July 15, 2012

small shift in perception

this week has been tremendous in terms of highs and lows and here, late sunday night, it actually feels somewhat sitcom-ish in that much has been revealed and resolved leaving a sense of relief, knowing that it will be continued....

i have been saying that i don't need my husband to be my biggest fan or my cheerleader for years. it would be wonderful, it might make things easier, but it's not necessary, and while i've been saying it (deep-down knowing it's true) i've still been wanting it (therefore lying to myself). if i've learned anything it's that building a lie only takes you so far.

this week i had some serious questions to ask about why i've been with a man for eight years that sometimes ignores me and often seems to put me last on his list of priorities. i couldn't understand how a man that i often, truthfully, describe as the best person i've ever known can sometimes reduce me to a snivelling lost soul by what appears to be a lack of compassion - and not just on a personal level (he often acts like he couldn't care less about my art) but on a global scale - world events and giant catastrophes don't seem to concern him even in the slightest.

i used to think he was just so certain of his own good faith that he didn't care what happened to anyone else but he isn't ever mean-spirited which is a trait i'd expect in someone who lacks empathy, willfully.

midweek, it had occurred to me that i was carrying around some pretty bunk ideas. instead of looking at inspiring art girls for inspiration, i was letting comparison get the best of me. it appears that the art girls i think are wildly successful have awesome relationships. i was getting caught up on this image of living the idyllic childhood with parents or other mentors supporting your biggest dreams and providing a secure environment to grow in confidence and love but most importantly i was feeling pretty down about all of their perfect adult partnerships.

mind you, my excuse for doing something i know better than to do is because my headspace was pretty cloudy. i was wondering why, when i tried to tell my tale, people would look at me in horror or suggest couples counseling. over the years i've heard the word abusive twice. i don't throw that word around lightly and i've never thought that my husband was abusive, though, sometimes it seems that he clearly does not see me (or women, in general) as equal.

so most of the time i tell the good tale. i take the pretty pictures. i give thanks. well, okay, i still complain a lot. but really, for me, it's huge that i'm not always complaining, all the time, forever. seriously. this week all of that came crumbling down and i had to ask myself something that i've asked before - am i lying to myself?

later in the week, tracy verdugo, shared a photo of this painting on facebook.
tracy verdugo - a small shift in perception

it inspired the title for this blog post which i was already working on in pieces and layers. when i looked at this painting, the pieces and layers started to come together and what i took from it was nothing but pure growth. there are the underlayers, there is the middle place which is pretty but also uncomfortable, and then there is the breakthrough - the sprouts growing into huge, lush trees.

i couldn't resist using the same filters on tracy's photograph as i do with all of my blog photos and as i did i noticed a heart in the center. i now see it on her original photo on facebook, too.

pure growth and love.

i am not lying to myself. my husband IS the best man i've ever known. he is the best father i've ever known and even though i can say he is the worst conversationalist i will give him credit for knowing how important it is to me to increase security and intimacy through conversation and when he's on his game, he makes the effort. it's not fair for me to expect him to be always on his game. this breakthrough led to my own slight shift in perception - if i think that having a wildly successful marriage is necessary before i can have a flourishing, wildly successful art journey then i'm going to be waiting a long time to make it as a successful artist. i can't put my art on hold or delay my success in one area while waiting to achieve it in another, especially when it involves another person.

i can only be the change so much but it finally sank in...all that matters is what i think is or is not working in my life and it's up to me to fix it.

my little epiphanies always lead to big changes but i know our relationship isn't going to change overnight. perhaps it won't ever change at all. but *I* can change and i'm not going to be afraid of my own power, anymore. my marriage isn't perfect (no one's is, i really do know this even when i pretend i don't) and it doesn't have to be.

finally, yesterday, after still grappling with the opposing forces that make up my husband {i.e.,loving, engaged father, kind-spirited and sensitive partner and also the man that gets up and walks out of the room while i'm talking and doesn't think i'm worthy of a reply ON A DAILY BASIS} a friend posted an article about empathy in couples. her husband was recently diagnosed with mild asperger's and as i read that brief article it occurred to me that there's always been something more than misunderstanding between my husband and i. he honestly looks puzzled when i'm hurt or upset and doesn't seem to understand what i even mean by meta-messages or "emotional messages" as referred to in the article - the subtleties of nonverbal communication seem to go unnoticed.

and then some - but i'm not going to run down a laundry list of my husband's "faults" and i am not trying to self-diagnose my husband nor am i pushing for a diagnosis, i am just accepting and somewhat relieved in the possibility that it's not all my fault or he's not just a jerk.

i was a little shocked to see that my husband displays 8 or 9 of these 12 characteristics of asperger's in adults. upon further googling i came across this survey of asperger's characteristics that gets across the board good feedback and is referenced in david finch's autobiography, the journal of best practices: a memoir of marriage, asperger syndrom, and one man's quest to be a better husband. i took it, convinced mid-way through, i'd score on the asperger scale but my results were "most likely neurotypical" - then i took it answering what i knew or thought about my husband and the results were almost evenly divided, scoring nearly the same on both scales it said "you seem to have both asperger and neurotypical traits." later, my husband took it - i hadn't told him of the previous results or that i'd taken it myself as i didn't want to interfere at all with his process.

he scored only 4 points lower on the asperger scale as "he" did when "i" answered for him.

i don't know what that means - possessing both traits almost equally. i don't know that a therapist would diagnose him with mild AS - it doesn't matter. with my shift in perception, so too has the blame shifted. it has shifted from me to that unknown, non-existent place where it belongs.

there is no room for blame in love and growth.

6 comments:

  1. Wow! Wow! Wow!!!!!!! I'm going to have to read this again and then we're going to have to talk over a bottle of champagne because there is no way I could put my whole response down on paper. Valeri I dont know if you know this but I have worked with Aspergers teenage boys for 7 years and from your third paragraph my "on the spectrum" radar was going off! What an incredible woman you are and what a wonderful journey you are on! I am honoured that my painting furthered your own inspiration and thankful for your heart discovery. I also think you will find that behind the facade of every perfect grown up couple there are struggles and denials...Marco and I have been together 27 years now and we nearly didn't make it past ten. The big shift for me came when I realised I shouldn't be looking to him to fulfill my need for approval or justify my direction...and guess what? When I took ownership of my own life, my own happiness, regardless of his behaviour, our relationship began to shift, subtly at first, but then more so as I really felt myself come into my own power! I wish you blessings of love and self discovery and if we ever get to have that bottle of champagne you can tell me how THIS moment was the key to your beautiful unfurling not only as an artist but as a woman ♥

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  2. tracy, i had no idea! your comment took my breath away last night - then i teared up a bit. it just seems like an amazing set of cirucmstances that led me to this place i am in right now and it feels as if the answers are becoming easier and easier to LIVE!

    i know, from first-hand and second-hand experience that every relationship has it's downsides, that all people have their own struggles, and i think i am finally ready to really keep my own wishes and desires in check. i can have it all if i put forth whatever is required of me and i can direct my energy into better things than thinking the grass looks greener or other people have it somehow easier. i know those things aren't true <3

    i am following in your footsteps. i wrote down, "i am not afraid of my own power" the other day, on the same piece of paper i wrote down that i couldn't wait for my marriage to be "perfect" - and i don't think any of that clicked until i saw your painting. if so, it was the same day and it clicked even more afterward.

    this moment is huge and i am thankful that i could share it with you, that you have shared with me. like i said before, i want you to enjoy your upcoming anniversary in SF but if you can squeeze in some time i'd love to squeeze in a champagne conversation and a big hug!

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  3. Oh my distant sister..I could go on for hours about this post and will probably havbe a lengthy one here for you...
    I think it is wonderful you are coming to know that your husband is not just a jerk and for the record..everyone single man on the planet can seem all of these ways to their woman.. Men and woman are just not constructed of the same materials emtionally and mentally. I have come to believe and accept that those relationships that we all tend to see from afar as perfect, are fake. Not all but almost.
    There is no relationship in this world without flaw and no relationship between a man and a woman that encompasses everything each expect or dream to be the perfect ideal world of companionship, support, understanding, faith, unity, and all those grovy things we all should aim to get closer to daily but never really entirely hit.
    I would take a bullet for Don. I would do anything I could for him or his children. We have a wonderful friendship and love but it is flawed in so many ...let me repeat this SO many ways. But it is the love of my life and I couldnt and cant even in the worst anger and frustration ever think of my life without him. I believe there is something like adult ADD going on with him that makes him some of the ways that make me insane but who am I to talk with my issues? I think so far into love...you just find acceptance and know that..everything will really be okay. No matter what it is and that what is meant to be will and what is not meant to be wont..

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    1. oh, debbie, i absolutely agree with you in that my husband is the love of my life and i don't actually see my life without him...then again i take that to a very visceral level and my life could never be without him since is a part of it now, in this moment. but even on that basic level, he is the first person i've ever loved completely for who they are and don't see us ever NOT together.

      it would take a year to describe exactly how much i appreciate the give and take even when i complain, even when it's hard, but i won't get into all of that right now.

      i don't expect my husband to meet ALL of my needs, on every level, all of the time. or even half of my needs, part of the time. it would be nice if i could go to him as a one-stop experience and gain the same intellectual diversity and philosophical insight as i do by keeping other friends and seeking that fulfilment elsewhere. but that's only because i'm somewhat withdrawn and lazy and that would just be easy. i laugh because it would also take away the very thing i crave which is diversity - i kind of see everything like that...he can't serve every function i'd like in my relationships, that's why i have multiple relationships. this concept is actually how i helped forgive my mother - she wasn't or couldn't be the mom i would have wanted but her and i still have some great conversations and (finally) a healthy relationship, complete with the boundaries i worked really hard to create for myself.

      i apply those boundaries to my relationship with my husband. i am careful when my thinking becomes general, like "all men this, all men that..." but most of the time my husband's behavior is superior to "most men's" - he is almost a perfect model for the sensitive man as described by anais nin and then sometimes (like last week when i was wondering what my life would look like without him) i am so baffled by his apparent misogynist core beliefs that i wonder how he functions otherwise and why i've been with him for eight years.

      but that's just it, maybe...we have all been guilty of chalking up men's behavior to they're just being jerks but i never really put my husband in that category, i never dismiss when he is being a jerk because he just doesn't operate like one 99% of the time. then again, he pretty much keeps quiet most of the time.

      i wonder if considering asperger's as an explanation for our difficulties isn't just a way to distract myself from the idea that maybe he is "just a man" and "just a jerk" and this is what they do. all i know is it helped me remove the blame and ease into NOT internalizing it all before, which the idea that men are just assholes doesn't allow me to. when i think that way, i eventually blame myself and all women because, afterall, we're the ones raising them...that's a slippery slope, too, though. and damn it if i haven't just written an entire blog post in this comment. bah.

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  4. I love your art and blog! keep going, you are a good person, and with time you will feel better!

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    1. thank you for your words of encouragement <3

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