Sunday, September 03, 2006

Back to Reality

My wife brought me back to earth last night. I’ve been playing on the beach, soaking in the sun and cooking for an army of children. I had to come home. I had to face reality again.

My mother thinks your upset about something silly, you know. When she gets here, she’s going to yell at you, she said.

It’s not silly. It’s deep. It hurts.

I know that but she doesn’t. And family is everything to her.

I can joke about a lot of things and yet I sit here holding so much. I said before I am not a perfect person. Far from it. My family of origin thinks I’m lying about what happened to me. Or making it up. It’s safer for them to think I’m crazy. Wacky, I believe was one of the words used to describe me.

In a week, the Go-Zam’s will travel emasse to see a football game in Syracuse, staying with my brother and his wife. It will be a party from the minute they hit the road to the minute they leave. Card games, stories, laughter, food and a lot of beer will be had. It will be fun. The kids will run around with their cousins. They will be reminded they are part of a huge family that celebrates everything from weddings and funerals to Iowa football games together. Weezie wants me to go. They all want me to go.

Jeanine holds the truth with me. She is torn about what to do.

And what do I say to my in-laws? All wonderful, warm people. Yes, they have flaws. They fight, argue, push each other’s limits but they are real. They don’t pretend to be something else. They call themselves a bunch of crazy Mexicans- they are- and they love deeply, without hesitation. They have opened their hearts to me. And to my family. To my niece, Ashley, to my brother and his wife.

But they have no idea.

When Jeanine and I struggled this summer in our marriage, I kept thinking about her family. It wasn’t just about the two of us. For me, it was about her family, too. I couldn’t bear the thought of not having all of them in my life. Could I find a new partner who would be all the things I wish Jeanine were? Maybe. Could I replace the Go-Zam’s? Absolutely not. My children would always have them. But I would not.

Go, I said. I will not. And right now, I am not ready to explain why except to say it’s not something silly. It wasn’t just a little fight between my brother and I.

The fight put a window in my path. I’m looking into it, mesmerized and terrified. Panes of the glass are cloudy. Some are crystal clear. I’ve tried to pull away, to leave it behind. I have run as hard as I could. All it did was drain me to the point of being unable to move. The window is still there. I have to clean each pane and then make it into a door. I have to walk through it.

I won’t go on the trip. It’s not that I can’t. I can do anything. I have realized this summer I can really do anything. I have carried enormous emotional weight. I am capable of holding feelings I thought were impossible to touch let alone sit with for weeks at a time. I can do it.

I won’t.

And, right now, I won’t explain. For the first time in my life, I feel I have the right to say no. Not because I’m too weak. Not because I can’t. Because I’m not ready. I need time. I’m learning this new behavior and it’s called taking care of myself. First. I’m sure I’ll go overboard, be overly protective, and then find my way to the middle.

I am sorry I’ll miss the football game. The party before the game. The party after the game. The chance to stand in the kitchen and help put together food for everyone or clean up, with about ten others all lending a hand. Please know it’s not about you.

It’s about me. And a window I have to work on.


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