As often when a post starts formulating in my mind, I search for a quote to go with it. Words begin to swim like a beautiful disaster that I can’t quite pinpoint…the picture I want to make stays as individual colors on a palate next to a blank canvas that I can’t quite begin. At this point in the thought process, I turn to my muses: poets, authors, motivational speakers and, of course, Google.
As always, I find what I am looking for (my God, can this not transpose into my life, please?) My favorites never cease to remind me of what I want to say, or at the very least, bolster me up and inspire. I’ve started and ended posts with the thoughts of Eleanor Roosevelt, F. Scott. Fitzgerald, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, to name a few. Today, the quotes I found gave me pause.
First up was Maya Angelo, but we’ll save her for closer to the end, where she deserves to finish out my thoughts with grace and wisdom. The second quote came from none other than the handsome, fallible, and loveable Don Draper. If you are unfamiliar with the show Mad Men, Don Draper is the epitome of the 1950’s husband. His character is equal parts a charmer, a romantic, a lover, a good man…but also, an alcoholic, someone selfish and driven by ego, a terrible husband. In the words of Mr. Draper:
Well said. We want people to be who we want them to be. We spend years, lifetimes even, bashing up against brick walls trying to move the unmovable, change the unchangeable, and morph things like feelings and emotions and sex and status into something we want it to be.
I wanted PC to turn out to be better than I knew he was. I wanted him to grow the fuck up and realize that I was the best thing that had ever happened to him. I wanted him to see me, to really see me, and see everything inside of me open and vulnerable: and I wanted him to love that. I felt that, foolishly, such a moment would come one day when PC would suddenly have an epiphany and all of my hard work, dedication, and love would be obvious and I would then be celebrated forever.
I actually had hope that he, PC, would do this. I wanted him to be who I wanted him to be. Someone who loved me more than anyone else. Despite the fact that from the very beginning he had shown me exactly who he was. He may have (insincerely) apologized, smoothed things over, or offered pathetic excuses for his poor treatment of me. But he never changed. He was never going to change. I am still, in many ways, waiting for some moment when he suddenly realizes that I am, in fact, a human being worthy of respect and proper treatment, on top of being the mother of his children. That Trollup will also realize that she seriously committed sins against me, and she, too, will be remorseful for her behavior.
But this…its crap. They are not going to suddenly change. PC may be a liar, but his character has always shone truthfully in his actions and his treatment of me. I still remember, slightly before the end, the cutting words he chose to use when speaking about me, his wife: Work comes first, then the kids, then Charlotte. It still, to this day, remains one of the most defeating things I’ve ever been told. Even being very accustomed to, even being good at being low on the priority list–those words felt like a sharp kick that reminded me of where my place was.
They shouldn’t have. PC had been treating me as a piece of shit for the entirety of our marriage. Everything else came first: himself, his drinking, his own needs and wants. Everything. The temperature in the house, what we ate, what time was acceptable to rise and go to sleep, how much attention I put on myself–all of this was based solely on what PC wanted. The kinds of cars we had, what we invested money in, what style our furniture was, whether we attended a family function or not–PC’s choices. His dreams were front and center, never mine. And my dreams? Well, I was free to strive for that but the price of calculating how PC would react and the lack of support eventually pushed me to a point where I had no dreams.
And now? Now I would like to tell you that being cherished and loved and treated with kindness by The Plumber has changed all of that. That it has made me realize that I deserve better, that I do not have to settle for being low on the totem pole. I really, really wanted that to be what I would write next. Correction: I want that to be what comes next. I want him to be what I want him to be. But the problem is, The Plumber is also showing me what kind of person he is. And just because he isn’t evil and terrible like PC doesn’t mean that he is what I want or need.
He is a person who will work and work and work, and he will not stop until he is beyond exhausted. PC did this for money and glory; The Plumber does it to help people. But the end result is the same. It leaves very little time for me.
He is a person who cannot actually commit to anything else–ahem, me–because he is already committed to more than one person can possibly handle. This also comes from a place of wanting to do good. But its unrealistic to think that one can add a relationship into a life that is already busting at the seams with things.
He is a person who will always and forever put his children first. To a fault. Despite this, its one of the things I love about him. Everything he does is for his kids, and it makes me want to weep when I look at my own and see a father who chooses not to be a part of their lives unless its to hurt me. The Plumber has never pretended to be someone other than this type of parent–the type of parent who’s children come first and foremost above everything else. But this also means that there is precious little time and space for things that don’t involve children. Like dating.
The Plumber is someone who has completely stolen my heart. He has good intentions, noble intentions. The problem is, none of his actions can follow his words, because once again: work and children come first. I have been saying that its circumstance, that in time things will balance out differently–but will it? It was pointed out to me that The Plumber is doing exactly what PC did a lifetime ago: showing me who he is. Someone who is never going to be able to put me first.
In my head, I want to rationalize this. In my head, I think of words I want to say. Ways to tell him what I need, but all of the words are filtered through other words that are intended to not hurt him. In my head, I know the mature and logical thing to do is to press pause, and maybe stop. To tell him that I need more. To not ask him for more, but to tell him what I want and if he has it, yesss. If not, then we part ways and close the chapter.
Because in my head, though, I know what he will say. Because he’s already said it to my very meager attempts to assert myself. I don’t have an answer for you, I can’t change anything, I’m trying to do my best for my kids. He is showing me who he is, and I don’t want to accept it because of how I feel when I am with him. In those very, very rare moments, it is all one hundred percent emotion. And it feels great. Because for the moment, I am not second, third, or last in line.
This is what it really comes down to. I can see, right from the beginning, who this person is. And it doesn’t matter if he’s sweet, benevolent, kind and also makes my stomach do flips. He is still another person who is putting my needs and wants very low on his list. And it would be so easy for to me make the choice to be okay with that, to accept that, to be quietly annoyed and always hoping for a change because, of course, that’s what I know. That’s what I do best.
Or, perhaps, the thing to do is walk away. To let the logical part of my brain make the decisions for once, instead of my feelings. To let the part of me that says you need more win over the part of me that is all swirled up in giddiness and love and the feeling of having someone after not having someone for so long…both in the recent past and the history of my adult life. Both literally and figuratively.
My good friend, one who is very pro-Charlotte-and-The-Plumber, tried to advocate for him recently. She asked me, during my one millionth vent session about how little time he has for me, isn’t something once in awhile better than nothing at all? And my answer, without thinking, was very quickly no, its not.
Because just as The Plumber is showing me who is, and I should believe him…I am also showing him who I am. And what that is is someone who needs more than the occasional late night visit. More than relationship of texts and more than maybe. More than fitting in what we can where we can.
More than second best.