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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If I Didn’t Have Kids

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Every so often, as parents and adults, we will ship our children off to their grandparents (or another responsible party) for the night so we can as romantic partners and adults go to dinner and maybe a movie.

There have been a couple of those nights for us recently.

The first night that both children were away for home, we came home and kicked off our shoes. There was no little bodies to bathe or get into pajamas, the only person I had to worry about getting into pajamas was myself. There were no bed time stories to read or songs to sing, no last minute glasses of water or lunch money to lay out for the next day. I took a shower, got right into bed and watched THREE episodes of Orange Is The New Black in bed with my husband, alone, for the first time in a long time.

We looked at each other and laughed because we had both had the same thought. Is this what it would be like if we didn’t have kids?

Tonight we both had a work event so the kids were spending the night elsewhere, and I walked into my house after a long day of work and craziness expecting to feel a relief that I had no one but myself to worry about. I did not feel that relief.

The house was dark and quiet. There was a plate of chocolate chip muffins on the counter that Nev had made when she got home from school because she knows their my favorite. And I wanted to go up to her room to kiss her forehead and tell her thank you, but she wasn’t there of course.

I did not hear the pounding of little feet running towards me, or feel a little toddler body throw himself into my arms because he could not contain his happiness that I was once again within his reach. No, “I love you mama, I missed you mama”, just myself to worry about.

There was no bedtime stories to read with a curly little head still damp from his bath tucked under my arm. No songs to sing while I cradled a creature who holds more value to me than everything else in this world. No pajamas to put on while he tells me a story about a dragon and a princess with wide, expressive eyes. Those kind of eyes you find only on very young children who haven’t seen the worst the world has to offer yet.

And when I got into bed there were not two mini human beings clamoring to find a space near me just to have one more song, one more story, one more glass of water which really means one more minute together.

THIS is what it would be like if I didn’t have kids. I would only have myself to think about, but thinking about yourself doesn’t take a whole lot of time out of your day.

I have so much more to think about while raising children. Does she have lunch money? Did she do her homework? Is he making friends at school? Do they need new socks/underwear/toothbrushes? My days are filled with an infinite amount of questions swirling through my head that I am responsible for answering and acting on.

And while I’m thinking of them, they are thinking of me.

Nev bakes brownies and muffins when she gets home from school and leaves them for me. Aidan tells me one hundred times a day that he loves me. I am not being neglected, I am not sacrificing myself to care for others. I am very, very well cared for. I am very loved.

What is a “good man”?

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I have friends, women friends, who are single or with someone but unhappy. The general consensus between all these women seems to be that they want a “good man”.

Don’t ask them to have a general consensus about what a good man is, though, because obviously like anything else that definition is going to vary from person to person.

So, the dictionary of Stephanie comes into play. The most accurate definition of what a good man is. You asked for it, and here it is.

A Good Man:

A good man is someone who tells you that you’re beautiful every day. He looks at you with wide eyes when he says it, so you know he means it. A good man tells you this while not being able to keep his hands off of you. Loving, touching, squeezing; all that jazz.

A good man doesn’t JUST tell you that you look beautiful. He specifies what about you is beautiful, so you know it’s true. He tells you that you have flawless skin, or that you’re ass looks AHMAZING! (yea, ahmazing with an h, say it like this… ahhhhh mazing)

A good man cups his hands around your face and tells you that he loves you, he tells you that he’ll love you forever, and he believes it… so you believe it.

A good man looks like a homeless person, his hair is getting so long, yet when he has a chance to get it cut he stays home to pay the bills.

A good man rocks his son to sleep at night and listens to the same YouTube video over and over again because the two year old commands it. Even though he says, “only one more time”, he listens to this YouTube video an additional three times before tucking the little one snugly and warmly into bed and saying goodnight.

A good man gives you a back rub at night, even though he worked all day, even though his back probably hurts, too. But he doesn’t ask for one in return, he just gives.

A good man doesn’t want you to spend so much money on Starbucks coffee, it really drives him crazy, yet he has come to terms with the fact that it makes you happy, so he doesn’t say anything.

A good man cries when he sees you walking down the aisle at your wedding. He takes your hand, and even though he knows he is wearing a mic, tells you a plethora of emotional and loving things.

A good man stays with you through millions of hours of pregnancy, what feels like millions of hours of labor, and millions of hours of sleepless nights. He doesn’t understand what it is to carry and birth a child, but he really thinks it’s cool and amazing and recognizes the sacrifice on your part to do it.

A good man tells you that he loves that you have a strong personality, he laughs at your jokes and he listens to your rants. He knows who you were, accepts who you are, and sees who you could be.

This man does laundry, vacuums and makes sure you have a clean pillow to lay your head on at night. When you cook for him he always tells you it was good, and then he washes the dishes. He kills spiders, chases away bees, hangs pictures, washes cars, kisses away bruises and tears, pushes little bodies on swings and down slides, checks homework, makes beds, and shampoos carpets. He is tireless, and selfless, and maybe still looks homeless…

But he’s beautiful to you…

Because he’s strong, and sweet. Because his smile still makes you feel like the world is a good place, and his arms are still the safest place in the world for you. Because no matter what you do or what you say, what kind of evil witch or sulky little girl you turn into, he still sees you as his soul mate.

This is a good husband, a good father, a good person. A man who once told me that if all he left behind was the legacy that his children and his family viewed him as a “good man”, that this would be more than enough for him. Who could ask more from their partner in life? He doesn’t want riches or notoriety, he doesn’t need a high flying career or fast cars (although he would like them)…

All he needs in this life is to give himself to his family, to show them that he loves them and that he is there; every gray hair, every wrinkle, every puffy eye is because he is out there giving it his all for US. All he needs, all he wants, is to be the best for the people he loves…

And all I need is him.

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“He fills me up, he gives me love, more love than I’ve ever seen. He’s all I got, he’s all I got in this world, but he’s all the man that I need.” -Whitney Houston

My brain on music

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Anyone whose driven with me knows I have music ADD. I’m going to flip through my Spotify playlists randomly and manically, I’m going to listen to thirty seconds of one song and appear to be enjoying it before changing it to the next. It’s not necessarily true that I can’t find something I like, because it’s my music and I like it all! I’m waiting for, and hoping for, something to stick to me… to make me feel differently than I had a moment before it stuck to me.

And that is why music gets my vote as the coolest thing ever invented.. ever. Because on some days when you feel like you can’t feel, when you’re on autopilot and you don’t remember the last time you felt that tightening in your stomach they call excitement… the right song can make you feel alive again; especially if you sing along, LOUD.

Is music actually making an imprint on us as human beings; Physically, emotionally, mentally?

The answer to that is a resounding YES.

Music is born in and speaks to the most primal part of our brains. We know the beats in songs, the rise and fall of tempo, the expected and unexpected turns a certain song will take because it’s within each and every one of us. The beating of our hearts, the nervous tapping of fingers, breath cycling through our lungs. When trying to calm a crying baby, we bounce him up and down or make humming noises knowing these motions will soothe the baby. Knowing this because it’s what soothes us.

I’ve never felt so bipolar as when I’m listening to music for an extended period of time. In my thirty years on this Earth, I’ve had a lot of experiences. These experiences are all tied to a song or two, and when I hear that song I can be transported back within an instant. Back to my parents house when it was still my parents house and not the house we lived in after my father left. Watching my Dad work on the deck or plant flowers in the yard and listen to Billy Joel. Back to my high school hallways where I held hands with my first boyfriend and DMB played through the headphones we shared. Back to my first pregnancy where I sang Alicia Keyes to my unborn daughter, back to my second pregnancy where my son heard Adele nonstop.

These songs are stepping stones in my life, and have the power to bring me to my knees or lift me above the clouds. Nothing else, no one else, has that power over me. But since music is not perceived as a threat by my welcoming brain, I allow it to happen. My brain sees each chord, each key, each beautiful note as an old friend.

They didn’t have it wrong when the psychological and medical community stated it would be beneficial for young children to listen to music from a very young age. We know now that melody and language are processed in nearly identical brain regions. On top of all the evidence out there, children are naturally drawn to music from birth. Babies love to be sang to, toddlers are entranced by watching people sing or play instruments. There is something in us all that is innately drawn to music.

These artists have our number, though. There’s a little feeling of being manipulated when you listen to a song and feel that it’s being sung about you. How does John Legend know so much about my past relationship? Is my ex helping him right his songs?!

Nope. Even though you feel the lyrics are speaking directly to you, they are directed at the human experience. The inevitable heartbreaks and happinesses we all go through.

For me, Deep Inside of You by Third Eye Blind gets me every time. I feel like crying and I feel like being loved and I feel like having someone kiss me. I don’t think of anyone in particular, I just feel like the writer of the song intensely knew something about the human experience and every time I hear it I FEEL. I love to feel. Even if it’s crushed.

So play on. Flip through songs until you find one that sticks to you.