The Journey Back

My son got sick on Tuesday morning, really sick, with a nearly 104 degree temperature. Burning up, hacking, crying that his head hurt.

My daughter got sick, but not as bad, on Wednesday.

Last night I got it. I haven’t been this sick in ages and ages. I wanted to just lay in bed and sleep until the pain went away. I lost track of time.

And today was another snow day. My children, 8 and 10, made themselves soup and read books and watched tv. They did not fight once, as far as I know. I knew that some of their friends were probably out sledding, but I didn’t want to call in any favors today. I just wanted to sleep and wake up better tomorrow.

About halfway through the afternoon, my son came up and opened my blinds. Pale winter light entered my sick room, and I sat up to watch the fat, happy flakes come down. My children helped to clean up the kitchen tonight, and for a while, they sat on the sofa singing a song from school together. They both hugged me good night and said, “I hope you feel better, mom.”

Perfection is not the goal. Perfection is in the journey.

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Divorcing a NPD, part 2

When you divorce a NPD, and the support is several weeks late as usual, and you write a pointed email to ask when it will arrive . . .

you very well may get a garbled and rambling email in return, informing you that you should be thankful for all the money he is providing for you, and that in addition to this court-ordered money, he is paying for food and clothes and medicine when the children are visiting him during his court-appointed time, in his home.

The email might even go on to say the he pays for sporting equipment for the sport that you don’t want your child to play, expensive Nike basketball shoes that your child doesn’t need, and a camp that is an hour away and again involves the sport mentioned above. Of course you will think “But I didn’t ask for these thing. I don’t even agree with them. I disapprove of them.”

And then you will start to wonder why he is so proud of paying for those basketball sneakers when he hasn’t paid his court-ordered portion of healthcare expenses for his children . . . ever.

And then, as a kicker, you will see the last line of his email, chiding you for putting your son in snow boots that are growing too small.

And then, if you are like me, you hit the ceiling, thinking of how beautifully dressed your children are every day. It is thanks to you, even though you go to work now, full-time at an office, unlike your ex who has mysterious clients and elusive and wildly fluctuating sources of income. You think of how your sweet children always show up with their homework and signed permission slips and book reports and class projects and sports equipment and new ballet shoes and and multiplication drills and new books and haircuts and ballet buns and proper vaccinations and white shiny teeth thanks to the dentist appointments you take them to. And the teacher conferences and the extra trips to the school with forgotten lunch boxes and the countless hours clocked with other moms anguishing over and redshirting and little girls with summer birthdays and big boy bullies and mean girls and organic food and everyday math and building resilience and self esteem. And the things you’ve taught your children like folding a sheet and making a bed and how to do laundry and hold a fork and say please and thank you and use the microwave and tie their shoelaces and brush their hair and floss their teeth. And the playdates and parties and endless carpooling and the hugs and family meetings and values and lessons learned and pep talks after a lost soccer game and all the talks about love and values and self-esteem and doing right and how we don’t practice perfect in this house because anyone who tries their best is doing good enough.

And then you will remind yourself to stop, because otherwise you will go crazy. If your son’s boots will soon be too small, it is okay. You will remind yourself that your ex is not well. And that his goal is to gaslight you and undermine you and start a long fight. But you will not rise to the occasion. You will write a short email correcting the facts only to make sure the truth is documented because you will never forget the words of your attorney: “Madness, even though this divorce is technically over, this guy is going to bring you back to court again and again because he’s so crazy.”

And so you write the note and then you call a friend or have a glass of wine or laugh with your kids or go for a walk or run. Or you blog and vent and hope you’re not the crazy one, as your NPD ex wants you to believe.

And because you didn’t engage with him and continue the fight he wanted, you’ll have the energy to step back into the light again, moving forward into a bigger and happier world, full of possibilities.

Divorce, PTSD, and an Early Mother’s Day Gift

My son shut down my laptop when I walked into the room tonight. He is ten.

I froze, panic sweeping over me as I thought of everything his father had hidden on his computer. I got the old familiar jolt of adrenaline, stronger than electricity, that raced everywhere from my core and made my fingers tingle. My chest got tight – and hurt. As always, I think: shit, finally, a heart attack – I’m too young to have a heart attack – and HE will get my children.

On that last thought, I sit up and breathe and suck it up.

This was my son, not my ex-husband. I would not ruin this special evening with him and his sister. They returned from their father’s house at 5 in good spirits, pounding on the door and throwing themselves into my arms. We grabbed a basketball and walked down to the playground in our new neighborhood and hit the courts.

It was fun. No fighting over the ball, no cheating accusations. For the first time, I really saw my son exceed my physically at basketball. It felt good – and bittersweet. Afterwards, we walked back together up the big hill to our new home.

But after they went to sleep, I opened the computer, finally.

BEST GIFTS FOR WOMEN.

I nearly died. What in the world? I remembered the strange charges on ex’s credit card, and on my credit card – he was even once stupid enough to order bizarre sex items (trust me) using his father-in-law’s credit card, which he stole from my wallet, probably in some drunken stupor. Or worse, someone else stole the card from his wallet.

It haunts me.

But I look again. Another page is open on my laptop.

It is Amazon.com, one of about ten sites my children are allowed to visit on Safari.

BEST MOTHERS GIFT. It’s filled with things called gold rose foil flowers and superpower mom mugs.

I get teary as the adrenaline leaves my body and I realize that I have left my ex behind more than six month ago. He is no longer allowed to affect me this way.

I breathe. The world is a good place, generally. People are good, generally.

My children are good, period.

We are going to make it.

Big Day on the Divorce Front

“What is your idea of earthly happiness? To be vindicated in my own lifetime.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir

 

Without going into too much detail, I received a long overdue report today regarding my divorce.

Everything I’ve suspected about soon-to-be-ex is true. The lack of empathy, the narcissism, his admission that he will say anything to get what he wants, the dangerous behavior with no worries about the potential impact on his children. The lies. And more lies. The highly functioning brain, the charm, the energy, the ability to make friends and influence people. And then the childish frustration, the unfinished projects, the rage, and the sociopathic behaviors.

Yes. Sociopathic behaviors.

Plus the fact that he refuses to take responsibility for anything that he’s done, and instead blames me.

And that he would lie about anything to get what he wants.

Yes, it’s all in there. I suppose I feel relieved, vindicated, and a little worried about what comes next for this man who charmed the world for years and whose nickname was “Boy Wonder.” I don’t know who he will morph into next.

But for today, I guess I feel relief that someone finally gets it. And at the same time, I feel like I’m shutting the door on this man and this life. Besides from validation, I don’t really care anymore. I’ll never understand when this all started, or how he fooled everyone. Were these traits always present under the surface, carefully hidden from anyone? Or did they, as I suspect, lie dormant until mid-life when a series of setbacks set them off?

I guess I’ll never know, and I don’t really care anymore. I do know that the report doesn’t blame me for not knowing about any of this. So now I just need to stop blaming myself. I need to stop worrying about him and start working on me.

Divorce, the Narcissist, and Guerilla Warfare

I am finally ready to write about something that happened two weeks ago. The details don’t matter, which is good, because I can’t share them because I am afraid that my soon-to-be-ex will find this blog and kill sue me.

In short it was a week of chaos, confusion, wildly flip-flopping opinions, setbacks, last-minute scrambling, extreme stress, come-to-Jesus talks leading to tears, and disappointment in experts who suddenly seemed very fallible and suspiciously unexpertish.

How did things get so off track? The answer is obvious: my soon-to-be-ex-husband. I’ve learned a lot of things since the afternoon in fall 2011 when I opened his email account and my life changed in an instant. The most important thing I’ve learned is that one determined person can start so much trouble and create so much chaos that everyone else eventually just wants to give up or run away. An NPD will exhaust, beat down, and disgust his opponents. And then he wins. Chaos ensues when one cunning person is willing to play dirty, make outrageous accusations, twist every truth, change his story regularly, break all rules, and refuse to feel an ounce of shame or embarrassment or remorse about anything. And then there’s the NPD smear campaign. It leaves its victims shell-shocked, bent over and gasping for air, trying to figure out what just happened to their reputations and sanity.

What kind of person acts like this?

Someone with narcissistic personality disorder. We all talk about narcissists. And of course we live in a narcissistic society that celebrates reality television stars and people with thousands of Facebook friends and Twitter followers – I suppose one might even argue that people with personal blogs are a bit narcissistic.

But narcissistic personality disorder is a different beast, and it’s serious. According to Medical News Today, narcissistic personality disorder is defined as: a personality disorder in which the individual has a distorted self image, unstable and intense emotions, is overly preoccupied with vanity, prestige, power and personal adequacy, lacks empathy, and has an exaggerated sense of superiority. NPD is closely associated with egocentrism – a personality characteristic in which people see themselves and their interests and opinions as the only ones that really matter.

People with narcissistic personality disorder are not interested in the feelings of others – they lack empathy; they are unable to feel or appreciate feelings which are not their own.

For most of us, it’s difficult and stressful to live in chaos. Most people crave order and calm and peace. This is why we have rules, laws, and traffic lights. However, most NPDs, including my soon-to-be-ex, thrive on chaos. The more the better, because he believes that opportunity lies in chaos. It’s a great time for a power grab – he pounces when every sane person runs away. I have come to believe that he has not enjoyed a moment of peace in several years. And he’s fine with that.

I have a friend who asked me recently about the divorce. I explained that I was following good legal advice, the judge seemed to agree with me, and I had achieved a small victory that week. I believed the truth would prevail and a judge would do the right thing for my children.

She looked at me and said, “But you have to understand that you are waging some pretty traditional warfare, battle by battle.”

I’m not a big war analogy person. I’m more of a Brene Brown and inspirational-yoga-quote kind of person. Also, at the time, I preferred not to think of myself in battle. After all I started off the Divorce of the Century by  hiring a collaborative attorney, believe it or not.

But then my friend said, “Your soon-to-be-ex is engaged in a different kind of warfare. He’s going from bunker to bunker, throwing terrible shit at you. And if it doesn’t stick, he doesn’t care. It’s not a setback to him, like it would be to you or me. He just moves on to the next bunker. He lives to throw more shit another day.”

I recall freezing when she said this, as a terrible wave of recognition passed over me. Yes. That was it. That was the very definition of the way he was acting.

Since then, two other observers have made similar analogies. One called my soon-to-be-ex a guerrilla, throwing bombs everywhere, completely irresponsibly.  Just today someone said he’s just lobbing thing after thing at me, wearing me down a little more each time.

I recall asking the first friend what to do. She is the wife of a West Point grad, and I figured she would know how to deal with a guerrilla.

She replied, “You either give him what he wants – or make him believe you’re giving him what he wants. Or you need to destroy him.”