divorce

my defining moment as a frog in cold water

Acute stress feels like it will crush you where you stand.
I promise you it won’t. Your fight or flight instinct will kick in and save you. Acute stress feels overwhelming and most of us would do anything to get away from it. But, acute stress won’t kill, no matter how much you believe it might.
Chronic stress is what will kill you.
Chronic stress is like putting a frog in a pot of cold water and then slowly turning up the heat. The frog doesn’t realize what’s happening until it’s already boiling! That’s when one of two things happens. Fight or flight kicks in to save you, or you just die.

I’m an expert in chronic stress. I’m that frog in the pot of water. I was lucky enough that my instinct for flight is so strong. It saved my life.
I spent seventeen years with a man who emotionally abused me.
His sabotage so subtle, his manipulation so nuanced, it was poetry of pure unadulterated evil. He brought passive aggression to new and frightening depths. For the most part I was unaware on a conscious level. I went about my daily life feeling anxious without actually realizing it.
Sometimes I would wonder…Why did I require so much sleep? Why did I turn so much of my focus to my children? Why did I feel nauseous when he would come home? But never for long because there would be some sudden kindness and I would smile and believe him when he told me everything was lovely.

But on some level, I did know what was going on. I did know that something was amiss. I focused on my children to be a buffer between him and them so he couldn’t treat them the way he treated me. I presented the picture of the perfect little family to the rest of the world so no one would realize that he was not what he seemed.
I was scared of him. And scared isn’t a big enough word, but I’m honestly too lazy to thesaurus right now. He frightened every fiber of my being. Somehow I knew he’d never lay hands on me. I wasn’t worried about that. I didn’t realize the internal wounds could occasionally be worse.

He used to tell me that I was crazy. That I was certifiable. That they would put me in a straight jacket in the padded cell and that was where I belonged. He told me no judge in his right mind would give the girls to me. I had nothing and I was crazy. He told me that he would take the girls and I would never see them again.
I would have done and would still do anything for my girls. So I stayed with this man.
He read my journals. He read my email.
He even tried to sabotage my friendships…he had to do that carefully because he didn’t want to show his true colors. I was lucky that most of my friendships were strong enough to withstand his tricks.

I was trapped in a hell I helped create.
Every single day of my life I was scared.
Every single day of my life I was anxious.
Every single day of my life I was angry.
I was miserable. My girls were miserable. I was failing at being a mother. I was failing at being a person.
I was the frog in the pot of water suddenly aware that I was boiling!

This was the defining moment.
Would I die in that pot of boiling water?
No! I would save my own life!

The chronic stress was literally killing me. I was dying. I had to do something to preserve my own life.
I told him that I was done. I told him that I was empty and dead inside. I told him that I had nothing left to give. I told him I was leaving because I knew he would never leave.
When I finally left, he acted as though he was surprised. As though I’d never expressed any of my concerns. I didn’t even argue. I just walked away.
That’s when he turned on my girls. He manipulated them. He used them as weapons to hurt me.
That’s the only thing I regret about leaving him…what he did to my babies. You want to hurt me? Come at me directly.
My poor babies had to suffer for me to live.
That doesn’t seem right. But it was how it was.
A dying person is a desperate person.
I had to save my own life.
They’ve moved through that part of their lives. Will they ever heal? I honestly don’t know.
I know the only one who came out unscathed was their father. He has no clue what he’s done…or he doesn’t care. How’s that for crazy?

I was told by friends and family that I was strong. That I was brave. I felt neither. I felt as frightened as I’d ever been. I did what I had to do to stay alive.
It was the hardest thing I ever did, saving my own life. I only wish I’d been strong enough to do it sooner. Of course, the frog doesn’t realize what’s happening until the water comes to a boil…

I’m writing about this because of a conversation I had with my friend Nora last night, and a conversation I had with my sister in law today. Nora and I talked of relationships and life and celebs and sports stars we’d like to have our way with. We talked of previous lives and choices we make. We discussed “winning” at divorce. (When your life is better than it was before AND better than your ex’s current life.) We talked about being mothers. We ate pasta and drank a goodly bit of wine. We were “just girls” together, but we talked of important topics.
She’s actually the one who verbalized the frog in water analogy.

This afternoon I had a distressing conversation with my sister in law about her relationship with her children’s father. Apparently their state of chronic stress has escalated to acute and he’s announced he’s leaving. Knowing him as long as I have, I think he’s having a bit of a temper tantrum and it will blow over and they’ll go back to their life of chronic stress.
It is killing my sister in law. Now, there is a fairly decent amount of her stress that has little or nothing to do with him. She has some of her own shit to sort.
I told I knew what she was capable of. I suggested she tap into that deeply rooted power and make a better life for herself.
She expressed her fear.
Fear can ride shotgun, get it out of the driver’s seat. Fear will never drive me again. But it sure as hell likes to go along for the ride. I was scared half to death to make that huge change. Especially considering what impact it had on my children.
She’s not ready to do that hard work. She will eventually have to decide to save her own life or she will die.

I can’t run other people’s lives.
Some days I can barely run my own life. Seems that way lately.
I have stress in my life. But it’s acute stress. It causes an immediate reaction. And though my flight instinct is the strongest, I’m learning to fight. Fight the good fight. Fight for what’s right.

I fought the good fight by flying all those years ago. The fight to save my life. Because I tell you, I was dying. Not metaphorically dying. Actually. Physically. Emotionally. I was actively dying.
I learned the most important lesson about myself by saving my own life.
I learned that I can do anything.

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Categories: divorce, loss, me, on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

it can’t be a contest if I choose not to particpate

Thing 2 told her father she’s coming to live here in the fall…this was her decision and hers alone. I offered to help her tell him, she told me she wanted to do it herself, partly because it was her plan and she wanted to advocate for it and partly because she knew if I was involved he’d think I was coercing her. Thing 2 is very bright.

She told him on Tuesday, and this is the email he sent to me Wednesday. Following that is my response this morning.

I am thrilled FOR my daughter, not because she’ll be with me, but because she is ready to climb out of the hole he helped her dig. She’s climbing out all by herself. I couldn’t be more proud.

I don’t understand this “you win” nonsense…but then I have never played the game.

(email he sent early Wednesday morning)
I don’t know where to start and wish I didn’t have to. The idea of letting Thing 2 go to Va. just hurts me so, but it is probably the best thing for her. I just want her to be in the best place for her to grow. Living here has been a slow learning process for her and I feel to blame for that just because she has been home alone far more than she should have been. I have to work and keep the bills paid, food on the table and have entertainment expenses. If she had gone to CHS this past year it may have been a different result and I believe better.
You have gone to Va. and tried to make a new life for yourself but I have been left to try to make a life here where my life of taking care of my family has been twisted to become something different. I am not sure what I can do to help Thing 2 here now that I have committed to the expenses of this house but it would have been the best thing for Thing 2 if she had stayed in school at CHS. I could give up and make my expenses less but now she wants to create a new life in Virginia and that may be the best thing for her.
So now I have to go to work like always and soon I must find a way to make a new life for me.
You Win……..JM

(my resonse)
JM,
The fact that you said, “you win” makes me feel sad and kind of sick.
Nobody wins here. Thing 2 failed her junior year and wants to drop out of high school.
Everybody fails.

I agree she would have been better off at CHS…and that might have been able to happen second semester had she been able to get it together enough to pass first semester and transfer back. But she was not supported by the people who are supposed to support her. We are her parents. We must behave like parents and support our children.
We failed her.

You work the way you work, the way you’ve always worked. It’s not an excuse, it just is.
I understand you’re having to reconfigure the plan of your life. I understand that it’s hard. You’ve stood on your own two feet financially since you bought your first house…now you have to figure out how to stand on your own two feet emotionally, and it’s hard, and you don’t have much practice…so it’s going to feel icky, and I’m sad that it’s icky for you.

I had nothing to do with Thing 2’s decision. She called me and asked if she could come here, asked if she could be in my home. My babies will always have a home wherever I am, I can not, did not tell her no.
I did not feel that I’ve “won” anything. I don’t view those girls as a contest with you. I don’t consider them items with which to hurt and humiliate you. They are my babies. I will always work tirelessly to do what I believe is best for them.
Thing 2 believes she will find success by relocating her life, I support that, not because she’s coming here to where I am, but because I heard her voice, heard the long dormant fire in her belly crackling as she spoke to me. Heard her planning, and being excited to plan, her future.

The fact that you say I’ve won makes me think you’ve got it all wrong…I don’t believe it’s a contest.
I chose to do what I believed was best for me when you decided what was best for you was for me to be away from you. I saw your seriousness and chose to make arrangements to leave when you expressed your desire for change.
I never saw any of our life as a contest, that feels hurtful, as though knowing you and loving you is somehow negated. If it’s a contest then we’ve both lost.

I don’t like that you’re hurting. I have not liked hurting. I don’t understand what happened to the kindness between us, I guess it went away when it turned into some kind of contest.
I choose not to participate in any contest with you. I choose to just be. I choose to just care.

Thing 2 needs something, she’s looking for something, perhaps she’ll find it here, perhaps not. But she’s looking. I don’t want to discourage that.
R

So the high road pays off…my friend and mentor will love that!

Categories: divorce, me, on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

why am I always surprised?

I’m always surprised. You’d think after 26 years I would have figured it out…but no, every single time, I’m surprised.

My former husband called me Friday and said: happy Easter. (Aww, that was kind…did I mention I should have known better than to think is was sincere?)
After a brief time of catching up, he asks if I know what Thing 1 did.
Uh…no.
Well it seems she went to the emergency room and the bill showed up at his house as that’s the one listed on her driver’s license. So he wants to know what I’m going to do about the bill.
Pardon?

I suggest we have a mini discussion about it with Thing 1, see if we can come up with a plan all together. (I mean if she’s off shacked up with this guy, why are we still financially responsible for her?)

Then he begins to talk about Thing 2 and how bad her anxiety has become.
I suggest he take her to the doctor. He has no idea what that means…no idea where to start. I suggest he take her to the family practitioner and go from there…and when he hems and haws I remind him that he’s the parent and he has to be responsible for her. Which kind of turns into a bigger discussion than he’s interested in so he hustles off the phone but not before he says he’ll call me back. (He doesn’t.)

Saturday morning I get a call from Thing 1, guns a’ blazing. She’s all bent because, “Daddy told me you said send the bill to me. How am I supposed to pay it?”
Whoa there sister.
I do a little damage control and move on.

I call her father (who conveniently doesn’t answer) and leave a message.
When he finally calls me back, I’m like, what’s your deal?
He says: Well I was mad at you so I called Thing 1. (You stupid, passive aggressive, manipulative jackass!)
I stop him right there and say, “You have got to get it together! Be a grown up, be a man! If you are angry with me, you talk to ME! Not our children! You’re up my ass about money but can’t be bothered to discuss what’s going on with Thing 2. You’ve made a huge mess down there and you are going to have to clean it up.”
He is quiet, then he makes excuses, then he apologizes. (The apology is meaningless, he just says it out of habit, to end the conversation.)

I honestly don’t understand. Any of it really. Starting with the fact I thought he was a grown up all those long years ago and ending with how I continue to ask myself, why did I choose to remain blind for so long?

I made a promise to remain hands off in the fall when he and Thing 2 decided she didn’t need a mommy in her life.
I made that promise to myself. I vowed not to clean up whatever mess they made. It has made for some harrowing moments for me…but I am sticking to it.
The problem is they’ve made a bigger mess than I could have ever imagined. Thing 2 will suffer for it, but she is choosing to…
He has no idea how to be a parent other than to provide food and shelter…that’s all he’s ever done.
The thing that frustrates me the most is the fact he won’t admit he’s cocked it up. He would rather let it all burn than admit he’s made a mess and try and figure out how to clean it up…or ask for help cleaning it up.

He called me under the guise of happy Easter, my beloved Easter. And I was surprised when it went down the rabbit hole. (Shame on me.)
When will I stop being surprised? Why do I continue to give the benefit of the doubt?

I am so much better off away from that toxicity.
I’ve thrown my baby a life raft, she’s choosing not to take it.
It’s time to sink or swim.
My friend and mentor has told me I built her foundation and she’ll be successful in spite of all this…I trust that.

I’m so disappointed in myself for believing so long that he is something he’s not…I believed the facade I helped create.

Categories: divorce, me, on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Thing 1 says

A curious thing happened…

Thing 1 called me this week specifically to ask a question, but also have a chat. We discussed her question and then moved on to our chat. Somehow, Christmas came up…she told me it’s her boyfriend’s family’s big holiday and she was thinking she’d go there with him. I said, “Well your sister has decided not to come here for Christmas like we planned so I’m not sure how that’s going to affect your decision.”
She said she assumed that was what was happening and then VERY quickly said, “I’m staying out of it. It doesn’t have anything to do with me and I don’t want to be in the middle of it.”
I replied, “Oh I understand. It directly affects me and I don’t want to be in the middle of it.”
She told me her daddy called her that first day as soon as he got off the phone with me. (This struck me as odd, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
She went on to tell me she spoke with Thing 2 to check and see how she was.
I said, “I’m not going to ask you what Daddy said because it’s none of my business, but I am confused as to why he called you.”
She said, “Mommy you need to know Thing 2 doesn’t hate you. She loves you very much.” (This was almost too much to bear.)
She asked, “Do you want to know what I think? I think it was very stressful for all of us when you and Daddy split up, and we were all exhausted. And I think Thing 2 doesn’t want to be stuck in the middle anymore. I don’t think you guys meant to, like intentionally, but you kind of used us to get at each other.” (This is when I almost had apoplexy.)
She went on to say Thing 2 is happy getting to do what she wants because Daddy is never home and you’re not there anymore and she can just chill. (Chill? No, she’s loving the fact her dad treats her like a roommate instead of behaving like a parent and I’m not there holding her accountable. Sorry…I digressed there.)
She said that Thing 2 just needed a break. Then she said, “Mommy, I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, this is just what I think.”
I said, “Bear, you are not hurting my feelings. I appreciate your point of view. I need to tell you something very sincerely and need you to please listen equally sincerely.”
“Yes ma’am.”
“I have never intentionally used you or your sister to hurt your daddy. I have never manipulated either of you or him. In fact, I once told your daddy that I would sacrifice everything and walk away from you both to save you from that ever happening to you.”
There was a loooong pause…and then a very quiet, “Oh.” Then I heard her take a deep breath before she said, “I’m so sorry, Mommy, because I know now I did hurt your feelings.”
“No you didn’t. I just need you to know that my intentions have always been pure when it came to you and your sister, I have always put your best interests above everything else.”
“Thank you, Mommy.”

Then interestingly enough…both YBW and her boyfriend showed up simultaneously thousands of miles apart and changed the dynamic. So we said hello to the guys for each other, expressed our love and got off the phone.

Wasn’t that a peculiar bit of insight?

WHY IN THE HOLY HELL DID THEIR FATHER IMMEDIATELY GET ON THE PHONE TO THING 1 AFTER TALKING TO ME???

This has plagued me to no end.
Not to mention the fact that I know who the master manipulator really is. (And it ain’t me!)
Here’s the beauty of the way he functions…he has no conscious clue he does it, he just does! He couldn’t hurt me directly…he had no power to do that…what he had was access to the two people I love most on this planet. And THAT was where he went to work. He was able to manipulate them without their knowledge to hurt me. He used them to hurt me and punish me for hurting him. He was able to watch me suffer and never had to lift a finger.
And why does he get to be with Thing 2 and I do not if she needs a break from BOTH her “manipulating” parents? (I am fully aware I was being immature right there but my kid thinks I did something horrible to her and I DIDN’T!)
Why had I chosen to be blind for all that time? To make a choice to ignore who he really was?
For many long years I have wondered if I could trust him…but now I know I absolutely cannot.

(I didn’t want to shout at YBW about this situation even though it would have been safe to do so, and I didn’t want to talk with Sundance about it because sometimes she and I create a maelstrom that’s hard to escape and I already needed to be less insane about this situation.)

I wanted to write my daughters’ father a letter, one where he could see it in black and white…a letter that said nothing but “I statements”. (I don’t understand this, I am confused by this, I feel sad when I think or hear this…) I was not about to throw accusations or blame…I was going to make it all about me.
But fate intervened in the form of my friend and mentor.
She said, “Do nothing. You raised your girls beautifully and they will see everything one day. They will see you consistently took the high road over and over again. They will see your grace and dignity. He is what he is, a product of his environment, he is somehow emotionally stunted and you can see with your kind heart.”
WOW.
That struck a chord deep within me and I know she’s right.

So I stop and I breathe.
I trust Thing 1 and I trust Thing 2. But most importantly I trust myself.
As much as I hate being on the journey I will admit knowing I’m on the high road makes it a bit less arduous. Surely the high road will get me to my destination sooner or later.

Categories: divorce, loss, love, on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

lunch at El Pobs

Went to lunch with my former husband today, it was fun and bittersweet all in one fell swoop.
We ate Mexican food (I drank a margarita) and talked about random day to day things…job stuff and practical stuff, but mostly we talked about Thing 1 and Thing 2 and what it’s like to be their parents. We discussed how it will be as we move forward and parent from two entirely different physical places. We discussed faults (without any real blame) for behaviors and actions specific to Thing 1, and he apologized. We talked about how it will be to trade Thing 2 back and forth over 500 miles and that it will most likely be a very good experience for her.

We’ve been lucky to remain close even though we’re no longer a couple, but I believe it’s because we were friends before we were a couple to begin with…and actually, we were more best friends who raised kids together than anything else and that’s just fine with me.
Now this is not to say we didn’t have bad times, because did we ever! And he is manipulative and passive aggressive and I am selfish, stubborn, and controlling…honestly I’m not sure how either one of us stood the other for as long as we did.
But the love is real and it won’t ever go away.

I’ve known him since I was seventeen years old, he knows all my history and I know all his. I’ve known him for over a quarter century, had his name for more than half my life. We have been through the good, the bad, the indifferent…it was hellish and it was lovely. I broke his heart when I chose to end our marriage, I’ll always be sorry for that but I will never be sorry for deciding to do what was best for both of us.

I’m glad he and I made those two Things. I’m glad I got to be a stay at home mommy for so long, to play and learn and love those awe inspiring girls. They are my babies, my heart, and I wouldn’t have them if it wasn’t for him.

I feel overjoyed knowing in four short days I’m going to be in my new life, with the man I love. I deserve every bit of the happiness I’m about to experience.
I wish the Things daddy his every heart’s happiness too, I hope he chooses to embrace it, whatever it may be.

Categories: divorce, love | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

sussing it out

So without going into great detail…due to some landlord changes I am going to be homeless sometime between now and the summer.
Isn’t that just peachy? What I love most is the absolute lack of time schedule.
And because I’ll be homeless, Thing 2 will be living with her father.
This pleases me not.
He has swayed her with promises of a brand new suspended bed, a fenced yard for her dogs, not to mention the general fact she’ll have a roof over her head. She is excited for her new living arrangements, as she should and deserves to be.
I on the other hand, want to make swift use of my icepick.

After many tears and panicked phone calls to YBW, and my friend and mentor, not to mention conversations every single day for the last ten days with the doctor I work for…I have decided…to stop and breathe.
Yes breathing is good.
My doctor says, “you’ll come stay with me for a little while.”
My friend and mentor asks, “what do you want?”
YBW (indicating himself) says, “your home is right here.”
I am surrounded by kindness. Why does that surprise me so? Oh yeah, because I’ve not experienced kindness for a while.

Financially, I’m…well…little more than a pauper. I work two part-time jobs and I’m a full-time student. Honestly that’s all I can say.
So, not having a place to live and not exactly having the means to find another place leaves me…out.

The former husband (my best friend for the last 25 years, even after we weren’t together anymore) has shown his true colors and I honestly cannot believe I was stupid enough to let him mistreat me for so long. The level of pain his behavior has caused throughout this situation has truly shocked me, and I no longer see the man I loved, but the manipulative, passive-aggressive monster I was told he was all along.
I can only hope that Thing 2 has seen his behavior with clear eyes…at the same time my heart breaks for her, I hate that she’s seen her beloved daddy in this way.
I can no longer be a buffer between him and my child (Thing 1 is a dyed in the wool daddy’s girl which is perfectly acceptable) but Thing 2 has always had the protection of me between herself and her father. I hate that she’ll be exposed to him without that mommy buffer, but I can’t do anything about that.

I can feel my friend and mentor encouraging me to focus on me and not them. Yes ma’am.
So what do I want?
Beats the hell out of me.
Well I better suss it out quickly.
All I can do is nod.

As I drove Thing 2 to school one morning this week, she took my hand and said to me, “Mommy you should go live with YBW where you’ll feel safe and loved. I can come visit you, and YBW loves me too so we’ll be safe and loved while we’re together.”
My friend and mentor says, “you did that, she didn’t grow up in a vacuum.”

I think, yes please. Which is immediately followed by, but it’s so far away from you.
So I said to my darling Thing 2, “it’s so far away. And what about the everyday stuff?”
“We can call and text and email and face time and skype and I can come see you.”
I paused, my friend and mentor and I had a long conversation about how it might work, then I said, “if that is how it goes we have to make a commitment to each other…”
“I am committed to you Mommy!”
I hadn’t even finished my sentence and she’s committed to me…is this a girl I can live without?

YBW and I discussed the practical stuff, where would my things go? How would we do financial stuff? When would I arrive? Would I cook for him and do the laundry? (my absolute favorite household chores I do when I’m there anyway) Then he said to me that his own Thing 2 (he has two Things just like me, but his Things are boys) would be the happiest boy ever if I came to live with him. (YBW’s Thing 2 and I have our own special love)

So in the last ten days, this has been my life. Hateful little fish swimming round my brain. The bastards.
Needless to say, nothing has been decided.
Thing 2 and I must discuss how we move forward before I can even begin to make a decision. Can we do it well? I trust us. I believe Thing 2 trusts us. We can do it.
I need to really heed my friend and mentor’s advice, and ask myself what I want…and be able to answer it with brutal clarity.

I have wondered for a little while if something ungoverned by me would force this decision sooner than expected…I’m thinking of the Fates, the three sisters who pull the strings…and how much I want to stab those bitches with my icepick.
I am reminded of Scarlett O’Hara who said, “…they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over…”
I wish I could talk to my mom.

I can do this. I can make sure Thing 2’s needs are met and I can focus on making sure mine are too. I am brave and I am strong and I am loved by wonderful people who are working hard to support me through this insanity.
I am going to be safe and loved no matter where I lay my head.
If I say these enough I’ll begin to believe them.

Categories: divorce, me, on being a mom | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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