Tennessee Visit, Etc.

Well, I’m home.

I was noticeably less stressed and anxious while in Tennessee visiting my family.

Now that I’ve returned I can feel the ever-present low levels of anxiety, just waiting to be pushed to higher levels.

Friday’s drive went fairly well. Half of the trip was through long stretches of rural highway in Kentucky and then Tennessee, and I had to learn how to use my phone’s GPS after I took a wrong turn (or possibly had fucked up my written directions). Once again I have to acknowledge how damn nice smart phones are.

I’d forgotten that by arriving on a Friday, I’d be participating in my mom & stepdad’s Shabbat meal – my mom has her own little hybridized religious beliefs mingling a more conservative Judaism with hodge-podge evangelical Christianity. Technically, my stepdad is Jewish by blood, and they’ve both formally converted in spite of retaining Christian beliefs.

It was uncomfortable for me, as religion has not had much day-to-day presence in my life for the last few years. I’m not going to quarrel over free food I didn’t have to prepare myself, though.

After that was done, I returned to J’s house, where she and I talked – about her ex, and about my future ex – and then when my youngest sister G joined us, we talked a little bit about her boyfriend. G sounds like she’s likely off to a much better start than either J or I when it comes to romance and sexuality – though she doesn’t talk about the fact that she’s sexually active with her parents. (She’s 20, and being responsible.)

After we’d had a lengthy conversation G headed back to my mom’s, and J and I went to bed. I slept better than usual, in spite of being on a sofa that was a little too short for me, with a cat hanging out next to me most of the night. Just being away from my husband automatically left me more relaxed.

Saturday J, G and I went for a hike in one of TN’s beautiful nature parks – it was a pretty hike, though certainly involved more inclines than a flatlander like me is used to. G and I meanly let J go first the whole time, which left her being the one to handle knocking down spider webs. Every time she missed one and shrieked after walking into it, G and I laughed because we’re rotten siblings.

Later that afternoon J and I headed over to Chattanooga, where we met M. It was the first time I’d met M in person, even though we’ve been friends for years, now, and chat almost daily in our group chat that includes J, M, A and myself. M is lovely in person, too, though I was surprised to realize she is full of restless energy, a fact that had not communicated itself through chat. She has huge blue eyes and a delicate, slightly upturned nose that put me in mind of some of the women featured in the paintings of pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rosetti – though she has a larger chin that lends an appearance of stubborn strength.

Sunday morning J and I had coffee with the rest of the family living on the property, then lazed around watching a few episodes of Derry Girls, which is set in the 90s, not long before J and I spent our month in Ireland. Then we did some household chores to prep J’s house for being gone, and headed to my dad’s, arriving just in time for supper.

My dad’s best friend, G, was visiting as well, and my dad’s new boyfriend R. J has been struggling with the fact that my dad is dating so soon after D passed, but frankly I’m relieved because I’d been worried grief would drive my dad’s health downhill fast, and that we might lose him within a year of losing D. I know it doesn’t lessen my dad’s love for D that he’s dating again – he’s just lonely and seeking companionship. R, the new boyfriend, lives in the Cincinatti region and seems like a very nice person.

On Monday we lazed around the house during the morning, then had lunch with R before he headed back to Cincinatti, then we visited D’s grave so my dad could perform maintenance and switch out the flowers. We also visited some thrift shops and ran some errands before returning to my dad’s place.

Tuesday J had a doctor’s appointment in Knoxville, so I drove her there for that, then we found out she’d accidentally left her work phone at my dad’s, so we had to drive part of the way back to his place, met up for lunch and got the phone, before heading back to J’s place to drop her off. I only stayed about a half hour, then headed back to my dad’s. The intent was to relax, and I knew the more time I spent around my mom & stepdad, the less relaxed I would be.

The rest of the week ran together just a little bit. One day we spent six hours looking at arts & crafts in the Gatlinburg region – there were a lot of neat hand-crafted items, but it was a lot more time looking at items I couldn’t afford to buy than I would have chosen on my own. At least my dad and G are good company, though. Otherwise we did things like run errands – Walmart, groceries, that sort of thing – and visit thrift shops, or just sat around my dad’s place talking or watching TV.

I called every night to say goodnight to the kids, and would chat with my husband a little as well, though I find myself annoyed because his passive-aggressiveness and neediness come through with phone conversations or messenger conversations, too. It was clear he wanted to spend more time on the phone just talking, which is not something I’ve ever been interested in even during the best of times. I don’t like small talk. I don’t like phone conversations.

With our messenger chats, during one conversation he suddenly pops out with something about how if I don’t want to talk to him, that’s fine, he can stop bothering me – I explained my responses would be slow due to being engaged with other activities and conversations with my family, and found out the reason he thought I didn’t want to talk was because my answers had gotten short. I looked at the conversation and found I’d responded with a one word answer twice in a row – but lengthier answers hadn’t been necessary.

The conversation looked very similar to conversations I’ve had with my other friends & family via messenger. It was another reminder about how sensitive and insecure he is these days. What seems perfectly normal to me is a sign of rejection to him – which doesn’t even make rational sense to me, because why seek for small signs of rejection in things like messenger conversations when we’re literally getting divorced?

I’m not sure I got around to an update on that. I think I wrote something up but didn’t get it finished in time to publish it before I had to leave for TN, so I suppose I should search my drafts and then I can post how our end-of-the-month conversation went and the result.

My dad has a lot of sympathy for what I’m going through – he and my mom separated right around 38 as well, requiring him to start life over again in many ways. Our stories aren’t identical, but they both involve having married someone that was just a friend, not someone we were in love with or sexually attracted to – and spending years trying to conform to the box religion, society and our families said we belonged in.

Dad went through some tough times, but met D – and says he felt like D was his soulmate – and had 20 years with him. I hope I’m lucky enough to end up with something similar eventually, but as I told my dad, I’ll take temporary joy over no joy at all. I’d rather have some happiness that ends in pain than constant misery.

Saturday night I started feeling anxious about having to go home Sunday, but still managed to fall asleep by 11pm – which was good, because I woke up at 4am needing to pee and found G was already occupying the bathroom, as he was prepping for his drive back to FL. I was experiencing some physical symptoms related to my anxiety over going home, and stayed up until he was ready to leave, said goodbye and then tried to go back to bed, but couldn’t fall asleep again.

I spent the morning with my dad, drinking coffee on his screened porch, appreciating the view and talking. I had an early lunch and was on the road by 11:30am. The drive was almost entirely interstate and went pretty well. I stopped a couple of times for bathroom breaks, food, and gas and was home by 6pm.

My husband and the kids had made a big effort to get the house cleaned up while I was away, which I appreciate but which also feels a lot like ‘too little, too late’ as far as my husband goes. I know he’s not doing this because it’s the right thing, the healthy thing, to do – for him just as much as for anyone else – he’s doing it because I forced the issue, and he still resents being pushed into change he didn’t want.

It was difficult to fall asleep last night. I had to push through anxiety and try to control my breathing. It didn’t help that he stayed in the bedroom on his phone and, unlike previous nights, did not fall asleep before I did. At least he didn’t try to initiate any conversations.

Unfortunately I’ve found out the Word workshop that was supposed to be taking place starting tonight has been canceled due to not having enough people sign up, and another won’t be taking place until October, so I will have to try and teach myself via open office and youtube tutorials. Inconvenient, to say the least, as I’m unlikely to retain as much that way as I would in a classroom setting with an instructor.

Saturday I’m supposed to meet up with H and spend more time exploring Indianapolis, though, which I’m really looking forward to. The Monday following, I’ll be meeting up with M (different M, not M from TN) – and the Sunday following, heading out on a road trip to meet my friend RG. So I’ve got stuff to look forward to that will help me get through the month, even if I’m feeling discouraged and delayed when it comes to the training I need for my job search.

I’ll be doing more posts with some photos from my trip, but I’ll just stick to one picture for this post.

This is the morning view from my dad’s place – pretty, isn’t it?

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