Day 65 - What Happened Before, Cruiseships & Job Offers.
Yesterday I kind of did a deep dive into the macro view of how I ended my marriage. Today I want to tell you what happened before I got there.
I have written extensively and probably exhaustively about my past, the issues it created and my early years. I have done this because I am still trying to work it all out but also because that early time still controls so much of my life.
As I have said, I was always looking for external validation. My ability to be self possessed and directed strong and true but easily derailed by the promise of love and affection. It was the thing that I believed was out of reach. So whenever it came along, or looked like it would come along, I tended to jump at it. Largely I had no idea what I was doing. I was just trying to be with someone and spent many, many years trying to figure out how to make that work. Well, I guess I am still trying...
I think I started off fucked up and then my solution for that was even worse than the originating trauma. I was caught for a very long time in a no win situation: I could only pursue those not interested and the ones that really cared for me, I would leave. Which culminated into me being married to someone that I was not connected to and ultimately so distant from. I did not have the self esteem early on to recognize that while I think he did love me, that love could only be expressed in a very narrow and controlled way. He did not love the whole me because I did not love the whole me. In fact, I think if I was more who I am today, we would have never made it past the first date!
I have asked myself how I ever was able to wake up? How was I able to see a different truth that led me to the conversation I spoke about yesterday? I have seen couples live like we were living for the whole of their marriage. Why did I wake up and walk away?
Divine intervention. Solutide. Twice.
First, my ex-husband was deployed to Iraq. He was gone for seven months. Our marriage was intact at that time. I loved him, I needed him. I depended upon him. We were in the trenches of babies and building a life. It was good for the most part. Then he left for seven months and I had to raise a toddler and infant alone. I acquired skills, confidence and an enjoyment of being alone. I liked the fact that once I got the kids to bed, I could do whatever I wanted. I was not tied to the evening routine demanded by him. I read books, I wrote. I reconnected from myself on many levels. Levels that were not accessible to me or by me when he was there. I just didn’t have the time. I spent seven months mothering, working and getting to know myself. It was almost as if I became present again after a long absence. The blur that was my engagement, marriage, pregnancy and then the next pregnancy kinda of a whirlwind that required me to be so present that it obliterated any time or inclination to think about me. He returned and I reassumed the position. Mother. Wife. Worker.
I was back on track. I tried to return to what was before but that little taste of freedom was rapacious. It demanded more from me. I found myself dissatisfied in new ways. He was more helpful and present for me but I couldn’t connect with him. I began to resent him. His needs, wishes and desires all consuming. I began to feel like I was drowning. I would escape to the gym or go for a run. Sometimes I would think that I would just keep running and never come back.
Then he did something awful out of jealousy and I could not forgive him. I tried. Every day. I think that he just wanted to be seen. I think he just wanted my attention. But he went about getting it in a very unhealthy way. We went to counseling. It didn’t help. He would not own what he did and I could not hold him accountable. I could not reconcile that he had lost control of himself in that manner. I could not ever feel safe with him again. But I did not think about it like that at the time. I could not swallow this truth, so I did what I always did - stuff the part that was hard to deal with and then splinter myself off to maintain safety. I tried to forget. I tried to move on.
Then he got sick. It started off slowly. It was structural at first. Then the numbness started. Then he was in bed a lot. There were migraines that were completely debilitating. There were doctors, lots and lots of doctors. Then there were surgeries - five in a year. Four of them in San Diego which was a 3 1/2 hour drive each way without heavy traffic. My son also started having issues at this time so I spent all of my time, taking both of them to doctors, specialists and searching for answers that no one seemed to have. Both my son and husband got worse.
We planned a couples vacation. The thought was that we could use some fun and time away. We booked a cruise with my best friend and her husband. It was going to be fun. We were going to try to reclaim normal life. But he got sicker. My parents came but he was too sick to go. I was delivered to a crossroads. I needed a break. I was drowning. I was exhausted. My days began at 5 am and ended at 10 pm and very few of those hours spent on any kind of self care. I was a homemaker, mother, wife, nurse, household chore manager, maid. I cooked, cleaned, shopped, nursed and mothered. I cared for all the beings under my roof but me. I was becoming less and less of a person and more and more of a ghost in my own life.
Ultimately the decision had to be made: did I go on the vacation without him? He did not want me to go. I knew that I needed a break. With my parents living in Florida and us in California, if I didn’t go then, I was not sure when I would get another opportunity. My mother encouraged me to go. She could see the tiny and not so tiny fractures. She could see that I was teetering. I knew that whatever I did at this moment would change the rest of my life and marriage. If I stayed, I was betraying me and my needs. Every fiber of my body and soul needed respite and care. If I stayed, I was wholly abandoning me. If I left, I was betraying him and our marriage. He needed me and did not want me to go. All of the underlying issues of our marriage came to the surface in making this decision. I needed to go so that I could return and continue on this shaky, hard path. He could not or would not accept that I needed this. He could only see my leaving as a betrayal, not self preservation. For him, my need to leave equalled abandonment. For me, staying meant the same.
Looking back now at who I was, I can’t believe that I went. I can’t believe that I mustered up the courage and selfishness to go. I can’t believe that I took a stand. This was out of character for me. I left my kids and ailing husband in my parents’ care and drove to Long Beach to board the ship.
It was a weird trip. My best friend became an ex-friend and I spent the entire cruise alone. I dined alone. I laid out at the pool alone. I went to see entertainment alone. I slept alone. I thought about having an affair. I thought about drinking. I sat with myself and cried a lot. I felt like I was coming unraveled. I felt like I might not come back from Mexico. In the end, I returned. Somewhat rested and somewhat more disturbed. A tiny, revolutionary truth was born on that trip...I did not want to be married to him anymore. But I could not leave him when he was sick. I was not that person. I would never leave my sick husband. I had a mission. Get him well.
So I dug in and began fixing him. We became vegan. I paid for expensive dietitians. I drove him to medical appointments. We moved back to Florida where he was going to be happier. We got new doctors. I did everything I could think of to help him get better. And he did, sort of.
I began noticing that his illness was improving. He was riding his bike a great deal and while still needed to rest, he was improving slowly. However, I also began to notice that his bouts with exhaustion were more situational than they were commonplace. I started to notice that his health was seemingly more dependent on my activities than anything else. He was healthy enough to go on a 26 mile bike ride but not healthy enough for me to keep my dinner plans with my girlfriends. I started to see a pattern. I started to see that I was being manipulated. I started to become angry, resentful and full of despair. I began to think that maybe, just maybe, the illness was really a prevention strategy. The illness kept me home, tethered to him. I could not leave as long as he was sick. Once I thought this, I could no longer stay. But I also couldn’t leave. I was stuck.
Through a series of events that I had nothing to do with, I ended up spending a month alone working in California. I was living in Florida but launching a new business in California that required my presence for a month. I had not had time alone since that stupid cruise two years earlier.
In that month, I got really honest with myself. I spent time walking alone in the woods. I began a daily yoga practice. I wrote in my journal for hours. I began an unintended retrospective review on my life which resulted in me concluding the following:
1. I did not love my husband anymore.
2. If I did not leave him soon I was going to have an affair or drink.
3. I realized that how much of his illness was in fact true and how much of it was puffed up to keep me near him didn’t matter. I realized that I didn’t want to be a part of making anyone sick. I didn’t want to be part of anyone’s demise. That whatever love I once felt for him, I did not want to hurt him.
4. I realized that I would have to hurt him in order to help him.
5. I realized that I had to leave him in order to save us both.
I came back from California with many questions and no answers. I knew that I wanted to leave but could not find the courage to tell him. One day as he lay in bed completely drained after a strenuous bike ride, I saw him lying in his familiar posture: it was afternoon, he was in bed watching TV, wasting away. The thought occurred to me: What if I am the reason? What if this thing between us that isn’t horrible, but isn’t good is the reason he lies there day after day. What if I am the real reason he is sick?
I knew then what had to happen. I could not and would not be a part of someone living their life dying. It wasn’t long after that I walked into that same bedroom while he lay there in that same position and ended our marriage.
I do not know whether my assessments were right and it doesn’t matter. He is healthy now, returned to work and has a decent life today. He appears to be happy or at least happier. I am glad. I am relieved. I am grateful for all that I endured so that in the end, he is ok.
I am ok too. I had the courage to see what I did not want to see. To do what I could not do. I walked out and away and changed all of our lives. I am happier. I am content. I am free. As hard as leaving was, staying would have been harder. I could not unsee or unfeel what I saw and felt. I could not put the blinders back on. I could not deny my reality any longer. That was the beginning for me...the beginning of seeing my life without the blindfold. It was the beginning of my commitment to myself to not allow myself to trick myself into doing things that were wholly unnatural and damaging to me. It was the time that I was reborn into the nascent version of my current self. It was the day that I walked out and into myself. It was the end but also the beginning. And it was worth every painful, excruciating moment that preceded and proceeded it.
This photo was taken on the first night I went out as newly single person. It is the best photo of me because it is the first photo of me that was truly me.