I posted this photo on Instagram not too long ago. I told three people, including my husband, that I’d taken it after I’d thrown my wedding ring into the lake. It’s how I do things. That’s my style. It was one of the best moments of my life.
If I had it in me to give you another riveting piece that might blow your socks off, trust me, I’d deliver it without shame, or regret. I’m a writer, and so, I write my way through things as a way of making sense of the world. But, how does a writer go about things when the world doesn’t make much sense? When the world also, at the same exact moment in time, makes perfect sense? It’s a silly, bewildering space in time to stand in, and with the Christmas season in full swing, I can’t say that it makes things any easier.
Last weekend. Oh my God! Perhaps letting that one rest for a while is a good idea.
I’m a fan of Mary Karr, and in her book The Art Of Memoir she suggests that good writing only comes from a place where the writer has emotionally already moved through things. What I’ve already written are things I’ve moved through—things I’ve been moving through for quite some time. A bad marriage is a bad marriage, and no matter how many times I tried to work on things (which I did all alone for the bulk of about fourteen years), there was no way to make the marriage turn into something good. Perhaps, it was doomed from the start.
Codependency isn’t pretty, and leaving a codependent marriage is far from easy. I believe when we first met, I was looking for security and safety. I was a wild child who skipped over college after an early high school graduation. I moved to Utah for a while, and then settled for a brief moment in Escondido, California, a town outside of San Diego known for gang activity. I didn’t necessarily run away from home because my parents knew beforehand that I was planning on leaving. They tried to discourage it. At one point, my father practically punched me to the ground and told me he hoped I’d get raped. That’s heavy for a blog post, but I’m certain some readers need to know just how abnormal my life has been. To squash the notion that I’ve lived a life of privilege free from hardship and moments of utter confusion and despair.
My father was an alcoholic, a man who was mostly unhappy and volatile until he’d knocked back a few drinks at the bar every evening, followed by a last pit stop at the local country club to knock back a few more with his buddies.
Under my father’s guidance, my girlhood was riddled with uncertainty. His verbal abuse hit me harder than it did my siblings, and maybe being an incredibly introverted child made me the easy target in our household. My father would oftentimes sit me down in a chair and pick apart everything that was wrong with me.
“fat. ugly. repulsive.”
“not enough like my sisters”
“stupid and incapable, idiotic and a waste of time”
The majority of my formative years, I walked around shrouded in over-sized clothing, ashamed of my body and myself. School hallways were treacherous. I tried my hardest to blend in with the walls, finding solitude in writing short fiction stories that would carry me far away from the reality I lived within. A few times, teachers had pulled me into the hall, asking me questions to determine if I was abused at home.
I wasn’t abused, not in a physical sense. At the time, it didn’t feel abnormal; it was just life. For the most part, I dealt with things as I moved through them. I was the rebel. The child who revolted by raising my younger brother, cleaning the house, and cooking meals for my entire family. I’ve pretty much been a stay-at-home mom since I was eight-years-old. Naturally, I fell into this role in my marriage quite easily. I’m a caretaker, always assuming the role of not only caring for myself (or barely doing so), but also over-caring for the inner world of other people, even if it doesn’t serve me well.
Adulthood has found me climbing out of a cave of self-doubt, and oftentimes, crippling low self-confidence. When we first found out that our oldest daughter was a girl, I remember sobbing in the office in front of the ultrasound tech. “I’m sorry it’s not a boy,” the tech had said, clearly annoyed. She didn’t have any clue. I didn’t want a girl, and not because I’m anti-girl, but because I knew I would be responsible for showing my daughter how to be a strong and confident woman. At the time, it would have been easier to toss a football in the backyard. I didn’t know anything about girlhood because I’d been so good at escaping my own.
I had gone home after that appointment, wrestled with the thought of my new role as a girl mom, and I decided that I had no choice but to start making some serious internal changes. Long story short, I did. And now, I’m far from the person I was when Mister J and I got married on a whim at the court house on a Wednesday morning seventeen years ago.
I guess we started the whole thing out with the notion that I didn’t expect much, whereas now, I do. If my fulfillment as a wife came in the form of nice handbags and a giant house in the suburbs, I’d be quite satisfied to stay, but I’m an internal kind of person. I trade in fancy things for a heart that is well-cared for, for a soul that is both appreciated and adored in its rarest and most raw form.
Something happens in a marriage when one person changes into someone they were not in the beginning. The Executive, or Mister J, as I also refer to him in my stories, is the epitome of responsibility and firm logic, and he was just so, even in the beginning. He hasn’t changed.
I’m an intuitive feeler who, in the beginning, had little regard for herself. My parents and grandparents were so happy when I started dating Mister J, that at one point my mom said she would adopt him if we ever broke up. So, we stayed together, despite that sinking feeling even back then, that something wasn’t quite right.
Maybe I had imagined that Mister J was what I needed to morph into. Similarly, perhaps, he looked at my different qualities in a similar way. Even today, he is drawn to my creativity and energetic nature. My spontaneity. My lust for life. My tendency to daydream and invent.
For a long time, I had the one-sided conversation in our marriage that something wasn’t quite right, but I always assumed it was me.
Something is always wrong with the girl who grows up being told that everything about her is wrong.
She grows ashamed of herself, willing to do just about anything to escape the feeling of living within her own skin. Eventually, she will succumb to the heaviness and end up a giant mess, or she’ll struggle for years with things like eating disorders and self-criticism, all the while assuming that her own thoughts and desires are a road to avoid because something is clearly not right in her original wiring.
It took many years of self-care. Mentors. Yoga. Therapy. And here I stand. Fully aware. Fully confident. So in love with who I am, but not from an egotistical standpoint (most of the time). I know who I am, and I’m not even remotely ashamed of it. To keep denying the fact that I don’t love my husband, and that perhaps I never did, is a lie that serves none of us well, especially my daughters.
The children know. They always know. We haven’t hidden fights from them, and sometimes, those fights have been so loud and earth-shattering, that I’m certain my daughters were mostly expecting this to be the outcome. Even until now, I’ve held onto that one small thread: that I do respect and adore many aspects of Mister J. He’s a brilliant man, full of useless and useful facts with a sprinkling of Star Trek sci-fi fantasy and computer know-how. Even typing that, I can tell you that I’m not even remotely attracted to any of those things about him. Sure, he’s cool, and we make decent friends, but we are, hands-down, shitty lovers. There is no passion and no intimacy, and to be honest, there never really was.
I was raised being taught that divorce was a dirty word. It was something you just didn’t do. At the same time, it never escaped me as a child how miserable my own mother was being married to a man whose personality oftentimes downplayed her own. “He lets me do what I want,” my mother had always said. Perhaps, that is true. I can’t write about the inner-workings of their relationship, but from the outside in, it looked every bit shitty and terrible.
Where I did I go wrong? I’m not perfect either.
I demand a lot of attention in a relationship, but not constant physical attention. I just need to be seen and heard and understood. My soul is deep and full and complex, so that it would literally take someone who understood just how a soul like that exists in the world, for me to make a connection. At that rate, I’m fairly certain that if I never found such a person, I’d be OK spending the rest of my days as a single mom with four kids. Those last five words just ended my next forty dates (none of which I have, by the way, and don’t ask because I’m not interested).
This new season of life is not going to be an easy transition, but this week has brought some peace.
Mister J took a couple of days off. We’ve found some common ground. I’ve been uncertain about many things in the past few weeks, but not once have I toyed with the idea of remaining in the marriage. It would be easier to stay in a bad marriage when things have become so routine, but I can no longer exist in a reality that I know is so incredibly far off from what I need. Mister J is a diagnosed work-a-holic. It serves him well. I’m an undiagnosed lover and feeler and diagnosed off and on with major depressive disorder and anxiety. An undiagnosed soul full of passion and drive and energy. It would take one hell of a person to contain all of that, and I don’t blame Mister J for not being able to do so.
He doesn’t laugh much.
Laugher is my medicine.
When we discuss things like finances and how the next five to ten years will look for me, I don’t worry much. Mister J will take care of us, and I’m grateful that he has the means to. Well-meaning friends want me to battle him in court for everything he has. Instead, I turn to prayer, spiritual counseling, and therapy. An upped dose of Zoloft and a pill to help me sleep at night (prescribed, of course). Yes, we will get everything in writing. We do have a lawyer, but we are working through things together, as a mother and father of four growing children should.
Mostly, I’ll make it through. Against everything that tells me to pack up and take the kids and run away to a new home, this is the one I need to work within for quite some time. There is no way we can sell this house; it would be a terrible financial mistake for us both, so I’ll stay, and he will move out. Together, we will manage to form a friendship free from the burden of marriage, however that may look. We will do it for the children.
At times, I tank to the point that my heart starts racing. In those moments, I always feel as though I need to pull the car over to throw up in the grass. I refrain because this is a small southern town outside of Nashville, where a lot of people exist to escape their own levels of suck by finding someone else’s level of suck to pick apart. It’s pathetic, really, but we have wonderful parks and a lake, so it’s a compromise.
I fought to get back to Hendersonville. We lived here for about nine years and then moved south for a single year, which found me alone and pregnant in a nice house in the suburbs with a twenty minute drive to the nearest park. Two months in, and I knew it wasn’t going to work. I fought until we decided that we could, in fact and despite the money would we lose, relocate back to Hendersonville, a place I will always consider home.
My friends! Oh my goodness! They’re plentiful and full of good advice, and I adore them all. My inner circle is full of just a few women, and all of them have been the air I breathe when I feel like I’m going to suffocate under the weight of decisions I can’t fathom at this moment in time, such as, how do I purchase my own insurance? Where do I put my retirement? How do I save for the future? When will I find time to study?
I’m returning to my education as a single mom with four kids living in a super nice suburban neighborhood in the middle of the bible belt. Someone will bring a casserole, I’m sure, but I don’t need it. I’m not a victim of a bad marriage, or bad decisions. I’m the result of decisions I have made. And now, at forty, I’m so sure of who I am and so in love with what that is, that there is a lot of peace in the notion of moving on and becoming even more the woman God designed me to be.
As for a partner? I have my little boy. The idea of the dog we will get in the near future. I don’t want to date. I’ll not get on online and make accounts on dating sites and rarely do I check out men at the gym. When I was talking with the nun at our local parish yesterday, I told her that I should become a nun myself. She smiled and told me of a woman who did that after she’d been married and had children. I had no reservations smiling and laughing, proclaiming that I really love boys way too much to give them up for forever.
There is something about a woman who knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the value she has within the world and within herself. A woman like that is hard to contain. She is certain. Full of strong will and determination. Her inner world comes exploding out at the seams. It can be a lot for another person to handle. I’ll just go ahead and decide to never compromise.
So, here I am, just a few months into forty and returning to my education. Am I freaked out? Heck, yes! Am I excited? Heck, yes! Do I have any doubts about anything that has happened in my life up until this point? Heck, NO! I’m ready.
I also know that God is here with me, just as He always has been.
And I imagine He’s quite proud of the fact that I have finally come face-to-face with the woman he designed me to be from the very beginning.
It’s not that women go insane and blow up their lives. It’s that somewhere along the lines, we decided that it was OK, if not completely acceptable, to allow someone else to define who we are. Not anymore. That’s a miserable life to live. I’ll have absolutely nothing to do with any of that anymore.
I’m ready to evolve.
I’ll try not to throw up along the roadside.
the Art of Storytelling