There's a reason that therapists ask questions
We went down to spend the weekend with my parents, and it was really, really good. Every time we see them, it's like my Hub clicks into place in the family in a new way, and it was more dramatic this time than most because my folks seem to have worked past the "we must be polite and act like sane people around the new person in the family" thing and entered into the "what the hell, you're family, you know we're nuts so we'll just act like we normally do" thing. We had my parents squabbling over the radio, my mother being obsessive over how to package leftovers, my dad shooting steam out of his ears when asked about the Kansas Board of Education (seriously, not everyone in Kansas is a fundie lunatic, and my parents are both teachers, both religious, and both pissed as hell over the whole thing nonetheless), a game of cards between me, my mother and my Hub that devolved into cackling laughter and cheating and accusing and having a whale of a good time. My Hub is a part of the family. It happened, it really happened, and I'm sort of stunned.
On the other hand, my father lost a good friend this weekend-- practically his foster-mother-- and was shaken by that. And when we got back home, we found out that one of our favorite wrestlers, a 38-year-old man with a wife and three kids who was loved fiercely by everyone around him (and, distantly, by those of us who only knew him through television), had died suddenly and without warning. He'd had problems with drugs and alcohol, but dried out and found Jesus and got his whole act together and thrived. It wouldn't have been a surprise to hear about him dying five years ago; now, though, it was out of nowhere. The two deaths of people I'd only known distantly combined to give me a sharp slap upside the head, and it took until this morning to really realize it.
I was talking with my therapist yesterday about my mother, and how helpless she gets when my father isn't around to help her out and she's operating outside her sphere of comfort. That sort of thing frustrates me and scares me at the same time. There's this nagging thought at the back of my mind: see, if you let go and become dependent on having a husband, you'll turn out like that. It's the same sort of thought that I have when I encounter mothers whose children have gone off to college and who are completely at loose ends, no idea what to do with themselves that doesn't focus on their kids. It's like they just abandoned themselves years back and now have no idea what to do with themselves. I gotta say, that's part of the reason that kids scare me: I don't want to lose myself. I'm scared that I'll become someone else, that everything that I fought so hard to get will be thrown in the trash.
There's a similar thing with my Hub. I open my own doors and open them for him on occasion, too; I haul bags and lift heavy objects and climb up on chairs to change light bulbs. It's like I have this need to prove to myself that I can operate on my own, thank you very much, I am not my mother, I do not need a man to walk me to the bus. I get very pointed about it. Occasionally my Hub requests that I let him help; occasionally I let him help without him asking. Sometimes, though, I get very prickly and determined to be a big girl and do it all myself.
I know I'm not my mother. I didn't go straight from parents to college dorm to married life; I had years on my own, paying rent, balancing my checkbook, moving my own furniture, hauling my own groceries, traveling solo. I know that. And yet, there's this need to prove it. I told my therapist yesterday that it was because I didn't want to ever be in the situation where I ended up alone and helpless. People die, people leave, life changes; I want to be ready. I want to be prepared.
My therapist asked some very pointed questions and I realized that I hadn't thought this all out very well. She pointed out that I seemed to have two unrelated things tangled together: the fear of losing people, and the fear of losing myself.
Well, yeah. When I was younger, I thought for sure that my parents would get divorced at some point. (That they didn't do so remains a stunning miracle in my eyes.) Hell, I thought that my mother should have left my father, and that the only thing holding her back was her fear of being on her own, her inability to cope with the outside world by herself. She was trapped. I was determined never to be like that, never be that vulnerable.
Which goes back to the deaths this weekend, and how it rattled me. I am vulnerable now; in my determination to make sure I wasn't vulnerable in physical abilities and knowledge, I seem to have forgotten that the main vulnerability in marriage is emotional. I'm dependent on my Hub as a constant presence in my life; I've adjusted my life over the past few years and we've re-woven the way we deal with life and become a team, not just two individuals. We don't even really have to think about it now; it's just how we do things. He's part of me, part of my family, part of my life, and I can't undo that and don't want to ever have to. I'm easing into finally trusting him not to leave, not to turn on me, but now that I've let go of that fear and opened that particular door, the reminder comes that it's not always a choice-- sometimes people die.
I dreamed last night that my Hub was diagnosed with a heart condition that gave him a week to live, and it scared me so much that when I woke up out of it all I could do was roll over and hug him like crazy. I don't want to lose him, not ever. I hate being vulnerable like this, but I don't have a choice in the matter: really, it's far too late now. He's my everything.
If I lost him, I could still lift heavy bags and change tires and make my own travel plans and pay rent and balance the checkbook and deal with insurance and medical stuff and do all those living-in-the-world things. So in that, I'm still a step ahead; thing is, it's a hollow victory because it's really not the point. I do all that stuff now, and it doesn't protect me from losing him. Nothing can. I just have to live with it.
The part that I can do something about is the unrelated fear of losing myself. I'm not my mother. I'm me. I have successfully worked out a relationship with my Hub-- a strong partnership where we can both be grown-ups or giddy goofy playmates or take turns comforting each other-- and I'm still my own person. I was not taken over. I was not broken into pieces. I'm still me. I'm slowly re-negotiating my relationship with my parents, turning it piece by piece into more of a relationship between equals-- and I'm still me. I'm going to have to come to grips with the idea that I'm capable of this sort of thing, that I have the brains and the tools and the instincts to make good decisions in new situations, and that when we have kids I will be able to work out how that new piece of my life and that new relationship balances with staying my own person and being able to operate as such when needed.
In completely other news, our finances are in uproar. I have to sit down this weekend and hash out what the fuck is going on and how things are going to work from now on, and I have to incorporate the therapy bills and all into it. I am really, really not looking forward to this. Grrr.