In keeping with my quest to figure out how to make my life happy and rewarding, I spent some time examining my own actions with regard to those people who are the key players in my emotional life. I wasn’t very pleased with what I observed about myself. I am an island. I have relationships that I enjoy with work colleagues, but I never let them become personal. I have relationships with my family that I love. We are a solid, steady, and kind foursome living in this house. T and I, along with the girls, enjoy each other’s company. We have created an atmosphere of harmony. Our home is a refuge of peace, and I treasure that feeling of sanctuary at the end of the day. As much as we love the boys, the four of us notice that the zen peace of our home is off kilter when they visit. As much as we love them and enjoy their company, we always treasure the return to our quiet routine of four. I suppose this is a good thing. It means we have adjusted to their absence as a daily fixture in our lives. We love visiting them in Chicago or Milwaukee. Now that we all live closer together, we see them more often. It’s when they come here, to our home of four, that we feel a shift in our peaceful routine.
As I reflected on the relationships in my life, I realized something. There is no crossover. Work friends aren’t allowed to become personal friends. My family stays out of my work life. T and I have a wonderful relationship. We rarely argue, and we honestly enjoy spending time together. Although there have been many bumps in the road, he is still by my side. T is my oldest friend. He is the most loyal person I have ever known. He shares almost every part of the history of my life. He knew my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. He is the brother I never had.
T is my brother-husband. I don’t think anyone who is contemplating marriage would ever think, “I hope my husband ends up feeling like my brother someday.” When we’re young and full of hope, when our lives are stretched out endlessly in front of us, we dream BIG. When we’re young, we allow ourselves to imagine great wealth, passionate love, rewarding and deep friendships, and copious amounts of sex. Life has a way of changing those aspirations for most of us. It’s called reality. Life gets complicated. Circumstances arise that aren’t so much fun. Loss enters into the picture. Mistakes are made. Hurdles are placed in our path.
I have become complacent. I am content to just have peace surround me when I come home at the end of the day. I overlook problems and issues, because I’m worn out. I don’t feel like dealing with anything else. I don’t want to fix something that’s working OK even though I know it could, or should, be working better. Having a brother-husband is better than being alone. It’s comfortable. Changing it, or fixing it, would mean that I’d have to get off my ass and try.
The friendships I have with work colleagues could become real friendships if I allowed them to grow, but I have established invisible boundaries. I have purposely kept these people out of my personal life. Once again, that is my own fault. Real friendships would require effort on my part. I would have to give back. Ah… Once again, that would mean that I’d have to get off my ass and try. Sitting back and taking stock of my life and realizing that I am my own worst enemy, wasn’t much fun.
Yesterday I took a few small steps to begin making some necessary changes in my life. Two women who worked with me in my previous job have recently asked me to go on a chick trip with them to Vegas. I hemmed and hawed, said I would take a look at my schedule, but never made a real commitment to the trip. One of them has moved across the country, the other is now working with my replacement. The only way all three of us will ever see each other again is by making an effort to make that happen. These women are wonderful, strong, kind, and fun people. Spending time with them would be a blast. For some reason, I was reluctant to allow myself that pleasure. I made up excuses in my mind. “I shouldn’t take time off work. I shouldn’t spend the money on a trip just for myself and leave my family at home.” Mind you, T was nothing but supportive of the trip. I was creating my own guilt.
As I sat there thinking once again about whether or not I should go on this trip, my phone rang. Thanks to the wonders of technology, they were both on the phone. Thousands of miles apart, the three of us were laughing and talking together. They had made their hotel and flight reservations, and they wondered if I was in. I took a deep breath, and I said, “YES!” We’re going to meet late next month for four days in Vegas. All of the “shouldn’ts” are still nagging me, but I’ve bought my ticket. I’m going to allow myself to take a couple of days off work, have a good time with friends, and create some happy memories.
Last night I gave a presentation at the annual dinner of a local historical society. For the second time yesterday, I stepped out of my comfort zone and asked T if he would like to go along with me. He said, “I thought you didn’t feel comfortable speaking with me in the audience.” He was right. I didn’t. In all of the years that I have done such things, I have never invited T to come along with me. While he knows what I do at work, and he is supportive, he has never been included. It makes me sad that for so many years I have kept Work Pam and Home Pam so separate. I think it’s time to begin merging all of these separate selves into one whole person.
It felt strange to have T by my side. Prior to the presentation and dinner, we sipped on cocktails and picked at hor d’oeuvres as we mingled with the crowd. I introduced him to people. A look of surprise passed behind the eyes of several people. The illusive husband had appeared. People knew that I am married, but most people have never seen me when I was not alone.
During the presentation portion of the evening, T was at the front of the room. As I stood facing the audience, T was directly in my line of vision. This was new and disconcerting. While I am never unnerved by public speaking, it was uncomfortable to see T (a part of my REAL life) sitting among the crowd. I always begin with a brief history of myself and what brought me to this place. It was strange to say those words in front of T who already knows my background and history. I wondered what he was thinking as I shared anecdotal experiences from our life, a life that he has shared, but never heard me speak about before and in public.
I spoke for about a half hour, and then I took questions from the audience for another half hour. At the end of the presentation, people got up and made their way back into the lounge for more cocktails and conversation. Several people wandered over to where I was packing up my laptop. T stood by my side as they asked me questions or made further comments. He was pleasant and patient as I talked to people. He acted proud. I caught his eye as he smiled my way. He said, “Would you like me to bring the car around?”
I finished packing up my stuff and bundled up to go out to the car. I usually do this part alone. While others are socializing, I usually pack up and leave alone. I usually make the walk to the car alone and in silence. I usually get into a cold car alone and shivering. I usually make a call home to let them know that I’m finished and heading their way. I usually drive alone in the dark. Alone. I’m usually alone, but not last night.
When T pulled up out front, I put my bag in the back and sat down on the passenger side of the car. I was warm, and I wasn’t alone. T said, “You really did a great job in there. I thought that I’d save you from anymore questions by getting the car.” I smiled. It was nice to have him there.
So much better than being alone.