I smashed a lamp over my head. There was blood everywhere. And glass. And I took a picture.
I think my life is getting better because it used to be that I wrote everything. In order to cope. Now I can take pictures. So I have two coping mechanisms.
The best way to judge someone is not by setbacks, but by bounce-backs. I am good at judging people this way. I think this is because I’m good at bouncing back. From stuff people think no one can bounce from. I can still bounce. Here’s how:
1. Get perspective about what is big and what is small.
This is not the first time I have put a gash in my head on purpose. I did it when I had postpartum depression. The situation now is remarkably similar.
I told the farmer that he needs to take care of his hands better. That’s where the fight started.
“I hate hand cream,” he said. “It makes my hands greasy all day.”
“It’s dysfunctional to walk around with bleeding hands.”
“This isn’t normal. It’s because I was so nervous around you and your mom fighting in New York.”
“You have it all the time. All winter. You told me you do. It’s your job to fix it. You have to take care of yourself. You have to be a better model for the kids.”
He says, “I’m sorry I don’t take care of my hands how you want me to.”
I say, “Forget it. This is crazy. I don’t care about your hands.”
Then we talk about money. I spent too much money on our trip to New York. He is sick of me not being able to stick to a budget. And, to tell you the truth, I am sick of it, too. My inability to stick to a budget is like him not putting cream on his hands: Total incompetence.
The thing is that the money problems make me nuts, and they make him nuts. The hands, really, are not as big a deal.
2. Tell yourself a story of how you got to where you are, so it makes sense.
So we skip to the discussion of how I feel like I’m alone with the money problems because we agreed before I moved to the farm that he would not be responsible for the kids or the money.
Don’t tell me it was a crazy agreement to make. It’s water over the bridge. Or under. I can’t remember the saying.
So I tell him I feel alone. I tell him that for maybe five minutes straight, because he is saying nothing.
Then we do our normal routine: I say I am lonely and feel like he’s not really with me.
He gets angry because he thinks he’s given up everything for me.
My abandonment issues flare even more when he is angry at me for saying I’m lonely.
He hates me when I cry.
I hate myself for being with someone who hates me.
You can see the spiral, right? It’s just a question of how much I hate myself.
Today it was a lot. I hate myself because I could have used the money I spent on the New York trip as a fund so that I could leave the farm. I don’t even know how I’d leave. I mean, I know I’m capable of leaving, but I don’t know what I’d leave to. What I’d go toward.
Those of you with empathy understand how it is such a short step to the lamp crashing into my head.
Then the farmer left.
3. Understand opposing points of view to your own.
People always ask how the farmer puts up with me telling our lives on the blog. What he really hates is that I get to tell the story. The story of us. Here are things he thinks you don’t know. He thinks I leave this stuff out and it’s not fair.
I am crazy. More crazy than you know from the blog.
I am very needy. I have abandonment issues and I never feel loved.
I am bad with money. Crazy bad with money. Great at earning it, terrible at managing it.
But I know you all know those things because I’ve already posted about them:
Craziness: Here’s the post where I go nuts over a tweet some guy directed to me.
Abandonment issues: Here’s the post where I describe the genesis of my neediness issues.
Money issues: Here’s the post where my electricity gets turned off.
He feels sorry for himself that he got into this mess with me. He thinks he gave up everything for me and I’m totally ungrateful.
So I spent the day trying to avoid my ex, who spends Sundays at our house with the kids. Then, when the coast is clear, I traipse over broken glass and crawl into bed and hope I sleep forever. Not forever in a way that would mean my kids have no mother. But forever in a way where it sort of approximates death in an I-need-a-break way but then I’m still a good mom.
4. Compartmentalize. For sanity’s sake.
Can you be a good mom and break a lamp over your head? Maybe that is the crux of this post. Or maybe it is “Can you be a good career advisor and still break a lamp over your head?”
Actually, I think the scary thing is that the answer to both questions is yes. Compartmentalizing in moderation is actually useful life skill. I know because I’m terrible at it.
But look at the CEOs who are never home with their kids. They are terrible parents but great at their career.
And look at the stay-at-home-baking-cookies moms who are addicted to shopping, or valium, or cheating on their husbands. It’s entirely possible that these women could be great moms. Maybe you have until 3pm to be dysfunctional: What you do before school gets out can be separate from what you do after school gets out.
Anyway, here’s some career advice: Try to keep your career on track and your personal life on track. You’ll never have both, but your career is a sort of safety net. If all you have is your personal life then if it’s going bad, everything in your life is bad. Your career isn’t as important as your personal life, but it’s a nice distraction.
See? It’s working for me right now: I’d probably be bashing another lamp against my head if I didn’t have a blog to maintain.
5. Protect the parts of your life that you can.
When the ex left, the farmer and I started fighting again. We had to fight around the kids. They watched CatDog and we argued.
He asked me if I’m cleaning up the glass. If this were a novel that you were assigned to read for school, there would be this essay question:
Compare and contrast the two knock-down-drag-out fights Penelope had with the farmer after he asked her if she is cleaning up glass.
If you were a good student, you’d remember the chapter where I break a window and end up at the police station.
Back to this time: I tell him I’m not cleaning up the glass.
I meant to tell him that I like the visual metaphor of broken glass surrounding our bed. But I didn’t say that. I said, “I don’t care. I’m tired of trying to do nice things for you.”
It’s hard to argue that cleaning up the glass is doing something nice for him. This might be supporting evidence for the farmer’s contention that I am crazy. But in fact, I know from the last argument over broken glass that he cares about it way more than I do.
So I tell him that I’m not cleaning up the glass. And then, I don’t know what happens. Well, first, the kids ask to watch another episode of CatDog and I say okay.
6. Re-use tools that have worked for you in the past. Abandon those that never work.
In the twenty minutes we gain from more CatDog, the farmer and I are able to establish that he is done with the relationship and he is going to sleep at his parents house.
I decide I have to keep him home. I don’t know why. I mean, I guess my instinct is that if he runs to his parents when we have a fight then it’s for sure that he is not really with me. I’m sort of like a fair-weather friend that he keeps around to supplement his relationship with his parents—which, I’m sure he’d say is more rewarding than his relationship with me.
Okay. So I panic that him going to his parents will solidify what I already know anyway. And I tell him I will not let him leave.
This immediately makes him want to leave more. The farmer’s biggest worry in life is that I will control him.
He tells me I can’t stop him.
I want to show him that actually, my specialty is keeping people from abandoning me.
Me: I’ll leave the house first and then if you leave, it’ll be child abandonment.
Him: I’ll take the kids to child services.
Me: What will you tell them? My wife won’t sweep up the floor in our bedroom so I can’t stay in the house and I have to give the kids away? Really? Do that. I’m dying to see that. Should I pack the kids’ clothes for them? Because if you do that, they’ll go to foster care.
I know you think I sound crazy, but the farmer’s way of dealing with me—his way to get me to shut up—is to threaten me. So I have taken to calling his bluff. I have noticed that almost every time it works. Like, just two days ago he told me he wouldn’t talk with me in the middle of a long drive home unless I want to stop and get a hotel room for the night so we have time to talk. And I said fine. Let’s get a hotel room. And he didn’t want to.
Okay. So the kids do not go to child services, but I worry that he’ll go to his parents house.
So I move my car to block in his car so he can’t leave.
He could walk though. Or take the fifty other farm vehicles. And it’s totally pathetic that I’m trying to force him to stay with me.
So the farmer is sleeping at his parents house. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m here. With the kids. I’m in the middle of nowhere with no support system. I mean, if I wanted to sleep somewhere else I don’t even have anywhere.
But I wouldn’t want to sleep somewhere else. I traveled every week for a year. And I missed the kids. And I wanted to be attached to home and family more than my booming career. So I moved here.
But I don’t know what I’m doing here. Scaling back. Scaling back a career so that all that’s left is family time, and family values. It is not working.
I see all these new year’s resolutions people are making:
All these things are easy to do on the farm. I need a new year’s resolution to make sure my career does not go to hell while my personal life has. I need a safety net.
The reason I started writing career advice is not because this is my dream job. I mean, who dreams of growing up and writing career advice? I became passionate about the advice, though, when it became apparent to me that each time I had a personal crisis, my career is what helped me rescue myself.