In Which Our Lass is Liberated

Yesterday was the day. I got all my forms filled out with the help of volunteers in the Law Library, showed up for the Uncontested Court Docket and had my divorce waved on through.

If anything, the judge seemed pleased that I was able to read my testimony quickly and clearly, so that she didn’t have to wait very long.

Every time I went there (six total), I felt a little sick. Usually, my hands would start shaking. Almost every time, the enormity of what I was doing hit me and I had to fight back tears.

I had the love of my life. My soulmate. I thought I was born for him. We were going to build a home and a family together. He said things like how he would find me in every life after this one.

And I was wrong, and it didn’t last, and now it’s all gone.

There’s a lyric from a Blue October song that knocks the wind out of me every time I hear it. It’s the song “Been Down” from Approaching Normal.

Why can’t we work when we both try?
We try, we try, we try, we try
And why can’t this work, when we both try?

It’s difficult for a chronic overachiever like myself to really accept this. There is a very, very limited list of things I really tried for and still fell short. Especially when you factor in six years of work and compromise.

I’m strong and smart and tough and successful. I’m a finisher; I’m a winner. If it doesn’t come out right in the end, that means it’s not the end. All those adages. Yadda yadda.

I don’t know how to reconcile being a failure on such an epic scale, after working as hard as I did.

I had a man who loved me more than anyone, who had a job, who was healthy, who treated me well, who made me laugh, who got along with my friends, who liked my family, who wanted everything I wanted, and was willing to do whatever it took to get it.

Then he quit the first job, and lost the second job, and quit the third job, and lost the fourth job, and lost the fifth job, and quit the sixth job, and lost the seventh & eighth jobs, and by the ninth job (in six years), my patience was wearing thin. (He kept that ninth job almost two years, but was fired during our separation and blamed it on the stress I caused him by leaving.)

He got sick during the first year. I handled it better some days than others, but I also prioritized his health above my own. I bought food for the diet he needed. I bought medications. I budgeted for the weed he needed for pain management. I bought e-cigs and vapes, then would be enraged to find packs of cigarettes in his coat. I put medical procedures on credit. I took him to clinics, I took him to specialists, I took him to ERs. I don’t want to tell you how many endoscopies and root canals we (I) paid for.

His opinion of me fluctuated based on many factors, but let’s just say after chronic pain and poverty led to violent outbursts, I wasn’t really laughing or feeling loved anymore. When he became physical with me, some part of me snapped. I began pushing back instead of apologizing, and suddenly he didn’t laugh or feel loved anymore, either.

My friends slowly fell away, unless they already had a close bond with him. The friends who objected to his behavior or choices were first to go. My family, once the joy in the marriage cooled, was being phased out as well.

He still wanted what I wanted, a house and kids and a steady, easy, loving life. But he self-sabotaged to a degree I couldn’t keep up with, and carrying the weight, I grew bitter. I grew angry. I built resentments, and I started voicing them.

We fought daily. We fought multiple times a day. In his own words, he forgave me, because he loved me so much, but I needed to stop doing the things that triggered him. Then everything would be fine.

We saw three different therapists across five of the six years of our relationship. They all said essentially the same things.

So I had a man who rarely had a job, chronically ill, who lectured and criticized & manhandled me, who made me cry & scream like a banshee, who disliked my friends, who avoided my family, and who wanted a home and kids with me, as long as he wasn’t expected to take the necessary steps to earn it.

He still loved me most. He always said that. That was the redeeming factor. I lived over a year like that, with everything stripped away, holding on to the fact that he loved me most.

Then he met her.

There had been lovers and girlfriends. We tried being open, we even tried being poly for one very confusing, jealousy-laden year. It was quite complicated. But nothing else compared to when he met her. She was in an open marriage too, and her husband and I agreed that their bond scared the living daylights out of us.

Within a month, I reached a limit and said “No more. I’m shutting this down. Here is my Wife card; I’m playing it. Her, or me.”

I packed my bags, and I went to stay with a friend. (The friend later told me her guest room had been reserved for me for over a year.)

He was furious. Within a week he informed me that I had no right to dictate who he spoke to or was friends with. Crushed, I wept for hours, and told him he was an idiot, and he would regret this decision. He came back the next day claiming he had thought it over and would stop speaking to her “for a time” to give us a chance to fix what was so patently broken.

Six weeks into the separation, I learned that they were communicating in secret, and she had come to our house that day to see him. So I let him know we were getting divorced, and he was free to pursue whatever life he wanted, but I wouldn’t be in it.

Because all I had left was He loves me most. And there it went: poof.

It has been a long, hard road, of denial and rage and numbness and nightmares and loneliness. I tried so hard, gave until I was hollow, and I still lost everything. It had never happened to me before.

Once he learned he had no chance to get me back, he vanished off the face of the earth. His own mother didn’t have his address. I served his divorce papers by something called Public Posting, reserved for missing persons cases.

A year passed. I healed somewhat.

And yesterday I went from Separated to actually Divorced.

It doesn’t feel real yet, and I made strange animal noises (half laugh, half whimper) from the courthouse to my car. I don’t know what to do with myself, because half my life is still ripped away, and it’s growing back at the rate of cave formations.

The best I can do is keep moving, keep functioning, until my lungs catch up to my paperwork. At least the “try” has a new direction.

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Day 7 – Ass – #30DaysBodyPositive

I feel compelled to include my favorite Sally line from Coupling: “Having a bottom is living with the enemy. Not only do they spend their lives slowly inflating, they flirt with men while we’re looking the other way.”

So, my ass… is gigantic.

It’s partially hereditary (several aunts have a bubble butt) and partially due to thirty years of fabulous posture (piano lessons and decades of choir), and a job on my feet.

I curse it when I have to squeeze it into jeans fresh out of the dryer, or when sitting in a chair with arms, but it makes sitting much more comfortable. It makes for a good center of gravity when I am crazy-dancing. It makes falling backward safer, because I have a natural landing pad. It makes my waist look smaller.

Aside from the multitudes of male attention it garners (which I have tried to avoid mentioning as the reason to love my body), my friends with adorable tiny bottoms have expressed envy.

It may be the only overly-large part of my body that I don’t despise: my Cuban dance-club booty. See, it’s possible.

Day 6 – Fat – #30DaysBodyPositive

They say that body-fat percentage contributes to your ability to float in water. So this summer when I go swimming, I will out-float everyone. Mwahaha.

My fat also keeps me warm in a chilly room, and cushions me when I fall, or sit on a hard chair. My fat means I am soft and snuggly when I receive the affections of a child or a lover or a dog. My fat makes a lovely pillow.

If you don’t understand the reasoning behind taking a month to talk about loving my own body, then I’ll try to explain.

There is not a single part of my being which I have mentioned so far, which has not been the subject of self-criticism. I am saying nice things about them to combat the dozens (or hundreds) of times I have said “I hate my hair, I hate my legs, I hate my shoulders, being tall sucks, why can’t I just be skinny, if only I was ___ pounds lighter then I could finally be happy etc etc etc.”

And here’s the secret: EVERY WOMAN I KNOW DOES THAT. It may not be daily, but it is often enough. I am trying to forcibly re-frame how I regard the vessel I inhabit. I can’t trade up, so I might as well treat it better. Before you ask, yes I DO try to exercise. Yes I DO try to eat healthy. I just insult the hell out of my body to motivate myself to do better. It’s like pouring sugar into the gas tank before you get a car wash. So I’m going to start treating myself well from the inside.

I’m also hoping, in some small way, that these posts help other women (and humans, I’m not picky) think about what they like on their own bodies. If I can love this imperfect structure, surely you can love yours too.

Day 5 – Shoulders – #30DaysBodyPositive

My shoulders are quite German: big, square, muscular. Built for carrying sacks of flour or pulling the plow when the oxen die.

They are in proportion to my height, which is to say 10% larger than you’d expect a woman’s measurements to be. They jut instead of slope, and look fabulous when I pull them back and down, like my piano teacher and choir directors taught me.

If I’m feeling overwhelmed, sometimes the simple act of pulling my shoulders back and stretching my neck up will make me feel more confident, because it’s what I do when I’m about to sing.

Plus they look pretty badass in a halter top.

In Which I Declare Independence

Most people I know were all about flags and lighting gunpowder toys and swimming and cooking outside yesterday; for me, yesterday marked a year and a half since I left my abuser.

I spent my day alone, for the most part. I helped a friend move a carload of things (well, I intended to help, and showed up after most work was done). I came home and sat in my apartment with my dog and watched Netflix.

A friend thought perhaps I was lonely, and called me, and we talked for over an hour (I think perhaps he was lonely). But I was content. I mused on how powerful it is, to choose being alone, rather than scrambling to be around people.

So yesterday, on Independence Day, I mentally celebrated 18 months of independence from:

-Fighting to the point of exhaustion

-Embarrassing screaming matches where we pretend the neighbors don’t hear us

-Never knowing where the remote, scissors, lighters, or car keys are.

-Being late to work because I’m crying in my car.

-Putting on more makeup to hide the fact that I’ve been crying in my car.

-Cigarette butts

-Flinching when someone gestures broadly

-“Phasing out” (i.e. being so emotionally overwhelmed that my brain literally goes into a fog to prevent a breakdown)

-Panic attacks

-Apologizing for my feelings

-Apologizing for behavior which no one else noticed or objected to

-Pot smell, pot ash, pipes, bongs, rolling papers, all over everything I own

-Looking for a place at a party where we can step away and have an argument without anyone noticing

-Lying in response to the question “How are you doing?”

-Lying about nearly everything my partner does

-Lying to myself

-Coming home from a 16-hour motherfucker of a day and needing to soothe someone else’s emotional state

-Finding behavioral similarities between the children I teach and the man I’m with

-Changing the passcode on my phone and tablet frequently

-Filtering my conversations just in case he finds a way to read it later

-Being afraid to speak my mind, and mentally planning rebuttals for how my argument might be twisted

-Shifting my vocal tone softer and higher to avoid giving offense, until I feel like a cartoon character

-Being afraid of a shift in his vocal tone

-Being afraid to wake him up

-Being afraid, period

-Accounting for how long it took me to get home

-Sitting in a Dennys or Starbucks or Target before I go home, just to catch my breath

-Sinking dread/anxiety the instant I pull into my driveway

-Making plans and having no confidence that I will be able to keep them, if he’s in a “mood” that day.

-Creating convoluted cover stories for what I was doing when I want to spend time with someone he doesn’t approve of

-Defending my friends and family from criticism

-Questioning. Everything.

-Feeling crazy

-Feeling like a terrible person

-Feeling wrong for how I feel

 

…I could go on. I’m about to start going in circles. But it took me some time to recognize all of these, and now every goddamn day without him feels like a long stretch after a good night’s sleep.

Every day feels like the breath you take after surfacing from a high dive.

Every day feels like the sunny meadow in a motherfucking allergy pill commercial. I’m not joking. Even the rough ones are better than what I had two years ago. I can’t for the life of me understand why I stayed so long.

The only thing I can truly be grateful for is how much more I appreciate a quiet day watching TV on my own couch.

Day 4 – Calves – #30DaysBodyPositive

I have really, really big calves.

It’s genetic; my mom and sister have them too. There is no knee-high boot that fits them, no matter how “wide leg” they brag about being.

They frustrate the crap out of me, because they’re solid muscle; I look like some crazy long-jump champion without the cool benefit of being able to do anything remotely athletic. But they carry me through 10-20K steps a day, miles and miles, before developing shin splints.

And the days I need to walk seven miles vastly outnumber the days I want to wear knee-high boots, so I’ll take it.

Day 3 – Hair – #30DaysBodyPositive

Erm. I missed the midnight cutoff, but here it is…

My hair hates rules. It is a chaotic conundrum, so curly and fine and full of fifty different shades, twisting to catch the light a million different ways.

It took me twenty years of life to figure out how to make it look okay. (Literally, the first fifteen years or so, it was this fluffy tangled pile of dog pelt on my head.)

When I fuss with it to try to make it look fancy, it can throw tantrums and wind up a frizzy, knotted mess. When I spend a day splashing carelessly around a water park, it can arrange itself into mer-goddess ringlets. I never know what to expect.

But it is very soft. I am told it usually smells nice. It is fun to play with, and coils around my fingers in a soothing way when I am anxious or thinking through a problem. And it is distinctly mine, because when it is straightened I no longer look like myself.

I would not trade it, no matter what percentage of dog-pelt days I still have. It is a singular part of me.