March 21, 2012

Riding the Wave

We've moved enough times that I'm familiar with my emotional arc:
  1. Get excited about new possibilities
  2. Revel in the shiny newness of it all
  3. Rave about how WONDERFUL it all is
  4. Notice that patterns I'd hoped would change haven't changed
  5. Realize that I still don't have any close friends in the new place
  6. Feel like it's not THAT great
  7. Get depressed
  8. Wallow
  9. Find more activities, connect with people and eventually figure out my place in a new area
  10. Get restless and ready for something new
  11. Sigh
Last week was relationally rich. Friday night Jrex was busy and I had dinner with Two Mommies from daycare. Sunday we had dinner with another lung researcher, his wife and their two children. We attended the Dallas Wind Symphony with our realtor and his wife on Tuesday. Which meant Brex experienced his first official babysitter. Fortunately the Baby Whisperer from daycare also does babysitting, so he was perfectly happy to wave us out the door. As a bonus, when he heard our voices at 11 PM, he managed to roll over onto his stomach while still in his swaddling! Friday morning Bible Study was good. Ordinary life and ordinary joys.

On Sunday I went from general contentment into the slough of despond.

Jrex and I had talked on the drive to Texas about what kind of church he could imagine attending. I found one that seemed to fit the bill. However, Jrex usually has too much work to do, or hasn't wanted to go (still wrestling through his God stuff). Which means that even though it's a good church and full of wonderful people, it doesn't feel like enough for me. If we went together, I could make it work. If he's not joining me, I'd rather be in a more charismatic church. In the past ten years I've discovered I'm a kinetic learner who connects more with God if I can be in motion. So I tend to enjoy churches that have a block of music/songs with no interruptions so that I can really dive into things with the Lord. It helps if no one will care if I'm dancing and/or crying. I've visited various churches in the past month which means I don't have any relational continuity except with Jrex, Brex and the people at the daycare.

This Sunday it seemed right to go back to the first church just to connect with people. The service was fine. The sermon was ok. After the service, I ended up talking to one of the two people I'd hoped to see but then left church feeling really depressed.

The sense of being disconnected, alone, friendless and generally woebegone is a familiar trough. It doesn't help that Jrex is as overwhelmed as he's ever been in his life. He's plugging away and doing everything he can, but we don't have much time or energy to work through any of our deep issues, or even for me to lean heavily on him with my emotions. As part of this wave, I tend to expect him to function as my only close friend and he's just not enough. Every time we move, I do this to him. Poor guy. He doesn't change, but my NEED for him changes. As I build a better relational network, the weight of my emotional needs gets spread out more. Right now though, it must feel like he's dragging a lead weight around.

I've been hanging back from doing things by myself in hopes that here, now, in our long-term house, in our long-term neighborhood, with our long-awaited child we might finally start doing things together. I'm tired of being the solo married woman and being neither fish nor fowl at social gatherings. Now I'm also a mom and so even more of an odd ball when I'm out by myself. Yet Jrex is an exhausted introvert. So we have a pattern of two independent lives with random overlap. Part of the slough is discovering that despite all the big changes in our circumstances, that looks to be staying the same.

Rather than just wallow in my depression, I emailed the two women I'd wanted to chat with and asked if they wanted to meet for lunch. After meeting with them yesterday, I feel better. They are both such genuine people that it feels like I can just be myself and be loved as I am. It takes time to build common ground and if I'm not going to the church and not able to be at Bible Study all the time, I'm not sure how quickly that will happen, but it's worth the effort. I've signed up for a Mommy's Night Out at a local art store and for three months of 6 AM 'bootcamp' at the park two blocks from our house. In addition, I'm reading The Marriage Plot for an upcoming neighborhood book club next week. I'm considering joining the local chapter of AIGA to get involved in the local design community.

In a bigger picture, there's a profound difference in our family patterns playing out in all this. The K family went to church or went to other family's homes for dinner or food. Otherwise, they spent time at home. Even their home time was quieter than ours. They watched TV, ate, visited with each other and did homework. My family went to the movies every weekend, we met other families for dinners, we volunteered at various places, visited lots of churches (my Dad often spoke at different churches due to fundraising for his housing ministry), went to art museums, to the park, theater, ballet, opera, and community council meetings. It seems rare that we spent more than two evenings in a row at home. Even when we were at home, since we didn't have a television we spent most evenings playing games, reading books, and building things (and of course, every child's favorite pastime: fighting!).

I'm just realizing how I've expected that 'something' will happen for Jrex to want more action. In our 15 years of marriage, at times I've waited and hung back in the hopes that we'd do more together, then became impatient and did things by myself, then grew wistful as I did them alone. Back and forth. Thrashing around trying to figure out what shape life is supposed to have. He remains fairly consistent through all of this. He's fine if I want to go do things without him, happy to have me around if I don't, happy to have a couple people for dinner, happy to go to dinner with a few other people, fine with house guests, he's just too drained to leave the house on the weekends to spend time with strangers.

It's all normal. Normal emotions after moving. Normal conflicts for extroverts and introverts. Normal adjustments. I just thought there might be a new normal this time. Remind me of this post the next time I start talking about moving as a solution, ok?


otr mama said...

I think I know that feeling. I will pray that you find a friend, like I did with your mom. I can't explain the dynamics of that friendship, but I think it helped each of us thrive in our family relationships and personal dreams. I just hope JRex can relax soon. Hopefully I'll get BRex's pkg. sent before Easter - that should be a perk:)

Mizasiwa said...

Wow - you have just written exactly what I am feeling at the moment in my own life (only I have not recently moved the life pattern seems the same) I unfortuntatly dont have any thoughts other than perhaps finding work were you live - that could normalise your hours (since you work with differnt time zones now?) a lot of the time I find friends at work that sometimes fill that gap. Although that often leads to differnt issues for me...Good luck i am thinking and praying for you.

scarp said...

I think you and I have already talked about how my expectations for us and this move have turned out to be very different than the reality. I suspect that when we get to 15 years of marriage, some of the things that are frustrating me now, in this transition, will have popped up in other situations. I sometimes think of you and JRex as the couple we relate to the most in terms of expectations vs. reality and issues we need to deal with.

Rachel said...

I think you nailed the stages of a move. It does take a while to establish a social network, and the time until you do can feel really lonely and depressing. It sounds like you are starting to meet some people, though. And you'll probably meet more because of the baby. When he gets bigger, you will be chatting with other parents at swimming lessons or soccer.

I also relate to what you wrote about the difference between your ideal weekend v. your husband's. I've spent a lot of time at social gatherings without my husband; generally my choice is either to go out alone (or with our daughter) v. hang out at home with him. We do stuff together sometimes, but it tends to be dinner or some kind of day trip, rather than socializing with a lot of other people. I would say that for your son's sake you do need to have some family outings now and then, but you may also have to meet your social needs in other ways. But it's tough, and I haven't entirely made peace with it either.

Inkling said...

I think your stages list hits the nail on the head. I'd never thought about identifying it like that, but you are so right.

And I can identify with you on the differences in desire for social interaction. Before we had a child, my husband would have wished I'd wanted to go climb mountains more often than I did, but other than that, he was content to stay home and stay fairly uninvolved in social things. Somewhere along the way, I adopted his mentality, and have only just now realized that it doesn't fit me all that well. And what's interesting is that he has suddenly begun wanting to get out a little bit more, but since I shut that part of my heart down, I have to figure out how to pull that old desire back out and use it.

If the internet ever failed, my loneliness level would exponentially shoot up. You are right, it does take a lot of time and a lot of "doing life" together to build deep friendships locally. It's not easy at all, and makes me kind of laugh to think that I once thought making friends in school was tough. Ha! I didn't know how easy it really was.

Thank you for posting your heart on this. It's given me some good stuff to ponder.