Female Friends

I’m on the plane back from four days in Southern California with my best friend from college, L. I haven’t felt this calm and confident and relaxed in I don’t know how long.

We each have different human needs to be met. We need to feel seen and heard, we need to feel desired, supported, encouraged and like someone is proud of us. I have found that these needs can be met in different ways by different things and people.

I’ve been told my whole life not to depend on other people for these things, I was told that I must be self-sufficient. I should be able to keep my confidence, health and happiness up all by myself, and only then could I truly begin to rely on others for some of them. But lately, I’ve been thinking that’s too simplistic. It implies that there is a beginning and an end to each portion of life and development.

I don’t buy it.

The most beautiful things come from opening oneself up to uncertainty and the possibility of being let down. Self-reliance is a part of this. Self-reliance is the knowledge that you can handle whatever comes your way. I have this. I do have confidence in my ability to sort it all out, no matter what.

But that’s largely because I know how to ask for help. The most nourishing and rich moments in my life have come from the truly frightening act of letting people around me know that I’m Not Okay. I choose to believe this is a strength, not a weakness.

There is all sorts of shame mixed up in a struggling marriage. It’s a very hard thing to admit is going on. It takes a tipping point of unhappiness and someone to confide in. L was the first person I admitted much of this stuff to. Once I said some of what I had been feeling out loud to L, I knew that it was real. It was in the world and she received it with such grace and understanding and love. No judgment, no hatred towards Spouse, just a genuine supportive attitude and willingness to listen.

The last few days were extremely healing. We laughed and lounged and talked about everything from men to careers to family of origin. You just can’t underestimate the power of a true female friendship. I am returning to Chicago in a really good place because of it.

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Politics and Personal Life

It all fell apart the week of the election. Things had been getting distant for months, even years. But the months leading up, I had been crumbling under the stress of this insane election cycle and what was at stake. I had also felt completely alone and unseen. We hadn’t had sex in months and more nights than not he would fall asleep an hour after getting home, without even taking our dog out as he had promised he would.

To be fair, the first year of residency is innately soul crushing. It’s 90 hour weeks of the most physically, emotionally and intellectually challenging work you’ve ever done and Spouse was killing it. Had our marriage been in a better place, it would have been tough, like second-year of med school, but we could have handled it. But the stress of residency just tipped us into an unmanageable place and it all became clear on election week.

Weeks before I had expressed my unhappiness and had not gotten the response I’d hoped for, so I decided to withdraw. I began investing emotionally in other friendships, personal hobbies, and my job. It was just too painful to invest in him and get so little in return.

Then Donald Trump was elected and Spouse got off work at midnight and texted on the way home that he just wanted to hold me and we would get through it together. He was hurting emotionally and all of the sudden he wanted support from me. The disbelief and pain of that week made it clear that we no longer had the emotional connection we once did. He wanted my support and I had withdrawn. We decided to separate that weekend.

The months between the election and today, the inauguration, almost don’t feel real. It was this suspended reality, a limbo with an end. Now, we’re settled into our separate lives and the personal work we each need to do and I’m really proud of that. We’ve been civil and respectful and even though we’re both in pain, we also both know this is the right situation. Either we will find a way to come together and our marriage will become stronger and deeper than ever. Or, this will be the beginning of the end.

I’ll never regret the years we spent together. Our mutual respect and true friendship probably carried us longer in this relationship than would otherwise have been possible. And I like that. Isaac is a good man. He really is. Whether or not he is a man who could be a true life partner for me is yet to be seen. The distance between us is not only his fault. I see a lot of things that went wrong and really we should have been much more diligent with our relationship.

But also, I’m realizing how much he was gaslighting me our entire relationship. I would often bring up the few things that really were causing me distress and he’d downplay their importance, promise to do better and then… nothing. And if there were things he needed from me, he never told me. He’s identified in himself a difficulty being open and honest about his feelings. I don’t know why I didn’t notice. When we first got together he was so open and honest and over the years it just vanished.

So today, there is much more uncertainty in my personal future, but also so much uncertainty in our political and social landscape. Both feel scary and unsettling. But I’m also feeling confident in my ability to navigate both, be true to myself and fight hard for what matters to me.

Uggghh

I feel like a little kid in the middle of a tantrum. I’m so frustrated and it’s so uncomfortable that I just want to whine about it. Not even copious television and junk food are soothing me. I just feel irritated and angry and like pouting.

I had a wonderful distraction in the form of a sweet boy. I had told Spouse I needed to date while we were separated and so I did. And it was nice. He was lovely; a friendship turned more. Exactly what I needed in order to remember some things that are important about me and to me. I am beyond grateful for this person. But now it’s over. And that’s good and right and honest, but it fucking sucks. He softened the blow of the pain of my separation and now I’m feeling the blow fully and it hurts.

And I’m alone.

I had felt alone in my marriage too, but at least then I had a story to tell myself. Now it’s just this. And me. And I don’t like it and I don’t want to do it. I want to run away from it. I want to sleep for five weeks, I want to numb it and ignore it and believe me, I’ve tried. But it isn’t working and it isn’t helping.

I am a petulant child and my inner-grown up seems to be forcing me towards a nap or vegetables.

I cry every day.

There are two iterations of a mantra that I keep thinking about:

1. The only way out is through.
2. If you’re going through hell, keep going.

I guess that’s all I can do.