Saturday, June 17, 2017

Lessons in Leaving

It has been eight months since I lost the love of my life. It’s been a ride. The last few blogs only begin to touch the surface of what has went on in my life, but one thing has remained consistent throughout the twists and turns. I missed him terribly, and nothing would make that wound heal.

One night earlier this week, I took a brief vacation from sanity and good sense and placed an ad on his Craigslist location as a missed connection. I did not say his name or mine, but I let all of my feelings out in a paragraph. How much I missed and still loved him. How I’ve never fallen out of love with him, and if he felt the same, he needed to find me.  It was rather romance novel corny. But a sense of relief swept over me as I pressed send. I had put it out in the universe. Thy will be done.

I have been re-reading the Stand by Stephen King over the past few weeks. In the book, one of the characters has a close relationship with God. She is a 108-year-old woman sent to be God’s representative as the world is rebuilt after a plague. God has a specific method of communicating with her, until one point when He goes silent. The character ends up going on this spiritual quest, and discovering that God had stopped talking to her because of her own pride. The end lesson was that she couldn’t control everything, and she needed to trust in God more, and remember the words “thy will be done.” It was a watershed moment for me as I read it. I’m always trying to force things into being, or not being. It is the human condition. But I realized with the simplistic beauty of the story that I needed to trust and accept more, and fight less. Thy will be done. Simple words, but powerful in practice.

I did not expect a reply to my Craigslist ad in his state. After all, what were the odds that 1) He’d read it, and 2) he’d figure out it was me? As someone who loves surprises, you can imagine how my jaw dropped when his response email came in within a matter of hours. After reading it, I went outside and sat on my front porch, and stared at the night sky and the fireflies. I teared up in happiness, fear, curiosity, elation. I carefully thought out my reply, and sent it.

We began texting back and forth. I was talking to my best friend, again. God was good. When he mentioned speaking on the phone, I balked. I wasn’t ready for that. It might sound strange, since I was the one who initiated contact, but I really didn’t trust myself to keep sane when I heard his voice. I didn’t trust myself not to fall in love within thirty seconds, and hop on a plane to the West. I decided to take it very slooowly, something he and I had not been good about in the twenty years we’ve known each other.  

We kept the chat light, which was ideal to me. I happily told him about some of the changes in my existence in the past few months. He said he wanted to save it for a phone conversation, but things had gone downhill for him even more, but they had just started improving. When he realized we weren’t going to be phone buddies, it slowly began to leak out.

A year ago when we rekindled our romance, he was in the middle of a divorce with a mentally ill woman. I use the word “woman” kindly. I had started referring to her as “the Thing” and ‘It” in conversation because of what she had done to him. Long (long, long) story as short as I can make it, she has borderline personality disorder, and is untreated other than her recreational drug use of different varieties. I would normally feel sorry for such a person, but she is evil personified. I will describe her character with just a short list of her antics. She uses and lies to her children to get whatever she wants or needs. She steals money and possessions. She revels in “getting even” with people who wrong her. She found a way to send her first ex and father of her first child to prison. As for my man, she had physically, mentally, and emotionally abused him. At one point, she had cheerily pushed him towards suicide. She took his car, and cut the brake lines before she gave it back to him. She tried to get him fired from his job, by spreading lies about him being a drug user, and that he had raped her. The first time he left her when she was pregnant with their child, she took a butcher knife and held it to her pregnant stomach, and began screaming for him to kill the baby. Terrified, he wrestled the knife away from her, but not before she did some damage to him. She called the police. He was arrested. He was happy to be arrested despite his innocence, because it got him away from her. When the truth came out, the state was going to press charges against her. He interfered and got the charges dropped, because he didn’t want her to have a criminal record.  

By the time I came along in his life again, they had begun the divorce process. She took every single thing from the home they shared, even trying to remove his clothes from the closet. She told him he’d never see the children again, and she’d make sure of it. Hell hath no fury like a psychotic bitch scorned. And that’s only scrapping the surface.

Had I not known him previously, I wouldn’t have touched that situation with a ten-foot pole. I hate drama, and had always refused to date an almost divorced person until the ink on the final paperwork was dry. But for him, I made exceptions. Of course I would. He was a good person who had been through agony he didn’t deserve.

We spent hours upon hours on the phone. I helped him through his trauma she had inflicted. I listened and worried as he told me about “what she had done today”. It was always something new and awful, and even though they were physically separated, she’d find ways to antagonize him. As promised, she began withholding the two children (the older was only hers biologically, but he adopted him since she had sent the baby daddy to prison, and the second was the child they had together) from him. He was devastated. Being a good father and husband was all he had wanted to be. He told me I was his angel. I knew I was the life ring afloat he was clinging to in the ocean of hellacious waters that was his life.

But the stress began to get to me. I’m an empathetic creature to the point of my own detriment, and I lost weight. Not in a healthy good way- but in a “I can’t eat because my stomach is in upheaval” way. I couldn’t focus on my job, and wasn’t sleeping much. My work suffered. When I did sleep, I began grinding my teeth on days when her drama was at a high. Still, I knew nothing that I was going through compared to his situation. He decided to come to my state for a little while and live with me, after he came here for a week. He’d be able to recharge his batteries after what he had went through, and we’d work out a plan to fight for his kids. The lease on the house they rented was up, and he chose to let it go since he was moving. But in the meantime, he wanted to save money before he moved here, so he lived in his car.

When he got to my state for a week’s vacation, it was evident he was worn to the point of a breakdown. It had it’s moments, but a good portion of the vacation and reunion was spent rebuilding him. The trauma manifested in so many ways, and of course it interfered with our own re-budding relationship. I knew it was worth it, though. I had seen him at his best when we were younger, and he was an amazing human. I just had to be there for him, and help him heal himself as best as he could.

As he left me to go back to his state, we were both in tears. He said he knew I was the light at the end of his tunnel, and he just had to make it through a little while longer. When he got home, he sank into a depression, because he had seen how good life could be with me, and he liked my state. He said he now realized what a shit hole his town was. He couldn’t wait to get out. But a month later, he broke it off with me. He needed to stay with his children. He needed some time to heal himself on his own. He had never been without a girlfriend since the first time we dated, and he had much to figure out. So on and so forth. And the rest is Craigslist (and previous blogs of mine) history.

Flash to today. We were continuing our text banter, and he dropped the bomb. Although they currently weren’t together, he had reunited with the Thing at some point. I was crushed. This was the worst thing he could have done. The absolute worst. I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach as he briefly told me of what had transpired a few months ago. Surprise, surprise, she had taken all his money, and accused him of attempted murder. He had a court date soon involving these accusations. At some point, he had had no housing, again. He thought of me every day, he said, because she wouldn’t let him forget it. I told him that shouldn’t be a shock, she had done this to him before, he should have known what he was in for.

Of course she wouldn’t let anything go and reunited as husband and wife. He had “wronged” her. He must be punished for leaving her and beginning divorce proceedings. And from everything I’ve read about the condition, some women will not stop until their ex-spouse is dead, usually by their own hand. He left her for the sixth time.

He told me he had done this to try and save his family one last time. Although I’m sure he doesn’t remember telling me, a year ago he had explained this was the reason he had gotten back with her so many times before. Justification for bullshit, and this time I knew it.

He insisted this had nothing to do with why we had ended. He explained that he would never leave his children for any amount of time, for any reason (as if that had been my idea), and I knew that his situation was complicated before we were together. And, he continued, did I think I was better than him? In his situation, would I have conquered life in the most efficient way? Did he deserve to be judged by this when he never meant to hurt me? He wasn’t making excuses, he said. He understood my pain, but he couldn’t take that away. He couldn’t take away his own, either, though. It was time to move forward.

I called my mother in tears, in order to verbally work out the whirlwind I was feeling. All of that…for nothing. All the hours I spent loving him, helping him, building him back up…just so he could go back for more. He was as sick as she was. Just a different kind.

The relationship between an abuser and victim is complicated with many layers. I know this. But after being drug into it, I had nothing but animosity for his decision to do what he did after we had been together. Allow me to quote him from September of 2016: “Are you crazy? There’s no way I’d get back with her after seeing how life and love should be, thanks to you. I’d have be insane to lose you for a third time.”

I suppose it’s good that he’s no longer with her, and claims it will stay that way. But frankly, my dear? I don’t give ten fucks for his drama, anymore. I don’t want to hear about it, anymore. It’s sad, and self-inflicted. Well, that’s kind of a lie. It actually hurts me to the core. She may just end up killing him. He deserves so much more. And at the bottom of the list, my pride is hurt. If I was so great, how he could go back to the Thing? However, I’m no longer willing to sacrifice myself for someone else. In the end, I’m all I have.

I took a deep breath, and texted him back. “I can’t say what I would do in your situation. Maybe one could accuse me of not giving enough chances in relationships. But I know what I’m worth, and I hope someday you figure that out for yourself. It’s truly freeing. Ultimately, you’re the one you have to live with 24/7, so it’s good for you to do things for yourself that would make you proud of YOU. Anyway…enough words. I’m sure you’re sick of other people’s words.” And then I changed the subject to something frivolous.

Yes, I’ll always love him. I can’t help that. But I can help how much I care to be involved, and given the circumstances, I don’t care to be involved at all, not on a deep level. I never want my sweet daughter to have to wipe tears off my face that were spilled because of him ever again. It hurts even to type this, but he can’t love and protect himself. How could I ever expect him to love and
protect me?

I think I know why the Craigslist ad was answered. Maybe. I think God was giving me the gift of closure, after I still stubbornly kept my flame for him lit. Because now I can really move on. Now I understand that he and I aren’t on the same emotional level, and he still has far to go. But it’s not my job to take him there. I like my sanity and myself too much for that. We aren’t soulmates. We were playmates.

After I post this, I’m going to go bake a cake with my hilarious daughter. I’m going to thank God for the modest, but steady pace my life has. I’m going to revel in the wonder of the new bird babies that have hatched on my porch…how amazing it is to watch life begin. I will do this with a mind that is uncluttered with someone else’s issues and pain. A mind that is free, finally.

Thy will be done. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

My Judas

I haven’t wanted to talk about it for awhile, truthfully, but it’s not done with me. It’s there, swirling, whirling, screaming. Repeating in my head, threatening to drive me to madness unless I express it quickly, and then I might be able to sleep. After all, as my elementary teachers would write on my report card amidst my dismal grades “Jane expresses herself well in writing.”

Having a ridiculously good memory about certain things can be a curse. Naturally, my memory hasn’t benefited me in any aspect that would be remotely helpful. Rather than cling to the educational experiences I wish it would, it likes to recall moments. Faces, places, experiences, emotions, intricacies, scents. The way the fog and film generated from these useless moments clog up my mind-space makes me long to Windex my brain.

But there he is. We are in the cottage I rented, and we are lying in bed in as the evening fades. The light glides into the bedroom as the sun sets, and creates rainbows from the stained glass that is installed above the bed. The rainbowed shadow hues illuminate his skin as he sleeps. I watch him breathing, his long, dark lashes splayed upon his cheeks, and think I have never seen a more beautiful male my entire existence. How fragile he looks at that moment, yet the strength that emanates from him is contradictory in a way that is both fascinating, and captivating. He sleeps deeply, he breathes easily. My fingers gently caress his check, my touch intentionally light as a butterfly’s wing, so not to disturb him.  At the touch he frowns a little, still sleeping. He shifts his entire body to the opposite side of the bed. I watch as he curls himself into an almost fetal position, and looks close to falling off the edge of the bed. Yet there he remains, tucked into that tiny space, almost as if he was protecting himself from someone hurting him…. because someone had. I slid closer to him, even though his back was to me, and continued my watch; as if my presence could battle what nested deep inside his mind, as if my love could negate any and all pain that imprisoned him.

I’ve only really been in love twice in my life. Although I give love very easily and have had many loves, there have been two types of love that were wholly reciprocal. The clich├ęd types of love that can move mountains, or destroy entire lives. If you don’t know the power of love can be quite destructive, then I insist you have never been loved. Or maybe I just keep rolling the dice and losing each and every time, so that’s the only type of love I recognize.

The next day, we walked around one of my favorite spots in the foothills, a group of religious mosaic grottos and rock sculptures clustered together in an outdoor environment that was serene in a way that I found healing. I hoped it would have the same effect upon him. We held hands as we viewed the sculptures. On my left hand, I wore a charm bracelet he had brought me. He had filled the locket portion of the bracelet with tiny little charms that were symbolic of me, of us. I took him to my favorite grotto, the one with the heart cut into the altar. I kneeled on the cold stone on prayed for him-for us. It’s funny how desperation can inspire the need for God more than anything. When I finally stood up, he gently took my arm, and slipped the charm bracelet off my wrist. He opened the locket, and fished out a tiny heart he had chosen for me, no bigger than a corn kernel. He snapped the locket back shut, and inserted the tiny heart in between the tiff rocks that created the mosaic part of the grotto. He said it would last forever, just as we would. He tilted my chin up, and sealed it with a kiss. I’m pretty sure the angel sculptures even wanted to barf at the syrup of the moment…but it was mine…and it was his…and we were each other’s.

We always had an innate connection, from the day we met in our high school algebra class. From the first moment of eye contact, when I caught him smiling at my fidgety fifteen-year old self, I had the strangest feeling of both being elated, and somehow transparent. We dated, it was a typical cutesy Romeo and Juliet story…bad boy, good girl. Star Valley crossed lovers, if you will. We had our puppy love/romance. But somehow it went deeper, and I think we both knew it. He ran. He ran far from me, and broke my disgustingly pure, innocent heart. He was really running from himself, and trying to find a remedy from pain that ran deeper than any teenager should have to experience. In my wholesome, stable nuclear family, naturally I could not relate to his world at all. He was light years ahead of me. I appropriately remained a child, as he became a man too soon.

As the time flew by, we moved through our collective spaces and tasted the bitter and sweet life had to offer in separate states, different worlds. Still, we stayed in touch. Around the ten-year mark of when we had last seen each other, he called me. We spoke on the phone happily, his Wife #1 was expecting their first child. Hearing his voice, it was as if no time had passed. Although the phone call was incredibly platonic, it was still meaningful.  Throughout the years I was always loyal to my partners, but somehow I knew in the back of my mind that he was there, in an untouchable part that no one else was allowed access to.  When his first marriage with Wife #1 failed a couple years after mine, I was genuinely sad for him. I had wanted a fairy tale story for him, since he had survived a number of horrific things., I felt it was almost owed to him. Despite all this, that portion in the back of my mind where he lived piped up that of course the marriage had failed. She wasn’t me. I reminded myself that this concept was ridiculous. We lived states away. It was an impossibility.

More time passed, and about four years ago, he was on his second marriage. I was between relationships, and we were talking on instant messenger. He confessed his second marriage wasn’t going well, and I wasn’t surprised. What little I had seen of Wife #2 had been discouraging. She didn’t look good as a human being… and she didn’t look good for him. They lost a child together, and he married her partially out of grief. I expressed my sympathy to him.  All at once, something washed over me. I’m a pretty dubious person. I question every damn thing I think or feel, and the world around me. But all at once, I knew something to my core. It was as obvious as air for breath, sunlight for photosynthesis, water for life. My fingers flew across the keyboard, interrupting the flow of our conversation. “There’s something I need to tell you. We’re not done yet, you and I. I don’t know when, I don’t know how. It makes no sense. But we aren’t done yet.” After I hit send, I stared in surprise at my own words-at my own certainty. What in the hell was I talking about? 

We started talking again last summer, this time on the phone. His second marriage officially had went belly up. Wife #2 was an atrocity – at a bare minimum she had borderline personality disorder, and had literally done her best to kill him. He and I spoke for hours about anything and everything, as we always had. We would converse late at night, when all the kids were tucked in, and both of us were off work. Eight hours into the phone conversation, I would notice the sun coming up, and knew I had to go to work with zero sleep. But I didn’t care. The whole situation was entirely illogical, and unreasonable. But I was happier than I had been in years. The night he told me he loved me…the first time in 18 years since the first time he uttered the words to me, I knew I was finally where I belonged, and this time we were toe to toe, both adults and ready.

And there we were in September. He had come to me in my state, and I had a plane ticket to his state the next month. It was a strange time, but a magical time. To have my past, present, and future finally woven together was incredible to me. The week we were together flew by too fast, in that cruel way happy times do.  The complications in his life added a weight to the situation that was less than ideal, but I couldn’t have cared less. Any time he and I locked eyes, I knew everything was going to be okay. How could it not? Fate had re-intertwined us, and how could it be so harsh as to separate us again?

I was looking for a house for us to buy locally. We weren’t sure of the specifics of the plan beyond a certain amount of time, but the initial one was for him to join me in my state for about a year, and then for us to relocate to his. I never thought I would have the courage to tackle buying a house on my own, but his faith in me was all the motivation I needed. Each night I would visit houses for sale, send him pictures and videos, and we’d discuss the possibilities. I had trepidation, but I believed in him. I believed in us. We both deserved this, and everything was going to be okay.

Until it wasn’t. I’ll never understand what happened. I have my theories, but they’re unimportant now. I live in a reality where I could theorize until I was blue in the face, but it would not change what was. What is. For weeks after he both gently and abrasively let me go, I clung to a stuffed animal from a dead friend (my brother Jason) when I tried to sleep at night. I figured maybe the dead friend could possibly intercede for me through the stuffed monkey. I told the stuffed primate in my arms everything. I was so consumed with grief that I didn’t give a damn that I was spilling my soul to an inanimate object. The pain was exquisitely excruciating.  I used to find inspiration in pain. This time, I felt nothing. There was nothing but the certainty that I would die alone. I felt like I was already on my way to dying, anyways.

I knew this wasn’t an option. I had a father who survived so many things, it would let him down if I gave up. I had a mother whom I had promised that I would never harm myself. I had a brother and sister in law who loved me. Most of all, I had a daughter who needed me. Death would have to come calling later. I’d have to find a way to live, even though I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect. I decided to move forward with buying a house. I had to have a reason to keep plowing through. I needed to have something to focus on.

The tiny, rehabbed 1920’s house became mine almost two months after he had left the state. The Christy Jo Lane house became a sanctuary to me, because I had found it shortly before he and I had ended. There had been no videos sent to him of this house, no pictures for his consideration. It was solely mine in every concept, in every plan. When the closing was finalized, I felt one brief moment of joy as I danced through the empty house one time to celebrate my first ownership of something substantial…and I had done it alone. I set forward to try and heal myself. I painted walls with Kleenex in one hand, a paint brush in the other, tears streaming down my face. I sanded cabinets with fury, as if I could light them afire and that would negate every moment, every look, every kiss. All the years, all the memories. I wanted it all to go.

But it didn’t, so I tried to wallow in it. I allowed myself tears, anger, sorrow, longing. Voices crept into my consciousness, the ones that are self-loathing, the ones that know how to play on my weakness. They hissed their words in unexpected moments. Finally, I had enough. I was removing cabinet handles, and out of nowhere, the flat tones began. “You are hideous, Jabba. You are unlovable. There is something wrong with you, and he came to his senses. You aren’t good at anything, and he finally saw it, just as they all eventually do. Why would you think this would be the exception, fat ass? Why did you think this was different? Did you really think he wanted a life with something like you? They never stay. They never do. You are the common denominator. Wanna know why? You are vile. You are vile. YOU ARE VILE.” I shook my head furiously, screamed in anger, screamed in emotional agony. I dropped my screwdriver, and picked up a nearby hammer. Gripping the handle with both hands trembling, I began to beat a 2x4. I screeched obscenities as I smacked the board with everything I did and didn’t have. I did not stop until I somehow cut myself on the back claw of the hammer. It wasn’t a deep wound at all, rather superficial despite the blood, yet I collapsed onto the floor as if I had been hit with a wrecking ball.  The tears came again, after all, crying was what I had become good at. I laid there and cried for a good while. Then I got back up and continued the cabinet handles.

I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that the house healed me. This is the part where the next door neighbor ends up being a single male, who swept me off my feet and made me forget everything about him. I am whole, and life is good. And then the credits roll. But it doesn’t quite work that way. You see, I’m broken. I say this without self-pity. I say this without trying to garner sympathy. I say this casually, almost as if I’m not even surprised by it. I was always so resilient before. Play a few Beyonce songs, drink a bottle of wine, move on, sister. There are plenty of jerks in the sea. But not this time. I have lost my other half, and this time it is forever. I’m just an empty body, carrying around a soul that has nothing left to give. 

“I’ve learned love is like a brick you can….build a house or sink a dead body.” -Lady Gaga, Judas

“But see that you get on. That's your job in this hard world, to keep your love alive and see that you get on, no matter what. Pull your act together and just go on.”
― Stephen KingThe Shining