Friday, August 24, 2012

Six Degrees of Separation Without Kevin Bacon

Six Degrees of Separation

At first I was afraid; I was petrified. I didn't know how I could live without him by my side.

My first reactions were anger, and seeking to understand why. His desire for divorce, I could wrap my head around, but once he told the children he planned to remarry, I melted down. How did I not see that developing??

So I dissected the laptop, shredded through the information, pieced together minute scraps. I infiltrated email accounts, Facebook messages, culled the Recycle Bin and searched archives for photos of women. I created dating profiles that I imagined would attract his attention.

I spent hours trying to discover his dating profiles. What was he seeking, I wondered. Love? Marriage? Sex? Companionship? Adventure? What had he missed so much that he actively sought it online and from our “friends”?

The information I found infuriated me. He had planned to leave for months – years actually. He had told his brother and a handful of friends (even people who were supposedly my friends too) that he was finished with the marriage and plotting his way out. He twisted the truth and made me look bad, but I suppose that is natural. He had gloated that this would be his last Thanksgiving with me, his last Christmas. He celebrated first one, then two, then three relationships with other women that he had fallen into infatuation with and knew this was “the one” who understood him and knew his soul.

So I vilified him. He became Evil Incarnate. This insane man I had loved and nurtured and shared my life with was a complete stranger. He had taken away my future. I would no longer get to spend the rest of my life with someone who knew me intimately for decades. No more would I look forward to growing old with my life partner. There would be no future days without children cockblocking our relationship. No free and easy just-him-and-me, happily ever after finally. No reaping what I had sown. And I was livid that he took that from me.

I also was afraid. Afraid no one would ever love me again. Afraid I was too old, too fat, too sick to be loved. Afraid that if the person who had known me best chose to leave me, maybe I was unlovable altogether. I was vulnerable. No longer did I have the protection of my man. I knew that when predators sniffed around, they would no longer perceive his scent. I was unmarked. Exposed. On my own. And I didn't like that place – had not bargained to be in that position.

  1. Then his woman kicked him out and he turned to me. Inside, I gloated just a little bit. His karma, I thought, but my humanity also was triggered. His number one fear was homelessness (again), and I could not refuse him shelter. At the very least, he was my daughter's father.

    He and I spent hours talking over a two-day period and he confessed many of his sins against me. I was touched by his honesty, this change of pace that had he instituted it while we were together would have meant the world. My desperation returned and I decided to make one last pitch, one last we-can-make-this-work. I threw everything I had into showing him what we had together, how much I loved him, how much I knew he loved me. I pointed out the folly of throwing away nineteen years without giving it one last shot. I begged. I cried.

He told me how he loved her, how pure and innocent and untouched by harm she was, how he couldn't be that guy who hurt her, how he refused to be that guy. How it wasn't her fault, that she had done nothing to him, she had never hurt him. I pointed out that it wasn't my fault either, that I had done what I was supposed to do, that I had been there through thick and thin and loved him through some pretty intense situations, that it wasn't fair. I always know I'm whining and losing when I resort to the fairness card. But I decided pride had no place at this time. I consciously decided that. I did not want anything to look back on with regret. No what if I had said or done this or that. I gave it my all.

  1. We began what was essentially an affair. He reiterated that he wanted a divorce, that he could no longer stay married to me, that maybe we could rebuild and start over. I grasped at straws. As long as I could keep my foot in the door, I had a shot. He would see how much he loved me, how good I was for him, that he had just become twitterpated with the bright shiny aspect of a new relationship.

The sex was great for the first time in years. My desire returned, which shocked me. I realized that I trusted him again and so was able to open up. In the meantime, he lobbied hard to regain her favor and she let him back, little by little. Supposedly she knew about him and me, and I about him and her.

By the time she invited him to move back in, I pretty well figured that it wasn't going to work, this three-way relationship. But I wasn't ready to let go yet. He and I discussed the logistics. He would live there with her, see me on a regular basis. We would enjoy time together, maintain our relationship, love each other but not live together. We continued our intimate rituals, texting and IM-ing, phone calls. Everything functioned just as if he were still living here except that he actually paid attention to me again, and well, he didn't live here. It seemed to be the best of both worlds, and I was okay with it.

I didn't have to deal with his dirty laundry or picky eating habits or depression or acting out or sullenness or any of the negative things of our relationship. I got the sweet aspects instead. But you cannot have your cake and eat it too – not for long. The cake runs out.

He told me he would be in town on Tuesday. I hadn't exactly pinned my heart on seeing him then, but I did look forward to our time together. Tuesday afternoon, he casually contacted me and without explanation or apology said he wasn't coming and “might” be in on Thursday. I saw then where I fit into his priorities: I did not. At all. He had given no more thought to my feelings than the man in the moon. That's when I knew it could not be. This, I was unwilling to do.

I could share him, I could be the “other woman.” I could ignore Society's derisive stares. I was willing to stick my chin out and defy everyone in order to continue the relationship. My cardinal order did not matter. But I was unwilling to be taken for granted. Funny how that works. It framed it to me that this entire arrangement was solely for his convenience. He wasn't trying to help me deal with my loss; he was doing what was good for him – as always.

I went through another, mini-mourning period. Once more, I had to let go of dreams I looked forward to, the future that would never be. I realized the folly of believing it could ever have worked.

That was the turning point. I moved on.

He flailed as he sensed me slipping away. His texts picked up in both number and intensity. He made sure to contact me at all the “special” times of day, those private intimacies we'd developed over two decades together. He posted on my Facebook wall, on his Facebook wall about me. He IM-ed me. He called me. It was clear he couldn't understand what was happening, or had happened. It was clear he was panicking.

I admit, I felt a little bit of evil enjoyment while witnessing that phenomenon too.

Eventually, he processed through it. He realized I had moved on. I felt guilty about it, strange as that sounds. I felt almost as if I had betrayed him. After all, he didn't do anything we hadn't agreed to do. It was me who had changed the rules. But this was a very fluid situation, and a paradigm shift occurred.
  1. My car broke down. I sat there for only a moment before realizing I had the option to call him, or not. I knew he would come to me. Of that I had no doubt. I also knew without a doubt I would not call him. Instinctively, I realized this was a turning point. A page had turned in this process of moving past. He was willing to let me hang on as long as I needed to; it was up to me to let go. I let go. Right there on the Dunbar/South Charleston Interstate bridge, with the steam pouring from my engine and the car swaying from the semis' roaring by, I knew freedom. As always, it was bittersweet.

He apparently sensed it too, because when he learned of the car trouble, he did not seek to contact me directly. Instead, he posted publicly on Facebook. That did surprise me a little, honestly. But it also made me pleased to see he, too, understood and was working to move on. It had been uncomfortable to watch him flounder.

I do not know what will happen in Steps 5 and 6 of these Degrees of Separation. I only know that I am in the best place I've been so far, and I am thankful to be here. I'm not angry; I don't feel hurt. Kubler-Ross put forth five degrees of working through death: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I think I've probably processed through the vast majority of the first four.

But that leaves a sixth degree, you say. If Acceptance is the Fifth Degree, what is Number Six?

I believe Number Six is the next phase, the Future. I'll be sure and keep you informed on my progress.~~CC

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Comfort Food

Marie Callender makes a damned fine microwave chicken pot pie. I endorse it readily and without reservation. If the fine folks at Marie Callender's ever want to hire me as a spokesperson, I would willingly agree. It's a great product.

Mom heated up the old, original chicken pot pies for us when we were children. Beef and turkey, too. I pretended to like the beef best; that way, my siblings insisted on having the beef ones and I was left by default with the chicken or turkey since "they [my siblings] are little." 

Our oven was a nightmare of kitchenly proportions. Originally a double, side-by-side oven purchased in the 1930s, we had inherited it with the home my father bought from his mother when she married my step-grandfather and moved up north. By the time we got it, only one side worked at all, and the burner only lit on one half. The thermostat didn't function right, either, and Mom had to set the oven on "Broil" in order to get enough heat to cook anything. 

I don't know what the backstory is on why Dad didn't pay to have the oven repaired. I guess I'll never know. There must be some amazing story though, because it was like that the entire time I lived at home.

Mom was an inattentive, disinterested cook at best. She'd put six frozen pot pies in the oven, on the "Broil" setting, and wander away. The instructions on the box read "Bake for 45 minutes." I am not sure whether she baked for 45 minutes, or 30, or an hour. It's hard to say. 

Generally though, the finished product was blackened on one half, crispy and crunchy and full of carbon ("It's good for you") while the other half looked anemically pale. The innards were similar: Half was hot and bubbly while the other side was cold, if not still half-frozen.

My brothers and I figured out by the age of eight or so that if you turned food 180 degrees halfway through cooking time, that it baked evenly. Mom never gave it that much thought. Or else she got busy and forgot; not sure. Either way, our food was always Two-Face, like in Batman. 

So today I ask myself why chicken pot pies remain comfort food to me. 

I guess we just make associations between those tiny examples of affection, however small or obscure. She could have had me fix myself a peanut butter sandwich, but those few times she made an effort, however slight, to do something more. For me. 

Nurturing doesn't have to be a grand gesture, nor does it even have to be noticeable to have a positive effect. 

Thanks, Mom, for making me chicken pot pies. <3, Clara