive female love interest and a pliable and clumsy male love interest, well… Twilight would still be badly written and promote abusive relationship models, but you couldn’t call it sexist any more.

So I picked up a copy. Used. Because I’m not giving money to the publisher of this drivel.

Aside: Yes, that’s right, it’s the publisher I blame. I don’t hate Stephenie Meyer, or wish her ill. She is a mom who wrote a book, just like me, and she struck the jackpot. Good on her, and I should be so lucky. It’s just the message of her books that I don’t like, and her writing style, and basically everything. But I wish her all the best and I envy her, I really do. 

Aside Aside: On that note, my non-sexist, body positive, zombie-romance rewrite of Twilight is almost ready to be published. If you visit my author website before it comes out, you can sign up to get a free kindle copy of the book when it comes out. It’s like a preorder. But free. I’m not looking to get rich, I just want people to read my book. 

“Why are you reading that?” my husband asked when Life and Death arrived in the mail. “Why do you torture yourself?”

“Because – I will bet you money that even with all of the genders reversed, Stephenie Meyer will still find a way to make this book sexist,” I told him.

“Well, if you go into it with that attitude, you’ll find something,” he said. “Confirmation bias.”

He was absolutely right. and it’s easy to assume that every change I spotted was made for sexist reasons. Take this one:

Twilight:

‘Well, Billy’s done a lot of work on the engine – it’s only a few years old, really.’

Life and Death: 

‘Well, Bonnie’s had a lot of work done on the engine – it’s only a few years old, really.’

What, women can’t do work on their own truck’s engine? WTF?

But here’s the thing: I really wanted to be wrong. I did. I wanted to believe that Meyer had produced something that really stood out. I wanted to believe that I was holding the cure to the ills of the original story.

And you know what? It sort of worked. I think. Life And Death is a vastly superior story to Twilight. It is also a vastly different story.

I had been led to believe that Life and Death was just Twilight, with the genders reversed. But it isn’t. The two books are wildly different. Meyer didn’t just go in and do word-replaces. She changed a LOT of stuff, and a lot of that stuff made for a better story.

However, I can’t decide whether she changed it because she knew that it would make things better, or if she changed it because she’s really freaking sexist. 

Let me describe the changes, then you can decide for yourself.

Continue reading

Eight Years

Tags

, , , ,

Yesterday, we were sitting around watching Stephen Fry’s Q.I. on Youtube when Perfect Husband sat up straight.

“Oh, SHIT.” He covered his mouth. “I forgot!”

“What?” I was alarmed. I wracked my brain. Were we supposed to be doing something that night? Was there something vital that I had let slip through my calendar?

“I have to call a prostitute right away! It’s my last chance for the seven year itch!” he said.

I leaned back on the couch and stuck out my tongue.

Eight years ago, we were married. 0143

Eight years ago, he was my rock, my prince who made me feel like the luckiest person in the world. I couldn’t believe that I was getting to spend the rest of my life with this man who worked so hard to make my life better.

He was the kind of person who cooked dinner and then washed the dishes, while insisting that I sit and rest. He was the kind of person with whom I could talk for hours and never grow bored.

The best part of it all was the fact that he thought he was the lucky one – he actually felt lucky to be with this socially anxious awkward girl with weight problems who loved to take care of pets and babies but also desperately needed to be taken care of by someone else.
Ten years ago, I started dating my best friend. I avoided it for so long, because it sounds like such a terrible idea, but within days we knew that this was it.

Img_0074

We knew that we would move in together. We knew that we would get married. We knew how many kids we would have and what their names would be before he even formally proposed.

Sometimes you just know.

Eleven years ago, he emerged from years of crippling depression, and I discovered that the man who had always been my best friend because even better when he was free of his chains. The man who had always been willing to talk for hours about books or argue with me about hypothetical situations, who had always been willing to give the shirt off of his back to help a friend, stepped out from under the clouds so I could really see him in his entirety. He turned out to be a sunny optimist with a can-do attitude that I found deeply attractive.

Twelve years ago I stopped him from committing suicide. Even then, I knew that I couldn’t live without him in my life. Even then, he was part of the furniture of my mind. Even then, I was willing to sacrifice his happiness to keep him alive. Even then, his pain mattered less to me than the continued beating of his kind heart.

Thirteen years ago my parents met him for the first time, and they thought, “that’s the one.”

“That boy is in love with you,” my father told me later.

“Yeah… we don’t talk about it, though,” I replied, and my parents wisely kept their mouths shut. But they told me later that they knew from the first moment that they saw us together that this would happen. That he was meant to be their son in law.

His parents have said the exact same thing.

Let’s face it, Perfect Husband has said the same thing. “I knew it was just a matter of waiting,” he said.

Show offs.

Fourteen years ago, I sang a Lorne Elliott song with one of the actors in the production of Hamlet that I was stage managing. Almost no one knows Lorne Elliott and we were both delighted to find someone else who did. Almost no one else has read Gordon Korman, but he had, and we talked about it for an hour. He liked Who Is Bugs Potter. I preferred I Want To Go Home.

Fourteen years ago, I found a new friend.

So here we are, fourteen years in, thirteen years in, twelve years in, ten years in.

Eight years in.

I don’t have a photo of us, now. He doesn’t want his picture taken. He doesn’t want to remember this.

Life is different now.

The depression is back and has been raging for years. Most days, he isn’t the sunny prince that I married, but he is still the best friend that I couldn’t live without.  I have met this side of him before and I married him knowing I would probably see it again. So it doesn’t scare me. He is still kind. He is still my best friend. He is still the man that my parents knew I would someday marry.

We have two young children that demand almost all of my time. I feel a constant gripping anxiety based on the fact that I want to work more, because we need more money, but I also want to work less, because I feel overburdened as it is, and I can’t afford to shift too much of that burden onto my husband, and I really can’t afford to pay someone else to take on some of that burden.

I struggle constantly to hide my stress because he blames himself when it emerges. A stray tear, wiped away too late, and he will be pestering me, asking what he can do, beyond the impossible. He thinks that I will blame him, or should blame him, for this.

I don’t.

I was there, you see. I saw how he couldn’t make himself wake up and go to class. I saw how he sometimes backed out of plans because he couldn’t face a social scene. I knew him. I married him.

Yes, I miss the man who pampered me and spoiled me. Yes, I miss feeling like he was someone that I could lean on. Yes, I miss feeling that he was someone I could come to with my problems, instead of someone that I needed to shield from them. Yes, I sometimes feel envy when I meet people who can just get their husbands to take the kids at a moment’s notice, no problem, or who can go out with their friends or on date nights on a regular basis.

Then again I know people who have husbands that are perfectly well and are just giant dicks, and then I feel very grateful. He may be asleep a lot, but he’s not a dick.

Besides, I knew he was sick, and what that meant, and I said the words, “in sickness and in health”, and I knew what I was saying when I said them.

“You could still run away, you know,” he whispered before the vows started. “Now’s your chance. Look, there’s a door just there.”

I looked out of the side door near the altar. It was open to let in cool breezes. The dandelions swayed in the old cemetery where couple after couple lay side by side. Then I looked back at him and shook my head, “no.”

“Now is YOUR chance,” I told him.

Sometimes I think he should have run. He isn’t equipped to handle the stress of caring for small children. I see how just our presence in the household raises his stress levels. I think about how much  of his time is spent on blaming himself for my own stress and misery.

Sometimes I feel like we are Albatrosses around his neck.

And I know he feels like an Albatross on mine.

We keep telling each other that we have no regrets. We keep telling each other that we prefer this to the alternative.

Maybe one day, we’ll finally believe one another.

Because let’s face it: If there is such a thing as fate, we are it.

So let it be. If we are lucky, we’ll have another thirty or forty years together. And I can’t speak for him, but I would still sign up for that in a heartbeat.

image  59 .JPG

The True Hallmark of Mother’s Day: Taking What We Can Get

Tags

, , , , , ,

Every year we are flooded by media about Mother’s Day from all of the retailers hoping to sell stuff to us. Radio ads urge husbands and sons to buy diamonds. Chocolates and flowers grace the most prominent areas of the grocery store, and everyone posts old photos of their mother or pictures of their own children with glowing social media boasts about love and being blessed and that sort of crap.


But under that, there is a current of disappointment. The people whose mothers have died and hurt to be reminded, the people whose mothers were just… really terrible at being a mother, and not really worthy of being honored, the people who wish they were mothers, or were ALMOST mothers, but aren’t…

…and the mothers of young children who face a day like any other – but with the added bitterness that comes from the contrast between their lives and the Mother’s Day commercials.


I am sure that some mothers out there got the Hallmark Card Mother’s Day – they got breakfast in bed and spent the day with guilt-free leisure while their usual jobs were done by others.

But I don’t know any of those mothers.

Every mother I spoke to – mothers of small children like I am – said that they had a good Mother’s Day… really… I mean, yeah, it was mostly the same as any other day, but there was something good about it.

A friend of mine got breakfast in bed. I mean, she had to buy the bacon and hashbrowns the day before, and she had to poke her husband and tell him to go make them for her, and he didn’t actually cook the hashbrowns, but she got bacon and eggs in bed and she figured that was good enough, really.

Another friend of mine had a nice barbecue at the house of a good friend of hers. And sure, her husband didn’t want to go at all and complained loudly about having to go – or maybe he didn’t go at all in the end, I don’t remember. Anyway, she went because she wanted to and she had a nice time, although she was annoyed about having to have a relationship fight in the process.

man-giving-gift

And as for me, well the baby slept until 9 am and PH dealt with Owl before that, so I got the best sleep in I have had in months, and then after the kids were in bed at night I sent PH to get me some pasta from my favourite restaurant, and some wine, and then I ate it at 9:30 pm while watching Mythbusters. So that was good.

During the day, I met up with another friend of mine (who had all three of her small children with her all day because her recently separated ex had decided to spend Mother’s Day cooking breakfast for other mothers at a Kinsman event and so was not available to help or do anything for the mother of his own kids) and we went to the beach.


The beach was nice, in a visiting-it-with-ungrateful-children sort of way. First they complained that they were cold. They refused to go near the water. They didn’t want to play in the sand. They wanted to go home and play video games.

But we, being experienced mothers, informed them that we didn’t give a tiny rat’s ass (not our actual words) how they felt, and we settled down on the sand anyway.


Fritter loved the beach. She ate sand and then when I carried her down to the water she happily splashed in the surf. She got covered in sand and thought it was fantastic.

The boys eventually warmed up to the beach. When they stopped whining about video games and claiming to be hungry despite having JUST eaten lunch, and when we put an end to their stick-based warfare, they finally started discovering crabs and sea shells and sand castles.


So our last hour there was quite peaceful, watching the kids dump sand into a puddle on a rock while Fritter followed them and tried to help, grabbing handfuls of sand in her tiny fists. We listened to the surf and smelled the sea air and looked at the mountains and enjoyed the sunshine and it was lovely.


At least until the boys started hitting each other with sticks again.

Of course, no Mother’s Day would be complete without a child asking the annual littany of  “why isn’t there a BOY’S day?” to which all of the present adults must answer in chorus, “EVERY DAY is BOY’S DAY.”

I’ll give this to Owl – he accepted the point of Mother’s Day very well. When I pointed out to my friend’s son that he got breakfast made for him every day, and that he got taken care of every day, he just argued that he couldn’t do those things yet. And of course I agreed but told him that that is why it is nice if, once a year, someone does those things in return for the mother who normally has to work at caring for other people and rarely for herself.

My friend’s son looked unconvinced but Owl took my side. Lord knows the poor kid hears me complain all the time about how much work I do looking after him.

In fact, he reiterated it today on the way to school. “Mother’s Day is when you get people to take care of you, instead of taking care of other people, right? But you did take care of me yesterday.”

And I told him that yes. While he is small, I don’t really get a day off. He can’t cook me breakfast, and he still needs me to make him dinner, and put him to bed. Daddy helped with some of it, so I got a break, but not the full Mother’s Day that you see in commercials. No woman with small children that I know got that. When the kids are this age, we take what we can get, because we know that Mother’s Day or not, they still need their diapers changed, and they still need to be entertained, and they still want dinner, and they don’t really give a damn how we feel about any of that.


But I do think that in a few years Owl will bring me breakfast in bed.

And in a few years, Fritter won’t need diapers changed.

And in a few years, things will be even better.

And I think that, considering the age of my kids, and life being what it is, yesterday was a darn good day.


 

Confessions of a Terrible Mother

Tags

, , , ,

Dear Owl,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I am not the mother you deserve. I’m sorry that I’m not the mother I thought I would be, or that I think I could be, if maybe things were a little different.

I’m sorry that when I’m stressed, I revert to old patterns probably set in my childhood – I talk to you as if you are an adult. I treat you as if you an adult – a belligerent, unreasonable, whiny little adult.

You are not an adult, you are a child. But when I am stressed, I don’t see you that way.

And so, today happened:

Continue reading

Go The F*** To Sleep, The Reboot

Tags

, , , , , ,

People love to ask you how your baby sleeps, and I have occasionally told people that Fritter sleeps “great!” only then to clarify to say that she still wakes several times a night.

You see, our bar is set LOW.

Until he was nearly two, Owl was waking multiple times in the night, usually every hour and a half.HELP, SHE'S STARVING MEEEEEEEEEEE!

 

Meanwhile, Fritter from day one would sleep in two to three hour stretches. There were some caveats – she couldn’t be put down, for example. I tried. Oh, how I tried. But if you put her down, she would wake up, until about 11 pm in the evening.

Those first couple of months I spent my evenings watching The Mindy Project with her nursing and fussing, and about an hour after she fell asleep I would transfer her to the Moses basket and she would sleep for another couple of hours.

IMG_2052

Compared to Owl, that felt like a MIRACLE.

Once my anxiety about SIDS was relieved enough that I could leave her alone to sleep (around 5 months), I started nursing her down on my bed and then just sneaking away. By adding our trusty old Sleepy Suit to the mix, I was actually able to pick her up off of the bed and transfer her to the Pack N Play next to our bed (the successor to the Moses basket).

And so, I have been pretty okay with her sleep overall. She would go down to sleep at around 8 pm, sleep until midnight, until 3, until 5 or 6, and then until 7 or 8.

I could HANDLE that.

Plus, she has two solid naps a day, one in the morning at around 9:30 am that often runs until 11 or 12, and another around 4 pm that goes until 5 or 6.


Golden.

But lately, that has been falling apart.

Continue reading

The Time Draws Nigh (In Which I Agonize About Going Back To Work And Am Both Successful And In Deep Trouble Simultaneously)

Tags

, , , , , , ,

How has it been nearly a year since Fritter was born? Where did the time go?

  
I have spent the last month or two slowly gearing back up to work mode, because in a month I am going to have to go back into the world of unmet expectations and absolutely no down time which is the life of the working mother.

I don’t wanna.

I don’t want my cuddly baby to get bigger.

I don’t want to leave her at daycare because she has some stranger issues (which I will discuss at some point).

I don’t want the stress of having to meet people’s expectations, avoid judgement, etc.

I don’t want to lose the hour and a half of down time I get every day during Fritter’s morning nap while Owl is at school.

I don’t want any of it. I LIKE maternity leave.

 
But, since it isn’t a choice, what I really want is to get my dog training business going, and going HARD. Because training dogs pays between 40 and 70 dollars an hour and working at the vet clinic… doesn’t. Also because it’s one of my life dreams, along with being an author.

Continue reading

Be It Ever So Humble

Tags

, , , , ,

I had a new experience this year, while “home” for Christmas in Nova Scotia.

…I missed home.

West Coast home.

…Things have changed.

While I spent my early childhood in Ontario and the Caribbean before settling in Nova Scotia, the Maritimes were always “home” to me.

sackville

I loved my home town and my university fiercely, and I have made many, many, many posts about how much I miss it, and how much I love the close-knit culture of the East Coast. Perfect Husband, who grew up on the South Shore, feels the same.

It used to be that whenever we traveled back to Nova Scotia, we would be hyper-vigilant to change: That store moved to a different location! That other store is gone! Someone repainted that house! They put in a STOP SIGN!

Things change all the time, slowly, but when you’re only home once every year or two you see them all at once, and it feels like you have entered some sort of strange parallel universe where everything looks slightly wrong.

Perfect Husband especially would get indignant about changes made to his neighbourhood back home (which is the sort of neighbourhood where people look out the windows and wonder “who is that?” when they see an unfamiliar car).  It hurt him to see developers come in and destroy his old stomping grounds and built large vacation homes on top. It hurt more when one of the wealthy retirees who moved into those houses called the home where he and his four siblings grew up a “quaint little cottage”.

img_4372

That was his home, and it has been largely plowed over and rebuilt, and he resents it.

But we have come to accept over the years that Nova Scotia is not our personal museum, and now it has gotten to the point where I am surprised by what hasn’t changed after all this time: The local convenience store is still there, with the same sign. My favourite Pita Place, still going strong. The neighbourhood houses which seem to have used the exact same Christmas lights for the past twenty years.

The changes no longer faze me. I have accepted that life goes on. I’m just delighted by what stays the same.

Nova Scotia has also emptied itself. Most of my friends have evacuated in search of jobs that suit their education level. Of the remaining old friends and relatives, I only saw a couple. Traveling was challenging for us with two kids in tow, and they didn’t have the time or inclination to travel to see us. They were all busy with their own lives and kids during the holidays and I am just not relevant to those lives any longer.

It isn’t their fault, it’s mine – I’m the one who left. Besides, with Facebook I can still chat with them and see pictures of them and their families, so maybe the need to see each other in person is less urgent because of that.

Really, I was touched by the couple of people who did take time out of their day to meet up with me when I was passing through their region. The holidays are a busy time, and the weather was not always great. So it meant a lot to me when they did.

Nova Scotia just… doesn’t belong to me any more, and it doesn’t miss me or need me. I felt strangely superfluous on this visit, except among immediate family.

Meanwhile, BC has been growing on me slowly for a long time. It took me years to start putting down real roots, and up to a few years ago I desperately missed Nova Scotia and wanted to go home.

But I finally built a strong support network of friends. Besides, the mountains and the cherry blossoms get to you over time, and I have started to take pride in the beauty.

img_1746

I loved the look on my Mother In Law’s face on her first week staying with us last year, when she saw crocuses coming up. Just small trips around town had her amazed.

“I went to the grocery store and they had FLOWERS on display outside!”

“…isn’t that normal?”

“Carol, it’s JANUARY!”

“Wait until you see the fruit and vegetable market. It doesn’t have walls.”

And when my parents came out, they kept taking pictures of daffodils while their friends back home sent them photos of snow piles up past their shoulders.

It made me proud, because BC is starting to feel like it is mine.

pitt lake

 

 

I love the early spring, and the long, dry, but not-too-hot summers. I love the snow on the mountains, and the mix of skin colours, languages, cultures and cuisines all around us.

So, while I cherished every day of our time with the family, and I ate a lot of pitas, it also felt really good to come home. I missed our bed, our bathroom, and even our cluttered, toy-laden living room and minuscule kitchen.

It’s not perfect, but it’s ours.

And I kept getting texts from my friends here, asking when they could see me, now that I was finally back… back home.

The Cancer Principle: Depression is Okay, Abuse Is Not

Tags

, , , , , ,

I joined a support group online for people with depressed or bipolar spouses. I expected to find other people who know what it is like to sit downstairs alone in the evenings imagining life after their husband’s suicide.

What I didn’t expect was to end up becoming a relationship counsellor.800px-Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_002.jpg

Some people are angry and impatient with their spouse’s depressive symptoms. They use words like “lazy” and “can’t be bothered” and “selfish”. I have to remind them that depression is a disease and should be treated as such. They shouldn’t go around getting angry at someone for being sick.

There’s a difference between “won’t” and “can’t”. People with depression often CAN’T get out of bed, CAN’T interact positively and CAN’T pull it together for important family events.

Others are putting up with horrific levels of verbal and emotional and occasionally physical abuse, and blaming it on the depression/mania/addiction. They talk about how their husband tried to choke them and threatened to kill them and say “I had to call the cops. I felt so guilty, I really hate this illness. I know he won’t understand why I did it, either. He’ll think I am against him.”

I have to remind them that depression or bipolar disorder is not a get-out-of-abuse-free card that gives someone carte blanche to emotionally damage their loved ones, particularly their children. You shouldn’t stay with someone who abuses you or puts your children at risk physically or emotionally just because the person is ill, especially when that person keeps insisting that this is all somehow your fault.

But how, people are always asking, do you know what is okay and what is not? Why is okay for my wife to sleep through our daughter’s birthday party, but it isn’t okay for her husband to swear in front of the kids?

So I have developed a litmus test to tell what should, and what should not, be tolerated from a spouse.

The Cancer Principle

Since depression is a deadly disease which causes a wide range of known physical symptoms, I find that cancer makes a good analog because it is a deadly disease without the stigma that comes with mental illnesses. Depression is one of the leading causes of death in the world. Like cancer, some cases are worse than others, and some kinds are more curable than others.

Really, though, you could use any illness that is serious enough to put someone in the hospital. The point is to consider it from the point of view of “my spouse has a serious disease” and not “my spouse is abnormal”.

So, when your depressed husband or wife does something that makes you angry (and they will – it’s hard NOT to be angry when they suddenly sleep through an important event, or leave you scrambling for child care at the last minute, or snap at you for no good reason), ask yourself this:

Would this be considered acceptable if they had cancer?

For example – I go out for a walk with Owl and Perfect Husband is perfectly fine, watching football. I come back and discover that he has crashed in the hour that we have been gone. He is now in the throes of a suicidal misery. He snaps at me twice, then removes himself to the bedroom because he realises that he is growling like an injured bear.

Would this be considered acceptable if he had cancer?

I conclude that the answer is yes – if he had cancer and he suddenly started to feel sick or his pain medications wore off and he became very painful, it is understandable that he would become snappy and then retreat to the bedroom to be alone.

On the other hand, if he had gone onto a verbally abusive tirade calling me a “selfish whore” and threatened to hit Owl, that would NOT have been okay, no matter how much pain he was in.

For example – Perfect Husband agrees to watch the baby while I go to train a puppy. When the day arrives, he has been unconscious for two days and is clearly going to sleep through today as well. I have to cancel the appointment and reschedule it with apologies.

Would this be considered acceptable if he had cancer?

Yes! He was feeling better and thought he could handle it, but then he had a relapse and had to take medications which made him very sleepy and unable to take care of his child. If that was due to cancer, that would be totally understandable.

So I was not angry with him.

On the other hand, if he had agreed to watch the baby and then went out partying with friends and didn’t come back until 5 am, only to fall on the bed dead-drunk, that would not have been okay whether or not he had cancer, so I would have had the right to be angry with him about it.

For example- I watch Breaking Bad. Walter White’s wife discovers that her husband is manufacturing and selling meth, and his contacts with the drug underworld is putting himself and her family in serious danger. He has cancer. Does that make his behaviour okay?

No!

The Cancer Principle. It works every time.

Once someone argued with me, saying “I think there’s a caveat – if they aren’t seeking treatment. My husband sleeps all day and snaps at all of us and he won’t get help and that’s not okay.”

Okay, so then you ask yourself, if he had cancer, and it was making him sick and miserable and yet he refused to seek treatment for his cancer (not even palliative/symptomatic treatment), would that be okay?

No!

The Cancer Principle, man. It WORKS.