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.

I cry.

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.

Plant a garden.

Turn off the TV.

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.

391 replies
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  1. anon
    anon says:

    Jeez…seriously…get help. You’re not doing your personal life (or your career) any favors by showing everyone how batshit crazy you are on this blog.

  2. Liza
    Liza says:

    The first step is to admit that you struggle with certain things.

    The next step is to overcome and deal with those troubles.

    You have problems with feeling loved and being abandoned. You cannot always deal with that on your own.

    If you want to save your marriage, you need to see someone who can help you.

  3. Stephani
    Stephani says:

    Amazing that you’re able to capture your craziness in such a sane and articulate way. Have you been offered a reality TV show yet? This is far better drama and more gripping than any other “reality” series. The camera crew would move in and keep you company, kind of like a second family…

    Seriously, I do hope you figure out what you need. It’s clear that the farmer and the farm are not the end all be all for you – they wouldn’t be for most people anyway. You need something more challenging and you need the connection and energy of other people. Even if it’s a small group of people. Good luck P.!! You’ll get through this.

  4. Shana
    Shana says:

    Out of that whole post, you know what caught my eye enough to write a comment? The part where you know exactly how to combat the farmer’s fight tactics. Pretty insightful. But…while I’m as compulsively competitive as the next type A careerist…I got a lot of mileage out of realizing that while I was smart enough, tactically, to “win” every fight in my marriage, winning arguments wasn’t good for me (or what I ultimately wanted, despite every instinct screaming for victory in the moment.) Just a thought.

  5. Keemia
    Keemia says:

    As a very recent subscriber I don’t have much context into your background or psyche. Your comment caught my attention: “those of you with empathy understand how it is such a short step to the lamp crashing onto my head.” unless this is a sarcastic comment, no this reader doesn’t understand the cause and effect the way you do. That’s not healthy behavior and I worry about your kids.

    • morningcain
      morningcain says:

      I disagree. Having battled self-injury for my whole life, as soon as I read the title of the post, I knew where Penelope was emotionally. Sometimes, self-injury is the least crazy option. Not the best but considering what going on in your head at that moment, the least crazy.

      Penelope – keep writing and doing the things that keep the crazy at bay, including seeing your therapist.

      • Keemia
        Keemia says:

        Sorry I don’t understand what you’re disagreeing with. What I do know is that self inflicted injury is very unhealthy behavior and kids should be protected from it.

  6. awiz8
    awiz8 says:

    Saw this coming last summer. The farmer is right, he should be afraid of you controlling him, because you do. Also, at some point, after calling his bluff continually, he’ll get tired of being controlled that way, and actually follow through on his threats.

    My sympathy right now is for the farmer. He sounds like a decent enough guy, but living with Penelope has pushed him to the brink. Penelope seems like she wants everything her own way, and will run over anyone who she sees as preventing her to get it at all costs.

    I predict another divorce in less than two, or maybe even one year. It was never destined to last anyway, given her issues.

  7. Lori
    Lori says:

    As someone that grew up in a family not too far off from yours, except that I wasn’t lucky enough to get to go live away from that batshit craziness. No, instead I got myself pregnant so that I would get kicked out that mess. It really is nuts the things we do in order to survive whatever it is we find ourselves living in.

    Since I am a newer reader I did go read the posts you make reference to here…the one about why you write about the truth in order to not keep the secrets…living the secrets is way harder then the truth…so many don’t get this…it is almost rare to find people that really get it…you get it…that shouldn’t make me happy but it does…anyways when I read that when you went to school you didn’t know there was anything wrong with what your dad was doing and how did they know? Holy crap…that was me…all through school they kept after me, asking me questions and I kept thinking, “How the hell do they know?” Now that I am so far from that life, it’s easy for me to say, “Of course they knew you were getting the shit beat out of you.”

    I lived for so long in this box of not ever speaking of the experiences of my life…keeping the secrets…not knowing that a lot of that shit was not normal…it’s freeing to speak of some of these things now…still there are things that have me gagged into silence…so reading your posts filled with your honesty and speaking the truth and not keeping secrets, really are touching to my heart. And they give me hope. So thank you.

    There have been so many times I would have loved to have broken a lamp period, let alone over my own head…but the fear of being my father, my brother or exhusbands keeps me from breaking anything. Never in my life have I broken anything…even though I’ve wanted to. When I seen the photo and read about your breaking the lamp I gasped and smiled…because right now I would love to break a lamp…and a part of me is jealous that I don’t have the courage to break a lamp let alone tell me whole story on my own blog…or to all the people in my life…they may know bits and pieces but there is not a single person on this earth that knows my whole story.

    Since I have known what it means to live without a single support system my heart goes out to you. I am not sure how I ever found my way here but I sure am thankful that I did. Since you have so many readers and commenters you may never read my comment here but still I felt the need to thank you for speaking the truth…for giving me hope..for letting me know I am not the only one. XX

  8. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    My husband and I had glass on the floor for the first 2 years we were married…my (farming) parents were interfering and meddling in our lives without us even realizing it. This would never have stopped, and we could never have moved on as a UNIT, if I had not 1) acknowledged what was happening, 2) had Hubs insist I pick HIM, and 3) chosen to cut the cord and re-prioritize WHO in my life got top billing.

    Good luck.

  9. Rita Palanjian
    Rita Palanjian says:

    Penelope, I’m sure in the midst of your little “hells” you are not thinking that you are helping your readers. I gain so much from reading your posts, however, I do not like to hear that you are suffering inside. Your posts speak to my heart and from my heart – thank you!

    I don’t know if this is fair to say, what a loss for the rest of us if you weren’t able to articulate your journey. You’re leaving a mark. Now, that should just empower you; ok, I will shutup now.


  10. Don
    Don says:

    Started with hand cream then money, hmm. I had hard time picturing reason for the anger although I guess arguments sometimes excalate to anger without reason. Remember anger is a choice the avoidance of which requires early recognition and substitution. When it begins find a method to replace the anger with laughter. As far as hating yourself, remember it is easier to love and be loved when self hate is replaced with acceptance. You have so much to offer the farmer, the kids and your readers you should stop the self hate and agree to be puzzled by yourself and spend your time understanding yourself. Consider laughing at yourself and your quirks. Find a mechanism to stop the tirade, breathe and calm down. Learn from each explosion ways to find serenity. If you understand yourself better you may be able to help the farmer learn ways to calm the argument and the anger. I never feel good after being angry. Always wish I had not allowed myself to become angry. When angry I say or do things I wish I did not say or do.
    Find a way to lessen the anger and increase the love. A way I tried in the past was to play Twister. Next time stop the argument and say: alright buster, I’ve had it, get out the Twister sheet and start spinning. We are taking this fight to the mat. Combine Twister with Strip Poker and replace the anger with…, later mention your head hurts and would he be a jewel and sweep up the glass. If he does it, you have a keeper.

  11. Maryon1
    Maryon1 says:

    Thank you,

    Was meant to be doing the usual domestic stuff for my family, but instead have spent past 30 minutes tucked away in a quiet spot reading your post and the comments that followed.

    Can only agree with your earlier commentator Nora – I have no advice, suggestions etc. This will pass.

    Writing from London in the UK, I have no idea what it must be like to be on a farm in Wisconsin, but it’s possible to feel desperate, angry, and sad, wherever you are, and that is what resonates with me.

    Take care

  12. Adrienne
    Adrienne says:

    Time for Penelope to grow up and stop making life miserable for your kids, your poor husband, yourself. Get some professional help and realize that your marriage was just another attempt to find someone to put up with your mood swings, whether they be hormonal or emotional. I can imagine that the farmer has come to the realization that he was duped and manipulated, and that he has married an emotionally unstable individual who is also narcissistic. Get some help, admit you made a mistake marrying the poor man, and move back to the city where you can seek professional help. Your blog is not about career information, it’s about a mentally unstable person… it’s watching a train wreck in action…

  13. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    This post really bothered me and I even called my wife to tell her not to read it until she got home. But then I read your follow-up, and the line “I guess what I want to show here is that the people who give advice … have problems too” helped put it in perspective. I have students and employees that see only the teacher or manager side of me and and would be — sometimes are — shocked to find out I’m just as flawed and struggling with the same kinds of problems outside those roles that they deal with. You are more courageous than me; I fear I would not have a class to teach or a job to manage if I told my them all about having been institutionalized.

    Or maybe it would help if they knew I had been to the edge and made it back. I know how much more I admire our son knowing that he, too, stood at the edge, we nearly lost him … and he made it back. Most people don’t know what he went through and just see a nice guy and a good father. But I know more, and I see much more in him because of knowing. And maybe that’s the same reason I keep reading your blog. Unlike others who pontificate, you are human — just like me.

    I am concerned, though, that the sharing you do as “your job” may be amplifying some of the problems you are having — like an actor play a part on stage who starts to take on the characteristics of the role they are playing. Are you really crazy? Are you crazy for the sake of the post? Do the crazy-sounding posts nudge you a little further towards crazy?

    I hope the bleeding has stopped, both from your head and from your heart.

  14. Karen Burgess
    Karen Burgess says:

    It seems to me that you have a great deal of insight, but little ability to channel that insight into action. Perhaps a few short rules to help you cope? A good doctor could help you develop these. Also, not to be rude/mean, but having read your blog, it seems to me that the farmer is just a phase for you. You seem to flit from one enthusiasm to another, with plenty of drama. Perhaps his time is just over? If you really want to keep the relationship and build a life, you need to work on this together.

  15. IMA2FOUR7
    IMA2FOUR7 says:

    No condemnations or predictions just a plain and simple thank you. You are a strong human being–not just because you can break a lamp on your own head, but because you are courageous enough to tell about it. As a reader for sometime I appreciate what you write and your frankness. I enjoy how freely you share your thoughts. As a single mother of 4 children I have had days like yours (though I am farmerless)and though my lamps are in tack that might be because I don’t have any glass ones. People who throw stones shouldn’t live with glass lamps might be my motto (but please do not ask about my dishes). The pain you feel is so real as sharp as those glass shards. I think I understand why you did not want to clean up the glass–believe me I have so been there. I lives through my crazy pain alone –sometimes locked in the the bathroom laying on the floor.
    I am glad to be here to hear you.
    I hear you.
    Going forward…

  16. Nandalal Rasiah
    Nandalal Rasiah says:

    Ordinarily I do not proffer advice as I have no solutions to any of the recurring and widely shared problems in life, but your ‘support network’ is already crowdsourced via your blog and twitter. This support could even be scripted–a particular person for a specific answer that will snap you out of whatever incrementally self-destructive course of action you have wittingly/unwittingly undertaken. These supporters need not be clinical psychologists but given that they are at least human beings, the answer, however scripted, might be compelling and genuine to your mind.

    If all else fails, Seth Roberts reports some cognitive benefits with the addition of animals fats to the diet. Though it is counterintuitive, they might extend your periods of controlled emotional flexibility.

  17. Nowgirl
    Nowgirl says:

    Penelope: sweetheart, you need to pick up the glass. And apologize. You’re allowed to make messes but then you have to clean them up.

    I know you like the metaphor. You’re an artist. But a shared bedroom is not an appropriate place for found ordealism.

  18. Tzipporah
    Tzipporah says:

    “Self inflicted injury is not common in marriage.”

    She’s right on the money here. Remember that your view of what is “normal” is based on a childhood as an outlier.

    Yes, you can survive this. But wouldn’t it be nicer if you get through all this stuff to a place where you and the farmer both dealt with your own issues enough that every little thing didn’t set you both off? And you could have a new normal?

    Even crazy people are lovable. Even co-dependent momma’s boys can grow up and have healthy boundaries. Really!

  19. Tom
    Tom says:

    I have a wife who’s a bit like you. Forgetting the money problem (she has her own, but it’s more the opposite) she’s pretty much the story in your blog: Studies, career, sports, kids, success in everything she wants/does. ENTJ and probably Asperger’s. Feeling abandoned, needing _one_ person to love and trust (while really needing lots of them around). People think she’s weird and that she has the funniest stories anyone ever heard when she talks about her life and reality.

    We have crazy big fights. But we do stay together and I trust that to be true (mostly). I leave for an hour – a day every second year.

    My wife is at her best when she has too much to do/organize/handle and a lot of people to organize into doing it. I believe she is at her happiest alone with me, having sex on a mountaintop we conquered together.

    You are helpful for me in your writing because I get many different verbalizations from you about her/us, I wish I found a way of being helpful for you. I hope I am helpful for her –


    Ok, my suggestions (more about us than you): 1) stay with the farmer (help him trust you will though you are “crazy”), 2) make sure you get out from the farm a lot (he can’t take all of your energy), 3) have people he does not know/care about around (for criticizing – this is actually the same as #2) 4) let him love you by showing him some other kind of love than the hurting vulnerable kind 5) create something or somebody together

    Other ways could work too :)

  20. Mal
    Mal says:

    I’m new to your blog. Would love to read about the things you used to love about the farmer, what made him special, unique and the things he loved about you. I’m sure there must be an old blog somewhere.
    Survivors project themselves into a happier future, dreams shouldn’t be undervalued.

  21. Ann
    Ann says:

    Fundamentally you are you, if you look for help from an outsider (eg dr as suggested) it would need to be someone who can have some understanding of you. Your actions and reactions are not that of the majority but that does not mean that you are nuts and need medicating to become someone else to better fit a so called ideal either.
    Breaking the lamp is fine, I would rather you cleaned up the gash to your head than the mess on the floor, sometimes the mess needs to be physically there until you don’t need it any more, here the pics can help but maybe not as satisfying to the senses as the reality. Injuring part of yourself (head) and bleeding can be like letting lots of steam out of the pressure cooker that your head and mind can become, especially when the farmer refuses to talk to you as much as you would like.
    You need to write and verbalise, you can’t keep it all in, it’s not who you are. You can’t change the farmer and you should only make changes to yourself that you want to make and that you feel comfortable with and can cope with, personal changes should be small, baby steps, not huge as huge ones just leave you in a position of not being able to cope at all.
    You are not the farmer and he is not you, he is the product of his life, you of yours and all the shit that has happened has made you who you are, someone who can bounce back, it’s ok to be down for the count for a bit, to feel sorry for yourself but then your strength comes out and you come out fighting and remake yourself stronger than before.
    The farmer cannot give you everything that you need, you are the only one that can do that, he can love and support you though. Maybe he doesn’t fully or even partly understand living with someone who has aspergers, that your actions and reactions are not anything that he has ever dealt with before and so he isn’t coping which can send you both into a further downward spiral in your relationship. Any chance he would read something like Aspergers in Love? He needs to realize that you can’t be anyone else but you, that you are indeed special and different and that is in the main to be celebrated and cherished, not destroyed, he fell for you, he just probably didnt realise the whole package as in the first couple of years of a relationship you only see what you want to see of your partner and reality can be quite a shock. Doesn’t mean that it can’t be worked through though.
    As for his bleeding hands during winter, use Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream of a night, won’t make his hands girly but will help enormously with skin cracks, if not available wool fat (from sheep) would also help.

  22. H
    H says:

    Oh, gee…more drama from Our Lady of Drama. Let’s review this week’s episode, shall we?

    You still haven’t figured out why the farmer hates to see you cry? (Quick hint: it starts with “m” and rhymes with stipulation.)

    You were worried when he decided to leave and go to his parents house? You ought to be. If that family is smart, they’ll be plotting their legal strategy for getting you the hell out of that farmhouse and the farmer’s life. The good news is, you’re giving them lots of information that can be used against you by writing these trainwreck blog posts. The bad news is, you painted that beautiful trim.

    You really don’t want people’s pity? Oh come now. Seems to me that’s exactly what you want. I note that the only comments you respond to are the ones that are warmly sympathetic and cloyingly pitying.

    My guess is, you’ve milked the farmer’s goodwill and gullibility for all its worth, and he’s finally caught on that you’re not crazy or even on the autism spectrum. You’re a first-class con artist who will use any means necessary to gain a goal.

    • JR
      JR says:

      Well that’s a little harsh even by my snarky standards. Lest we forget, the farmer and P broke up umpteen times before she finally moved in. Presumably he had read her blog and was aware of her relationship issues and utter incompetence with money. And he was abundantly warned by his family. So if he’s surprised now, he just wasn’t paying attention.

      • lym
        lym says:

        I kinda agree with this comment. Penelope you had to know the farmer didn’t take care of his hands when you were dating and he knew about your money issues. Yet you all chose to marry anyway. And it’s not like everyone is 20 years old thinking things will magically change. What’s the use in fighting about it now?

        What I’d like to know is what you all are going to do to lessen these types of disagreements in the future. I can understand how this sort of thing can happen early in a relationship– everything is new, you get carried away with emotion etc–but one time is enough! I’d like more posts about how you’re taking steps to resolve problems and end these arguments once and for all.

        BTW I love your blog. Keep writing Penelope!!!

  23. Joe Campbell
    Joe Campbell says:

    If you want to put a lamp to your head so be it your over 18 years of age. However the kids do need to be with their father or in child protective services as this is a train wreck happening in slow motion and more then just the “Engineer” will feel the impact…

    • Rachel
      Rachel says:

      This is the first thing I thought of. Even if you don’t want to clean up the glass for yourself or the farmer, you need to be a responsible parent and clean it up because of your young children.

  24. Ann H
    Ann H says:

    I don’t think the farmer hates you when you cry. He may hate “it” (the situation, he may dislike your crying, he may dislike how he’s feeling in response to it, but I don’t think it makes him hate you. Saying that because you don’t need the pressure of feeling hated on top of whatever is making you feel awful enough to cry, when you’re crying.

  25. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    Penelope, I think you often feel like you have to come up with new answers for everything. But you don’t, because you’re not the first person to have these experiences.

    You’re not the first person to come from an abusive household.

    You’re not the first person to divorce.

    You’re not the first person to have a rocky second marriage.

    You’re not the first person to relocate.

    You’re not the first person to wonder if you’re a good enough parent to children you love dearly.

    You didn’t invent any of this. So what does that mean? It means you don’t have to invent ways to fix these things, either.

    You have lots of company. That’s unfortunate in a lot of ways, because it means that too many people are dealing with heavy problems. But it also means that you can benefit from those who have dealt with them before you.

    There are tools that already exist. Counseling is one of them, and there are counselors who work with adults with Asperger’s–I found some in Wisconsin by Googling. I hope you find your solution.

  26. sophie
    sophie says:

    I feel so sorry for your kids Penelope. Why don’t you let them live with your ex?

    Mature, stable parents do not knock themselves with a lamp. Nor do they run to mama’s when they argue with their spouse. Both you and the farmer sound crazy. You shouldn’t be raising kids.

  27. louden
    louden says:

    So you talked to your ex-husband about moving to a farm on pink carpets and now, 2 years later, you’re married to a farmer?

    You broke a lamp over your head to make a point, either to the farmer or to yourself. And you can’t see that you’re endangering your kids by not getting professional help for this problem.

    Please consider this statement: if you harm yourself, you harm your kids. Plain and simple. The more you harm yourself, the more you harm your kids.

    Get professional help. And look at all the posts that mention getting professional help. And consider it, if not for yourself, then for your kids.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yes, I see all the recommendations to get professional help. The farmer and I both have therapists. In fact, I just wrote, two weeks ago, about my therapy. Here’s the link:


      I have actually been in therapy since I was five years old. I love therapy — both on my own and couples therapy (although I have to say the latter is more frustrating than the former).

      Anyway, the therapy I’m doing now is called DBT. It’s a great type of therapy for people who have been in analysis for a long time (which is me). DBT is a fresh approach to seemingly unbeatable problems.


      • H
        H says:

        To quote Dan Savage (slightly out of context but it still works in this situation): “Just because you’ve been victimized doesn’t mean you operate in an alternate moral universe where you’re not obligated to take other people’s feelings into consideration – particularly the feelings of people you profess to love and happen to be married to…It looks to me like you want out of this marriage. But instead of taking responsibility for wanting out, you’re playing the victim card while slamming both hands down on your marriage’s self-destruct button.”

  28. Chaely
    Chaely says:

    Maybe having an affordable place to escape to would help you feel less caged in. A friend or relative to stay with or an affordable hotel in a nearby city? Do it on a schedule. Once every 6 months like clockwork. We all need to get away now & then before we can fully unwind. With that said, taking time (and sometimes money) for yourself is NOT a bad thing. It’s good for you, which is good for your family because they need to you be wound less tightly as well.

    As for the farmer’s hands, I recommend Corn Husker’s Lotion. It’s non-greasy, non-scented & totally manly. It comes in an ugly clear bottle with a yellow label. We keep some by the bed so I can suggest it to my boyfriend before we go to sleep & he can’t complain about greasy residue because he’ll sleep through it anyway.

  29. Chaely
    Chaely says:

    Also, these comments about giving up your children are discouraging & terrible. You do need to find better ways to cope, but you are fully capable of raising your children until a professional tells you otherwise.

    I think a good therapist & a good nanny would do wonders for you & your family. Like I said in my previous comment you DO need to find ways to take time out for yourself. A nanny would give you more flexibility so you can sneak away once in a while without abandoning anyone or leaving the Farmer with more responsibility. A therapist could help you see that you don’t have to punish yourself for every mistake you make (or think you made) & be a more positive outlet than this blog with it’s comment section of negativity.

    Please take care of yourself. You don’t need an ER bill on top of everything else.

  30. Hazel
    Hazel says:

    Sophie, who endowed you with the ability to judge who should and should not raise kids? Do you know Penelope’s kids? Her ex?

    I questioned Penelope’s use of the kids in her argument with the farmer, and I question you and others here who presume to tell someone else how to take care of her children. We should all hope that Penelope bounces back from her post-holiday funk. But please lay off the parenting guilt.

  31. Olivia
    Olivia says:

    Alright, I’m going to approach this in a way that I hope you’ll appreciate. ;-)

    1. The first year of marriage is the hardest. If you can survive that, you can survive anything. Remind yourself and your partner of this, and treat the bit where you survive it as a goal to achieve. In my first year of marriage, which just ended, my husband and I uprooted our whole lives and moved to another country – completely removed from our routine and our friends and the various other safety nets we have in our lives – to wait for his immigration process to wrap up. It was the year of broken glass, and it wasn’t pretty. But when I spoke to other women about this first year of marriage, they told me that’s how all first years go. I don’t know if it’s true, but the women I spoke to hadn’t spoken to each other, and all seemed to say the same thing. Moreover, we introduced a huge change to our lives and our routine in the first year, which is bound to break some glass. I’m not saying you’ll make it past this first year, but you should try, because everyone struggles.

    2. Apologies always matter more to one person than the other. There’s always that imbalance. Figure out who it matters more to, and if it’s you, tell your partner that in that instant, an apology would matter more to you than it does to them. Hearing “I’m sorry” is tantamount to hearing “I’m responsible.” You’re not exactly saying “I’m wrong,” you’re saying, “I shouldn’t have done that specific thing that I’m apologizing for.” If the apology will come in the form of an action – like cleaning up the broken glass on the floor – just do it without saying a word. The minute someone apologizes, it’s surprising how quickly the discussion returns a relatable, rational level. That’s when you can reconcile and negotiate a resolution.

    3. When you’re at the point where you’re blackmailing each other or threatening to leave, have the wherewithal to ask your partner, “do you want this marriage to be over?” You talked about calling the farmer’s bluff; this is just another way to do the same thing, but on a more profound and direct level. You’re asking the biggie and cutting to the chase. I had to do that myself, and when it became obvious that it was just a bluff, I’d say, “alright, so let’s discuss this fight for what it is – a fight – and try never to have it again.”

    4. Think of every issue you fight about as something you never want to fight about again. That way, you’ll be serious about finding a solution. You can even say something like, “okay, I hear you. How do we never fight about this again?” If you find you’re having the fight more than once, tell your partner, “we’ve had this fight more than once; we both need to resolve this so that we never have it again. How do we do this?” Don’t ever try to find the solution yourself; you’re not alone in this, and your partner won’t appreciate being excluded.

    5. It’s great to have goals, but work on one at a time, and involve him in the discussion of establishing both the goals and how you expect to achieve them. The first, which seems to be a biggie, looks like the budgeting thing. Give him an active role in helping you with this. And if it’s like going to the gym, don’t think of him as your trainer but your gym buddy: you won’t always feel like going, but you’re egging each other on.

    Good luck!

  32. Ella
    Ella says:


    You’re not crazy. You just might need a new distraction to keep yourself from thinking about your life on the farm and your blog. Perhaps there was a reason why you received a camera. Take it and use it. Who knows what will come of it.

    I have found another blog that has great advice on improving your photography skills. Here is the link:


    Next time go to Montreal, it’s probably cheaper and even the lettuce tastes better there.

    As far as your personal life, all I can say is do what’s best for you.

  33. jim
    jim says:

    Penelope, how might you have used the skills of distraction and self-soothing to either get through these arguments more successfully, or restore your inner equilibrium after them?

  34. MH Williams
    MH Williams says:

    P- Its not looking good. I worry about the kids because they are learning from your actions on how to have a loving (not so)relationship.. Do you want to see your children repeat the same miserable behavior 10,15,20 years down the line? Please stop and think about all the damage you are inflicting on your kids, the farmer and you. You can’t unring the bell but you can stop it from ringing forever.

  35. H
    H says:

    Oh and all of you who are prattling on about “saving the marriage,” you do recall that they aren’t legally married, right?

      • Bennie
        Bennie says:

        It matters because PT operates on the belief if she says it enough times it becomes true. Business sucess, Aspbergers, marriage….all fictions.

  36. Sabrina
    Sabrina says:

    I have to say in the days leading up the New Year, I secretly seethed at every post where the writer chronicled all the shiny, happy, positive stuff that happened each month. Because if I were to sit down and write something to follow that model it would look like this:

    January: Got punched in the face. February: Got beat up my brother in drugged out stupor April: Sister pawned laptop for drug money May: My tech offices were broken into, $15K in equipment was ignored for my bank statements, credit bills and blank company checks…. etc, etc

    Your blog is on the intersection of life and work and sometimes that intersection has a big, awful accident in the middle of it. So thank you for writing about the not-shiny part of this process, I for one learn the most about resilience from others who have the courage to live out loud.

  37. Woody
    Woody says:

    Well, up here in the woods we would consider someone who hits themselves with a lamp as crazy/sick/looney and a whole lot of other inappropriate words, but then I used to live near Stephen King down in Maine. I just feel badly for you, but I’m now more worried for your children. These manifestations of self-loathing are at a clinical level and you need treatment.
    If I was there I’d wrap you up in a blanket and hold and rock you. You reach out to love and come up with more tension and heartache, how much can the farmer stand to see someone he loves destroy herself.

    Please seek professional help before you damage the relationship between yourself and your children. Think mental health sabatical and blog about it.

  38. kara
    kara says:

    Penelope, you’re in your head too much. Set something up in town (madison) so you can give yourself an outlet for the farm. Kind of how stay-at-home moms go crazy when they’re home all day and need adult interaction.

    Sign up for yoga in Madison or something. Anything to make you not go stir crazy. You love the farmer. The problem isn’t with him and you; it’s between you and you.

  39. Avil Beckford
    Avil Beckford says:


    I don’t have any sage advice to offer, but I’m far more empathetic because my life had hit rock bottom. When you go through really bad experiences it humbles you. You have to ride it through and time does heal all wounds.

    One of the things I did, and am still doing is a self-guided meditation by Christie Marie Sheldon called Love Or Above. It helps you to let go, which has always been one of my biggest issues. Perhaps there is a meditation out there that will work for you and help you to deal with your money, abandonment issues and so on.

    We all have issues, and that’s what makes us normal. We are perfectly wounded people.


    • Barbara C
      Barbara C says:

      Some wounds don’t heal. Some people keep going in circles. It’s hard to break patterns of behavior with, or without, help.

  40. Grown Up
    Grown Up says:

    The thing that concerns me most in this post is that you and the farmer are having these fights with your children in the room.


    You’re worried about him being a good model for the kids about his hands. Meantime, you’re smashing furnishings and having fights with your husband in a completely non-constructive way while they look on. (Believe me, the TV is NOT a meaningful distraction.)

    Learning how to have a meaningful, helpful, adult disagreement that doesn’t involve threats, recriminations, shouting, throwing things, and generally both being emotionally 11 years old and throwing a tantrum… well, that’s what grown ups do.

    Find a good marriage counselor and learn how to disagree healthily. Find a good family counselor and help your children to learn how to cope better than you can teach them.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The kids are not in the room. I don’t even know where you got that notion — except from your imagination. Which tells me more about you than me. No wonder you didn’t leave your real name in the comment.


      • Lisa
        Lisa says:

        Penelope! I feel less worried if you are fighting back for yourself. Do you know how many people are engaged in trying, even poorly, to help you?

      • Melissa
        Melissa says:

        Dear Penelope,

        I had left an earlier comment and I wanted to leave another one :)

        I do greatly appreciate your raw style, and how you can sit in front of your computer and expose yourself without shame. This will undoubtedly make many uncomfortable (it sure as hell makes me uncomfortable at times) and judgmental enough to leave their two cents about how wrong it all is.

        But I just want to say thank you– thank you for writing your hard truths especially when you take a beating for it, thank you for being a great female writer and entrepreneur.

        You inspire me.


      • dl
        dl says:

        While I sympathize with your agonies, Penelope, I must first be concerned for your children. It doesn’t matter whether they were in the room or not. Children are not deaf. They are not without perception. They know full well what’s going on. Please find a better way to deal with your frustrations. For their sake.

      • Grown Up
        Grown Up says:

        “When the ex left, the farmer and I started fighting again. We had to fight around the kids. They watched CatDog and we argued.”

        That’s how I got the idea.

        Even if they weren’t in the room, they know. Wouldn’t you?

      • Grown Up
        Grown Up says:

        You wrote: “When the ex left, the farmer and I started fighting again. We had to fight around the kids. They watched CatDog and we argued.”

        That’s how I got the idea they were in the room. Even if they weren’t, they know. Wouldn’t you, if you were they?

  41. Anna
    Anna says:

    Everyone has a mad minute and usually its because we’ve done too much or given too much of ourselves away for other people’s benefit.

    Take chunk of time (a day?) and do something for yourself, something which you love and enjoy and for no-one elses benefit but yours. It’ll cheer you up I promise.

  42. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    You smash a lamp over your head and you won’t clean up the glass and you want to call him dysfunctional for not wanting to use hand cream?

    My parents, who have been married for 30 years and have never fought, say there are two key things that are important in a marriage.

    The first is that it should be more important for your partner to be happy than for you to be right.

    The second is that you have dozens of chances every day to maximise your partner’s happiness over your own- little things that you know would make them happy like making the bed or making them a cup of tea. If you take those chances most of the time, you will be happy.

    It doesn’t sound like you are doing either of those things.

    • Kathy
      Kathy says:

      2 questions for you…are you married or even in a relationship? Do your parents live in separate houses? I’ve been married for 39 years & we fight just like everybody else. 30 years together & have never had a fight…I don’t think so.

      • lym
        lym says:

        @kathy, believe it or not, there are some relationships out there that are 99.9% peaceful. My husband and I, while not perfect in the least have not had one long drwn out argument in the 20 years that we’ve been together. He says it’s because neither of us has to have the last word. I think it’s because I relocated to be in a city that makes him very happy.

        We’ve been together since 1991, married since 1994. I said it’s 99.9% peaceful because once back in like 1995 I told him that I didn’t want to speak to so and so and just then so and so called and he handed me the phone. I leaned over and hit his head. Then another time circa 2000, my husband raised his voice at me.

        What happened is that our son walked home from school by himself. I went to pick him up and when I got there he was gone. Of course it ended up that my son was okay, but I was a complete wreck AFTER I found out he was okay. My husband told me to calm down–but he said it in a raised voice, not in a comforting, loving kind of way. It’s like you know how when someone is hysterical on TV someone slaps them. Of course my husband would never slap me so he yelled at me. That was one time in 20 years!!! And I hit his head once. LOL. Other than that it’s been alllllll peace. 99.9% peaceful.

  43. bzzzzz
    bzzzzz says:

    So… I would like to know more about this agreement you made wherein he would not be responsible for the money or the kids. And I say, “bah” to this over/under the bridge business; you’re trying to be cute and you brush it off too quickly. Can we go back to this agreement one day (or point me to previous posts)? It doesn’t sound like a fair or healthy or loving agreement to me. I know I sound judgmental, but actually this very much interests me as I am a single mom living with a man who does not want kids. There, now you can judge me too.

  44. louden
    louden says:


    When you start a) hitting yourself with a lamp to cope (get attention, feel alive, punish yourself, punish others) and then b) putting it up on your blog, this is what we call a ‘cry for help.’

    While blog advice is useful, it’s no substitute for professional help.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I’m so happy we can talk about self-harm here. Now that you’ve linked to the wikipedia entry. First of all, read the entry. Self-harm is not a cry for help. Münchausen’s is a cry for attention and care. As is half-hearted suicide attempts. Self-harm is much different. Self-harm is a quest to distract oneself from what’s going on in one’s head.

      Self-harm is commonly found in people who have more going on in their head than a normal person — for example borderline personality disorder, Aspergers, or obsessive compulsive disorder. The self-harm is a way to shift the mental pain, which cannot be controlled, to physical pain, which one can control.

      My favorite writer on this topic is Bob Flannagan. When I was in my twenties, he was doing public exhibits where he used self-harm as a way to gain control of other types of pain he was not in control of.

      I love this topic.


      • Jennifer
        Jennifer says:


        Does the farmer know this about self-harm? Because without knowing this, he may be thinking it was a stunt to manipulate him. I’m wondering how much more he still needs to understand about what goes on in your head?

        Wishing you the best in getting through this for yourself and your boys,

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        I’ve heard this topic discussed on Sirius Radio (Channel 114 from the NYU Langone Medical Center) more than a few times.
        Also there was a segment on Radio Health Journal in mid-November last year titled ‘”Cutting” and self-injury’ at http://www.radiohealthjournal.net/ . The podcast can be accessed from the Podcast Archives link on the top menu. The people on the show are listed on the Guest Archives page which is also accessed from the top menu.
        While looking at Susan Bowman’s book on Amazon, I came across another book written by Marilee Strong titled ‘A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain’. It was on the Amazon page for Marilee Strong’s book that I learned that self-harm “affects 2 million or more Americans and countless others around the globe”. I think it’s more prevalent than is being reported or that we’re willing to admit exists.

      • faith
        faith says:

        I want to repeat what others have said, which is that I’m glad you are being so open about this. It is beyond brave. You risk pushing people away because in my experience, people have a threshold of what they’re willing to hear about and are not willing to accompany you all the way through a dark period. But maybe that’s just how it feels to me when I’m in a dark period. Anyway, I admire you for being as honest as you are and for standing your ground AND for ending with this…

        “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.”

        …which not only brings this whole post back around to your central thesis but also lets me know that in the midst of this craziness, you are ok.

        So, best of luck to you.

        And also, I think I’ve seen a documentary about Bob Flannagan! Years ago at a film festival, I walked in thinking I was going to hate it and it turned out to be very moving.

  45. ejly
    ejly says:

    P, I’m sorry to hear that you are in a bad place now, mentally. I hope it gets better soon, and that you gain from this experience.

    Two very minor pieces of advice:
    1. My husband also gets cracked skin on his hands during the winter, and also hates lotions. After much carping he finally relented to let me put the lotion on the back of his hands. It turns out he hates the lotion on the palms of his hands (sensory issue? I dunno). This has changed from a point of contention to a tender and loving moment of tenderness our marriage, and perhaps that would work for you.

    2. Don’t underestimate the effects of cabin fever. It sounds like you have it (crankiness, wanting to sleep a lot). Some info: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=50887 and I like the mythbusters show best of all: http://mythbustersresults.com/alaska-special these guys who are pros at executing complex and dangerous stunts can’t remember how to take a spit-test after the effects of cabin fever start.

    3 Get some pro help.

  46. Ensha Reiya
    Ensha Reiya says:

    Hi Penelope
    I love your thought of the bounce backs.

    People can be like oranges, when they are squeezed or under pressure whatever is on the inside comes out, now sometimes what comes out is a bit icky and sticky, also what comes out is their amazing inner strengths. There is an inner strength in a person who can bounce back from some of those dark night of the soul experiences. The trick is to let go of the patterns, that puts these things on repeat.

    Often, because of life or circumstances or nothing we can figure out, we end up running on empty, feeling stretched. This maxes to the limit our life skills,coping skills, hormones and nervous system and beyond.

    Maybe – grant yourself something each and every day, possibly some time doing something that fills you up.

    Good Luck

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