Sometimes saying nothing speaks volumes

More with my friend Jane.

Jane is not a southern belle, but I love her anyway. Not being from the south I feel there are times where patience is not Jane’s strongest virtue. She is a “fixer”- in her world there is a problem, you fix it or you talk it to death. The ongoing issues with the kids and the resulting strain on her marriage with Dick they have a list of therapist on retainer like most southern belles have caters! There is one for the family, one for each kid, one for marriage counseling and now, one for Jane.

Now, one might thing with all these professionals and scheduled (and paid for) time to talk, there would be no need to have your issues consume your life. Well, the issues aren’t fixed, so guess what, the search for a fix continues. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of therapy- been down that road myself and found it very helpful. However, the key to good therapist/patient relationship is each party must know when to speak and when to LISTEN. Jane has a hard time with the latter.

What I didn’t share in my last blog was for the first several years of her relationship and marriage to Dick, she had positive and loving relationship with his two girls. Something happened that caused a shift, seemingly overnight. The theory is the girls’ mother, who will call Medusa, came up on some online venting of Jane’s (oh the power of social media) and shared it with the girls to prove Jane to the evil stepmother Medusa has painted her to be all along. There was no proof this actually happened (yes, she vented and yes, Medusa found it, but the part about the girls knowing)- but this is what Jane holds on to as the reason for everything that is wrong, especially with Mary, the older of the two. Rather than address it at the time, one of the many therapist said it should not be addressed, at least not with the children. Jane could not fully accept this and could never let it go. Without fail this is brought up in any conversation about girls or the current state of her relationship. I have told her she needs to move on, leave it in the past and look toward the future, both for her marriage, her relationship with her stepdaughters and her own sanity- but bless her heart, she just can’t. I have advised to just do as the therapists have suggested, to let the girls come to some peace on their own and not force the situation, but of course, keep a mental inventory of everything that is happening should you need it later. But God love her, she can’t. In no time at all she is wanting to bring it up or discuss whether or not it should be addressed in a session (we are going on YEARS with this now).

Personally- I see no good coming from addressing what Jane feels is the elephant in the room. I think the only thing that will come from this is her true (and negative) feelings about the girls and their mother will become the focus. I truly believe she will look like the bad guy, whereas now she is kind of looking like a victim of a bitter ex-wife and a bratty teenage girl. I wish I could get her to see the benefit of keeping her mouth shut, at least on this topic. She got caught, it sucks and feel for her, as we all need to vent from time to time and she thought she was in a safe space, but to rehash it now will only look like she is needing to defend and validate what happened so long ago. Medusa will come out smelling like a rose and Mary will have validation for her hateful behavior.

So, now we wait to see how this plays out. I hope Jane will find a safe place with her new therapist and in turn find some peace in her life, lord knows she deserves at least that!

Be the Steel Magnolia of your own garden

One of my favorite themes in the movie “Steel Magnolias” is that the woman are strength, when the men crumble under pressure, the women are strong as steel. I have a friend who is seeing herself as a withering magnolia blossom, not the strong steeled woman I know her to be.

I am not a “mom”- I married a man with children, so I am among the community of “wicked stepmothers” that Disney was so kind to categorize us. My friend is also a stepmother, and like myself the worst of the lot, the childless stepmother. We are often looked down up as lesser woman because we did not carry a child in our bodies or endure the ravages of labor & delivery. It is often said we are looking to take the place of the “real mom”. We are accused of overstepping our role, yet we are expected to love these children, as well as cook, clean and care for them. You would be hard pressed to find a stepmother who has not felt taken for granted or worse. Our lives are put on hold when our husband’s children are in our homes- and you dare not mention this as “you knew what you were getting into”- but let me be the first to tell you, no one can know what you ware getting into when you enter into a marriage with the man of your dreams, his kids and his ex-wife.

This is not about my situation, although there will be plenty of blogs about that in the future. Today is about my friend, we will call her Jane. Jane is married to a lovely man, Dick, who has two daughters, Mary and Sue. Jane and I bonded over the shared life experience of being a stepmother to pre-teen girls whose mothers happen to be vile “she-beasts”. As time went on, Jane’s situation got worse as mine seemed to improve, but we were still the only other people who understood what our lives were like. Mary, the older of  Dick’s girls was becoming more distance and problematic. Dick, a good man with the best of intentions, parents out of fear. Fear of his girls, fear of his ex-wife, fear of everything….expect Jane leaving.

I have spent countless hours being Jane’s sounding board- happy to do so as she has been there when I needed the same. Today what struck me was we are going in a endless circle. Talking about the same things, making the same suggestions and after the dust clears and the girls go back to their mom’s house or Jane takes a wonderful trip with her friends or Dick buys a wonderful gift- all is quiet and peaceful. But not for long. In short order, the same cry for help will come. The same examples of the life she never thought she would have will be cried over a bottle of wine. The same advice will be offered. As I was giving that same advice again today, I found myself wanting to say “why? What’s the point- you are not going to stand up for yourself. You are no going to leave. Nothing is going to change.”. But friends don’t do that, especially in the south. We stand by our girlfriends. I will hold her hand, refresh her wine and be nice to Dick when we are all together for dinner or weekend outings with the kids. I will never let on that I know the misery, it will be all smiles and laughter. The question is: is that that really being a good friend?

I know Jane is strong. If she decided to leave she could and would make it fine on her own. I know that is not what she wants. She loves Dick and she wants her marriage to work. I won’t go so far as to say she loves his kids, I think the strain on those relationships has taken a toll to which I am not sure it can recover. She is good to them. She wants to help them grow into strong independent woman- but can she really do that if she is not able to stand up for herself? To be the kind of woman who takes no crap from no one and lives life on her terms?

Today I told her she has come to a cross-roads. She has become someone she doesn’t recognize. Is she the woman Dick fell in love with? How much longer can she take this life before it beats her down to the point she can’t make it on her own? We all have that breaking point, no one can tell you when you have had enough, only you know.  When I left my first husband, it was a shock to so many. Like most good southern couples we didn’t air our dirty laundry. On the surface we were a happy couple who had a good life and a lovely home. But I knew the truth I was living in and I knew when I could take no more. When I left, I did so knowing I was leaving behind more than my marriage- I was giving up my home, my family and many of my friends. But in return I was getting the old me back, the one I had missed for far to long, the one I thought I may never see again. It was hard, but in the end, it was the right decision. I can’t say that leaving is what Jane needs to do, but I do know she needs to find the Jane she misses, the one she fear is gone forever. That is who she needs to have the long talk with and decide what they need to do for them.

Well bless her heart….

We all have at least one person in our lives who creates drama around themselves. In this case, this person creates medical “drama” for attention. To be clear, she has had major medical issues in the past, maybe the attention she received then is like a drug and now that she is well, she can’t live without it.

Over the weekend a group of friends attended a fundraiser, complete with a sit down formal dinner. All was well, until the salad dressing was passed and one may have thought the crystal dish contained something from a horror movie by the over the top reaction. Seems someone has an allergy to mustard. Ok, simple enough….DON’T EAT THE DRESSING. (side note: I’m pretty sure it was NOT mustard, but a citrus based dressing). About 15 minutes later, I notice this person clawing at her neck and breathing as if she is having issues. Insert eye roll, but I asked “what is the problem”- regretting it the second the words passed my lips. Seems she must have had some contact with the offending yellow substance. She claimed hives (yet only under her clothes, none were visible). I looked at my husband and calmly asked him to go to the front desk (the event was being held in a hotel) and ask about if they had Benadryl, if not, please walk across the street and purchase some. My hero returned 5 minutes later with the magic pink pills and all was right with the world.  And I swear, I too noticed an eye roll, as I think she was hoping to milk this allergic reaction for all it was worth. If you are that allergic to something as common as mustard, wouldn’t you make sure to carry something to help yourself? I have had countless meal with this person, never, not once, was an allergy mentioned and I’m certain mustard came into play more than once (we love a good burger joint).

Yesterday it was her mom who had the emergency, which of course created drama for her. Today, it is her, vague-posting on Facebook about a bout of vertigo. I mean REALLY, it’s just endless. At what point do you say something or do as I have done, say nothing. No likes, not sad face emojis to show my support for her plight of the day. I can no longer offer support and suggestions, because its exhausting to continue to do so only to have my words and emotions wasted.

I don’t understand why people do this. I prefer to not have the world know my weaknesses and pride myself on taking care of myself without a cheering section. Maybe its a southern thing, we are stronger than people give us credit for since we can appear sugar sweet and oh so ladylike. This person is from up North, aren’t they supposed to be so strong? Maybe social media is to blame. You can post about not feeling well and you will get dozens of people offering kind words of love, concern and support. Are we getting to a place were every thing that happens to us must be put on public display if it’s not posted on your timeline it’s not real?

House guest from hell….

This is the post excerpt.

In the south we pride ourselves on being good hosts/hostesses. We make people feel welcomed in our homes and are gracious when we are the guests. I know not everyone is raised the same, but seriously, when did basic manners and human decency get tossed out the window?

Over the past weekend we had guests in for a major event- always a dicey plan, as you are far too dependent on the weather and in early Spring, you never know what you may get. Try as I am may I can’t get over how rude and dismissive some people can be. I was raised if you don’t like something/someone, you smile and remove yourself or remain quiet until you can. You don’t act a damn fool and make your host and others feel uncomfortable. I literally lost track of how often that happened this weekend. I feel bad for my other guests, my husband who was put in the role of “babysitter” and even myself. By Saturday night my graciousness had come to an end and Sunday morning I informed this guest, they needed to stay in a hotel that night (mind you they were to have left Sunday morning, but took it upon themselves to change their travel to Monday- without asking).

I should have known- but I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, maybe more times than they deserve. People from larger more “glamorous” cities tend to look upon my hometown as “Mayberry” like- when the reality is we are more progressive than most politically, we are blue dot in a blood red state. I knew I was in trouble when we crossed the state line and this person saw our skyline. “That’s it”- with a laugh. Yes, THAT’S IT…we don’t need a ton of mile high sky scrappers to define us. Then the kiss of death “seriously, your stadium is sponsored by KFC?!?!!?” Yes, we are in Kentucky…the joke writes itself, but so what. Yum Brands and KFC are international companies based here, I take it as a point of pride that they wanted to invest in our city and college basketball team to sponsor one of the top venues in the country.

Then the people, “are there only ugly people in Kentucky?”… hmmmm…. I’M IN KENTUCKY!!! The comment was repeated every place we went. “Doesn’t anyone know how to dress in Kentucky?” Again, I live here, are you saying I don’t know how to dress?  This came to a breaking point when invited to a party at friend’s home. Rather than be gracious, this visitor was stand-offish and awkward, so much so it was commented upon several times. I was mortified and we made our exit as soon as we could. The next night we attended a formal event, this was when a photo was posted tagged “Why so many white people”- that just goes beyond all decency and was not even true! Again, mortified and had started mentally counting down until this person  was back on a plane to return to  a land more worthy.

We hosted a small get together at our house for Derby, the most prideful 2 minutes of any Kentucky girl’s year. More snide comments and dismissive behavior to my guests ending with broken property and worst the attitude they were not blame. Honestly, considering how miserable this person acted the entire time, you would have assumed they wanted to be rid of this horrible place as much as I was ready to be rid of them, but no. Without asking they changed their flight to stay until Monday. In a very unSoutthern Belle move, I told them they needed to find a hotel for the night if they were planning to stay- I was DONE! I’m still amazed they didn’t see this coming, but oh well, I no longer cared and just wanted my home back.

The lesson learned: not everyone was raised with the same basic social graces. What we take for granted as “normal” does not come naturally to all and you need to be careful who you invite into your home. Also, 5 days is far too long to have house guests!!!!