You can't see what my daughter erased, but I was in a groove when she accidentally shut my tab while I was using the bathroom. She apologized and I forgave her although my tone could have been warmer. My new book is called Codependent No More and it's probably one of the best unexpected self help books I've ever bought at Goodwill. I'm still not sure I fully understand the concept which is funny considering how long this has been a problem in my life. I learned this from my mom and I'll be looking for an opportunity to mention this book to her at an opportune moment. The first chapter is Jessica's story, and boy did that do funny things to me. I kept reading, wondering why none of the therapists I've gone to have ever brought this up before. Codependency in a nutshell is an attempt to control another person for your own reasons which are likely just as problematic as the problem the first person has that you're trying to fix.
Someone my aunt and uncle used to work with has an alcoholic father. The mom and son deal with him in a very codependent relationship where nobody wins and everyone loses so it's really too bad that they don't have this book which does a remarkable and fabulous job of describing what codependency looks like and how these people act. I have to think more about my parents and their marriage, but in my own marriage the problem was irresponsibility. Before I start that, I'd like to differentiate between people who have a chronic issue and someone who temporarily struggles with something. There have been times in my life where I was irresponsible, but fundamentally I believe that I am a responsible person. I want my kids in bed early, I want them to eat good nutritious meals and snacks, I want a moderate amount of physical activity, I want to pay my bills on time and I love the comfort of a budget so I'm learning how to put one together.
I've known for many many years that I needed a budget, but I was married to someone who thought that they were stupid. When I was first married I made the majority of my meals at home out of some of the cheapest ingredients I could buy. I bought frozen packages of hamburger because they were cheaper than fresh, store brand beans, and celery for chili. I made broccoli soup, meat is the most expensive part of most meals so I economized there. While I was doing that my husband was buying deli turkey, cheese, and a special kind of Kaiser rolls that he liked. He bought chips and lemonade for himself, I drank water because it was cheaper. I had a house full of plants, cast off furniture that I did what I could with, I did the laundry, I cooked for the most part unless he grilled something out and tried every trick I knew to try and save money while he was staying up late playing online games using a second phone line I knew nothing about.
I like to change the oil as soon as it needs changing. I rotate my tires, I vaccumed, dusted, swept, cleaned the bathrooms, did the laundry, and worked full time just like he did. I shopped the clearance rack and bought my shoes at Target instead of going to the mall and taking my shirts into the dry cleaners like he did. I tried ironing his shirts, but he didn't like the way that I ironed so he took them in to have them done. I think he had eight, that's the number in my head from the time I said I would stop by to pick them up for him. The employee working there couldn't find the order so I went home almost in tears before he roared out of the driveway and went back to the store. He wouldn't use coupons that I found and when he came back he said that his girls found the missing shirts like he knew that they would.
When we bought the house that I live in now I assumed that he would be doing the majority of the yardwork since I did the majority of the housework. I raked a huge pile of leaves with my brother, he tried this lawn vacuum that he had and I remember jumping in the oversized piles. Now we had a further commute, or at least he did until he got a job in town. There was very little equity in the relationship, but I kept working and trying to do nice things for him like making his favorite meals and having sex whenever he wanted it. He got a job that he hated and one day I came home to find him using a new laptop. He had been complaining that his job wouldn't buy him one so I asked him where he had gotten the one he was using. He tried telling me that work had paid for it, but I knew that wasn't true so I kept up the inquiry. It had cost eleven hundred dollars and at the time it might have been a hundred times that.
I felt like someone had shot me and I was gasping and bleeding in the living room. My temper flared, I couldn't believe he had not only gone behind my back to buy a computer, but then had the gall to sit there and lie about it. After that I was less aware of his indulgences that we seemed to have money for while not having money for other basic necessities like tampons. Being me I tried to find a way out of the constant money struggle that was draining me on multiple levels. I found some pads I could wash and that solved that problem, but there was always something else that he had to have. We went through this cycle countless times and we would still be going through it if I wasn't divorced and reading this book. He was irresponsible and I was tied to the outcome of his inaction or foolish purchase. I really don't think he's any better at managing his money than he was then, he just has more to spend. If he is, good for him.
He wouldn't do things so I tried to compensate. When that didn't work I yelled at my kids, got depressed, started eating, and developed very serious mental and physical health problems. I don't feel like I'm doing a very good job of explaining this which I believe is very typical of the codependent. They don't accept praise and think they're worthy of the criticism they've learned to desire since it somehow affirms their terribleness of themselves and their very existence. I can't believe I didn't kill myself because I thought about it every single day. I would be in the car driving and thinking, God, please help me, I'm at the end of my rope. There is no way I can go home and deal with this for one second longer. Then I would get home, do whatever, collapse in bed, scream at the kids who hadn't had supper or been bathed, get into a huge fight and cry because I didn't want to be this shrieking banshee who was made to feel incompetent and inferior.
I am not a lazy person. I am not irresponsible. I was married to someone who did what they wanted to when they wanted to do it and didn't really love or respect me in a healthy way. There was fault on my side, but just like my mother before me I worked harder and smarter than I ever had thought possible. Today my sister and brother-in-law came over. She tried to tell me what to do several times and she has some good points. In other areas, I can see where she just doesn't get it. First of all I wasn't asking her what she thought that I should do. Codependent people have weak boundaries that they let others violate. I let her talk, I took what she said to heart because I know she means well, but I'm going to do what I want regardless of what she says. My life doesn't have to make sense to her. I told her I would start decluttering her place before I worried so much about paint. That was me violating her boundaries since she hadn't asked. She got very defensive and said that they use their stuff which really wasn't the point.
The point is that I'm learning a new skill and it's going to take time and a lot of practice until I get past this old bad way of doing things. A nice sisterly thing I did was offer to go over to her house and help her with whatever she needed help with for a week while her kids were gone. There were some tense moment while she and her husband disagreed about different things. Both of them would do things differently than I'm going to do them down in the basement, but their vision isn't mine. I want a teen hang out room down in the basement. They think I should let the teens hang out in my TV room once it's done, but I've been a teenager and I'm raising one and an almost teen. I am reluctant to let any group of teens hang out in a room with red leather furniture and a flat screen TV to say nothing of leaving my daughter the pyromaniac chill in a room with a fireplace. I'm the mom and I have earned the right to a room where I can hang out with my friends while the kids are down in the basement where there is more room for them to sprawl.
Codependent people are terrible at taking care of themselves. I am no longer as bad as I once was. Today when my nieces were fighting about spinning on the office chair I told them they had to get down because the noise was hurting my ears. My littlest niece didn't think she had to get down, but I told her that I was the boss in this house and that small sentence felt so darned good. My sister let her youngest sleep in the van, but nobody heard her when she woke up so she came in and started crying. My sister tried talking to her, I sent my daughter into the kitchen for a drink and that calmed her down since you can't really drink and wail at the same time. My sister said she liked a lot of the things I had done in my living room. I'd like different flooring, but today I am really proud of us for doing what we did. Pulling branches and heavy lumber out of the brush pile that must be at least eight feet wide and six high was a challenge. It was hot, humid, and the sun beat down on me while I worked, but I kept at it until sweat had soaked through the cami I was wearing underneath my long sleeved shirt.
I could get kicked out of the house at any time and I know that. I also know that I can take care of myself. I am taking care of myself. I'm not running to him for things, I'm doing the majority of things on my own or letting them remain undone. I am not out of the woods yet, but I am getting stronger, better, and healthier every day and with every task that I take on that I'm mad that he didn't do. We have a tree that split that he's trying to save. I want it gone, but it's not a high priority right now. I want to do things to the yard, my sister thinks I should wait until I have money and people lined up to help, and I know she's probably 'right' about that. The thing is this is about ownership and me doing something for myself which is why this makes sense to me. I want a front porch and I don't care if I kill the grass for no reason and can't finish the project. I know myself. When I want something, I can be single minded. I want a patio area I can sit out on and I want some fucking landscaping since I haven't had any in the past.
I'm done living in a chaotic and crowded house that reminds me of the places I grew up in, without harmony, love, joy, or that indefinable quality that turns a house that needs a lot of work, cleaning, and paint, into a home where mom puts fruit into glass jars so we can add juice and yogurt for smoothies when we're in a rush. I can grow my own food, take care of my own lawn, put a room down in the basement for my teenager, take down a room others would leave up, exercise my right to go to the grocery store and buy foods other people think that I shouldn't because I am a forty year old ADULT who isn't asking other people for help or financial assistance. I feel owed some money that I probably won't get. I watched the girls during his week and I want some gas money for transportation. He can do what he wants to me and I can step back and evaluate where I'm at, what he wants, and negotiate. I don't feel very fabulous right now, but I'm about forty-two steps ahead of where I was and there will be rough spots in the future, but from this moment on, I resolve to be Codependent No More.