Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hell Has Gotten Colder

I won’t say it’s frozen over yet, but the temperature has dropped. And a good thing, too.

This weekend hubs put up our outdoor Christmas decorations. It’s always been hit or miss as to whether our outdoor decorations go up or not, depending on a) his mood, b) the weather, and c) if they work or not. About 8 years ago, our outdoor lights were spectacular, then they went through a steady slide downward until the last couple of years there just weren’t any.

Sometimes, rarely, I have done a few outdoor lights, as long as I didn’t have to climb anything to put them up. Since I have always been a seriously acrophobic person, there was never any chance that I’d put lights on the eaves or gutters, or a Santa on the roof or over the garage door. I put wreaths on doors, maybe I’ll put a light up in a window on the inside some years, but if I have to climb anything, it ain’t happening.

So anyway, weather maven and general optimist that I am, this past Saturday I checked the local forecast and made cheerful mention, over our early morning coffee, that the weather was going to be in the high 30’s and low 40’s this weekend, so it might be a good time to put up the outdoor lights, and would he please consider it. He snarled back that I could do it if I wanted them up, so I smiled at him and said I’d consider it. I knew this would drive him nuts because the lights and doo-dads are all stored in “his” barn – which is kind of a large storage garage for crap he won’t throw away and stuff that would make our cars kind of crowded if we put it in the “real” garage. He hates it when anyone messes in the stuff in his garage. A few minutes later, I pondered aloud that perhaps the kids could help me. He gave me a nasty look.

After the caffeine had hit his system, I started asking for help in getting the multitude of Christmas errands run – the kids had to be taken out shopping for each of us and each other, then I needed to get stocking stuffers, buy Christmas gifts for the pets (yeah, I do that, sentimental poop that I am), and the total tally for the week looked like it would be six trips, some of which we couldn’t do with each other because that would spoil any secrets, see. He looked even more depressed until I remembered that I have a son who can and will drive! Whee! Spawn could take his siblings out shopping, and go cash a check at the bank, and take them to lunch! We could palm off some Christmas duties on Spawn! That cheered both of us up.

That worked out great – Spawn took Bunny and Doodle shopping, each with a small wad of cash, and they went out for lunch afterwards, too. Meanwhile, Hubs sat around waiting for some workmen to show up to estimate whether or not we could finally get wireless. I trundled off and ran some errands, and the workmen never showed up.

Sunday, lo and behold, Hubs rounded up the kids, medicated the ADHD contingent, and set them all to work hauling spiral trees and inflatable penguins and snowmen into the front yard. They scurried to and fro and plugged things in and now we have a decorated yard. Hurray!

Later, dropping the temperature in Hell a few degrees lower, hubs even brought in the prelit tree and moved stuff around in the living room and erected it and plugged it in. The prelit tree was an issue for me about three years ago. We’ve always had real trees because I insisted. I like real trees; they smell right, I don’t have to shape the individual limbs, I like the way they relax and spread with decorations on them, and I don’t mind watering them or cleaning up needles. Until one year when one edge of the tree blanket slipped into the water reservoir and wicked all the water out, drenching Christmas presents. Even I wasn’t happy that year, so the next year, much to my partial disgust, we got a prelit tree. I suppose I’d rather have a plastic tree than gifts ruined by water damage, so I’m trying very hard to be OK with it. I’d like more lights, though, but that’s not going to happen unless I do it.

Which brings me to homeostasis. Not the destination you would expect, I imagine, but that’s where I’ve wound up. It’s the “I do more, you do less; you do more, I do less” dynamic of most relationships. It happens. It always happens. It’s a thing that is. It can be bad, it can be good, and the overall goal, as we’ve discussed in my women’s group, is to try to keep it balanced so that the whole burden of maintaining the relationship doesn’t continually fall on either party. For years it fell on me. It was crushing me over the last few years, and I just couldn’t take it any more, which is one reason why our marriage wound up on the rocks a year ago, and I wound up in therapy, squished and worn to an angry shadow.

Sometimes it shows up in little things, like planning for a holiday, decorating, gift buying, meal preparation, etc. And, for years, I did it all because he wouldn’t. Sometimes it felt false and/or I felt resentful or militant and angry about “having” to do it all to keep Christmas nice for the kids; sometimes I didn’t notice it as much because I had become inured to doing everything and was able to pretend it didn’t matter.

Last year, it mattered, and I did only enough to keep my head above the waters of bleak depression, and the kids from having an emotional brownout. It showed in some ways – I had even gotten to the point where I had previously bought gifts for myself and labeled them from hubs so that there’d be something under the tree for me; I took the kids shopping for me; I did everything. I couldn’t do it anymore last year, and consequently, I didn’t get much for Christmas. I got nothing from hubs because I didn’t get anything and label it from him. I didn’t feel like getting him much either, so I got him a couple of token gifts. He was in shock, which showed on his face, but he didn’t say anything. It eventually came up in couples counseling, and got discussed. I don’t know that we’ve resolved it, but some things changed.

And, mostly, what’s changed has been me. I’ve gotten better at asking for help, and if I don’t get any, then I just don’t do the thing. No more compensating. If I truly want to do something, I do it, and if I don’t, I don’t, and I don’t feel any pressure to do things to make my husband look like he cares; he can just do that himself. And maybe, just maybe, that little bit of homeostasis is working positively this year. We have lights, we have a tree, the decorations have been pulled out of storage, and I’m not shopping for myself. That all seems pretty good to me.

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