/*amazon_ad_exclude = "christian"*/ The Skin I Am In: December 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dying Diane

Diane had been struggling with her situation for what seemed like an eternity (although considering the tenure of their marriage and the magnitude of her impending decision, it hadn't been exceptionally long) when she realized her strength was waining and her indignation sadly reducing to resignation. Make no mistake about it: she was not resigning to try to work it out with Dave, for the more they spoke about life and love her contempt for him only grew deeper; rather, she resigned to admitting that her fervent attempts at finding a happier existence were futile and idealistic. She had no earning potential. She loathed the city Dave had dragged her to five years previously, but could not afford to live where she thought she could thrive on a single mothers budget. And most ironically of all, she knew she'd be forced to bear the brunt of the blame, the glares from her children, family, or friends, every time the smallest thing went wrong, because she was the one who left, after all. Poor, innocent Dave. The one whose self-fulfilling prophecy it was to portray a calm and bewildered affect while refusing to listen, understand, communicate or care. Of course Diane was at fault for everything! She wears her heart on her sleeve. Dave remains stoic, but her emotions are palpable. And the more callous Dave behaves, the stronger the emotional undercurrent coursing through Diane's veins. Therefore, the longer he remains apathetic to the volatility of her well-being, the more her exasperation shows and the more resentment she oozes, superficially solidifying Dave's role as victim. Yet, as many of the others don't understand, she has come to him so many times. Expressed her needs. Her desires. Her pain. Her suffering. Yet time and again he turns his back. It's a situation children just can't comprehend -- for they can't see his neglect, only her disdain -- and it pains her so to think they will resent her.

Amidst these thoughts her biggest roadblock, and that which causes her the most distress, is not only her skepticism in what the future holds, but in the more immediate question, where would they live? Because of their current location she has lost her sense of optimism about the world. She has grave doubts that she could find happiness anywhere at all. She feels completely trapped. In Hell. She can no longer see the sun and she genuinely fears that the large cloud looming overhead will simply follow wherever she goes. And she is slowly dying.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Doggy Paddling Diane

(This is a continuation of the tale of Dave and Diane, who were introduced in The Basket of Denial: A Short Story.)

Doggy paddling is instinctual, yet inefficient. It requires too much energy to do for long and it doesn't get you far; it merely keeps you afloat. And only for a little while until your muscles tire and cramp and eventually refuse to work. Assuming rescue is not imminent, one must adapt their skills beyond the primitive in order to endure.

Before she actually made the break from Dave (the physical one anyway -- as she had emotionally broken away long before) many thoughts ruminated in Diane's head. She knew in all likelihood she was a hopeless romantic--or was she just hopeless? she wondered. She felt that over time she had learned to keep her expectations of love to be more practical, although she couldn't help subconsciously but to imagine how it could be. There were certain things she intrinsically longed for, certain things that spoke love to her and she couldn't help but feel that she was settling -- there just had to be more to relationships than simply muddling through life together. Sure, that was a big part of it; but in order to feed and nurture the relationship, to keep it from souring, there had to be something sweet added and it only made sense that each partner contribute some of the "sugar." As it turned out, the less sugar Dave added to the relationship, the more bitter Diane grew. And for anyone who knows a lick about psychology, bitter people generally have little sugar to give.

Interestingly, just preceding their most serious marital troubles, Diane felt she was making great strides in her own emotional health. She realized that most of the negative behaviors she had engaged in when younger had dissolved and she was learning to better cope with resentment. Another benefit she encountered as a result of the maturation process was learning to better defend herself from others in a constructive manner, along with developing the ability to do so with less justification and more resolution. However, amidst these advancements challenges also arose. As she became more insightful, the dysfunctional patterns in her relationships became much clearer and, being a person who strives for personal growth, naturally Diane could no longer thrive with them in place. Now, this should have been a good thing -- it was an opportunity to interrupt the cycles and rebuild troubled relationships into healthier ones. Yet unfortunately, some people cling desperately to the adage that ignorance is bliss -- and, as we know from The Basket of Denial, ignorance is not only Dave's condition of choice, it appears to be his adopted religion.

After the initial setbacks and getting nowhere but frustrated, Diane attempted to focus less on her and Dave and more simply on her. The conditions, however, were just too poor: still lacking in sugar and drowning in a sour sea, it was nearly impossible for her to make any emotional gains and, in fact, if anything, she saw herself slipping. She was overwhelmed by frustration and resentment with too few ways to vent or express it. Anchored by Dave and being pulled under by the current of familiar patterns, she regressed to having outbursts of anger and spells of hopelessness. Just the way, she assumed, Dave wanted it to be. For then he could play the part of hero and caretaker -- all the while dismissing his responsibility in the matter -- by picking up the pieces and wordlessly expressing, "see? You need me." Ironically, however, was that seemingly it was the reverse that were true. For how will he continue his delusions when Diane is finally gone? He will have no choice but to further develop his spirituality (the blissfulness of ignorance) lest he succumb to the harshness of the cold and unaccommodating foreign land of Reality -- a place he has heard of, but never ventured to. A place you do not reach easily relying on doggy paddle alone.

But what ultimately happens to Dave is neither here nor there; this chapter is dedicated to Diane and her struggle to grow emotionally. Upon realizing that she had fallen right back to where she began (not in her ultimate goal, rather her emotional health) she began losing all hope that she could become a better person after all. Who was she kidding? She would only be fooling herself if she thought she was capable of nurturing a strong and healthy partnership with anyone. Considering, here she was, these many years later and she was functioning with an unrefined and inefficient method of frantic and desperate movements. She had so desperately wanted to try the breast stroke or the butterfly but, alas, she was not swimming alone and her teammate was not interested in learning anything new -- even at the expense of their own survival. She spent several weeks lamenting the fates of her emotional vitality and romantic future when a spark went off in Diane's head and ignited an epiphany that maybe -- just maybe -- once she was cut lose from the anchor and she rose above the sour sea to catch her breath, her metamorphosis would continue. "After all, it is a biological fact," she thought, "that not a single thing grows in the absence of air."