And yet another day

It was a relatively good day, all things considered. I still feel weird saying that I have a relatively good day while J’s on chemo.

Today, I had a big moment of gratitude for my life. I noticed that I also had a similar experience during the last time J was on chemo, too. I wonder if these breakthrough moments of gratitude are becoming a sort of new way that I’m coping with the uncertainty and fear that also comes along with him being on chemo. It would be interesting if that’s the case.

Amy is still looking at apartments and is having some trouble finding them; apparently, the chaos of our local housing market also extends to apartments. I’ve heard similar things from others as well, so I hope she will find something soon.

At the same time, I also don’t, for all the reasons I mentioned in my last post. But at least she said she’ll allow me to help her get stuff to furnish her new place once she has a move-in date. That may not seem like that big of a deal but it is to me, especially because I have to ask her permission before buying her anything (and she usually says no.)

I was browsing around on Amazon earlier (ugh) and I bought a book. It already sounded interesting to me but what sold me on it was that Kirk Hammett (yes, the guy from Metallica) gave it a negative review. Maybe that makes me exceptionally immature. In fact, it probably does. But from what I know of him, I really don’t like him, so if he criticizes a book, I’ll probably like it.

I don’t really have much else to say. I’m still considering trying to become a therapist but I didn’t look into alternative forms of doing my externships yet. I probably won’t be going this fall anyway. Or maybe I could if I got my shit together. But honestly that just sounds kinda hard for right now.

Another day

It’s just another day. My husband is on chemo and that is what it is. It honestly sucks but much more so for him than for me. And I know that he’s taking chemo to try to be here with me and our kids longer. So I can’t really complain but at the same time, it doesn’t make it easier to deal with, either.

I saw a purse that I’ve had my eye on for a while and of course I got a notification that they have it on sale for about 25 percent off. I was really tempted by it, even though I just got a new purse two weeks ago (!!!) which I really love. And also, the new one that’s caught my eye is a tote style, which is honestly too big for me.

I mentioned it to J and showed it to him and he asked if purses are my new coping mechanism for when he’s on chemo, since I just got my most recent one when he was on chemo last time. I think he may be right, which made it easier to pass this one by.

Dyl goes away to college in less than a month. Amy and her boyfriend will likely be moving out sometime around then, too. And that just already sounds so lonely, even though they’re of an appropriate age (or even beyond) to do so.

I’m excited for their adventures but also so lonesome for myself. Doesn’t that sound kinda pathetic? But I have given them my all (even when I knew it still wasn’t enough) and now it’s time for my role to end, or at least become much less primary. I can’t help but feel a little sad.

The one bit of good news is that my husband has his next scans next week and if they come back good, he might try to delay his chemo by a week so that he won’t be sick when we’re moving Dylan into the dorms.

I actually do think his scans are going to be okay. I just do. I know we both got really freaked out by his recurrence but that doesn’t really mean anything. I spent some time last night reading about other people who were diagnosed stage IV as far back as 2009 and they’re still here.

I’m hoping that eventually I’ll get more used to having him on chemo and that years from now, he’ll still be here and I worried for nothing.

Weirdness

I’m bouncing back and forth between feeling good and feeling overwhelmed that my husband’s going to die.

On the plus side, it could be many years away—at least five or even ten. On the other hand, it is going to happen and I just have no idea when that will be.

I guess I’m getting a really good (albeit really unwanted) reminder that I can’t control life.

But I also know that most people don’t ever have to face this and that feels SO incredibly unfair.

He says that he’s made peace with the fact that he’s going to die from this. But I have not and don’t see how I could. It’s a certainty that at some point—anywhere from within the next year to ten years from now that I’m going to have to live without him. And I’m just not ready for that, and can’t seem to prepare for it, no matter what I do.

He’s on another round of chemo, just starting it. And all I can do is watch and try to provide any support that I can. But the next few days are likely to take a toll on me because they always do.

I made him some banana bread last night so he’d have something tasty and easy to wake up to yesterday. It just seems like that’s not enough and I don’t know what else to do.

I also found out that he’ll be at the worst part of chemo when it comes time to take Dylan down to move in at A&M next month. For some reason, I thought it would be the week between cycles and it’s not. And I don’t think he’s willing to postpone chemo by a week, not anymore since the recurrence.

I just want things to go back to normal and they won’t. Cancer is like a bad dream from which I can never wake up.

Revisiting old goals

I’ve been thinking again about wanting to become a therapist. I wrote an article yesterday about solving sexual compatibility issues in marriage and it’s gotten a great response so far.

I posted on FB Saturday when J and I went out for date night and about how happy I was. After that, I had a friend I didn’t know that well in high school reach out to me about how to make his marriage better—more like what he sees in mine.

I think that I’ve learned a lot of lessons about how to make a marriage work over the past 27 years and I feel like I would really like to help other couples make their marriages better. J and I have been through so much—both good and bad—and I feel like I have a lot of wisdom to share.

In case you weren’t around for it, I’ve enrolled in a master’s degree program twice to become a therapist and backed out for illness reasons both times (first my own illness, later my husband’s.) This is far from a new desire of mine.

But there’s still the illness factor to consider and it’s substantial. I might lose my disability if I do it, as they would see any potential success in school as proof that I’m not really disabled. (Even though I would only intend to work part-time once I had the credentials.)

And there’s also the fact of the matter that I’m not even sure that my disability would let me be a success in school anymore.

I know for sure that I couldn’t attend school and maintain my freelance writing schedule at the same time, like I did when I did my undergraduate degree.

I also know that to become a licensed therapist, you have to do the equivalent of clinicals, or on-the-job training. It’s often hard to find those opportunities at all but even more so when you can’t work a standard 8-5 job, which I absolutely can’t.

J thinks that maybe I can just write books without the credentials and skip the master’s degree altogether. Maybe, though having the credentials would give me more credibility.

I’m sometimes aware of how my disability holds me back but I try really hard not to focus on it. But right now, it really feels like it’s holding me back in a major way, keeping me from pursuing what I think would be fulfilling work that I’d probably be good at. And I’m just not sure where to go from here.

Joy and pain

I’ll start with the joy part first and try to keep the pain part brief.

It was just a wonderful, wonderful weekend with my beloved. We had plenty of time to test out our new sexual findings and it wasn’t just a fluke. Oh, hallelujah!

He went with me to run some errands today, which I usually do by myself. He told me a story about his coworker getting hit by a semi-truck because she was looking at her phone. She’s fine, thank goodness. But it was absolutely hilarious that after that incident, they had a company-wide meeting about safety, during which they had footage of her walking out in front of the truck playing on a loop. Maybe it’s just us and our shared warped sense of humor, but we were both absolutely cracking up over that.

Just getting to be with him was so good. So good. I feel like we’re connecting again like we did when we first got together 28 years ago, only now with the added benefit of everything we’ve learned about each other and ourselves since then.

We’ve got our new little kitten and that brings joy to our household, too. My husband figured out today that the kitten meows very loudly when he’s hungry—but my youngest son figured out the day before that the kitten likes to be spoon-fed. So my husband was spoon-feeding this tiny, four-pound kitten, and it just melted my heart.

I’ve somehow lost two clothing sizes in the past few months without really doing anything (except a half-assed version of intermittent fasting), so that feels good and gives me more confidence, too.

My son’s girlfriend also picked up a Starbucks reusable cup for me that I’ve mentioned wanting for a while. It’s a giant cup and technically it was for bisexual pride. While I am bisexual, I just really liked the colors of the cup.

Now, the sad. After such a wonderful weekend with my husband, thoughts crept back in that he’s going to die. Hopefully not soon! I hope we get to enjoy this renewed phase of our marriage for a lot longer.

I was watching a rerun of The Golden Girls last night after I finished my work. At first, I thought the episode I was watching was so dumb and ridiculous, I took a break from it to wash the dishes and scoop the litter boxes.

Then I went back to finish the episode and I found out that it was only so ridiculous because it was the character Blanche’s dream. It was revealed that apparently it’s a frequently recurring dream, in which her dead husband has come back to life.

And OMG, I just cried and cried at the end. Someday, that’s going to be me and I desperately don’t want it to be. It makes me cry just now to even write about it.

Then my youngest came in to talk to me about college and in particular, his worry that the cat he shares his room with will die while he’s away at college. This is unfortunately not an unfounded worry because she’s 16 years old. (By contrast, one of my other cats is 18 years old and seems much more spry.)

I told him about how we plan to handle it if it happens and if he can’t get home in time, and reassured him that we won’t leave her alone.

Then, he told me that he wants his next tattoo to be a tiny Sakura blossom on his wrist—to symbolize and memorialize my husband, of course. I’ve already got one Sakura blossom tattoo and am getting another one in September.

Sakura blossoms are significant for two reasons. One is that my husband loves Japanese culture and Sakura is the Japanese national flower.

The other is that Sakura blossoms also represent the transience of life, since they only bloom for a very short time.

I wouldn’t be totally surprised if we all end up getting Sakura blossom tattoos to memorialize him.

But for now, I have to focus on the fact that he’s still here. It would be pretty silly if I tortured myself with thoughts of his death and he lives for 5 or even 10 more years, and I feel optimistic that this may be the case.

Things are so, so wonderful now. I just have to challenge myself to stay present in this moment.

Breakthroughs of the best kind

There’s no way to write about this without being kind of PG-rated so I apologize in advance for that (although I won’t include unnecessary details, either.)

J came home from work yesterday in a very sweet and kind mood (and even brought me my new favorite coffee drink from my new favorite coffee shop.) He said that he’d had trouble sleeping the night before and got to thinking about what we talked about. He felt like I was too hard on myself regarding the issues we discussed.

He said that as he thought about it, though it seemed at the time like the amount of previous sexual experience I’d had was significant, in reality, I didn’t know much more than a virgin due to the amount of trauma I’d experienced. All of my previous experiences were of things being done to me, even on the occasions when I was a willing participant.

For the first time in our 28 years together, he finally understood just how broken I was when we got together. At the time, he took me at face value, which was all bravado and posturing, but he now realizes that I was just as lost and fucked up as he was.

So he devised a plan to try to explore what I actually like, but we ended up surpassing several of what were supposed to be a series of lessons in one night.

The end result (and this is the PG part) is that I ended up experiencing having multiple orgasms in one night. I had never been able to do that before. They just didn’t stop. (Giggle.) Given that the fact that I was 47 before experiencing this and that seems really late in life, I truly believed it just wasn’t something I was capable of and would never experience.

Rather than feeling like it took too long to get here or regretting the past, he felt like he had finally climbed a mountain and had a real feeling of accomplishment. Honestly, I feel the same way.

We spent the first 27 years of our marriage believing that we were just sexually incompatible. But in reality, we both wanted the same things. That doesn’t mean that we wanted to engage in the same sexual practices, necessarily—more that we both looked to sex for validation and affirmation. But because we were both looking for that, we also couldn’t give it to each other.

27 years into this marriage, we’ve finally tackled the biggest hurdle that has plagued our marriage since the beginning. I honestly didn’t think it would ever be fixed before he died and that made me so incredibly sad.

It turns out that what we needed was some exceptionally honest communication and being mature enough to look to serve each other’s emotional needs. In the beginning, I think we were both much too broken to be of much help to each other.

I really look forward to what the rest of our marriage will be like, now that we’ve fixed something so substantial. I now have an additional reason (on top of all the ones I already had) to hope that he lives for a very, very long time.

Late night talks

I’d been on the verge of tears for most of the day already. Adam came out to talk to me while I was washing dishes, which in itself is pretty rare. I usually don’t get much time to talk to them, where they really want to open up, so it’s extremely unusual when they specifically seek me out to talk.

At first, we just talked about our new kitten and how well he seems to be integrating into our household (including with the other cats.)

Then, Adam told me about the fact that they were recently experiencing nightmares. We’ve figured out that it might be due to recently starting with taking melatonin. They also said that one reason they’re not necessarily too excited about leaving home is because it makes them feel safer at night to have someone to talk to when they feel too anxious to sleep. Honestly, that just kinda melted my heart.

Then, they told me about their thoughts on death and burial and why they think that gravestones are meaningless: because nobody really remembers who you are after a few generations anyway—and next thing I knew, we were both crying (and I totally started it.)

Interestingly, Adam said they cry so much more easily since starting estrogen. There’s actually something powerful about estrogen that makes you cry more easily.

But ouch, that burial topic and how much your life matters hit me so close to home. As I explained to them, even if nobody remembers you in several generations, it doesn’t at all minimize the importance of your life while you’re alive. You matter very much to the people who love you.

They weren’t suicidal (I asked and I believe they would tell me if they were, because I’ve made that a safe topic of discussion.) But more importantly, obviously it brought up all my feelings about losing J.

J and I had long talks last night that were honestly super painful for me (and probably were for him as well.) He was understandably upset about my conversations with my friend and I desperately wished I hadn’t told him about them. I mistake the honesty in our relationship for safety and the fact that I can tell him anything with the idea that I should.

I’m not used to having a secret part of my life that he doesn’t know about. My experience with either of us having a secret aspect of our lives was very hurtful and damaging. When he revealed a very big secret part of his life, I was not only very hurt but it also explained a lot of behaviors that definitely had been affecting me, too.

Maybe it’s possible for married people to have completely secret parts of their lives and it never affects anything negatively. I don’t know. I just know that I’ve never experienced such a thing in my marriage.

It’s not that I don’t think married people can have parts of their lives that they keep secret from each other; at least in theory, I think it could be healthy. We don’t own each other’s thoughts, after all. But if the secret part of your life becomes important enough to you, it just seems like the odds of hiding it will be less likely to succeed.

And he brought up some things from very early in our relationship that did not paint me in a good light. (Not that I am disputing the truthfulness of anything he brought up.)

One was that I told him three different stories about how I lost my virginity. He assumed that I was lying—especially because there were other things that I did lie to him about at that time.

The truth is that to this day, I still don’t know which one of the stories I told him about losing my virginity was the truth. I know that sounds weird, not to know. But I honestly don’t.

I think I know which version of events actually happened. The event I wished would have been my first time actually happened a couple of weeks later. (Though this is only a guess; I’m not actually sure about any of this.)

The beginning of my sexuality, even including up until I met him, was a total mess, to say the least. I can’t put it any more bluntly than that. I have blocked out numerous things that have happened to me over the years, including that event. I don’t know why, either.

But my transition to becoming a sexual being was so traumatic in so many ways that I blocked out a lot of it, often rewriting history as it was being made, until I no longer even knew myself what was true and what wasn’t.

I probably need very intensive therapy to figure out what actually happened to me, both before I was conscious and after, when I was an active participant.

None of this is fair to him, of course. I’ve often behaved badly (and apparently still lack the good judgment to know when I’m doing so now, as evidenced by telling him about talking to my friend.) Somehow, I’ve gotten the idea that it’s better to be truthful—especially because of my ancient past history of lying—than to be conscious of how what I’m doing might make him feel (let alone knowing how to stop myself before I make a mistake.)

It’s like I think that I can trust him so completely that I forget about how much potential I still have to hurt him, which is honestly the last thing I want to do.

I love him more than anything else in my whole world but I can’t seem to stop hurting him, usually completely without the intention of doing so.

He deserves so much better than what I’ve been able to give him. I lull myself into thinking things are fine, only to find out that they’re very much not, even still.

I think he had the reasonable expectation that I would be a normal woman, capable of having a normal relationship. But in many ways, I’m not and especially wasn’t earlier in my life. When I was younger, I was pretty good at convincing people—including him— that I was an incredibly self-possessed and sexual woman, when the truth was that I didn’t even know what I liked. No one before him had ever asked me.

By the time that I figured out some of what I liked, it wasn’t necessarily compatible with what he liked.

Even during times when I thought our sex life was really good, he didn’t agree and felt that the things he was doing were in atonement to me. I still don’t know how to wrap my head around that, other than that it’s obviously not a good thing.

I just don’t know what to do now. I don’t know how many years he has left and if we’ll have time to fix this or not. I’m so scared that we won’t and I’ll have to forever live with the fact that our sex life was fucked up because of me, especially because he deserved so much better.

The aftermath

My friend that I wrote about yesterday and I are both being kinda weird around each other now. I’ve known him for so long that I don’t think this situation will be permanent. But I suspect that he’s pulling back to prevent himself from getting “all in his feelings,” as the kids say. And I’m doing the same.

We both talked a lot about how we have past histories of falling in love with people too easily, and I can see how that might affect our actions in terms of sharply pulling back. We also honestly probably talked about too much in another conversation after I wrote the other post. It turns out that we are extremely sexually compatible, probably even more so than with our spouses.

Sex is just one small part of what makes up a marriage. While it can be exciting to think of other possibilities, really no good can come of flirting with it when you’re in a committed relationship. I should have stopped before it got to that point and I didn’t. But I stopped before it was irreversible and that’s important.

Fortunately we didn’t say or do anything super inappropriate (like exchanging nudes or making it more personal, like what we’d do to each other.) We just talked about the kinds of things we’re into and there was a lot of overlap. But that was still too much.

A point he made is that you can enjoy the feeling of being in love with someone without letting it go too far. It’s sort of a “catch and release” type of philosophy. While I’m theoretically happy to know that my life won’t end when J dies, he deserves my whole heart now while he is still here.

Still, sometimes, there are things that you’re better off not knowing about and this is probably in that category. I inadvertently opened a Pandora’s Box when I told my friend that I’d been having dreams about him and now we both have to close that box again. It’s very clear that leaving it open will only bring pain and destruction. (And I’ve learned a lesson about sending those kinds of messages!)

And while I can see the point of that “catch and release” philosophy, I don’t think it’s for me. I recognize that I also have the same tendencies to fall in love easily, but for me, that’s a door that has to remain tightly closed.

I choose to love one person above all else (other than my kids and such.) I am not good at balancing divided attentions and my husband inherently deserves better than that. At least, I’ve finally grown up enough to recognize that and to pull back before it goes too far.

Fantasies and the future me

I’ve been having a series of very sexually explicit dreams for about 6 months.

It’s kinda funny because I thought that part of me died off as my hormones have shifted during perimenopause. The dreams first caught me by surprise, because they suggested that some part of my sex drive was still alive.

The dreams keep happening, though, and my sex drive is gradually coming back, too–although it’s also heavily affected by stress and worry about my husband, which may be why my dreams feel like a safer place to express it.

The weirdest part of it is that almost all of my dreams include someone of mine who’s an old friend. I have known him for at least 30 years, and yes, I’d say that I find him attractive.

Today, he posted online that he was having a really hard time dealing with his mental health and his self-image, so I sent him a private message. I said something like, “Hey, I don’t know if I’ll regret saying this and it’s meant to be flattering rather than as a come-on, but I’ve been having several..ahem…sexual dreams about you.”

And that led to a very interesting conversation that left me feeling good about myself and good about the way the issue was handled.

First, he said that he was “flattered to pieces.” And then we had a very long, interesting discussion about dealing with attraction to friends and having fantasies about them (and he admitted that he also has occasionally felt the same about me, too.) He also admitted that he has been attracted to me since the 90s but thought I was “too cool and too smart and THOSE EYES” and was just way out of his league.

I can also say that we kept the conversation very appropriate whenever it seemed like it could veer off into inappropriate territory. He was very good about stopping himself, which I greatly appreciated. We’re both married with no intentions of cheating on our spouses and he knows and likes my husband, too. We were very careful to keep our discussion appropriate and mindful of our marriages.

This is dicey territory, though, for sure. The hurtful part of my husband’s former porn addiction (which I haven’t mentioned in a good long time, since I no longer think of it often at all) was two-fold: one was that it substituted for interaction with me and the other is that he was often fantasizing about people I knew.

Where is the line of what’s an appropriate amount of fantasy during an otherwise healthy and committed marriage? I imagine that depends on a lot of factors, the biggest of which might be how the two parties feel about it and how much it interferes with the relationship.

If you can’t be intimate with your spouse without fantasizing about someone else, that’s very unhealthy and is a huge problem. I’m definitely not in that category.

But what about having fantasies about someone else, period? I don’t honestly know.

These are only dreams, not intentional fantasies I’m having, which may make a difference. I obviously can’t control my dreams.

What I can say about this experience with my friend is that it was very healing for me, just because it gave me hope that there may be life after J. I might be able to find love again someday, which so often feels impossible.

But to be honest? It just made me feel a lot better to know that someone else besides J finds me attractive, even at my age and with all my physical imperfections. That was my intention behind telling him about being the subject of my dreams and I made it clear enough from the beginning that I was trying to cheer him up, rather than looking for a hook-up.

My friend and I left the subject of our mutual attraction in the category of “maybe someday, in another life.” We both agree that we are not willing to throw away our marriages over it and our love for our spouses is deeper and more meaningful than our attraction to each other.

But in the meantime, I feel like it has deepened our friendship and we’ve talked a lot since then about mental health and loneliness, which are topics we have in common. Maybe this is just meant to be an additional means I can use to get through a tough period of my life.

My mom

After the previous day’s conflict with my mom, I wasn’t sure where we’d go from there. (And I inadvertently pissed her off or hurt her again, so I’m back in the same position.)

She explained a lot about why she didn’t attend my kid’s Chuck E Cheese party, which wasn’t for any of the reasons I assumed, but was for a very understandable reason. She said I also completely misunderstood the need for 3 separate birthday parties in the same week but was sorry that the misunderstanding left me feeling so resentful for so long and that she didn’t know how hard it was for me to have them.

And she admitted that my dad was indeed reacting very weirdly when I told them about my pregnancy, which had to do with a family secret they didn’t tell me about until days before I gave birth. And she told me that I can talk to her about how I feel about losing J, but it just makes her feel helpless and she doesn’t know the right things to say.

So all is well on that front, minus what I’ve said to her now, which still has to be repaired. But really, I have to give her a lot of credit, especially due to her age. J’s mom is around the same age and is so far gone that she’s completely unreachable. My mom is at least trying, even if she’s being dragged along somewhat unwillingly by her therapy-promoting daughter. 😉 And I have to say that I know that takes a lot of guts and I’m very proud of her.

Interestingly, though, J brought up something that I think is a likely point: that my mom probably also has the same neurological illness that I do but doesn’t know it because my hometown doctors suck so bad that they’ve never found it. A lot of her symptoms are similar to mine but she takes a completely different approach to dealing with them than I do.

I mentioned that my youngest recently went to New Mexico and she said she’s always wanted to go there but has resigned herself to the fact that at age 67, she’s now “too old” and it will never happen.

She also said that my dad wants to take another solo road trip cross-country again and she can’t convince him that he’s too old and thinks he’s delusional. He’s 5 years older than her and he bikes 2-5 miles almost every day. If he doesn’t feel that he’s too old, I’d say that he can make that decision for himself. I know that my grandparents were in their 70s when they road-tripped to Texas to see me back in the late 90s.

I guess I’m somewhere in between my parents in terms of how I feel, though I am admittedly 20 years younger than my mom. Like my mom, I get tired easily and need a lot of rest. And I’m certainly not doing the equivalent of biking 2-5 miles a day but I really need to start, just for my health.

But while I’m easily tired and tend to be kind of a homebody, I also fully understand my dad’s desire for adventure and unwillingness to see himself as old. Sadly, I think he’s likely to outlive my mom, like his father outlived my grandma.

I have immense respect for my mom’s willingness to try to help me repair the past, even if she doesn’t seem to be on a journey of personal growth otherwise. And I have immense respect for the fact that both of my parents are so open-minded and accepting of my transgender kids.

But I think I’m going to try to adopt my dad’s outlook on life, which in many ways is similar to J’s and my youngest son’s. They’re not about holding grudges and are good about accepting people where they are, which I still struggle with sometimes.

And I certainly don’t want to follow in my mom’s footsteps of feeling like I’m too old or too sick for new adventures. Yes, I still rest a lot, but I also routinely try to push past my limits. I think that as long as I keep that mindset, it will keep me from getting too old prematurely.