Should’ve Known Better

My stubbornness isn’t news to me.  I’ve often joked that, “stubbornness is associated with my astrological sign, but I refuse to believe it.”  But it’s only in hindsight I can really see how strong my stubbornness is.  Sometimes stubborn is good – it can mean perseverance in difficult times which leads to triumph.  It can also mean a refusal to see what should be obvious.

None of these last few posts have been easy to write, but this one literally kept me awake at night because I knew I needed to write it, but I don’t really want to.  It’s 3 am and after being awake since midnight, I gave in and fired up the computer.

Several years ago, an old friend from high school stumbled upon my writing blog.  It was a crazy coincidence and we emailed periodically.  Things changed a couple years later when I started writing about the end of my marriage.  In particular, a poem about the drinking caught his attention.  He admitted that he, too, had been an alcoholic. He revealed more about his life that happened in the 23 years we weren’t in contact and I admired his honesty.  As I struggled with the decision of whether to end my marriage or continue the lie, he encouraged me to seek God for the answer.  This was always a struggle because God hates divorce, however, my marriage was destroying what little was left of me.

It wasn’t until after I filed for divorce that my friend revealed that “he cared for me more than the world says he should.”  I didn’t know what that meant.  He told me that in high school, he always went to the fast food place I worked at to see me.  I just thought he liked cheap food – I really had no idea.  He told me that he always liked my hair and my smile and when I laughed, it made him happy.  He graduated a year before me and went into the Army.  We wrote for a while (he still had the letters) but then drifted apart.  My senior year, I wrote a poem about him that was published in the school district literary magazine.  It was about feeling more than I should for my friend.

He lived across the country but I saw him in 2015 when he came to visit his parents.  We met for lunch,  I had hoped that seeing him would put an end to the crazy attachment I had for him.  He mentioned several times he was overweight, or his shape was round.  My ex had gained a lot of weight and I found it “gross”, so I figured when I saw my friend’s appearance, I would get past what I thought I felt.

I didn’t.  I saw him for the first time in 25 years and he hugged me.  My world was crumbling around me, but when he hugged me, I felt like I would be okay.  I felt safe.  I’d never felt like that before and I knew I loved him.  He said he’d never forgotten me all those years, and had called my parents’ house when he filed for divorce in 2000, but he thought my dad said I’d passed away several years ago.  My dad mumbles so I think he might’ve said he gave me away several years ago.  It was like my childhood fantasies were coming true – I was beautiful to him and he would rescue me.

There were several problems though.  The biggest:  he was still married.  He didn’t get divorced in 2000.  He said there was no chance for his marriage and it was “empty”.  I told him to keep praying for his marriage because God can work miracles.  I stopped contact with him several times – I really wanted him to work on his marriage because it would spare me the guilt over my feelings.  That didn’t happen.

In 2016, he applied for a job in Arizona with his company and he got it.  He would live about two hours away from me.  We went hiking a few times and met for lunch, and he helped with some things around my house that I couldn’t do myself.  I was bothered that he said his marriage was done but his wife was still moving with their high-school-age son (their daughter had already moved out).  However, I could understand he wanted to be near his son.  I couldn’t imagine living across the country from my child.

Things went too far last summer.  His wife knew and contacted me.  I avoided her.  I had no explanation and I knew I was wrong.  I thought that would finally get things out in the open, and bring about some honesty, but no.  They didn’t talk about it and are still married today.

I stopped contact with him again in February of this year.  Then I got a mother’s day card in the mail from him.  I was hurt/angry/shocked.  I ripped it to shreds.  The next day, I emailed him (I deleted his contact info but I remembered his email address.)  I told him that if it was him, I didn’t know why he would do that.  He did admit to sending the card but didn’t sign his name because he didn’t know how I would take it.  He said the more he tried to talk himself out of sending it, the more he felt he needed to, and he hoped I enjoyed the card.

Oh, he had no idea!

I told him that I knew there was no future for us and I hoped that he realized the same so he could stop being stubborn and stupid, and work on his marriage.  I told him I felt like he played me, took advantage of my vulnerability, and used me.  He had nothing to say.

This has been a painful lesson, but I’ve learned a lot from the experience.  I’m accepting that there is no one on this earth that can/will rescue me.  That was a foolish, childish dream.  As much as I wanted to share my life and grow old with someone who truly loved me in the way God intended for love to be, I am letting go of this idea so I can be focused instead on what God has planned for me.

If there is a silver lining in all of this, I would say that it has broken my stubbornness.  By removing every crutch, eliminating all chances of denial and forcing me to evaluate myself honestly, I can finally stop hiding and can let go of all these things that have burdened me.

Oh, and of course my parents don’t know about any of this either. My mom likes to tell the story of how my grandpa (her dad) used to pick on me as a child and get me riled up to argue.  My mom asked why he did that, and he told her ‘because it’s a tough world out there.  If she’s too nice, she’ll never survive.”  I hear this story almost every time we talk.  I know she likes it because it helps her remember her dad fondly.  While I can appreciate the love behind his actions, I’ve grown to dislike this story because it reaffirms the deep feeling that I was never right and needed to be “fixed” or changed from the very beginning.  I love my parents and I think they did the best they could, but I think there will always be a distance because of the disconnect between the daughter they wanted and the daughter they have.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

At least I’m not alone – my kitties are the bright spot in my life, and I’m thankful for that!

05-29 Lizzy
They love me…
05-29 Skye
and make me laugh! 🙂
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Continuing the Journey

It was a huge relief to write of some of the darkest secrets I’ve stored away.  So much so, that I feel compelled to continue.

Throughout my childhood, I continued to struggle to fit in at school.  I finally started to find real friends beginning in sixth grade.  But it wasn’t easy – I didn’t trust and always kept on guard for the betrayal I knew would come.  This is when I started sharing enough of myself so people thought they knew me, but not enough that I was vulnerable.  Deep down, I suspected if they really knew me, they wouldn’t like me. The conscious effort to change myself began my Sophomore year in high school.  The move to a new city was the perfect chance to be someone other than me.

My parents separated when I was in junior high, but that was temporary.  My dad’s job took us to Phoenix my Sophomore year of high school.  My ninth grade year was spent obsessing over the best method to die, because I couldn’t take the misery anymore.  Moving at that time was a blessing.  However, my parents’ fighting didn’t cease.  This was about the time I broke and allowed some of my anger and anxiety out.  As I stood at the top of the stairs, drawn out of my room by the screaming and banging, I watched as hangers were thrown.  Between the physical fighting and the hateful words being shouted, the frustration got to me.  Normally quiet, and observing the interactions unseen, I surprised myself when I screamed at them to “Stop!  Just stop it!”  I don’t remember everything I said, but I do remember I told them to not even bother apologizing because that’s what they always did and nothing changed.  My brother came out of his room and tried to grab me to calm me down.  I shoved him and yelled at him to get away from me.  Then I locked myself in my room.

Sophomore year was the year my friend, Holly, introduced me to poetry.  I embraced that outlet for getting some of my emotions out.  I never wrote journals because I feared someone would find them and there was no way I was letting anyone inside my head.  Poetry was nice because it was like a journal but in code.  I could read the poem and know exactly what it meant, but I felt safe in knowing that others could not.

I never told my parents I wrote poetry, even when one of my poems was selected and published in the district literary magazine my Senior year.  Someone wrote about that when they signed my yearbook.  My mom always read my yearbook and she asked me about it.  I lied and told her I didn’t know what they were talking about and said they probably got my yearbook confused with someone else’s.  If I had told the truth, she would have wanted to read them and if I declined, she’d play the guilt card.

After I graduated high school, I went to college because that’s what I was supposed to do.  My mom drilled it into my head from a young age that I was going to be able to support myself; I would never be stuck in life because I had no other options.  She said she couldn’t leave my dad because she couldn’t support herself and that wasn’t going to happen to me.  Secretly, I wanted to have someone to lean on- I wanted to depend on someone but me, but that wasn’t something I could express.  When I told her I wanted to go into graphic design, her response was it was too competitive and I wouldn’t make good money.  So I didn’t pursue it.  I majored in Psychology (ironically, with a bachelors degree, it’s one of the lowest paying professions) and I think she was okay with that because there were possibilities at the masters and PhD levels.  I didn’t make it that far, though.

I really wanted to be married, which is odd because what I grew up with wasn’t all that great.  I think the fantasy world I lived in when I was younger made me think that I could make it different.  I went on a lot of first dates but very few third or fourth dates.  It was discouraging and the nagging feeling that there was something wrong with me persisted.  I would back away when pushed for physical things.  I couldn’t do that – and the pressure made me angry.  I was 19 when I started dating a “nice” guy.  I didn’t feel pressured for once.  We dated for seven months and he talked of marriage (he was five years older) and I felt like I finally found someone who loved me.  I slept with him.

My mom found out about the relationship and and started yelling at me.  She called me a slut and a whore.  All, while my grandmother, who was visiting from Colorado, was in the next room.  I was embarrassed, humiliated and angry.  I tried to get away from her hateful words, but she blocked the door to my room and shoved me back.  I stumbled and fell into my nightstand.  I got up and charged at her and she goaded me to hit her if it would make me feel better – this is what she did to my dad!  I stopped and laughed and told her she wasn’t worth it.  I started to pack my things, but realized I couldn’t leave just yet.  The car I drove was theirs and I didn’t have enough money saved up to pay for tuition.  For the next year, I saved as much as I could.  I bought a crappy car, but it was mine.  And on my twentieth birthday, I told her I was moving out and already had a deposit on a studio apartment.  She was angry that I was “sneaky” and kept it from her.

The guy I was dating thought it would be good to live on my own before we got married.  I was disappointed, but it made sense.  What happened was that living on my own, I started to see things about him that I wasn’t okay with.  He drank too much with his friends.  He couldn’t pay his bills (I bailed him out several times) and he had lots of dreams, but not a lot of action towards pursing them.  After two and half years, he casually told me he couldn’t see himself being married.  Ouch. What made it worse is that I found out that several months before, he had talked to my best friend to see if she would talk to me about getting help because I wasn’t good in bed.  She shared this bit of news after I broke up with him.  This hurt a lot because I already felt inferior, like I was messed up, and that made it worse.

And here’s where I met my ex-husband.

We started dating and I thought I finally found someone that could take care of me.  He managed a restaurant, after all.  Things moved pretty fast and I was determined to prove that I didn’t need help; that I wasn’t a disappointment.  Well, my parents found out about that relationship and I was still a slut and a whore.  I was equally determined to prove them wrong.  When he proposed to me a few months later, I accepted.

There were some red flags that I chose to ignore.  I felt I had to – if that relationship ended, my parents (mom) would be right and I couldn’t let that happen.  So, when he went into a jealous rage when a guy from school gave me a ride home, I told myself it was because he loved me.  When he drank too much at a food show and drove home drunk, I told myself it was a one-off thing and he wouldn’t do it again.  When my friends warned me he was bad for me, I convinced myself they were jealous and ended those friendships.  When my mom told me a week before my wedding that it wasn’t too late to back out, I considered it, but ultimately chose to move forward because marriage would make me alright.

I spent the next 18 years living a private lie.  I didn’t marry someone who would protect me and care for me, I married someone selfish with as many insecurities as I had.  He was looking for someone to care for him because he didn’t want to be alone.  My peace-keeper role in my immediate family carried over to my marriage and I lost more of myself as I tried to be the perfect wife.  But I wasn’t.  As the newness wore off, I realized I didn’t like him as a person.  I didn’t want to be intimate with him and the more he pressured me, guilted me, or became downright mean, the more I disliked his touch.  Toward the end of the marriage, he had taken to grabbing my crotch when he was in the mood and I wanted to throw up because it reminded me of things I didn’t want to remember.   I couldn’t tell anyone about the way my life really was.  In 2009, I turned to writing again as I had in high school.  This outlet allowed me some escape from my miserable life.  He didn’t like to read and didn’t get my story ideas, so I learned to keep all of it to myself.  I never told my parents about my writing blog, either.

I was cleaning out my closet last week (literally, not metaphorically) and came across cards I had saved over the years from my ex.  They were all about wanting sex, thanking me for all I do for him or looking forward to spending money, whether it be on a “thing” or travel”.  Nothing about me personally that would make me special.  Seeing him now with his girlfriend moved in because “he doesn’t want to be alone” (his words to the therapist) I see that to him, I was dispensable.  I endured for 18 years, but I see now that I was only someone to support him financially and keep him from being alone.  That hurts and makes me angry.  I’m working through these emotions so I can reach the point of forgiveness – for both my ex and for me.

There’s more to my story, but I need to rest before I tackle that.