Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On the Passing of an Old Classmate

Submitted without further commentary...

Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences 
Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They're all that's left you. 
-- Simon & Garfunkel,
Columbia Records

She departed this life last December, I learned today.   I had not seen her since I graduated from college.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Facing an Old Demon

Last weekend, I was introduced to X's current boyfriend.  It's been six years since she moved out of the house, but this is the only one of them I have met.  I've never asked for much information in this area, and she's never volunteered much about them, other than to ask if the kids could stay with me on nights when she had plans.  I know of only one other former boyfriend by name, and that was only because he was the sibling of a prominent radio personality here.

The introduction was cordial.  He seems like a good guy.  He has a daughter about the same age as our older daughter.  He was there so that X could introduce him to the kids and go out for ice cream together.

Emotionally, it was much more difficult than I had imagined it being.  Although I have no feelings for X, my feelings of rejection in that relationship haunt me still, even more so given the downshift in together time I've had in my own romantic relationship.  Putting a face and a name to what she wanted, at least superficially, gave me the impression that she wanted something very different out of a man than me.

That demon of undesirability is lurking in the dark reaches of my mind.  The weekends that my girlfriend and I normally would spend together are now just maybe a few hours together.  Dinner at a restaurant or sitting together at church.  I struggle with the feeling that while she says she is unhappy with it, she is really OK with it, or at least doesn't feel the same pain that I feel when I realize that we won't be spending that time together.

 I've been trying to channel energy into things that I've needed to do for a while -- yard work and decluttering to name a couple things.  I don't have a lot of disposable income, so getting out of the house to do things that cost money seems infeasible, and going places where there are a lot of people by myself feels weird, like I'm being unfaithful to the relationship.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Moribund 2am RSS Feeds

Started to take a look at the blogs that I used to follow via Google Reader many a year ago. I migrated them to Feedly when Google did its Spring Cleaning shutdown of Reader.  Most of the feeds have gone dormant.  Only Anais (Dancing with Myself), Dawn (I am Doing the Best I Can and other blogs), Tom Allen (The Edge of Vanilla), and Drunken Housewife are posting with any degree of regularity.  Here is a listing of each blog in my feed and the number of days since the last post was published.
  1. ...For a Different Kind of Girl (Eponymous) - 506
  2. A Very Merry Un-Birthday (Mandy Lou) - 1151
  3. Dancing with Myself (Anais) - 4
  4. Deepest Darkest Thoughts (Trueself)- 178
  5. Drunken Housewife (Eponymous) - 32
  6. I Am Doing the Best I Can (Dawn) - 6
  7. I Should've Been Famous by Now (Tajalude) - 1004
  8. Mind Blowing Insanity (Jinsane) - 165
  9. Never Judge a Book by its Cover/Blogger (Cat) - 1175
  10. Never Judge a Book by its Cover /Wordpress (Cat) - 772
  11. Phyllis Renee (Eponymous) - 1562
  12. Reality & Redemption/Wordpress (Digger Jones) - 173
  13. Reality & Redemption/Blogger (Digger Jones) - 1871
  14. The Edge of Vanilla (Tom Allen) - 29
  15. The Eyes Have It (Fiona) - 138
  16. Unsolicited Advice/Blogger (Digger Jones) - 2052
  17. Unsolicited Advice/Wordpress (Digger Jones) - 455
 This doesn't include blogs that have shut down, like Meet Joe Flirt, Therese in Heaven, and Law Girl, and Euro Posh, or the blogs that have gone private like Have the T-Shirt, and Fade to Numb.

What blogs do you miss?

Playing the Hand You're Dealt

Last weekend, we had the closest thing to one of "our weekends" that we've had in a long time.

My girlfriend's ex-husband got paid late last week, which meant he had money, so he promised his son that he'd come get him for the weekend.  He cancelled the Friday evening pickup, claiming he had to work and promising to pick him up the next day.  Actual pickup time was Saturday afternoon at 3 pm.  No explanation given.  He was driving another new used car, the third or fourth that he's had so far this year.

It was almost an overnight for us, but her daughter's plans for the weekend fell through when the friend she was going to stay with got sick, complications from hypoglycemia.  With no other plans, she was going to stay home, so that put the overnight plans into the "nope" column.  The three of us met for dinner, and then she took her daughter home so she could come over to see me.  We had about four hours of together time, which was reinvigorating.

I shared with her my feelings that the lack of together time this year had been a drain on me.  I also made it clear that I didn't blame her.  I knew she didn't have control of her ex-husband.  But it was also true that I was experiencing severe loneliness due to the unpredictability and infrequency of our time together.  She said she didn't like the way things were for her.  She said she knew we needed time away from the kids so we could talk freely in a way you can't when you're on the phone or texting.  She said was able to "compartmentalize" that and go on, realizing that this was just how things were going to be for a while because she didn't see him getting any better about being there for his kids.

We talked about how we could be more creative about finding time to be alone.  She floated the idea of changing up our weekly dinner night so that instead of me coming to her house, she would come to mine without her kids. She would make them something for dinner and let them eat by themselves.  Her kids are 15 and 12, so they can handle a few hours on their own.

We tried it out this past Wednesday.  I had dinner ready for us and we snuggled after that, spending about three hours together.  I asked her how her kids were dealing with this arrangement, and she said her daughter (the 15 year-old) was OK with it, but the son wasn't happy, complaining that she was probably going to eat something better than what they were having.  Although it hurt to see her go, we were both happy with it, so we will probably make this the new weekly routine.

Got a phone call from X this evening letting me know that when I bring the kids home on Sunday evening, her boyfriend was going to be there and she was going to introduce him to the kids.  She said that the kids know about him, so this wouldn't blindside them.  I guess I will get to meet him as well.  Should be interesting.

Work is still grinding on me.  The project that I was conscripted as tech lead for about a month ago is hitting issues with resource allocation, with a consultant whom they hoped to have lined up not ready to go.  Realizing this, the powers that be have agreed to extend the completion date, which was already way too aggressive.  I'm getting some interest from recruiters, so I've been telling them that I won't be available until the project winds down, which will be most likely October now.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dusting the Sidebar

I've revisited the links on my sidebar to weed out dead or less useful links. Among those impacted: Spirits Using Me
  • Updated a broken link for Western Pennsylvania Family Center
  • Removed links for book authors Weiner Davis, Schnarch, and Glover. The material on these sites seem to become heavier on the glitzy marketing and lighter on substance. Probably a sign of the times or the fact that I'm just so sick of what marketers do.
Larger Voices Calling

Links to the following websites have been removed because they have gone private.

  • Never Judge a Book by Its Cover (Wordpress)
  • Reality and Redemption (Blogger)
  • Unsolicited Advice (Blogger)

Surprisingly enough, it's only the Blogger-hosted Digger Jones sites that have gone private. The Wordpress blogs remain. On the other hand, Cat's Blogger-hosted "Never Judge" site remains accessbile, but dormant.

Probitionate in Situ is accessible via click-through on the Blogger-provided NSFW consent button.

I removed the link to Incurable as it appears that this blog has been shut down.

I updated the link to Difficult Relationships.

Of all of these blogs, only Drunken Housewife and The Edge of Vanilla continue to post on a regular basis. The Eyes Have It resurfaced a few months back to lament a marriage lost.

I remember when the Diggersphere was a much livelier place. I kinda miss it these days.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Late Night Listening XLIII: Silver Lining

There’s no starting over
No new beginnings time races on
And you've just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going
Looking straight out on the road
Can't worry 'bout what's behind you
Or what's coming for you further up the road
-- First Aid Kit
"My Silver Lining"
Stay Gold

You know if I'm writing a Late Night Listening post, I must be in a dark space. :-)

Before I talk about the bad, I will start off by saying that today was a productive day for me in terms of domestic tasks. I did get some housecleaning done, and the kids were surprised by how much better things looked than last week.

I'm in one of those stuck frames of mind where I feel like I don't have the physical and emotional resources to cope with life in a balanced way. It's a struggle for me to avoid letting an awful narrative take root in my consciousness. It's the narrative that argues that no matter how hard I work, scrimp, and save, there will always come along a circumstance where I will lose ground that can never be made up.

It's been a month since I used my sixth and final free EAP session through my employer. They helped me to get past the feeling of utter futility that I had been struggling with since the murder of a coworker back in April. And with my counselor's encouragement, I worked to get involved with a monthly writer meetup to give myself some contact with others.

I think I am suffering from depression. I know that I need to do something about it. I know that depression can warp a worldview to the point of self destruction. I don't think I can talk myself through it. While trying to reframe the situation and de-isolate do help some, it's not enough.

I probably need medication, but nothing has really worked for me. I did fluoxetine, the hometown favorite, back in 2002 - 2003 and that just made me sleepy. After a year, I felt like I was just in a fog all the time. In 2010, I tried escitalopram, and that just killed off sexual pleasure and gave me diarrhea. Went to desvenlafaxine, but the insurance company said that they wouldn't cover it, so we went to venlafaxine, which also killed off sexual pleasure, which just left me in an even crankier state. I gave it another try in 2013, but my new employer's insurance plan wouldn't cover it, and the generic unisured price was so hight I couldn't afford it. I don't know if I have enough runway to continue trying new medications.

My relationship with my girlfriend has undergone a downshift, and I'm not sure how much of it is circumstance, and how much of it is her pulling back. Up until the early part of this year, we would see each other once a week to eat dinner at her house. We'd go to her church on Sundays. On alternating weekends, when we didn't have the kids, she would come over and spend the weekend with me. Since spring started, we've spent only a couple of nights together, and I can't remember the last time we had a weekend to ourselves.

Depression makes it easy to fall trap to the narrative that she's pulling away, and I've had more than one weekend where I've been consumed with loneliness and preparing myself for the possibility that she might reach a point where she doesn't want to be with me anymore.

In reality, I know it is more complicated than that. When we first started dating, both of her kids would go to her ex's. When she was in eighth grade, the older child started hanging out with a couple of girlfriends of hers, spending weekends with them. When her father had to move out of his rental house and into a mobile home, she stopped going over there altogether. Over the past seven or eight months, she stopped spending weekends at her friend's house, which meant that my girlfriend couldn't spend the night anymore on those nights.

Over the past four or five months, the ex-husband has been cancelling out on weekends with his son, claiming that he had to work or didn't have enough money for food. Despite promises to make up the weekends, that never seems to happen. Many times, the ex-husband doesn't even give notice that he's cancelling out.

I could deal with these things by themselves. Granted, she could take him to court for not upholding his part of the custody agreement, but there are other signs that make me wonder. For example, there have been two or three times over this period where she and I did not have kids, and when I asked her if she wanted to spend time together, she would either remain non-committal and say nothing or say that she had other things to do, like go grocery shopping.

I restrain myself, trying to keep the insecurity in check. I double check my behavior to make sure that there isn't anything that could make me seem needy or smothering.

One of the evenings when we had dinner, I told her that I missed our "us" time. She said she did, too, but she said that she thought it was temporary. I didn't ask for clarification on what her notion of "temporary" was, and maybe I should have. I don't see it coming to an end in the near future. If her ex-husband keeps ignoring his part of the agreement, it will be a long time indeed because the son is only 12 years old.

Recently, my girlfriend said she started taking a series of classes about homeownership from the local neighborhood housing partnership. Her sister took the classes a couple of years ago in the process of buying her own house. She said she didn't have any definite plans, but she does currently rent a house she's been in for the past seven years. I know that the landlord had approached her about buying the house.

The voice of my insecurity whispers to me that because she's said little about these classes, that she's planning to go her own way eventually. I'm mired down with my own house, and their isn't enough room for her and the kids here. There isn't enough room at her house, either.

That voice grinds on me in my loneliest hours and it saps me. It is corrosive and it plays to my deepest fears that I cannot be loved wholly because I am stretched so thin as to be a good catch. I can escape it temporarily, but I can't silence it, and I hate that.

As for work, I'm at a point where I'm ready to look elsewhere. I'm stuck for a couple more months maybe because I was conscripted to be the tech lead on a highly visible death march project. I'll write more on that on another post. My radio station is playing this song, and I'm drifting off to sleep.

That song never grows old.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Of Spreadsheets Between the Sheets

I try to avoid the clickbait, but a couple of recently published stories on Huffington Post about disgruntled spouses keeping spreadsheet logs of their moribund sex lives were just too much temptation for me. Read them at your own peril.

Although it's been eight years since I started this blog and seven years since my marriage experienced it's fatal cracks, these articles made me stop to think about just how much dissatisfaction with my sex life consumed my existence back then. Same goes for many of the now defunct blogs on the sidebar. In a way, we were all keeping anonymous prose logs of our own frustrations.

We don't know the full back story of the spreadsheeting spouses, and there might be plenty of blame to go around. Regardless of the level of exclusivity within a relationship, our choices to be sexual with our partner should be consensual, not forced out of an asymmetry of power or coerced through guilt and resentment.

I don't buy the communication-is-the-key mantra usually arises in relationship clashes. It is indeed necessary, but not sufficient. I believe that for an intimate relationship to sustain itself, there has to be an agreement on what constitute the foundations of the relationship. If there isn't a willingness to find that common ground, the relationship becomes a toxic power struggle, usually based on who can get and withhold the most.

Looking back on what was my own marriage and seeing X's relationships since then, I realize I wasn't a good fit for her. The things I thought would make her happy, didn't. She's definitely attracted to people who look and act very different from me. I just wish she would have felt more freely to tell me this earlier on in the relationship, because the facade was painful and puzzling to me.

I have more to write on where my life is currently, but I'll save that for a separate post.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Conjuring Up Animal Spirits

Psychic Entropy (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991)
information that conflicts with existing intentions or that distracts people from carrying out intentions
Over the past several months, I've been finding myself visiting and revisiting in a dark emotional space. It is not despondency. All is not lost. I still have enough perspective to know there are many in the world who are enduring much worse than me.

No, the specter that haunts me is that loss is accelerating with time, and with that there is little renewal or recovery. My resources for coping financially and emotionally seem to be on an irreversible path to exhaustion, and what scares me is what I will do if I reach that point.

Yes, I keep the bills paid, and I haven't fallen behind on anything. Still financial hits keep hitting, depleting me of my savings, and I don't ever seem to have much room for replenishing savings.
The biggest hit by far was having to replace the roof back in September. That wiped out close to two thirds of my savings. I took another hit in October when I had a drain clog. The installation of a cleanout cost me $750.

The severe winter stressed me out because I was worried about the furnace giving up the ghost. It seems like every couple of years, the igniter has to be replaced at a cost of a couple hundred dollars, and the last time the furnace tech was out here, he said that it was probably time to get the heater and central air replaced. Fortunately, the furnace didn't die, even in the worst of the bitter cold from the polar vortex. To be sure, I kept the thermostat as low as 61°F, and I had to fight the temptation to listen to the furnace every time it ran for evidence that there were problems.

At the end of February, I started having slow drains and burbling toilets whenever I drained the sink or washed clothes. The first plumber who responded said I had raw sewage coming into the crawl space and needed to have a restoration service come out and fix things before they could look into doing any repairs. He said at a minimum they would have to replace the cast iron pipes and relay part of the line out to the sewer, which would start at $3,700.

Opting for a second opinion resulted in a less severe diagnosis. They rain the drain cleaning and found roots. That cost me $250, and I know that I will need to have the pipe redone because the house is 50 years old. I need to get estimates for that, too.

My brakes needed work done in late March, which cost me another $430.

I not only lost a coworker to meaningless gun violence at the beginning of the month, I was the one who took the call from his father-in-law trying to find someone at work to notify as they went through his cell phone records.

My older dog had a stroke over Easter weekend.  At the time it was happening, I had no idea what was going on and was almost certain we'd have to put him to sleep.  He has recovered, but still has some wobbliness when he walks.

The tooth that I had a root canal done on last year needed to be pulled last week when the gum in the vicinity started to swell.  It turned out to be a fractured root.

One thing that has kept me going has been my relationship with my girlfriend, with whom I've been together for just about three years, but even that has been subject to challenges. Our weekends without kids have been aligned so we've been able to have time to ourselves, but for the last month, her ex-husband has been cancelling out on his weekends, claiming he doesn't have enough money, so we haven't gotten to see each other for more than a couple hours at a time.

I haven't been living extravagantly. When I changed jobs at the beginning of 2013, I knew that I'd have to curb expenses, and I have done well keeping fixed costs down. But after taxes and support (still at the same level as my old job) take their bite, I'm living on about 46 % of my gross income. If you take into account that X has been asking me to pay for piano lessons for the past six months, it's probably less than that.

I hit an emotional trough by the beginning of April and arranged to get some counseling through my EAP, which provides six sessions. The counselor is having me try to come up with some activities I could participate in to get me out of the house. I've been looking over things to do at, but I haven't seen much that I could see myself doing.

I am pretty sure I am fighting depression, and it's affecting my ability to see how things could get better. Keynes wrote about the idea of animal spirits as a driving force in humans, the urge to do something rather than nothing, based on something other than rational calculation. To take risks, making leaps of faith toward the future, without dwelling on what could go wrong. My struggle is that my mind keeps seeing wrong turns and risks everywhere I look.

The constant loop of concerns wears me down, distracts from from focus, and leaves me feeling more helpless.  The term psychic entropy seems very fitting.

On the upside, I have been getting approached by recruiters who have been interested in whether I've been interested in making a change. If I could find a job that paid better and didn't require a death race to work, that might be the first step to getting past this horrible rut.