Friday, November 1, 2013

Replacing Old Patterns, Learning New Behavior

Several weeks ago, STBEX asked me if I could take the dog when he has to go out of town on business for 5 days in early November.  I thought about it, and following old patterns, decided I could do that.  It seemed like the friendly thing to do and in my twisted brain it made sense to do so because since Murphy was the family dog, therefore he's the boys' dog, and therefore if their father is unable to care for the dog, he should be with the boys, and since the boys will be with me and I should take him. Never mind that Murphy stresses me out: barks whenever someone walks past the house, regularly poops in the house, and jumps up on everyone constantly.  If I had listened to my heart and thought about what I want and only what I want, I would have never said yes to taking him.  But I'm not yet well versed in doing so, and agreeing to take Murphy seemed like the right thing, the nice thing to do.  Boy am I still learning.  Dr. P, who works very hard not to show opinions about right or wrong behavior, clearly had an opinion about this.  Long story short, after talking with her about it and several other people and hemming and hawing for several days, I decided to tell the STBEX that I would not be able to talk Murphy.  It felt awful and right at the same time.  Right because I listened to me first, and did what I wanted.  Awful because I hate the thought of him irritated with me because I was annoyingly wishy-washy about the situation and I feel guilty for being so.  Part of me wants to follow up and see how he's dealt with the situation, but I get that it's not my concern.  I do feel good that I don't have to deal with Murphy.  It's not that I don't like the dog at all, but he brings more stress than pleasure, and right now, I don't need to bring any more stress into my life.  ESPECIALLY when keeping Murphy at this time would be a reminder that STBEX is off on the same work conference that he went to with her last year where they first slept together.  And so we reach the anniversary of the beginning of this hellish experience of the last year.

Today at parent teacher conferences, STBEX said during our meeting with NO's teacher that communication between us wasn't great.  Pissed me off.  I've been making a concerted effort.  I have frequently forwarded him emails to make sure that he is on various lists.  I have taken pictures of handouts and sent them to him in text messages.  I have informed him about homework on multiple occasions.  And yet he is so confused that he suggests that communication is the problem and somehow specifically my fault.  It made me mad and we got in an argument about it after conferences on the street corner.  It wasn't until after we went our separate ways that I realized this is the exact same pattern that he repeatedly uses.  When he has a frustration, instead of taking responsibility for his own behavior (like either forgetting to email the teacher to be on the email list or forgetting to read the email), he finds away to project and blame me.  Then he turned things around a bit and tried the other familiar strategy, the victim, hands-tied posture in which the problem is the set up.  He can't possibly be familiar with NO's school work because he only has them on Wednesday night and every other weekend.  As frustrating as the conversation was, it helps to see that this really isn't about me.  It's about him.

But here's to some new patterns.  Today was hard.  It's been a hard lead up to Halloween and I knew it would be hard to not have the boys.  But I'm so glad I had a good plan for the evening.  I went to a zumba class and out to eat with a friend of mine who also was without her children for the evening on account of divorce.  The dancing and endorphins were great and then dinner was fabulous and THEN, I went on a shopping spree.  I was already in the parking lot of the new Nordstrom's Rack and decided I would just go check it out and see what kinds of things they have.  I am not much of a shopper.  It's not that I don't see things that I like, it's that I like so much and I'm so frugal and spending money on myself is particularly hard, and so since there's so much I like I end up buying nothing because I can't decide.  Mostly I just avoid stores.  But not tonight.  And I did it by myself too.  Or mostly by myself.  I had to text my sister pictures of all the dresses, and enlist the help of her, one of the store clerks, and another friend on the phone.  But here's the pattern breaker: I tried on 5 dresses and they all fit, were cute, and very reasonably priced.  I went in to look for a scarf, decided to buy a dress.  Decided to get as many as three and then said what the hell, get four.  This is crazy unusual behavior.  But the point is that normally I would have listened to my internal voice say, "You don't need 4 dresses.  That's extravagant.  You have to prioritize and figure out what you want the most."  Tonight however, I realized there was no good reason for not getting all four.  I liked them.  They fit.  They looked very classy. They were warm for winter.  They look like they'll last a long time (I have clothes in my closet from 10 years ago). And, they were only $40/dress.  What the hell is the difference between $120 and $160 when I have enough money in the bank to cover the visa bill?  It was very liberating.  I'm not saying that I'm going to become a shopaholic or spend money irresponsibly in the future, but for right now, it was really good practice in listening to the other inner voice, the one that I'm less practiced in listening to, the one that considers my desires before considering what is judicious, responsible, fair, helpful, and not problematic for others.

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