Tag Archives: divorce

Marriage to the Truth

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.”
– William Shakespeare

I was talking to my dear friend Vanessa recently and she used a phrase that will not leave my head. Vanessa, like me, is a writer. Vanessa, unlike me, doesn’t realize it. She will though. We all have to arrive at our destinations on our own time. However, while she’s in the process of this impending realization, she said she has discovered a similarity in all of the writers she knows.

We are all in a “marriage to the truth.”

Wow.

She went on to elaborate a bit by saying that we are the people who can’t keep secrets. We have to share. The things that are inside us simply have to come out. They just have to. Anything else is not an option.

I’ve honestly never thought about it that way. (Thanks, fellow writer.)

But, she’s right. At least for me anyway. I physically cannot keep things inside me. If I try, I get sick. I throw up. Isn’t that crazy? It’s like I have a disease and writing is the only cure.

Now, I don’t necessarily mean that every time I get upset, I have to sit down and write a novel. No, writing does not just consist of creative writing. Writing is simply an expression in words.

And boy have I been expressing lately.

If you are my Facebook friend, then you know I’m hurting right now. Bad.

However, in some crazy, misguided attempt to keep the details a secret, I’ve only expressed my hurt without some of the more important factors. And, in doing so, I think I may have led people to an incorrect conclusion. So I want to clear this up. Not just for my husband’s sake, but for my integrity as well.

My husband did not cheat on me.

Yes, I’ve posted memes about lying. About hiding things. About hurting the person you love. I’ve posted statuses about being heartbroken and about seeing a woman I despise out around town and not killing her. (Still proud of myself for that one.) But again, let me make this clear. Both for myself and for you. And for him.

My husband did not cheat on me.

I still won’t give all the details because this is his story too and not just mine. But if I’m going to live a public life like I do, then I have to live it honestly and without leading people to believe something that just didn’t happen. To sum it up, I found out about something (two things actually) that happened prior to our marriage.  One, he confessed to. The other, I found out on my own.

Yes, both instances involve another woman.  However, it’s not quite that cut and dry. There are other factors in play. (As I’m sure there always are in these circumstances.)

Am I excusing his behavior and saying he did nothing wrong? Absolutely not. He hurt me to my core.  And he knows it and accepts it. But the “standard” definition of cheating isn’t the only thing that does that kind of damage. Please don’t deduce from my public displays of hurt that my husband cheated on me during our marriage. He did not. He betrayed my trust and he kept secrets from me. This part is true. But he did not betray our wedding vows.

I’m hurt and I’m screaming out in pain. But there’s no need for me to inadvertently do more damage than what already exists between us. In more ways than one, my husband is a good man. If you know him and are surprised by him hurting me, then you’re right to be. This is not who he inherently is. Do not “hate” him on my behalf. Do not judge him based on my pain. This is my pain. Mine alone.

I appreciate everyone’s love and support. I’ve seen more good through this pain than I ever thought existed. Practical strangers have reached out to me to try to soothe my hurt by telling me they’ve been there. Of course, all of our stories are unique. No one has ever been exactly in another’s shoes. But regardless of the circumstances, I’m sure most of us have felt betrayal. And each time someone reaches out to tell me I’m not alone, it’s like another stitch being placed in this gaping wound.

Thank you for helping to heal me. Truly.

But don’t let your healing lead you to despise my husband. He’s not a bad man. He made a few mistakes and betrayed my trust. There are specific circumstances that make this not your “typical” cheating story. And again, even though my pain is public (because I don’t know how else to be), he is in pain too. He just grieves privately.

Our story is ours. Not just mine. Ours.

And I have no idea how this story is going to end.  But thank you for understanding that I need to tell it in my own way.  My marriage to the truth is one marriage that is not going to end any time soon. Of that one, at least, I’m certain.

Attraversiamo

“I crossed the street to walk in the sunshine.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

(I wrote this nine years ago and never showed anyone. It has been on my mind lately and I decided it was time to share it.)

***

“Attraversiamo.”

With this last printed word, meaning “let’s cross over” in Italian, I close the book and stare through the tears at the wood-paneled wall before me. Sitting alone on a Friday night in my small newly acquired two-bedroom mobile home, my thoughts are consumed with the book I have just read.

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Just a random bookstore purchase, like so many before, yet this one has changed everything.

I am 30 years old and my second marriage has just ended.

My children from my first marriage—two adorable, bubbly redheads who are the only lights in my life—are at their dad’s for the weekend. I have no distractions, no bedtime baths or tuck-ins to take my mind off the nagging lessons that Eat Pray Love has instilled into my brain.

I’ve messed up. This thought bursts forth before all others and refuses to be ignored. I look down at the closed book on my lap and those three words are all I see.

I’ve messed up.

In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert documents leaving her life to travel for a full year. Could I do that? Could I travel the world in search of the “me” that got lost in those last two marriages? Would a plate of Italian spaghetti or an Indonesian medicine man fix everything for me like it did for Liz?

Of course not. I’m a mother. A broke, divorced mother. I can’t leave.

So what then?

Prior to my second marriage, I was what some would call a fireball. A fiery, spirited gal, with red hair to seal the deal, nothing could get me down. Even my first failed marriage, painful though it was, did nothing to stop my headstrong determination. The same spunk that entered that marriage with me trailed along after me as I left. I was still the same, just a little broken-hearted and slightly off course. But that would soon ease and, with a little time and forgiveness, both my kids’ dad and I would see the split for what it was: necessary. We would soon learn to co-parent and eventually even call each other friend. I was going to be okay.

And then I met my second husband.

I wonder what it was that had drawn me to him. Although my feisty personality gave off the aura of independence, the truth was that I wanted someone to take care of me. I didn’t want to be worrying about bills and packing school lunches alone. I wanted a partner. Then suddenly, there he was.

Hindsight is always 20/20 as they say. In retrospect, I see the red flags I overlooked then. A controller can easily be disguised as a caregiver. He wanted to do things for me. For a tired, overworked single mom, this was a welcome turn of events. Little by little, he began to take care of it all, making decisions for me to help clear my heavy load.

Then came the other changes. What clothes I wore, how I kept my hair, what friends I could keep. Others seemed to notice what was happening, but not me. It just felt so good to be loved. To be noticed.

This couldn’t go on forever though. One morning as I sat in my doctor’s office trying out yet another depression medication, my doctor said something I would never forget. She pulled her chair right over to me, sat down and looked me straight in the eyes. “Melissa,” she said, “I do not have a medication that is going to fix your marriage.”

Fix my marriage?

Armed with that old redheaded stubbornness, I marched out of that doctor’s office with the certainty that she was a quack. If she wouldn’t give me a different medicine, I’d find another doctor who would. Something was wrong. It was chemical, I was sure of it. My life was great.

Really.

But later that night, lying in bed beside my snoring husband, the doctor’s words kept running through my mind. I needed to talk to someone. But who? The only friends I had now were my husband’s friends. I used to have friends from work, but my husband had convinced me to take a job in a smaller office where there weren’t so many annoying office functions and parties to attend. I cut contact with all of them at his suggestion – moving on was easier if you would just forget.

Maybe one of my old theatre friends? I once loved community theatre so much. It had once been such a huge part of my existence…where had it gone? Ah yes. My husband didn’t like the time that it consumed. My place was at home with him and the kids, not out doing God knows what with God knows who. It was time to grow up and be a wife and mother. Isn’t that what he had said? So no, the theatre friends were out. I hadn’t talked to them in so long, I couldn’t call them up now in the middle of the night.

I had some friends from a women’s church group that my husband allowed me to go to on Monday nights. Maybe I could call one of them? No, I couldn’t. He told me that talking about my problems in that group was only asking for trouble. He made it clear to me that our business needed to remain private and was not to be shared with a bunch of busybodies who wanted nothing more than to spread the news throughout the church.

So, who could I call?

Mom.

I snuck out of bed and walked into the living room. I pulled out my cell phone and just as I had her number keyed in, my husband walked into the room. Of course, making a phone call in the middle of the night could only mean one thing. I was cheating on him. I attempted to show him the number I was dialing, tried to prove that it was only my mother, but he wouldn’t listen.

I had to be stopped from making that call.

And I was.

I packed my bags the next day.

Now, here I am only a few short weeks later (many bruises healed, many to remain), closing the last page of Eat, Pray, Love and sobbing like a toddler.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s words fill my mind.

“If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting – which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments – and set forth on a truth-seeking journey… then the Truth will not be withheld from you.”

Where is my Truth, Liz? Where is it?

“If you’re brave enough…” Is that what I was? Was I brave to leave my husband?

Just like that, I receive my answer. Somewhere deep inside me, a fiery redheaded community theatre actress screams, YES!

Yes.

This is it. This is why this book has gotten to me. Today is the start of my journey. It may look like a little rented, singlewide mobile home, but to this lonely, lost sojourner, it is the first step towards the journey of freedom.

Attraversiamo.

I head to the telephone to call my mom.

***

gilbert.jpg

Vanessa

“I have never felt more beautiful in a dress and I was denied the opportunity to wear it. Instead of leaving it to hang alone and dejected in my closet, I took it out and wore it. I wore the hell out of it.”
– Vanessa Schilling

I spend a lot of time using this blog to tell my stories.  Today, with her permission, I want to tell you someone else’s.

As some of you may remember from a previous blog, I got an awesome opportunity a few months back to play Glinda the Good Witch at a weekend festival in Beech Mountain, North Carolina.  I could fill this blog for a year with stories from that experience.  It was just so friggin cool.  And, truth be told, I will probably reference various tidbits about it for the rest of my life. Therefore, allow me to go ahead and issue my formal apology right now for that and just get it over with.  In fact, may I suggest a drinking game?  Every time I say the word “Oz” or “Glinda” or “good witch” or “Darn it, I miss being a pretty pretty princess!!!,” just go ahead and chug. Hey, everybody wins!  I get to talk about Oz [DRINK!] and you get to put yourself in the mindset to put up with reading the rest of my blog.  Ok, wait.  Maybe I’m the only that wins?  Eh.  Either way…drink up!

Whew.  This blog girl sure knows how to digress….

So, back to the point.  One of the first experiences I had after just arriving at Oz [you paying attention?  DRINK!] was meeting a lady named Vanessa.  In fact, I have a photo from about 5 seconds after meeting her.  Wanna see it?

mevan

There you have it folks.  I kid you not.  It went pretty much like this, “Hi, I’m Vanessa, and I seriously have to get under that dress.  Hold still….”  Now, granted, that might not be the first time I’ve ever heard that in my life after just meeting someone, but I can honestly say it was the first time I’d ever heard it from a woman…

But in all seriousness, that story right there pretty much described Vanessa –  a funny, charming, risk-taking breath of fresh air who quickly became my friend.  She ended up being one of my roomies for the weekend and I found myself looking forward to just being around her.  No pretension, no formalities – you could just be yourself around Vanessa because she brought that out in you.  She was ‘real.’  And I liked that.

And along with being real, you wanna know what else she was?  About 8 months pregnant.  Yep, there were actually two people under that dress in that picture up there.  (And room for plenty more, to be quite honest…)  Vanessa, who usually played the wicked witch for this Oz weekend, was just along for the ride this time since it might look a little odd to have the wicked witch of the west with child.  Didn’t want to confuse the kiddies, ya know.

So, Oz weekend came and went and we all discarded our costumes (Darn it! I miss being a pretty pretty princess…[DRINK!]) and went back to our lives.  Thanks to good ole Facebook, however, we were all able to keep in touch.  I eagerly awaited the updates from my new friend Vanessa’s pregnancy and was excited to see that bouncing baby boy bundle of joy arrive a few weeks later.  Her military husband had just arrived from his tour in Afghanistan and her happy little family was complete.  

And boy do I wish this story could end here.

Unfortunately, however, as often is the case, Life has a way of stepping in and not letting stories end all tied up in the pretty red bow like we wish they would.  And this time is no exception to that sucky rule.  Just a few short weeks after Vanessa’s baby was born, her husband dropped the bomb.  He told her he wanted to end their marriage.

I sat and watched, helpless, as my friend’s world was falling apart.  I watched her go through the motions.  Sadness.  Defeat.  Confusion.  Fear.  Anger.  Anguish.  I could list vocabulary words for days and none of them could adequately describe the pain.  And I, like so many of her other friends, had no idea what to do to help her.  So, we watched helplessly from afar, hoping that our empathy could somehow reach through the technology waves to let her know that she wasn’t alone.  What else could we do?

I found myself thinking of Vanessa so often throughout the day.  This vibrant ball of energy had lost her spark.  And though I had only known her for a short time, it truly affected me to know that her spirit had been crushed.  And one of the posts in particular that she had on Facebook especially tugged at my heartstrings.

Vanessa had just gone shopping for  a new dress to wear to her husband’s formal military ball.  And, as a lot of us who have been mommies know, your body is barely your own after you’ve just given birth. We can all imagine just how thrilled she was when she found the perfect dress, post-baby body and all.  A sweet little red number that accentuated her curves to a tee.  She had found THE dress.  The one that was going to make her the belle of the ball.

Well.  There went that.

All dressed up, and no place to go.

As the date for the military ball drew closer, Vanessa’s hurt and pain increased.  This was supposed to have been her night.  Much like the feeling I had as Glinda during our Oz weekend – now it was Vanessa’s turn to be the princess.  To don the dress and watch the heads turn as she walked arm-in-arm with her prince.  She was supposed to feel beautiful again.  This was going to be night that fairy tales were made of.

Only the prince didn’t hold up his end of the deal.

And there you have it.  This sad story could have ended right there.  No ball, no dress, no fairy tale.  The end.

But no way.  Not a chance.

This was Vanessa.

Vanessa had a decision to make.  Now, most of us would understand if that decision involved sitting around the house eating a large tub of ice cream and staring at the beautiful dress hanging on a hanger in the closet, right?  Of course we would.  Heck, that’s probably exactly where I would have been if I was her.  But oh no.

Not her.

Tucked underneath all that hurt and pain and anguish was the same girl that had climbed underneath all that tulle only seconds after meeting me.  That risk-taker.  That fun-loving breath of fresh air.  That beautiful tower of strength.  And for a few hours, Vanessa made a decision that took the last bit of courage she could muster.

She pried open the heavy door of pain, and let the real Vanessa run free.

vanessa2

Armed with the combination of her incredibly talented photographer friend, Van Roldan, a gorgeous white horse, a sexy red dress, and an enormous well of strength that I don’t think she even knew she had, my friend Vanessa decided that she didn’t need the prince in order to be a princess.

Channeling all of that pain into something beautiful, Vanessa got that dress out of the closet and created her own memories. And then she decided to share the result with the rest of us.

vanessa3 vanessa4 vanessa5 vanessa1

I looked through these pictures this morning with tears streaming down my face.  This was it.  That display of human strength and resilience that I am constantly striving to put into words in this blog?  These pictures did it.  Vanessa did it.

vanessa6This girl is a survivor.  We are all survivors.  No matter what life throws our way – no matter how many times we are left sobbing on the floor feeling the world crash in around us – we always, always find a way to drag our sorry selves up off the ground, brush the dust off, and put one foot right back in front of the other and keep moving forward.  Even when we think the world should stop spinning, by God, it just doesn’t.  It just doesn’t.

So, we might as well just do what my friend Vanessa just did.  Hop right back on that horse and see what’s waiting around the next bend.  And hey – why not look sexy as hell while we’re doing it?

Thank you for letting me tell your story, Vanessa.  I am certain that someone out there somewhere needed to hear it.  I know I did.

Welcome to your new role as an inspiration.

vanessa7

***

Four things greater than all things are, –
Women and Horses and Power and War.
– Rudyard Kipling, “The Ballad of the King’s Jest”

Seasons

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”
– Hal Borland

Ahh. ‘Tis the season.

The holidays. The time for joy. The time for sharing. The time to look around and appreciate the ones you love – hold them close to you and thank your lucky stars that they are in your life. You know, all that warm fuzzy stuff. Awwww.

christmasAnd boy, it sure would be nice if that were all the holidays were about.  But unfortunately, it’s not.  Because, you know what else this time is?

It’s the time of year that makes it painfully obvious when one of those “people that you love”…is missing. And you know what especially stings?  When that person who is missing during this happy holiday season, is missing by choice.

I talk about my happy relationship a lot on this blog. And it is very much that…a happy relationship.  Yes, we have our ‘down’ times just like any relationship does. But, even during those times, we both know how very lucky we are to have each other. We are in a loving, committed, and most importantly, an equal relationship that makes us both feel fulfilled and excited and hopeful for a long future together.  And I wonder sometimes how other people see these things I say about our life together, especially those who are recently single or who are just generally ‘unattached’ for whatever the reason.  I’m sure they look at what I say the same way I used to look at it when other people would say it.  Which was, “Well yeah, that’s great that this happening for you, lady, but it’s not like that for all of us.  You’re just one of the lucky ones.  Every story doesn’t have a cute little ending, Miss Happy Pants.”

Well, guess what?  I’m with ya, sista. (Or brotha, as the case may be.)  I am – I completely hear what you’re saying.  And you know why?

Because it certainly hasn’t always been this way.

christmas09I was just looking through some old pictures from Christmases in the not-so-distant past, and I came across this picture of my kids and me from the Christmas season of 2009, just four short years ago.  We sure do look happy, don’t we?  But I’m gonna tell you a secret.  See that smile on my face?

It’s fake.

Yep.  It sure is.  It’s about as fake as a smile can get.  Now, I’m not saying being there with my kids didn’t make me happy.  It did.  But as you can tell from the way I have my hands placed on them, I was holding on to them for dear life.  They were my anchors in the storm that my life was going through.  Behind that smile, there was so much hurt.  So much pain.  So much uncertainty and confusion.  And most of all, so much sadness.  I was going through a time that I sometimes thought I was not going to make it through.

What was happening, you ask?  Well, it’s simple.

My heart was broken.

In one of my previous blogs, I referenced what I like to call my “breakup bible.”  It’s the book, It’s Called A Breakup Because It’s Broken by Greg Behrendt and his wife Amiira.  (If you’re hurting over the end of a relationship, go read it.  Like, now.  Trust me on this.)  So, in this breakup bible of mine, there is the following quote:

“Being brokenhearted is like having broken ribs.  On the outside, it looks like nothing is wrong, but every breath hurts.”

Holy crap, is there so much truth to that.  It’s hard to function in any of your day-to-day activities when you can’t even take a breath without pain.  And that’s how I felt.  People can minimalize the pain of a breakup all day long, but I’ll be the first to call “BS” on that nonsense.  Heartbreak friggin hurts.  Bad.  And that’s how I was feeling during the Christmas of 2009.  I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this on this blog before, but I’ve been divorced twice.  Yep, you read that right.  Twice.  My first marriage was to my children’s father, and that ended years ago, back when my babies were just little.  We were both young and got swept up in the family life before we were ready.  That kind of thing happens, ya know.

But my second marriage?  Yeah, I can’t blame youth on that one.  And I can’t blame getting married out of some sort of ‘necessity.’  No baby was on the way or anything along those lines.  Nothing was ‘forcing’ us to get married.  I also can’t blame it on poor planning.  We dated for over three years before finally deciding to get married.  To be honest, I can’t blame my choice to get married to him on anything other than the fact that I loved him.  I did.  I loved him, he loved me, and we thought we were going to build a life together, regardless of the statistical odds that we were facing.

Well.  We were wrong.

After all that planning, after those years of dating, and after all of the conversations about how we weren’t going to be one of the statistics, we became just that.  Another statistic.  And it hurt.

No, that’s putting it too mildly.  It didn’t just hurt.  It was excruciating.  This wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill relationship breakup.  This was the breakup of a marriage.  The breakup of a newly-formed family (we both had kids from our previous marriages).  This was a decision that affected us all to the core of our beings.  And that picture up there that I showed you?  That picture was taken about a month after I had moved out of the home we shared and into my own little trailer.  It was the only thing I could find that I could afford.  I was starting from scratch.  Again.  I sure didn’t see that coming on the day I took those vows.  (Do we ever?)

But now, let’s skip to Christmas 2013.  Four years later.

fampicHere we are.  Richard and I and our kids.  All together.  All healed and happy and ready to face the future.  Here I am doing exactly what I swore I’d never do.  Not only was I not going to fall in love again, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to fall in love with a man with kids.  You can read all the self-help books in the world about how it feels to lose a relationship or a marriage, but I can guarantee you that there isn’t much out there to help you through the pain of losing step-kids.  Once my marriage ended, so did my ties to his children.  And I was going to make certain I would never fall in love with a man’s kids again like I fell in love with them.

But I was wrong.

I think I fell in love with Richard’s kids before I fell in love with him, to tell you the truth.  And I’m not so sure it didn’t happen the same way for Richard with my kids.  And Richard had the same reservations I did.  He was hurting from a previous loss as well.  Even if he hadn’t told me, I could see it on his face.  He was just like me…he had made all the same promises to himself that I had made.  No more relationships.  No more commitments.  No more love.  It’s just too darn painful.

Ha!  Well, look how that turned out.

I don’t know you, and I don’t know your specific situation.  My readers are as diverse as any set group of individuals always are.  But if you’re one of the ones who is getting ready to face this holiday season alone after the end of a relationship, this blog is for you.  All I want you to know is this.

Pain ends.

It really truly does.  The future that you think you won’t have with anyone else?  You’re wrong.  It’s there.  That relationship bliss that you think is reserved for big-mouth redheads with their own blog?  You’re wrong there too.  It’s waiting for YOU.  Yes, you.  Maybe not today.  Maybe not tomorrow.  But one day down the line, it’s going to be your turn.  If someone would have told me that back during the Christmas of 2009, I would have said the same thing to them that you’re thinking right now.  That kind of thing is for other people, not for me.  And I would have been just as wrong as you are.

Just as wrong.

I am writing this blog with one particular person in mind, but as I have seen from many of the other things that I have written, we are never ever alone in our struggles.  For this one person’s pain, there are millions more who are feeling it too.  We are all connected and that pain that you feel is reserved for only you, isn’t.  The pain isn’t yours alone, and the happiness isn’t mine alone.  These are just seasons.  We all get a turn.  The world keeps spinning, even when you feel like it shouldn’t.

So keep on keepin’ on, my friends.  Your happy may be just around the corner.

Merry Christmas.

***

“Nothing lasts forever – not even your troubles.”
– Arnold H. Glasow