Thursday, 25 March 2010

What Ewan Did

So, here goes.

We had been married for about five or six years. Everything seemed to be going OK. I was still caught up in the novelty of motherhood and loved lavishing all my care and attention on to both of my children as they became little people in their own right with their own likes and dislikes.

Meanwhile, Ewan had started staying back later and later at the office and when he came back would he would hit the drink. The only time he seemed really relaxed was at the weekend when he would devote all his time and attention to the children.

I thought he was having an affair. I chose to let him get on with it rather than confront him. Our sex life was practically non-existent as I was constantly tired from juggling the demands of full-time work and motherhood. I knew if I made a scene, he would throw that in my face. He was behaving more and more like a guilty man though, unable to look me in the face or have a proper conversation with me as if he was scared he would give something away.

And then one day, on a whim, I wanted to know how much we had left to pay on our mortgage but I couldn't find the file in the usual place. When Ewan got home I asked him where it was and he lost his temper with me - something he has only done a handful of times through our marriage and this was probably one of the first occasions. He shouted that he was under a lot of stress at work and he didn't need me asking ridiculous questions as soon as he set foot through the door. He really went into one and I was quite scared so I just left it.

About a week later, I was getting ready to go away to Florida for work when the doorbell rang. Ewan had just popped out to get the newspaper and so I opened it to two men. They asked for Ewan and when I said he was out they introduced themselves and said they were enforcement officers and had come to take away the car as discussed with my husband. I couldn't believe what I was hearing and as I tried to argue with them, Ewan turned up and visibly turned green. He told me to go inside and I watched from the window as he spoke to them. And then they took his car away. Just like that.

By the time he came in I was in a bit of state, screaming to find out what was going on and he said very calmly that we were in trouble and that he needed to talk to me. It was completely the wrong time as the car had come to take me to the airport and I had to leave although I was terrified about what I was going to hear.

I don't know how I got through check-in but once I was in the departure lounge I called him and over the next half hour I heard how he had got involved with a private business deal that had gone wrong and resulted in the loss of a lot of money. It might just have been OK but then he was suddenly made redundant and he couldn't bring himself to tell me. He had been going out every day looking for work and though he had got some bits and pieces, it was never enough to meet all our outgoings. He then dropped the bombshell that we were six months in arrears with the mortgage and that there was a court hearing in a couple of weeks to start repossession proceedings. I sat there in that airport unable to comprehend what I was hearing. Hundreds of people were rushing by me and yet I felt so alone.

I spent the next few days in the States in a complete trance. I don't remember anything about it.

When I got back, I took charge, to his relief but I didn't really know what I was doing. He was feeling better because he had finally got it off his chest but I was sinking fast and yet trying to hold it together. I tried calling the bank but they wouldn't talk to me now that the hearing was in place.

Walking into the County Court that day was one of the worst moments of my life. I couldn't believe I was there. I had never imagined something like this could happen to me. I went in expecting the worst. I had visions that we would be thrown out onto the streets with nowhere to go.

As it happened, it was very civilised. The man that was there to represent the bank came to talk to us before our hearing and I told him that I had come to this late because my husband had been going through depression and hadn't been able to tell me what was happening but that now I knew, we were working together and I wanted to do anything to make it right. He said he wasn't there as an enemy and wanted to help. When we went in before the judge, he said that he had spoken to me and was confident that an agreement could be reached. So the judge suspended the repossession order on condition that we paid the arrears. He was so kind to us. I would never have imagined that they could both be so understanding.

It was a difficult few months then as we had to go cap in hand to anyone that needed money from us, to ask for help with payment plans etc. We took a loan to clear the arrears as I couldn't bear to have that sword hanging over us but in retrospect it was a foolish thing to do as we rushed into it and got a bad deal and we'll be paying it off for what seems like forever and I dread the time when interest rates will inevitably rise again.

It's taken a long time to get to a position where I feel anything like in control of our finances but I can't see a time when we won't be in debt. I now insist on knowing everything about our money and what he is spending etc even though he fully learned his lesson and would never do that again ...but I can't take the risk. I'm sure he feels demeaned by having to answer to me. Money is the thing we argue about more than anything.

I never told anyone, not even my parents. They may well have been able to help us out a bit but I couldn't bear for my mother to know what a failure I had been. Because that is how I felt ....feel...even though it was his mistake.

The first person I ever told was the therapist when it all came pouring out at that very first session. He said that what Ewan did was huge and that I have every right to be angry and distrustful all these years later but I'm not sure I agree. I feel responsible. What sort of wife was I that he felt he couldn't tell me what was going on?

I made a decision to be more supportive, to make him feel "safe". After all, problems do not go away - they must be worked through or else they remain a barrier to growth. And we did work through the crisis, but then we fell into a rut and now I feel as if he has almost forgotten what he did to me when he pulled that rug of security so suddenly from under my feet.

I think maybe I am resentful that having made his mistake, I have had to make sure I take on the strain of all things financial and that in turn, he feels resentful because I'm still doing that all these years later, when we are sort of back on track.

Maybe that is why I behave so badly. THREE affairs ??

All I know is, I will never forget that day the bailiffs came and how I felt when I first heard what deep shit we were in. It still makes me cry now....and then run to check the bank statements.

That's it. That's all it was. Not such a big deal when there are women being beaten by their men, or betrayed, or forced to live in real poverty. I need to get over it and stop feeling so sorry for myself.

Trouble is, it's easier said than done.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Who Am I ?

The therapist wasn't fed up with me. He was amused that I thought he would be. He said that we would always take things at my pace but he was impressed that I had taken time out to try and think things through.

I told him about this blog. He said it was a good thing if I felt it was helping. I told him that I hadn't been able to write about what Ewan did and he said that was interesting. He asked if I thought that was part of my need for others to like me which meant I controlled what they know about me. That has made me think a lot.

Everyone has an opinion on who they are. Some think very highly of themselves and believe they are never in the wrong. Some have very low self-esteem, sometimes so bad that they can’t allow themselves to be loved as they don’t think they are worthy.

Do we really know who we are? My family, these people I live in this house with, know me best. They see the good and bad. The tantrums and the laughter.

But in terms of my friends, there is not one who knows it all. Not one who even comes close to knowing who I really am. They will only ever know what I want them to know.

And that constantly surprises me as I have friends who tell me every last detail of their life, who allow me in to see the good and the bad and who find it very therapeutic to do so. I can’t imagine that I would ever feel better by giving someone power and letting them know things about me that are not right, not good, not part of the perfect life that I pretend I have.

But also, because I have become someone who is known for being a good listener, I've noticed that on the occasions that I do tell people what's bothering me, they lose interest. I guess it’s because they see me as such an upbeat person and hearing me moaning on brings them down and they don’t want that from me.

I have come to the conclusion recently that as a result I am pretty much living a lie, or at best, just living life on the surface, and I am afraid to look within to see who I really am.

With the therapist’s help though I am confident I will eventually be able to do that and thus stop behaving badly, but it has taken me this long to understand that I really can offload on him without fear.

The trouble is that I present an image of myself to the world which I have allowed myself to believe so when something doesn't match, like this "thing" with Ewan, it confuses and upsets me. The therapist says it is probably one of the root causes as to why I feel so out of control at the moment, even though it happened such a long time ago. He suggested that I make a real effort to try and blog about it. It is not as if I haven’t tried to do that before but I have decided that now is definitely the time.

So, that will be my next post. It could take some but I refuse to write about anything else until I have got this out.

Apologies in advance… may be some time before you hear from me again !!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Mr Right ??

I have been trying to formulate what I want to say to the therapist later today.

I know he wants me to recognise that my marriage to Ewan is flawed. He thinks I should seriously consider our relationship and I can see why he thinks that. I can’t believe how hard that has been to do though. If I acknowledge my marriage is a failure then what am I left with? And besides, I don’t think it is a failure. I think there have been problems. I think I may be the problem. I think he has made mistakes that have affected me deeply but I still don’t want the marriage to end.

So. Does that mean I didn't find Mr Right?

After Lee (the big love of my life), I didn’t believe Mr Right existed. I wasn’t interested in falling in love again but I did want a partner to share my life with.

I was attracted to Ewan’s kind face and his personality but more to the fact that he seemed clearly smitten with me and wanted to marry me and he had everything I knew a good husband should have.

It didn’t matter that “something” wasn’t there. I liked him and he wasn’t Lee and he couldn’t break my heart and that was all that mattered. I knew by then that happy ever after doesn’t exist. Being satisfied and not unhappy was the best you could hope for.

Friendship, shared ideas and being able to laugh with each other was more important than that heady, slightly out of control feeling of being IN love as that doesn’t last forever anyway and then you’re left with resentment and the bitterness of broken, unrealised dreams. Better to do without it in the first place if you are going to commit to a lifelong relationship. Anyway, he loved me so it wasn’t as if it was absent from the partnership and in turn I treated him with great respect and tried to always make him feel special.

By marrying someone everyone approved of I felt like I was a good, dutiful daughter with the added bonus of having found a partner I actually liked while I was still relatively young. This was no act of desperation but an acceptance that it was probably the best offer I was likely to get. I had a big, expensive, lavish wedding that made my dad proud and my mum cry. Since then, it has been a conventional marriage.

He may not have been Mr Perfect but he has never been Mr Wrong.

We may not talk as much as we used to but at least our silences are companionable, not sullen. We may not share as many jokes as before but I still get a thrill of pleasure when he laughs at one of my anecdotes and I love that funny look on his face when I giggle at something he says. We may not entertain as much as we used to but when we do we’re still as good as we always were and the fact that friends are still with us late into the night means they enjoy our company and like being with us.

He has given me two beautiful children who I adore. My son is so like him and such a decent young man that it is no wonder all the girls love him. And my daughter has his gentleness which takes the sharp edges off her similarity to me.

The bottom line is, I was lucky to find someone who asked and maybe that’s why I said yes. He may not love me like he used to and maybe when he talks to me my thoughts and attention are sometimes elsewhere but whatever might be missing, I want to grow old with him. I don’t like the thought of being without him. And I think he feels the same.

He’s as right for me as I could ever be lucky enough to find. If I hadn’t said yes to him, I probably would be like many of my friends now - single, in their forties and desperate for a husband and family. I would have lurched from one disastrous relationship to another.

So I settled. But I think I settled well. I don’t think I could have found anyone better suited to me, someone who would put up with me the way he does.

Whatever it is that is making me so fundamentally unhappy, I don’t think it’s my marriage.
Or is it?? Oh! I’m not capable of thinking straight. The therapist will be fed up with me - I don’t know the answer.

This is so hard !

Monday, 8 March 2010

Almost....But I Think The Moment Has Gone

I’ve decided I quite like my therapist!

He’s very good. I wanted to not like him, to be irritated by him, to be superior to him and second guess him all the time. I don’t know why. It’s about control I suppose. If I give in to him, I make myself vulnerable, I concede power, I allow him the weapons to wreak possible havoc in my life.

I’ve treated this whole thing as a bit of a game. Go ahead if you think you can get in, if you think you can get me to offload, if you think you can spot a chink in the armour. I don’t think so.

Thing is, he’s known that all along. He gets me. He has been very patient with me. He knows that I’m very nervous of what might be uncovered. He has let me go along at my own pace.He has told me a few times that he is happy to see me for as long it takes but that I needed to realise that could be years, as long as I insist on keeping up my guard.

I was hoping therapy could be me just talking and talking and telling him all sorts of things from my childhood onwards in a bid to just get everything out and then maybe, maybe once it was all laid out, I could start putting bits together.

In my last session though, while I was in the middle of talking about some nonsense, I suddenly realised doing it this way is not going to work. I stopped talking and he let me sit quietly for a bit and then asked if I was OK. I told him that I liked him, that I appreciated how he had let me be these last few months. He asked me quietly what it was I wanted and I told him that I just wanted to be able to sort everything out but that I was frightened of facing myself. He asked me if I knew exactly what it was that I was afraid of and I told him honestly that I didn’t but that I suspected it would be that I despise myself and given that I have built a lifetime out of being a great gal, loved by everyone and full of fun, that would be hard.

He said he could help me if I was willing to think about things differently. Again he went back to his pet subject, Ewan, and asked me why I was so keen to protect him. I started crying. It’s been a while since I’ve done that with him.

In our very first session, I told him something that Ewan had done quite early on in our marriage, something I haven’t been able to bring myself to blog about, yet. Nothing too terrible in the scheme of things, I suppose, but something that affected me. Thinking about it now, I’m surprised I came straight out with it and told him. No one else knows. That was actually the most productive session to date as I felt so desperate that I was willing to talk about everything. Every week since then I have maintained “control”.

The therapist has often asked if I want to address that issue and I have always skirted round it. This last time, he told me that the thing with Ewan was the “elephant in the room”. He could see it and didn’t understand why I was refusing to acknowledge it. He said that I should stop hiding it away and pretending that it never happened. (I’m making it sound very dramatic – it will be a real letdown when I finally blog about it, after such a big build-up!!) He says if we can talk it through, we can make some real progress.

We couldn’t take it any further then because we were at the end of our time which is a shame because for the first time, I felt like I was on the edge of something. I’m worried we’ll have lost our place by the next session. I spent the weekend thinking that if I could blog about it all, I might make that discovery before going back to the therapist. But I sat down to write and I find I can’t. All I have been able to manage is this nonsensical ramble.

In a bid to get back to the same place, the therapist has asked me to be ready to talk about whether or not I married Mr Right. I should have written about that today.

That’s what I’ll do next time.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Elephant

The lovely Maternal Tales has posted an amazing video showing an elephant giving birth and the dramatic moments that follow.

It reminded me that I have an affinity with elephants. I love them for their huge, quiet, majesty and the way they communicate with each other and travel together in extended matriarchal families. I rode on an elephant in Goa, back when I was a student and I have photos of that fabulous experience to keep the memory alive. But the most precious incident was over seventeen years ago and one I’ll never forget.

Soon after Sasha was born, Ewan was asked by his best friend Tom, to be best man at his wedding…… Indonesia !!! We all went even though our baby was only four months old.

To be honest, it was a stressful trip for me. I don’t remember much about it except that I was anxious about everything. Sasha clearly loved it and didn’t seem at all affected by the heat and the attention and she wasn’t ill once, even though I seemed to be in the constant grip of sickness or diarrhoea, or both. The wedding took place over three days and was an amazing experience but it was difficult for me to appreciate it all. I should have relaxed more but I was an anxious young mother back then.

The day after the final wedding celebrations, the bride’s family arranged for the British visitors to go to a wildlife park. It was a great day. I was finally feeling well and was much more calm in the knowledge that we were going back home in a day or so and I had got to know everyone and was feeling happy in their company. We travelled to the park in a fleet of open 4x4s and Sasha spent the journey giggling away at the bumpy road and the breeze on her face. I knew we were going to see elephants at the park and I was most content.

When we got there we wandered around this most beautiful of places. The family had hired a couple of guides and we spent a few hours walking and driving through the stunning park, watching various animals roaming free and looking at the fabulous plants and trees. At one stage we went into a wooded area for a walk and I was truly at the happiest I had been through the whole trip as I carried my gorgeous baby through this breathtaking forest. Suddenly we could hear horns and drums in the distance and our guides started to get agitated and there was much nervous chatter on walkie-talkies and eventually we found out that one of the elephants had lost her calf and was on the rampage. They said we needed to go back until they were both found as the mother could now be a real danger. I didn’t really comprehend what was going on but just followed the group in a bit of a daze as we were ushered in panic back out of the woods.

We were in a small clearing when suddenly there was a rustle in the bushes and out ran the baby elephant into our group. The guides went a little crazy then, jumping around all over the place and shouting into their radios and I could see this poor little creature was frightened by all the hullabaloo and so I held out my hand to him and he came over to me. The guides were shouting “no, no madam! Please leave him!” But I was completely enchanted. He was only waist height and he pushed against my legs and unfurled his trunk to reach out to Sasha who was in my arms and squealing with delight. I was kind of aware of the panic around us but I was lost in a world of wonder with this oh so sweet baby elephant who I couldn’t stop patting even though the guides were practically apoplectic by now.

And then, without warning this huge elephant just appeared through the trees and was suddenly among us, looking at each of us and then resting her stare on me …..with my hand on her precious baby. Everyone was quiet and still then – in fact, the guards were slowly moving back and trying to get the others to follow them. But it was if, just for a moment everything was frozen. I wasn’t at all scared although I found out later that everyone else was terrified.

But there was no need. The baby elephant ran to his mother who gathered him to her using her trunk to check him over with such tenderness that I wanted to cry. And then, in the most magic moment that I’ll never, ever forget, she looked right at me holding Sasha and then turned her baby around with her trunk and pushed him back to me as if to say “it’s all right son, she’s a mother too – she won’t do you any harm”. And in that moment, I smiled at her and I’m sure her eyes were smiling too. I’m welling up now just thinking about it. It was all over far too quickly as the guides shooed us away but she stood there with her baby and watched us as we were led off. I kept looking back and she kept watching until we were out of sight.

It’s something I’ll never forget and I’ll often ask Ewan if it was as I remember and he assures me that it was.

Gosh, I have shivers down my spine just remembering that – it was truly magical.