Happy Birthday to ME!

Sunday was my 43rd birthday.  I know, I forgot to mention it.  Notice the number?  Who really wants to announce that?  I was really just pretending that it didn’t exist.  I’m not depressed about it or anything, but I had a baby two days before my birthday 17 years ago, so let’s just say that I gladly let my birthday take the backseat.

This is completely foreign to LoverBoy’s sweet girlfriend.  She kept asking me if I was excited about Sunday, and I swear to you that every time without fail, my response was, “What’s Sunday?”  And I was serious.

This type of attitude worked out well for me over the years, like on my 30th birthday.  I had thrown a huge bash for my husband’s 30th birthday six short months before my birthday.  I actually thought it would be the one birthday of mine that would be celebrated.  When nothing was mentioned about my birthday, I just KNEW that I was getting a surprise party.  Oh, I was surprised all right.  He forgot, and then made a last-minute attempt to stop and buy something (quite possibly at a convenience store) on his way home.  I got candles.  “But they’re that scent that you like, Babe.”

Things haven’t changed much.  On Sunday, he called the boys to see if they wanted to “hang out” with him.  LoverBoy replied, “Well, I really think we should hang out with Mom, since it’s her birthday and all.”  His response, “Oops, my bad.”

Sorry, ladies.  He’s already taken.  You will have to wait a couple of years for Mr. No-Where-Close-to-Right to be available.

The good news is that he didn’t pass this trait down to my boys.  At five minutes after midnight, LoverBoy ran out into the living room to give me a hug and tell me “Happy Birthday.”  It was also the first thing that both of them said to me when they woke up the next morning.  I could have died happy right then and there.

I set about my day doing the normal things – laundry, dishes, changing cat litter, etc.  This sent several members of my family into convulsions.  It was my birthday and there needed to be a plan to celebrate it.  (Perhaps I’m adopted?)  I agreed to a day full of fun with family and friends.  First, I hit the mall with the boys and the girlfriend.  I wanted to get some of the back-to-school shopping out of the way.  (Okay, perhaps I’m a freak of nature?)  I know that shopping with teenagers sounds like a chore, but listen, I think I have found the key to a successful back-to-school shopping trip.  Go on your birthday.  They feel bad that you are buying stuff for them on your birthday, so they are super appreciated.  I must have been told that I was “the best” more than a million times.

After shopping, I decided to get a pedicure with my BFF.  When I told the boys where I was headed, they handed me their card and said, “You’d better open this now.”  It was a gift certificate for a pedicure. Of course, I know that it was the girlfriend’s idea, and I have never loved her more.  (Isn’t that my luck, I grow to love her right the summer before she leaves for college?)

We went to dinner with my mom, my sister and her family, and my BFF and her family.  I had a margarita and had the best time giggling.  (Obviously, I’m a cheap date these days.)  The boys thought it was great since I rarely drink.  Or have fun.  Plus, I probably gave them money because I’m generous when I’m happy.  Tipsy.  Whatever.

We ended up back at my house for cake and ice cream.  My mom and sister bought me this amazing cake called The Dobashe from a local bakery.  It is heavenly – layers of chocolate fudge and vienna fillings.  It’s my favorite.  And I’ve been told that cakes eaten on your birthday are actually fat-free.

It wasn’t anything exciting.  There was no surprise party or humongous gift, but it was absolutely THE BEST birthday that I have ever had, surrounded by the people who I love that love me back.  I can’t wait for the next 364 days to pass to have another day as great as that one.  (Even though adding numbers to my age adds other fun things, like READING GLASSES.  Ugh.)

Anyway, happy Birthday to ME!

 

A game of Chicken

I wondered how long it would take before my ex felt the need to “share his views” about his mother’s visit on Saturday.  Quite honestly, I’m surprised that he held out for an entire THREE DAYS.  I’d say that is a huge improvement in his self-control department.

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m still surprised at my strong reaction when I see his name on my caller ID.  You know when you are first in a relationship and you get butterflies and feel positively giddy when your boyfriend calls?  Yeah, it’s totally opposite of that.  My stomach immediately turns.  My heartbeat becomes rapid.  My breathing becomes labored.  It’s a full-on panic attack.  Over the stupid ringing of a phone.  You would think that the person on the other line was calling to deliver tragic news, like the kidnapping or death of a loved one.  Okay, so his phone calls are never that bad, but they are never very good.

Naturally, I ignored the call.  You know me.  I needed time to regain composure and prepare for his attack.  I started working on my excuse for not answering (because he always asks) when my phone alerted me to a text.  AND an email.  Well, duh.  He never lets something go with just one phone call.

Earlier this week, I sent the entire family an email explaining the ticket process for the dance recital production.  I will admit, the instructions sent by the dance studio were a bit confusing.  Heck, I work in a facility that sells tickets daily, and even I had to read it a couple of times to understand it.  His text (and email) asked me to call because he wanted tickets but didn’t understand how to get them.  Although I had my suspicions that this was just a rouse, it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility that he was confused.  After all, it was just a mere six years ago that I told him where to buy stamps.

I called back and briefly explained the ticket buying process.  Before I could finish my obviously last statement (an assurance that I would follow-up with a reminder about the tickets), he cut me off to launch into the real topic at hand.  “You know, I really meant what I said when I promised not to ask you for any more money.  That’s all behind us now, so we really can start getting along.  I don’t want to fight any more.  But I have to tell you that I am very upset about what took place on Saturday.  I’m not mad at you, and I told myself that I wasn’t going to say anything to you about it, but I just want you to hear my side of things.”

Nah, I don’t wanna, but thanks.  Oh, and it’s not really behind us because you still owe me, like, $1200.  I’ll get over it when that’s paid off.  Or not.  I might never get over anything because you are a schmuck and will never change.

Is what I WANTED to say.  Instead, I just listened.

Back in the days that we were married, he would lay these guilt trips about how I wasn’t fun anymore.  That’s why he went out to bars and things.  Because I wasn’t fun.  And I didn’t keep a clean house.  And I didn’t decorate.  And I, oh nevermind.  Anyway, every so often, I would agree to pawn our children off on my mother, who had already kept them all week while we worked, so that I could be more fun.  After a brutal night of watching him drink, the bar would eventually close and we would head home.  I wished.  He always talked me into taking him to some place that served breakfast during the wee hours of the night (or morning).  I guess that’s what fun people do.  Afterward, he would swear that the greasy food and Coke sobered him up enough to drive home.  I would argue as long as I could stand and then angry eyes would win.  The problem, other than just the risk of death, was that I was trapped.  Literally.  I was his captive audience while he drove around back roads, playing all sorts of country songs that really meant something to him, singing out of key at the top of his lungs.  Rewinding various songs to make sure I heard every word.  “Did you hear that?  Are you sure?  I’m gonna rewind it, so really listen this time.”  More than a few times, I wished for the sweet relief of death to escape the impossible situation.

And that’s how I felt on the phone last night.  Why can’t I just hang up?  I no longer care about his relationship with his mother.  I’m a mother and I’m busy with homework and stomach viruses and soccer practice and cooking dinner.  I don’t have time to listen to country music, I mean, listen to whatever it is that he wants to talk about.

He described the “falling out” they had a few months ago when he posted a picture on Facebook that upset his mother.  It was a picture of his father when he was young lying on the grass with his friend’s mother.  Apparently, there is some debate as to the date and status of his parents’ marriage at the time that the photo was taken.  Whatever.  Not my business, so I will keep my opinion to myself.  [Cough*tacky*cough]  He said that he also told her that she has changed so much with her current husband and her strict religion that she’s not his mother anymore.  Ouch.

Yeah, so apparently, they don’t speak any more.  I had no idea, however,  because I haven’t spoken to his mother in almost a year.  I continue to send schedules to everyone because regardless of the status of current relationships, family is family, and they are all related to the boys.  You know, the innocent ones in this whole on-going drama.

He ranted for what seemed like FOREVER about how I needed to stay out of it and HE would be the one to send schedules to his family in the future.  It’s his family and I should butt out.  I tried to explain that I didn’t mean anything by it, and I didn’t do anything differently than I’ve done since the boys’ birth.  “Stop taking offense.  Didn’t I start this conversation by telling you that I’m not mad at you?  You are always so defensive.”  I know.  Silly me.  I tend to get that way when someone is yelling in my ear.  Oh, excuse me, speaking loudly.

game of chickenIn a nutshell (like you can say that after 1,000 words), she didn’t tell him that she was coming in town to test him and he wouldn’t acknowledge her presence to test her.  It was a game of Chicken, each person waiting to see who would speak first.  Who would acknowledge the other person’s existence, thereby, somehow admitting that they were the cause of whatever was wrong in their dysfunctional relationship?

The awkwardness of the situation for the boys (and me) was irrelevant.  All that mattered was the game.  Who would give up first?

Me, it’s me.  I give up.  It’s been almost a year since I have been in the middle of their drama and after just one weekend, I want out again.  Bock…bock…bock…bock…

Back to therapy I go.

About a million years ago, or what seems like it, The Ex and I went to visit a counselor together.  It was in September of 2000, about 9 months after I discovered the gambling.  And about one month after The Dream.

Have I mentioned The Dream?  If so, just skim on down to some other stuff that is probably a repeat. If not, I want to warn you that some of the details are rather horrifying and others are just plain weird.

I dreamt that I was at Kroger and the police and FBI were in the store.  They warned me to be careful.  They were about to apprehend someone who was known to kidnap and hurt children.  When I rounded the corner, I spotted the man at the end of an aisle, sitting at a card table, eating peas from a bowl.  I knew instantly that it was my husband and I wondered if they knew what they were really dealing with.  Were they really equipped to handle such a sneaky and conniving man?

I could tell by his methodical actions that he knew that he was surrounded, but he didn’t seem frightened.  He wasn’t attempting to flee.  He was simply bent over the bowl, scooping up peas and smirking.  The officers moved in and one of them attacked from behind and put a machete into his head.  (I warned you.)  It reminded me of one of those fake Halloween knife-through-the-head headbands, but this one went from front to back.

Instantly, he stopped eating the peas and slumped in his chair.  The officers started to celebrate.  Everyone was smiling and congratulating each other on the apprehension.  They had stopped an evil man.

I can still feel the fear that I felt as I moved closer to see if he was really dead.  When the officers weren’t looking, he opened his eyes, smiled and winked at me.  He wasn’t dead.  He was just pretending until he could make his next move.  I became hysterical, trying to convince officers that he was still alive. I pleaded with them to listen to me because they didn’t know what he was capable of.  I did.  They needed to shoot him or something because this was definitely not enough to stop him.

Needless to say, I woke up in a cold sweat.  I knew that I couldn’t go on another day, pretending that it would all work out, but secretly living in fear.

At first, I hauled his butt to Gamblers Anonymous meetings.  Four of them to be exact.  What he learned there was that THOSE PEOPLE ARE CRAZY.  He, of course, was perfectly normal, despite the fact that he had drained all of our savings, our retirement, and our kids savings and put us into debt that felt like it rivaled the national deficit.  He just “got in a little over his head.”  Dude, that’s called drowning.

At that point, I gave up on Gam-Anon.  It’s not like I was enjoying to ride in a car with him for 30 minutes, listening to him whine about the stupid  meeting while I wondered how many times I would roll and how many bones I would break if I hurled myself out of the moving vehicle.

So I suggested counseling.  He agreed, but thought it should be marriage counseling since he was through with gambling and all we needed to do was fix our marriage.  Whatever.  At least it’s SOMETHING.

I’m not gonna lie.  That first visit was no picnic.  Dysfunctional families do not talk about their problems.  Not with each other, not with anyone.  We pretend.  We put on a show.  But that show comes to an end when you are sitting in front of a counselor and she asks, “So what brings you to my office today?”

At this point, almost 13 years later, I don’t remember much of what was said.  I remember telling her about the dream and how it stayed with me.  I told her about my crying jags and fear.  I told her that I felt like my whole marriage had been a lie and I didn’t know how to fix it, and I told her that the Gamblers Anonymous meetings just didn’t seem to be the right fit.  The Ex told her that he had stopped gambling and that he was totally committed to his family and making it right.  He knew that he had done wrong and it would never happen again.

I don’t remember our exact words.  I don’t remember how I felt about what he said or I said.  I do, however, remember what the counselor said at the end of the session.  She stated that she needed to meet with us separately.  She believed that we were dealing with separate issues and until we worked on those issues separately, there was no way to work on the marriage together.  I was shocked when she said that she believed that I was suffering from Post Traumatic Shock and that he had some addictive traits that needed to be addressed.  She didn’t think that the marriage was over, but we needed to heal ourselves before we could heal it.  We scheduled our separate appointments and went on our merry shell-shocked way.

The following week, I visited with her to start healing from the pain.  To find myself again.  To find the ability to breath and no longer feel like a caged animal.  That same week, he called to cancel his appointment with a promise to reschedule.  A promise that was never fulfilled.

It’s no surprise that over the past 13 years, a time filled with abuse, infidelity, broken promises, and eventually divorce, I have visited with her more than a few times.  (Who am I kidding?  I’ve probably paid enough co-pays to build a beach house.)  I don’t go as often or as regularly any more, but there are times when I know I need to get back for a visit.

Like the past few months while I’m working with an attorney to get ready for a court date on April 4th.  Or SOON because of a surprise visit from him on Sunday.  The dreams have started again.  No, don’t worry, no one has any sort of knife through their head in these new dreams, but I’m spending my REM time pleading with him, hoping that he will see what he is doing and make a change.  Trying to understand what he is doing and figure out how to help or survive it.

So back to therapy I will go.

 

Kid Rock-ed My World

I might have mentioned before that I work for an entertainment facility. If not, it’s because it’s not that impressive and I’m not really a girl who is awestruck by celebrities. Unless, Simon Baker (Patrick Jane from The Mentalist) walked through the door. Then I would be a giddy school girl who can’t make actual real words come out of my mouth. Possibly with drool.

Anyway, occasionally we host concerts. It’s exhausting. We are a small facility, so for those types of events, I actually have to leave my office and help with manual labor things like setting chairs. Glamorous, right? It also requires long hours. Not that unusual for an accountant, except that we don’t usually move away from our desk and computer.

This week we hosted Kid Rock and I am flooded with memories of many years ago when Kid (You know, cuz we’re tight like that. And if you believe that, you are even more gullible than I am.) first performed at our building. It was on the night before Easter, but more importantly, it was just a month after our local Mardi Gras festivities.

Why is that important, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

You see, The Ex, then my exhausting husband, worked for a beer company. I’m not kidding. It’s ridiculous, I know. It would be like sending me to work at the Hershey’s Chocolate Factory. File that under “Not A Good Idea.”

His work “required” that he work at the Mardi Gras parades and concerts. And by required, he meant that he wanted to go and drink and this was the perfect excuse. By that time in the marriage, I had already moved into the its-easier-when-you’re-gone-anyway mentality and the I-don’t-care-to-argue-about-it frame of mind. Until he was completely unreachable and didn’t come home until the next morning.

Me: Listen, Dude, let’s both stop pretending that I’m oblivious. We both know that you weren’t “working” all night. So give me a better excuse than that. What could possibly justify not coming home to your family?

The Ex: “Here’s what happened. I was on the company bus [a very nice motor-home similar to the “buses” used by artists like Kid Rock] and I got to talking to the Beer Girls about the business.”

Me: [Unable to stifle a huge guffaw and practically choking on my soft drink.] Oh really? What business is that?

The Ex: You know, modeling. Those girls are all models, and everyone is always telling us that the boys should be models, so I was just asking them about the business.

Me: Oh, please. Those girls are no more models than I am. They are college girls hired to show their boobs and flirt with rednecks to increase beer sales. I’m not buying it. And even if I was buying it, there is no reason to hang out with them all night to discuss it. How would you feel if the roles were reversed? What if in a few weeks, when Kid Rock is in town, I just hang out on his bus all night? You know, to discuss the business.”

The Ex: I wouldn’t care.

And here’s where it gets funny. Fast forward a few weeks. Kid Rock rolls into town. On his bus. I work the concert. Late. I mean, really late. Not because I was hanging out on his bus, but because of some mayhem involving a night deposit getting stuck while a member of SWAT warned other night depositors to back away. (Yes, these things only happen to me.) Completely innocent. No where near Kid Rock or a bus or anything remotely fun. (Although looking at the shocked faces of the other night depositors when they saw the big SWAT gun was a little funny.) And The Ex wouldn’t care, right?

HA!

When I got home at an ungodly hour way past my bedtime, I noticed that the Easter Bunny had not made an appearance. (Shocker.) I groaned because OH THE EXHAUSTION, then immediately started stuffing plastic eggs and filling baskets. All of a sudden somebody-that-seemed-to-care-but-said-he-wouldn’t burst into the room and growled, “Where in the h*ll have you been?”

Me: On Kid Rock’s bus talking about the business. Duh.

The Ex: You are such a b*@#h.

Me: I know. Hey, why didn’t you fill the baskets?

The Ex: Cuz that’s your job. Maybe you should have been home doing that instead of hanging out on a bus with your boyfriend.

Y’all, I am giggling right now almost as much as I was then. Cuz that there’s funny. I don’t care who you are. Kid Rock is my boyfriend?

Hmmm, I wonder if Kid would find it funny. Maybe I’ll ask him the next time he’s in town and we talk business. I’ll tell him about that night on his bus that he Kid-Rocked my world. If only he had been there. And me too.

 

Photo courtesy of Google Images.

 

It does get better.

If you are dealing with a recent betrayal from infidelity, I am truly sorry. I want you to know that it does get better. I know, I know, you are wishing that I could give you an exact date so that you could circle it on the calendar and mark off the days until its arrival.

I wish I could give you a date. I remember feeling as overwhelmed and as devastated as you feel right now. February will mark five years since I learned her name and the bottom fell out. I was standing in the kitchen making dinner like any other day when the world stopped.

The following year was filled with emotions I couldn’t control and didn’t understand. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. Most days I had to force myself to get out of bed and remind myself to do simple tasks like brush my teeth. I lived in such a fog, surrounded constantly by swirling thoughts that wouldn’t leave my head. Why? How? Everyone else was moving around in usual patterns, but I was moving around in slow motion, barely able to put one foot in front of the other.

This morning I saw my ex in his truck. I saw that truck and I remembered those feelings. I remembered what it felt like to see that truck in 2008. That lump in my throat. That knot in my stomach. Nearly hyperventilating. Trying not to vomit.  For a moment, the thought of those feelings took my breath away.  I could almost feel the pain that I felt back then.

I remembered the thoughts that flooded my brain when I used to see that truck.  Was she with him? Is he on his way to meet her? Could he possibly still love me the way that I loved him?  Did he ever think of me? Why can’t he see that I need him? Doesn’t he care? Make it stop. Make it go away. No more pain.  Don’t vomit in public.  Or in your car.  Or anywhere.  Make it stop.

I think I saw that truck this morning and momentarily felt those old emotions to remind me that others are on this journey.  Others are searching for answers to the same questions that I had.  Others looking for relief from the constant pain.

I saw that truck that symbolizes that pain for me and I knew that I should take a moment to tell you that it really does get better. Eventually those feelings fade. You become numb to the pain. You start to smile spontaneously, no longer forcing it for the benefit of others. You function and you go on about your day without wondering if he will ever come home. You create a new life.  You do things because you enjoy them, not because you want to prove to him that you are worthy or prove to the world that you are okay.  You can actually see your ex and no longer want him to come home.  No longer long for what was.

In fact, when you see his truck, let’s say five years later, it might cause you to catch your breath, but you can sigh with relief because those feelings are just memories.