A few days ago I wrote a post on my blog about people from Downingtown who lost their daughter to what seem like somewhat mysterious and very tragic circumstances. At the time, what hit me was the family member interviewed by the newspaper in Oregon was a stepparent. Jennifer is her name. Then I found out courtesy of a group we both belong to that she was a breast cancer survivor. So two things I could identify with. What has taken a couple days to germinate was something Jennifer I said that was also referenced in the article. Her stepdaughter was in a somewhat controlling relationship.
That aspect resonated with me this morning when as I was looking out our bedroom window I saw one of my neighbors from the neighborhood behind us skirting the edge of our woods walking with his dog. This neighbor was actually one of the first people I recognized in the grocery store after I had first moved to Chester County – I had known he and his wife from other neighborhoods at other times in my life.
My neighbor’s dog had found me actually not too long after we moved into our current home. It was one of those weird things, a dog comes out of the woods and you recognize the dog and on some weird level it is like the dog recognizes you. But that isn’t possible your rational self says, you haven’t lived here that long.
The dog comes up and literally sits at my feet. He follows me so I can get him on a leash, and as I hook him up it occurs to me who the dog is.
And I did know him. I used to play with him as a puppy and his humans were at one time neighbors who lived next door to my ex in the house I never lived in but was supposed to. So I called this dog’s humans and we had a laugh about how small the world is: we missed truly becoming neighbors before, yet now a few years later here we are, neighbors. A little farther apart but neighbors just the same.
Which brings me back to today. As I watched my neighbor walk through the edge of the woods with his dog I was struck again by something Jennifer who just lost her step daughter Rachel had said about controlling relationships. Her stepdaughter had been in one, according to her.
That is what I was thinking about today as I watched my neighbor walking with his now elderly dog and it made me reflective and a little sad. It also made me grateful again for my life today compared to what it might have been.
My ex had a very controlling personality. I did not realize it at first because it wasn’t something immediately apparent, nor was it always a “thing” across the span of years I was in the relationship. But the controlling did affect me. Sometimes it was a subtle “are you going to wear that” when we were going somewhere.
That was followed with an almost parental-like lecture on how I was supposed to behave and who I was supposed to speak to and not speak to. If I questioned that basically I got yelled at. The yelling at me would often occur as we were driving somewhere which meant whenever we arrived at our destination I would be a jumble of frayed nerves.
One of the things he never liked was me being chatty with his neighbors where we were supposed to live together if we had ended up marrying. His neighbors did lots of stuff together. They had parties and BBQs. I rarely got to go to any of those events. He went.
He also did not like it if I spoke to his siblings, which meant after almost a decade they never really knew me or to an extent I them. That made it super awkward every time I saw them or if they telephoned or emailed. I always felt, right or wrong, somewhat in a precarious position. I really had wanted to get to know these people I thought at the time I would someday officially call family, but I also didn’t want to piss him off. Among other things, I didn’t go to a couple of family weddings. Ostensibly it was “someone has to watch the pets” but there were so many things over the course of a decade that I was left behind on, kept seperate from.
So I said nothing. Did nothing.
While this was happening I didn’t realize that a lot of my own friends and family weren’t around me as much anymore.
When he left during that first night of that first blizzard of 2010 it was an odd jumble of feelings I had. On one hand I kind of felt devastated initially, but then I also felt guilty because of this over whelming wave of relief that came over me within a few hours.
Over those first few weeks those are the emotions I was fraught with. On one hand I was relieved, in other ways I was sad, and then I was guilty that I wasn’t more sad and was feeling relieved. And then my friends and family stepped forward from the shadows in which they had been watching me live my life and life moved on.
Today I was struck by how part of me was a little sad that I had never gotten to know my neighbor when he and his wife were my almost neighbors the first time. My current neighbors had moved into his neighborhood as an engaged couple buying their first home and planning their wedding. Over the next few years I watch them get married and start a family, and get a puppy. I liked them so much but was always afraid to get too chatty because I didn’t want to piss him off.
Until I became part of a normal, healthy relationship I never realized how much I had compromised myself and my feelings. It’s kind of surreal actually.
I almost didn’t write this post. But now I am glad I did. Realtionships are hard at times and work. But don’t make them harder on yourself than they have to be. After all, loving someone shouldn’t be about the fear of making someone angry.
Life is precious. Don’t waste it. Live it.
Thanks for stopping by.