Dear Sujatha, My son is in the 6th grade. He is sweet, loyal, really handsome, hilarious, good at heart, but also immature, aggressive, quick to anger, impulsive, manipulative and sometimes he tells lies, though he can also be remarkably truthful! Here’s my problem: yesterday I […]
Dear Sujatha, I spend a lot of time practicing self-care, whether through yoga, meditation, or the way I eat. My boyfriend, however, doesn’t prioritize self-care, and judges the measures I go to to protect my body and my mind, potentially seeing it as selfish. How […]
I am reminded as I write this story of just how fragile we are, how fragile every love, every relationship with every person, how fragile every tender heart. We are all walking around, looking so robust, looking so full of vitality, but even the most vigorous among is is so fragile. We can be brought low. We walk out into the world and invite others to interact with us though our words, our faces, the look in our eyes. Our energy attracts people and things to us. We just walk out there never knowing what is in store. We are innocently walking out and then boom, here comes trouble.
Lest you forget that this is a story all about me and not all about Brett and me, I wanted to interject a little bit of a further back backstory to explain something I wrote in Part 4. You know how I said that Brett is the savior of my life and I reiterated it easily 5 times? I think that needs illumination. Why did I pray for him. Why did my aunt pray for him. Why do I know he was an answer to a prayer. What did he save me from? All legitimate questions that deserve some space in this little memoir-within-a- braveryblog. This itself will take a minute to explain. This part will take a few installments itself to explain.
When I was small I thought I was very ugly. To this day, I have to actively remind myself that isn’t true. When I see pictures of my young self, I am transported right inside that body covered in eczema, looking through eyes bald of eyelashes, prone to styes, eyes that sat beneath sparse eyebrow fuzz, all that was left after my incessant scratching. I had curly hair in great abundance and my mother slathered it in baby oil, and brushed it large and free of tangles, braiding it tight, and tying the ends with those elastics that secured with bright, colored balls. I had giant horse teeth in a skinny, little head, a head made skinnier by the great breadth hair that framed it. My two braids hung on either side like slick, Inuit totems with my Easter Island head long and dour in the center. I was a living, breathing advertisement for ancient people and their artifacts. When I see pictures of my baby self, I am right there in that face. But sometimes, lately, I will see these pictures and I will imagine that this little girl is my little girl instead of me, and it is shocking how that slight shift changes everything. She is then so beautiful and adorable and perfect with her still unfinished face, her nose that is long and proud in such a tiny head. I know her teeth that are so big now one day will be such a gift with their bigness and their whiteness. I see her smiling, happy eyes and I remember that indeed she had rubbed out her eyelashes and her eyebrows but I think, oh how bright and excited your eyes are; how ready you look for the next interesting thing. How adored you are, little girl. How lucky you are in your peasant shirt with the apples on the bib and the wide sleeves, and the tie in the back that you thought was so pretty that you wore it as often as you could, many times a week if memory serves. I can see the pile of books stacked beside your bed and I remember what titles you were reading and I remember how you used to go to the Patrick Henry Library in Vienna and get so many books that you had to bring a paper grocery bag to hold them all, oh little Sujatha what a bright and funny and interested girl you were. How much you loved a good story. How much you loved it when your mom read you books, even Kahlil Gibran, though you didn’t understand; David Copperfield that she insisted was so funny but it wasn’t because you didn’t understand. So many books that you didn’t understand, but which later, when you read them by yourself, you understood what it was your mother, who didn’t have a mother of her own to read to her, wanted to share with you, her so precious child. Oh Sujatha, remember when you got your appendix out and your mom stayed home from work with you for a whole week, and she read you Henry Reed’s Journey and The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis, even though that wasn’t the first book in the series and you were so enchanted and you got all the rest of the Henry Reed series and The Chronicles of Narnia from the library, and remember how you loved them so much that when you had your first child, you had to track down all those Henry Reed books and bought them second hand from some retailer so your kids could read them too. And of course you read them The Chronicles of Narnia. All that joy you gave your kids grew out of the joy you felt when you were that little girl whom you have been calling ugly for her whole life. You’ve been calling that little girl ugly for decades, Sujatha. You wouldn’t do that to anyone else in the world, would you? It isn’t very nice of you Sujatha.
So this little girl who was pretty cool and read a lot and was smart enough and nice and good who made really wonderful friends became a magnet for trouble of the weirdest and most dangerous kind, without the excuse of insobriety. Stone cold sober, and at the age my own daughter is now, I started down a road paved with lies, lined on either side with lies, in a world made up entirely of lies that nestled uncomfortably within the real world where I convinced myself I was not free because no one would let me just be how I wanted to be.
Grown up Sujatha wonders why little Sujatha ever needed anyone’s permission to be exactly what she was.
The story I’m about to tell, within the story I never tell, is hard to write, which is why I wrote this whole preamble. I should have believed my mother when she said, “You are very beautiful.” I was such a beloved child. I had no excuse to be as utterly, exhaustingly, catastrophically confused as I was. But I was, and part of this journey is to forgive myself for having made the mistakes I made. So please forgive me for taking a minute to tell the story I never tell. I am still so embarrassed by myself. I am sorry for not being bolder yet. Next time, the worst thing.
I am in a committed relationship, and my partner loves where we live, and has roots established here but I have no ties here, and am ready to move. If it is unrealistic to expect my partner to move, what can I do to find more contentment where I live, knowing that I would rather be elsewhere? What do you think, Sujatha?
Restless in Virginia
Who told you it is unrealistic to expect your partner to move? I’m not saying it is or isn’t, but I’m wondering where you got the idea that it is unrealistic. Have you discussed this with him/her, or is it just something you assumed he wouldn’t entertain. Let’s think this through in parts with me filling in information you didn’t give me. Feel free to write back and give me more to go with but from what you’re sharing, I have to come from different angles.
If you haven’t brought it up with him, you have to ask yourself why. Are you afraid of how he will react? Have you looked at all the details and made your own assessment of the viability of moving (he has a job that doesn’t transfer well, i.e. defense work, federal government work), and therefore assumed it isn’t feasible and you didn’t want to stress him out? How does he handle it when you bring up stuff that you’re unsatisfied with in your shared living arrangement? Basically, if you didn’t tell him, you have to ask yourself why. That answer will provide a lot of necessary information that will allow you to proceed to step next, which would be to reassess whether or not it’s unrealistic to expect your partner to move. (I say this is the next step rather than to tell him you’d like to move, because if he has a habit of being difficult when he knows you’re unhappy, then you have to tread lightly. No one wants to walk full on into a storm without prepping carefully beforehand. We can discuss this later if you want).
If you have brought it up with him/her and something about that conversation made you come to the conclusion that it is unrealistic to move, you still have to reassess why you think so. Was he dismissive of the thought entirely? Did he just unilaterally say no? Does he put his wishes and needs above yours in this case? Do you know why? Meaning does his work transfer easily, but he just doesn’t want to go and doesn’t care what you feel about it? Does he do this in all matters or was this the first time? Do you understand his point of view? Do you agree with his assessment of the situation?
The reason I have said every word thus far is because you wrote, “If it is unrealistic…” and of course it isn’t necessarily unrealistic. It is unrealistic to expect that you can eat the same as you did when yo were 16 years old with no changes to your activity level and not have a shift in body composition. It is unrealistic to expect your teenager to be as snuggly and sweet as she was when she was 4 years old. But moving house when one person loves it here and has roots and the other doesn’t isn’t necessarily unrealistic. I did it. Many people do it. So you have to ask yourself those questions.
But you asked some other questions that are good ones. You ask what can you do to find more contentment knowing you’d rather be somewhere else. I think the first thing you have to do is decide you don’t want to be anywhere else. There’s a lot that happens when we make a decision. Decision literally means that you “cut off” other options. If you have made a decision, all of a sudden, energy shifts to where you are, rather than to where you might otherwise be. It’s extraordinarily powerful.
If you decide after addressing all those issues above (have you discussed, why not, or what happened when you did) that it is unrealistic to move, then stop thinking you would be happier somewhere else. Because you might not. Unless there’s a specific reason you think that a particular place is where you want to be, why would it make you any happier? You don’t mention any specific problems with where you are.
Sometimes people want to move from city to suburbs or country because they need more quiet or more fresh air. They move for that reason and they are much happier. Or they move from suburbs to city for a community with more vitality and more to do within walking distance. They move to be closer to family; they move to be on the beach or in the mountains. They make the change and they are much happier. Maybe this is the case with you, but you don’t mention anything like that. If so, write back and we will revisit.
But assuming it is just an itch be somewhere else that isn’t here, but you think it is not a viable choice and you are committed to staying with your partner because you are good for and to each other (that is key, if the answer to some of those hard questions above indicates that you might not be good for and to each other, write back and we will revisit) decide that contentment will be found here, because here is your home. You aren’t moving, you aren’t leaving, you are staying, this is home. Say it to yourself until you’ve decided it. Once you’ve done that, your energy will shift and suddenly you will notice what is great about here. Suddenly you will find all your local friends rather than pining after the ones from far away that you had before. You will join the local theater community, or the yoga community, or join your local political activists, or the nature club or whatever the thing is that you do.
When we moved here from Charlottesville, my heart was COMPLETELY not in it. I did not want to move AT ALL. I loved Charlottesville, and I had it all figured out. I had a great job and great friends at my job, and I had a great gym and great friends at my gym, my kids were happy. It was such a sweet community and I LOVED it. And I grew up here in the Tyson’s area and I wasn’t thrilled at all about coming back even though my whole wonderful family lives here and that would be great for my kids. But I thought it was so soulless and that there wasn’t a community here the way there was in C’ville. I felt like this for a couple of years. Why? Because I hadn’t decided that I lived here yet. We still owned our house down there and had it rented out. I refused to sell it when we moved. Why? Because it had a $900/month mortgage and it costs so much to live up here and I couldn’t believe we were about to have a mortgage so high in a community where everything was so harried and isolated with the cost of living through the roof. Why did I feel like this? Because I didn’t wan to be here, so all I saw were the problems with NoVA over C’ville. I didn’t decide I lived here for years. And then I made these wonderful friends at my gym and at Bikram and at my kids’ schools. I began to volunteer in school. I filled my days with new friends rather than always wanting to run back to Charlottesville to see old friends. Finally, I decided we lived here. I told my husband we could sell the house down there. My energy had shifted. And now when I think about moving away from here, I feel sad at that all would be lost.
So, that’s what I think. I think you have some serious questions to ask yourself. I think you need to get those answered and once you’ve answered them, if you think you love the partner and the partner loves you in a healthy and positive way and it’s truly unrealistic to move, then decide you aren’t going to be moving. Decide you will be happier here than you would be anywhere else. And just see what happens. Report back.
I am completely busted tired. I am not even certain I will be able to finish this blogpost, but I am going to give it my best try. I hope I don’t blather on. The reason I am so tired is because I was dogsitting for my neighbor’s mutt Diva. Diva is a Beagle/Great Pyranees mix. This is something I don’t like to think about. But so you can picture her, she has the coloring of a Beagle and the appearance and size of a Great Pyranees. They call her Diva because she likes to have her face in the place. She is quite beautiful and of a pleasing temperament. She likes strangers and she never barks except to say hello. I think she would also bark to protect her loved ones, but thankfully she has never been tested. The only really gross thing about Diva is she is a drooly dog. Her tongue is always hanging out and she drips slobber everywhere and it makes me gag. I know…this speaks ill of me, but if it is any consolation, I didn’t like it when my kids were drooly either. I’m not down with drool.
The problem really is that I don’t have a dog and so the whole drooly walking of them is something I am really not thrilled about. It was raining yesterday like the Holy Flood and there I was with Diva out in it and you know what they do when they get wet right? They shake. And when a drooly dog shakes it’s water, hair, drool, ugh. It is not pleasing. This drooling and walking of dogs is the entire reason I don’t have one. I don’t even walk my daughter to the busstop in the cold and rain. I wave from the door and watch from the window. I figure the whole rest of the neighbhorhood is out there anyway and so I’ll be the bad mommy. I watch for Mrs. M and when her green van pulls up, I send my child out. Mrs. M is a dutiful and good mommy. She’s out there in all the weathers. If she had a dog, I’m sure she would be one of those who walked it 5 times a day and fed it organic. I forget to feed my children. I wish they could filter feed like whales but from the air.
On Saturday I took Diva to the outdoor Mall and like I said it was a really beautiful day and Diva is a really nice dog, she smiles and everyone stops to smile back. My kids are like that, too. So together, we weren’t getting very far, a few steps and then we stop and on and on. L asked if she could hold the leash and being that we were moving so slow, I figured what harm? This is why I have not been picking up the phone or answering email. I am hiding out still after the incident on the mall…
Diva, being a diva, likes attention best. After that she likes frisbees, white socks, and sunglasses. She talks to us. L, being quiet and watchful, really does seem to understand what she is saying. Which is why when Diva started bark and whine and to to run pulling L along behind her and when L started shouting, “NO, DIVA, NO, THAT IS NOT A FRISBEE. NO!!! HE DOESN’T WANT TO PLAY!! STRANGER DIVA STRANGER!!” I should have reacted faster. But, Diva is three times faster than me, even pulling L, and I was wearing these stupid sandals that were slippery and my heels kept sliding off the sides. K is twice as fast as me, which made him nearly as fast as Diva pulling L, but by the time he caught them, Diva had mounted the brick wall and was partaking of the man’s head. They could not pull her off of him. K and L together do not weigh as much as Diva.
So Diva had pulled L along the brick walk, jumped up onto a brick wall that separated the restaurant tables from the central walkway and was licking a bald man’s head as he sat at the table having a plate of pasta with his horrified family. Well, the family wasn’t originally horrified. They were normal until Diva planted her front paws on his shoulders and began a thorough slathering of his head. She was fondling the sunglasses he had perched there while her tongue went to work. As I ran toward them crying out, “DIVA NO DIVA NO,” I had to note that his sunburned head with its narrow rim of reddish hair looked like a frisbee and that his sunglasses were the added temptation.
The man was unable to move because Diva weighs something like 160 lbs and she had nearly her full weight on his shoulders and he was in a seated position. His luncheon companions were fussy old ladies who just scream and are of no use. My children were leaning back pulling at the leash and I ran up and threw my arms around Diva’s hips to try to yank her down, but imagine it: it’s a big brick wall which Diva has leapt atop and on the other side of this wall, peaking over the top was the man’s red, bald head. I can’t get up on the wall, my kids can’t get up on the wall, Diva isn’t moving.
So I have to run AROUND the wall leaving my kids to hold the leash, I push through the bald man’s fussy tablemates and pull and push at Diva to get her attention. She looks up and says something that sounds like a creaking door. From over the wall, L shouts out, “She says, ‘What?’ ”
The man of course doesn’t know what to say and he’s sputtering about suing!! I’m wondering if he has just cause, because you know…I’m not litigious, but I’d be pissed too. Likewise, what are the rules for dog behavior?? Can I be fined for letting Diva be held by my 8 year old daughter in a public place? Can I be fined for not noticing any frisbee shaped heads, any accessible sunglasses? It is quite obvious, I felt anyway, that K, L and I were doing our best to rectify the traumatic situation.
It didn’t help that as I looked at this man, my eyes kept drifting up to his pate which was not only glistening with slobber, but which also had great white foamy patches, like he had been put through the car wash but not rinsed off. I kept gagging. This is not within my control. I have a shallow gag reflex.
His sunglasses were askew, but still perched up there. His collar was wet and bent. I noted…his collar was white and rolled and looked just like a pair of sweatsocks resting over his shoulders. Trifecta. I pulled my eyes away and began rummaging around in my mommy bag and brought out some tissues. I began to pat his head while L called out from over the wall, “Now she’s saying, “Can I have one.”
“Tell her she’s had enough.”
“She doesn’t mean head, she means tissues.”
“L, please control the dog.”
I reached into my bag and gave him my whole tissue pack and then laughed nervously pulling at my sleeves. “Well…okay then.”
“Can I have your contact information. In case there is any follow up required.”
I laughed nervously again and handed him my business card, which I accidentally printed sort of upside down and backwards. It has my jacket cover on one side and my face and website and a review blurb on the other. If you hold it so the cover is right side up and flip it, my face is upside down. I made them myself. I hoped he would find them charming and that it would show how silly and innocent I am.
This is true. I am silly and innocent.
He said, “I’ll make an appointment with my doctor and be in touch with you. Your dog needs discipline.”
I said, “She’s really very sweet. I am sorry. It is awful that she licked your head.”
“Your children need discipline too.”
From over the wall L said, “Diva wants to know if she should come up there and lick him again.” Suddenly Diva was looking better and better.
The man looked alarmed.
I called over the wall, “Thanks, L. I’ll let you know if that becomes necessary.”
She called back, “Diva says, okay.”
I said goodbye to the bald man and tipped my head. He tipped his head forward to. “Your daughter is a regular Dr. Doolittle.”
“Indeed. It’s a wonderful talent. Don’t you think?”
He grudgingly nodded and sat back down and I went back around the wall and the four of us went home.
So far the guy hasn’t contacted me. Keep your fingers crossed.