The Makeshift Bandanna

I never felt so loved before. Not in my entire life, perhaps (Well, back in the day, when my kids actually loved me? They might’ve argued otherwise. I mean, my kids did absolutely adore me. Funny how time changes such things…😔).

Growing up, I didn’t get that kind of love. I didn’t get much of any kind of love, really. Certainly not from my parents, as I learned from an almost-complete absence of hugs and affection. I also learned it with inquiring six year old ears, hearing their mother adamantly scream, “I wish I never even had kids.” It that wasn’t clear enough, I was educated more directly when my mother called me ugly, or when my father punched me in the face, or when my parents mailed three letter to me, wishing that my children and I were already dead.

In some ways, I had to be affected by the traumas of my childhood. I can’t blame my upbringing for all of my flaws, but I can say for certainty that how I was raised had an effect.

I know what you’re thinking, Bitmoji. I’ve already covered the “my mom is a cunt” ground. I promise, I’m only touching on the topic tangentially, for perspective.

Haha. I’m not falling for your sarcasm. Not today, Bitmoji. Not after my weekend lovefest. You’re not going to ruin my mood…

Anyway. Back to the blog, Dear Reader!

Childhood-caused or not, I’ve suffered all my life with insecurities and depression. I’ve felt inadequate and inferior, my self-worth tightly ensnared in the arms of Imposter Syndrome. I’ve had an eating disorder and suicidal thoughts and…Well, let’s just say I was a mess of a person. And with that, I carried this desperate need to be loved. A need that just never seemed to be satisfied.

“Your own parents didn’t even love you, Markie. What sort of pice of shit must you be? Your parents WANT YOU DEAD, for Chrissake.”

—My mean-spirited inner voice. (On constant repeat, littered amongst other unfriendly mantras.)

In my previous marriage, there was love. I’m sure of that. We did have three daughters together and the relationship lasted for close to thirty years, after all. But our time relationship was tinged with feelings that we just weren’t good enough for each other. And even though I too was guilty of having beliefs that I deserved a better mate, the impression my ex gave that I was an less-than-adequate spouse just added fuel to insecurity fire that burned inside of me.

So when I say I never felt so loved in all my life, it’s not like I have this vast pool of data to wade through and compare. Yes, I was loved by my Grammy, but…not the same. Yes, my extended family loved me, but in comparison to the Makeshift Bandanna? An even wider love-gap, in my opinion …

I did. What’s your point? I…Oh, never mind. I…

Yeah, you really didn’t have to spell it out for us, Bitmoji. We get it. Again, back to the blog:

Ok, ok. Enough, Bitmoji…

Crude. But yes, I know exactly what you mean.

Anyway, I guess it’d be helpful to actually describe this special bandanna, huh? Let’s do this!👊

This past weekend started out with a Friday night dinner at an excellent Mexican restaurant. Deliciousness ✅

Saturday was a busy one. First, swim lessons for my love. Inspiration ✅

After the lessons, we headed to Wawa for a hot beverage and a bite to eat. Coffee ✅

Inside the store, I mentioned that an item I created for our e-commerce business had sold. The first of its kind and I was feeling rather proud of myself. My wife, distracted and frazzled with trying to order at the self-service kiosk while trying to handle our seven-year-old, effectively dismissed my comment:

“That really doesn’t matter right now. We’ve got to ensure the product is linked to our store. That’s the priority.” Feelings hurt ✅

Factually, she was correct. It was our first product offered by a new supplier. And it did require some additional hand-holding. But it still stung. It sent me back to my childhood, where I was the inferior one. Where praise was rarely doled out and where love was virtually nonexistent. I was hurt and I started to spiral, firmly stuck inside my head. And that’s where I remained, for five hours.

Yes, five hours. And It probably would’ve been longer than that, but with my wife’s birthday outing on the horizon, I was able to force myself out of it, finally communicating to Keeda how I was feeling. Talking helped, along with a few hits of weed.

Hmmm. I hear you. And honestly, I thought the same thing. A trivial, passing comment from my wife should not equal hours of rumination, walls-closing-in anxiety and an almost mute-like inability to convey my emotions. But, my therapist disagrees. Thicker skin isn’t required, as it implies ignoring your feelings. Instead, I need better coping skills for when those feelings start to rise.

Agreed, Bitmoji. In any case, right before the birthday winery outing, I was able to put the anxiety behind me. At least, for the most part. And I did so just in time for a nasty migraine to develop. We must “fight on,” I told myself, eager not to rain on Keeda’s parade.

In between bouts of intense nausea and crushing pressure in my brain, we had a lot of fun. Yes, the wine was shitty. But the food was excellent and the company was mesmerizing. I just love this woman:

Ignore my goofy smile, please. 😉

Before arriving at the winery, our friend’s eleven year old boy asked if I was ok: “What’s wrong? Why are your eyes glassy and staring off in the distance.” I’d say he was perceptive, but my countenance doesn’t lie: When I’m sad or not feeling well, it feels like my whole face is melting, sagging downward with gravity.

Despite the brave mask I wore, it was obvious I was struggling. Numerous people suggested an alternative location for extending the day. But I was adamant: the plans were already set and I refused to spoil my Queen’s day. The problem? After the winery, we were going to the casino for music and dancing.

Now you’re just being an asshole, Bitmoji. You know exactly what’s the problem. Flashing lights are extreme and immediate migraine triggers. Throw in the loud, chaotic sounds of a casino and it’s a recipe for my migraine to thrive. With lots of protesting from my wife and friends, I insisted we still go, arguing that worst case, I could sleep in the car while everyone hung out. Turns out, that wasn’t required. And it was all due to a tender act of love.

It was a simple thing, really. Fastening a bandanna out of a scarf isn’t rocket science and can be executed in under a minute. But in that particular situation? It was absolutely ingenious and utterly heartwarming.

Sitting in a booth, Keeda covered my eyes, tying her scarf around my head. Occasionally stroking my arm, she gave me exactly what I needed in that environment: a cessation of all obnoxious visual stimuli. I didn’t care if I looked like a fool; head wrapped for close to two hours, I rested my head against my wife and I slept in our private-party booth.

And then…I started to feel slightly better. At first, walking was shaky. And navigating the maze of flickering neon lights and slot machine noises and annoying people was…problematic. Keeda to the rescue, yet again. She led me around by the hand so we could grab a bite eat, my head down and my gaze fixated on the ground, two feet in front of me. Glancing up was just not an option.

And then…I started to feel better still. Enough to actually go out on the dance floor, strategically placing my field of view to avoid offensive strobe lights. Occasionally I’d have to cough and with each expulsion of air, I was reminded of the pain and pressure in my head. Bent at the waist, I’d place my hands against my temples, trying to keep the pain and pressure from causing my brain to explode. All things considered though, I took it as a win.

It was just a bandanna. A scarf, actually. But it seemed like so much more. It was a gesture of such caring and concern that I’ll remember the weekend just for that alone. She did everything with a balancing act, demonstrating a tenderness without ever making me feel the slightest twinge of guilt for interfering with her special birthday. If I ever have any doubts about the extent of my wife’s love for me, I can always look back to this weekend. Yes, it was just a bandanna. But it was also so much more. When I need grounding, when our relationship goes through times of strife, recalling that one little thing will remind me how lucky I am. And with that, everything will be right in this world.

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