Looking forward to looking back less often (Also, divorce doesn’t HAVE to be ugly)
December 31, 2013
I’m sure you have noticed that my return-to-blogging has been uncharacteristically introspective. I’m OK with that. People who know me and love me know that sometimes I don’t even know what I’m thinking ’til I write it down. Somehow having an organized and mostly-edited stream of thoughts feels good. Sure, things change. But it’s all timestamped and generally, I write just as much that I don’t publish. In fact, even as I’m writing this I don’t know if it will be left in draft (written just for the sake of writing) or published. I think the reason I’m publishing more lately is because I’m finally at a point where “It is what it is” and I’m gearing up to move forward in life.
That phrase has been huge for me over the past few years.
At first it meant “getting away from things that hurt”
And then it meant “surrounding myself with people whose presence has a positive effect on me”
And then it meant “Being the person that I want to be”
And now, I think it means “growing as myself”
All that time spent trying to be something I’m not really sucked. I tried to be a wife but I failed big time, I’m just NOT the kind of girl who can sit alongside someone I don’t like or like or respect for the sake of maintaining a lie of happiness just because someone says it’s good for my kids. That’s not me. I’m not the kind of girl who can set aside my own ideals and play by someone else’s “rules” because I KNOW life is better when I’m able to follow my own principals.
I know the navelgazing has reached an unbearable state. I’m at a point now where I’ve written enough that the people who have been in my life for years have started to come to me and give me more information. I knew that he had lied to me. I knew he had lied to other people. But I had no idea the extent of the lies. I had no idea the degree to which all of us were being played.
And here I am, two years later still trying to sift through the lies. As if it matters anymore.
At this point, I think the safest thing to assume is that “If he said it, it’s probably a lie”
On one hand, that’s liberating. Blanket statements like that DO tend to simplify things. But where does it begin and where does it end? And why do I even care anymore?
I guess part of me cares because I hate feeling like a sucker. And because I spent so much time loving a lie, a fantasy that one day he’d see what an amazing family we had and straighten his shit out. I loved the idea that all this “positive spin” on our situation might one day be true. I loved the idea that he really would one day make decent money and take care of us instead of just saying “Things will work out” while I worked my ass off to make things work out. I was madly in love with the idea of being able to just BE a mom to my kids. I have a LOT of kids and even one child can be a full-time job. I was always in love with the idea of focusing on my kids, raising them in a very hands-on way, with tons of conversation, play, interaction and loving presence. I was so in love with that idea that I imagined that if I could only be VERY GOOD AT IT, then he would see how awesome it is, too. I was in love with the idea of family togetherness. I was in love with the idea of working together to run a family. I was in love with the idea of traveling together, exploring together, learning together, growing together and moving forward in life together as partners. I was in love with the idea of looking back over many years and saying “I couldn’t have done it without you”
And the longer we were together, the more I looked back and said “That would have been so much easier without you.”
Because what I was really in love with was IDEAS.
So now who is the liar? I hate sharing the blame for the way things crumbled because in my fantasy divorce, we worked together to make sure the kids were OK during the process. Even my IDEAS about how a divorce could be peaceful were just that. My ideas. I wish I knew what I could have done differently during this process to have made it more peaceful. And yet every time I try to re-enact it, the only thing I KNOW is that the faster I got out, the better.
I knew plenty of people who had been through divorces and I chose to speak specifically to people who had worked together in order to make SURE the process wasn’t painful for their kids. I wanted to learn from them about HOW to end the marriage peacefully. Because the marriage NEEDED TO END. The relationship was already over.
My friend in Arizona… her and her husband realized they weren’t going to make it as a couple. They decided that the husband would move out to an apartment in town and continue to help her with the rent on the house until she could afford it on her own. It took a year, she was working in the evenings and he would pick up the kids so neither of them had to pay for childcare and TOGETHER- they built a new family situation whereby the kids didn’t have to suffer, they got time with each parent and slowly built new lives. They wanted a divorce, they didn’t want the kids to suffer.
I wanted that, too. But I wasn’t divorcing someone who had ever spent much time focusing on preventing the kids’ suffering. I was divorcing someone who focused on himself. If, in the course of the marriage, he had ever been “Mr teamwork” it might have been a different story. Then again, we might not have ended up getting divorced, either.
I told him about this couple, because he had met them once. I was hoping he’d see that there IS another way. It doesn’t HAVE to be ugly.
I had other friends, a couple I had met a few years prior, whose marriage was also ending. She, like me, just wanted out. They wanted different things out of life and had one daughter. I spent a lot of time talking to her husband because I was just blown away- impressed by the way he was handling it. He was heartbroken- first of all, because they had been together since they were teenagers, just like my husband and I. Only instead of having tantrums and fighting reality and getting angry and scary; this man was just sad and lost. He was honest, raw and working through his inner struggle instead of thrashing out at her. He wanted her to be happy and he wanted to make sure they created a parenting situation that was best for his daughter. They separated, they took turns caring for their daughter. He continued offering financial support to his wife until she was able to make it on her own (again- a luxury I didn’t even get while married) and TOGETHER they were able to end their marriage peacefully, without an ugly war.
Divorce doesn’t HAVE to be ugly.
And I’ve met so many other people since then who have co-created an end-of-marriage that didn’t contain hurtfulness, lies, hatefulness and anger. I haven’t met a single person yet who wasn’t sad about it. The ending of an era, the death of a dream… that seems inescapable. But destructive anger is a choice and some people choose NOT to include it in their divorce. I wanted that to be us.
I wanted peace when I was married, I shouldn’t have been so surprised that the divorce was ugly because the marriage was ugly, too.
I’m just glad it’s over.
And I regret being so in love with IDEAS that I didn’t even see the real person I was married to. I was blind, and kept lying to myself and trying so hard to believe that the charming person he was when he was in public was “the real him” and the mean and nasty person that I experienced in private was somehow my fault.
And now… moving forward…. with new ideas….
I’m thinking I need to just assume that every memory of sweet and happy times, was probably a lie. Every time I thought things might be OK was definitely a lie. Every happy time when I believed we were both on the same page was also a lie. Every fight and argument we had was just me (in love with an imagined person) feeling angry about the truth (that he was never the person I wanted him to be). Basically, a lie.
So fuck it. There hasn’t been a doubt in my mind for the past 3-4 years that I’d rather be alone than in love with someone whose deepest inner self goes against my most important values and principals.
I’d rather be alone than sharing my life with someone who could morph into Dr Evil at the drop of a hat.
I’d rather be alone than to sacrifice my happiness in the name of “working together” with someone who isn’t really on my team.
There is simply no reason to look back anymore. I wish this realization would guarantee that I can be free of the nightmares, the flashbacks, the fear and the anger that still grind at me.
I KNOW that the hurtful things he told me were lies. I’ve confronted enough of the people who supposedly hated me, thought I was a bad mom, thought I was crazy… and NONE of them have confirmed these lies. Not a single person that I’ve confronted has backed up the stories I have heard. And yet, I’m still hurt. You’d think that the realization that it was a lie would make it easier to move forward, but each new realization of a lie is like a whole new wound. It’s like “Yayyy, ______ didn’t really say that shit. Yippee. Damn. That hurt for two years for NO REASON. You mean it was ANOTHER LIE?” I wonder how long this will hurt for. Probably forever.
If I was smart, I’d be able to throw that blanket over it all and say “Everything he told me was a lie” but then I’d lose the good times, too. And it was the good times that kept me going. Were they lies, too? I guess so.
And I should have known.
I should have known that the summer road trip would he hell. He never did travel peacefully. Every trip we ever took ended in stress. Whenever we traveled I always had to raise the money for it, it was never QUITE enough and it always ended in anger and stress and fighting.
My idea (the one I was so passionately in love with) always consisted of spreadsheets with a fundraising ticker. I’m in love with the idea of percentages of income being set aside for a dream trip where we had the money we needed to do what we wanted to do. I’m in love with the idea of carefully planned itineraries with tons of exploring and sightseeing and photo-taking and memory-making.
Suffering without even money to buy my own socks sucked. So I built up a fantasy in my head that we were always working toward some goal. Some trip. Some magical moving-to-Seattle that never happened. Whenever I got sick of working for our income I’d beg him for help. “Help me with the kids, get a job, help me with the house, PLEASE DO SOMETHING because I can’t handle this anymore” and his response was always something similar to “Can’t you see that I’m working toward something BIGGER? You need to be supportive of what I’m doing and not complain because when my ship comes in, you won’t have to work anymore. Just hang in there.” So I’d convince myself that his contribution would come through in time to see us to our goal; that I was just working during the interim. because that’s what supportive wives do. They fill in the gaps.
But our whole life ended up being a gap after a while.
I just need to move forward. Is it possible to move forward when you’re looking back?
I need to look back less often. Driving down the freeway in LA, listening to Sirius for the first time EVER, I heard an old Grateful Dead song that I haven’t heard for soooo many years. The day had to come, right; when I’m quoting Grateful Dead lyrics:
There are times when you get hit upon; Try hard but you cannot give
Other times you’d gladly part with what you need to live
Don’t waste you breath to save your face
When you have done your best, and even more is asked of you
Let fate decide the rest.
“Don’t waste your breath to save your face” seems like exactly what I’ve been doing here. I even admitted, in a text message to a friend that I was “Passively-aggressively trying to get the last word in” And sure, that’s one way to look at it. But I’m also telling my side of the story, without being interrupted. No one has to read it unless they’re interested. If I get it all out here, then I don’t really need to talk to anyone about it anymore. I can’t keep it all inside because there are too many other women out there suffering the way I was. My story won’t help anyone if I don’t tell it. I can’t tell it all out loud because there are too many ways to look at it. I could focus on the lies, the addiction, the poverty, the fantasy…
And I need to learn from it.
Because even if I’m stuck in the past, life is still moving forward. I still have goals and dreams and a bright sunshiny future ahead of me. Clicking that “publish” button kind of seals the deal. I’m done over-analyzing THIS specific perspective.
And just like that, I am. Moving forward. And looking back just a little less.