Redefining Love, Friendship, and Relationships

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Well, it's Monday... anyone stay up too late watching the Oscars and now you're dragging ass? 

I DID!!! 

I was supposed to write this post on Friday, but after an amazing meeting that morning, I wanted to go out and let off some steam. It was also the fifth anniversary of losing Lisa, so attaching that to a hell of a week just made me want to nope out of everything and go eat all of the food and drink all of the wine. 

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We began the day with all you can eat Sushi, and yes... we did eat all of it. Then we walked it off and did a little shopping, eventually heading over to Marietta Square to go to my favorite place, WR Social House for their $1 oyster happy hour. Friends came by to join us, and it turned out to be a very lovely evening. I needed a night of gluttony and fun. It's been a while. 

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We talked about this blog post a lot while we were out and about on Friday. This last year has really showed me that there are different kinds of love, and I have worked hard to heal a lot of the way I relate to the people in my life, and why I behave the way I do in relationships. 

I think the biggest thing I have learned is that good relationships have their own unique set of problems. I can use my relationship with Lisa as an example. It's easy to idealize our friendship because she's gone, but when you look at the reality, we had some real struggles. We didn't speak for two years when I ghosted her at her wedding. There were fights and misunderstandings, but when the chips were down, we were in each other's corner. We never kept score or made the other person grovel for forgiveness, we always seemed to move on. It was a wonderful friendship, but by no means perfect. 

I know I've written about this before, but there's this whole concept of 'now what?' when you find something you've always wanted. There's this fantasy we indulge in that once we have 'this' or 'that' our problems will vanish and life will become bliss, so then when there are bumps in the road, they get magnified. We buy into cliches about love being patient and kind, and if it's not a fairytale, we want to quit. 

I think love is more about letting go, surrendering, and having a comfortability and honesty that is simply understood. There's no push, no resentment, no keeping score, it simply lives in a comfortable place of 'is'. 

That's been hard for me to accept, because I'm used to a completely different reality. I didn't have the best relationship role models growing up, and I carried that into my adult life with me. I'm used to power struggles, winners and losers, bullying, earning love, withholding love, etc. I still bring some of those qualities into relationships, but I'm finding it easier to tolerate the 'is'. 

The 'is' is a calm place, but far from perfect. There are good days, bad days, but nobody bails. Again, there's an unspoken rule to never threaten the end. You wake up in the morning wanting to be the best version of yourself, and continue to want to be even better. 

I have ended a couple of friendships in the last year that didn't occupy that healthy space. We simply didn't bring out the best in each other. They are lovely, good people, but we are in completely different stages of life, and our priorities are different. My 'go along to get along' might be completely broken. Not that I go out of my way to pick fights, but I am commanding a different type of respect now. I have to get something out of a relationship, too. There's no more existing for someone else, or setting aside my own needs to keep the peace or make someone happy. My happiness is just as important. 

I don't have anything figured out, and I don't know what the future holds, but I do appreciate healthy friendships and relationships now rather than being highly uncomfortable in them to the point of sabotaging it. 

The rest of the weekend was pretty chill. I didn't make it to a Krav Maga class, because I had too many errands to run in order to get ready for all of the traveling I'm doing this week. We decided to throw an impromptu Oscars party, so I went to the early Yoga/Meditation class... and well... that's a crunchy group of devotees. Lots of dreads... little deodorant... audible groaning...weird kombucha bottles... One of the ladies in the class commented on my printed yoga mat. Apparently, my printed yoga mat prevents others from aligning their chakras or something. I just shrugged and said I bought it because it was pretty. This got me an, "Oh you sweet, simple peasant," look. And now I'm self conscious about my pretty yoga mat. Whatever that chakra is, white lady with hairy armpits and dreadlocks broke it. 

Anyway, I'm telling you this because in our meditation class we have a section where we send peace and harmony to people we may be in conflict with. It's actually very hard to do. To visualize someone who has hurt you and wish them peace instead of being engulfed in flames? This is a lot for me to deal with on a Sunday morning. I didn't imagine mean yoga mat shamer lady, but instead I imagined my ex-husband.

Love and light, asshole. 

I'm really struggling with the dynamic between my ex, my kids and moving back to Chicago. There's something nagging in my intuition I can't quite identify. It's like I know change needs to happen, but there's something in my subconscious screaming a vague warning to me. I wish I could give it a better description than that. 

I'm trying to stay in the moment and not get too far ahead of myself, since life can go several different directions between now and the fall, but I'm feeling a seething anger bubbling up within me where this arrangement is concerned. I am treated like an ATM. I paid phone bills this weekend for the kids, sent a care package, and yet I'm still being iced out and getting rude emails from my ex badgering me because nothing is ever good enough. I made a mistake on one of the kids' phone bills, I couldn't fix until I got finished with my errands, and that earned me a diatribe of abuse via email, too. 

I'm just so angry about it. This career I have built out of nothing is about to go to the next level, and I can't just enjoy the fruits of my labor and share them with my children. Then I think about how I'm going to juggle everything. I am going to be running two households in two states, with a target on my back the whole time. The more stable I become, the more unstable he becomes. I get angry, overwhelmed, and exhausted thinking about how I'm going to make all of this work. 

So I fired off an email to my ex-husband last night (Love and light wore off. Sorry). It wasn't nice. I was fed up. Phone bills, care packages, dealing with his abuse, and I can't even text my kids? I was tired of my life being dictated by obsession and jealousy. Enough, already. 

I called him a white trash 54 year old loser who hasn't done anything with his life. It was mean, I stooped to his level, but I'm not sorry. I'm not doing this unhealthy way of relating through bullying, withholding, and power struggles anymore. I have earned where I am right now. I worked every menial job I could when I first moved to Atlanta. I waited tables with my hand still in a splint. I worked 40 hours a week, took care of three kids, and bartended on the weekends I didn't have to take them to Chicago. The only weekend I missed? I had pneumonia. 

It was a 'fuck you and fuck off' moment. I will work hard and provide. That's what I signed up for when I had children, but I'm not going to be treated like an ATM and then erased. I can't fathom hating someone more than I love my children. But I must be punished for leaving forever. I can't have nice things. 

He responded by calling me a 'redneck rodeo clown whore' and extorted me for more child support. 

I can't believe I ever accepted this as a form of love. 

I'm so glad I don't anymore. 

So this week has me on the road again, and thinking about the future while doing my best to stay in the moment. It's one of those forks in the road of life coming up where you wish there was a wise oracle holding up a sign telling you which way to go and what to do. Since that option doesn't exist, I guess I'll keep doing what I'm doing... and that's the best I can. 

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Jennifer Gulbrandsen