Alone Together


Everybody who lives with a sports fan but is not one herself needs a room of her own. Sometimes, it might even save a marriage, because when one person in the house takes over the main space without regard to the other, and the other just lets it be, resentment might simmer. Not mentioning any names:)

But, if you’re older and your powers of concentration aren’t what they used to be and you have a guest room that hardly ever gets used…there may be an alternative to simmering resentment. Through the years, I have lost the ability to tune out sports. Used to be able to read and just have whatever game Al was watching going on in background. (I can still do golf, as the fans and announcers are so nice and quiet:)

My thinking was, hey, at least we’re in the same room. It kind of seemed romantic to me at the time, because we don’t have a ton in common, like he doesn’t read novels and I don’t watch sports, and I read novels all the time and he seems to spend about an equal amount of time watching sports, so if we can do our separate things together, we’re good.

Except. Something happened since we moved. I can’t focus on the page anymore while he’s got The Game on. And The Game is always on. Sometimes it’s a switch from one game to another. Crazy! At first, I tried reading in bed, but I’d fall asleep too early. Then I tried my office, but that’s for, you know, work.

I don’t have a comfy reading space there. I check papers there. I write blog posts there. I organize plots and things. But I don’t curl up with a good book. Or for that matter a television program, like Elementary  or Castle or Masterpiece. I like story television. Al … not so much. He likes Nashville and The Blacklist, so whew, at least we have a tiny bit in common there. Last night we watched Bones and while he got points for only checking the hockey scores during commercials, he annoyed me slightly by saying non-addict things like “Sweets is DEAD?” and “Booth was in PRISON?”

I know lots of people have televisions in their bedrooms but we don’t. And I really don’t want one in there. It’s a personal choice. We used to have one, but he’d always fall asleep, you guessed it, with sports on. So there’s been a ban on television in the bedroom for at least a decade.

We do have other television sets, one in a rarely used guest room upstairs. Which got me thinking…and that always leads to trouble. In this case, Al was totally against me fixing up a Sports Free Zone. Because I have LOTS of ideas. I wanted to take that hutch off the dresser and put it in the basement. (“It cost an extra $1000 for that hutch!”) I wanted to get rid of the black and glass television console and put the television on the tallboy. (“It’s a perfectly good television stand.” “Takes up too much space. Not feng shui.”) And I wanted the old end table beside the bed swapped out for a lovely bookshelf we were not even using.

So we did all that and then he tried to hook up the cable. Oh-oh. Time to update the old cable box. Also the lamp needs to be replaced. And the hutch had the mirror, so I needed a new one. Plus a few other things. You can see where all this is going, right?

$$$ + Time = Unhappy Man

But finally he has given in, as he always does when I really want something, and I’m working on my Sports Free Zone. I listened to music in there the other night. Still no cable, but soon. He’s trying to “fix” the old one in the meantime. Marriage is all about compromise. I’m getting my new space, and that’s what matters.

Bonus I had not considered: by using the room, I’m finding ways to make it more comfy for Tim and Alicia when they arrive on Christmas Eve. It is going to be perfect! For them and for me.

Confronting My Heart

Photo on 9-27-14 at 5.15 PMOpenness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Mix these five ingredients, psychology says, and you have the human personality. Add intersections of relationship and environment and the impact of each trait lessens or heightens. And none are all good or all bad, either, although the word “neurotic” has never been a favorite of mine. Much to my surprise, I recently learned that because I have, at times, suffered acute anxiety to the point of panic, that’s part of my personality. And the phobias that have been part of my life for so long are part of being neurotic, too.

Everyone suffers from anxiety. Neuroticism, like all the traits, is a spectrum, everyone falls somewhere on it. I just happen to be left of center. Way. Or I was. I’ve been getting better and that’s because without understanding why or even what I was doing, I was working on it, intuitively.

My wedding anniversary was this past weekend. There I am in a photo on “the day” happy not to be cooking but not really looking all wedding anniversary happy. That’s because my marriage has been going through some changes. It seems that as my anxiety lessens, and I confront each of my fears and face them down, my marriage takes another hit. Which is ironic because my husband is the one who first led me to seek help. We were driving and I couldn’t catch my breath. I was telling him I was scared and could he slow down as I held my hands in front of my face. “What, do you think we’re going to die?” He was really angry. “YES!” I said. “I think that. It feels like that.” A beat of silence. “Well you’re just crazy. You better go see somebody.”

Neither of us knew I was having a panic attack brought on by a phobia related to driving. He just knew crazy when he saw it. So I made an appointment with my doctor, who referred me to a psychiatrist. Lovely woman. She gave me the information, and the help, I needed for that particular phobia. I also learned that it’s really not crazy to be afraid for your life if someone is driving drunk or high, if there is black ice or a blizzard or a severe rainstorm. Those are pretty natural reactions to driving in dangerous conditions. Beyond the pale, I had those kind of reactions all the time, for no reason. But I kept at therapy, and I got better.

After psychotherapy, I started to crave calm. I’ve always been impatient and anxious, busy and social. Those things didn’t feel so right anymore, so I took up, and have kept up, yoga, meditation, prayer, visualization, nature walks, vegetarianism, periods of retreat, alcohol moderation, and yes, medication for when the panic gets severe. After 25 years, I have crossed several former phobias off my list. I am no longer afraid of speaking in public, flying, or heights. I drive with very little anxiety except for brief flashbacks due to a recent accident that totaled my car and bruised my body and mind.

That’s my history of anxiety. What I didn’t know was that my problems took a toll on my husband. And my marriage. He is not a nurturing type. He’s not given to huge emotional gestures. He really doesn’t get it or me and even after all these years I cope alone, which is fine. He never asks me for help with his personality issues. Or anything else, for that matter. He actually likes being in charge of stuff. Which has led to some problems now that I’m sliding more toward normal on that neuroticism spectrum. Because now that I’m less focused on my own wellness, I want to help decide the wellness of our future.

Neuroticism never defined me. I have other, better, stronger traits that have led me to follow my dreams and do some things I never imagined. Persistence is part of “conscientiousness” which really just means you finish what you start. Like that novel. Or you do what you say you will, like send the finished novel to publishers. I have that persistent thing in vast quantities, which helped me publish my books way more than my writing skills.

Twelve years blogging? Again, that’s just me following through. Seeing something to the finish. I’m pretty open to new experiences, too. Yeah, funny for a fraidy cat. But I never jump in the water fearing sea serpents. And I’ve never met one yet. So, I’m not an extrovert. I do a great imitation of one. Even I didn’t know I was an introvert until Myers-Briggs told me so. And it’s a good thing I am, because writers need a lot of time alone. Those words take time to put on paper.

You might thing agreeableness is a wonderful trait. I have a lot of that and it’s caused me as much trouble as the phobic stuff. Because when you always say yes, some of those things you are yessing to are things you should be no-ing. And my Mr of 29 years now doesn’t much like the word no coming from the lips of his formerly compliant wife. He doesn’t much like some of my ideas for changing things up in this relationship of ours. And I can’t believe how long I lived with things the way they were. Bet he wishes he never called me crazy.

Sex Tips for Life & Literature

Al is being very nice to me lately. He has also been more interested in getting next to me. I notice these things even though I am way past menopause. When you’ve been married almost 29 years and your husband starts acting like days of yore, it makes you go hmmmm. Like a few weeks ago. “After golf…” he said. Whenever it’s “After” anything without the thing being named, the thing is sex. Later in the week, he reminded me again. “We have a date tomorrow.”

I looked at him. Really? Sex is a date? Since when? So I said “We don’t have a date, we have a booty call.”

Usually I make him laugh when I say things like that, and I really was teasing, but he got all sputtery and concerned.

“What do you mean?”

“Well. You’re golfing with (male) Golf Partner. Then you’re going out to dinner with GP. Then you’re coming home to have sex with me …”

“You girls come to dinner,” he said.

I was good with that. I didn’t mean to manipulate him in to taking me out, but hey, sometimes we do meet the guys after golf and I love being waited on. I think every ex-waitress does.

Then, a few days later, he was like “Tomorrow night …” Again with the unfinished sentence and the significant look. And I’m thinking, man this is crazy.

A few days ago, I told Al about an article I read in “Psychology Today” by Virginia Rutter, who claims that men who share in household chores have more sex. Then yesterday he cleaned the bathroom. I mean it is gleaming. But he does that every week and has since forever. He also washes windows. And grills. But then he sits at the table like a king while I bring him his dinner, his fork, his knife, his napkin. Once in awhile, I’ll forget the silverware if I have a couple of complicated dishes going and he will get himself a fork and dig in. In all the years we’ve been together, he never brings one for me. That used to really hurt my feelings, but I laugh about it now.

He cleans the bathrooms, the job I hate the most.

Contrary to Rutter’s research, our sex life has not always been this hot. Sure the first five years. Okay the first ten. But after that? Good phases and bad phases and things get really complicated with menopause. If you’re not there, you don’t want to know.

So, this dress. In the picture. My mother bought it for me. She still loves buying me dresses. I tried it on and it’s that comfy stretchy t-shirt material but a little low cut for me except as a house dress. I don’t normally do much cleavage. I have a little beachy top I put over this just to walk to the mailbox or water my plants. But it’s so comfy. And Al likes it. You might think, well, Cindy, there’s your answer. But, nope, it’s not the dress.

It’s not the weight loss either, since that’s been a gradual thing since about this time last year. And I have a ways to go before I’m the weight I was when he married me.

Not the dress, not the weight loss, not the housework. I finally had to ask my randy man what the heck was going on. “The blonde hair,” he said.

And everything clicked into place. Most often, the correct answer is the obvious answer.

Streetcars & Desire

brandoAl and I had the biggest fight the other day. Everything’s good now, but wow, we travelled the streetcar through every major problem in our marriage, flinging accusations like Stanley and Stella and generally doing all the things that marriage counselors advise against. Like bringing up past transgressions. And we did it in public! I didn’t even care that people were listening. Three older ladies at the next table in particular had avid ears peeled.

Those three ladies were probably very happy to be out and about without husbands and I am okay letting them feel smug at my expense. Truth is, you cannot be married for 29 years and never hop on that streetcar. Well, I cannot, but perhaps you are an enlightened master of love and marriage is not a problem you need to work on. If that’s true, I’m so happy for you.

My desire for more autonomy created the chaos. I’d given up all control several years ago so I could write and meditate in peace. In church, my minister said “The way to have a happy marriage is to treat your partner the way you want to be treated.” Sounded like good advice, and because my heart’s desire is that Al say yes to every single thing I wish, I tried to do that for him. Even when the minister ran off with his secretary, leaving his wife to tend his bewildered flock, I persisted in being a perpetual “yes” woman, although I started going to yoga on Sundays instead of church.

But saying yes and treating people as you wish to be treated has to work both ways, and it doesn’t always happen like that. There are people quite willing to let you be their dog, if you’re okay with that. In marriage, a hypothetical marriage, not my own, ahem, maybe one partner, someone like Stanley Kowalski, believes he is the dominant person in the marriage, he will take every “yes” for granted. I say ‘yes’ a lot because it is so much easier than having another argument about whatever.

I still believe in treating everyone, not just your mate, the way you would like to be treated. Until they take advantage of that, then it’s time to step off the streetcar. When it has come to a complete stop, of course.

On Men & Motorcycles


biker.night.photoThe weather broke finally in Michigan yesterday, going from 55 to 85 in a day. We knew it was coming, so made a plan with friends to dine in a little town at a sidewalk café.

The guys golfed first. Al took a half a day off work just so he could get in 18 holes. We didn’t think the place would be crowded, didn’t think every single person in Michigan had been waiting for the warm weather with as much anticipation as us. Didn’t know, that in downtown Romeo, Thursday night is biker night.

Jan and I met the guys at the restaurant, where Al had a glass of Chardonnay waiting for me. There were little beads of condensation on the glass instead of frost! What a welcome beverage after the crazy busy day I had yesterday. And the food was pretty good, too. Younger’s Irish Pub has the best sweet potato fries in northern Michigan.

Al took the photo above. He gave away three motorcycles when we moved away from his super-size garage. I think he’ll buy one of these shiny new toys when he retires or maybe even tomorrow. He was really eyeing the action on the street.

There’s this thing he does when he thinks I’m not paying attention. I didn’t catch on for a really long time, but now that we have the camera phones, I’ll ask him to shoot a pic for me and then go to send it to myself and pop! the things my eyes have seen. Of course I delete the honey shots immediately. And then I say a few choice words about DOGs (Dirty Old Guys).

He had our waitress in the frame last night … I saw him pointing and ready to click & said don’t you dare. I used to be a waitress and I remember the DOGs with distaste, even disgust. Ugh. Don’t they know they’re bald? Don’t they know I’m only twenty? Don’t they have granddaughters my age?

Now that I’m not so young myself, bald heads and pot bellies don’t faze me. Nobody who lives as long as I have (59 years) escapes what time does to our faces and bodies. So why not just accept it and act your age, my dear husband? Then again, I guess a man can dream. About bad motorcycles, not sweet young things.