Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Disappointment/Words of Inspiration from Joey
Big storm coming in -an hour ago it was in Rockford so I think I made it to the office just in time. And funny how things work out sometimes and how sometimes they don't. Last night I made Elizabeth promise to find the bug spray she had "liberated" from the house when she recently went camping. It makes me crazy to go to use something and have it missing. And the black flies at the beach yesterday were ruthless so both Joey and I needed spraying down with massive doses of deet. But predictably (and sadly it is predictable that when I ask my kids for something they rarely follow through) this morning the bug spray had not been produced, so I had a piss fit and told Elizabeth there would be no dog beach for Joey today - a comment calculated to make her feel guilty. As it turns out, I didn't realize a massive storm was coming that we would have been stuck in, so yeah funny how sometimes things work out when you think they're falling apart.
So this is how Joey deals with disappointment. He was all geared up for his usual, beloved morning routine. Out of the crate, leash clipped on and right out of the house, leap into the backseat of the car and away we go. Quick stop at Starbucks for a latte where he anxiously watches for me to return, and then to the lake. We walk for a half hour, then another half hour at the beach, and another half hour walk back to the car. Every day - our new morning routine - predictable and wonderful. So this morning, after the "incident", I sat out on the deck and sulked and tried to coral my venomous feelings. Joey, on the other hand, settled down happily with a bone and gnawed contentedly at my feet. He wasted not a moment or an emotion being disappointed - he was so in the moment. No dredging up resentments of the past to bolster current angry feelings. No projecting what a shitty day it was sure to be, having gotten off to such a bad start. He was so present - and happy.
I don't deal with disappointment well - does anyone? Are there any Joey-ish people out there? When people disappoint me I tend to build a case against them - they're on trial. And if the wound isn't healed, it festers and soon the damage is irreparable and we each go our separate ways. Inevitably, memory of the transgression fades and all that's left is a hole - a missing the other, and wondering what went wrong and what should or could have been done differently. My aunt Jeanne is in town, from Portland to help my mother with her move to Boston. I am out of the loop on all these activities, being mostly estranged from her. Friends and other relatives are rallying around my mother and helping her with this transition. When I saw her last her parting words were something like, "Don't be a stranger". How did this happen? Is it my fault? It's probably my fault. I don't know how to fix this. I'm not even sure I want to fix this. So confused - definitely a big disappointment - that relationship.
And my grown-up-living-at-home girls - will we end up the same way? Will the little annoyances become insurmountable impasses? What do normal mothers do when they ask a kid for something (like returning the bug spray) and the kid doesn't make good? What does a patient mother do when she explains the fruit fly problem to them and asks for no food or drink to be brought to their bedrooms and then only days later sees empty dishes there? I told them if I saw dishes upstairs, I would be forced to dock them the use of the car for a day - it's about the only leverage I have. So, do I turn up the heat and put a locking burglar bar on the steering wheel on the days I find dishes? Why do I think that raising the ante like this can only end badly - that I will win the battle and lose the war? So, what does a good mother do in a situation like this - just stop threatening, have low expectations, be grateful for crumbs of respect and sigh a lot? Shit.
There has to be a solution where adversity between people can be used for growth - for furthering and strengthening the relationship. What I DO know is that when people cling to their positions and retreat to opposite sides of a boxing ring, everyone loses. And the loss is tragic because at the end of the day we DO need each other. We DO need our mothers. We DO need our children. These important relationships are not as sturdy as poets would write. I actually think the more important the relationship, the more fragile it is - there is so much at stake. Every spat has the potential to turn into tragedy. Different than having an altercation with someone less important to you. With those relationships, there is less to lose so you can be calmer, more magnanimous, you can take risks and try new ways of communicating, you can even walk away when it's appropriate without feeling like the world is ending. It would seem that when the stakes are lower and we are less invested, communication is easier. With loved ones, every word and every glance is loaded, evaluated, interpreted - often with a sad result.
I am still very sad these days, but the difference is, I know I'm going to be OK. Having fun last weekend showed me I am still capable of laughter. For large swaths of the weekend I didn't dwell on Patrick and that was a relief. Yesterday he and I communicated. A final action item between us is that he was going to write me a final keepsake letter and he hadn't yet. That letter is forthcoming and I will, I'm sure, read it and treasure it and safe-keep it. I fear he was the love of my life and that I will never again experience such joy with another. Joey would tell me to let that worry go and to find a bone to gnaw on and just find happiness in the moment.
So, the challenge today is thinking about how we react when people disappoint us. Do we script them out of our lives (off with their heads!), do we let the hurt scab over and become an unhealed wound that eventually kills the relationship when added to previous scars, or is there a way to turn conflict into something positive - an opportunity for conversation, an opportunity for deepening the relationship, to get closer? Boy I sure talk pretty sometimes, don't I? I'm afraid I don't walk the walk on this one. This is tough.
Picture is of my watering can collection.