Friday, December 21, 2012

On Pajamas and Other Dilemmas

I'd always been a horrible gift-getter. For starters, my expectations were sky-high. Not for something expensive but for something thoughtful. A gift, for me, meant you "get" me, that you truly see me for who I am (or who I want you to think I am). A gift, for me, has generally been a recipe for disappointment.
One of the last gifts my mother gave me was a piece of sea glass (or lake glass, in our case) that was set in sterling silver and hung on a chain. I don't know what it was about this that prompted me to behave like a spoiled child. But I told her I didn't like it, that it represented all the garbage that washes up on our beloved beach, and would she please return it. She did. She was disappointed though she'd become a master at disguising it. I, however, knew her well.
My mother died unexpectedly a month later.
What I wouldn't give to have the piece of glass – a gift she was sure I would love – hanging from my neck. Of course, what I really want is my mother back. But I'd settle for the necklace because I can now see the love it represented. I couldn't, however, see it then.
One of our club members, Liz, just posted a comment on this post asking for help getting through this holiday season. I directed her to what I just posted...but her reference to the gift her husband gave her (pajamas, despite an agreement to not give each other gifts) got me thinking about giving and receiving...especially in the wake of betrayal.
We attach so many stories to gifts that we render the act of giving/receiving something of a Shakespearean play. There's love and betrayal, treachery and longing, life and death. All to a pair of pajamas. Or a necklace. my husband's case office chair (needless to say, THAT one went back too). We look behind the gift for what it all means. And we search our own hearts for what our receiving of the gift signifies. ("If he thinks this means he's forgiven, he's WRONG!").
What if, for this holiday, we detach ourselves from all those stories? What if we simply look at the gift for what it is? As if it was something we found along the road. ("Oh look, a pair of pajamas. And in my size!") Think how much less drama there would be around the Christmas tree or fireplace or coffee table if we gave our poor aching hearts a break from trying to figure out what this all means and should I stay? and what if he does it again? and is he really texting the office right now or HER? and on and on.
Tell yourself you can take up the fight again the next day, or the next week. Tell yourself that it's just for today that you won't feed into the stories that are compounding your suffering. That you won't compare this holiday to last. That you'll try your very very hardest (snap an elastic on your wrist each time you mentally go down this road) to not try and figure out exactly-down-to-the-second what you were doing when he was with HER.
Give yourself the gift of peace-on-hearth (okay, that was a stretch, but you know what I mean). Give yourself the breathing space to take a step back from the maelstrom in your head and heart, and accept the pajamas.
My mom hadn't betrayed me for a long time when she gave me that necklace. But I certainly had viewed her alcoholism when I was a child as a betrayal. And I'm not sure I'd completely forgiven her. Certainly my husband's betrayal, which I discovered only months before my mom gave me the necklace, dredged up a whole lot of buried pain in which I was, once again, terrified that I was going to be abandoned.
And so I rejected her gift. A gift that simply showed that she loved me, however flawed that love had been over the years.
Pajamas you say? In the words of my cherished Cheryl Strayed, just say "thank-you."


  1. I especially love the picture. Thank you! After rejecting them last night, I was looking for the stupid pajamas this morning because I've been wanting to buy some. And my husband is supposed to bring them back from work, where they went this am. You are right. This is too much effort about pajamas! I was afraid of what it all meant.

    1. You're welcome. The picture made me giggle too.
      And I know so much of this isn't easy. But maybe accepting a pair of pajamas (literal or figurative) is.

      Elle (who, incidentally, is hoping for a pair of pajamas for Christmas)

  2. Elle,
    Going to try to put it down on the side for now. I can pick it up again after Christmas. It will still be there, all the pain and anger....

    I identify very much with you as a terrible gift receiver myself. It is a recipe for Disapointment. Last Christmas was the day that I discovered the affair, after all the gift opening and getting. She had bought and shipped all of my gifts. By she, I mean my husband's lovely affair partner. Not looking forward to Christmas this year, but at least I can count a year since their secret affair was brought into a bit more light. And I am pretty sure that she had nothing to do with my presents this year. Thanks for this post.

    1. Ya know...I can't believe how often I hear of the OW having to buy gifts for the wives/kids or having to have some sort of contact with the wife. And I suppose some of these OW get all smug about how clueless we wives are. But just imagine how humiliating it is to be responsible for buying gifts for the wife of the guy you're sleeping with!! I mean...are you kidding me? Even if they can't admit it to themselves, it's humiliating.
      So yes, take comfort in the fact that it's NOT this time last year, that you're a year out. You might not be where you want to be...but you're also not where you were. And that's progress.


  3. OMG wow this post hits home for me.

    During his affair my CS shopped for his tramp and ME at the same time. We got the same gifts! Oh yeah, wait for it, he spent $15 MORE on mine... like that f'g matters! (I had found the receipt when I was gathering evidence of the affair last year.)

    This Christmas was rough - I was looking for SO MUCH MEANING in it. He gave me work out clothes (I am not fat) and hiking shoes because we're going on a New Yeas vacation (hiking/beachy thing) and he thought it was useful and youthful. (Seeing that my self esteem, after his banging a tramp 15 years younger than me, is in the toilet...)

    I as usual went all out - something silly/fun, something for work, something from the kids... So getting mine, I was a "terrible gift getter." I was so bitter. I apologized for being bitter but I did have to say its not like I don't have a reason to be mad. Its just so hard to push down that resentment! A year ago he was being a total jerk, lying, stealing... and I was a headcase - insomnia, down 30 pounds, exhausted preparing to throw him out and shield the kids. He didn't care and I was freaking out.

    Now I need to focus on the fact that it is a year out and I am surviving. That the tramp OW is gone. But I am not gonna lie - its gonna be hard. On New Years Eve last year I threw him out when he was out late with his tramp with me waiting for him at HOME to be taken out. So lame. He laughed when I did it too! Jerk. I spent last NYE crying with a bottle of champagne (luckily kiddos went to grandmas and didn't see my pathetic-ness) all the while he was in some dumpy motel room banging his tramp. As he said to me the next day when he came to pick up his crap, "Well I didn't cry myself to sleep." ARGH! No duh, you disgusting pig! Ugh, the anger and humiliation still makes me cringe and my blood boil.

    So.... I'll read this again. Thank you for posting this & again thank you for sharing this blog. I pray for all of us to survive and THRIVE in 2013! We deserve all the blessings, love and support that the universe provides. Peace!

  4. Elle -- You follow Brene Brown, don't you? She says the two most powerful words are "me too" because they allow us to connect and that we are all hard-wired for connection. To me, that is what is most powerful about the internet and blogging and most specifically this blog. As, BW we've lost that sense of connection due to the betrayal and it is so reassuring and sanity saving to come here and see that others feel the exact same way.

    I could have written the first paragraph of this post -- in fact, I did -- to my fellow BW friend. When I read this post, I was so shocked that other people (YOU) have felt this way.

    This is what I wrote to my friend (it's long, sorry)--

    " . . . and he walks up to me with something behind his back. He tells me to close my eyes and he slides what I can tell is a leather jacket on me.

    This is really hard for me to write, I'm tearing up. My reaction was so opposite to the joy you got in receiving gifts from your husband.

    The jacket was really heavy. I would never buy something so heavy. It felt like I was wearing one of his coats. The weight I felt was like a huge burden had just been placed on my back.

    When he put that jacket on me it was like a metaphor for every problem in our marriage. He said something about how I was always saying I needed a nice jacket to wear. I don't ever remember saying that. I have about five different jackets for different occasions/uses.

    He stood there looking so vulnerable, he was trying to do something nice for me and hoping I would really like it. I hated it. I felt weighted down by the jacket, by him, by the expectation, by everything. And, I couldn't fake it. It was the most awful moment.

    He tried and he epically failed. And, then I epically failed.

    It was bought off of eBay. I don't really wear used clothes. And, he can't return it, I don't think, because it's eBay, so he would have to resell it.

    It was too heavy. It was too tight. Immediately I felt huge and bulky and fat. It was too tight in the shoulders and made me feel insecure about how broad my shoulders are. It made me look fat because it is the wrong length for someone short like me.

    There was just such a huge disappointment which I know goes way back to my childhood. After Christmas, as I got older, I always remembered feeling so let down. My mother would get me tons of stuff I didn't want and I always felt so lonely -- like she really didn't know me or get me.

    That's what this felt like. He doesn't even know me. If he knew me or even cared to know me, he would know I would NEVER buy a heavy, bulky, used jacket of that length.

    It was the loneliest feeling ever. I tried to thank him but I just wanted to break down. The jacket just seemed to represent everything wrong with our relationship and our dynamic. I don't think I've ever had a more lonely experience.

    And, then the guilt . . . OMG . . . why couldn't I pretend? Act like I loved it? That is what he needed and I just couldn't do it. I crushed him. He tries and I, basically, scream at the top of my lungs "You failed me AGAIN!!! Why are you such a loser? Why can't you EVER make me happy?????"


    He went up to bed.

    I just tried to catch my breath. I sat there staring at the Christmas tree lights with tears just running down my face so the tree was all blurry and the lights all ran together. So, so lonely . . ."

    Elle, thank you so much for that "me too" moment. I never knew anyone else felt this way. With my birthday coming up, I'll be rereading this post often and trying to not attach so much weight to gifts given to me.

    I know I've written this over and over . . . it never seems like enough but . . . thank you. For sharing yourself with us through this blog. Happy New Year, Elle!

    1. Me too, me too, ME TOO! A thousand times ME TOO. You're right Pippi how powerful those words are. And how incredibly validating it is for all of us to know that there are others out there right now who know our pain and who wish for nothing more than peace for each of us.

      I know I've failed epically in gift-giving at times. And certainly at receiving. Martha Beck, life coach and columnist for O magazine wrote this article ( on receiving. It's definitely worth a read.

      But thanks Pippi for your kind words. It is enough. You are enough.

      Happy new year.


  5. My dirty rat of a husband also bought his skanky tramp the exact same gifts for Xmas that he bought me, and paid for them....and her Xmas tree on my credit card! Isn't he delightful? Aaaarrrrggghhh Hide the knives!

    1. There's no shortage of the stupid things cheating husbands have done. Talk a look at some of the "Stupidest Things":
      Hope it at least gives you a giggle.




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