Sunday, May 25, 2008


I sit here, unable to sleep, a ball of tension in the back of my neck, still stinging from the biting words of anger shared by my husband earlier tonight after he simply could stand no more of my anxiety-ridden behavior. Faced with holiday weekend visitors from his side of the family, I simply cannot grasp what it means to simply "be." I must do, and perform, and manage and it is driving me and everyone else nuts. Or at least me and my husband, and the resulting tension is neither of us are enjoying our guests, and somehow I doubt they are enjoying us. Hopefully with all the things both hubby and I are "doing" for them ... they are at least well fed and entertained.

Yes, it's true, my husband has his own anxieties and is deficient in the human "being" capacity. We both do nothing to improve each other's chances of success during times like these because we are always trying to control the other's behavior in order to make sure the guests are satisfied. I admit to being the worst at this of the two of us. But that's not the point.

The point is, I'm struggling with simply letting go, being myself, realizing that I really am more enjoyable when I just let things flow. I know a big part of this is letting go of my attachment to my husband's approval. If I can look at things realistically and realize that his expectation that all our guests, regardless of who they are, are well taken care of (in the ways he sees fit) is about his own sense of social anxiety and cultural upbringing, I can release a bit of anxiety. He grew up in an environment where extreme emphasis was placed on feeding people more than they could possibly eat and showing them a good time until it hurts. I grew up in an environment where people came and went as they pleased, we fed them what we had, they were least interested about the mound of clutter under the window, and what we enjoyed most was one another's company. Likewise, people who came to our house and were quiet and stayed to themselves, were considered "kinda odd" and talked about a lot. In other words, people were judged by their personality. As long as you showed up and talked and laughed, you were alright. Otherwise people thought you were stuck up or something worse. It simply was not acceptable.

So, when I try to cross my past experiences with his, entertaining (though we both sadistically enjoy it) becomses an extreme source of anxiety. I get those old feelings of "I'm not enough." It all begins before they arrive. I cook, I clean, I put out photos that will please my guests, I take down things that might cause them to ask questions. And, I'm not the only one. My husband scans the rooms to make sure there is nothing "too personal" laying around in view -- like letters from my cousin in prison or some random Al-Anon literature, or God-forbid SLAA info. To be fair, he also looks for credit card reciepts and things that have nothing to do with me, and a lot to do with his deep value of privacy. And once every carpet thread has been separated, I have obsessed over everything from dressing myself to whether they'll be scared of the dog, and the house is filled with more food than we could (or even plan to) possibly eat, a new dance begins once the guests arrive. I begin constantly thinking of what I can "do" to make the guests not only comfortable but entertained and happy. They can't get in the door without being offered food and drink (which was common in both our upbringings. I begin doing everything I can to get this quiet, reserved husband of mine to engage in conversation (by running my trap 90 miles a minute to fill air time) and try to control the way he behaves and responds to me. I get so irritated at him for even the smallest thing, as I think he does me as well.

God, it's a nightmare. I was thinking today that we must make our guests feel like they are intruders, because the two of us do so much to control one another and exert our power that we can't get along.

So, what can I do? I suppose this awareness is a good start. Just sitting down and writing all this out so that I can actually sleep. Doing some quiet breathing exercises, focusing on "I am enough," is another possibility. But right now I think I just need to admit my powerlessness over needing to control and do, and ask my Higher Power to restore me to sanity. I think it may be too much to ask to change overnight and simply be allowed the opportunity to "be," rather than do. But I'm praying for the willingness to simply try it on for size as the dawn breaks.


Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Aw, Rae. I totally sympathize.

My husband and I run into many of the same conflicts when we are entertaining. My parents never entertained, so I do what would make me feel comfortable as a guest -- provide the basics and leave people to their own devices. My husband does what he grew up with and what makes him comfortable, which is wait on people hand and foot.

This means we both end up resentful, because he's doing all the work, while I'm feeling pressured to do something to "help" with work I feel is unnecessary.

And, like you, we do the sweep of the house looking for incriminating evidence and lock it all in our bedroom!

vicariousrising said...

Awareness is a tremendous start.

BizyLizy said...

Oh Rae, I found myself smiling at your unfortunate plight with your hubby, only because it reminded me of me and my ex-husband. Having guests over was a mixed sordid and happy affair.

Oh my god...the fights we had. Especially before, during the preparation. He would wait until the last damn minute, and then spend a good half hour polishing the something random, like the bathroom water faucet, while I ran around crazy, making meals, vacuuming, dusting, etc.

So typical, honey. It is life. And it helps to be able tolaugh at the absurdity of it with each other. Of course, later, after he's done polishing the bathtub drain, lol!