Coming out of the closet

I’ve been struggling to write.  I haven’t been especially inspired.  Really it all began with the shutting down of Single in the Southwest.

That was my choice – yes it was, in many ways – but to be totally honest, I hated ending that blog. It still exists, it’s just that I don’t write there any more and no one has access to it unless I allow it.

My Ex, T-dub, hated Single. Vehemently.

And I sort of can’t blame him, yet I repeatedly explained the math to him – stop giving me so much to write about and I will quit publicly raking you over the coals. I thought it was simple, yet apparently he didn’t see it that way.

In a moment of, I’m not sure what, frustration? indignation? I got so sick of him and his oh poor me I am such a victim of her writing act that I decided to rid the world of Single in the Southwest.

I understand why I did it and in the moment it seemed like the right thing to do – for the children.

Not that I believe the children were being hurt by anything I had to say – they didn’t even care about the blog – but T said that he would cooperate and be respectful if the blog was gone so poof! gone.

And I called his bluff. He “spoke” to me one time after that – ONE TIME.

And that was via text and just enough to inform me that no, he would not be paying his portion of the kids medical bills.

That was a year ago.

Could I have had my First Amendment Rights upheld in a court room? Probably. I certainly wasn’t writing anything that wasn’t true.images-2

I didn’t lie about him calling me a whore. I didn’t lie about him dying his chest hair. I didn’t make it up when he threatened me in public – in front of the kids and their entire football team – screaming that I had failed my children.

I also didn’t only write about him. There was a series on vibrators, quite a bit about parenting teenagers, and the one about work that almost cost me my job. And yet, he thought it was all about him.

Typical.

So yes, there was a good chance that I could have kept on typing away but I grew tired of the fight.

I also had a lot of fear. What if a Judge saw me as a bad parent because I wrote the things that I wrote? What if we stood in a courtroom and the Judge agreed that I was harming the children with my words? What if the judge called me a whore?

Then, the moment preceding the moment where I threw my hands up in the air yelling “I give up,” T was in the middle of insisting that of course, the blog could stay, but that he would be able to determine if anything that I wrote was suitable or acceptable.

In other words he believed that he should have final editorial approval before I hit “Publish.”

C.E.N.S.O.R.S.H.I.P.

Fuck that noise.

So, Blog – Gone.

Writer’s block – here for the long haul.

One of my greatest sadnesses when I look back over the years is realizing just how much of my life has been run by fear – primarily fear of him.

I have this deep anxiety-producing paranoia of getting in trouble which most likely started when, surprise surprise, I was a young kid and didn’t want to get in trouble.

Unfortunately I lived my marriage in a way that created the same dynamic. And then it showed up in a few other areas of my world, like work, and suddenly it became crippling.

I’d like to say that it became the litmus test for all decisions that I made, but the truth is, it didn’t.

I’m still independent and feisty enough to not let anyone else tell me what I can and cannot do.

I just suffered the consequences afterwards. In other words, I got in trouble.

So with my kids’ well-being at stake, I cowered in the face of fear and shut my trouble making mouth.

And in the process, shut myself right down.

But things are shifting for me. Or I actually need them to shift and so here is a step that will hopefully take me in that direction.

Over the last couple of years and the last few court hearings, I have come out on top – way on top. I have seen that the court system may be really flawed, but if you get a wise judge who is also a parent, sometimes things work out the way that they should; the way that is actually best for the children and…fair.

With the freedom of a few wins and watching a judge put him in his place and validate that I am a good mother, I am able to shed some of my fears.

So today, I am taking a monumental step. I am coming out of hiding.

Have I thought this through?

Probably not thoroughly enough, but I tend to be impulsive anyway.

I’m sick of the fear. I am sick of hiding. Sick to death of handing my power over to him. And living in secrecy has been doing just that.

So, today, I will link HDD to my own Facebook page.

And right here, right now I will say:

I , Suzanne Strazza, am High Desert Darlin, the artist formerly known as Single in the Southwest.

And I am a writer, a mother, a lover.

I am exercising my First Amendment rights.

And I am free.

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No, being an introvert is not cool.

Google “being an introvert is cool” and you will get approximately 502,000 hits.

Huffington Post, Near Science, Thought Catalog Weekly, Introverts for Dummies.

Have you seen all of the memes out there? Girl wrapped in blanket on couch with cat and book. Girl not answering her phone. Girl sneaking out of a party without saying goodbye.

It’s almost always a girl.

And she’s usually quite endearing.

And happy.

There are new articles, studies, personal essays and cartoons every single day celebrating the life of an introvert, making good-natured jokes about a person hoping that a party gets cancelled or eating alone in a restaurant.

I even saw on an Introvert Bingo board “Adorably Awkward.”

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The message is definitely YAY for wanting to be alone!

Many of my loved ones find me quirky, silly, eccentric.

But let’s just clear something up right now…

IT’S NOT FUCKING COOL TO HAVE PANIC ATTACKS BEFORE FRIENDS SHOW UP AT YOUR HOUSE.

Sure, I can embrace the lighter side of introversion – I do entertain myself well, I enjoy my own company, I love to read and definitely do not need external attention to feel complete or even good about myself. And yes, because I have relatively high self-esteem, I prefer being a loner than not.

But it can be so very very dark and scary and lonely and it’s not about a goddamn bingo board or hanging out with my cat.

Last night, MCB was at the neighbor’s and when he came home he said that they were coming over for burgers (which he was preparing so it wasn’t about me having to cook.) 2 close friends, super duper casual and easy and fun. They’d been pulling thistle all day and needed to be fed.

All in all a lovely invitation from MCB and had I had notice, I would have probably gotten excited.

But, since it was spur of the moment, I lost my shit. Seriously fell apart. I ended up on the bathroom floor pathetically unable to deal, sobbing.

I couldn’t decide which was worse: telling the friends to not come over and suffer the humiliation of being rude; having them come over and trying to fake my way through the evening while my heart was pounding in my chest and I was fighting back tears and therefore couldn’t be nice, and suffer the humiliation of being a bitch to two really kind people; or letting them come over and hiding in my room pretending to be sick and suffering the humiliation of them knowing that I am a complete basket case.

I had to leave the house and go for a drive. I went to the park where I often go to cry, saw a friend and totally unloaded all of my social anxiety onto his shoulders (bless his heart.) I drove around looking at wildlife wishing I was a fox.

Then, mortified, I called MCB to let him know that I was (slowly) recovering and that yes, they should come over and hopefully I was going to pull it together and be hospitable.

I did. I actually had a good time. Since M and M were here when I finally returned and deserved and explanation I offered up, “I had a breakdown” and left it at that.

What was I going to say,”I completely freaked out because I found out that you two were coming over”?

The dark side of “cool introversion” is about exhaustion and terror and despondency. It’s about crying on the bathroom floor because you just found out that people are unexpectedly coming to your house.

It means not going to the store when you desperately need something because you don’t want to see anyone and have to talk, so doing without things like…dinner.

It’s about not getting your oil changed when it’s WAY overdue even when a mechanic shop is on your property because you get gripped at the thought of having to ask for something even though the mechanic is a good friend and it’s his job.

It’s about not returning movies on time for fear of another person standing in front of the red box.

It’s about losing friends because you are unable to keep in contact since to do so would mean talking on the phone or worse – actually making time for a face to face.

It mean people not liking you because they think you’re stuck up or intimidating.

It’s about arguing with the “more the merrier” friend because she really doesn’t get that for you, more isn’t merrier and you feel so misunderstood and flawed because you’re not able to be with great people all at one time and you’re sick and tired of having to explain that to her.

It’s about feeling deep shame when your best friend does actually get it and asks if it’s okay to invite one more person to go to the movie with the two of you.

It’s about having to offend people when you  lay down the law about drop-ins and not making exceptions even for the closest of friends.

It’s about having to have time to wrap your head around shifting gears, changing plans and being in public. It’s about sometimes being utterly unable to to that.

I live on a working ranch, there is always activity here, there are always people around.

I lie in my bed silently praying that no one decides to knock on the door.

I get resentful that I can’t go collect chicken eggs without risking a conversation. Sometimes I blow off the chickens.

I spent the entirety of today alone, doing laundry, weeding, drying mint, petting my dog. I haven’t been on the phone. I haven’t left the house except to feed the chickens. I thought about watching a movie tonight, but it feels too stimulating.

So sure, there are some really good things about not being a social beast and I am super okay with going to the desert by myself and writing for three days without fear or boredom or FOMO. I am incredibly well-read and getting sent to my room as a kids was a gift, not a punishment.

But folks, let’s not make light of this. Let’s not pretend that it’s all about the cat and the couch.

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Such great news (said with deep sarcasm)

My sons’ friend had a healthy baby boy last night. Yay!

He’s 17. She’s, maybe, 16.

Yay!

She still has braces.

It’s so sad.  I know that they are happy – who isn’t when they hold their baby for the first time.

And I know, (or assume) that after wrapping her head around the whole idea, Mom is happy to be a grandmother.

I can’t imagine not loving your first grandchild.

But wouldn’t you want that to happen a bit later in everyone’s lives?

But let’s add some weirdness to the weirdness…

My sons’ 50 year old father just had a baby 2 weeks ago.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Playdates.

Doesn’t anyone know anything about birth control?

The dad thing is ridiculous. The friend thing is just really sad.

I’m not being judgmental as much as I am being a mom – a mom who could barely handle being a mamma at 32 because I felt totally ill-equipped. I can’t imagine what a 16 year old has got to feel like.

And as much as I love my babies, I still think about things I didn’t do before I had them – when I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. I wouldn’t trade it, but there are certainly things that I wish I had experienced, places I wish I had gone, adventures had.

And I was 32 – What the fuck do you think when you’re 16 or 17? “Oh. I’ll have plenty of time for all of that because my child will be out of the house by the time I’m 35?

Okay, admittedly, that’s appealing.

All I know is that I would be devastated if one of my boys came home to tell me he’s having a baby and a future in this town working at the grocery store. It makes it hard to breathe.

Those two kids, with their new family photo on Facebook, are just babies – babies playing house.

Until they get home and realize that it’s not a game.

And my sons’ dad – he’s got 2 under 2. Good luck on that one.

 

 

 

Dinner Out

Yep, I’m going out to dinner with friends.

2 hours away.

In another state.

Because I can.

Because I am trying on “spontaneous,” “adventuresome,” and “friend who actually makes some effort.”

A lot has happened in my relationship world as it pertains to friendships.

First, I lost one of my very best friends. The reason why will remain unspoken. It has been painful and lonely and caused me to question not only everything about her, but more importantly, everything about me.

Then, as often happens, falling in love and creating a family together takes up quite a bit of that time that, were I single, would be spent with friends.

I’m not a keep-in-toucher, I can feel deep love for someone, and not talk to them for months or even years and pick up right where we left off.

And, I’m a loner. I have a natural tendency to blow people off so that I can be alone.

All of which leads up to a conversation with my children about MCB’s friends that went something like this, “Oh, we really like Joe, he’s super cool, but Bob…freakshow.”

Pause, wheels turning, “Mom, you don’t really have any friends.”

“Yes I do.”

No I don’t.

I mean, obviously I am friends with the people I work with and I am friends with a lot of MCB’s friends and I do have a couple of close friends here who I never see but still love, but do I have a tribe?

Not anymore.

And then…

MCB and I have a mutual friend from our pasts who we love and just moved to the area.  Lucky us.

And then…

An old old friend, a very important person in my world for a good chunk of time, who I hadn’t spoken with in years, came to visit the friend just mentioned.

And then…

I realized that I have some super important people in my life that I actually love dearly and with whom I want to maintain a connection.

So I posted a photo of these 3 men on Facebook and I received this response, “Great photo. We’re in Utah and we miss you. Come see us.”

So I am driving to Utah to see people that I love because it’s important that I have people that I love in my life.

 

 

 

Today’s Project

From the Oxford Dictionary

injustice

Lack of fairness or justice

An unjust act or occurrence

unjust

Not based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair

forgive

Stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake

no one said this was going to be easy

Friendship

Years ago, I had a friend, J, who was totally sucking me dry. We’d been friends for 100 years, but our friendship had deteriorated and it felt like a chore to spend time with her – even if it was just on the phone.

This was in the days before email – that might have made things manageable.

Every conversation was all about her: her problems, her feelings, her sadness, her anger, her life.

I had small children and an abusive husband (although I was still in denial about that) and was exhausted and miserable most of the time. I looked to my friendships to bring me joy and laughter. I wanted support and to support. Friendships at that point were about camaraderie and shared experiences.

They were supposed to be two-way.

Ours always had been, but they no longer were.

For years, I believed that I just needed to “be there” for her; to listen to her, to accept her self-centeredness and anger – even when it was inappropriately directed at me. I believed that it was a phase – that this wasn’t who she really was, and that likely, at some point, our roles would be reversed and I would need her as much as she currently needed me.

She had already propped me up a million times.

But I came to resent that she never even asked about my life, my kids, my shitty husband, my happiness or discontent. I would begin a sentence with “I” and she would follow with “I” and I would disappear.

I was talking to another friend about it who said, “We’ve come to a point in our lives where we don’t have time for friendships that don’t feed us.”

I believed her and yet felt that J was too old of a friend, we’d been through too much together and she was hurting badly enough that I couldn’t let go – that would make me a horrible and selfish person.

And yet, I slowly and then quickly, began to back out. And I honestly felt more free – I no longer dreaded answering the phone.

This was also in the time before Caller ID, so answering the phone was a total crapshoot.

I missed her, for sure, but I told myself that what I missed no longer existed. I thought, “If I met J now, we wouldn’t be friends.”

We still talked once in a while, but no longer made any honest effort to see each other. I knew that she harbored some anger towards me, and I understood and accepted that.

The deterioration of our friendship made me sad and I always hoped that one day, we could reestablish our connection.

And yet…I definitely felt like I had done the right thing – for me.

The opportunity to reconnect will never happen. J is dead. She died a few years after I withdrew.

At her funereal someone actually said, “Yeah, she was angry with you. She didn’t feel like you were a friend to her any longer.”

A crushing blow – although I’m not sure why. I totally expected and deserved that.

And now that she’s gone, of course I have regrets. And I am envious of those who maintained their connections with her – I feel like I missed out.

In some ways. And some ways, not.

Obviously I still think about it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be writing about it on this sunny Sunday morning.

Did I do the right thing? Was I selfish? Did I bail on a friend or am I pretending that she was really a friend at that point?

It sure didn’t feel like it.

I miss her, miss what we had had for so many years. But then again I don’t miss, at all, what it had turned into.

Would it have turned around again?

Who knows.

Does the possibility of shift make it okay to stick around when someone is completely sucking you dry?

Is it okay to say, “This really isn’t working for me,”?

Or is that being equally as selfish and self-serving?

If I had the chance for a do-over, what would I choose?