A(void)

He had lost himself.  Somewhere along the way, he no longer knew who he was.  Did the depression come first, leading him astray?  Or did the depression tag along, following the self out the door?  Regardless  of the order, he was left a shell.  Rather than face the void and explore its dark depths, he chose to avoid by creating a facade of a man.  It must have been exhausting, balancing on that edge, trying not to fall while maintaining the illusion that he was nowhere near the cliff.  He was a master at that delicate act for years.  Even when he left, he thought he could continue to pull a Copperfield on those around him, using mirrors of  deception  to hide the enormous truth.  The fall was  inevitable.  For a brief period after his arrest, he seemed to see the precipice, the darkness surrounding him just beyond the lights he used to distract and blind.  Yet still, he was unable to face the pain, and he chose to continue being a master of illusion. By denying the void, he allowed it to grow.

avoid

I also avoided the truth in those years, not consciously, but on some deep level. I didn’t give any credence to the physical symptoms of anxiety that coursed through my body in the final few months; I wrote them off as work stress combined with my Type A personality. It’s hard accepting that I didn’t see the truth. I feel bad for me, but even more so, I feel like I failed him. One of the few regrets I have is that I didn’t know that he needed help before it was too late.

I expected to face my own void when he left.  I loved  that man, adored  him.  He had been the driving force in my existence for half my life.  How could I lose him and not face a gaping wound?  The initial loss was too raw, too overwhelming to feel any sense of  loss.  As I settled in to my new state of being, I surprisingly realized I didn’t feel as much emptiness as I expected.  It was more like the void left after a tooth has been pulled: slightly sore with the occasional shocky bit, but mainly just strange and alien.  Like one does with the tongue after losing a tooth, I explored the hole, drawn to its strangeness.  At first, it consumed all my waking thoughts, but as time elapsed, it grew less prominent.  I became accustomed to his absence faster than I ever anticipated, consciously filling that void with friends, activities, anything I could get my hands on.  I survived not by teetering on the edge, but by filling in the hole.  I am still aware of the place where he was, but accept that he was the tooth that needed to pulled for healing to occur.

I hope that he is not still trying to walk along that cliff or survive the darkness beyond.  I wish that he, too, can find a way to heal the void.

Advertisements

A Strange Place to Be

Note: If you are not familiar with my basic story, please read this first so you have some context.

I received an email the other day from someone, let’s just call him P, proposing an opportunity that would be very beneficial for me as a writer (chugging away on the book every day!!!) and as a wellness coach.

There was one caveat – he would need to locate my ex-husband.  After some deliberation, I agreed and I sent him the contact information that I have.  I also informed him that, as of the last I knew, if you Googled my ex’s name along with the limiting and somewhat giggle-inducing keyword, “bigamy,” you would pull up some articles from 2009 as well as his mugshot.

I kept up with my ex’s whereabouts until the divorce was final, in March of 2010.  I promised myself at that point that I would never look him or his wife up again.  I have held fast to that promise.

Two days after sending P the contact information, I spoke to him on the phone.  He had not had any luck in locating the ex (which I expected), but he did say something that caught me short.

“I did Google his name and I found the articles from 2009 and the mugshot.  I also found some articles from 2010 and 2011.”

Whoa, Nelly.  There’s new information out there.  I think P sensed that I did not want to know the content of what he found and so he did not reveal the nature of the articles.

He then made another comment that was interesting.

“We can’t do this if there are any open cases against him.”

Hmmm…so I guess he has continued his life of crime?  My first thought was for his wife.  I have had a genuine concern that he would try to kill her.

Luckily, that did not seem to be the subject of the articles, as P then said maybe they could locate the wife (ex-wife?) in his place.  I agreed, and gave her (also outdated) contact information.

It’s been several days, and I have not heard from P.  I doubt that either one of them is easily found and willing to share their stories.  Meanwhile, it leaves me in strange place.  I know there is information out there.  I feel like I should be curious.  But, I’m not.  I haven’t wanted to search, haven’t had to check myself to keep from typing his name into Google.

Who knows what will become of this little detour in my saga – will he be found?  will she turn up?  will this opportunity pan out for me?  Who knows…  Regardless, I see my reaction to this as a sign, a sign that I really have moved on.

Note: For any of you that know me personally and know his name, if you choose to do a search, please do not share what you learn.  I really don’t want to trigger the desire to keep up with him again.  Thank you:)

If You’re Going to Get Married Illegally, Be Sure to Pay the Band

Family Guy: It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Ma...
Image via Wikipedia

One of the responses I frequently get to my story is, “What an idiot for getting caught.”  He wasn’t an idiot, but he certainly underestimated me.

In my former life, I had a tendency to want to turn away from anything scary or ugly.  My ex obviously knew this, and he exploited it towards the end of the marriage.  I believe that he thought I would be so shocked and devastated by the “good-bye” text, that I would be paralyzed with fear.  He thought wrong.  Instead of hiding, instead of turning away, I was driven to find out what happened.

First, let me clarify.  The text was abrupt.  Sudden.  The marriage that I knew, that he led me to see, was good.  He refused to respond to any calls or texts after he left.  He took all but one of the computers (mine), all of the financial documents, and strange things (like the discs that held the papers I wrote for grad school).  The passwords on all of the accounts had been changed.  It made no sense.

So, I immediately went into detective mode.  By getting into the financial accounts, I learned of an affair and financial deceptions going back years.  I also learned where he currently was staying (a few states over).  It gave some answers.  The emails gave the rest.  Because of the way our accounts were linked, I was able to see the messages sent to his junk folder, which included those that were carbon copied.

It only took a few days for the first interesting email to come through.  This one indicated plans for a visa for an upcoming trip to Uganda with the mistress.  Interesting.  Seemed like he was running.

The big shocker came three days after that.  A message I had to read several times to grasp the meaning of.  It initiated from a band in the town where he was staying.  It seems they were looking for payment for a wedding they had recently performed at.  His wedding.

Oops.

That started the chain that led to his arrest and bigamy charge.

UrbanArtMusicalEnsembles.DCS.WDC.28jul08
UrbanArtMusicalEnsembles.DCS.WDC.28jul08 (Photo credit: ElvertBarnes)

Lesson 1: Don’t underestimate yourself; you are capable of more than you ever know.

Lesson 2: Don’t run away from your fears; they grow more powerful when ignored.

Lesson 3: If you’re going to get married illegally, be sure to pay the band.

Signs in the Rearview Mirror

Rear View Mirror

How could I be with someone for 16 years and not realize he was leading a double life?  I have asked myself that question more times than I want to admit.  It dominated my thoughts for a long time; how could I be so blind?  So foolish? So naive?

My marriage was a familiar road, a path well-traveled.  I knew every curve, every bump, every blind drive.  It wasn’t always that way.  In the early years, I thoroughly invested each novel feature of the road.  But, over time, I learned to trust in its characteristics.  I never had reason not to.  My husband had proven himself trustworthy time and time again.  It took me several years, but I eventually placed my total and utter confidence in him.

We had a good marriage right up until the end.  We were affectionate, intimate, spent time together, and talked about (what seemed like) everything.  That never changed.  He held me tenderly and kissed me passionately when he dropped me off at the airport to see family.  He left while I was still on that trip.  Hours before the text that ended the marriage, I received one that said, “Love you. Have a good night:).” Those words and acts were consistent with the man I knew.  Or the man I thought I knew.

He never appeared to be hiding anything.  He would leave his smart phone laying about and even encouraged me to use it.  His computer was open access.  He never got defensive if I asked him a question.  He never withdrew. I had no reason to look for signs.  No reason to doubt him.  I know now that he was frantically covering any signs along our shared road with camouflage netting, ensuring they stay invisible.  A task he was very skilled at.

There are some signs that are only visible in the rearview mirror.  I can now look back and see how some pieces of the puzzle fit together.  He had severe hypertension, to the point where he would lose consciousness, those last few months.  I realize now that it must have been from the stress he was under.  But, I certainly didn’t think then that he might be stressed from planning a wedding.  He took the jacket he wore on our wedding day to the cleaners.  How was I supposed to know it would have a starring role in another wedding within the week?  Those signs meant nothing because there was no precedent for what was being concealed.  I could not have even imagined what was going on under the cover of the brush alongside our marriage.

Ultimately, I will never know what happened.  I could drive myself crazy analyzing every encounter, every word, looking for clues I could have spotted.  Perhaps should have spotted.  That seems pointless to me, however.  I choose to live my life looking forward through the windshield rather than keeping an eye in the rearview mirror.

 

 

The Day the Marriage Died

Up until now, everything I have posted has been recently written, almost 3 years since the end of my marriage.  I recently went back and visited some of my earlier writings, drafted in the weeks and months after he left.  I’ve decided to share some of that, to expose the raw underbelly of divorce.  Please be aware that this writing has a different tone.  The emotions and language are harsh as they capture my reaction on the day the marriage died.

Choosing: painting by first husband, George Fr...

Wellness is not measured by the amount of broccoli you eat or the number of miles you can run.  It is not found in the number of punches on your yoga membership card or the double digits of your sit-up count.  Wellness is not indicated by the reading of the blood pressure cuff or the size indicated on the label of your jeans.

I used to think I was well; I had all of the above mastered.  My lean, muscled body spoke of the intense workouts it was subjected to along with the strict vegetarian diet that was used to fuel the exercise sessions.  I awoke before dawn to ensure that I could fit a workout into my hectic schedule as a middle school teacher.  I fit long runs in on open evenings or on the weekends.  I watched everything I ate, avoiding meat and keeping a careful eye on the amount of fat consumed.  My favorite way to spend the weekends was working in my extensive garden or going on long hikes in the nearby North Georgia mountains.

I used to think I was well.  But, I wasn’t.  All it took to strip away all of physical manifestations of health was a few short sentences.  A text, sent across the country on a sunny Saturday afternoon, arriving unexpectedly on my phone.

July 11, 2009  12:38 p.m.

I’m sorry to be such a coward leaving you this way.  I am leaving. Please reach out to someone let the dogs out as I am leaving the state.  The code for the garage is 5914.  I’m truly sorry but I can’t do this anymore.   Please give me some time to come to terms with my decision.  I will call you in a few days.  I am sorry that I have failed you.

Lesson One

When two become ones, you are able to see yourself clearly.

Fear gripped.  Legs collapsed.  Brain stuttered.  Lungs heaved. Gut clenched. Body trembled.  World shattered.  Visceral.  Violent.

My father’s arms engulfed me as I lay shaking on the floor, my body and brain rebelling from my new reality.

“What can I do for you?  Do you want me to call mom?” my dad offered, seeking for a way to comfort his only child.

“Yes, please,” I responded, forcing the words out through my locked lungs.

He reluctantly left me in a heap on the hallway floor in my aunt and uncle’s house as he moved to the dining room to make the call to my mother in Texas, whom he had divorced decades earlier.

My brain barely registered his soft, yet strained voice in conversation several feet away from me.  My hands gripped my phone with urgency, willing it to send another message.  Wanting this to be a mistake.  A joke.  Anything but real.  A little anger pushed through the initial shock, enough for me to summon the courage to flip open the phone, using muscle memory trained over years to scroll down twelve names to Mr. T, the nickname he used to put himself in the phone he bought for me years before.

“Hello.  You’ve reached T of MMS.  I cannot come to the phone right now, but please leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as possible.”

I took a deep breath and left a message, almost unintelligible through my tears, my shaking, and my heaving chest.

“T.  I don’t understand.  What is this?  A text message?  Sixteen years and a text message? Please don’t do this.  Not like this.  Call me.  Please.”

I closed the phone, severing the connection.

It sat there silent.  Taunting me.  I opened it again, this time to send a text message.

What about the dogs?  Are the dogs okay?  Call me.

It remained silent, the screen dark.