How to bounce back (again and again)
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:
Eat dinner as a family more often.
Go out to eat less frequently.
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.
You realize, don’t you, that after THIS post he can beat you all he wants and any marks found on your body will be assumed to be self-inflicted?
Lord knows he must be tempted.
That’s a horrible thing to say.
But that’s precisely the response PT wants. They’re not really married, she’s not really a business success, and we’re not really very interested.
my name is samson sebastine from united kingdom i had a problem with my wife
sometimes ago but never knew what the problem was,i tried to asked her but
she refused to tell,me what it was as time goes on i discovered she was
having an affair with a friend of mine that happens to be my best friend,i
was so sad that i never knew what to do next,during my search for a way out
i met a friend of mine who had similar problem and introduced me to a man
who helped him with his situation,on getting to the man i discovered he was
a spell caster i was shocked because i have not had anything to do with a
spell caster in my entire life so i tried to give this man a chance cos i
never believed in spell casting as i thought it will not work for me but to
my surprise i got positive results and i was able to get my wife back from
him even after the spell caster did all i discovered my wife fell much more
in love with me on like before so i was so happy that i never know what to
do for him so i am using this opportunity to tell anyone on this blog having
similar problem visit email@example.com..i am sure he will help you
Absolutely disgusting thing to say — no matter how you feel about this post.
@Belinda Gomez: If you “not really very” interested, why are you reading and why are you commenting? And really, who are you to judge the dynamics of Penelope’s relationship or her level of her business success? Compared to me, a struggling mother of two that teaches high school (and sadly will continue teaching 22 more years until retirement)she’s had a remarkable amount of business success.
Horrible. You should be ashamed.
He makes a totally valid real world point. “Hey, your honor, she does this to herself all the time – read the blog.” Real life isn’t nice all the time.
If there was a way to flag this for removal and the poster for banning I would do that but instead I will comment so that at the least people who read it, including Penelope, know that some people think these kinds of poisonous comments are wrong and not okay and frankly evil – Penelope has dealt with behavior 100x worse than anything she’s ever done – as far as I know she’s never felt tempted to beat anyone. If you are – got therapy immediately – you’re a lot more fucked up than Penelope.
I think you need to get out of the country setting. It is making you more crazy. Country living is NOT for everyone. Especially not for you. You need people around. You need external stimulation. The farm is not good for you.
I am sorry to say this but it is how your post affected me today.
Oh Penelope… do take care x
I didn’t understand that you are crazy until I watched a Brazen Careerist webinar. You probably know which one I’m talking about. The thing is, you articulate crazy even while you’re in the midst. So it doesn’t feel like crazy to us. You may be what I call “meta-stable,” i.e. crazy but within boundaries. What I can’t figure out is how you feel to the farmer. Sometimes stable people like to engage with articulate crazy people. For adrenaline. For a sense of the vastness of life. Then the stable people sometimes feel like they’ve had enough, but can be brought back by whatever appealed to them in the crazy person in the first place. Oh, and by professions of love and apologies.
I only wish I could help. The farmer is not the only one suffering from lack of data in the open. I believe you need someone highly intelligent and dispassionate to help you both out right now. Someone both precise and stable. Does such a person exist in your vicinity?
I love this comment about how stable people and “manageably crazy” people interact and what they get out of the relationship, brilliantly stated.
Penelope, I admire your honesty, your intelligence, and your fearlessness and I always learn a lot when I come here. I wish you everything good.
I sensed you calming as the post wore on.
Write, Penelope, write.
Write with your whole heart.
Your life depends on it.
Okay, first: I am really sorry that this is going on. It sucks.
Second: You need to go to Madison right now and get to a doctor. I don’t mean that offensively (really); it’s just clear that you’re someplace where no human could dig out by herself. That happens. But then you need to get some help.
I’m really sorry. I hope it gets better for all of you soon.
This is good advice, Penelope.
There are things only professionals can help us with.
I agree with this. Why should you do this with out help? Please reach out to a doctor. This is especially important for your children who may look fine but are probably internalizing much of the anxiety they sense from the situation. Getting help doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom or bad person, it means you need help. Period. We all, every one of us needs help from time to time. Today. Go. Get. Help.
You need to get help because we need YOU, Penelope! Take care…
Sorry to hear you are having such a difficult time. Have you considered outsourcing your financial life? You’d have to find someone very trustworthy, but they could pay the bills and deal with those details for you. I realize this is only a small part of your current problems but it is one thing you could try to control.
I really appreciate your candid posts. Not many people would be brave enough to write about these issues.
I agree. I’m surprised you haven’t hired someone to take care of your money situation already.
I’ve actually hired a few people to help me. And I have learned something from it. Sticking to a budget is like going to the gym. You can hire a trainer, but if you don’t go to the gym ready to work out, the trainer doesn’t matter.
I think going to the gym is hard for some people (not so much for me) and sticking to a budget is hard for some people. It’s easy to tell people how to solve the problem. It’s hard to get people to take the action.
I am trying to figure out what makes me able to get myself to the gym and then use that skill to make myself stick to a budget. But I’ve only recently admitted that I need to do this. So I don’t know if it’ll lead to success…
What the gym and budgets have in common:
Practice doesn’t make perfect. Anyone who says it does will fail. But perfect practice makes perfect – therein lies the rub.
You go to the gym, sit on the abductor machine (the one where you move your legs outward) and push out 3 sets of 20 reps at 70 pounds and get off thinking your thighs are now more toned.
Not only are they not toned but you just wasted your time and I’m pissed off because I’ve been waiting and watching as you take up my precious gym time.
What you should be doing is set the weight to 50; get your butt all the way back, sit up straight as you can, then with the arch in your back, lean forward and place your hands on the sides of the machine. Press your legs outward at a 2 second pace and hold it for one second at the widest angle. Take it back down for a 2 count and immediately do another rep. On the 10th rep, hold it for a second then pulse it for 10 reps – don’t through the weight and don’t let go of the side of the machine.
It’s the same thing with a budget: You need to find the way that speaks to your wallet and bank account. I have no idea what this exact way is for you but one thing I do know is that it probably will involve taking money out of your hands, temper tantrums be damned.
PT – Sounds like what you need to do is have someone add up your monthly expenses and automatically have your paychecks divided – part into that account, part into a general spending account. And then don’t have access to the bills account. You can divide it further if you’d like, to have a Nest Egg account, again that you can’t touch. That way, there is no budgeting. When you run out of money in your spending account, you’re out. And you’re bills are still covered.
Isn’t budgeting really about saying no to yourself, while going to the gym is about pushing yourself toward something? Both require discipline, of course, but so does every productive thing.
Please see the metaphor of the glass as your own brokenness, clean it up to take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself, and maybe this will help you not argue so frequently with the farmer. Every marriage has arguments and issues, and sometimes men need space, and it makes them crazy if they ask for it and you don’t give it to them, sort of like cornering a rabid dog..
yeah. I mean, this is more complicated and also really pretty simple. clean it up.
yeah. I mean, this is more complicated (than it needs to be, what with the metaphors and all that) and also really pretty simple. clean it up. because it’s messy and dangerous.
When I read your book, The Brazen Careerist, it was hugely inspiring to me. After reading some of your blog posts though, I find myself very concerned for your mental well being. There’s certainly huge value to sharing your personal experiences and being as vulnerable as you’re being. My concern stems from that you’re leaving your readers with being worried about your physical and emotional well being–which is not the purpose (I’m guessing) that you intended for your blog.
I, for one, could not be a stay at home mom. Career for me is a way of focusing and balancing my busy mind and desire to create/contribute. Then I bring that experience back to being a parent and wife. So believe me, I get it when you say you’re searching. At this point though, as a trained counselor I’m just going to ask you to please go and get some professional help. Harming yourself is not the sign of a healthy person.
Okay. Thank you, everyone. I appreciate your concern. I’m going to be okay. I think maybe this is a time to drive home my point:
While I was writing the book, Brazen Careerist — the one that has helped so many people steer their career — I was having major postpartum depression and I was totally lost in my own career.
And here’s a book secret: Many people decide to write a book when they are stuck or lost or panicking. It’s just they don’t write the book about that.
I guess what I want to show here is that the people who give advice — the bazillions of them — have problems too. It’s just they don’t write about them. And I think it’s weird. I think lots of marriages have broken glass on the floor. But people don’t write about it. And I think lots of people who give great career advice find themselves totally lost at times.
I wish there would not be so much feeling sorry for me. I feel like lots of people go through times like this. And I feel like since I have a track record of going through these times and coming out better for it, that it’s okay to show it while it’s happening.
The world is a lonely place if everyone hides this stuff.
> I wish there would not be so much feeling sorry for me.
Actually, on this one I feel much sorrier for the farmer. You are right about marriages having broken glass, though. One evening I came home from work: my wife was on the cordless phone with her mother, and there were two plates of spaghetti on the counter. I took a plate and sprinkled parmesan on it, and my wife threw the phone through the window of the next room, smashing it (I had taken the wrong plate). I told her to get the phone, and fortunately THAT was not broken – she used it to call a window repair shop, cleaned up after herself, got some more spaghetti (what was to be MY spaghetti was buttered, HER spaghetti now had cheese, and she wanted neither, but she hadn’t realized there was still plenty of un-buttered, un-cheesed spaghetti in the colander) and had a nice quiet meal together.
Everybody loses it sometimes, you just have to deal with it to minimize the destruction in your wake.
you are so right, Penelope. I had just been thinking with respect to my own blog, and other bloggers out in the world, that the only thing that drives people to give advice is their desire to overcome their own struggles… after all what would interest someone in self-improvement if they had nothing to improve?
thank you for this post. we all have these moments, and not many of us are confident enough to share them. but you do and that’s why you have so many readers.
sharing your story has provided encouragement to me. i appreciate that.
Yes! It would be totally lonely if no one ever told the story of how they smashed a lamp on their head. Personally I preferred other objects.
It was an awful place to be, but I am also stronger now. Thanks for telling it like it is.
“The world is a lonely place if everyone hides this stuff.” You’re right! We’re all pretty fragile, whether we believe it or not.
Thanks for sharing your humanness, and please consider seeking some professional help with sorting this out.
Somehow your reply reminds me of how you were surprised at your school’s reaction to your father’s abuse. It was so hard to take any advice from what you wrote in this post – we have come to care for you. The lamp didn’t worry me, the farmer driving away didn’t worry me, but the part about you leaving the farm if you had enough money, that worried me. Enough that I felt a pang. Maybe it’s just my own stuff. But this didn’t seem like the usual Penelope stuff. It felt worse. Maybe I was wrong. That’s always possible. Maybe the end of marriages doesn’t feel so awful to you as it does to me.
Penelope, I totally agree about not hiding stuff, I do. However, I also think there might be (might being the right word, because I could be wrong) a part of you that needs to tell the truth so that we can respond just as honestly and tell you the truth as we individually see it.
Self inflicted injury is not common in marriage. I’ve been with my husband for 22 years. We’ve had huge arguments and long periods of difficulty and then long periods of loveliness. We have certainly said hurtful things. But if I hurt myself on purpose he would take my children and leave and honestly if he did the same I would leave him. At least until he agreed to get professional help.
It is not common to hurt yourself. Broken glass, not sure about that either. But hurting yourself, no. You will of course attract other people who hurt themselves and want to feel validated and you may choose to listen to them and ignore the signs that a professional might be of help. But I guess I wonder why you wouldn’t call in a professional? Why must you do it all alone? And why do you have to fall so far as injuring yourself before you bounce?
I smashed a tea cup over my head when husband was in the middle of an affair and the couples therapy shrink we saw together was totally charmed by the idea of my husband’s mistress in Paris and called me skunt, I said is that with a c or a k? And looked it up at Urban/Slang dictionary.com (its a Guyanese term for asshole among less flattering things). When shrink heard about the tea cup he suggested I’d be checked into psycho ward. When husband tried to leave I hid all the keys to all the cars (good idea P !). Anyway, yes I wrote a book about it. As you say, it helped, after two years my anger faded and the affair became a story and no longer an emotion. We stayed together, for better and worse. The book, called The BlackBerry Diet is good fun (really!) but publishing sucks. A Random house editor wanted to buy it but got turned down because marketing department (bet they were all men) could not get behind another adultery story written by a not previously published woman. So then I wanted to smash EVERYTHING over my head. I did not, I just put the BB Diet online for anyone who needs to feel less alone to dip into. Then I started another career with another idea. Maybe the book was just a way to get there. Anyway P. I guess the similarities are always there, and we are not alone, just feel we are.
Unfortunately no one can tell you what to do, only you know, and you are exactly where you are meant to be… (go figure)
Besides isn’t everyone just totally crazy in their own way?
PS I would like to know what the “everything” is that farmer gave up? Its not really clear, did he move for you? Leave a wife? Or just feels he misjudged living with you? Because that’s not a loss, that’s a lesson.
Hey lady – there’s another blogger who covers the guts and blood of a bad relationship – go check out her blog. I think it may help: projecthappilyeverafter.com
As I read your post, I didn’t feel sorry for you. Instead I identified with your struggles. The two areas of my life that seem to always be a mess, especially since the 2006 and 2008 births of my children, are relationships and money. I especially identified with the statement on how the farmer hates you when you cry. My boyfriend hates me when I cry. He can’t handle being around that kind of emotion. It freaks him out and makes him want to run away from me. But he can’t because we have toddlers, and he stays home with them, and I can’t afford 250 bucks a week for daycare. Lots of things freak him out. He feels trapped. I feel trapped. We communicate poorly. We are both terrible with money in different ways.
My first husband, who passed away (though we were separated when he died, we were still legally married and so I’m a widow at 33), always quoted his mother’s favorite proverb during times of stress : “This too shall pass.”
I find that I repeat that to myself quite a bit these days. Perhaps you will come out stronger and better and perhaps I will too.
My God! Nothing makes me more angry than when a talented courageous person shows some glimpse of their real life, instead of the perfect facade, and (some) people get all squeamish and concerned. For F*** sake, people who can write about their problems in a insightful, honest and humorous way are NOT danger to them self nor to people around them, even if they smash a couple of lamps around. It’s the squeamish and concerned people who anxiously try distance themselves from the raw reality of life that need a trip to a shrink.
I don’t think it’s always such a good idea to seek professional help, and it strikes me as panicky and cheap advice when you don’t know what else to say (merely assuming that someone who has gone to school does know what to do. Great schools graduate lots of emotional morons). All times I’ve gone it’s been a disappointment, and the first time I did it in my teens it was a major life disaster. Putting that much trust into someone who may or may not be competent is risky business. Penelope is highly intelligent, and although it sometimes requires a lot of intellect to become a therapist, there are high chances she will meet someone less intelligent and wise than herself. What does such a person do in such a situation? The therapist often tries to cling to their therapeutic authority by giving bad advice. Someone here gave the advice to seek the aid of someone stable and precise – that was superior advice.
I certainly agree with Nina M. 100% percent. “Professional” help isn’t always conducive to self betterment. I feel like people say this when they just have nothing else to say, along with “Everything will be alright.”
I agree that it’s not easy to find a good therapist and that someone like PT may have trouble finding a good one. There are therapists who treat other therapists — if you can find one of these, s/he may have what it takes.
On the other hand, someone who is less of an intellectual but has the gonads to call you on stuff may be equally effective.
I hardly ever read this blog, but I appreciate the raw tone I find here.
Rather than just citing your childhood and past issues all the time as the reason why you’re in said situation, do you ever consider trying to rise above the past explanations into something better without holding on to the past?
Your writing certainly helps you cope in the moment until next time. What about trying something more permanent that goes beyond just coping?
Yes, telling yourself a story of how things progressed helps you make sense of things but your plot needs to read more than “I smashed a lamp over my head because I was too overly stressed at the idea of money and my husband’s presence being a temporary fixture, did I mention I have had abandonment issues throughout my life?”
I KNOW you can have a redemption turn into something less linear.
I don’t really have good advice, except that I agree with you it is unacceptable for the farmer to go to his parent’s house over a fight.
Also, the farmer will come back. It’s his farm, right? I would not leave yet. But I would clean up the glass, because now you have the picture to remind you of this incident, and the farmer is right, it is unreasonable to not clean up broken glass.
Go to an Imago couples weekend workshop. Assuming you are not too crazy to help, this could save your relationship. There is one in Iowa coming up soon. http://www.sarahjbeck.com/couple_workshops
Check out http://gettingtheloveyouwant.com, read Harville’s book, learn how to get out of these awful fight spirals with The Farmer.
Landmark Forum is really great too, not so much for couples but for self…
Yes, the Landmark Forum will be great for putting you through a simulated hostage taking – sensory deprivation and emotional pressure tactics, until you snap. Not recommended if you don’t feel like being under constructive arrest in a hotel ballroom for 16 hours/day for a 3 day “self improvement” weekend.
I can’t quit thinking about this line…
“He hates me when I cry.”
Does he hate you or does he hate the crying?
I am in NO position to give advice. Maybe the farmer really loves you and you need to believe that?
I’ll go read your post on abandonment issues now.
My boyfriend hates me when I cry, or at least he acts like he does. It took me a while to understand that it’s because he feels so helpless and blames himself (or believes I blame him)for my pain. He also has burned himself with a cigarette lighter twice when we were having an argument that I didn’t even think was that intense. I obviously can’t offer much advice, but one thing I’ve learned is to be careful how you communicate. Instead of saying, “I won’t let you leave,” say, “I’d really like it if you stayed.” One person always has to be the humble one and make the first step toward peace. Relationships are hard.
I ache for you. You are not alone. I hope it sounds worse here on the blog than it is in reality, but even if it is worse in reality… you are not alone. Lots of people love the crazy you.
I have been reading your posts only a few months, but you clearly have talent, an unusual perspective and – as difficult as things are right now – you are certainly right on the importance of bouncing back. Adaptation is basic to survival.
Your advice on life matters is funny, poignant and often valuable. But please don’t say you give career advice – someone might believe you. Brazen Careerist is a useful platform but science will help people SO MUCH more than lots of amateurs’ advice. As it does in life. I thoroughly agree with another comment: go to Madison and get professional help. Professionals make a difference, in life/health as in career.
Everyone fights. But arguing about who will abandon the kids first is just plain vicious. Since you are not legally married, he would be within his rights to have you thrown out. This only ends one way – with you leaving. Just a question of when.
It really doesn’t seem like the end of the world. It’s just life, sometimes it’s pleasant and sometimes less so. Although it might feel like a big deal, it’s really not.
Thank you for being bold enough to share your story and congratulations for having a new outlet. An image can be worth a thousand words…or something like that.
No advice, judgments, suggestions. Just know that this will pass.
Hang in there,
This is such a nice comment, Nora. Thanks. I would like to be this kind of person. Who can just be nice and understanding and not judge. Well, I think I want to be this kind of person but maybe I don’t. But I definitely like this comment. Maybe because I can’t give it myself.
Yesterday I burned my arm badly while cooking cabbage for Halupkies–mainly because I was thinking about how holding down the cabbage in the boiling pot reminds me of a story line I was working on, where one of the characters was imagining the cabbage to be someone’s head she was mad at. When I was pouring the boiling water out of the pot, it splashed back and burned me pretty badly up and down my arm. It was painful and stupid, but affirmed my idea as worthy of putting in a story. So, if I’d been more level-headed and focused on the cabbage as an actual cabbage, maybe I wouldn’t have burned myself. This event reminded me how I am not like the neighbors, nor do I want to be. I was also daydreaming about this completely amazing, incredible budget software I discovered that has changed my life. I too am atrocious at budgeting and it brings me so much stress–I don’t have the skills to manage a budget no matter how much I try. But I’m telling you, you need to get the 7-day trial to youneedabudget.com. It will change your life–I got up this morning excited to budget, if you can even fathom that as a concept–this is going to be a great year!
A few months ago I burned my arm badly because I was using the ends of my sweater-sleeves as pot holders. The pot slipped, the boiling water soaked through my sleeve and burned me. Careful, everyone!
I’m sorry you are in the midst of one of those hard times of life. You will find your way. That’s all we want right? To find our way. To find those moments where we feel right. Thank you for your writing.
OMG! He goes running home to mommy!!! Not acceptable. If they were responsible parents they would tell him to go home and deal with his issues. Hasn’t he ever heard the command “Leave and cleave…”?
You are exactly what you say you are.
“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.”
I hope that one day you realize that there really are thousands of people that think you’re pretty amazing (and I’m one of them.) Start focusing instead on what you desire to become and choose your thoughts. Your post really makes me understand that I am only sane because of personal spiritual beliefs. Otherwise, I would be a HOT MESS.
Where’s the blood?
OMG. That’s what I was thinking. And how clean the floor is, other than the glass.
Staged, no doubt, as well as the lack of furniture. Looks like only boxes in a corner.
I’m so impressed how you’ve opened your life and used it on your blog. You’ve managed to say what we’re all thinking, but never say. I love your down to earth way of looking at life and the workplace.
The thing that saved me the first year of my marriage is that I kept choosing my wife, and she kept choosing me. We had to work out the answers together.
I look forward to all your posts.
The first year you’re with someone is always the hardest. I say the first year, after you exchanged your rings. You both are trying to meld your life together, and it takes an incredible amount of effort. I know you know this, having been married before. For me it was an eye opener my first year of marriage, how much I had to learn, and how much we both had to work at starting to knit ourselves together. Give you and your farmer time. There were so many times during my first year that I left for a few hours to clear my head. Only to come back.
Reading this I’m reminded of fights I’ve had with my own spouse. I think that most people share similiarly audacious sounding behavior and writing about it and/or listening in on someone else’s fight amplifies the riduculousness of it all. I’ve never smashed a lamp over my head or blocked a car in but have tried, in the moment, equally counterproductive tactics. Looking back on them I can only shake my head in disbelief. The point, to me, of “How to Bounce Back” was not “help me, I’m crazy,” but that we all resort to riduculousness at times and it is not the end of world; That problems exist everywhere, New York, Madison, so deal with them. And, in some cases write and share them, and cringe at them. And learn from them.
‘Tis the season for family craziness. Any and all festering issues in our immediate relationships will escalate through the intensity of memory and expectation-laden holidays.
I’ve been there, too, but have made a concerted effort over the past decade to gradually eliminate the ‘crazy-making’ relationships, or at least get some serious distance from them. (Relocating to different continents for work over the past few years has been helpful, for example, as I find my relationship with my sister improves dramatically when there’s at least an ocean between us.)
My previous marriage was unhealthy and intoxicatingly intense, and it was excruciating to break up, particularly with a child. However, once I truly got over it (using my “bounce-back” strategies as you refer to them, including a good therapist and dear, devoted friends ) I was able to move into a relationship with a man who somehow manages to blend trustworthiness and sharp intelligence in a way that leaves me feeling both safe and intrigued. We have a lot in common, in fundamental, how-do-we-want-to-live ways…but also enough differences to keep things interesting. It’s been a revelation to discover that a marriage does not have to be such hard work.
You’re resilient, smart and talented. And right now, support in the form of an excellent therapist and trusted friends will make the world of difference. Take good care.
Hi Miss P,
I am so sorry this is all going on for you right now. In speaking to the money matters, I see every day how money affects relationships for better or for worse.
For better when both people in the relationship are working together as a team which includes same goals with money, and for worse when they have different goals and are working independently including with the money.
If you ever want to bounce anything off of me regarding how to empower yourself regarding your relationship with money please email me.
Please take care of yourself, your kids, and your marriage.
First, thanks for your honesty and your ability to share what many people never would.
I too went through a very difficult time several years ago in my marriage. Started out with postpartum depression and god knows what else! Only way I climbed out was by huge amounts of reading, mostly spiritual stuff, a very kind physician that listened to my version of reality, me realizing that I was asking my husband to “help me heal and to respond” to me in ways that he never could,and this mega vitamin stuff called truehope. Yeah, corny name, but as far as I can tell, it worked.
I look back on that time that was so dark and realize it was only through going through it was I able to summon up the strength to do the healing that I needed to do.
Just wanted to thank you for sharing your story, and tell you are in my thoughts and prayers.
Best Wishes, Kris
Dear Penelope’s editor: Please stop allowing her to post on the blog. This is not helpful to her or anyone else. Mandatory leave of absence is a thing that exists.
Let her post! Let her use writing as therapy! Let her inspire all of us to honestly look at our own lives, admit our failures and successes, and hope that we find peace, stability, interesting-ness, passion, love, and above all a way to balance everything in our not so balanced world. This quest is relevent and urgent and inspiring.
Erin, it may not be so helpful to you (perhaps your life is perfect), but her posts are tremendously helpful to many of us not so perfect people.
So Erin, instead of telling Penelope’s editor not to let her post on a blog that belongs to Penelope, you, dear, should stop reading, stop commenting, and stop spreading your isolated, judgemental, negative opinion. You do not speak for all of her 60,000 subscribers.
@Penelope: I used to have rather severe Borderline Personality Disorder. What helped me was Emotion Freedom Technique http://www.eftuniverse.com/
It’s currently being used to help military vets who suffer from resistant PTSD, and it’s helped me far more (and more quickly) than traditional talk therapy or Dialectical behavior therapy. Everyone’s mileage may vary, but it helped keep me alive and functioning after the violent demise of a romantic relationship.
Have you considered that some (or a lot) of this may have to do with the fact that it’s winter? In Wisconsin. Winters in the upper Midwest are pretty depressing and it shows up as lots of different problems for lots of different people. Not trying to dismiss anything. Call it a contributing factor?
Not a bad idea – I’m in the Midwest too, in dreary winter, and started to feel back in November like my brain had permanently shut off. My doc suggested Vitamin D supplements (since I wear SPF 70 on my face for various reasons and cold weather coverage outfits) and I do feel less like I’m stuck in 2nd gear. Try the calcium, D and K chews at the drugstore – can’t hurt (unless you eat the whole box – do not OD).
Being from the Northeast, I put a lot of weight in what you are saying. Add to that the fact that Penelope is much more of a city girl and I think she may just be very unhappy on the farm in the middle of the winter. That used to be enough for me to slump into a deep depression and start hating other areas of my life that were really not a problem at all.
I’ve had enough. I’m out. I’ve been a loyal reader for several years, but I came looking for career advice, and that’s nowhere to be found here any longer. It’s just the chronicle of your descent into madness. Frankly, I just don’t trust your advice any longer.
Best of luck. I hope you find some peace.
Does it make me a horrible person if, upon reading, Paul’s diatribe on leaving loudly, that I immediately thought he’s probably one of those 20-somethings who will leave a new job on day 3 because they have decided that the employer doesn’t meld enough to their wishes?
No, but it means you are confusing a legitimate complaint and observation with a sterotyped “bad bad 20 something” behavior. This was a career blog once, right?
If you’ve been a longtime reader, you should be accustomed to how Penelope gets her thoughts across. What is she saying that you need to hear? Go back and read it again.
I think Paul is right. It’s not about advice, it’s about not enabling an unstable person write about this and think it’s OK. It is not. P. needs a hospital, not a bunch of well wishers and agreeable followers.
Check out the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman – I think you and the farmer have a good chance at great love once you figure out how to love each other….
I am less lonely and scared today because I stopped and read your post. Thank you for your courage in sharing exactly where you are.
Oh Penelope! You are right that everyone has tough times in their marriage and lift. And so many people put up a front, even around their friends about their personal or professional lives. You are right it is lonely when you think you are the only one having problems or difficulties. I want you to know that I am a LONG time fan and your advice and wisdom has helped me and inspired me many times.
Best of luck during this difficult time. Just remember that he does love you and being in a relationship is difficult. Sometimes giving in is the hardest thing to do even when you know its for the best.
There’s not too many people who would post what you just did. That shows me that you have no qualms about reaching out. If you want to get off this carousel then I agree with many of the earlier posts: find help. Reach out.
I have spent the last 18 months coming to terms with my last abusive relationship, with myself as well as with the significant other.
I learned that I was co-dependent (didn’t even know such a term existed). It was a revelation. And now I am setting my life’s course armed with knowledge. I’m working on the abandonment fear myself.
I have no children and am not looking for a relationship. So, your situation is more complex.
Being in a rural area I guess the resources are limited.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
You’ve got a lot of people routing for you. Just persist in finding your way.
The thing about the car and leaving really stuck out to me- reminded me of my history and tendencies. My experience of learning to function in the social world with aspergers is that, in situations of conflict, when you can’t figure out how to make things right with someone, it is easy to make it about either tuning out or winning/crushing the opposition. Which I would imagine is a useful skill in the business field but does not maintain personal relationships. It is easy to go to that place of being willing to up the ante past the point anyone else is willing to go to, but it breaks social bonds and is alienating. You win the battle but not the war. My marriage fell apart to the point where we hated each other for years, it only better when I got really invested in the idea that being right is a booby prize- that what you have to be focused on is finding a solution that both of you can live with, that either person being unhappy with the solution is unacceptable. It is difficult but possible to get to a place of being able to do that in the middle of a conflict, and when you shift the way you talk in an argument, you often feel like you are in some sort of revolting elaborate kabuki dance, and it is easy to resent that your social interactions would have to feel so artificial. But it is worth trying, it helped me- first to have a human home environment, and then to have a loving home environment (sorry I couldn’t come up with a way to say that without being saccharine).
I think it is worth thinking about why it feels important to smash your head with a lamp(you) or smoking a cigarette(me), or going running until you vomit(me), or diving headfirst off of a table onto a concrete floor(me), or something else that interrupts the mental anguish loop of “this is horrible and I’m stuck.” If the problem that causes the impulse (loop despair) is the same as mine, you may be able to substitute something that doesn’t harm you.
It also helped me to get hypersensitive about personal sovereignty. I know the correct way for my husband to store his computer and maintain his car and pop his zits, but I try to let him handle the things that aren’t mine, because it is stressful for other people to not have a sense of personal freedom, to be incorrect in too many ways. So yes, it is not good for your children to see the farmer not maintaining his hand health or you injuring yourself with a lamp, but only one of those is yours. And I’m not sure that you, or most people for that matter, could give them a childhood where they only see people modeling correct self care. I’m not even sure if that’s preferable.
I got a lot of this from a few books a few years ago. If you’re interested I can go look up some titles.
I love this comment from Mady. Sounds like someone who has “been there” before offering advice from a closer perspective than most others chiming in here.
Thanks for the bloody post today. I feel less dumb and stupid about how I used to fight with the ‘one I loved’, then clean myself up and go to work like nothing had happened. When I eventually told my boss about my split from my husband she was so surprised because I hadn’t brought any of my devastation about the bad end of days of my marriage into the workplace. Truthfully, I was so just so glad to have work, doing a good job and the great people there to go to. Compartmentalizing can be postive; it is just another way of saying balance to me. When your personal life sucks, it is nice to have a job that you know you can do well. An awesome post. Now go clean up that glass! The boys might step in it! You do it for them, xx
You woke up and you wrote about your life. This is a good thing – this is you figuring it out, bouncing back, and you know you’ll get there. You have to. It’s not a comfortable exercise, but the budget & your career – these are the projects for your first quarter. Own them, and let your personal life follow.
Our dog died suddenly yesterday, and we’re wrecked. I knew I had to get up this morning and write about it, and I do feel better, now that I’ve put a few words out there. I hope you do, too. Reading your post about struggling – it helps. So let’s go into the first quarter of 2011 with some focus on what we know we’re good at – owning our careers. May our personal lives be buoyed in the wake of our coming successes.
Just a couple of weeks ago you posted about starting dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and changing your diet. Remember that change is hard, and relapses are common. I hope that even as things seem impossible and unstable, you try to stick with the DBT and diet changes, even when it seems like they’re not helping.
You’re in your life for the long haul — and so are your children and your ex and probably the farmer too. You can do this — you are doing it.
Wishing you all the best.
Wow, I stand in awe. Thank you for writing about this, though I’m going to re-read this again a few times. I was laid off in November 2010, and was glad that I still had my home life stable to go to.
Thanks for being gut-wrenching and real. I’ll stay tuned.
Penelope. As a man who has struggled with relationships and provides relationship advice to others, I am constantly in awe of your willingness to put it all out there. As a husband who had fantasies of running out the door and never coming back in the early stage of my marriage, I can totally understand the torment and drama of finding the balance between two people’s neuroses and shtick. I am so grateful that I stayed in my marriage to work things out because it is now the best thing I have in my life. I believe that this blog is not just a way for you to feel transparent as someone to whom the world looks for advice and support regarding their careers, it is a place for you to work out the struggle of being in your own body, and that is ok.
The funny thing to me is that people get upset sometimes about what you write because they believe you should be writing something else which is exactly what you say you want to avoid. I don’t doubt that the many people who read your blog care about you, but I also wonder how many of us unconsciously project our own needs and expectations onto you, hoping you’ll be someone stronger or more together than all of us.
Happy New Year to you. If you’re ever down in Chicago and want a free consultation, look me up.
Do you imagine this blog as a reality tv show? This episode with the smashin-in-the-head-lamp would be awesome!
Sorry you are in a bad place. Not that the farm is a bad place, just that mentally you are in a bad place. I think it is the perfect storm for you…getting used to winter on a farm, a new relationship, the company moving….and all the other things that come along with life.
It was a very emotional weekend for my household too. We are trying to plan the future but owning your own business makes it difficult to plan very far out. The uncertainty drives my husband crazy. Somedays I want to give it all up and go back to the stability that a regular job brings. I can’t stand to think I am leading my family down a wrong path.
I want to have the life I think I should. I have reached the age when things should be, well, better. ANd in a lot of ways they are but I always think they should be more fulfilling, more engaged, just more!
Here is hoping we both find peace with where we are this year!
I usually focus on solving problems, for better or worse, so this is a cold hearted analysis on the state of things.
Given that you already know about your difficulties in sticking to a budget, why are you in charge of the money? Transfer the bulk to an account you can not easily access. You have a previous post where you describe how to survive on a zero budget when giving seminar talks, so you can obviously cope on ridiculously small amounts of money in the right circumstances. There has to be something in between.
You both seem to be doing emotional extortion, which is not very productive in short term and there’s a huge risk that it will end up in resentment in the long run. Once you get to that stage it’s a difficult thing to turn back from, and the kneejerk responses you typically work up are really hard to unlearn.
I can not speak for the farmer, but leaving for the moment might be his way of coping with things. He might be angry and afraid that he will say things he later regret in the heat of the moment — taking a walk might give some perspective and cool down his feelings.
You two love each other. You can not change the way he acts, but you can change the way you act. It might be possible to start a positive spiral by doing small things, for example cleaning up the glass, and hopefully he will do something nice for you. I usually apologize once things have settled down, regardless if it was my fault or not — I certainly had a part of fighting one way or another. It sucks to apologize when it feels like none of it is your fault; I view it as a long term investment, some discomfort in the present for spending the rest of my life with the woman I love.
With all that said I am lucky enough to have a wife who loves me and understands me and my quirks, and is also interested in solving conflicts and problems. There are plenty of ways we could make both ourselves and each other miserable, so none of this would work if either one of us had malicious intent.
Thanks for writing this, I get the message, and your willingness to be vulnerable is inspiring.
I’m sorry to hear that things are going so badly for you right now. You said you wished there would not be so much feeling sorry for you, but I think a lot of the commenters are just expressing compassion for you, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.
So I am feeling badly for you, but I also feel badly myself after reading your post. It was honest, yes, and brave, and it broke a lot of the bullshit unwritten rules about polite discourse, and all of those are good things; but it was also harrowing to read, and “harrowing” is not what I come to your blog for. I’m not saying you shouldn’t write harrowing posts, but I am saying I don’t want to read your harrowing posts. So I feel sad to write this, because I’ve gotten a lot out of your blog over the past year, and I’m going to miss it and you (or as much of you as I get from your blog), but I’m unsubscribing today. The main thing I came here for was professional advice; but a harrowing post about your personal turmoil does not become professional advice just because you insert some boldfaced, numbered sentences into it that read like career advice.
I think the most difficult part for me about this post was the role of the kids. They have a mother who abuses herself and makes herself bleed, who breaks glass on the floor and refuses to clean it up, who uses them as bargaining chips in an argument. Those things are just not okay. You defend your parenting by citing the example of the CEOs who are shitty parents because they’re so wholly dedicated to their jobs, but that’s fallacious logic. Comparing yourself to shitty parents does not make you a good parent. Your parenting is good or bad on its own terms.
Please think more about what your kids must be going through. Please show them more compassion than your parents showed you.
Penelope, I truly feel your pain. You sound so much like me, like I used to be. Asperger’s. Borderline. Depressed. Suicidal. Self-destructive. A wreck. I tried everything. EVERYTHING… counseling, antidepressants, career, sex, etc., etc. I had a successful career, but nothing worked and nothing helped me. I finally came to the end of myself one day when I was between jobs and was desperately lonely and needy and all the people I loved were out of town and beyond cell phone range. I had none of my usual distractions. I was left with nothing to do but reflect on what a miserable failure I had been in all of the areas of life that mattered to me most … home, family, children, marriage, friendship. I nearly imploded.
That’s when I finally broke down and asked God to help me and to take over the reins of my life. I wasn’t even completely sure if there was a God when I made my entreaty, but what followed was quite tangible and indescribably amazing. No one would probably believe it all if I could even describe what happened inside of me, but the people around me have seen me and my life utterly transformed in the two years since it happened. Depression is gone. Borderline is gone. I am continually growing and healing. I have a joyful life now.
I never believed before. I was wretched and miserable. Now I believe with all my heart, and it’s because of all the proof I’ve seen in my own life. Everything has changed. This lonely, quiet, empty time you’re dealing with right now is the perfect time to turn to God. He can mend you from the inside out.
I know that practically no one believes this anymore and that dozens of people, and possibly even you, will probably blast my socks off just for posting this, but I have to tell you because I can see you are hurting like I used to be, and this is the only thing that has ever worked for me. Salvation is real. Please just try it … just ask Him. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
What could it hurt?
Margaret, yours is a beautiful comment and so very true. Except the part about not many believing anymore. I think there’s lots of us that do. And we can all vouch for what you just said. Penelope, give God a go.
That’s good, but that emotional high doesn’t last for ever either. Still need to develop LOTS of internal and external resources, that is, lots of different tools in the box to draw. Personal faith can be a great tool, but it’s ALSO not the be-all, end-to-all questions many people think it is. Trust me. Because nothing shields us from everything for ever. Only by continually, continuously living our lives and learning from our mistakes and others’, and hanging in, do we grow.
Hang in, Penelope. I already appreciate your courage and honesty, and, yes, it DOES translate to career advice. Thank you. Will it make you smile a little to tell that I’ve previously bypassed your blog because I (mis)read the title of your blog as “Penelope’s Trunk”, and,reading no further, thought it was a blog about antique collecting? Hah! Glad I stopped this time.
The temptation to turn over my life to some higher power is so tempting and calming during times of extreme stress. Though I consider myself spiritual and Christian, I’ve never been able to fully believe that surrendering my life over to this elusive God will solve all of my problems. I’m glad it worked for you, but not everyone is capable of such strong blind faith. And isn’t Penelope Jewish?
Now that you have calmed down, you should address the root cause of the matter. Not being crazy, probably the best expert in the world couldn’t guarantee to fix that.
You are his wife, not his mom, so it is really not your place to train him in personal grooming. But, if it is REALLY that important to you:
1) Purchase some protecting, moisturizing cream. Nothing labeled “hand cream”, that makes it too obvious.
2) “Honey, I’d really like to have my breasts rubbed with this cream…..”
3) Since a guy cannot in good faith turn this one down, the result are two manly hands with their working surfaces thoroughly coated with the product.
Don’t expect this to result in no blood on the hands, though – guys who work with their hands are often getting scraped, nicked, and abraded, and no cream in the world is going to stop that.