So, for those of you that know me, and for those of you that don't...I've decided that it is time for me to write an open letter to my wife...and I thought I'd start with what I consider to be a bullshit meme about living life with blinders on... This is my attempt at humor, and hopefully my wife is already laughing...real life, where I live is where a nice crap sandwich gets passed around and everybody takes their turn dealing with the icky, non-talked about issues between people. I need to connect with my wife, and as I do that, some of you can expect an ushy-gushy love filled letter...the rest of you are still laughing at my picture... I arrived at the decision to write this letter after my latest session with my psychologist, who did not put me up to this, and rarely puts me up to anything, but endorses our general dialogue on life, love, the universe and trying not to mentally break minor children under your direct guardianship.
Dear Lovely Wife: [business tone indicates the nature of this letter and pre-empts emotional state of wife as she understands the topics of this letter...and fears I'm about to divulge our darkest problems in a public venue]
I love you. You know that. You love me, I know that. You've been in medical school for several years now and we are in the closing years of this project...project Dr. Cindy West. This well run project has been successfully on schedule since its start, and the primary and secondary team members have performed admirably, we still engage in meetings on team structure and organizational improvements...namely in the management areas of the male parent resource and the minor members of the team. Which, admittedly need work...all the time...and probably a project manager, team coach, or other adjunct member to help the team be more successful. The primary project resource has performed above expectations at every level of the project, thus far, and continues to incite solid confidence in the external (and internal) stakeholders of this project.
Project Dr. West, does not sit alone within our organization, as you well know...good grief, you know more than anyone on the face of the Earth. Accompanying project Dr. West, an ever exciting story of love, grief, trial and tribulation of the Ongoing Life and Times of a Family Affected by Depression. Which chronicles a superhero and his family's hilarious adventures through a life filled with joy, doubt, ups, downs, more downs, and hopefully less downward down's as life moves ever forward.
It is on these two topics that I write to you today.
Last night, we had a wonderful discussion about a vacation, its schedule, familial complications, and a husband / wife relationship that fights through imperfect circumstances to defy marital statistics about divorce.
I arrived at two observations from our discussion last night, upon which I need to elaborate.
My historical shortcomings are well chronicled and documented, regarding scheduling, follow through, laundry, thinking ahead, and general 'checking out' when I feel I can possibly get away with it... Depression, and our battle to live a happy successful life complicates things from time to time, and it is such a difficult topic to discuss. You always have to be on your guard that any point in an argument or discussion, I will play the "Depression Card" and seek some type of sanctuary behind a diagnosed illness, when instead I should be moving balls forward and attacking life. Which is a very recognizable fear, from my perspective. I'm so glad, interestingly enough, that I'm the one with the condition, rather than it being someone "not me"...because I'm pretty sure I would bail on that person and tell them to get over their little mental issues about the sun not coming up tomorrow. Your persistence in this matter remains well recognized and appreciated.
Now, to get a bit personal.
Being labeled with a mental illness carries real and imagined stigmas about a person's mental stability and frame of mind. Everybody has had a crazy ass uncle, or relative that leaves you always thinking "WTH, does this person know they are this out of touch with reality?". So, I open up my brain and let you know how I deal with this...
Having depression, is not the same as having Depression...one is a medical condition, the other is a dark cloaked character that loves his precious dark moods and underachieving mental state. One I treat with medication, the other I have to keep a close eye on and beat the shit out of...when I recognize him whispering into my ear. How I manage that process, reveals my grasp on my mental state, and the quality of my mental fabric.
My ultimate fear: losing touch with reality, under a tremendous amount of stress, and not being able to recognize that I'm losing my shit.
So, to monitor this possibility, I generally start with a status report of my faculties, based upon externalized factors indicating my success rate of self efficacy...or how is it going, and how am I doing? How's the house operating, are they kids alive, fed, and moderately mentally healthy...all that.
I've not been close to losing my shit. But, that's always where I start...because having a mental illness, means that it is my head that could be tricksy with me. If it were my arm...I could assess it everyday by picking something up, and moving it around. Inside my head, its a bit more complicated.
That's all for the losing my shit factor... I'm not worried about it, my mental framework remains as ironclad as most other people I know, and better than several people I know. But, that doesn't mean I can't have depressive episodes and spiral downward...it does mean that I have to identify when that happens and get the cloaked bastard in my head out of my ear and start battling life a little harder. This process, as described, does not account for my partner...you, being the most valuable asset I have.
My biggest challenge with depression remains making improvements in my life regarding character traits and habits (mental and physical) that I've accepted as unchangeable, and to commit myself to believing in a better tomorrow, and applying myself in a successful way to change myself into a better superhero. The funny part about this process, has to do with the cloaked figure inside my head... which, after a hard day's work, says "you really didn't work that hard, you just muddled your way through a job that somebody else could have done quicker and better". I know he's a lying bastard...but, I have to safeguard that my commitment to changing myself is solid, and not twisted... otherwise I will exhaust myself physically and mentally chasing after an unbalanced model of success, to which I can never attain.
In summary, I start with the "losing my shit" checkpoint, and work towards, "Am I working hard at living life in the best way possible?".
My point, and invitation to you, is that when I play the depression card, in a discussion...what I am actually doing, is inviting you into that conversation, and asking an extremely vulnerable question..."in your opinion, am I working hard enough on my character and life, and not misapplying myself and not recognizing it?" As the closest person in my life, your input into that question, means more to me that most anything else in the world. I don't base my confidence in myself, or in my abilities on your opinion...that would be codependent...instead, I am seeking external input, from an expert, regarding the baseline assessment of my disposition toward life, family, marriage, and work.
I'm not running away from you.
I am running to you, naked, and honest, and vulnerable, in a world where I keep the shields up 99% of the rest of the time. Because I love you, I trust you, and I need you...and at the most base level of communication, I don't want to fuck up what a great thing I have going...I want to remain the type of man that you would remarry today, tomorrow, and the rest of the week...we'll talk about next week over the weekend. [Levity utilized here to lighten the mood after a fairly technical gushy point]
Secondly, on marriage, life and the divorcing of couples that once loved each other, and then for some reason don't make it...
This one fascinates me.
You being a doctor, and me being the stay-at-home dad, with a job and flourishing career...makes for a difficult family and intimacy model. [To everyone else: she just said...NOOOOO SHIT!]
You are a tremendously independent person, and to some degree, past my own social nature, I am as well. However, we've built a model in our marriage based upon mutual love, admiration, and respect for each other. So, with our hard as hell schedules, no sleep for you, perhaps too much sleep for me (in you and Malcolm's opinion), how do we maintain a marital relationship based on intimacy and love, when we are in a part of life that makes quality time very hard to come by...?
As we've embarked upon this journey (aka project Dr. West), I've noticed a few things about life, the universe and everything. You view the world in a very independent way, but you live in a very partnered model. I view the world in a very connected way, but tend to live in an independent fashion.
10 years ago, I could have never imagined being a single dad, with two small children, working, living, and being successful at it.
10 years later, after being a de facto single dad for the past 5 years much of the time, I've noticed that I've developed a new mindset. I'll call it the single parent mindset. You are prone to having this mindset naturally, but don't act upon it, unless you need to... I've had to develop it, and learn how to deal with shit as a single parent, because my wife isn't there to do it all for me, while I sit in the garage and piddle, or watch football and stay drunk all the time...Your mother did it, and my father did it, under differing circumstances.
As couples drift apart, as we have openly admitted at times during project Dr. West, this mindset continues to develop. It matures in one's head, from "I'd be shit canned screwed if I was a single dad", to "I could maybe pull this whole thing off, or at least fake it for several years".
In some cases, not ours mind you, couples get to a point where they are "emotionally divorced", their lives simply diverge over a period of time, due to schedules, or whatever the hell screws them up.... but, the point is that they drift apart...slowly developing a "single parent mental model" subconsciously, because that's what they are, when the other spouse isn't around...we know people like this... it isn't us, but we are in a position in life where it can become us for short periods of time because of our respective schedules.
The key, in my mind, comes when the single parent mentality matures. Under normal healthy marriage circumstances, it is tucked back in the far regions of the soul, and thought of in reference to, "What if something tragic happens?"...or "What if something happens to me?".
In other cases, the single parent mentality blossoms to a point where one parent says, "I don't need this shit anymore, I can do this better by myself, and have a much happier life that way."
When the two parent mentality of marriage loses value, and the single parent mentality produces a utility and value point greater than the two parent mentality...divorce becomes a serious consideration. Now, there a lot of other factors, and bullshit that go into that...but, that's my observation.
In conclusion, I have seen that mentality develop in my head, over the past few years...which, actually is a great thing...getting back to the depression section of this letter. I know that you are tremendously independent, and that you could pull off being a single parent. I think I could possibly fake it for a few years.
Regardless of that analysis, I still believe the marriage we have poses a far greater value to me, than any life I can imagine where you aren't with me. I am still a much better person, because of you. Beyond any of this reasoning, though, I still love you. I still respect you, which is more than I can say about 80% of the whole fucking world. You are a truly fantastic person. You penetrate the bullshit of life in ways I can't seem to navigate, and challenge me mentally...which again, is better than 90% of the world. Arrogant as that may sound, you are simply smarter than me, and I'm smarter than most... [everybody else just let that go...]
In a very non-emotional way, and in a very emotional way, you are my wife. You are my best friend. I would never hurt you, and I will give my life anew everyday to protect you, and this life we've built as a family.
The key to that last part being...it isn't a heroic giving of life...it's one bloody fucking day at a time, downgrading my own needs, desires, and wants...in order to continue investing in a marriage that currently finds itself challenged for quality time and intimacy.
But...that's what I signed up for...and I'm good for it.
I'll have my people get with your people and we should do lunch soon.