Phone etiquette

Phone etiquette

No Phone calls please

There are people who like to talk on the phone…and then there’s me.

I hate answering my phone. I’ll invent a thousand reasons why not to answer it, and even when it’s someone I really like and enjoy talking to, I’m ambivalent about picking up.

Staying in touch by phone when you don’t like to talk on the phone and your spouse is ten states away for the next few years makes staying close a little…problematic.

If it isn’t already complicated enough, let’s add in a time zone issue and my 11 hour minimum work/commute time. When he does call and I’m in the car, half the time I’m either moving in and out of cell range, and when I’m actually IN cell range he complains he can’t hear me. These are not problems I can actually fix, which makes his complaints about them intensely annoying.

But wait, it gets even better!

My husband likes to talk about himself. He likes to talk about what he ate, what he thinks, what he did, where he went. He likes to tell you all of the tiny little details of his day, whether you want to hear them or not. I can’t even count the number of phone calls we’ve had where he’s spent a half hour recounting his day or giving me an unasked for lecture session on whatever Libertarian thought he’s having, not offering a pause for me to put a word in edgewise, then say, “Well, have a great night honey!  Love you!” without once stopping to even ask me how I’m doing.

I know there are things I could take to make this better. I could politely redirect. I could explicitly state what I would like from him on these small opportunities we have to connect across the miles. I could just start talking without waiting for him to ask how my day has been. Sometimes I do these things, mostly when I’m in a calm and understanding frame of mind — which I’m often not, because a) I don’t like talking on the phone as it is, and b) I’m too fucking annoyed at his lack of manners to bother.

This means the next best chance I have to connect with my husband is when he comes home to visit at Christmas – unless I am the bigger person change my behavior and responses to problems a) and b), because he sure the fuck isn’t going to change his.

I don’t see this going well.

My space/your space

My space/your space

Context: My father was pretty disabled the last several years of his life. He was a large man, a complicated and emotional man, and the kind of man who could not tolerate any thought/feeling/opinion in his household that was disagreeable to him. My mother, his junior by almost ten years, was stuck in the role of caregiver for him for those years. One of the things Dad was strongly convinced of was that spending money was bad. Buying new things was bad. Buying new things because your old things were operating at a suboptimal level was bad. Buying anything with extra “bells & whistles” was super bad. My parents bought a new car on a 5-7 year average, never did they buy anything but the most basic model of the car, at Dad’s insistence.

Due to his severely disabled condition, Dad spent most of his days sitting in his recliner. Because of his weight and his difficulty getting up and down, that recliner was in pretty bad shape. We spent a great deal of time trying to convince him to let us get him a really good lift recliner that would assist him with standing up and sitting down, and he not only refused, he refused with passion.

The day my dad passed away, the moment we returned to Mom’s condo from the hospice facility, she asked me to take that chair out of her living room and put it in the garage. She hounded me for the next two days to take it to the dump.

I’m guessing she hated that damn chair.

It didn’t take her long to go through Dad’s things, either. She’s always been a very organized person, and she hates having things in flux. She wants everything where it belongs, and if the thing isn’t needed, she gives it away or throws it away.

Now: When your spouse leaves for a two year contract, they don’t leave a whole lot behind. I feel empathy for what it must have been like for Mom when Dad died. Our bedroom is populated with sparse remnants of my husband: things he didn’t use, didn’t really  need, won’t be asking for while he’s living 2,000 miles away.

Do I go through the two drawers in the dresser filled with 5-year old paystubs, guitar picks, hair combs, handkerchiefs and eyeglass repair kits and clean them out? Do I leave them as they are? Would he appreciate me doing some organizing on his behalf that also benefits me?  Do I take my closet back over? Do I pack up his socks and use the drawer for my own things?

As much as I love my husband, his pack rat ways and ability to spread himself all over the house are among those petty grievances most couples have. Our dining room table, every day, all the time, unless guests are coming to dinner, is covered with his laptop, various piles of medical papers, books, bills, receipts and notes. Not one pile. Five piles. Coming home to a dining room table populated by one book and a cat was an unbelievable relief.

In some ways, when he is home, it feels as if his presence prevents me from organizing my own things. I think it’s because no matter how much of my own things I organize, his clutter negates the effect of my efforts. He likes to have the things he might want or need handy. He doesn’t want to put them away at the end of the day only to have to dig them back out the very next; the sort of chaos this leads to can be overwhelming to a person cursed, as I am, with ADHD. The breakfast counter in the kitchen has every charger he might need, every pen and pencil in the house, three bottles of lens cleaner, five lens-cleaning cloths, his old pair of glasses, an empty glasses case and a small dish full of pre-moistened lens cleaning wipes. Well, it had those things, until I put them all in a container this morning and put that on the dresser in our bedroom.

When your spouse dies, you reorganize and you own the result.

When your spouse is gone but not forever, you could reorganize, but the results can’t possibly last, because people don’t change and no matter what I do now, he’ll come home in a couple of years and it’s a damn sure bet that my house will be returned to chaos and clutter within a matter of days.

I’m filled with this wanting to spread out and take my home back. This was my home before we met, and I went to great lengths to create space for him when he moved in. But if I give in to that desire, what am I doing? Am I pushing him out, leaving no room for him to return? Am I simply wasting my time, knowing that when he does return that we will not only have conflict over the way he leaves everything sitting out everywhere in every room, but that I will lose the battle and lose the results of all of my efforts to declutter and organize my home.

Is this an opportunity or is it a pitfall?

A thin line

A thin line

fenceheart

SG, my husband of almost six years, left today to work in another state for the next two years.

 

His work is highly seasonal, so it was normal for us for him to leave for a couple of months at a time in the spring and fall, and then one year he worked in Nebraska the whole year, which was awful for many reasons, the least of which was him being gone.

Two years, though.

That’s a long time.

I got used to the cycle of him being home long enough for me to be glad he was leaving for a few months, then being gone long enough for me to be glad he was home. The line between wanting to have hot, sweaty sex with your lover and wanting to strangle your spouse because for the eleventy-thousandth time he’s left the toilet paper for YOU to put on the roller is thin. Razor thin at times. But we’ve lived that cycle for a number of years, it worked for us, maybe not in an always ideal fashion, but enough to keep us going.

This? Is a whole different animal.

 

Since the day he got the offer we’ve had a great many long conversations, too many of them ending in yelling or tears. We’ve talked about everything from ‘maybe he’s not coming back’ to ‘of course he’s coming back.’ Ultimately we settled on holding this thing we’ve got together. I’m mostly thankful that we could reach that decision together. For a lot of folks, I guess, there wouldn’t be any question of whether or not your marriage was in jeopardy because of such a long situation, but we’re a couple of old dogs who have both been through the divorce wringer a time or two, and as much as we love each other we’re also strong personalities and we’ve had our share of conflict.

We don’t necessarily share a path or a circle; at some point or another both our paths and our circles intersect, and for some people maybe that doesn’t make much of a relationship, but for us I think it’s the only way we can actually HAVE a relationship.

I’m a horse junkie. My extra time and extra money, when I have them, are spent riding, caring for, and supporting my four horses. I have two pasture pets, a big 13-year-old gelding I’ve been riding most of the last six years, and a lovely 3-year-old filly who just finished her first 60 days of training. We take lessons and we trail ride, mostly, although at some point I’ll probably want to take this mare to some shows.

 

SG likes the horses fine, probably even loves them, but he’s not a horse person. He occasionally talks about us buying him a horse so he could ride with me, but frankly his skill level makes me uncomfortable taking him on the trail, and I don’t want the expense of feeding and vetting yet another horse who will barely be ridden. Besides, I most often trail ride with one or two close friends, and that’s not necessarily time I want to share with him or give up for him.

SG’s passion is Libertarian politics. He’s constantly trying to wrap his arms around writing a book or starting a podcast or writing and playing songs with Libertarian themes.  He spends a very great deal of time discussing (or arguing) politics on Facebook with anyone who cares to engage with him. He wants to change the world.

Each of us has, as SG often says, a higher than average tolerance for solitude. I have a long daily commute to work, which in some ways fills that need. When he’s working, he’s by himself on his off hours, but when he’s home he is stuck in my house with my dogs, my cats, my kids, and the last two years, my widowed, disabled sister. One might imagine that this creates some conflict, and one might be considered correct.

 

These paragraphs, I believe, set a good deal of context for the current statue of affairs.

As I type this, he is somewhere on the road to Michigan. I went to work late this morning to spend a little time with him; we kissed each other goodbye like lovers, and then he got in an argument with my sister about NAFTA and things didn’t feel quite so lover-ly. We kissed some more, and I went to work and he went about loading up the last of his things in the car.

This blog, my newest presence online, is meant to be an honest account of our relationship and our lives for the next two years. I mean for it to be a place where I can explore my thoughts and feelings, as honestly as I am able. Probably no one will read it, now that personal blogging has fallen out of the spotlight, and I’m better than good with that. I need a box for my thoughts.

 

So here goes nothing. Or something. Who knows?