Understanding Topanga

Hi Blogland.

Here is a thought that I had: The blogs that I most enjoy reading are the ones in which the writer opens up a little, shares enough personal information to be interesting, and is candid about things. So – deep breath – here is some information that is personal, hopefully interesting, and feels candid.

Last month, my parents separated.

This is not a place for me to talk about what happened for them or their reasons or what is happening now between them or even between each of them and me. But this is a place, I think, for me to say that this is something that is happening, and that it is hard.

My senior year of college, I lived with my roommate from freshman year (she’s now in Africa and is bringing me a lion cub as a wedding present, of course) and two friends who had been in a long-distance relationship for two years and were now moving in together – with us.  This was a huge adjustment for all of us.  Their relationship had its ups and downs and its occasionally audible sex (sorry!), and it was the first relationship that I saw from this perspective besides my parents.  It’s not often that you get to see couples in their nice clothes and their pajamas, at their good points and bad points and boring old “you clean up dinner while I do my homework” points.

There are some “do”s and “don’t”s that you take from different relationships that you see, and I took a lot of “don’t”s from that one, and a “do” or two. One thing that’s really hard right now is that I took from my parents’ relationship pretty much all “do”s and only one or two “don’t”s.  Their relationship has been one I admired and even, to some extent, idolized.

When my parents stopped living together, my sister called me* and said, “Remember that episode of Boy Meets World, when Topanga’s (omg, remember Topanga??) parents come to visit her at college and tell her they’re getting a divorce and then she calls off the engagement with Cory and leaves for awhile?  I never understood that.  But now I do.”

And I do, too, though please don’t think that that is what is going to happen.  But I get that the relationship between her parents was one that probably many of her other relationships were based on in some way, and that now it has ended, and she had no control and no say and no way to know what really happened and ensure that whatever it was wasn’t going to happen in her relationship.  Of course she had to take a break.

I’ve pretty much reverted to being sixteen years old, all the time.  Angsty teenage Bird, here I am.  I am getting mad because Turtle didn’t make dinner, or because she made the wrong thing for dinner, or because she did make dinner, or because she did or didn’t walk the dog or did or didn’t call me.  She pretty much can’t do anything right by me right now.  And despite my fairly constant frustration and snippyness, she is still here.  She is still making dinner and walking the dog – or not – and she is doing a damn good job walking away from me when I am trying to engage her in some argument over something completely, absolutely not worth arguing about.  She is keeping our sanity in this move, and she is making sure that I am okay all the time.  Even when I’m being a big old jerk.  She is even helping me carry my crazy heavy kayak all the way down our road to the water and then hanging out with our poorly behaved dog for half an hour so I can paddle around before she helps me carry it home.

I don’t think I will ever know exactly what is happening between my parents, because how can anyone know the intimacy and intricacies of someone else’s relationship?  It has certainly been here for my whole life, but I have definitely not been here for its whole life.

What I’m trying to focus on are the things I do know are issues, and how they might affect me, and if I might have similar habits or tendencies, and how to avoid or deal with those things before they become problems in my relationship.  I am trying to talk to Turtle about what is happening and how she feels about it, when I’m feeling like I’m at least a little older than 16.  And I am trusting that if we can get through all of this together, we are starting things the right way.

Words of advice, blogland?

*Having a sister is absolutely amazing when hard family things happen.  Thanks, sister.

my sister and me, age 4 and 6 (?)



Filed under Home, Marriage/Wedding/Engagement, Relationships

6 responses to “Understanding Topanga

  1. Melissa

    Oh Sweetie…I’ve known for a while, and while they aren’t my parents it just tears me up inside too. I know I cried for hours after that email from your mom. While I was younger when my parents divorced, I do know how much it hurts. Family is here for family, remember that. We all love your parents and you, Katherine, and Alex…just absolutely to pieces. k? Much love and hugs…

  2. I’m so sorry! I wish I had good advice for you! I will say that I really appreciate you talking about this- I agree that the relationships we admire totally shape our own relationships and so when they are in trouble we are left asking “what does this mean for my relationship?” And I think that the fact that you are asking this is a good thing. A very good thing. This gives you the opportunity to look at your parents (and your own) relationships a bit more objectively, and figure out what works/worked and what to work on. I think that you’ll probably feel a whole range of emotions as you work through this and the fact that you already recognize this is good. But man I wish I could give you a fastforward6monthsbutton, ya know? And I wish I could give Fancee that button too! Big hugs and good thoughts for you ladies and your family! Hope I made at least a little sense and if not just ignore me and cash in on the virtual hugs! 🙂

  3. Oh man, I’m really sorry to hear that you’re dealing with this. The timing is pretty crappy, but parents divorcing is always bad timing. Mine divorced when I was 4. I’m glad to hear that Turtle has your back. We all revert to being teenagers sometimes and it sure helps when it’s not both partners at the same time. It’s all about taking turns 🙂 So happy to hear you have your sister to lean on too.

  4. dulcea

    hey, bird. just wanted to tell you that i’m making that face i make when you go and do something super sweet and all senstive-y and introspective — AND it’s about you and us and our wild, awesome, delicious mess.

    i love you.

    p.s. – when i’m not trying to dissuade 16-year old bird from having an inane argument, i sure do love her a whole lot. she’s fiesty!

  5. Ms. E

    I’m so sorry to hear that. Hugs for you and everyone!

  6. Coreen

    While I won’t be the first or last to say it, I’m really sorry. I know that (forgive my lack of finesse) it totally sucks. What I have found important to remember during times that suck:

    1) It actually does suck, so it’s okay to feel crappy. You don’t have to pretend to be okay when you’re not. Sometimes you just need to cry or go for a run or kayak or whatever and that’s okay.

    2) It won’t always be this sucky. However cliché it sounds, try to keep in mind all the things that make you happy. Let yourself be happy when you feel like it. Try to let yourself continue to trust in people and things have have been steady in your life.

    Finding a balance between 1 & 2 is tough. But the trying helps. I can’t think of much else to offer your other than virtual hugs and well wishes all around. So: Hugs and well wishes!

    Also, if you ever need a pick-me-up I personally find this youtube vid. of a super happy little girl does the trick:

    She makes me smile.

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