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My Person

Recently, someone came back into my life.

This person was my whole entire world for three years. This was My Person, the love of my life.

They loved me.

Completely.

All my flaws.

My Person made me feel whole.

my person

My Person calmed the negativity I had in my life.

My Person held me when I needed to cry. They listened when I needed to yell. This person sat behind me and picked head lice out of my hair for 8 hours when I cried because no one else in my life would help me. My Person was so beyond good for me.

Then, slowly I started letting the negative creep back in, I let the people that were supposed to care talk me into believing them instead of this amazing person I had in my life.   

You see, I always knew I was a failure. 

I always knew I would never amount to anything.

My Person believed in me and my worth and well… I really don’t know.

I have no excuses except I was young and dumb and influenced easily by people that should have been supporting me.  I longed for THEIR approval and love and if I didn’t have that, why should I deserve anything else.

I left this amazing person with a heavy heart but headed in a direction I was being basically shoved into for many years.

I married, had kids, was verbally and emotionally abused before I finally left.

Even after I left I tried to make it work. I mean, no one else would ever want me.

During this time I searched out My Person.

They’d moved far away to another land.

They seemed happy and from what I could see from my computer screen didn’t want me anymore.

I did reach out, I called, I emailed, I basically stalked this person.

But they had moved on. I was just a memory to them; that was okay. After all, I didn’t deserve them.

Fast forward a few more years.

I still watched My Person from afar. I was friends with their family but still had not contact with My Person.

That was okay. I was happy knowing they were happy.

I met someone, dated for a few years, got married again. And I am finally HAPPY!  Well, at least most of the time. My old negative thoughts are all still there but I’m mildly successful at pushing them down.

A couple weeks ago, My Person showed up in my life again like a whirlwind.

They have never been far from my thoughts; I still watched.

But here they were in my inbox and we’ve been talking and it’s like the last twenty years disappeared and I am right back where I was, where we were; My Person and I.

And I am so so so in love. I always was.

And I’m torn: how can I love two people this much?  What do I do?

I need this person in my life, they are a part of me has been missing for so long.

It’s like I got my right hand back.  I need them to know I love them. Because I do…

…but we can’t be together.

I love where I am now, I love the person I’ve married. I love my home and my job. Right now? There’s half a century and twenty years between us, but I still need them in my life.

I find my mind wandering a lot lately.

The what if’s. 

I find myself wanting to wake up in one of those stupid romcoms where everything is different but it just seems right and you don’t want to wake up.

I want to find a damn DeLorean and make different choices.

A Letter I Can’t Send: Dear Littlest Sister

Dear Littlest Sister,

I wish, for so many reasons, that we were closer. It seems that all your life I’ve watched you hurting, and I’ve never been able to help you. Either it was out of my hands or you wouldn’t let me close enough to be any good.

I know I’m a disappointment to you, and that there are times you wish we didn’t share a name. I’m sorry. As difficult as our relationship has been, I have always been proud to call you my sister.

When you were five and our parents divorcing, I should have been more sensitive. I should have seen the Little Sister that needed reassurance.

Looking back, I don’t know why I minded it when you followed me around – you were so darn cute!

When you were playing softball, I wish I hadn’t been so wrapped up in my teenage-self. I wish I’d praised you for all your hard work; told you how great you were. Had I praised you, would you have felt shadowed by our middle sister’s spotlight? Would you still have given up sports?

Maybe it would have changed your future to hear how proud I was of you.

When you were experiencing your own depression, I wish I hadn’t been thousands of miles away. I’d have held you as you cried. Maybe then you wouldn’t have tried to overdose. If I’d been there to listen, would you have started cutting?

When you enlisted in the military, did I tell you how my heart swelled with pride? When you came back from your basic training and tech school I was, once again, wrapped up in my own stuff.

Did I tell you that I loved you?

Did I tell you that I missed you each day you were gone?

And now, when you’re hurting – when your life is spinning- the distance between us is more than the five-hour drive. I want to call you and listen to your tears. I want to to tell you that broken hearts hurt worse than childbirth, but that you’ll heal and be stronger.

I want to comfort you and give you the compassion and support that I know you won’t get from our mother or our middle sister.

It’s silly, really. We’re so much alike, you’d think we’d be closer. But, as I look back, I can see all the wedges I drove between us.

And so, I’ll write this letter to you; a letter you’ll never see. I’ll keep you in my thoughts as I wait to hear news of you. And I’ll pray that this isn’t the thing that causes you to hurt yourself again. 

You are such a beautiful person.

You give so much of yourself to everyone. You, who never wanted children, are my son’s favorite aunt. He glows when he talks of his time with you and he tells anyone who will listen that he wants to join the military, just like his heroes. Do you know you’re one of his heroes?

Do you know you’re one of mine?

I love you to the depths of my soul. And no matter what, you will always be a part of me.

I am so infinitely proud of you.

Love,

Your Big Sister

Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me

So here I am, not yet 35, and wading into the nastiness of my second marriage falling apart.

I guess I could say that I got married the second time because it seemed worth betting that the first time was due to *him…” so a different guy could fix that, right?

But the problem – if you want to call it a problem – is almost certainly me.

My mom said it brilliantly in her recent email to me:

I guess it’s truth out time, and I’m about to be a bad mom.

Truth – Dad wanted to hogtie you and send you to Tijuana before you married Steve*, but I talked him out of it. He was really upset, but I thought he had Steve pegged wrong.

Truth – after living with Steve for two months, I agreed with your father. I wanted to bitch-slap Steve so hard his head would fall off.

Or worse.

Truth – he lied to you about stuff (mostly little things), but I never said a word because I felt it wasn’t my place. But one of those lies cost you 5,000 dollars. You have no idea how furious I was or how much I kicked myself.

I’m sorry.

This really isn’t the time to be landing this stuff on you, but Dad and I both are feeling very responsible for our little girl getting hurt (again) when maybe if we had just opened our mouths, we could have prevented all this. Of course, to be realistic, it may not have made any difference, but these thoughts cross your mind when you’re a parent.

We both agreed when you were little that whoever married you would have to be one hell of a special kind of guy. (In Dad’s words, “God help him”). But I always pictured you either a) single, and blazing through the world in a cloud of glory or, b) married to a guy who was your equal – smart, confident, strong-willed, motivated and out to make his mark on the universe, but at home would have to know just when to push and when not. NOT easy to find!

However this turns out, we’ll always be here – doors and arms open. Remember that. And don’t worry, next time, we’ll speak our piece – welcome or not – and hogtie if necessary!

By the way, your brother wants to kick Steve’s butt for hurting his sister. That’s his way of saying he’s there for you, too. And if you want me there, just call. I can grab a flight and work be hanged! I love you very much – we all do.

Mom

The beautiful part is that they said almost the same thing after my first divorce, although she left out the part about how she always pictured me single.

fool me twice

That would have given me a lot of strength, I think.

I spent my whole life thinking that I was a failure if I wasn’t married – or conversely, that being able to “get guys” to want to commit to me was some kind of major success. I think having a best friend for most of my life who was openly jealous of my relationships probably didn’t help.

But, hey Mom – THIS time I was obviously very hesitant about getting married, and I ASKED you all to tell me if you had any hesitations!

And good grief, Dad, why couldn’t you grow a pair? You knew Steve best, and if you’d said it was a bad idea, wild horses couldn’t have gotten me down that aisle.

Something tells me, though, that I’m not the only person here who bought into this assumption that women simply “should” get married; that getting married is always a victory, even if your (first) husband is half-jokingly gloating that “someone needs to get [you] under control”.

(He did, and so I compensated for that the next time by marrying someone who wanted ME to be responsible for everything. And I was, but it cost me everything I wanted to do for myself!)

I feel like I’m waking up.

Men attacked me when I was a child, so I spent all of my teens obsessed with them, but avoiding any actual contact with them; then I got married as soon as I could; then, divorced and terrified of single motherhood, I got married again as soon as I could; and now here I am fighting my way free again.

It’s been a day and a half since he moved out (temporarily, because things turned violent, though that wasn’t the pattern or anything – but can I add that having the ability to leave immediately if someone breaks that rule with me is something it turns out I REALLY value?), and I’m not in any way looking forward to the next steps, but I do feel like I can see a clear path for the first time in a long while.

Thanks, Mom.

You may have been a little (lot) late, but that helped a lot!

(And you can bet your hiney that when MY little girl wants to get married, I’m making her a laundry list of every reason in the world I can think of not to – if she still does, great, I’ll support her; but she deserves to know what I really think. I guess sometimes the hardest lessons you teach your kids are the ones where you show them how not to do things!)

6,217 Days

We were married for 17 years, 6 months, and 2 days.

Up until day 6,217, when he told me he wanted a divorce, I thought we were the happiest married couple ever. I said those exact words to my best friend when she tearfully called me to tell me she was considering leaving her husband. I told her that she deserved to be happy.

So, when my dear husband told me the same thing shortly after, I knew he didn’t deserve anything less.

Up until the last day of our marriage (day number 6,394), I thought the divorce wouldn’t actually happen. I couldn’t process the concept that WE – my husband and I – were not going to be married.

Even then, when I was sad and broken-hearted and disbelieving, I nutshelled it all

. I do that sometimes when I have trouble recollecting events – I pare the story down to basic facts and repeat it until it sinks in. In this case, it made me realize what a shocking and kind of hilarious story it is.

This version is a little more than the nutshell – context is important – but it’s still hard to believe. Plus, some parts were left out for too long and it’s important that I’m honest about them.

So, right – back story.

I met him on my first day of junior college and we became inseparable. A year and half later, he enlisted in the Army while I was moving to continue my education. I couldn’t stand to be apart from him, so I broke up with him.

Kids are stupid.

He showed up out of the blue, all crazy and romantic, two weeks later. I agreed to get back together with him. Two weeks later, we got engaged over the phone. We planned a wedding for eight months later – that April.

Happy, happy day! Huge family event. It stayed a huge family event for more than 17 years. We had three kids, one failed business, somewhere around a dozen moves – including one cross-country and back.

This is where I leave out one part.

Well, where I used to leave out one part. After child number three, our beloved baby girl, things went south.

Meaning, The South wouldn’t rise again. He started having trouble getting it up.

Then, it didn’t come up at all.

I thought we were strong. We were best friends. I really thought we’d be together forever. I even had his name tattooed on my ankle in a big flaming heart. (It’s covered up now. No worries.)

If we talked about our intimacy issues, he just told me I didn’t do something enough. I didn’t initiate enough. I wasn’t there for HIM enough. I wasn’t enough. We tried Viagra; it didn’t work. We had sex a total of four times during the last seven years of our marriage. I gave up.

I’ll skip ahead to tell you how this turned out.

Between leaving me and marrying her, he visited a doctor. For her.

It turns out that years of untreated diabetes shredded certain blood vessels. He had liquid Viagra injected into his penis (OUCH!) and it still didn’t work. He’ll never have another erection without surgery. I have no idea if he got it or if he intends to.

But bottom line there is, it wasn’t – and never was – my fault. I never told ANYONE about his situation downstairs until I had to.

It’s important.

That brings us to Year 16; two months shy of our 17th anniversary.

In February, he found his high school girlfriend on Facebook. She requested him as a friend. He was perplexed and flustered; he asked me a million questions.

Should he add her?

Was she still mad at him for breaking up with her?

Could they be friends?

I was calm. “Honey,” I said. “Oh honey. We’ve been married almost 17 years. We have three kids. We live two states away. She’s married. It’ll be fine. Be friends.”

Hahaha.

See how funny this story is already?

The emails, texts, and phone calls started immediately. At one point, I asked him to stop texting her. Emails were fine, stay friends on Facebook – just don’t text.

But I wasn’t built to be the text police.

So, you want to text? Fine. I trust you.

April was our 17th anniversary. We talked about having more anniversaries, staying married. I pushed for a quick answer; he said he wanted to stay together.

In May, there came a day he couldn’t stop pacing. Over and over I asked what was wrong. He couldn’t give me a clear answer.

I kept at it until he said the words, “I want a divorce.”

We both cried.

He moved out of the bedroom to the couch downstairs.

I cried. I howled. I screamed. At one particularly low moment, I was on my knees, sobbing, before him on the floor, while that stupid Sugarland song, “Stay,” was on the television.

divorce

He told me to stop; Just get up.

He didn’t want to talk. He didn’t want counseling. He was just done. Wanted his Facebook girlfriend.

At that point, he said she was still married; they were just friends. She “helped” him through this rough time.

In June, he took trips to meet her, the first in the city where we had our honeymoon because it was “more convenient.”

In July, I saw he’d been tagged in photos from a high school friend. We were still friends on Facebook. (I told you this story was funny.)

These photos were for his birthday party, to which I wasn’t invited, but there they were, arms around each other. Someone commented what a cute couple they were.

About that time, SURPRISE, I started dating. I’ll admit, I wasn’t just dating; I was down to fuck. After only having sex four times in seven years, I wanted some.

And I got some.

Never anywhere near my house – no one came over. He was still sleeping downstairs on the couch. He moved out in August.

At one point before our divorce, after he followed me to a park and took pictures of me partially naked and in an obviously sexual embrace with another man, he said, “You’ve got your get out of jail free card.”

At the time, I didn’t feel like our marriage had been a jail.

Of course, now I see that it was – we were both unhappy for a long time. Now, I’m thankful he gave me the card. When his business failed, we had to start over again and I didn’t see him the same way.

I lost respect for him, loving him a little less each day thereafter. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him.

Our divorce was final in October.

At Thanksgiving, which our divorce decree states is always his holiday with the children, he took his girlfriend, her kid and our kids to his family’s holiday feast and announced their engagement.

They got married in January on the beach with our children in attendance. I made arrangements for him to take them out of state for the event. I bought clothes for them to wear. I spent hours convincing our eldest, then 16, to go with them. I thought I was helping our kids through the transition by accepting the situation and being positive about their relationship.

They’re still together. I don’t say negative things about them, not around the kids. Of course, I hate them.

If I could explode people with my brain, they’d be first on the list. Clearly.

Sometimes I look around this house we shared – our last home together – and it’s hard for me to think that he’s not here, that he’ll never set foot in this house again. That loss has left a scar on my heart. A sensitive one.

I’m still shocked. I don’t know that I’ll ever get completely over it. I’m taking a break from it right now, but I have happily dated A LOT.

Four guys I’ve dated have left me for their high school girlfriends. I started asking men if they were still in touch with their high school squeezes because if they were, they’d soon find those bitches irresistible.

I laugh about it – to hide my pain.

I’m broken, yeah. I’m working on doing better, on being better.

But now, I’m the one who’s laughing.

13 Is My Happy Number

We at The Band do understand that a lot of our subject matter can be very dark and dense. This, however, is not a story of sadness, but of rebirth, finding a place in the world, and knowing just how valuable you are. 
We encourage each of you to tell us one of your stories – happy or not.
This is her incredible journey:

13 has always been my happy number.

Today is no different.

13 years ago today I left my first, abusive marriage. I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing, or how I was going to survive or take care of my two boys (and their sister who was due in five months. But I did know this: the best place for all of us was NOT with their father.

Leaving was the first hard decision I’ve made as an adult, the first time I felt like an adult, the first time I ever felt like I had the ABILITY to make a decision for myself or my children.

a photo of carnival people on swings

Life after his abuse was not an easy time. it was easily one of the three hardest times I’ve ever experienced in my life.

I am so thankful that a support system came out of the woodwork when I needed it and helped us get through the transition and helped me feel secure enough in my choice to leave that I didn’t end up going back.

I can’t imagine where my children or I would be today if we hadn’t had that.

Mike and I met shortly after that fateful day, in a chatroom. Two years later on August 20th we found out we were having a baby! Baby Eliza blessed us with her presence on April 21st.

I know that it’s no coincidence that today would also have been my father-in-law’s birthday, may he rest in peace. I wish I’d had the chance to meet him.

Today has so many memories, meanings and significance for all of us. This is truly a day we will all cherish forever.

a crowd of people hands shaped into a heart

13 happy years of freedom, 12 years knowing my true love, and so many other memories. Amazing memories.

Before, After, and Between.

Today is a good day every year, and always will be.

How about you? Do YOU have a happy or lucky number or thing?

Just The Two Of Us

Is Mommy coming back?”

He was not quite six years old when he asked me that question about our mother. I didn’t know the answer then. I was only nine. I knew he needed me. I knew he was sad and worried and really, really scared. I told him the first thing that came to mind.

Yes. She’ll be back.”

It took a few years, and in that time, he and I grew very close. I helped him with his homework, did his laundry, and beat up his bullies. I tucked him in at night, made his grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup, and wiped away his tears.

Now, he’s thirty and I’m thirty-four. We’re both parents. Both have been divorced. Both wounded. But I will always be the big sister.

His fatigues are packed for the war zone, again: for the fourth time. Fuck.

I left him a message. And then he left me one. And then finally today, we talked.

“Am I coming home, Sis?”

“Yes. Yes, you are coming home.”

“With my tags on my toes?”

“NO. Not with your tags on your toes. You’re coming home to kiss your son.”

“Take care of my wife & son, Sis.”

“I promise.”

“You’re the best sister and mom I’ve ever had. I love you.”

(I catch my breath.) “Watch your ass, baby boy. I love you too.”

Oh dear God, please watch over my baby brother. Keep this 6’4″ soldier safe and bring him home where he is loved most: where he has a son who needs his father; a wife who needs her husband and a sister who wants to keep a promise that he is coming home safely.

Amen.