Thursday, May 24, 2007

sleep in the family bed

Two nights ago I woke around midnight to a rapidly beating heart that no amount of deep breathing would steady. I lay there tense as a set mousetrap ready to spring, vainly attempting to calm myself before finally admitting defeat and getting up to read the bible and complete the hardest Sudoku puzzle ever. Eventually I closed my eyes and slept.

I suppose it could have been indigestion from that amazing chicken vindaloo I consumed at high speed earlier in the evening that woke me. However I think it more likely that stress wrenched me from my dreams because, come to think of it, I haven't been sleeping well for the last few nights.

I'm not someone who normally lies awake for hours trying to nod off. Sheep in the backyard or not, I rarely resort to counting how many times they jump in and out of our yard. Nope, my head hits the pillow and I'm away to the land of sleep and fantastic fantasy, and not much will wake me.

Yet here I've been, night after night lying in bed unable to fall asleep. And, come to think of it, there have been significant stressors to weather in the last few days: Frank's birthday, for which I procrastinated so long over the choice of present I ended up with nothing; my new job; adjustment to shift work (I swear it's not natural to run around on cement floors until 10 o'clock at night); and... the visit of the mother-in-law.

Bingo! I think we're onto something here.

I don't go for all those stereotypical relational patterns, so I always imagined that when I obtained a mother-in-law I would just be my usual cheerful self, chattering away with disarming amiability and all would be well. We would get along nicely and in the process blow all those in-law fables out of the water.

It is with much sadness that I report it IS NOT SO!

I was naive - those stereotypes exist for good reason. They are not fables. Mother-in-laws are not nice. Or at least mine isn't. I do not have a good relationship with her and I confess I do not want one. She is a hard, humourless person who spent four days dishing out insult after insult. She invaded my space, passed subtle judgement on just about everything Frank and I do and scrubbed my stove.

OK. The stove was a good thing. It needed scrubbing.

Without consulting me, the cake-baking-queen, she went out and bought Frank a birthday cake and insisted that it was for him and not to be shared with anybody. At one point I became so angry I heard a distinct buzzing noise in my ears as the scene before me moved in and out of focus. It's really no wonder I wasn't sleeping!

Where does this all leave me now, with the mother-in-law gone and sleep covering me like a blanket once more?

Sad. I feel overwhelmingly sad. For myself, as I lay my pleasant mother-in-law dreams to rest. Sad for my mother-in-law, who has chosen hardness of heart over deep relationship with those she loves. Sad for my husband, who loves his mother and his wife, and is torn between his own dreams and the reality of in-law relations.

I'm also thankful. Thankful for the strength to hold my tongue. For increased awareness whereby we strive to understand ourselves and others and so work to build more meaningful relationships with one another. For my husband, who sees where he came from and longs to be different. I'm thankful for the relationship Frank and I share, a relationship that is ever developing into something more deep and caring.

Yes, it was a tough few days, but all is not lost. While we're apart I'll work up the courage to keep holding out olive branches of peace to my mother-in-law. Hopefully we'll learn to understand each other better. Over time, maybe we can move closer to that pleasant relationship I once dreamed of. Maybe.

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At 12:35 pm, May 24, 2007, Anonymous Sandy said...

ugh! I can't even think of the letters that make up my feelings on this one Cecily. I feel for you. It is beyond me, and maybe someday I will understand because I will someday have a daughter-in-law, why a mother wouldn't just look at her son's wife and say with all her heart "thank you!" Thank you for loving my son and validating that he is wonderful and lovable.

I've never had to deal with a mother-in-law. Sister-in-laws on the other hand I have had to deal with, and for fear that my husband may somehow find out all the things I could say about that I will be quiet now!

At 7:11 am, May 25, 2007, Blogger Angela said...

wow, this is a really great piece, cecily. thanks.

At 11:01 am, May 25, 2007, Blogger Cherie said...

Raw, honest, real. Agree with Angela here, really great piece!

At 11:27 am, May 25, 2007, Blogger Deanna said...

Thanks for expressing what you went through. Yes, sleep-depriving it sounds.

I watched my mom deal with a hard mother-in-law and ached inside. But her spirit, like yours, took on the challenge with God's help. She worked at understanding.

Sweet dreams tonight, I hope!

At 12:33 pm, May 25, 2007, Blogger Lucidiocy said...

My mother-in-law never approved of me, BUT she always tried so hard to show me that she did. I could read it, I'm no fool. She's gone now; she died (brain tumor) and I didn't have a chance to say, "Thank you for loving your son enough to try to convince the daughter-in-law you never approved of, that you loved her, even liked her."

Marsha was an amazing woman who did the right thing, although she knew, inher heart of hearts that NO WOMAN would EVAH be good enough for her precious son, she wasn't going to hurt her son by rejecting his choice.

God, somehow I feel like crap right now.

With great empathy,


At 5:21 pm, May 25, 2007, Blogger Robyn said...

Sorry Cec, you know about my MIL issues although thankfully we seem to largely be on the other side of all that for now. I hope that someday things will improve, and in the meantime I'm glad for your sake that she doesn't live close to you. Four days is too long for an inlaw visit! (Say I who has just had my mom come for two week-long stays in the last few weeks....we won't say anything about kettles/pot!)

At 4:14 pm, May 26, 2007, Anonymous luke said...

Just in case my MIL reads this, let me just say that relationships with in-laws must always be hard. It should be in our wedding vows:

"...I promise I'll never allow my parents to stay with us for longer than 24 hours..."

At 8:07 pm, May 26, 2007, Blogger Cecily said...

Thankyou all for your understanding comments. Yes, I'm hoping hard that none of my inlaws in Melbourne have even heard of blogs, leave alone mine (I think I'm fairly safe there!). Frank is OK with what I wrote... phew!

I think it's a huge shame that the whole in-law thing can't be more enriching and supportive, but I guess that when we wed people from such different families (as opposed to arranged marriages with the boy next door), it's only natural we don't understand each other so well.

I guess it's nice that I at least know what my MIL thinks of me Tamar... must have been uncomfortable for you!

Anyway, I shall endeavour to be nice to my MIL. I managed to hold my tongue most of the time - seemed better that way. A couple of times I did respond firmly, but mostly it wasn't worth it. (And I would never have got through one 'I feel _____ when you say/do______. I would prefer if you treated me like _______' before I needed to start another. Hehehe)

Thank goodness it's over!


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