Musings of a Ping-Pong Ball

Friday morning. I knew what I wanted and needed to do, I just needed to know how. I was looking forward to my meeting with Wakana, in which I knew she would help me develop an effective plan. But as I was getting ready, Fox followed me into every room; I asked him to do laundry while I was out, so he started talking about it and folding sheets to put away while I was trying to get dressed. I noticed him scratching his face and asked if he wanted to shave so he decided to shave when I needed to wash my hands. Later he pulled out his katana to admire its blade, grinning at me, and cold terror rushed down my spine. I was shaking as I finished getting ready, thinking: how many times have I thought my anxiety was keeping me from leaving the house, when in reality he was causing it through his actions?

It was the first time I was ready to leave so early to get to a meeting with Wakana. I wanted nothing more than to get out of the house!

On the way to my session I put into words something I’ve probably been aware of for some time, but didn’t want to acknowledge consciously: it doesn’t really matter how much he wants our relationship to continue, or whether he’s willing to put in the work, because I’m not. I don’t want to continue our relationship. I want it to end, and I want him out of my house ASAP.

Wakana helped me solidify what I was going to do, gave me some words to use, and helped me feel strong. She also voiced the fear in the back of my heart: that as soon as Fox is gone, my mother is going to swoop in and gobble me up and we’ll be completely enmeshed again. She’s already been monopolizing a lot of my time, being supportive yes but also making her opinion of the situation very well known and chewing my ear off about things that frankly seem so minor and petty compared to ending my first marriage.

Friday night. I come home and Fox has two of our mutual friends over. We play a game in 2 teams and actually do a very good job of working well together. I have a good time. But then he and Friend A are obsessing over Pokemon, leaving Friend B and me out of their interactions. I try to start a conversation with Friend B and we are about 2 exchanges into it when Fox cuts through us: “[Friend B], if you need something to do, there’s a book behind you I think you’d find interesting.”

He cut me off to tell the person I was trying to interact with to look at a book – an activity that excluded me!

After our friends left we were hugging and he kissed me. I let him, hoping that maybe I would feel some of our romance return or something. To say I felt nothing is too generous. I felt like I wanted to get away. I felt hurt because he seemed to be enjoying it and the feeling was not mutual. Thank god he stopped and suggested we enjoy a dessert and started talking about video games. I could enjoy a conversation about video games.

Finally, I decided to go to bed. He tucked me in; I felt like a child. As soon as we said goodnight and he left the room, I cried. I cried for myself and for the pain I had to inflict on him: he had no idea.

I spent most of Saturday on the phone with Banji, gaining strength and resolve and confidence and figuring out exactly what I wanted to say. I had a plan: get in, say my piece, get out. I rehearsed it a few times, took a deep breath, and went in.

I have never seen anyone look so scared and devastated in all my life. It was painful to watch. It took every last ounce of my strength to say the words I had resolved to say; if I hadn’t had them memorized they would have gone unsaid. He asked me to stay so we could talk right then and there; I agreed. He said he had nowhere to go, no one who could take him in. He said he needs me if he’s going to get better; his mother has been trying to get him to go for therapy for years but I can motivate him to actually do it. He said he doesn’t want to discount our vows, or all we’ve been through together, or go for years never knowing if we could have made it work. He asked what I wanted in a life partner that he wasn’t fulfilling; I told him. He said he can be all of that if I stay with him. He said he doesn’t think separating is what’s best for us.

I believed him, because I wanted to. I saw all my own pain and dashed hopes and fears and desires in him in that moment. I held his hand and cried with him.

He said, “I’m willing to do the work. If, in two months, things haven’t gotten better, then I’ll accept that we need to separate. But I need to hope that we can make it work.”

I told him if he wanted to do this we needed marriage counseling and he should be the one to set it up. I told him I’ve been holding a lot back because I didn’t want to hurt him, and I need to be able to speak my mind. Sometimes he might feel hurt by what I have to say; sometimes we might fight and I need him to be okay with that. I expanded the idea of enthusiastic consent beyond sex and asked him to check in with me if I seem to be agreeing to something, but I’m not, well, enthusiastic about it. I told him that if he’s willing to separate if it doesn’t work out, then I’m willing to be open to the possibility that it might.

I also said these words out loud, because they are what my heart was screaming: “If you truly love me, then let me go.”

I felt better, because at least we were in the same chapter (if not on the same page) regarding our relationship. We were both painfully aware that it’s a mess and likely to fall apart. We were both mourning the (potential) loss of our shared goals and dreams and the breaking of our vows. We were two emotional wrecks, clinging to each other for dear life. It was the most raw, genuine interaction we’ve had in months. We were fully with each other.

Last night I just couldn’t sleep. My mind kept playing the piece I’m composing, which I haven’t touched since Tuesday night. Mom had said I could sleep in her guest bedroom if I needed to, so I went to take her up on that offer. We ended up talking; I’d kind of expected that and realized that part of why I couldn’t sleep was because I wanted to talk to someone (besides Fox) about our conversation.

My mother doesn’t understand the concept of active listening. She “listened” to what I said, then spewed her opinion all over me. She did it this morning, too. She thinks I’m being too nice to him and compromising my needs for his benefit. She’s worried that things will seem to get better just enough so I will stay with him allow him to stay here, and then they’ll go back to being unlivable. She’s concerned that I have a lot of things I need to be focusing on, but I’m not because of this. She thinks that I should end it now and move on with my life.

Frankly, she’s right. And so is he. And I’m somewhere in the middle, bouncing back and forth between the two of them. I keep thinking, “It’s only 2 months, I can get through it.” But it’s two more months of my life. I have things I need to do! And deadlines I need to meet. I can’t be stressed out like this.

But I also… It’s a process. I’m nowhere near perfect, otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten myself into this situation. I see it as a victory that I said the words and got him not only to see and understand but to fucking feel where I am in our relationship. And I totally understand him not being ready to let go, it’s taken me quite a while to get to this point with a ton of help and support from Wakana. He has a lot more to lose when this relationship ends. I know it’s not my job to save him; I have to save myself.

But I also have to live with him until he leaves, whether it’s by his own will or by force. I need to navigate the path that’s best for me. I need to resolve my need to end this relationship with all the things that have kept me in it for this long. I need room to breathe, and tons of support.

I need my mother to let go just as much as I need him to.

Re: How to Clear One’s Mind

I would like to let all the lovely web bots and lonely souls who post spam comments to my blog know that, even if I don’t allow the comments to become visible to the public, I do read every one of them. I’m very touched by the high esteem in which you hold my writing, though you might want to try and make it seem a bit more like you actually read the blog post on which you are commenting. Today I received a particularly interesting comment that I would actually like to respond to:

First of all I would like to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior
to writing. I have had a hard time clearing my mind
in getting my ideas out. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first
10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost just trying to
figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints? Thanks!

This comment happened to be in response to my recent post, PANIC!!!, in which I hope I conveyed a sense of, well, panic in the tone of my writing. In the case of that particular post – as well as most of the ones about my actual life experiences, dilemmas, and emotions – writing the post was my process of centering myself and clearing my mind.

I often begin my posts with a strong sense of what I want to express in writing, but no idea what words I’ll use or where the post might go. I pretty much just start typing. I like to write because it forces the thoughts to “get in line;” only one can come out at a time and first they have to form themselves into remotely-coherent English sentences. Writing is the process through which I get the jumbled mess of nebulous thoughts and conflicting emotions out into a form where I can literally look at them. It’s like looking in the mirror, except that instead of freaking out over a new zit I can enable my rational mind to process all the important information my emotional self is trying but failing to communicate to it.

I read and re-read each post several times during the process of writing. I edit as I read – I catch and have the opportunity to fix typos and grammatical errors that way. I also take the opportunity to re-word sentences so they will be easier to read and understand, and so they can more accurately convey whatever I’m trying to express through them.

The reading and re-reading of the post as I’m writing also serves to center my thoughts – again, as I’m writing. It’s part anxiety management, part a reminder of what I’ve written so far and where I’m going, part how I make sure that the post is coherent. I’ve re-read this post several times, now, so I know that it’s been about my writing process and not about, say, cheese. I also have a strong sense of the tone I’ve been using, so I can continue to use it for the remainder of the post.

My experience of written language is almost identical to my experience of spoken language, the only real difference being that with written language I have to see the words with my eyes before I get to “hear” them in my head. Similarly, while I am writing, I hear the words in my head instead of with my ears and move my fingers instead of my mouth to share them with the world. The biggest difference between spoken and written language is that it’s easier to remember what I wrote – I can read it! – and I have a chance to edit it before anyone else gets to read it. Once the spoken words are said they’ve been said, they can’t be taken back, and we might disagree on what they were.

I believe that the way I experience written language gives me a significant advantage when it comes to reading – and especially writing. Both processes come very naturally to me; sometimes they are actually easier than spoken conversation! (If nothing else, interruptions are less likely to mean I never get to make my real point.)

That said, I do also find it helpful to read the post aloud. Reading a post aloud helps make its content feel more real to me and to center my thoughts around the topic. I also find I can express my emotions better through the inflection of my voice. Sometimes I even become more aware of my emotions when I hear myself: “Wow, I sound really angry! I must be angry! Who knew?”

The process is a bit different if I’m writing on a more academic subject, whether for school or in a post like The Complexities of Language, Gender, and Identity. Then I need to do research – to learn what others have written about the topic, organize all the different ideas, think critically, and respond to them.

I tend to organize my own thoughts through – not prior to – writing. That said, it helps to start with a clearer sense of what points I want to make, what information backs them up, and where I got that information. I like to start papers – such as the one I’m procrastinating by writing this post instead – by creating the Works Cited / References page. That makes it easier to keep track of what sources I’m using and to cite them in the actual paper because I already have a handy list, complete with the authors’ last names. Sometimes I’ll make an outline, even if it’s just a basic list of topics to cover. In the case of “Complexities” (link above), I actually wrote a first draft. If an assignment for school requires a clear thesis, I might wait to write it and/or the introductory paragraph until after I’ve used the process of writing the rest of the paper to fully organize my thoughts.

Finally, popcorn works wonders. Settle in with a nice large bag – or three! – and start munching. Just try not to get too much grease (or crumbs) on the keyboard.