Category: Brazen Advice for the Desperate
Brazen Advice for the Desperate: Nurturing the Stressed Husband (possibly with a frying pan to the head)
|October 20, 2011||Filled under Brazen Advice for the Desperate|
I have a husband who doesn’t feel “nurtured.” His job is killing him, his back is killing him. The comforts of the domestic splendor I work to create every day no longer make up for his stress and worry. Problem is, my “nurture tap” is being drained (more like pumped) by an 18-month-old boy at the peak of his separation (and every other possible) anxiety every waking hour of every day. My back has been raw meat since 2005. How do I find it in me to give the other love of my life what he needs to feel “nurtured,” other than making sure he’s fed, his clothes and sheets are clean, there’s someone home every evening to ask how his day went, and occasionally tend to his manhood?
Running on Empty
Dear Running on Empty,
Let me just clarify this first: You’re overwhelmed because the incessant whining demands of a toddler are your waking alarm every.single.day? The thousands of blocks, toys, misplaced shoes, bits of chewed food that you pick up go unnoticed? And the husband you love is not cured from work stress by your fluffed couch pillows?
There’s a strange phenomenon that occurs when we take our fantastic little double-income, child-free lives and taint them with the detrimentally misleading development of “family.” I’m sure it’s not the first time your husband was stressed by his job, or that you were overwhelmed. But it’s the first time you both had something else making demands of you, and you couldn’t just take care of each other. Welcome to parenthood – which I am sure is the leading cause of most divorces.
Bad things happen when both partners are strapped and cannot give to each other: They start comparing their input into the relationship, family, house. They start pointing out all the short-comings of the other partner, because they themselves are only aware of how incredibly much they are investing into everything and their own inability to give anything more. The last drops have probably just squeezed out by not going postal in a late night meeting or convincing a kid to eat vegetables without clobbering it with the broccoli. What used to be “Hey thanks for washing my shirts” suddenly becomes “Why aren’t my socks matched? I took them off in pairs, why aren’t they coming out of the laundry in pairs?!”
Here’s the good news: It’s no one’s fault. No one is being an asshole just for the sake of it. Your kid’s purpose in life is not to make you miserable or test your breaking point, though it may do both. And you’re not a failing wife because you roll your eyes at your husband when he isn’t looking.
Here’s some more good news (It’s Optimism Day here at BA): You all can feel better. If I say now “but it takes some work” you might think “But exactly that is what I cannot tolerate more of.” More good news: It doesn’t take some work. It takes some rest.
So here we go, Brazen Apron’s 3 Easy Steps to Bottomless Pit Nurturing:
1. Nurture yourself. I bet when you read that you thought “But I need to go grocery shopping first” and then you felt a little guilty that the idea of a long, hot bath had slipped into your head for even a brief moment. Here’s a little reality check for you based on some fundamental laws of evolution: If a mother cannot survive to support her offspring until they tend to themselves, the species will fail. If you do not eat, sleep, take your vitamins, do your yoga, or whatever, then you will fail at taking care of other people. If you have no nourishment in your body to give, how can you nourish your family?
You’ll want to find out what it is that nurtures you. Everyone tells me it’s a hot bath, but that still comes under “personal hygiene” for me. What nurtures me: A healthy meal I didn’t have to fucking cook. An appointment with myself in my calendar – 10:00 – 11:00 Guilt-Free Coffee and Reading time. A hair cut. My favorite tea. Looking at old pictures of my husband or my kid when I still liked them both. I cannot stress enough the importance of this. Try it JUST ONCE (and report results back to me): Schedule an hour for yourself in the morning to do what YOU want. No laundry, no dishes, no sorting your closet or any of that nonsense. Consider it a sort of chore, like all the other stuff you’re obligated to do in a day (usually taking care of everyone else’s needs) and put it on the list with everything else. When your hour is up, get on with your day and notice how you feel about taking care of other people. Is it refreshing? Do you do it with love and kindness? Do you want to do it now? You might be surprised to find it makes you feel good to provide for your family’s needs all of a sudden.
2. Nurture your husband. We think we know what they want. We think they want to come home and hear us give them work advice in a supportive tone. We think they want to hear what their child has achieved or how many times it crapped to its ears because it ate a pound of blueberries when you were not looking (uh, yeah, that happened to me… more than once). We think they want the house cleaned, the dinner on the table, the fridge full, the kid quiet. But do they? Have we ever asked them?
Say this to your husband: “I want to take care of you because I love you. Tell me which three things are most important to you and make you feel most nurtured, so I can do my best to provide them for you.”
If I were to ask my husband this, I am guessing this is what he would say:
1. You not to be complaining when I walk in the door.
2. Permission to listen to AC/DC and dance around the house without you scoffing at me or my moves.
3. Blow jobs.
I find we often invest a ton of energy in providing what we think our partners need, and then we’re worn out and resentful when they are not appreciative of our efforts. Understanding what they know they need means you achieve two things: real nurturing, and less wasting of your time on stuff that is not essential.
3. Set boundaries. Sometimes we let stuff go to0 far and phases turn into trends and then into patterns and then habit and then it’s just acceptable to be a cranky asshole all the time. No matter how stressed out a partner is or you are, there’s a level of respect that needs to be maintained. If your husband is failing to appreciate your domestic splendor (my new favorite term) by not thanking you, it is one thing. If it is communicated with words and tones that are disrespectful of your efforts or person, it is unacceptable and you need to set a boundary. Being a jerk to everyone because you had a bad day/week/month at the office makes it really hard for the people who love you to keep loving you, and it’s unacceptable. We often get away with it at home because if we talked like that at work, we’d lose our jobs. And thus our home space and our spouses become sort of emotional vents where the rest of society isn’t listening. It is okay to need a good rant, but we have to direct them accordingly or they do damage. A husband that comes home and bitches and complains about household minutia (DVDs in wrong cases, missing books, full dishwashers) probably needs some come-down time or a response that demonstrates the importance of the issue: “Would you like to finish making dinner for our child while I organize the DVDs?”
Nurture yourself, nurture your husband, and set boundaries when necessary. Sounds easy as pie. Let me know how it works!
|October 13, 2011||Filled under Brazen Advice for the Desperate|
Although I know that life is a journey, how does a powerful woman know when to say no, but more importantly how do we know when to grab life by the ovaries even if it means changing the entire direction of your life?? Help!
I’m not sure grabbing your ovaries or trusting them to promote change in the right direction is a good idea. I’ve trusted my ovaries only slightly more than I’ve trusted a good tequila buzz and for the most part both got me in trouble. Unless we count my husband – they appear to have improved their choice making ability. Perhaps it was practice. Or they were just too pickled. Anyway.
Here’s the good news: You’re not alone. Throughout history there have been notable and significant (and some insignificant) people who have literally changed the entire course of their lives, sometimes more than once. Let’s take a look at some of these people and see if we can gather a lesson or two…
Jesus: Started out as a carpenter and was relatively successful until he succumbed to the voices in his head and miraculously turned a potential label as “Schizophrenic” into “Messiah.”
Giacomo Casanova: Spent his youth as a religious clerk, then slept with the pastor’s daughter. Then became a professional gambler and slept with someone else’s daughter. Then became a professional prisoner, then escape artists, then charlatan, then magician, then invented the lottery in France, all the while setting new records for human consumption of mercury as a syphilis treatment. When he died, he was working as a librarian. The only thing he changed more than the direction of his life was the woman he was sleeping with. I see a lot of potential here.
Mary Anne Talbot: Born in London and claiming to be one of the many illegitimate children of Lord Talbot, Mary gave it all up to be footboy on a British ship where, not coincidentally, her boyfriend was serving as captain. That is until he got killed. Mary changed careers from man-servant to man-sailor until she got injured and deserted because French ships had a better marmalade selection. Mary then shifted the direction of her ambition from sailing to warfare and became a powder-monkey (boat people have rad job titles) until the English captured her French ship. She spent some time in a dungeon, changed sides and jobs a few more times, and generally stuck with her male identity until forced to prove it (to someone other than the captain). She joined the land lovers in a dress and gave up sailing, possibly for a temporary career as hit-man. When she discovered the man holding her inheritance had gambled it away, he mysteriously died of a heart attack the same day. Mary changed sides, sex, and jobs more than a drag queen changes outfits at a disco garage sale.
Now I could be wrong but I’m guessing all of these guys had other long-term plans. And when the wind picked up and blew a new idea into their heads, they did not hesitate to follow it.
What they all seem to have was not a fear of loss, but an eagerness to gain.
Man or woman, sinner or saint, all these people actively lived their lives. Set your boundaries, they are your shield, and then embark on your adventure. Anything else is a waste of the gift.
|September 30, 2011||Filled under Brazen Advice for the Desperate|
How does one make peace with India as a place where they are bound to stay till the end of their days?
When I lived in India, I was torn between two worlds. One in which slaves were cheap, but almost everything else sucked. And now that India is an emerging global power, even they have to make considerations to human rights. Like that most slaves get Sundays off and hardly ever have to fight in gladiator rings with barbaric, diphtheria-laced tools. Chances are though, they still cook with them.
And it’s not really true that India sucks. It’s hot and dirty and the cockroaches carry away small children from time to time, but there are a plethora of ways to find peace:
- Chai Masala.
… and maybe the cheap slaves.
But I think this is really the opening to the exploration of a bigger issue: How do we make peace with the lives we’ve chosen for ourselves?
Approximately once a week on a good week and seven times a week on a bad week, I wake up and think “Who’s fucking life is this and how do I get out of it?” Then I roll into my extra-fluff down comforter deep enough so I can only barely hear my husband’s voice when he says “Here’s your coffee dear” and have adequate padding around me before the blonde energy leper of a daughter I have decides to use me as a human trampoline. When I finally get up and put my healthy bare feet on my clean parquet floors I’m usually still feeling sorry for myself. If my teenage step-son is in the hallway listening to his ever present cell-phone stereo of Lil Wayne I begin contemplation of suicide.
Sometimes it isn’t until I’ve run another espresso through my artisan machine while staring out at my urban roof terrace vegetable garden that I realize I am standing in what I always wanted (or thought I wanted) surrounded by the people I love (most of the time). And that my life is awesome. Sometimes overwhelming, but always awesome.
Ultimately where we are is the result of a series of decisions we have made and continue to make every day. Choosing to get up and not change something that needs changing is still a choice, albeit a passive one. If we are dissatisfied with our choices or the lives we have created, then we alone are accountable. That sounds scary, but accountability is at the same time a kind of empowerment. Recognizing that we are in control of our lives and not a victim of circumstance (or the banes of reincarnation perhaps) puts us in a position to either accept our choices or make new ones.
Sometimes I want a new life and I think I can become a super hero in pretend or just hitchhike to a new life of my choice. I’ll just get on the road and some cowboy will pick me up in a rusty truck and drive me to his ranch on the Oregon Coast and ask me to plant a giant organic garden while he digs post holes with his shirt off. And sometimes I think I should have gone to Africa and dug up bones and hung around camp fires with the !Kung bushmen and been one of those skinny, tan archaeologist types who wears only shades of khaki. Or I could live in India where the weather is beautiful always and saris are in and there are 54 types of mangoes and chai masala and a billion people that are easy going enough to share the roads with the buffalo.