A Little Art Therapy

About a month ago my very bossy therapist (LMAO)  encouraged me to start painting. She wanted to see what emotions would emerge on paper, the colors I used, and the feelings I could name for what I drew.

“HOLD ON THERE, ” I thought. “I can’t even draw stick figures.” And so, like most things my therapist suggests, I resisted. I mean, writing comes easily but drawing….NEVER. And if I was going to invest in something; I wanted to do something I would excel at. The truth was if I couldn’t be Rembrandt I wanted no part of it. Yet, since my therapist is Miss All-Knowing, I decided to take her cue and give it a try.

Frankly, I was surprised what emerged from my hand onto the paper. The first pictures screamed in rage but as I drew I found that anger lessening with each picture. Those pictures that I was unable to express the images I felt … I found them, copied them, and then added to them to make them my own. They are rough, scary, beautiful…all of what my heart and soul has experienced during the past three  traumatic years.

And here is the funny thing. When I first started drawing I found I could not leave the words out of the pictures. Since I write professionally, I guess it should come as no surprise that words gave me comfort and a sense of familiarity that was hard to walk away from. But Miss All-Knowing insisted that I take the words out so I could no longer hide behind those words. What a struggle that turned out to be!

As much as I hate to admit it, doing all this artwork is producing a change in myself. I feel more at peace and my anger/pain has diminished.  Although I will never be a great artist there are several things that I have learned about the similarities between art and life in these few short weeks as I have explored this unused side of me and what I have discovered is this:

  1. The fewer words you use; the less explaining you have to do.
  2. Getting “stuck” in life or in art curtails the creative process. Just keep on forging ahead even though nothing fruitful appears to be emerging..
  3. Art, like life, is meant to be fun. Don’t take it all so seriously.
  4. Chances are, the more you try to fix, something the bigger mess you will end up with.
  5. Almost nothing turns out the way you expected when you first started your masterpiece.
  6. If you go with the flow and just let the colors end up where they are supposed to you will cut down considerably on your stress.
  7. Life, like paint, is meant to be free flowing, not stagnant.
  8. Leave your painting/emotions alone and come back to them later. Often you will see things in a different light later on.
  9. Less is often better in painting and in life.
  10. Trying to control all aspects of your life and your creation will often result in untold and needless suffering.
  11. Do anything enough and you will get better at it whether it be artwork or improved communication.
  12. Shut up and let your actions/work speak for themselves.
  13. Trying too hard is just as detrimental as not trying hard enough.
  14. In life as in art; have no expectations about the results.

Funny thing. While I am still not crazy about drawing and the like I have developed enough of an interest that I have found the need to learn a few of the “how to’s” of painting..  And so this weekend I attended my first water color class. While I am unsure whether this turn of events is due to the curiosity factor or my foolish need for “perfection” I am unsure; but either way I find I am enriching myself and growing beyond the artificial borders that I once set for myself… and what more could you ask of yourself?

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LIFE CHANGING MOMENTS

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Even though we are still together, that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a lot of sorrow and pain over the last nine months. Pain that sometimes has cut so deep that I felt that I could feed the universe with the blood/tears that have been spilled as a result of the affair and B’s sister’s involvement with it. There were times that I felt so empty of a once-vibrant life-force living within me that I felt that a transfusion was the only option left.

To say that the past three years were difficult is an understatement of gigantic proportions..

Yet, over the past nine months life has improved.. There have been moments of deep distrust alternating with moments of trust coming like scattered drops of rain on the parched desert floor. There have been moments of joy mixed with an even greater number of episodes of sadness. The laughter has been increasing while the angry words and accusations have been decreasing. The balance of the scales once tipped towards the negative are increasingly moving and staying on the positive side. Often it is a dance of three steps forward and two steps back. In truth, the two steps back have often involved said sister. She has caused many issues that have often impeded healing of the relationship. It’s often feels like the band-aid keeps getting ripped off by her hand.

But the other day something happened concerning said sister and after B took action on his own I thought to myself “I think he might actually love me again.” In fact, it was such a profound act of sacrifice on his part that I wrote a note to myself which read:

“It was at that moment when my sorrow turned to song.”

And for me it really was.

It was one of those rare “life-changing, perception-changing, Ah-ha moments” that make such a huge impact on you and your relationship that you know you can never go back to what was. It was a moment that forces you to move forward because that is truly the only way you were meant to go. It was a moment which allowed me to move closer to true forgiveness and understanding. A moment which encouraged me to let go of the hurt and embrace what is now happening now with greater clarity. It was a moment in which B showed me great love, compassion, understanding and did what I needed and not what he wanted.

So today… I sing… and the sorrow drifts by quickly like clouds on a windy day. I will sing tomorrow too and the day after that. Because sometimes moments actually are life-changing and they deserve to be celebrated in song.

Self-Improvement

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Several weeks ago an older woman walked up to me and told me that she really liked how I talked to my son. I was shocked because I did not feel that I had done a good enough job to merit that type of praise. In fact, as I often do, I felt as though I had “kind-of-sort-of failed” in my response.

Later as I reflected on the moment I thought, ” Why, if a stranger can be so kind to me, then why is it so difficult for me to be kind to myself? Why do I seem to negate recognizing the good that I do each day? Why is it I always feel the need to do better?”

As I have contemplated this the last several weeks I have realized that I often end my day examining those things that I feel I have failed or done a less than spectacular job at according to some invisible standards I hold for myself. And so, I have been contemplating and asking myself: where did these standards even come from and what makes me give them the validation that they so often don’t deserve?

In response to this, I have begun a nightly ritual in an effort to change this part of my life. Upon laying down in bed at night, I hug myself tight, and make a mental list of all the things I did right that day and if I am in doubt about one of them I give myself a win anyway. At the end of this recap I am write down the improvements I have seen in myself as a way to encourage myself as I take this journey through life. I give myself the chance to see the positive through a lens of critical assessment that I have lived with for a very long time. At times, It has been difficult to see positive change because I am so used to being harsh with myself, but little by little, even though I may fall short of my “invisible standards;” I am finding instances in which I deserve my own pat on the back even though I have not behaved perfectly. And I find, that when I wake in the morning I seem to be much more optimistic than I had previously been.

Often newly married couples are given the advice not to go to bed mad at each other because it leaves a sour taste in your mouth the next morning. The same could be said of ourselves. Going to bed with negative thoughts begets negativity in the morning. So try noticing your good points and successes throughout the day and run through the list before retiring for the night. You might just find you sleep sounder and wake up feeling refreshed.

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Post Infidelity Stress Disorder

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It’s been a while. Quite a long while actually. I haven’t been able to do the things I normally do as I concentrate on ridding myself of the negative thoughts and images that have floated through my mind since I found out about B’s affair.  There has been a lot of canceling going on.

“He is a jerk”

“Cancel, cancel, cancel” (don’t say cancel out loud or the guys in the white coats might come for you) Just say “cancel” in your head and then look around and take in what you see:

“Oh the clouds look big a fluffy today”

“Look at that beautiful orange tomcat”

Anything that take your mind off the negativity and onto something different.

Anyway, last week I had an extreme reaction to something B said in the marriage counselors office which cause me to stand up and say that I needed to leave. NOW. We were discussing a possible move when B said, “I can move and get used to the job while you stay back at home with the kids!”

End of discussion on the part of B even though we have had this gone over this scenario before and I had said that this solution was unacceptable to me.

And so:

My heart started pounding.

My blood pressure and anxiety soared.

I felt like that walls were closing in on me and tried to flee the therapists office.

I flashed back to the time when B would not take me to China with him and I “knew” something was up when suddenly he was taking a side trip to Singapore (which I later found out was to rendezvous with our Vietnamese tour guide) I didn’t understand what was going on at that time but I knew that I felt intense confusion and pain about why B was so adamant that I could not go with him and why a discussion was not “forthcoming.”

I broke out in a sweat.

I began to itch.

The therapist looked at me as I kind of said something like:

“WHAT THE F***!!!! OH,HELL NO! YOU MADE THIS MESS AND YOU ARE NOT LEAVING ME TO CLEAN IT UP WHILE YOU GET TO TAKE IT EASY!”

I explained to both B and the therapist that this scenario was unacceptable to me. That I didn’t want to clean up B’s mess and have to deal with angry kids who would be afraid we were divorcing and couldn’t understand why we were not together as a family. I would not be alone with a child whose rage would be intense if he felt abandoned and I didn’t understand why someone who swears he wants to be with me would even consider that an option and if that was the way it was going to be then we might as well not be together.

I heard something about B thinking of the logistics in a “practical” manner while I was looking at them from the heart. And then I left.

The next week I was at my therapists office and I mentioned to her that I thought I might  have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and began to relate what happened to me at the marriage counselors office.

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“Of course, you have post traumatic stress disorder after what you have been through with B for the past three years. But in your case it is referred to as Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder (PISD) and there is a set of recognized symptoms that are brought on by the trauma of infidelity, ” she said.

WHO KNEW? A big sigh of relief escaped my lips…so I wasn’t going crazy after all.

According to her, often the offended partner has extreme reactions to circumstances because they are now operating from a hyper-vigilant state where nothing feels safe or real. And while it may not be as traumatizing as prolonged war or physical abuse, the experiences of the cheated on spouse often echoes the symptoms of PTSD. Symptoms of PISD include:

  1. Exposure to a perceived life-threatening event (end of marriage, constant lies, betrayal of trust, etc)
  2. Emotional numbing
  3. Inability to stop seeking more information about the affair or what your spouse is currently up to
  4. Increased anxiety
  5. Intense feelings of fear or helplessness
  6. Feelings of irritability and rage
  7. A re-experiencing of the event or events
  8. Avoiding things that remind us of the affair
  9. Repeated intrusive thoughts
  10. Anger or blaming of ones self (“If only”)

Obviously, I am no expert on the subject but since I have discovered that I have symptoms of PISD, I am learning what I can about it and how to heal from it. The one thing I do know is this it will take time.

For those of you interested in the subject you can find a good article that discusses PISD it here:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rediscovering-love/201709/how-infidelity-causes-post-traumatic-stress-disorder

I have also started reading a book on the subject on the advice of my therapist. The title is Transcending Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder by Dennis Ortman, PhD which is available on Amazon. It has been extremely helpful so far.

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So I continue on this journey. It is a trip I didn’t ask for and one I didn’t plan. Sometimes it angers me that I have been forced down this rabbit hole by the person I trusted most in the world. A husband who selfishly who pushed me into this land of self-discovery. Yes, many of the things I have learned or done have been helpful but I still wish I had been the one to decide if and when I wanted to confront the issues that I have been working on. But for now I try not to dwell on the “what if’s” and instead I attempt to embrace this new post-affair life of mine. Some days I succeed and some days I don’t but if nothing else I am teaching my children that if life throws you curve balls you keep swinging that bat until you connect even if that connection is only with one’s self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Betrayal II-Liar, Liar Your Dicks On Fire

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So the saga of my thirty+ year marriage continues.

After being assured by my husband that he loves me and will do anything for his family I told him I needed to have completed access to his phone which he agreed to. I asked many questions including wether he had seen her or not. He assured me that he had not and that she would not have sex with him if he was with his wife…how noble of her!

Later my oldest daughter Nicole called me. She said, ” I am sending you a picture that you need to see. It is dad with her in Singapore. She put the picture up after you emailed her.” (In that email I told her she was a fool and told her that she was not the only one he was doing this with. Did she really think that she was the only one?)

B and I were taking a walk with me asking questions. I opened the photo and saw him with the Chickie. He spent four days in Singapore fucking her last January. I asked him again, “Did you see her in Singapore?”

“No”

“Really, so what is this?” I asked showing him the picture.

“I don’t know who that is”

“It is you with her in Singapore, you dick. Recognize it now?”

He went white.

“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to lose you or my family.”

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Soon another text from my daughter. Worse still…seems my husband’s sister Jo is Friends with Chickkie on Facebook. I saved her daughter’s life and that is the thanks that I get. WOW! To me, for whatever reason, that is the biggest betrayal of them all. You love her so much you are already having your sister welcome her to the family!

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More texts from my daughter. The woman has four Facebook pages all with different names. My daughter then sends her a message that says “If you keep in touch with my Dad I will send your naked picture all over the internet including on your tour company site.” (Honey, I don’t think you should do that!)

The very unfortunate thing about all this is our children found out. I was packing to leave and told my son “Dad has hurt me deeply and I need a few days to clear my head. This has nothing to do with your you, your brother or sister. Sometimes adults disappoint each other and just like you need time away from your brother I need a little time away from your father, not you.”

He turned away from me angry and wouldn’t let me touch him.

“Honey, this is not my fault. This is due to a hurt that your Dad has done.”

B jumped in. “It is all my fault. Don’t blame your mother. I did something that hurt her very much and she didn’t deserve it. I am hoping she can forgive me (yeah thanks for putting that part in…making it my fault if I don’t forgive him…that is slick!)

Remember the telephone at the beginning of all of this…this is where it gets ugly.

Before I left I went and asked to see B’s phone. He said no.

“You promised,” I replied.

He handed it over nervously. I went to messenger and saw Chickie’s sister’s Face Time at the very top so I pressed the button. He went ballistic and tried to grab the phone. I tried to keep it away from  him. He grabbed me by the arm that just got out of the sling. One thing led to another and because he was hurting me…I bit him. Over thirty years of marriage and we have never had a physical altercation in our entire lives…until now. At this point our kids walked in the front door and her us yelling about HER (they have never heard us yelling like that at each other EVER). I got the phone and went into the bathroom. My hands were shaking so hard, well, that darn IPhone jumped out of my hand and into the toilet. Now neither of us could talk to her.

“I guess if she doesn’t matter to you like you have said, you wouldn’t have cared if I called her but obviously she means more to you than I do. Tell you what your fears have all come true. Everyone knows and you have imploded our family. Now go to her. You are free.”

My son went outside and lost it and started hyperventilating and saying he couldn’t feel his legs and it went down from there into a full collapse. I spent time trying to calm him…it was the worst thing I have ever felt in my heart, ever.  Gracie wouldn’t come out from under her covers. We have a totally traumatized family.

I am sleeping at a friends house. My life is a shambles. My kids are traumatized. My husband is without a job.

Life is good…and then it is not.

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Betrayed OR Liar Lair Pants On Fire

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So Thursday B walked in the door ashen and with tears in his eyes. After 14 years of being the president of his company he was sacked. I said and did all the right things, loved on him and told him everything would be okay. I was the perfect wife.

After several hours of being at home he decided to download all the family pictures from his phone onto my computer since he was afraid his company would turn off his phone. Since then my computer has been running slow because he added over 2,000 pictures to it so today I decided to delete some after moving them to The Cloud. As I was going through them…SURPRISE!!!! …..I found a naked picture of a woman. Long story short, it was our tour guide from Viet Nam. The woman I had been sending money to occasionally to help her family….guess she decided to go after a bigger fish…B!

B confessed that he has been communicating with her for 1 1/2 years.  That he has thought of going to see her….wonder if that is why he was so adamant that I could not go to China with him? I asked him if he has communicated with her since he gave me the commitment ring…he has…yep, that is commitment for you! I told him I wondered if that was one of the reasons he got fired because IT saw numerous naked pictures on his electronic devices.

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Frankly, I feel good. Glad to know that my suspicions were not unfounded. Glad to know that these past two years have really been about him and not me. Glad to find out that he is a sex addict according to him. Yes, I am glad to know all of it. Glad to know he gave me the commitment ring on Christmas and talked to her after. Glad to know that when he sent the text from Boy Scout Camp that he wasn’t sure he had the passion or love to sustain our relationship, that he had just received naked pictures from her. I am glad to know all of this because now I know that I need to believe and trust in myself and I know without a doubt that he had one foot out of the door and was not giving me his all. And now I know what I need to do.

P.S. And to all of you who have told me so…I am sorry I didn’t believe you or kinda didn’t believe you. I was a fool.

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Beets And Betty Davis Eyes

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BEETS

Several years ago, in preparation for an upcoming trip to Scotland, I started working ernestly on our family trees and found we are related to many Kings and Queens from France, England, the Netherlands, etc. Needless to say this has provoked many interesting conversations around our house.
Andre: Beets? Beets? You know I don’t like beets.
Me: You are going to have to try them. They will taste great.
Andre: I know what happened to the kings in our family
Me: What
Andre: Their mothers fed them beets
Me: Eating beets has never killed anyone
Andre: Want to make a bet? I bet if you analyzed their stomach contents you would find beets.
Me: Why Do you think that?
Andre: Anything can be hidden in beets
(Not to be outdone) Paul: Yeah the color hides everything
Andre: I am sure they were poisoned with beets
Me: Doubtful. Who would want to poison them?
Andre: Their mothers
Me: WHATTTTTTTTT?  Mothers would not poison their children.
Andre: Oh yes they would
Me: Come on, Andre. You are letting your imagination run away with you
Why would a mother do that?
Andre: Because they want the power.
Me: What?
Andre: Women didn’t have power and they wanted it. It’s been that way through history. Mothers always want to find a way to control their children. You can’t deny it can you?! And beets were the way to power.
Me: You will still be eating your beets.
Andre: Drats. I thought this little history lesson would change my history with beets.
Me: No way, dude.

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BETTY DAVIS EYES

The things your kids share with you in the car.
Andre: I think it would be awesome to be able to read someone’s mind.
Me: Why is that
Andre: Because you could do all sorts of wonderful things for them like buy them the puppy they have always wanted.
Me: Andre, you are the one who wants a puppy
Andre: I’m just saying…you know there would be one time when it wouldn’t be so good to know what someone is thinking.
Me: When would that be?
Andre: When they are sitting on the toilet going to the bathroom. I mean the things that go through your mind when you are on the toilet…well they are just not things you want others to know
Me: Is that why you spend 30 minutes at a time in the bathroom?
Andre: Might be

 

I’m Depressed

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I’m depressed. There. I said it. I’m depressed.

Frankly, it worries me as I have never allowed myself to go there. With so many people depending on me and a sister who spent time in a mental hospital; I have never before let myself plumb the depths of the despair I am feeling. However, now I am trying to give myself permission. Permission to explore what is on the other side of two years of marriage chaos and confusion. Permission to grieve for dreams that have been pushed aside by reality and for children who struggle due to the challenges of autism. Permission to just feel what I need to feel, even if it hurts. And permission to feel those deep rooted emotions and to not intellectualize my feelings as all the intellectualizing I do just makes me hurt worse.

I will confess this intense feeling of sadness scares me to my core. Not because I am afraid to feel those lows but because when you have had a family member who has experienced hospitalization due to her mental health issues and you have spent years dealing with hers…well, I just don’t want to put my family into that vat of pain and helplessness you can’t help but feel when surrounded with all of that. Yet, my therapist said to me that I have the skill set to survive if not thrive while looking at those things that make me uncomfortable and sad. And after reading Thomas Moore’s The Dark Night Of The Soul I know that there is plenty to be gained by going there for a brief respite. But still, I hesitate, my feet in cement for fear of going in too far or deep. For fear of becoming like my sister. Of letting people down.  Of not “performing” the requirements that are expected in this one act play that I am living.

I know I need to take a look at what is coming up from the depths of my soul. I know that I need to allow myself to feel these intense feelings. I suspect that it is similar to drilling for oil while trying to contain the amount that surfaces at one time. And its also acknowledging  that what comes up will have to be refined in different ways depending on how it will be used. And I acknowledge that any spills that occur will give me new skills to better contain the overflow the next time.

If I had my way I would stay in bed for a week and pull the covers over my head. I would play every sad song I have ever heard and have a Bailey’s on the rocks sitting on my bed stand sipping it over several hours. Oh hell, maybe I would guzzle it instead. That is what I wanted to do today. BUT…I had to make breakfast and lunch for everyone, take them to school, take a kid to the doctor and another to get her allergy shots. I had to wait for the dryer repairman, do the dishes, and mop the floor. I had to pay bills, get the oil changed and attend a meeting. Tomorrow it is more of the same.

So, here I sit, one toe half in and half out of this deep sadness. This depression. Perhaps if I am brave enough I will step on in and let it take me where I need to go.  To places I have never visited but probably should. Only afterwards will I understand that there are things to be gained from examining things below the surface. And who knows…I may just strike the motherlode while I am exploring with the sheets making the perfect tent in which to hide away from the world.

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Dance

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Tonight I chaperoned a high school dance. The girls were glitzed and glammed, each out doing one another in the hair, makeup, and dress department.  The boys….well they were typical  teenage boys…nerdy, sweet, and 100 years behind the girls in just about every way imaginable. Most of them sat together and played video games while the girls stood around whispering to each other, laughing, and talking the talk. Meanwhile the boys who weren’t gaming, looked somewhat green around the gills, as if they were in intense pain trying to outdo one another to impress the girls with puffy-chest macho displays. Frankly, it’s a wonder that the two sexes ever come together at all.

After spending the first half of the evening checking the kids in (what do you mean you forgot your parental permission slip) I decided to head over to the dance floor in hopes picking up some new steps. Unfortunately, watching teenage boys move to the grove is like watching an elephant attempt to play the kazoo while dancing the lead in Swan Lake…there is NOTHING that can make it look pretty. Hips go one way while butts go another and I swear I saw a couple of heads do a 360 while sitting squarely on their shoulders. But the worst thing was the fact that not one of them could keep tempo to the music. It was like watching a little old man crossing the street using a walker…one speed only… with head bent and body stooped their bellies almost dragging on the ground. The ones still moving upright were sweating like Trump’s Communication Director when the President is in front of a microphone… never sure what ungodly thing might happen to destroy all their carefully laid plans.

Yet, with all the hormones on high alert things stayed sweaty but calm and everyone was having a good time, chaperones included. Something about the unchanging ways of nervous teens brings you back to your own school dance and you realize just how far you have come!

Of course, there is always some sort of drama. At our school dance this is the End Of The Night Song. It is the one and only slow dance that the deejay plays the entire night. Stomachs tense and butterflies alight and the girls begin to giggle as the time draws near. If the truth be told no one wants to dance the last dance and everyone is crushed if they don’t. As the first notes of Fade Into You began, I was surprised to feel a tap on my shoulder. When I turned around Paul was standing there.

“Would you like to dance, Mom?” he asked strong and sure in his choice.

“Me?” I asked.

“Sure. You’re the prettiest girl here.”

And as I stepped into his arms I knew without a doubt that all those years of hard work raising two children with autism had paid off.  I was obviously doing something right in this life and was finally reeping the rewards.