GONE

If I had to name all the occasions that lead up to the moment of my leaving last week; it seems as though the list from the past five years might be endless.  A small part of it might look like this:

Maybe it was the fact that you told our tour guide (TG) the second day you met her that “you will be my second wife” contributed to the demise of our marriage. For you have worked very hard to make that statement come true by putting TG on a pedestal while you wiped your feet on me as you dusted and shined your Vietnamese FANTASY. You know, the fantasy whom you have spent five whole days with over the past five years. Maybe that led to my leaving.

Or maybe it was the fact that you sent her so much money that it was the equivalent of 20 years salary in Vietnam. With that much money she began living high on the hog…fancy dinners, beautiful clothes, fixing her father’s home… while I bought shirts at TJ Maxx for $14.99 to which you would comment, “When did you get that?” as if I had done something wrong.

Perhaps it was all the time and care you took into ensuring her needs were met and picking out gifts for her. Necklaces, perfume and oh yeah,,,that engagement ring that she wears on her wedding band finger.

Maybe it was all the lies…thinking that you had ended it so many times after your assurance that you did…only you didn’t. The phone call you had me witness and participate in telling her it was over. The letter you wrote to her saying the relationship could never be.

Although it might have been the daily “I love you’s”, the hugs, the great sex, and the kisses that were so faked (according to what TG told me) that you could have made Vivian Lee swoon.

Maybe it was making me feel “less than” while you struggled to choose who your heart would belong to….a competition that I could never win. Making me feel as though I could never do enough…and I couldn’t… because in your mind TG would always do more. Or the fact that you were hiding a quarter of your take home pay in a private account and couldn’t understand why I would wonder if you were sending money to TG and then getting upset when I mentioned her name.

Yet, another fact could be the day that I opened an envelope from J.P. Morgan stating that you changed your beneficiary of your investments with it going half to your sister instead of taking care of your kids. You said it was so she could divide it among your siblings because they had been left out of your father’s will 15 years ago but if that were true why not divide it with 33 1/3% going to each?  Instead I believe that she was instructed to give it to TG. Frankly, doing things like this without discussion with your partner seems kind of suspicious and slimy to me.

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But it really boils down to was a few days in which clarity arrived like a freight train as it plowed into my ears through my mind…its horn loud and piercing my heart until all the blood from my body seeped out of itself, spilling onto the tracks, along with all of the love that I once had for you. And like a bullet train, my love was here one minute and gone the next and I was left standing, suitcase in hand, on the platform of life deciding which direction I wanted to take. And now I am here ….alone….without my children….my heart breaking. Yet, I have been wise enough to put that suitcase down along side  those tracks and refuse to drag it along behind me for the rest of my life. For you and your lies are packed in that suitcase and it is has been a heavy load to carry around with me the past five years. Now, I never want to open that suitcase again.

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But really what drove me to leave were these few things that all happened within the past ten days. The first was the night that I told you how I had been working with my therapist to come up with what a needed to feel that we were working towards healing and that our new life together was on track. You know, that night I told you, “Honey, I need a new symbol of our commitment and would like for us to go on Sunday to pick out new rings and re-new our vows on our anniversary.” And you said something along the line of “I am not sure that I can do that because I don’t know that you can change to love, honor and OBEY me. ” That was definitely the beginning of the end because if you loved me you would have said, “Whatever you need to make you feel safe in this relationship. I will do whatever it takes.” Yet, you had never, once, throughout these two years of me knowing about the affair been willing to do whatever it takes. And you should have. I deserved no less.

 

Finding the love letters between the two of you and the naked pictures of your time in Singapore didn’t help the situation especially as I ran through my head the number of times you told me that you had nothing left from the affair.

But really it was the butt-dialed conversation I heard between you and your sister that drove me away. Hearing the distain you have for me in your voice just about did me in. Hearing the two of you laughing at and about me was one of the most painful things I have ever heard. You know that conversation:

“…I asked her what she was seeing her therapist for and she said PTSD.”

“…from my affair?”

“and she said yes.” (chuckle, chuckle, laugh. laugh)

“…oh that is the new diagnosis. Everyone has it. But if anyone should have PTSD it should be YOU from living with her!” (chuckle, chuckle, laugh, laugh)

Or maybe it was hearing her say you were lucky to be living in Texas now… for the divorce and hearing your answer. Your words made me finally realize that there was a strong possibility that you had brought me to Texas with you in order to get the kids with you (since they were with me in CA) so you wouldn’t have to pay child support nor spousal support. If that was your plan it was so deliberate and cunning that it sacred me and shook me to my very core. It was that moment that I also realized just why you didn’t want me to come to CA to work on my house until after the 30th. Texas law required that you be a resident six months to file and in just a few more weeks you could file against me for divorce and try to get the jurisdiction of our pending CA divorce changed to the  State of Texas; a more favorable state for you. My heart started bleeding with that realization because my intensions to start over and be with you and our family were true while yours were not.

Hearing how you made yourself out to be the victim of the housecleaning wars was also interesting as was when you asked your sister how the TG was doing and it became obvious that your sister was in contact with her for you.

But it is conceivable that what really sealed the deal was how, when the next day arrived and I asked you if you had talked to your sister you said, “No, I haven’t talked to her in at least a week” while looking directly into my eyes.

“Really, you haven’t talked to her?”

“No, not at all.”

“Stop lying to me I know you talked to her yesterday.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“You butt-dialed me (or did he…maybe it was intensional?). I heard every word!”

“No, I didn’t.”

How…how can you stare into my eyes and continue lying? And at the moment I realized the price I was paying was too high and I didn’t want to pay it anymore. That my sanity was worth more than I could ever lose remaining with you.

So I have left your fantasy land. Mine too. Our “trial” reunification in Texas is done.  I have been stripped of everything I thought was true about you, about me, and about our life together. I no longer know what was true the past five years and what you made up to appease me and to protect your guilty self. In fact, upon reflection, I don’t know what was true EVER. And that makes me angry. I am angry that I was so stupid and trusting. I am angry that you set me up. I am angry that you and your girlfriend fucked up our lives and that now I am left alone…our kids living with you because I loved them enough not to just take them with me.

Why?

Well, Paul is in his senior year of high school. He will graduate in four months and is finally doing well in school. His high school has worked hard to help him succeed and feel good about himself despite all the challenges his disabilities present. No…I could not pull him away from that because of my own needs. And Gracie? Well, she has two more years of high school and loves her new coach. Finally, she is getting great coaching which is paramount for a kid wanting to go to college on an athletic scholarship. No, I couldn’t do that to her either.  And Andre…well autism serves him well. He doesn’t care if we divorce or who he lives with as long as he gets to remain in his room.

I am back in my house in CA. It had not sold while I was in Texas. Unfortunately, about six weeks ago it also flooded due to a sump pump failure which insurance would not cover. So I am spending close to $50,000 to repair this house and living in at at the same time. This week I am going to try my hand at tiling a bathroom floor as well as get back to studying my textbooks so I can have a “career” again after I divorce at 59 years old. (I mean who starts a career at almost 60…let’s be real…it won’t be a career like you have had rather it will just be a job). And with it my lifestyle will go from vacations and having to worry much about money to cutting coupons and shopping at Good Will while you wine and dine your fantasy.

We haven’t talked since I left except for 40 seconds about a crisis occurring at the rental house.  Thirty-two years of marriage and we have sent less than a half dozen texts. And while I hurt like I have never hurt before it is also incredibly freeing not to be living with a narcissistic liar anymore. Knowing that what I see and what I hear everyday is the truth is calming my brain and helping me to experience a sense of peace that I have not known in many years.

My friends are concerned. They are afraid that I will go back. But this time I won’t for it is done. I am done. Forever. Just hearing his laughter and distain did more to drive me away than the past five years that he deliberately tried to get me to leave. And because of his warped thinking he can now tell himself the story that he is innocent….that I left him…that I am the bad one….in order to feel good about himself. Yes, B, you’ve won but so have I in a way that I never imagined…I am acting with a sense of purpose and Dignity and Grave. I am treating myself well.

In fact, the other day I bought myself something very nurturing for my re-birth. It makes be feel very safe and cocooned-like. It also brings relief to my set on “high alert”  sensory system has been under attack for the past many years. This gift to myself is contributing to my sense of feeling grateful, peaceful, and calm.

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So friends….don’t worry about me… I am cocooned…I am safe… And B can no longer touch me or my heart. I am GONE. And one day I will feel safe and happy again. It can only get better…and it will….one day at a time. Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

 

AH-HA MOMENTS

Last week I bought this sign for my kitchen.

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Today, that sign played out in my life as an all-too-rare “Ah-Ha Moment” and for that I am grateful.

It all started with a beautiful sunrise this morning which morphed into a cool afternoon devoid of rain. I decided to take a hike on one of the numerous trails that surround my home. It was a beautiful fall-like day with crisp-clean air, sweet dew laden grassy smells and wildlife galore.

 

After visiting “The Point” my son, Paul, and I started back up the trail. As we turned the corner near the visitors center where a few houses sit back of the path; I heard a Swoosh- followed by a rather loud SPLAT. Looking up I saw two 10-year-old boys lobbing lemons in my direction.

My first reaction was, “those little assholes. Why haven’t their parents taught them better.” That was obviously not the thoughts of the 70+ yo ladies who were heading up the path while I was going down.

“What was that?” the woman asked.

“Lemons,” I answered.

The woman looked over at the young lads and exclaimed loudly, “LEMONS!!!! I JUST LOVE LEMONS!!! CAN YOU THROW SOME MORE MY WAY?”

The boys looked at one another with a total look of surprise on their faces. Then they smiled and gently tossed more of the yellow fruit to the two old ladies who picked them up from the ground with the delight of 10 yo girls playing baseball on a summer’s afternoon.

AH-HA MOMENT…the sign…when life gives you lemons make something sweet…or funny… lighthearted and enjoyable. Why, I wondered, do I use the lemons life throws my way to leave a sour taste in my mouth instead of finding the sweet that is embedded in the moment? Why go to negative first instead of finding and embracing the positive? Why not ask, “Can you throw some more my way?” and be pleased to have them land at your feet?  Yes, I could definitely infuse many parts of my life with more sweet and less sour.

I thought about this as I walked home…tired but enlightened. And later, as I was munching on some of the best lemon bars I have ever made, I was grateful to realize that making something sweet was much more satisfying than being an old sourpuss.

 

The Importance Of Protest

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Today I was amazed at the number of women who were upset and “appalled” at the women who gathered together to march and show solidarity for women and the issues that touch their lives.

One of the proudest moments of my life was marching with the Mothers Of The Plaza de Mayo. Marching can do incredible and meaningful things, correct wrongs, and bring important issues to the forefront…this is an example of why.

Between 1976 and 1983 thousands of young people went missing under the military dictatorship in Buenos Aires. Nothing was able to stop this until a group of very brave women began to march every Thursday seeking answers to the fate of their loved ones. They marched in defiance of their government’s state terrorism meant to silence all opposition and those asking questions/demanding answers. It was their unceasing presence that finally helped lead to the downfall of a government that murdered approximately 30,000 people.

Today these same mothers can still be found, in wheelchairs and on crutches refusing to let their voices be silenced. They may not have made a difference to their lost children but they saved the lives of thousands more. That was one of my proudest days…marching with these brave and determined women.

I hope that today was one of your proudest days as you marched in unity all over the world. (Now that was a surprise!) Be proud of yourselves. Pat yourselves on the back. You have joined woman all over the world whose protests have made a difference…sometimes it just takes a while to know exactly what that difference is.

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Life’s Necessities

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I’ve had people tell me that I have had a very different and an interesting/amazing life. I would have to agree.  But how does one create a life that is interesting and  worth living? That is something I have contemplated for a while now. While I am not close to figuring it all out, I do think that there are some universal components that help to craft a life worth living, these being:

  1. Be daring. Believe in yourself and take chances as you move through life. No one ever got anywhere by sitting in a recliner. You have to “Just DO It” enough to make it seem routine so you don’t scare yourself silly.
  2. Help others.Until you have done for others you really have not done for yourself. Everyone needs to experience the gift of giving of yourself freely in order to know what is needed for your soul and the souls of those around you. So many important lessons come out of helping those who need it but mostly it allows you to discover who you want to be and how you want to live your life in a way that is meaningful to you.
  3. Practice your skills. Everyone has things that come naturally to them or something that they enjoy doing. You cannot create your masterpiece without practicing all the components that go into it. Just as Michelangelo did not create the Sistine Chapel by doing a single paint-by-number canvas, you cannot do your best without first examining and putting into action those things that are important to you and practicing the skills that it takes to enhance and complete the task. There is a reason for the saying, “Practice makes perfect.”
  4.  Be adventurous. Without the planning, excitement, and the sense of accomplishment that comes from stretching your wings while creating your own adventures, you might as well be moving through life as if in a big bowl of jello.  As dynamic human beings we are not meant to stagnate so exploits are an important part of the game.  Adventure = expansion and growth both of which are the spice of life.
  5. Spend time working on meaningful projects. In the early part of our marriage we spent three years of weekends traveling 4 hours one way to a house that we were building. It was when we ran out of projects and the sense that “we” were accomplishing something together that our marriage began to fall apart. We all need to feel a sense of accomplishment for a job well done that has occupied our thoughts and moments for an extended period of time. That feeling of having a task to do and completing it to the best of our ability is what boosts our confidence and instills in us the belief that we can take on whatever is thrown our way.
  6. Be reverent. Seek opportunities to be in awe of something greater than yourself. For some that is being with God and for others it is communing with nature while hiking. Find those things that take your breathe away and then find a way to make them a more regular part of your life.
  7. Love deeply, purely, and like there is no tomorrow…because there may not be.
  8. Get rid of the vices whether they be excess food, alcohol or drugs. If we take ourselves to places that make it difficult to do the things we must or the things we want to do; then we are harming and cheating ourselves of all that we have been given. Intentionally harming ourselves is idiotic not just because we hurt ourselves but more importantly because we are often hurting others.
  9. Never stop seeking knowledge for it is the key to life. It creates, it destroys and it allows you to achieve beyond your wildest dreams. If you aren’t learning several new things a day then you are not living fully in a way that is beneficial to yourself and humankind because lifelong learning is what makes us human.

 

Sometimes Being A Mom Sucks Big Time

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So today was Gracie’s big meet. For a 11 year-old who has only been in the sport 2.5 years she does remarkably well. She works hard. She practices 20 hours a week. She watches videos of all her favorite Olympic divers and she reads books on the subject. She is the hardest working kid I know but sometimes that just isn’t enough.

Today’s meet was the largest held in the world with 29 states and 5 countries represented. She woke up and ate breakfast. When we arrived at the venue Gracie started crying.Hard. Fast and furious. This is a kid who never cries and goes into a meet exuding confidence. Always. But here she was crying and all the parents on the team were looking at her with big ??? on their faces because they had never seen her like this. She was a mess.

“I feel sick. My stomach hurts.”

“I think that maybe you are just a little nervous. Give it sometime and you’ll be fine.”

“No. I am really sick. I am going to puke.”

“You weren’t sick 10 minutes ago. Are you sure you aren’t just nervous?”

“NOOO I am sick,” she wails.

One of her teammates walks over to her and tells her a story of how sometimes she gets butterflies before competing.

“It’s not that. I am sick,” her body being wracked by sobs.

Back over to me she comes.

“I can’t do this. My stomach hurts.”

“Okay, well here is the thing. I think you are nervous and I am afraid that if I tell you that you don’t have to compete the next time you have a competition you will be paralyzed by fear and you won’t be able to compete then either. So I just want you to go out there and do what you came to do. I don’t care if you finish last. It doesn’t matter to me. Just go out there and try to have fun.”

Bigger tears. Sniffles. Lots. More tears. Huge tears. Rapid tears.

What is a mother to do? Where is the manual on the best way to handle drama?

Coach and team take her over to the staging area. Five minutes later she’s back.

“I can’t feel my hands.”

I’ve always had a fear of drowning and at this point I swear I am beginning to feel water rising to ankle level due to the hurricane of tears.

“Listen if your hands are numb then I have to take you to the hospital.”

“Nooo!”

She sulks back to her team. Obviously this is getting me nowhere fast. Time to switch tactics.

Three minutes later she’s back.

“I’m dizzy!”

“Okay. So go scratch. Go tell your coach that your cannot compete.”

“NOOOOOOOO! I can’t let my team down like that!”

What is a mother to do? What can I say to this tween that will make a difference?

“It is not a matter of letting your team down. It’s a matter of letting yourself down and how you will feel if you don’t compete. What matters is you. I don’t care what you do and in 10 years you won’t even remember your scores. You have decide for yourself if you would feel worse competing or not competing. It is all up to you.Only you can make that decision and I am not going to make it for you.”

“Mom, I just can’t,” she squeaks… gasp, gulp and even more tears.

“Seems to me you have two options. Either you scratch or you suck it up, buttercup, and get out there and do your best in a situation that is not ideal. I will love you either way.”

So she competes and earns two 4th place finishes and one tie for 3rd. Not bad at all for all the tears. For all the “sickness.” For all the doubts. For all the fears.

Later as she stood on the podium collecting her medals she was relaxed. Happy. Calm. And as those medals clanged softly against her chest I realized that the medals I cherish most from this meet are not the ones that hang around her neck but the one that now rests within her head. It’s the one that will remind her that she CAN do what she sets out to do even if she has to work through her fears to grasp it in her hand. To me, that last medal is worth more than gold. I hope she will think so too someday and will treasure the memory of how she overcame all the crap going on in her own head to earn it.