Crabs in the Bucket

I just got off the phone with a very wise friend. She gave me a lot to think upon.

She is the person I go to when I need to not only work through emotional things in my life, but to have myself be held accountable as well. We have known each other roughly 25 years. We are the friends that can go months without talking and then call each other out of the blue and pick up where we have left off. She’s that friend for me. There is very little judgement on either end. There are tough conversations. But in the end we know we love each other.

As you know I am on this self-discovery and improvement journey. Today was an emotional day for me. Here are some of the thing that went through my head and made me cry, in no particular order.

  • I am really good at messing up relationships. I have yet to make a marriage work. I’ve got two failed marriages under my belt. My boyfriend, whom I lived with for the last 2 years, just dumped me out of the blue and I still don’t really know why. So there’s no closure and I won’t ever get closure. And therefore never know what I did wrong so I can do better next time. This time was the best yet, but I still screwed that up. So I’m a failure.
  • I only have about 3 really good, long time friends and about 2 short time, really good friends friends – that I hope will continue to be my friends for years to come.
  • I moved here to be able to get my own place and discover who I am and what I enjoy and who I want to be but guess what? Because of this stupid COVID-19 virus, NO ONE IS SHOWING APARTMENTS and it’s making picking a place very hard. I am not even sure I can get someone to rent to me because technically, come Monday, I am on furlough! So that’s frustrating. While I’m staying with my friend, I can’t be me, I have to be what she wants me to be or I’m going to be out on the street. Technically I could probably go stay with Aunt Nancy, but that would just mean that I have failed at living here too.

So I cried about my frustrations, got some lunch at Chipotles, and decided I needed to refocus on me and what I can learn from all this.

I shared this with my friend on the phone today and she told me about a great story about Crabs in buckets. Yes, I said crabs.

So apparently, when crabbing, you collet the crabs in buckets and it’s ok to just set these buckets of crabs where ever – on the beach, on the desk of the boats – where ever and you don’t have to worry about them escaping from the buckets. Why, you ask? Because when one crab starts to try to escape from said bucket, the other crabs grab him and pull him back into the bucket. Thus, none of them ever escape.

What does that have to do with me and my crying today? Well, I’ll tell you.

Mark is an alcoholic. He just is. He drinks every night starting around 8 or 9pm. Now, if we go out for happy hour after work, he may have a few drinks there too before the witching hour, but for the most part, he only drinks at home and he drinks about 1/3 a large bottle of vodka each night. Alone. By himself. He won’t admit he’s an alcoholic either. But A) if you drink every night, even just a little, and B) you drink alone, and C) you do’t think it’s a problem to do either of those, your an alcoholic.

I am not a big drinker. On occasion I will enjoy an adult beverage too. I am not saying drinking in general is bad, but everything in moderation.

In my opinion, and that’s all it really is, being an alcoholic is sort of a form of self-hate. You hate your life so much you just want to numb yourself from it all. I will just point out, you can’t numb only the bad. When you numb, you also numb the good. So to choose to drink on a daily basis translates, you don’t like any part of your life.

What puzzles me is, if you don’t like your life, why don’t you work on changing it. Someone said once, “If you don’t like the narrative, change it. Start living your life the way you want the story to go.” It may not happen overnight, but you have to start somewhere.

Now before we get too judgy here, he doesn’t drink and drives (because he’s usually already home) and he get silly, not mean, when he drinks. So of all the issues people can have, in my opinion, that is not a big deal to me. I would take that over the thieving,gambling, drug addict ex-husband or the abusive ex-husband in a heartbeat.

The only really annoying part of that habit is, when he doesn’t have to work the next day, he stays up until midnight or 3 am and then sleeps until noon or 2 pm. Then I am stuck having to be quiet in the house, pretty much doing nothing until he wakes up. When he wakes up, he wants me to go with him to run errands. Which actually translates, me driving him around.

During this quiet time I can’t shower, I can’t cook, I can’t watch TV. I had to sit quiet. I guess I didn’t HAVE TO, but I choose to.

Now, because I don’t stay up until all hours of the night, I go to bed around 8:30 or 9pm and typically wake up around 6 or 7am. So that gives me anywhere from 5 to 8 hours of sitting and doing basically nothing. Unless it’s nice outside, in which I can go out on the patio and talk to a friend on the phone until he wakes up. I also would get work done on my computer or play on Facebook. For a while I was crocheting a blanket, but he decided he didn’t like the big pile it was becoming and I threw it all away. That’s a whole other issue.

He didn’t like me having ANYTHING of mine out. NOTHING. My stuff was clutter. His piles of paper were important papers but mine were not. He would fixate on small imperfections and try to micromanage every aspect of our life. I don’t want to say he was controlling, but he kinda was. As much as he could be with me. I have learned to be quite strong since my last husband.

He talked me into getting rid of all my cake decorating things before we moved into the last apartment, because we were downsizing by a room and I wasn’t really using them anyway. Made sense to me at the time.

He didn’t like the blanket I was making because it was taking up too much room. It was a lot of work – it was a football field with the University of Arizona “A” in the middle because that’s where he went to school and I thought it was fun to teach myself how to crochet a patterned blanket that way, and it was something we could put on the bed in the RV and it was fine – but when he expressed his appreciation for my efforts, I got my feelings hurt and threw it all away.

Truth is, he didn’t want me to have any hobbies. I resorted to playing stupid games on my phone – only because I knew he couldn’t make me get rid of them. He even asked me one time why I liked playing the games on my phone so much. I told him I actually didn’t but I get bored just watching TV and these are things he couldn’t make me get rid of.

Back to the drinking. I had started to mention to him things along the lines of me feeling like he was drinking too much. I would say things like, “I just worry about your health”, or when he was complaining he was sweating and was it too hot in our place, “No, it’s your body going through withdrawls. I’m freezing. Take your clothes off.”, or “Did you know you spend about $2400 on alcohol for the house each year? That doesn’t even include teh happy hour money spent.” He was as cheap as they come and if I wanted a behavior to change I learned I had to equate it to money being spent. He started telling me, when he as drunk, he knew he drank too much and he wanted to start drinking less. I know that’s not how it works. It’s cold turkey and done – hopefully. I wasn’t trying to be his mother and I wasn’t going to tell him he needed to quit. In my experience with another alcoholic friend, when you tell them they need to stop, it just makes them do it more.

Anyway, I had started seeing a counselor because another friend of mine sees one and hers really has great insights for her and I had started reading about the Enneagram and wanted to do some work on myself to become an even better person. I never told Mark I was seeing a counselor, but a couple times things came up and I did ask the councilor how I could better handle the situation. And it helped. I felt good about the improvements I was making on myself.

I was climbing out of the bucket. And maybe, just maybe, Mark was trying to pull me back into the bucket. Maybe when he realized he couldn’t, he decided it was time to end it with me, rather than work on himself becoming a better him and getting out of the bucket too. Anyway, that made me feel a little better about that whole messy part of my life.

So what will I work on doing differently next time I’m in a situation like that?

First, I need to realize that is not me being my healthy self. I also don’t want to just be a jerk and be loud and disruptive and disrespectful. I don’t need to be a doormat either.

I can take advantage of the quiet alone time and practice meditation and spend time in prayer. I can listen to one of my books on Audible and be productive. I can use that time to plan meals for the week. I can see the situation as a positive, rather than I negative.

Truth be told, I probably won’t spend much time with an alcoholic again either. It is a big sucker of money and well, I’m looking at retirement and saving for a fun future. And I really don’t want to have to live like that in an RV. Right?

I thought about that part where I don’t have a lot of friends and I seem to ruin relationships. This last time, I don’t really believe I did something wrong. I think I am just on a path to a better me and it’s not what he wanted for him. And that’s ok. It still hurt. But I’m surviving and moving onward and upward.

Truth be told, I finally don’t feel like I need a man to help define who I am. That’s a big step for me. My entire life I have thought I needed a man. Well, I may want one, but I don’t need one.

I also realized, it’s ok to have a small handful of friends. Who has time to maintain much more than a couple of good friends anyway? I’ll make more when I’m retired!

And about the wanting to find a place of my own. It will come. I am so thankful for being able to stay with my friend Jill. She has opened her home and her pets to me and I am so grateful to be here. The right place will come at the right time. For now I will continue to be happy right where I am at.

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