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Fetishized

July 18, 2010

Still don’t quite have the hang of responding to comments. I am astonished by the profundity and usefulness of everyone’s responses; I also cannot quite believe how happy it makes me to have people write back. I support myself writing (if you can call it supporting, and I suppose if you can call it writing) for various publications, and it has never, ever been this much fun. For years people who had websites kept telling me I should have one too, and I thought, Yeah, as if. For free? Write for FREE? But guess what? It’s not for free. The payback far outweighs the effort.

I’m also a mite ashamed that I have never dared comment much on other peoples’ blogs. I only started commenting when I started writing (and then only because I could do so under my assumed internet identity.) Nevermore. I thought it was somehow an imposition to comment–I’m used to an outdated model, I suppose, in which readers read and writers write and never the twain shall interact.

But let me respond directly to some of you here, if I may:

You seem to have a lot going for you–a lot of blessings, if you will.

I know. Of course I do. Without sounding trite, I try to keep that in the front of my mind at all times. However, it never hurts to have it pointed out, so thank you.

Anyway, I could possibly be projecting but it seems like, here you shrank yourself and lessened your own happiness to make him happy all those years you were married, and now long after the clean cut-off point where all that is supposed to stop (divorce), you are still handing your happiness up to him on a silver platter, and he is still effortlessly sucking you dry, just by being his oblivious self. He not only took your happiness in the past, now he’s stealing it going forward as well.

Well, I hesitate to say I lessened my own happiness for the whole marriage. I worry that’s an oversimplification, and it’s not really fair, nor really true. There were plenty of times I was ecstatically happy, and if I tried to accommodate my ex’s idiosyncrasies and schedule and ambition more, perhaps, than he tried to accommodate mine, that is simply due to the nature of our relationship and the nature of our discrete personalities. And I’m not ashamed of that per se, because it’s what you do when you’re married. It’s what you do in any relationship–even a friendship, provided it’s a good one. However, it’s certainly true that I thought I’d be finished taking care of him by now. It raises a good question–why did I hand him a place to live? I hate to veer into self-help parlance, but since I can’t change him, I’ve got to change myself. (Oh, god. Did I really just type that? Well, I have a firm belief in the power of clichés–how else did they attain cliché status?) It’s maddening that he is still such a clueless, aimless oaf, but at least he’s no longer MY clueless, aimless oaf.

You’ve gotten so many thoughtful comments here. I don’t have much to add, other than something more general that I’ve tried to keep in mind over my last few months/years of marital trauma. It is one definition of happiness that I’ve heard: Happiness is when your reality exceeds your expectations. Your expectations of your new life in your new cottage were shattered when your ex swiped the place. Accept the unhappiness because your reality did not even come close to your expectations.

I’ve found that I most often get in funks when I think about what others expect of me or what I “should” be doing/having/accomplishing. Get rid of those silly expectations!! (is what I tell myself)

Also, another useful quote I have taped next to my computer:
(not as applicable but still a good one)

“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.”

This is just so great that I’ve imported it wholesale. Worrying is the biggest waste there is. And, as my brilliant authoress friend points out in her about-to-be-published masterpiece, we never even manage to worry about the proper THINGS. Every time I’ve tried to use worry to gird my loins for some anticipated trouble, I’ve been massively ambushed by something else. So yes, let us all repudiate Worry.

And, while we’re at it, let’s just roll with the bad feelings, shall we?

I think it’s really shitty that he snaked the cottage out from under you and I think you have every right to be angry and sad and all sorts of ugly feelings. Maybe you just need to let those feelings run their course.

Could it be that it’s not actually a bad thing to be, you know, pissed off at the person you’re divorcing? What a novel idea. I said to a (married) friend of mine the other day, “I just thought, since we’re divorced, that I wouldn’t have to fight with him any more.” She laughed and laughed. “Honey, you just don’t have to FUCK him any more,” she said. A revelation!

I’d agree with a previous poster that the Dream Home is a representation of your future life. Moving into that home, jettisoning the old family house with its old and stale associations and dreams, represented moving forward into your new life, your new self. Having your ex move into your Dream Home right in front of you is just like him holding you back, keeping you tied to your old life, while he gets to move on! I get angry on your behalf when I frame it that way! And as other posters have suggested, you may just have to be angry, grieve the loss of this perfect place.

Yes, yes! Anger! Righteous anger!

But with a subtle spin:

Of course you are upset. You were the one who was miserable in the marriage. So you got out. You imagined a whole new life for yourself – lighter and freer and better…and part of that vision of your post-divorce life was a new space. A space without all that fucking emotional baggage. And where are you? Stuck with all that fucking baggage. You are in the same space where your marriage ended. Despite him being gone, his essence is still there – hell, a lot of the time HE is still there! And you are slogging through that energy daily. You try to put a fresh new face on it – redecorating, getting chickens, working in the garden, but the reality is….you are in the same space, and YOU WERE THE ONE WHO WANTED OUT OF THAT SPACE. It’s really unfair, and heartbreaking, and tearing your hair and your clothes in mourning is acceptable. Fuck being the bigger person. You deserve to wallow for a bit.

Point well taken. Am wallowing, like a water buffalo in mud.

Before I read the comments of others, I wish to point out how happy your opening was. You wrote “their father” not “my ex husband” for what I believe is the first time. Such growth!

As much as I’d like to take credit for growing, spiritually or otherwise, I probably just wrote that because I was trying to break things up a bit, linguistically speaking. Whether “my” ex-husband or “their” father, he’s still the same guy who’s presently under my skin. Alas. Wallowing seems to help, though. Wallowing and righteous anger, damn it.

This post resonated with me, so much that it took me a few days to respond. I am in the middle of a divorce, one that I instigated and also have a cottage that I can’t let go of….I am still in the wandering and lost part of my separation trying to figure out what I want. I don’t know what my next step is let alone how I would get there. It sounds like the Cottage was your next step and your ex essentially stole it and made it his.


I’m so sorry. I wish I were the only one with a stupid dream cottage. I hope you find some peace, and find your way.

I’ve never been divorced, but I have been on both sides of a break up – the one who instigated the break up and the one who was dumped and for me, being the one who instigated the break up was much harder…. It was my discomfort at being the one who had made the choice added to all the crappiness that goes with a break up that made it worse.

And then when bad things happened, when I didn’t get something I wanted, I took that as a sign that I had made the wrong choice, in fact, how dare I even think I had the right to make this choice, that I was being shown the error of my ways, that because I made the wrong choice I would never, ever get what I wanted again. I would give things a huge amount of importance and use it to validate my choice – If I got this job, it would mean moving on was the right thing to do or if this paper got published it would be the universe telling me I was allowed to choose – I was never conscious of this until I didn’t get what I wanted and I would have a reaction that was completely out of proportion with the situation.
Maybe something like this is going on with you? Or maybe I’m just crazier than a loon.

I don’t think you’re crazier than a loon at all. In fact, you just provided a tremendous comfort. Just knowing WHY I’m so overwrought instantly calms me down.

I would lose my mind. To have him take your cottage is devastating, and no amount of rational thought is going to make it better.

You’re right! Back to righteous rage. Calm, yet righteous, and no less angry. This is great!

Not divorced, but I have a “new home lust” story to share:

This particular story is too good to miss–you simply have to go back and read the comment. Thinking of the missed cottage as the decrepit Playboy mansion has given me a colossal amount of joy.

sorry you have to go through this. and it’s not even one of those things that will go away in a few weeks or months.
perhaps it’s time to get yourself some fancy bookshelves…

Yeah, and some new books to put in them. HARDCOVERS.

I’m thinking part of the problem is that you have helped him along every step of the way.

I’m thinking you’re exactly right.

One has to rewrite the stories… or perhaps one can just be furious at the tiny house for a while. And take great joy in other things, like gifts from the goddess of integrated-post-divorce-child-to-child-relationships.

Indeed. See first comment re: I am blessed. These things are all ineffable, and much more important than some stupid decaying decrepit Playboy mansion-cottage.

I think it’s because you feel he got the upper hand, period. That’s never a good feeling, no matter how you try to rationalize it.

Yeah, I know. Makes me hang my head, though. I should suck it up a bit. I can probably afford to lose a little hand.

I’m a fan of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Which rarely applies exactly accurately to whatever situation at hand, especially since generally I’m an optimist, but still, somehow, it makes me feel better. Things change. And change again. I love the idea of making your big house into a small house. I wonder if I could make my small house into a big house?

See, when you put it that way, it’s pure genius. I’ve lived in a lot of very small places, and a recurring dream I had concerned a door I had never noticed, leading to a whole room or set of rooms I hadn’t known I had. Wishful dreaming. After reading this comment, I wandered around my house for about half an hour, noticing which rooms I use most in each season (it varies–in summer I’m constantly on the porch, and never in my office, because it’s a thousand degrees in my office, for instance.) My great-grandmother, who was crippled by arthritis at the end of her life, used to receive her guests in one or the other areas of her gigantic apartment. I imagine she moved around according to season and whim–and there’s no reason I can’t do the same. This big house will be TWO little houses–a summer house, and a winter house. Ha!

I have no psychological advice, but as an architect I have some design advice: make your home feel like a cottage. If it’s too large, shut off some rooms you don’t need or want to clean, organize, etc. Build some built-in bookcases. Just focus on the rooms you use most and work on bringing down the scale in just those rooms. Plants. Paint. Decorations. Check out websites like Apartment Therapy that heavily feature small spaces, and try to get that feel into your house.

Yes, yes, indeed, see above. I gave the ex some stuff that had been hanging on the living room walls forever, too. Sick of looking at it. And yeah, I’ll ignore certain parts of the house in favor of others. Brilliant. Feel free to suggest things. For instance, my living room is rather dark. I kind of hate it. I can snub it in the summertime, but what about winter? It’s a pale lemon yellow that I originally loved (and has, to its credit, massive built in bookcases) but am tired of looking at. Ideas?

Here’s an easy answer: I think the technical term you’re fishing for is “fetish.”

And so it is! Damn, I can’t shake that old quack from Vienna no matter how hard I try.

I don’t have answers to the harder questions, though maybe Freud would? I’m more of a cognitive-behavioral therapy girl, though, so it seems to me that your friend is on a potentially helpful track: right now the cottage triggers a chain of thoughts that lead inevitably to impotent rage, so maybe it’s time to cut off the chain when it starts. You can always go back to it if you miss it. You could, of course, ask your husband to trade — I guess he’d probably say no, and maybe it would be unpleasant, but at least you’d know you tried? Or, if that is clearly an impossible idea, then you go back to cutting off the chain of thoughts at the start. Or a new mantra: at least my house isn’t a blasted heath?

Oh, I’ve asked. I’ve begged. I sent an itemized list showing what good financial sense it made for him to live here instead of me. By moving back in, my ex-husband would save a tremendous amount of money every month. He still refuses point blank even to consider it.

But, even though the living room is dark, at least it’s not a blasted heath, and for that I’m grateful.

I just wanted to chime in and say I totally get it. I remember so clearly how I felt when we were buying our first home. The process is so excruciating and full of emotion…. For you, the cottage was your “first house,” in your new, divorced life. And to watch this perfect house sit there while you wait for someone to put an offer on your house. And then for the ex to take it out from under you – OMG, I totally GET IT. My only advice is something I read from another blogger – “time passes.” In time, your pain will lessen.

I know, and thank you. Human beings are peculiar about real estate, aren’t we?

So, yes, having fetishized the cottage beyond all reason, I do need to get over it, cut it back down to size in my brain. It’s not mine, it never was, and so on and so forth. Thanks to you guys, I now understand better why I was/am so fucked up about it. You are very wise.

And this just in, from the lovely Twangy Pearl:

Ah, but, being stuck in your old house, when you were SO utterly sick and tired of it and ready to move out/on, even as you deal with the realisation that the maddening aspect of your relationship with your ex-husband is till death do you part (or at least until the children are – I dunno – middle-aged?) – when surely you must have hoped THAT fire was out, and he wouldn’t have the power to infuriate you anymore, would be enough to wreck the head of a bona fide saint.

But things move on, they do, don’t they? Times shift, feelings change. Keep on. It’ll get better. You won’t be stuck in perpetuity, I swear.

I believe her, because she’s Irish, and we Americans think the Irish are mystical and all-seeing. And it cheers me up when people spell “realization” with an “s”. So much more elegant, so continental. In fact, this is the most amazing thing about my commenters–you are from all over the place. I’ve written for magazines with pretty big national circulations, but this little website is, apparently, being read by people in South Africa and India and Canada and New Zealand and Europe and Australia. It’s thrilling. The sun never sets on my Blempire.

And so, to bed. Many thanks to you all, from the bottom of my wicked heart. You have outdone yourselves, and I feel better and better and better.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2010 1:24 am

    I am fairly weirded out right now by your secret/unnoticed door to rooms that you didn’t know about dream. I HAVE THAT TOO. Sorry for shouting, but that is creepy. I wonder if it is common and I just didn’t realize it?

    • More Tennyson, Less Arnold permalink
      July 19, 2010 12:39 pm

      Same here– same dream, same weird feeling that other people have this dream.

      • irretrievablybroken permalink*
        July 19, 2010 3:54 pm

        This must be an archetype. Paging Dr. Freud!

        • artemisia permalink
          July 19, 2010 7:15 pm

          It’s a very common dream, actually. Also, my favorite.

        • um, permalink
          July 20, 2010 5:49 pm

          Jung. I’m pretty sure everyone sharing archetypal dreams is Jungian. Time for a paradigm shift!

  2. July 19, 2010 5:26 am

    *rushed and harried but sympathetic and sincere*

    Twangy Pearl is the lovely knower of all things indeed!

    My hope is to rootle you out some more consoling poetry, as soon as I have dealt with the Toad Work.

  3. July 19, 2010 6:58 am

    Ha! You’re a riot. Mystical!

    I’ll be dining out on that one. Although, I do kind of Know Things, like that you’ll be okay. Maybe I AM a bit witchy. Hmmm.

    I often have that “Oh, a room I never noticed before” dream. Or secret passage! I enjoy those. Nearly as good as the flying ones.

  4. Fatty permalink
    July 19, 2010 10:16 am

    Blempire. You’re a genius.

  5. July 19, 2010 12:17 pm

    This is a perfectly wonderful conversation. I enjoyed the comments in the context of the last post, and now you’ve brought them to life.

    I have a small dark room in my house due to no windows. I hung a light in one corner and added a mirror to reflect the light from another room. I’m actually thinking of adding another mirror. Might help your living room….

    Recently I have had an abundance of “house” dreams ~ all different kinds of houses where I am remodeling, moving furniture, repurposing rooms. A bit of research tells me that “house” dreams are about our inner life. Each room means something different. That shines some light on what my subconscious is working on.

  6. MEP permalink
    July 19, 2010 4:58 pm

    What does it mean that whenever I dream I’m at home, I’m at my parents’ house where I spent my entire childhood? I’m not a child in my dreams – sometimes my daughter is there too – but home is always their place.

  7. Fatty permalink
    July 19, 2010 5:30 pm

    It’s cathexis–cathected. Not fetishized. I kept meaning to say but forgot.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      July 19, 2010 5:54 pm

      Besetzung. (Bless you!)

  8. July 19, 2010 9:15 pm

    Best thing I have EVER read:
    “I just thought, since we’re divorced, that I wouldn’t have to fight with him any more.” She laughed and laughed. “Honey, you just don’t have to FUCK him any more,” she said. A revelation!

    I really wanted to comment on your last post about the cottage, but I was so furious for you that I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to say. I do agree with quite a few of your commenters though.

  9. Celeste permalink
    July 19, 2010 10:31 pm

    Heh. I’m your polar opposite. I will never blog because I only wish to comment on blogs! I like them for the opportunity to connect with people more so than a forum, where the traffic can move fast and you can miss posts by people you like.

    I have a dark living room and I agree with the suggestions of extra light and mirrors. It’s a worse problem in an older home that has no overhead lighting of any kind; it can be hard for lamps to do the whole job as they make pools of light rather than ambient light. Is there any kind of overhead lighting that you can add that will mix with the character of this home? I think it will eventually be a selling point because it will make the room look larger, and people love to be able to flip a switch on the way into a room and light it up.

    If you’re up for a paint change, tell us more about your furniture, rugs and/or carpet and any info about colors you do or do not live well with.

    I love the idea of closing off rooms and rediscovering them later for another purpose; it’s absolutely thrilling to have potential in your home as well as in your life.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      July 20, 2010 8:27 am

      No overhead lighting is exactly the problem: there isn’t any anywhere in my house. Which is fine with me, I like lamps, but does tend to make the place a little spooky.

      There’s a spot in the living room where there SHOULD be a window. It’s unclear why there isn’t. I’m thinking of hanging a huge mirror there instead. And plants, lots of plants. Rug is a beautiful old oriental, a hand me down. Sofas are extremely threadbare, also hand me downs, and if I can possibly afford to get them slipcovered I am going to. Chair was found on the street. I think the lamps might need to be improved, however. And I think washing the windows–the ones there are, that is–would help, too.

      The dining room (right next to living room, through biggish opening, thus visible, thus colors must not clash too badly) is a cross between lime/bright green, with white moldings. I believe it’s Benjamin Moore Spring Green, a color which doesn’t exist any more. I was actually trying to copy Martha Stewart’s dining room from a picture I saw once…but the color is just slightly off. The walls are plaster, however, so there’s a good depth to the color one puts on. Not sheetrock, and I like paint with a little gloss, not completely flat…

      I like bright colors. There. Gracious, how I do run on!

      All the furniture has seen better days…

  10. July 20, 2010 2:57 am

    I too read blogs for years and never left a single comment on any until I started writing my own. I somehow felt like I didn’t have the “credentials” to leave one without having a blog of my own.

    And I love the idea of a summer house/winter house concept. Our house is small, but I have two sets of bed linens and table linens (ok, more like 4 sets of table linens, but they are family hand-me-downs) and I change them out based on the season. And if it were up to me there would be built-in bookshelves in every room (except the bathroom). Have fun making your house *yours*.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      July 20, 2010 8:23 am

      Actually, I often imagine a bathroom with bookcases, too. One of my professors in college–a poet, with a poet wife, who ran a very small publishing company–had so many books in his house that it was like one solid bookcase on the inside. Bookcases over the doorframes, even. And he knew where everything was, too–if you were talking about a book, he’d go right to it like a homing pigeon.

      I am possibly a bit deranged in terms of bookcases….and this house, by the way, has some built-in bookcases in three of the rooms, and I’m still not remotely satisfied…

  11. July 23, 2010 2:41 pm

    Why not just go with the room being dark and paint it a dark color? I’ve seen a lot of beautiful rooms around the interwebs lately that are all black or a really dark chocolate or a inky blue. The new Anthropologie catalogue has black walls with molding and trim done with chalk (start at page 30).
    http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/catalog/category.jsp?popId=CLOTHES&navAction=jump&navCount=&id=CLOTHES-CATALOG4#/15

    http://www.doorsixteen.com/2010/06/18/master-bedroom/

    http://mrsblandings.blogspot.com/2009/11/off-rack-down-home-cooking.html

  12. July 23, 2010 2:42 pm

    AN inky blue. AN. Sorry.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      July 23, 2010 5:53 pm

      I love the inky blue, love it. What do you think of doing one wall only? I lack the fabulous moldings, more’s the pity.

  13. July 27, 2010 3:02 pm

    Start with one wall, why not? I think it would look better if the other walls were white, as opposed to another color.

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