Letter To My Ex: I Know Who You Are

Dear Ex,

Because you live your life pretending to be someone you’re not,  you think that I’ll suddenly forget what you’ve done and who you really are.

Because you pretend to be a good father, you think I’ll forget that you left your beautiful children to live with a woman you met on a fetish website. You didn’t bother to tell anyone where you were. You also think I’ll forget that you were largely absent in your children’s lives from the beginning, showing up only for the good stuff, the celebrations, the photo ops. All while pretending to be father of the year.

Because you pretend to have a job and live a normal life now, you think I’ll forget that you haven’t done an honest day’s work in decades. You think I’ll forget the 2,000 pages, in your own words, describing a scandalous and sordid double life–words you wrote compulsively during work hours while you lost clients and and sent your firm spiraling downwards until it collapsed altogether.

Because you speak of your latest girlfriend in such glowing terms, you think I’ll forget that you found the previous ones on Craigslist Casual Encounters, and that they are a bunch of broken and dangerous misfits who should never come near any children.

Because you act like you’re successful, you think I’ll forget that you stole money from me and my family for years. Because you drive around with fancy school stickers on your car, you think I’ll forget that my parents pay for our children to attend these schools.

Because you pretend you have no mental  health issues or a history of untreated addiction and dangerous sexual behavior, you think I’ll forget and think it’s okay when you want to talk to our children about sex and morals.

Because you pretend you did nothing wrong and that I somehow fooled several attorneys, two judges, and an experienced and respected pro-father child custody evaluator about you, you think I’ll forget that I have proof that you are a serial cheater, a compulsive liar, a pervert, an addict, a neglectful parent, a horrible role model, and an abuser who threw me across the room twice, once while I was pregnant.

Because you pretend to be a good guy, you think I’ll forget that you are a sociopath and have no empathy and no soul. But I will not forget. I know who you are.

 

 

 

 

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New Year’s Day: A Divorce History

On New Year’s Day 2011, the year I discovered that my NPD/sociopath ex-husband was living a double life, I woke up at a friend’s house with a hangover and the discovery that my her sweet puppy had died during the night.

After hot coffee and tears, we all trudged out into the January rain, probably a dozen of us, to bury the dog in a field behind the barn. I had no proper shoes with me, and my toes froze, and red Virginia mud covered my fancy party boots.

It was a grim beginning to a grim year. Back in the city, my ex-husband would become more elusive abusive and stranger than ever, disappearing on business trips where hotel operators could never locate his name on their guest lists. Distracted by my two little children, I couldn’t keep up with all his lies. By September, things would reach a fever pitch, until the day I opened up his secret email account and everything became perfectly clear.

2011 was not a good year, and it was followed by several agonizing ones.

***

But by 2014, things started turning around. On New Year’s Eve, a friend turned to me and announced it was going to be a good year. I smiled. “Perhaps,” I said. “Life is mysterious.”

Several hours later, at midnight, this friend received some big news. Her 47-year-old bachelor brother had gotten engaged that night. This was an event no one predicted. “Life is mysterious,” we laughed.

For him, I suppose, it was a year filled with love and light. And for me, it was a good year, a good start to a good new life.

***

This year, New Year’s Day didn’t start out well  – my brother and his family left for a tourist attraction without us. I was packing our car to drive 250 miles home, and I took too long. They did not offer to help as I took trip after trip up and down the stairs of my parents old colonial, carrying my children’s suitcases and toys and hair dryers and stray boots. It took me forever to load our little SUV, and I got angry and raised my voice and said a truthful but not very kind thing about my brother.

And then I couldn’t fit everything into the car. I started to cry.

But then I looked at my children’s faces, teary like mine, but because they were missing this precious time with their cousins. So I took a deep breath and pulled everything out of the car. I placed suitcases and winter coats and piles of gifts on the snowy driveway and slowly started all over again until everything finally fit.

We salvaged the day by skipping the tourist attraction and meeting my brother and his kids after all – for lunch in the city before setting out for our long trip home. I did not say a negative word to my brother. I knew it wasn’t worth it.

***

The drama wasn’t over. As we pulled into our driveway in the dark that evening, I noticed a light in our garage.

And then it went out.

We all gasped. We had been away for a week, the house should have been empty.

Very reluctantly, I called the police. On New Year’s Day, I thought. What did this foreshadow for 2017?

One officer arrived, listened, and told me that others were on the way. Out here in the suburbs, the officers park up and down the block, no flashing lights,. I started adding them up then lost count. They brought a dog. They fanned out across the yard and finally went into the house. I sent my children to their friend’s house. And I sat in the car alone and watched the flashlight beams in my house. Ah, they’re up in the attic, I thought. They’re in the basement. My bedroom. My closet.

And finally, laughter, as the officers came outside, ducking under the plastic sheeting protecting the newly painted door from the rain.

Was someone in there? We don’t know. The officers said it could have been my painter, and I could have just missed him by a moment or two – the light stays on for exactly 4.5 minutes. Or it could have been a thief who slipped out the back door and jumped over our fence and into the darkness.

I thanked them, and it was over. My children came back, a friend came over, we poured wine and ordered pizza, and somehow the evening was saved in our bright, warm house. The first evening of 2015.

 

 

Judging Divorced People: Just Don’t

 

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The moms were bored. They were about 20 hours into a 36-hour Girl Scout camping trip, an experience that was incredible and life-changing for the little girls.

For the moms, its was the old familiar mix of joy, laughter, hard work, responsibility – and lots and lots of sitting-around boredom.

And so it started.

“Oh, I feel so sorry for this dear friend of mine. She’s divorced….”

And the story unfolds. I try not to bristle. The friend cheated on her husband and has spent the last four years trying to win him back, unsuccessfully. And now he’s getting remarried to someone else, and she’s falling apart.

Oh, and she’s an alcoholic.

“It’s so sad, but I won’t let my daughter go over to her house anymore….”

I sigh to myself. The biggest alcohol abuser I know is a married mother down my block, and everyone seems to allow their children to go to her big old fancy house….

The story leads to another one – divorce and alcohol and heartbreak.

And then a third one, the best yet. “My husband and I just went to a funeral this week of an old college friend who died from drinking. Of course his wife had to divorce him, and that made it worse….”

At this point, I got up and walked away. It was abrupt. I didn’t look back, but I know they all must have looked at each other, shocked and guilty. None are bad people. They were just caught off guard; they forgot they had a divorced mom in their midst.

But it was the tone of over-the-top sympathy that got me. I don’t know the private lives of these particular women. But I know enough about the lives of our peers. Enough to know that feeling sorry for others must make at least some of these women feel better about their own problems, marital and otherwise.

When one of them came up to apologize later, she obviously felt awful. And she’s a nice person. Really. I looked at her and told her my truth: “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not upset. Frankly, when I look around, I don’t think that my married friends are any happier or unhappier than my divorced friends. But I did feel that it was gossipy.”

I paused.

“And I wouldn’t want anyone talking about me that way,” I continued.

“Not that I ever did anything wrong.”

But for some reason, my voice sort of trails away with these last few words. I think I’ve crossed some line.

And I walked away, from her, from the group – feeling proud and ashamed, independent and pathetic, filled with anticipation and regret – another few steps away from my old life.

Dating After Divorce: No Give

I put my head on his shoulder but could never find a good spot. His arms and shoulders and torso were all rock hard despite his age. He exercised every day: running, biking, lifting, 90-minute pick-up soccer games.

My neck would get sore. Fast.

“You have no soft spot there,” I said.

And at the end, I finally realized, very few soft spots, period.

 

 

 

“Broken” as it applies to my family…

“Broken” as it applies to my family….

(A post by thewanderunner on Brieflections.)

 

^^^^^I love this so much.^^^^^

I could say x’s family is broken because her husband is an alcoholic, and she has an eating disorder and likely a personality disorder.

I could say y’s family is broken because her husband calls his children fat and lazy and no-good.

And I could say z’s family is broken because she openly despises her husband because he travels all the time and cheats on her with a younger colleague and possibly many others.

But I would never say those things. So why is it okay to say them about divorced families? My children are doing okay, and in my heart I know they are growing up to be two wonderful, caring human beings who know they are loved and cherished.

My children have been knocked around a bit. And life will knock them around more, like it always does. But I think they will be more prepared than most. They are not broken, and they will not be broken easily.

 

Maybe You’ll Get Back Together Someday

For years, my kiddies and I would pull up the double-wide stroller outside the dry cleaners. I unstrapped my toddler first and deposited him safely inside the store. Then I would unstrap my baby girl and carry her in.

In later years, they toddled in on their own. They learned to sit still while I paid and chatted with the woman who has worked there forever. Their little sandals barely hung over the side of the chairs.

They liked to jump out of the chairs and dance in front of the big mirror. My daughter posed, hand on hip, lips pursed, and I always wondered where she learned that. More than once they both fell off the chairs laughing. Sometimes they fought. My daughter nudged her brother too many times, and he finally hit her back. She wailed, he wailed.

I’ve been avoiding the dry cleaners lately. But today I had no choice but to drag myself there, childless, to pick up my winter clothing.

“So are you working now?” the lady ask me.

“Yes, I am,” I reply, and tell her that I enjoy it but that it doesn’t leave me with a lot of time for errands like picking up dry-cleaning. We chat about the kids and my upcoming move to the suburbs.

And then she asks me about my “husband” and where he’s been. I don’t skip a beat and tell her he’s working and traveling. I’m a little bit skeptical about the first of these statements, but it seems like the right thing to say.

“So are you together?” she asks.

Stunned, I think about that for a moment. “No, we’re divorced.” I add my usual “after twenty years,” line to assure her I’m not the sort of person who just dumps a husband for no reason.

She shakes her head sadly and tells me that my husband has been in there to college his dry cleaning, and that he tells her the same thing. I try to channel my inner Alicia Florick and show some dignity.

“Maybe you’ll get back together,” she says, hopefully. “You know, because of the children. They need a father.”

“Yes, maybe, you never know!” I say brightly as she separates my dry cleaning from my husband’s. They are both still listed under the same name and phone number three years after the Separation and four months after the Divorce. I think some dark and unprintable thoughts about a man who still uses his ex-wife’s phone number to pick up his dry cleaning.

But I am not angry at the lady.

I have learned that it is not my job to teach other people anything. She didn’t mean to hurt me. She just said what she really believes. She doesn’t have the full story. Because I know this, her words don’t hurt me.

But then I walk out and realize that I’ve paid for my ex-husband’s dry cleaning. His shirts and suits remain inside, paid for by me. I wonder if she will tell him that when he arrives to pick it up. He will be pleased.

I can no longer spend time thinking about things like this. It’s time for a new dry cleaner, a new home, a fresh start.

Tonight I have decided

that nothing is funnier than my little city kid, my little eight-year-old girl, in a big city bathtub, wearing a turquoise shower cap, belting out, “Someday, I’ll be, living in a great big city,” over and over again.

Then almost howling, “Why you gotta be so meeeeean?”

Then down to a whisper, “Why you gotta be so mean?”

I have to admit that I’m beginning to really like Taylor Swift. Really. My daughter could have way worse role models.