There Is Comfort In The Vicious Cycle

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I sat in the middle of our bed. Of our marriage bed. But I was alone. So completely and utterly alone, even though I knew he was downstairs in the garage taking his frustration at me out on his car.

My legs were crossed, my nose was running and the tears were falling. I wiped my nose on the baggy purple shirt I liked to wear when I was lounging around, and something about the runny nose and the indian style seating choice made me feel like a little girl again, not the 31 year old confident and strong woman that I had become.

I had just told my husband I wanted a divorce. No. SHRIEKED at my husband that I wanted a divorce, and since when had I become a woman who shrieked about anything. Since when had I become that needy, nagging woman who SHRIEKS out a series of profanities and accusations which essentially surmounted to the plea of “see me, I’m here”.

And now, sitting in the middle of the bed, feeling like a preschooler waiting for story time, I waited for what I knew would come next.

See, the realization had just hit me that this relationship was bad for me. Whether it was my fault, or his fault, the path we were on was the wrong path for ME. And when you have that kind of clarity, placing blame becomes less important than you ever though it would be. Because, this man whose life you tied to yours not only willingly, but happily, this man is never going to change. Even though he wants to make you happy, and he knows that in order to make you happy he has to be different. Even though he tries to be different, but who can blame him that he just doesn’t know how to be your way when he’s been his way for thirty years.

And how can I blame myself that when I fell in love with him, he was a different person. He was a more easy going person, he was a more attentive person, he was a nicer person. HE was the person I walked down the aisle to on that Fall afternoon. HE was the person who I spent nights wrapped up in; late nights and early mornings running my hands over the length of his back, feeling the raised spots where he was tattooed, tracing those raised spots as if they were a map to my ultimate happiness, to my very existence.

Because although we feel old, we are very young, and very naive. Although we feel like we’ve been through a lot together, it is the tip of the ice berg. We have a son together. A beautiful, curly haired cherub who represents the best of us both. Seeing his face reminds me of the two very distinct individuals we were when we came together and meshed together, at times peacefully and at times kicking and screaming.

For a small moment in time it was just the two of us, and that was when we were at our best. Discovering each other, feeling that every touch was exciting and new, but laced with a familiarity you only encounter when you begin to see a real future with another person. Not a fantasy future with beach houses and European travels, but the kind of future that consists of cooking dinner together, bickering over what color to paint the kitchen, celebrating holidays together, growing old together…

And now, fast forward five years. A million smiles and kind words turned into a million dirty looks and well aimed insults. Staring into each others eyes transformed into staring at our respective smart phones. The weight of being responsible not only for ourselves and sustaining our romance, but for the actual well being of other human beings resting firmly on our shoulders. Instead of making the load easier for each other, we argue about who has it worse. I think he’s distant and cold, he thinks I’m crazy and irresponsible. And we turn to each other for nothing.

Still cross legged on the bed, still crying, still waiting for the inevitable footsteps to ascend the stairs which signify he has had enough time to think and ponder on what a life apart from each other really means, as I am doing the same. Separately, instead of together.

And then he will come into the room, settle himself next to me, look me straight in the eye and say “I’m sorry”, and try to pull me into his arms. I’ll resist, my heart still broken, my eyes still burning with tears. We will talk about how “sorry” is an empty sentiment coming from him now, preceded by so many other apologies and promises to “do better”. I will tell him that a temporary change is not enough, a week of good behavior does not forgive the months of bad behavior that came before and will most certainly come after.

But he will be persistent and focused, one of the things I absolutely loved about him when we first met. I’m not sure when his focus shifted from me to everything else but me. I’m not sure when his OCD and ADD became an ongoing frustration for me instead of something cute I taunted him about. All I know is that now, with his arms circling around me, his familiar scent surrounding me, and his comforting words washing over me, I want so badly to believe that THIS TIME things will change. That when I say “this is what I need”, he will give it to me. I’ve never asked him for anything that he wasn’t capable of giving. I’ve never asked to be the center of his universe, only a part of it.

And although this cycle, vicious and disappointing as it is, is comforting. Because on the most basic and emotional level, I don’t want to be without this man. I want to spend every night for the rest of my life running my hands over his back as his hair turns from brown to gray.

There is that wicked hope that snakes through your resolve that if we engage in this dance enough times, we will begin to change our steps.

I want to change our steps.

Photo credit: Stephanie Vindigni

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The “Reminiscence Bump” and How It Hurts Us All

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perception

Have you ever wondered why it feels like your days melt into each other? Why you lose track of what day of the week it is, sometimes what month it is?

I remember being a kid and it felt like it took FOREVER for Christmas to get here. From Thanksgiving to Christmas morning felt like a million years, and now it feels like Christmas hits in a split second and I’m usually not ready for it. Is time actually moving faster than when I was eight years old, or am I just perceiving it that way? And if it’s my own perception, why is that happening… and how can I make it stop!

I did a little research on this strange phenomenon, and came up with some interesting information that will cause me to live my days a little differently from now on. I hope it does the same for you.

When you’re a child, or a young adult, everything is new to you. Every day is a new experience because you’re encountering things you probably have never encountered before.This is called the reminiscence bump. We even remember more from books we read and films we saw in those formative years. This is possibly because memory and identity are so closely related. We hold on to those experiences from our youth because that is when we were developing our identity, who we are and who we wanted to be. These are the years when we had our first kiss, our first love, our first notable achievements; the things that are highly emotional and like book marks in our memories.

Then we get older. We have all our shining moments filed away in our mind; high school graduation, college, first real job, getting married, having a baby, buying a house… all the milestones that we talk about when we’re old and gray. And the worst thing EVER happens. We fall into a routine…

We get up in the morning. We get our coffee from the same place every morning, we take the same route to the same job we’ve been working for five plus years. We sit at the same desk and we see the same people and our brain, well it just stops recording these events because it’s seen them so many times. Hence, it feels like our days and weeks fly because because our memory has taken a vacation. Nothing noteworthy is happening, it doesn’t feel it has a job to do.

I guess the most important issue at hand is not the science of WHY it happens, but how do we prevent life from becoming one blur of commutes and tv dinners. Here are some tips I’ve integrated into my own life recently, and they have actually made a huge impact not only on slowing time down a bit, but my personal happiness.

1. Wake up earlier:

Even if you have nothing to do and no where to go. Wake up about an hour earlier than you’re used to. Have your coffee at home instead of on the go. Sit outside and watch the sun rise or spend a little snuggle time in bed with your puppy and the paper.

2. Talk to different people:

I’m not saying avoid conversation with your office mate, but seek out different people to talk with. Standing in line at the grocery store? Lift your head up from your smart phone and engage the person next to you. If you go to a party or work event, don’t talk to the people you already know, talk to their guests that you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. For me, I travel around a little bit for work, but even so I find that I stick to the same familiar people in each location that I know. The other day I struck up a conversation with a new co worker that I hadn’t really talked with yet and found out we had a whole lot in common.

3. Expose yourself to different music

If you’re like me, my music exposure is usually limited to my Spotify playlist of about 1,500 songs. There is an area in Spotify that is labeled “Discover” and I’ve been trying to go into it at least once a week and listen to different genres, even different languages of music. It activates a part of my brain that has been laying dormant due to familiarity. Sometimes I cringe at what I hear, but I have found a couple tunes that I really dig, and have added to my old faithful playlist.

4. Change your route

Give yourself some extra time, and take the scenic route to work today. The weather is warming up, it’s time to turn your new music up, roll your windows down, and check out the town you live in. Hopefully get into some less populated areas if possible. Drive by some water or farmland. See how different the sky looks and the air smells when you aren’t surrounded by buildings and cars. This has probably been the tip that has worked out for me the best. I’ve taken to snapping pictures of the scenery and looking back on them later with a smile.

5. Turn the television off

This was the hardest tip for me. I’m a big TV watcher. I have Netflix, Hulu Plus, cable, a DVR… I can’t MISS anything. And it’s pretty much a waste of time but it makes me happy. With two kids I’m not getting out the movies a whole lot, so the television has become my entertainment. But it has also begun to kill my brain. I have three or four books I’ve purchased but have not yet cracked open. I used to devour books like they were Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. That was when I was younger. Now, reading sometimes feels like too much work on my already tired mind. I’d rather just sit in front of the TV and let Law and Order do the work. Recently, I’ve been trying to cut the cord and turn off the television. I’ve been weaning myself slowly. An hour a day that I want to watch something, I’ll pick up one of those books and get lost in it. I’ve rediscovered my love of books and the worlds they transport you to, and I couldn’t be happier.

If you aren’t a big reader, do something else. Make a model airplane, if you’re into that. Go take a walk around the neighborhood. Call an old friend, or hey, your mother. Go through old photographs and start making that memory book you’ve been swearing you would for years. We don’t realize how much time we waste watching TV, but let’s do the math quick.

Two one hour shows a day, doesn’t feel like much… at the time. But that’s 14 hours a week, 90 hours a month, 1,080 hours in a year…that is 45 days a year spent watching television. Over a month of your precious life a year is wasted. Ouch. I don’t want to do the math anymore.

6. Get Active

I know some people aren’t gym people and I’m not going to sit here and say you should be. I go to the gym often and I still don’t really LIKE it, but I know I feel better after I’ve gone, and that is something that is important to me.

You don’t have to go the gym, though! Play with your pets, throw a ball around with your kids, take a brisk walk, bring your kids to the playground and run around like you were ten again. Swing on the swings, burn your legs on the slide, climb around on the jungle gym. (This is a little harder to do if you don’t have kids as a cover, but I still highly suggest it) Bringing yourself back to your childhood when things were sweeter and simpler can only make you feel that way again. I’ve done it, I still love doing it. I love pumping my legs to swing as high as I can and imagine jumping off, but I don’t because my 30 year old legs can’t withstand the shock my ten year old legs could have. I love feeling freed, the wind whipping through my hair. It is priceless, and indescribable, although I’ve tried. So don’t take my word for it, DO IT!

Let’s not allow ourselves to walk through life without living it. The worst thing that will ever happen to you is for you to open your eyes, realize your 75 years old and you’ve spent the last 50 of those years taking the same route to work, drinking the same coffee, watching the same programs in the same mind set. Even a small change can make a HUGE difference.

Do it for yourself. Do it for your life. And pass it on.