Don’t Look at Me!

Quick disclaimer: I’m busy and tired and I pretty much post my first draft. Edits ain’t happening. Love me anyway.

Present Day

I started this blog as the story of Dick and me, written serially.  And I will get back to the story, I promise.  There’s more to tell and I will tell it.  But in the intervening two years since I last wrote a post, something else happened.

I got into, and out of, another unhealthy relationship.  I won’t be telling that story. But I digress.

I’ve mentioned that many of my relationships have been abusive. When you read about that, was your first thought anything at all about me?  Did you wonder how I got myself into that situation repeatedly?  How did I not see the signs after gaining some experience from the past? Did you wonder what was wrong with me that I attract these men or am attracted to them?  Did you feel sorry for me? Think me weak?  Or think I have such bad luck with men?  Or maybe you’ve read that children who grew up in abusive homes are more likely to end up victims. If I were you, one or more of these would have crossed my mind.  Until I trained myself to think differently, I always focused on the victim (or survivor if you prefer that term).

But what we should be asking is, what about the abusers? What’s wrong with them? Why do they do it?  (The simple answer is, they benefit from it. They get to have things their way.) My point is, we incorrectly look to victims for explanations about abuse when the entire explanation lies everywhere but with them.  The cause of abuse is simple.  We live in a patriarchal culture that objectifies women.  Boys absorb this value system and some grow up to believe that their partner is something they own. Ergo, they can do whatever they want to it in order to control it.*

I hear a lot of “women are abusers, too” and I’m not sure what the point of saying that is. Domestic violence against women is an epidemic, yet folks want to level the playing field for some reason.  I’m not sure why.  This calls for a little Lundy:

There certainly are some women who treat their male partners badly, berating them, calling them names, attempting to control them.  The negative impact on these men’s lives can be considerable.  But do we see men whose self-esteem is gradually destroyed through this process?  Do we see men whose progress in school or in their careers grinds to a halt because of the constant criticism and undermining? Where are the men whose partners are forcing them to have unwanted sex? Where are the men who are fleeing to shelters in fear for their lives? How about the ones who try to get to a phone to call for help, but the women block their way or cut the line? The reason we don’t generally see these men is simple: They’re rare.

I don’t question how embarrassing it would be for a man to come forward and admit that a woman is abusing him. But don’t underestimate how humiliated a woman feels when she reveals abuse; women crave dignity just as much as men do. If shame stopped people from coming forward, no one would tell.

Even if abused men didn’t want to come forward, they would have been discovered by now. Neighbors don’t turn a deaf ear to abuse the way they might have ten or twenty years ago…If there were millions of cowed, trembling men out there, the police would be finding them. Abusive men commonly like to play the role of victim, and most men who claim to be “battered men” are actually the perpetrators of violence, not the victims. -Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That…, p. 45

I talk about abuse a lot.  Everywhere.  I do this in the hope people will come to recognize abusive behavior more easily and realize how common it is.  Maybe then more people will care about it and we can start to change culturally. In my experience, it’s common for people to think that abusive situations are in fact normal, and they should “just ___” and somehow it will be ok. People excuse abusive behavior all the time. I don’t. I point it out if it’s appropriate to do so. I say, “No, that’s not just someone being frustrated. That’s abusive behavior because it’s intimidation and control, not regular frustration. Do you treat people like that when you’re frustrated?”  I get the strangest looks.

A colleague of mine at work has mentioned that she teaches her daughter how to avoid rape, kidnapping, and other forms of gender-based violence.  I asked if she invested that much time teaching her son not to be a rapist. She’s such a good sport and a dear friend. She wasn’t offended.  She reflected for a minute and answered honestly, “No. I didn’t.”

(FYI – you can’t avoid rape, kidnapping, etc. If they were avoidable, they would never happen. Why can’t victims avoid these horrible crimes? Because perpetrators are responsible for them, not victims.)**

The other day when I picked Alice up from daycare, a boy was rushing by and he slammed into her from behind.  She had no idea he was coming.  He came from behind her.  She was standing in a place kids normally stand to put their jackets on. He was traveling in a forward direction and he slammed into her.  He had no business running into her.  He should have been watching where he was going. After he hit her, Alice automatically glanced back and said, “Sorry!” I stopped them both.  I said, “Alice, you have no reason to be sorry. He ran into you from behind.” I looked at the boy and said, “She is not sorry. She didn’t hit you. She did nothing wrong.  You need to apologize to her because you hit her.” He glanced over at her, “Sorry!” and went on.

This boy did not intentionally abuse Alice.  That wasn’t abuse.  My point is, boys are taught, without even knowing it, that all space is theirs. And girls are taught to apologize for being in any space.  This is the abusive culture. This is the training ground for our girls and boys to learn adulthood.

And I’m out here like, WHAT? HELL NO! FUCK THAT.

And that’s why I talk.  And why I write.  And why I will not shut up.  Forty years of abuse, friends. Forty years. That’s the legacy I’m contending with.

If one of you listens to me, and one of you raises your child differently because of something I said, then I’ve done something big.  What if my mom or dad had listened to a me? Man, that would have been huge.

Long ago, Therapist #26 tried to get me to talk to my childhood self.  I couldn’t do it. I still can’t. I can’t look that little girl in the face.  I want to rescue her from all that horror and I can’t. I can’t save her.  I imagine trying to reach through that porthole and she’s screaming and crying and our fingers can’t quite connect and I’m trying to get her, but I get sucked away and that’s it. I’ve left her there forever and she’s frozen in 1982 thinking her mother is being murdered in the bathroom.

And that’s why I talk.  And why I write.  And why I will not shut up.

Because you might know someone. It might be your little girl. And there’s still time.

Here’s the link to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Make sure you’re in a safe place before you click. The phone number is: 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

http://www.thehotline.org/

*The information I’m imparting comes from Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. (Link to Amazon) My page numbers are from the Kindle edition and my be off. Let me know in the comments and I will correct it.

**Other information I’ve learned comes from Black Feminist experts on Twitter.  These are not my original ideas, but an aggregate of information I’ve read over time.

Posted in Since I Left, Since I Left Him | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Not What I Envisioned Writing Two Years Later

Dedicated to RD, who reminded me today to get back to writing. Love you.

I last wrote a blog post over two years ago.  I had just turned 38.  I had just left my husband.  I had just started my job.  At 38 years old, it was my first grown-up job.  I’d been through some shit in my life, you see, and I was 15+ fucking years late starting my career. (I stopped writing because the demands of being employed and raising two kids took everything I had.) If you had asked me back then, “Where do you see yourself in 2 years?”, I would have said, “Financially stable, with a nice boyfriend, living in a modest but nice place.  Stable.  Happy. Doing well. All this shit is behind me and I’m finally ok.  Finally ok.” And I would have smiled at you. It would have been that triumphant smile.  The camera pans. Fade. Queue music.  Probably Adele.

I wouldn’t have called it a happy ending.  I would have called it a victory ending.  And that is way fucking better. WAY. Because in spite of my negativity and pessimism and self-criticism, what I honestly see myself as is a goddamn warrior. And I always see myself winning. Because the person who is right wins. Right? And I knew I was right. I was right to leave that piece of shit abuser. And I was right to fight him. Of course I was going to win. The system protects women like it should. The system sees who is right and justice is served. Isn’t that how it works?

NOPE.

NOAP.

NUH-UH.

NOOOOOOOO.

NOSIR.

I thought I knew everything about domestic violence because I studied the crap out of it. I also lived it all through childhood and in practically every relationship I’d ever been in. One delightful boyfriend locked me in a room and fed me a cookie under the door.  He also stalked me.  He also once drove me into a dark neighborhood, threw my keys into the bushes, and then drove away in his car, leaving me completely alone and vulnerable.  This was before cell phones. I was stuck.  He also held a beer bottle up to my neck and pushed me around in a bar on my 21st birthday.  No one intervened of course. Lovely man, I tell you. Lovely.  (His name is Gilbert Michael Orozco and he grew up in La Crescenta CA. If you know him, please do something to humiliate him horribly. Thank you.) But I digress.

The last two years have been a series of re-traumas and re-victimizations for me. It turns out, attorneys and the court system frequently work to the advantage of abusers.  This is well documented and proven. At some point, I’ll get a book list going on this blog so you know I’m not making this up.  For now, you’ll have to take my word for it.  (Or read anything by Lundy Bancroft.)

For one thing, I received NO money in the divorce.  None.  This is extremely important because I have kids to raise, goddamnit, and that takes money. When I left my husband, I moved into someone else’s house. The kids and I shared a single room. Remember I had NO job when I left Dick.  But I did have bills, including an individual health insurance plan to the tune of $1300 per month. I used credit cards to pay that.

Anyway, my very well-to-do husband walked into court with his bullshit Income and Expense Declaration and the judge…believed every word he said. Dick was not required to show any proof of his income whatsoever.  He was not working at the time, so all he had to do was fill out a form and poof! Everyone believed he made $2000 per month.  In fact, he almost got spousal support from me. 

This is textbook abuser behavior. In many cases, once a woman does break free, the abuser continues his abuse by manipulating the court system.  Since the abuser usually (not always, but usually) has control of the money, he might have the resources to hire a like-minded abusive attorney. Together, they can team up against the woman and often do incredible damage.  (Side note: in some instances, the abuser sues for custody and wins. The victim is so traumatized by the abuse that she does poorly on psychological tests and is deemed unfit or at least unwell in some way. And if he doesn’t win custody, he has at least succeeded in continuing to  traumatize the woman during the custody battle process. I was so lucky this didn’t happen to me. So lucky. Dick just gave me custody.)

Continued abuse by manipulating the court system was Dick’s next big trick. There I was, just a few months into my career. I was living in someone else’s house, sharing a single bedroom with my two kids, and this abusive motherfucker almost manipulated his way into making me pay him… because everyone believed I was making more money than he was. Everyone believed he was utterly destitute, when in fact, I was the one financially wiped out. I finally insisted on mutually waiving spousal support forever, and the child support issue was resolved because I got 80% custody of Alice. I negotiated a whopping $200 per month in child support from Dick. This was utterly ridiculous, by the way.  The amount I should have been awarded was easily $1000-$2000 per month.

I found out later that at the same exact time Dick was telling our very abuser-sympathetic judge (a woman) how terribly poor he was, and telling the whole world via social media that I had “ruined him financially,” he was sitting pretty on $240,000.

I don’t mind repeating that for you so you know your eyes are not tricking you.

TWO HUNDRED, FORTY-THOUSAND DOLLARS.

$240,000.

CASH.

AFTER TAXES.

And I got $000.000

And I almost paid him spousal support.

Yes. He liquidated a retirement account. He wasn’t supposed to. You see, everything is supposed to freeze during divorce proceedings.  He was supposed to get in trouble for liquidating that account.  But he didn’t. And because he liquidated, I never had an opportunity to evaluate what portion of that money belonged to me. Dick was not only NOT punished for violating the rule against liquidating any accounts, he was effectively rewarded. The judge didn’t care one bit that he liquidated, or maybe she never even knew.  The court system is so bogged down under its own paper weight that when someone does something wrong, it takes hundreds of dollars in attorneys’ fees to file the correct paperwork to then get a hearing to then see what the judge may or may not decide depending upon what the arguments are. With no recourse I settled, again, for a teeny tiny amount. I accepted the offer Dick’s expensive attorney set forth because I had no choice. But even with that, Dick never paid it.

Why did I settle out like I did? Why did I give up on the child support issue and the equalization payment on the retirement account? Glad you asked! It’s because I was representing myself.  Because my attorney dropped me.  Because I couldn’t pay him. Because I had no money. Because Dick had ALL of it.  Illegally. (Or against-the-rulesy.)

And through it all, throughout the entire 20 months it took me to get fucking divorced, you know what every attorney told me? That I was not being abused by Dick.

Ladies, let me give you some reassurance.

YES.  YOU. ARE. BEING. ABUSED…If you know it, then it is so.  No one else gets to tell you what is or what is not happening in your life.

In fact, I have also learned that the overwhelming majority of folks in law enforcement, and in family law have absolutely no idea what abuse is or what it looks like. It turns out that most of the “common knowledge” about abuse has been taught to us by abusers themselves:

“The mythology about abusive men that runs through modern culture has been created largely by the abusers themselves. Abusive men concoct explanations for their actions which they give to their partners, therapists, clergypeople, relatives, and social researchers. But it is a serious error to allow abusers to analyze and account for their own problems. Would we ask an active alcoholic to tell us why he or she drinks, and then accept the explanation unquestioningly?” - Lundry Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. p. 22.

(haha! I’m not in graduate school anymore and I can use any bullshit method of citation I want!)

Another thing many abusers do, and the abusive lifestyle in general often does, is take away a victim’s “permission” to have her emotions.  While the abuser gets to have his irritations, his anger, his rage, his depression…his victim does not.  The victim learns to cater to all of his feelings and completely neglect her own.

What I have found since leaving my abusive relationship is that few people can handle my emotions.  I want to talk. I need to talk. There’s so much trauma. I’ve lived abuse for 40 years and I’ve never really had permission to process my feelings. My pain. My trauma. And people want to remind me to be grateful. Jesus fucking Christ are you serious right now? I’m talking about lifelong trauma and you want me to be goddamn grateful? I have rage! Not only do I have that rage, but I am entitled to that rage. I get to have that rage. Because I have rarely been given the space to safely process it.

I am taking that space now.  I am taking it. That’s called empowerment. If you do anything other than listen compassionately, and ask how to support,  you are part of the problem.  Abusers have rage. They express it all the time.  Society and the legal system give them a free fucking pass.  NO. I am taking rage and now I own it and it’s mine. I won’t keep it forever. But right now it needs to metabolize.

Today, I am sharing a tiny one-bedroom apartment with my two girls. I don’t have a bed. I sleep on an Ikea loveseat, and when I stretch out, my feet kick off the lamp that’s on the end table. I can’t move the end table or the lamp because there’s literally no place to go with them. We are climbing all over each other. We are knocking things over trying to just walk around our home. When one of us is shitting another one is brushing her teeth 8 inches to the left.  It’s gross. It sucks.

Real talk? I liked being affluent and I miss it. It gave me the freedom to provide anything and everything  I wanted to my children. And now? I am terrified to sign up Alice for baseball. Because what if I have an emergency later and I’ve spent money on baseball that I needed to save?

I use the shared laundry facility, when I once had the fancy ass washer and dryer with all the cool settings and people came to my fancy house to do their laundry. Every time I do the laundry, that’s when it hits me.  I am struggling.  I am struggling because of domestic violence. Just like all the women I read about all these years.  All those degrees I earned trying to make sure this wouldn’t happen to me? It’s happened to me. And it’s when I put those quarters in that damn washing machine that I feel it.  I feel it then.  My dignity stripped away. You might feel differently about money. Shared laundry might not bother you. It bothers me.  I get to have that. Don’t tell me, “Well at least you have a place to do your laundry. Some people don’t.” I know that. Don’t you understand? I am all of the things – grateful and happy and sad and enraged and scared and worried and depressed and proud and excited. What I’m saying is I need to process the bad stuff right now because I’ve never been able to really.

And this is what I insist on for all victims of all trauma – their space to feel whatever they feel. All of it.

Why am I here in the microapartment? Because of abuse. Why did I start my career so late? Because growing up with domestic violence caused so much trauma and so many mental health problems that I literally could not navigate my life. It took me years and years to get things straightened out…and guess who straightened things out for me? Yep. Dick. That’s how women like me end up being women like me. Abusers are not abusers in the beginning. Abusers are knights in shining armor buying boots and new cars and paying off your debts. In fact, that super perfection, I’ve heard, is a red flag. When they start putting everything back together for you, look out.

I’m left with the image of Dick enjoying his (some of it MY) quarter million dollars and his business investments that I’m sure are lucrative. He to this day claims absolute poverty. He stopped paying child support 6 months ago.  I do have the State collecting. They have collected $42 for me.

Thank you.

Posted in Since I Left, Since I Left Him | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Sweetheart

I’VE BEEN TRYING TO DO IT RIGHT
I’VE BEEN LIVING A LONELY LIFE
I’VE BEEN SLEEPING HERE INSTEAD…

…SO SHOW ME FAMILY
ALL THE BLOOD THAT I WILL BLEED
I DUNNO WHERE I BELONG
I DUNNO WHERE I WENT WRONG,
BUT I CAN WRITE A SONG

I BELONG WITH YOU, YOU BELONG WITH ME
YOU’RE MY SWEETHEART
I BELONG WITH YOU, YOU BELONG WITH ME
YOU’RE MY SWEET…

-The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” http://thelumineers.com/ho-hey/

Present Day:

Yesterday I was driving and the radio was on.  This is pretty much the worst thing any sad person can do.  If you must drive, for heaven’s sake, do not turn on the radio.  You’re there, you’re all normal, sitting at a red light, random thoughts dashing through your mind…

There’s Subway.  Should I run into Subway right now? Would a meatball sandwich really be such a bad thing? I like Coke.  I could get a Coke with my meatball sandwich.  How much would a meatball sandwich and a Coke be? Six bucks? What would Alice eat? She doesn’t like Subway. But she might eat ham. Two of us – ten bucks maybe. OMFG, I used to buy $200 shoes and eat out three times a day and now I am incredibly stressed out about paying $1.50 for a Coke…

*Queue music*

“…SO SHOW ME FAMILY
ALL THE BLOOD THAT I WILL BLEED
I DUNNO WHERE I BELONG
I DUNNO WHERE I WENT WRONG…”

*Queue sobs*

Suddenly, my face was all wet.  My tears were splattering against the lenses of my sunglasses and then puddling in the frame.  Some tears were coming out sideways.  Others straight down.  Others straight up, it seemed.  I felt my forehead land with a thud on my steering wheel as the music was wringing out my heart like it was a sopping dishrag.

I left Dick 4 months and 6 days ago.  I haven’t thought about him that much since then.  I think about him when I write, of course.  And I think about him in terms of his relationship with Alice.  And I am forced to think about him when I get his long email rants that make no sense but manage to clearly point out what an incredible failure I am and how everything on earth is my fault. 

But I usually don’t think about Dick and me as a couple.  When I do, it hurts so fucking badly, I can’t describe it.  I have no place for that pain.  There’s no file for that pain.  There’s no storage unit for that pain.  There’s no bin for that pain.  I can’t leave it with a babysitter and go out for a few hours.  No.  It stays with me.  It sticks to me.  I wear it.  It wraps me up and squeezes me.

“I BELONG WITH YOU, YOU BELONG WITH ME
YOU’RE MY SWEETHEART
I BELONG WITH YOU, YOU BELONG WITH ME…”

God, I loved him. I absolutely, completely, wholeheartedly loved him.  He was the love of my life.  When I was with Dick, I belonged somewhere for the first time in my existence.

You can’t imagine it now, but there was a time when Dick was so good to me that I thought I was in a fairy tale.  Like, for real.  A real fairy tale.  He did everything for me.  Everything.  And for Sammie, too.  He was so sweet and tender with her. And he was so sweet and tender with me.

I loved Dick because he never once got irritated when he had to pull over at every Carl’s Jr. so I could pee again.  And get another Coke.  Which would make me pee again. And he’d have to stop again.

I loved Dick because he made me laugh at random moments when I wasn’t expecting it.

I loved Dick because he would race me to the dishwasher.  We both wanted to get the dishes done so the other wouldn’t have to.  We’d run from the living room to the kitchen, shoving each other out of the way, doubled over in breath-stopping laughter.

I loved Dick because he bought Sammie every Thomas Train in the store…then hid them from me because he knew he’d be in trouble for spoiling her.

I loved Dick because he waited patiently while I spent three hours getting ready to go out.

I loved Dick because he remembered to take Sammie’s clean linens to her preschool on Monday mornings when I forgot.  I loved Dick because he washed those linens.

I loved Dick because when I was meticulously coding data for my master’s thesis, he helped.

I loved Dick because when he told me I was beautiful, I believed him.

I loved Dick because he held me, all night long, when I cried. Back in 2004/2005, I was in a custody fight with Sammie’s dad, and I was afraid I was going to lose. I would cry, no, I would wail about my fears of losing my daughter because what if that judge somehow thought I was a bad mom and gave Sammie to Dan full time?

I loved Dick because he told me ten million times a day, for ten million days, what an extraordinary mom I was.

I loved Dick because when I woke him up out of dead sleep at 3am to say I wanted to have another baby, he said, “Ok, honey” and he meant it.  And he gave me Alice.

I loved Dick because he accepted me, wholly and completely, just the way I was.  My every flaw and fear and failure was exposed from the start.  I was fucked up when Dick got me, and he loved me anyway.  He knew all my garbage long before we got together, and none of it fazed him.

I loved Dick because I was safe with Dick.  And I had never been safe with any other human being on this entire earth.  I loved Dick because my little girl was safe with him.

I was home.  I belonged.  I had a real family, finally.  I’d never had a home or a place I belonged or a family in the real sense.

“I BELONG WITH YOU, YOU BELONG WITH ME
YOU’RE MY SWEETHEART
I BELONG WITH YOU, YOU BELONG WITH ME
YOU’RE MY SWEET…”

Yesterday, sitting at that red light, the gravity of it all landed.  The magnitude of all I’ve lost hit. 

You can talk to me about everything I’ve gained if you want to.  But please understand I’m not there yet.  I lost my sweetheart.

Posted in Since I Left | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Thing One and Thing Two

November, 2011 

I stopped loving Dick one year ago exactly.  Two things happened last November.  I don’t remember which one happened first, but these are the two moments that coalesced into my last breath of love for Dick.

Thing One…

Thanksgiving.  We went to the SteakHouse as planned.  There really wasn’t an alternative.  By the time I’d discovered that Dick had taken Marisol there for drinks, it was so close to Thanksgiving that I didn’t think I could find another restaurant.  Or maybe I was just too damn tired to try.  I don’t know.  I decided to just go there.  What the hell.  Maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as I was anticipating.

I was so depressed and so miserable that I barely got myself kinda sorta ready for a nice dinner.  I took a shower, and that was the day’s super triumph. Yeah, I went to dinner with wet hair, but I had taken a fucking shower and that made me incredibly awesome considering the magnitude of my depression.

I had given Dick some simple instructions for getting the girls dressed for dinner.  But when I emerged from my miraculous shower, I found Alice in playground-stained white cropped leggings and a Tinkerbell tank top.  And Crocs.  Sammie was in her standard t-shirt and leggings that may or may not have matched – I’m not sure.  Also, Crocs. It’s possible the girls’ hair got brushed, but I’m not sure about that either.

Whatever.

I told my kids that Thanksgiving was a holiday and therefore a time to enjoy themselves and relax – if they wanted to wear Tinkerbell tanks and Hawaii t-shirts with their Crocs and matted hair to Thanksgiving dinner…cool.  We live in Southern California.  These outfits were not entirely unreasonable.

Our friends showed up at our house around 4pm and we had an hour or so of down time before leaving for the SteakHouse.  It was awkward and uncomfortable.  I had absolutely nothing whatsoever to say to anyone.

“So, what’s new you guys?,” they would ask.

Wow.  What the fuck do you say to that?

“Oh not much, you know,” I’d mumble.

“So how is everything? What have you been up to?”

“Um. Nothing. Not much, really. Same-same.”

Then fifteen minutes of staring at the walls. You could fucking hear our small Pottery Barn clock ticking from its spot on the entertainment center. The shit was echoing.

Finally it was time to leave.  I was angry and depressed and irritable up to that point, but I wasn’t sick...at least not until the drive over there. The kids wanted to ride with our friends, so it was just Dick and me in our car. Thank Goddess for that.  About a mile from the SteakHouse, I had a major panic attack and I had to roll down the window and hang my head out like a dog to keep from vomiting.

Dick put his hand on my back. “Honey, I know this is really hard for you.  I’m so proud of you for doing this.  I know it’s hard.  You just gotta power through it, ok?” I was already plastered up against the passenger door trying to be as far away from him as possible.  But I somehow jerked away from his touch and got away from his “comforting” hand.

I really thought I was going to be ok, but when my first foot crossed the threshold of the SteakHouse, I burst out crying.  I saw all those people, all those families, looking like they had not just been impaled through the heart by their spouse.  I saw happy children and elderly grandparents, and festive dresses, and people who had dried their hair all the way.  I knew that everyone else there had problems too, but I still felt so alone amongst the hoards of people who were at least ok enough to have a good time for those two hours.  I couldn’t.  I was so not ok that I couldn’t keep it together for 5 minutes.

My friend followed me to the bathroom and all I wanted was to be left alone.  She started saying all those things people say. “It’s going to be ok. Nothing is this bad.  You are strong, you have to be strong.  Your girls love you.  Dick loves you.  It’s ok.  Don’t worry.  You’re beautiful and smart and strong.  It’s ok. It’s ok.”

NO.  Actually it isn’t ok.  And it won’t be.  And he doesn’t. And what I am feeling right now is the knowing that it isn’t and it won’t be, and he doesn’t.  I am alone.  I am truly alone.

We ate dinner.  My kids played video games the whole time and I pulled it together and socialized for the rest of the night.  We went home.  And after Dick told me how very proud he was of me for getting through it as well as I did…that wretched fucking stupid holiday was finally over.

Thing Two…

I wasn’t following Dick anymore, I wasn’t looking at his phone anymore, I wasn’t questioning his whereabouts anymore.  I knew that every single word out of his mouth was a lie, and I knew that his every movement was a dishonest one.  And it wasn’t just about Marisol – it was about, seriously, EVERYTHING.  He lied about EVERYTHING.  He lied just to lie.  He lied when there was no reason at all to lie.  Lying was his default setting.  

That was all I needed to know.  Ironically, it was knowing that I was never going to know anything about anything that gave me certainty.  I finally knew what I was dealing with.  He was an alcoholic and a liar who was going to go out of his way to hurt me emotionally. At least I finally knew what to expect every day.

Sometimes, though, I still got curious.  One night, I looked at his Facebook page and I found a picture he had posted during the time we were “broken up” in August.  It was Dick with a busty, curvy, sexy, heavily made-up woman.  Dick’s caption was, “The Columbians surprised me and we’re having meetings tonight!” Dick was referring to some business he’d been trying to close in Columbia.  How this bodacious woman was in any way involved in the type of business Dick did was beyond me.  Seeing the picture hurt so badly.  Reading the comments from other men hurt even more.  “Hubba hubba!,” said one.

To my husband.

About a picture of him with another woman who was not me, and whom I’d never met.

A picture taken while I was home alone probably watching a Dateline repeat after another night of taking care of my children by myself.

So I saw that picture and I started crying.  I went downstairs to talk to Dick.  He looked concerned and said, “Honey, what’s wrong?” I said, “Will you please help me? I’m really sorry to ask this of you, but it hurts so bad…” I was all sobbing and gagging.  “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.  But I saw this picture on your Facebook and it hurts so bad…will you please take it down?”

Dick started yelling at me.  That scared me, so I started apologizing profusely in between my heaving sobs. “I’m sorry, Honey.  No, nevermind.  You’re right.  You’re right. The picture was innocent. And it was a long time ago.  It’s an old picture. I’m sorry to mention it now.  I know I am wrong.  I’m crazy.  This is me just being crazy. PLEASE leave the picture up and just don’t be mad at me anymore.  I’m sorry I mentioned it.  I’m so stupid. I know I am stupid.  Please leave the picture up.  You’re right.  You should have any pictures you like up on Facebook and I shouldn’t ever express my feelings.  I’m so sorry.”

Dick snarled, “No you’re not! You’re not sorry! You just don’t want me to be mad at you! But you’re not sorry! This is crazy! You ARE crazy! You have done horrific things to me, Kay!! Following me!! And accusing me of having sex with Marisol!!! And monitoring my Facebook! You make me hate Facebook! I have done nothing wrong! There is something wrong with YOU!!!”

(I never, ever accused Dick of having sex with Marisol.  I accused Dick of lying about Marisol.  And I was goddamn fucking right. Not crazy. But right. Abusive men love to call women crazy when they’re right, and/or when they’re standing up for themselves. Classic sign of abuse.  Classic.)

As Dick was yelling at me, he booted up his computer.  He was pounding on the keys and growling, “NO! NO! You’re not sorry! You want me to take it down?? FINE! I’ll take the picture down!  This is crazy. You’re not right in the head.  I just cannot believe this.  Ok! It’s gone, Kay! It’s gone! It’s down! You happy now??”

Dick yelled at me some more.  And then he threw something.  At one point I asked him to please quiet down because I didn’t want him to wake the kids and scare them.  So of course, he got louder. I saw in Dick’s eyes that night something I’d never seen before.  Or, rather, I no longer saw in his eyes what I had always seen before. Where I used to see a soul, there was now just an empty, ice-cold glare accompanied by a complete lack of empathy and concern for his sobbing, heartbroken wife.

And then he stormed out of the house, making sure to slam as many doors as he could on his way out. He of course then went to the bar where my stepfather had shot and killed himself, and checked in on Facebook with the notation, “It’s over!” I watched on Facebook as he bar-hopped all night, checking into places that had significance to me in some way, and including stabbing comments with every post.

I saw all this from my smartphone, and I decided to log on to my computer as well.  I was curious to know if he had removed that photo, but I couldn’t tell from my phone.  I somehow knew he hadn’t removed the picture. I somehow knew he had done something else while he was pounding on his keyboard, something to send me a clear message.  I was right.  He not only left that picture up, he also removed me as his wife.

That was one of a handful of nights I stayed in Sammie’s room and watched her sleep the entire night.  I heard my own voice in my head screaming at me: He will hurt your kids to hurt you.  He will hurt Sammie first.  Maybe just Sammie because she’s not his, and because he hates her dad so much, he would love that revenge.  He will hurt your children.  He will start with Sammie. 

I crawled into bed with Sammie and positioned myself so that I could see Alice’s door, too.  Their doors were catty-corner from one another, which made it easy to see and be close to both of them from either room.  I positioned myself in such a way that I could get to Alice quickly if for some reason Dick decided to do something to her first when he got home.  I stared at the ceiling until after 2am.  I waited for Dick.  I finally heard him come home.  I went into the hallway and sat between my daughters’ two bedroom doors, ready to pounce if he attempted to enter either one.

I waited.

I listened as he slammed doors and cupboards, went to the bathroom, turned on the TV and passed out in a drunken stupor.  Finally, I could fall asleep.  It was a half sleep, but I slept a little, begging the sun to rise just a little earlier this time so I could get my girls to school and away from this monster.

My kids, by the way, never once woke up to any of Dick’s late night rants. Not one time. I suppose I should start believing in miracles.  I suppose I already do.

Anyway, I was done after that.  The last stubborn drop of love that had stayed in my bloodstream like a virus all that time was finally purged, and I began to plan (again)
for my escape divorce.

Posted in The Final Year | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wait – Did I Just SPIT On Him?

November, 2011

So Dick takes Marisol to the SteakHouse, just hours after I suggest it for our family Thanksgiving dinner.  That did me in.  But his being there with her was only one layer of one dimension of the pain cake I was eating every day.

Marisol was a sore subject for me for so many reasons.  She was young, pretty, slender, a model, employed, fun to be with, and really nice. Though I’d never met her, I had read her emails and text messages (sorry, Marisol), and I could tell she was genuinely a good person.  Now, granted, she was not a highly successful model overbooked with jobs.  And granted, she did get fired from that job with Dick.  But those minor things were of little comfort to me.

Through my shit-colored lenses, Marisol looked like everything I had failed to be (see list of Marisol attributes above).  Not only was she the awesome goddess that I would never be, but my husband got her a job…while I was desperately searching for one.  And my husband took her out for lunches and cocktails…while I was begging for his time.  And my husband worked closely with her…while I was grasping at ways to find common interests with him.  And, most importantly, she was the ultimate symbol of my discovery that my husband was a chronic, pathological, insane, manipulative liar.  As Elizabeth once said so succinctly, “My god, even his lies have lies.”

So yeah, um, no affair necessary.  I was in indescribable pain already.

I wasn’t able to confront Dick about his jaunt to the SteakHouse until the next morning after the girls were at school.  Dick took them to school, then returned home to finish getting ready for work.

Since August, Dick had admitted to me that he had “this lying problem” and he said he genuinely wanted to get better and learn to be honest.  Although we ended marriage counseling because it was so traumatic for him (there’s a lot of truth telling in that place – no wonder he almost died there), Dick was supposedly still seeing his individual therapist.  And he and his therapist were supposedly hard at work conquering Dick’s “lying problem.”

Now, you won’t believe this…but I actually thought Dick was going to tell me the truth when I confronted him about taking Marisol to The Steakhouse.  I could not fathom, in my wildest imaginings, how someone could lie when they were clearly caught.

And now we pass into the next phase of my marriage to Dick: realizing just how invested in his lies he really was.

So Dick arrived home after taking the kids to school.  I asked him if we could talk for a minute. I don’t know why he said yes.  Nothing good ever came out of me asking to talk for a minute.  I always say “a minute” when I actually mean, “I am going to spend the next 1-2 hours nailing your nuts to the wall- you in?”

Anyway, we sat down and started talking.

Me: Wow, what a day yesterday, huh? So what time did you leave the office?

Dick: Oh, I don’t know. Around noon, I guess.

TRUTH! YAY! We got one!

Me: And then where’d you go?

Dick: My boss Joseph told me to take off and he’d talk to me later, but he needed me to wait for him somewhere close where he could meet up with me later.

Me: Oh.  Wow.  Uh-huh.  So where’d you go?

Dick: What do you mean where did I go? I told you, I left.

Me: Right, I understand that you left. You left work around noon after Marisol got fired.  But where did you go after you left?

Dick: Where did I go after I left the office?

Me: Yes.  Where did you go? What location was your body in an hour after you left the office?

Dick: Well, I just went, you know, I drove around. I was really upset! Joseph said people were going to be fired!! And Marisol just got fired! And Joseph said there’s more to come.  Honey, I don’t think you understand what a horrible situation I’m in here!!! I am probably getting fired too!!

Me: I completely understand how horrible it is.  But what does that have to do with where you went after you left the office at noon? It’s a simple question.  Did you go eat somewhere, did you go get a massage, did you get the car washed? …where did you actually go after you left the office?

Dick: Oh. Where did I go? I went to The Restaurant.  I had to go there because I am about to get fired, and The Restaurant is where I can eat for free, and I needed to talk to Mike anyway, and Joseph told me to leave the office but to stay where he could meet up with me later.  We needed to talk about a strategy and what we were going to do to keep me gainfully employed!

Me: That’s fine.  I don’t care that you went to The Restaurant.  I’m just curious about your day.  So, how long were you at The Restaurant?

Dick’s anxiety was palpable.  I swear, he had visible movement lines around him as he shook his leg and shifted around.

Dick: Joseph finally called me and said he’d be there at 3, and then he met me there.  We each had 2 drinks, a pizza, and we talked for a long time.  And then I came home.

THERE IT IS – the shift from evading to lying.  Ok, I see how this works.

Me: So you’re saying you never left The Restaurant? You went from the office to The Restaurant, where you later met Joseph, and you stayed at The Restaurant the rest of the day? Talking to Joseph?

Dick: Yes.  Joseph wanted me to go somewhere where he could meet up with me easily later on.  So I was at The Restaurant, then he met up with me later.  We had to talk a lot, Kay! I am trying to save my JOB here, honey!! I am trying to stay gainfully employed so I can keep this family afloat!!!!

(Oh, go afuck yourself.)

Me: So you didn’t go anywhere else yesterday? You went from the office to The Restaurant and that’s where you were until you came home?

Dick: YES!

Me: *SIGH* Dick, honey, I am asking you to really think about your answer here.  Did you go anywhere else yesterday, anywhere else at all?

Dick: What do you mean?? No, I didn’t. I told you, I was at The Restaurant with Joseph! Well, first I was by myself, and I talked to Mike about (insert bullshit here), and then Joseph finally showed up.

Me: Ok.  I see.  *deep breath* So, ok, one more time.  You never went anywhere else and you were never with anyone else? Just The Restaurant and just with Joseph?

Dick: Yes, honey.

And then something fucking weird happened.  I will never forget it.

I left my body.

The room started to spin.

I was watching the scene from everywhere but my own eyes.

My body, no longer under my jurisdiction, began to move across the room and toward Dick.

It occurred to me that I might get hit in less than one minute.  But “I” (whoever I was at that moment) decided to keep moving.

Next thing I knew, I was nose to nose with Dick, screaming.

Now, you gotta understand…I am loud by nature, and I am a generally irritable person, but I don’t usually scream at people.  And I have a strict rule against name-calling and cussing in a fight because those behaviors bring back all my childhood trauma.  So, it was strange to hear myself screaming, as if I was standing next to myself and it wasn’t me doing the screaming at all…

“AND WHAT ABOUT YOUR FUCKING LUNCH WITH MARISOL YOU MOTHERFUCKING LYING PIECE OF SHIT ASSHOLE FUCK YOU YOU HAD LUNCH WITH MARISOL JUST MINUTES AFTER I TEXTED YOU WE SHOULD HAVE OUR THANKSGIVING DINNER AT THE STEAKHOUSE THAT IS WHERE YOU TOOK HER YOU SONOFABITCH WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU HOW COULD YOU DO THAT HOW COULD YOU DO THAT AT THE STEAKHOUSE REALLY THAT IS WHERE YOU TAKE HER ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS 

FUUUUCK YOOOOUUUUU ASSHOLE!!!!!!!!!”

My head was vibrating in ways and at speeds that were totally unfamiliar to me.  I saw my own spit flying out of my mouth and landing on Dick’s face. My hands were waving around in big circular motions. And it felt like little razor blades were sitting in the back of my throat, making little cuts with every word that so violently left my lips.

NOT my proudest moment.

Dick’s eyes got really big.  He sat quietly and did not move the entire time I screamed at him.  And I honestly cannot tell you how long I screamed at him.  It was a while.

That was it.  That was my moment.  I had snapped.  I had broken.  I had shattered under the weight of Dick’s lies and mental torment, and his drinking, and his mistreatment of Sammie, and his complete lack of support for me as I raised those girls virtually by myself, and so many other things.

Finally, I stopped screaming.

That’s all I remember.

Posted in The Final Year | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Yeah. I’m SUPER Happy. Deal With It. I’m Also SUPER Pissed Off.

Present Day

I have irritated at least one of my coworkers at my new job — maybe more and they just haven’t told me.  The one coworker made a condescending comment and then glared at me until I felt my skin melting off. I was so embarrassed, I cried on the drive home.  Ok…not really because I don’t cry.  But I was crying on the inside. Same thing.  Point is, I was really upset.

At work, I am often exuberant, talkative, and maybe a tad too loud at times. I have of course adapted (my office is quiet like a university library during final exams), and brought my decibels waaaay down.  I have also substantially reduced the frequency of my super hilarious comments. And that’s a travesty because, let me tell ya — my shit is funny.  But I really want to keep this job and I want to be respectful of others, so it’s really no problem to make the change. I just don’t like being talked down to, especially after where I’ve been.

There is no possible way anyone at work would guess what I’ve gone through and what I’m going through now.  While I am glad about that, there’s a part of me that wants to scream at Glaring Coworker.  This is what I would say…

I waited 21 months for this job. I wrote more cover letters and resumes in 21 months than you and 5 generations of your descendants will write in their lifetimes combined.  My resume was rejected, time after time after time after time, when all I needed to get out of an abusive marriage was a job.  Any job.  No one would give me a chance, in spite of my fancy, debt-I’ll-never-pay-off education and obvious skill & potential.

There were nights when my alcoholic, and likely mentally ill husband was so erratic and scary that I slept next to my daughter with my eyes open…fearing he would harm her just to hurt me. 

There were friends who told me he wasn’t dangerous, I should just go to bed and not worry, and I should be nice and treat him the way I want to be treated. 

I called domestic violence shelters looking for a way out.

I called Legal Aid, and they didn’t like my tone, so they refused to help me. 

There were attorneys who were so rude and extraordinarily condescending about my inability to pay $395 or more per hour that I hung up wanting to burrow myself in a very deep hole and never, ever, ever come out. (Except maybe for ice cream, but even then it would be questionable.)

I had not one iota of dignity left.

I had not one shred of self-esteem remaining.

I had and still have, on top of all of this, a child with autism whose behavior problems were, and continue to be so unimaginably severe that you could never, in a million years,  fathom what I go through every single day.

I was, just a few short months ago, the same as dead.  

Almost.

There was one piece of me left alive. It was the broken, beaten, bloodied, and battered soul that could not quit because there were two little girls who would be left with this psychopath (or at least his influence) if their mother gave up. The piece of me that remained alive was the mom in me. So, I reached one mutilated arm up from the hole I’d been kicked into, and I grabbed one piece of rock and started to pull myself out. One. Millimeter. At. A. Time.

And then one day, with no job, no money, and really nowhere to go, I walked out of my house with my two little girls and I never went back.

One of my best friend’s parents’ took us in. My gratitude is immeasurable.  Fucking immeasurable.

Today, I share a single room and a bathroom with my girls. I am a grown adult with no home of her own.  I have not been able to save a dime because Dick refuses to pay child support and I am navigating a court system that doesn’t give a fucking shit if I have money to pay my child’s health insurance. The courts won’t grant an emergency hearing for support because “money is not a life-threatening issue.” So I have taken care of my children with credit cards.

I have so much debt, I will probably file for bankruptcy.

At the same time, Dick sleeps every night in the 3,998 square foot house with 4 bedrooms and 4 TVs and 4 bathrooms and 2 kitchens and a 3-car garage, and a large back yard with a jacuzzi. (In fairness I should tell you he is losing that house and won’t be there much longer.) 

But you know what I do have?

I HAVE THIS JOB. And I am so happy and so grateful to have this job. I have never appreciated anything, ever, as much as I appreciate having this job. Because this job literally saved my life. This job means my daughters can still see a movie on the weekends and go to the pumpkin patch and ride in a safe car and have little luxuries like health care.

So you know what? I come to work every day, energetic and smiling and ecstatic and loud because this job is the best thing that has ever happened to me besides my children.  I am so happy to be at this job that I simply cannot contain myself.  This job means more to me than you could ever possibly know, and most of the time I am so overjoyed about it that I forget to be quieter.

I’m so sorry I disturbed you.

Also fuck you.

*SMILEY FACE*

Posted in Since I Left Him | Tagged | 4 Comments

Pajamas. A Beret. And a Pair of Toy Binoculars.

A while back, I mentioned that being lied to, manipulated, and mentally abused will drive a person to insanity.This is the story of my insanity. Yes, the one about me in my pajamas and a beret and my kid’s National Geographic toy binoculars.  This is a true story.  I’m not kidding.

________________________________________________________________

November 2011

I had been watching Dick’s movements for a few days using GPS.  He lied a lot. Obviously. You can read about that here.

One morning in November, something prompted me to follow Dick in real life.  Little Icon Dick just wasn’t enough anymore.  I needed to see what Dick was doing.  I was depressed and still in bed when the idea hit me.  If I was going to follow him for real, I had to move fast.  Dick was about to leave for “work.”

When I heard the garage door open signaling that Dick was pulling out of the driveway, I grabbed what I thought I might need to successfully spy on Dick and not get caught…

{{{ How to become a spy in under one minute}}}

Find a disguise: the black knit beret that you purchased at Urban Outfitters some years back will do just fine.

Grab an instrument of viewing: feel free to borrow your child’s bright yellow toy binoculars with a magnifying capability of 5x.

Wear comfortable clothing: pajamas and slippers are great. You’re in a hurry.}}}

I ran out the door quickly, got in my car, and raced down the street.

(I should note that somehow, all of this made perfect sense to me at the time.)

I lost Dick immediately.  I mean, immediately.  So I took a chance that he might actually go to work and I drove there.

Once I arrived, I found his car.

Hm.  Now what?

Well…I was guessing he would go to lunch with Marisol, so I was going to wait for that and get a good look at the two of them together.

Meanwhile, I was very bored.  I started thinking about my to-do list.

Dick and I had been tossing around the idea of cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, something we had never done before.  But I was overwhelmed at the thought.  I was learning just how serious the situation with Dick was, plus I was still looking for a job, plus I was still managing Sammie’s life and disability. Plus I was trying to keep things stable at home for both Alice and Sammie.  I decided it would be best if I made life as easy for myself as possible.

I texted Dick, “Hey, why don’t we just go to the SteakHouse for Thanksgiving dinner? They’re open and the prices are reasonable.”

He replied, “Marisol just got fired. And my boss, Joseph says there’s more to come.”

Umm.  Oh.  Did not see that coming.

I really didn’t care anymore about her working there.  But Dick said there was “more to come.”  And I cared a lot about Dick possibly losing this high-paying job.

I texted something super nice and compassionate about Marisol losing her job (and it was sincere; I knew enough about her by now to know that she really needed that job).

Dick did not reply.

And then, for some reason, I got out of my car.

And I stepped in dog shit.

I lost valuable minutes cleaning that up.  By the time I was done, Dick’s car was gone and I had no idea where he was.  I had my iPad with me so I could watch Little Icon Dick by GPS. But that day, it wasn’t working.  I was going to have to be a real spy, like in the olden days before cell phones and “Family Locator.”

It was only noon, but I had a hunch that Dick might be at The Restaurant.  I drove over there, and found his car.  But I could not see in.  I wanted to see who he was with.  Was he with Marisol, treating her to lunch and a cocktail since she’d just been fired?

I drove around the block several times, trying to find a place to park where I could see into The Restaurant but where Dick wouldn’t see me.  I couldn’t find anything suitable.

Then I remembered my Super Spy Binoculars and I congratulated myself for my fast and brilliant thinking earlier in the day. Thank goodness I brought these!

I parked in a strip mall across the street from The Restaurant.  I put a nice jacket on over my pajamas (it was really cold that day), repositioned my beret, and shuffled around the little shopping center in my slippers looking for a place to sit.

I found an extremely large potted plant and decided that was the perfect object to duck behind.  I knelt down and raised the binoculars to my sunglasses.

People in the strip mall were staring at me.  I could not understand why, and it was annoying me terribly.

Damn it! Stupid fucking toy binoculars do not work for this type of mission!  I could not see inside The Restaurant, and there was no way I was going to without being discovered. I was frustrated and didn’t know what else I could do.  I mean, shit, if my awesome binoculars couldn’t help me, what could?

Whatever came over me at that moment was, without any doubt, an act of divinity. I decided to call it a day. A little before 2pm, I left my potted plant and went home.

For the next several hours, I did my normal things – laundry, job applications, errands, took care of the girls, went back to bed and waited to die.

I don’t remember what time Dick got home, but he of course fell asleep instantly.  I checked his phone and read his text messages.

And it was not good…

12:10pm- Me to Dick: Hey, why don’t we just go to the SteakHouse for Thanksgiving dinner? They’re open and the prices are reasonable.

12:12pm- Dick to Me: Marisol just got fired. And my boss says there’s more to come.

2:00pm – Marisol to Dick: Hey, I’m over at The Studio. Where should we meet?

2:01pm – Dick to Marisol: Wanna meet at the SteakHouse at 3?

2:02pm – Marisol to Dick: Sure! *Smiley Face*

3:05pm – Marisol to Dick: Almost there! *Smiley Face*

3:06pm – Dick to Marisol: No problem.  I’m here.  Sitting at the bar.  Just walk straight to the back and you’ll see me.

3:06pm – Marisol to Dick: *Smiley Face*

So, let me get this straight —  I had texted Dick that we should have our family Thanksgiving dinner at the SteakHouse and 3 hours later, he was sitting at the SteakHouse with Marisol.

You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding.

To this day I wonder what would have happened if I had continued following him that day.  What if I had followed him to the SteakHouse and saw, with my own binoculars, Marisol walking in to meet him? I mean, I was in my pajamas and slippers and a beret.  How would that have gone down?  I walk in to the SteakHouse dressed like that (and hadn’t yet showered, either) and confront my husband and his gorgeous slender young model friend?

Yeah. I would not have looked crazy at all.

November is the time to give thanks.  And right here and now, I want to give thanks to whatever force made me turn around and go home that day. (And I have never left my house in my pajamas again.)

The next day, I confronted Dick.

Posted in The Final Year, The Job Loss | Tagged , , | 1 Comment