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And the Winner is….

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

September, 2012

I’m still trying to comprehend how “We’d love to have you visit but we have certain guidelines,” came to be viewed as “For years, I smiled and told you what you wanted to hear so that once you had emptied your bank account and arrived on our doorstep feeling warm and fuzzy; I could turn on you, my captive audience, and exorcise my pent up rage against you at my leisure.”

By Day 3, the trust between us had been grievously compromised. A few of us complained that stress was causing hair loss. No, this is not an attempt at humor.

Hanna and Niko said it wasn’t so much that I had refused Niko my laptop; it was that I hadn’t told him ahead of time, and now they were stuck without options. It wasn’t just that I hadn’t told him beforehand; it was that my failure to do so had caused Niko to lose face. It wasn’t only that I had caused Niko to lose face; it was that, in maintaining through the years that all was well between us, I had lied.

Three days down and 28 more to go.

No two ways about it. They had been tricked. They had spent thousands of dollars to pass their summer in jail. Jail being our basement apartment without a computer. They began to sequester themselves, eventually reversing their days and nights, in part–I believe–to avoid us. They surmised they had become persona non grata (personae non gratae??) and were the last fools on earth to learn it. This was not the case. At least not yet.

We experienced good moments. We shared some laughs. We had some conversations memorable for reasons other than distress. Even so, trouble was always lurking stage right.

Everything I did and said was now suspect. Things I had said and done in the past came under suspicion as well—as though past behaviors had taken on new meanings given this epiphany about my character.

I’ve seen this response in couples counseling many, many times.

Spouse A admits to an affair long past. Spouse B, who is learning of it for the first time, responds as if the infidelity had ended just yesterday. As the initial catharsis begins to settle, the reality of the affair sinks in. Spouse B will now spend months to years poring over reel after reel of old footage, looking for missed clues. Forgiveness and reconciliation may or may not follow.

It goes something like this:

“Three years ago, you canceled our dinner plans on Valentine’s Day because of a crisis at your work. I bet you weren’t working at all. You were probably fucking your mistress!”

Hanna and Niko were looking for confirmation of my infidelity, and they found it.

In times of extreme stress, I shut down. If you do not know me well, you might not even notice. I will continue to walk, talk, smile, listen, and laugh. I will perform my roles as mother, wife, and hostess. But I will do so with clinical remove. I become prodigious in my cooking and cleaning while the person behind my eyes goes dormant.

I did not intend to vacate during that 2011 visit. My psyche made the decision of its own accord. My soul balled itself up and locked itself away deep in my belly until such time as it felt safe to emerge and expose its tears, fears, and thrashing limbs.

My demeanor was evidence of malice, or, at minimum, indifference to their feelings. Hanna had seen me this way twice previously: immediately following a brutal semester of undergraduate studies and in the weeks following a trauma within my family. I believed she would understand my absence and hold a place in her heart for me until I was able to return.

I felt misunderstood, and I was in good company. My household found itself engaged in a protracted competition for the coveted title, Most Misunderstood and Maligned. Niko, Hanna, and I were the front runners but our daughters threw their hats in the ring as well. They were much quieter in their bid but I felt them jostling.

“Uncle Niko is being a baby, and you know it. He’s got the whole household revolving around him, and I can’t take it any more! You won’t speak up but if I do, I get in trouble because he’s The Guest. Gaaaaah!”

“Mom, why are you being so hard on Uncle Niko? I’ve been talking to Aunt Hanna, and I think the problem might be that you aren’t trying hard enough to understand him. Why are you looking at me that way? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Aunt Hanna and Uncle Niko aren’t fun any more. And you aren’t either. There’s nothing good to do around here. Are you even listening?”

Henry was the only one who didn’t enter the pageant.

In the end, Niko won. Hanna stuffed the ballot box.

Some days I wonder if I am seeing matters clearly or just positioning myself for a grab at Niko’s tiara.

This is part of The Story of Hanna. The episodes to date can be found under the tab of the same name. The previous installment is here.

8 responses »

  1. Hell hath no fury like friends who don’t get what they want.
    Oh, Jane, you were definitely backed into a no-win corner. And keep in mind that everyone will always have different opinions depending on the hour and the mood. Especially the kids, famous as they are for changing their minds and unloading all their angst when things don’t go well.
    Hanna definitely stuffed the ballot box. And you actually got no real votes at all.
    The motto “This too shall pass” is correct…only until until it happens again… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A @ moylomenterprises

    How we all see things is of course ‘relative’ — we each see things from our own perspective.

    Trying to put yourself in Niko’s, Hanna’s, your kids’ or husband’s shoes would generate an entirely different story since that tale would be of how you ‘think’ they feel and not necessarily how the ‘actually’ feel.

    Writing from only one perspective — yours — doesn’t make the story any less true since this is your takeaway from the whole experience. But to make it a historically accurate recount one would have to hear the story told from each party involved which is a completely different beast altogether!

    I commend you for writing about this in such detail as I can only imagine how hard it must be to relive all this. But my guess is that this process is of itself therapeutic and thus serves a purpose.

    It is very intriguing to see the events unfold…

    Hope you’re having a lovely weekend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, A.! It is truly a therapeutic exercise. It is kind of saying the same things over and over in different ways, which is how I process. At some point you and others may be bored to tears but I’ve made a commitment to myself to finish–to go on until the story is drained out of me. I feel more emotionally healthy now than just about any time in my life, and I attribute it, in part, to a discipline of reflecting and writing. I hope you are having a great weekend too!

      Liked by 1 person

      • A @ moylomenterprises

        Yes my weekend is OK so far. Ive spent the day trying to rest. My little one of course doesn’t understand such a concept lol.

        Not to worry, I process things the same way. I find once I no longer speak of something or someone it means I’ve done a pretty good job of dealing with the particular situation and it’s pretty much out of my system. My blog began in part to be my therapy. Still processing but I’ve come a long way and I feel a lot healthier emotionally.

        Keep writing 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: On Becoming Invisible | Family Rules

  4. Pingback: The Last Time I Saw Hanna | Family Rules

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