The playground of the small elementary school nearby was a favored destination. The school felt solid, secure and welcoming. But following elementary school, the next levels in the large city school district grew into giant buildings that accommodated thousands. Our son approached school age. My rural background combined with our son’s quiet nature led me towards a different choice, and we made a decision to move. Ron wanted to look in a nearby suburban area with a reputation for its upper middle class population. I checked out the school district and found it highly rated. A small home came on the market not far from an elementary school we had both noted on our travels. Ron was eager to become a resident of this highly touted area. I was hesitant to move into a locale that felt socially out of my league. Ron’s persistence, using the school as a persuasive argument, wore down my reserve. The house never felt like my home, despite 20 years and major additions and renovations. I never became comfortable in the neighborhood where doctors and lawyers had big homes just a couple of streets away. These were the parents of some of my children’s friends from school. Our street was more modest in nature and neighbors were generally friendly. Both kids made close friends on the street. But my discomfort never ebbed. I had worked hard to move up in the world, had a college degree, a professional job, a husband employed with the state, two children that participated in band, dance and little league and did well in school, and a three bedroom two and a half bath home in suburbia. Why was I so uncomfortable? Why did I feel like so much ‘less’ than everyone around me? Engaging in school activities with my children – something I had missed growing up – was high on my list of parental expectations. I tried to participate in both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, but felt out of place with the other parents that seemed to know each other so well, played tennis together, socialized together, said hi and spoke briefly to my smiling face, but did not include me in the laughter and long conversations. I stayed involved as long as the kids had an interest, but did little to help that interest grow. Other attempts to be on committees or help with a play were made, but led to similar outcomes and compounded my feelings of inadequacy. A constant fear of judgment on the state of our house – not nice enough or clean enough or something enough – ruled out an open door policy for visitors outside of the kids’ nearby friends that ran in and out. Perfectionism – striving for that something better always hanging just out of reach – crept into my life. An attempt to control something in a life where so many things felt out of control? The struggle with Ron’s drinking sent my body bolting for the door at times. The kids kept me from closing it behind me. Years and years of memories are blurred in denial, anger, promises, wanting to believe, disappointment, hope, and hopelessness. Somehow, one foot continued to find its way in front of the other, but the cost of each step added up. My blood pressure rose and became difficult to control, even with medication. A strong family history of heart disease had always floated just out of sight. It arrived in stark clarity when I ended up in the emergency room twice, with chest pains and difficulty breathing. I was released each time with a clean bill of health, but no explanation of the cause. ‘Anxiety’ had not yet been routinely recognized as the unseen root behind a multitude of health problems.
Day: June 3, 2020