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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.

Ask The Band: My So-Called Life

It all started when I was a teenager. Or maybe that was the end. I still don’t know.

Before that, life was good. I had a great mom who took good care of me and my brothers.

Then she married a monster.

He molested me, scared me so much that I couldn’t tell anyone, especially my mom. She went to her grave thinking life was good and fair – and I’m glad for her.

But I paid for her peace of mind. God, I paid.

I lost track of how many times he molested me. There were just so many. Three years of that man forcing me to do things I’d never heard of, threatening to kill my mom if I told anyone he was abusing me.

It took me nearly three years to do just that – tell someone.

Then I married, and acquired an instant family. I thought life was going to be better.

That’s when it started.

At first it was little comments, “That swim suit shows too much,“ or, “You shouldn’t wear that, because your legs are too fat.”

Then, the rapes started.

He knew what I’d been through with my step-dad, yet he was doing the same thing – he raped me.  I felt like this was just how men treated women. I was afraid to leave, and afraid to stay.

By then, I had another wonderful daughter. She was, and still is, my best friend in the world.

But he was still raping me.

And, yes, I took it.  No one told me I didn’t have to.  I am just now figuring out that I deserve better – and I am almost 53 years old. So much wasted time.

He finally found someone else.

I pray for whomever he ends up with, but I can’t turn him in. He is the father of my children. I can’t go through the public humiliation.

Divorce sucks, but it has to be better than my previous life, right? But I’m scared. I’m scared of another man doing this to me.

I will not let that happen. I think I’d rather stay single. I may be broke, but I won’t be controlled by anyone else ever again.

Maybe, in time, I can let more of this out. Right now, this is a huge stretch for me even writing anything about any of this.

How am I supposed to cope with my past, while living in my present?

Ask The Band: Here We Go Again – The Rewind

I am an only child – an accident. My parents were married, but my mom never hid the fact that she’d never wanted kids. She said she was glad she had me; I was the best thing that ever happened to her, but that she never wanted kids.

I guess when you’re young, you say things you shouldn’t.

My mom got married at 17, had me at 19. She says it wasn’t young at the time, but yeah, it was.

She got married to get out of her mom and step-dad’s house. Married a guy hoping another guy she had “loved” before would come rescue her.

He didn’t.

She didn’t plan on staying married. But then I came along; she tried to make it work.

It didn’t.

I was blessed. Two weeks later, she met, and we moved in with, the man who would become my step-dad – the only dad I’ve really known.

Life was good. I was loved. There were fights, but they stuck it out.

When I hit 5th grade, my mom started talking up boarding school. Started looking at different schools for me. Figuring out how to afford it. I didn’t understand, but I was young and it sounded like an adventure.

Talk of it fizzled out. Life continued.

One of my chores around the house was the dusting, which included moving all books and magazines to clean under them. One day, I found a spiral bound notebook with a green cover.

I flipped it open. It was my mom’s handwriting, full of information about boarding schools:
“I want to find a Christian boarding school for Charity so when I kill myself she will be with people who can take care of her.”

My world changed that day. And I couldn’t tell a soul.

I’d been snooping. I’d read my mom’s journal. But now I knew there were dark things in my mom’s life.

Honestly, I’d known that as long as I could remember. I don’t even know how young I was when she told me about trying to kill herself as a teenager.

But that was then…this was now. I had to take care of my mom, but keep our family secret. What would people in our Church think, at my small Christian school, how could I tell anyone without confessing that I had read my mom’s journal?

The years went on. I thought about it sometimes, but shoved it down. I graduated from school, went off to a small Christian college. Found out other families were messed up too. Maybe mine was pretty good.

I got a summer job at the same place my mom worked between during summer break. I hated it, but it was a job.
My mom wasn’t in good shape. She was sleeping and crying – a lot. She wasn’t eating much. I got her up for work in the morning, ate lunch with her to make sure she ate. She went to bed as soon as we got home.

I took care of the house, then would head off to bed until I heard my dad come in late at night. I would get back up and talk to him. I figured somebody in the family should be talking to each other, they obviously weren’t, so I decided I better.

A bright spot of that summer was dreaming about going to graduate school.

The end of the summer came; I went back to college. I went early to get settled in and start working. My dad drove down to help build my loft and get my stuff set up.

He had said he wasn’t coming; he didn’t see a point in going to college, I was old enough to do it myself (um, old enough, but definitely not big enough to build that loft).

The only thing I remember my folks talking about that summer was fighting about whether or not he would help me move back to college.

To be honest, I felt guilty, but free to be going back to school.

Then, I couldn’t get reach my mom. No matter what time I called, she never answered.

I tried other family members – no one answered, until my cousin did on Monday night. When she said, “Hi Charity,” I heard my uncle yell in the background, “whatever she needs, tell her we will help.”

That seemed weird, I didn’t need anything, I just wanted to ask my mom a question about my car insurance.

“Your mom is in the hospital. She’s in a coma. They pumped her stomach. I found her in the chair. She had taken 150 pills after I told her I was leaving her Sunday night.”

I said I’d drive home.

“No, just stay at college, there is nothing you can do.”

By the time I got off the phone there was nothing I could do. I just sat there.

Thankfully, my roommate talked me through getting dressed, each step. I missed my first class. All I could see was my mom sitting in that chair, taking those pills.

I couldn’t tell a soul. What would everyone think?

I went to class, I went to work. My roommate kept my secret.

Three days later I told a friend. In class. In a written note.

The demon of depression was alive and well in my family and now people knew my life wasn’t perfect.

She came out of the coma. She was in the hospital a few days. My dad tried to stick it out for a few months. I told him I would come home at the end of the semester to take care of her.

He didn’t make it through the end of the semester. She moved out.

When I asked him why he gave up, when I begged him to stay until I finished that semester, he said, “but you’d been talking about graduate school. I was afraid you wouldn’t come home and I couldn’t bear the thought of staying in the marriage that long.”

I worried about my mom. I cried, I didn’t sleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw her taking those pills.
Slowly, she got her feet under her. They divorced. She started dating and met her now husband. It seemed like third time was the charm.

I got married and had three kids. Developed severe postpartum depression and anxiety.

I was terrified of becoming like my mom, but at least she had beat the depression.

Fast forward 15 years.

I am battling my own depression, but unlike my parents, I am getting help. I am fighting. If my mom could beat it without help, I should be able to with help, right?

Just after Christmas, my phone rang. It was my mom. Her husband wanted her to tell me she’d been really depressed again. Crying all the time. Doctors wanted to put her in an intensive outpatient program, but insurance wouldn’t cover it.

My world crashed. Thoughts of reading those words in her journal came back.

Images of her taking those pills invaded my mind. She hadn’t tried to commit suicide – yet – but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When will the phone ring again?

How do I protect my girls when that day comes?

I’ve lived in fear of my mom deciding I wasn’t worth living for as long as I can remember. I have lived knowing that I have to protect her.

I don’t want my girls to worry about me like that. I don’t want them to feel like they have to take care of me. I fight every day to change myself for them.

Tell me, Band, how do I rewrite my girls’ future when my past is coming back to haunt me?

Dose of Happy: The View From Up Here

Recently, Sunshine and I went to the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex to visit a friend of ours. Normally, when we go visit our friend, we stay at our friend’s house. This time, when we texted our friend that we were getting near, he texted back an address and told us to meet him there. We got there, and it was a hotel. See, our friend’s house was on the market, staged and ready for an open house early the next morning and he didn’t want us to have to feel rushed to leave, so he put us up in a hotel.

Now, our friend is one of those “go big or go home” kind of people. Well, maybe “live life out loud” or “live life at high speed” or something would be more like it, but whatever–the point is, our friend believes in living life to the fullest. And because he knows that we live in a tiny house on wheels, he couldn’t just get us a hotel room. He had to go and get us a suite, with a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom that on its own was bigger than our whole living room, kitchen and dining area combined. The living room and bedroom each had one entire wall made up of windows overlooking the city to the south, and to a city girl like me, the view was stunning.

Sunshine, our dog Mollie, and our friend took off to do whatever it is they do when they hang out–probably fossil hunting or some other grand adventure. I went shopping, as my ass has grown too big for my pants or my pants have shrunken too small for my backside, and there are just so many good stores in the DFW metroplex.

I got done shopping (in a surprisingly short amount of time) and returned to the hotel. After taking my purchases out of their bags and packing them in my luggage, I surveyed the living room area of our suite. There was this cute little armchair right in front of the window, but it was facing the wrong way, so I turned it around and plopped my ass down facing that wall of windows, and I watched the world go by from my perch on the eighth floor of this hotel.

There has always been something so soothing to me about watching the world from high up in a building in the middle of a large city. Maybe it’s because I can watch the city go by without being affected by the hustle and bustle and mad rush and overwhelming NOISE of it all. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a large city and somehow wound up in a swamp and miss the hell out of city life. Maybe it’s a little of both with some unknown factors thrown in for good measure.

Whatever the reason, I sat there in that room and watched the world go by out that window and listened to the sound of the air whooshing through the vents of the air-conditioning system and the faint sound of the water in the fountain eight stories below me splashing on the concrete.

I sat there in that silence and watched the world go by, and felt such a deep peace.

That may not sound like much out of the ordinary to some of you, but to an addict like me, to sit alone and just watch the world out a window and enjoy the silence–well, that’s a miracle.

There were many years when I couldn’t be alone. There were many years when I couldn’t stand silence. There were many years when I always had somewhere to go and something to do and somebody to be.

I was able to sit there in that chair and watch the world go by and be content with just sitting still. I was happy to know that, unlike all of those people in all of those cars rushing by below me–I had nowhere to be, no pressures, no deadlines, no expectations to meet. I had only to sit and reflect in the silence.

I was able to sit there in the silence, with nothing to distract me from myself, and not want to crawl out of my skin.

After my addiction, failed marriages, prison time, and all of the other horrors that go along with addiction, it’s a miracle it is for me to be able to sit in silence and watch the world go by. It’s a miracle for me to sit high up in a hotel and watch humanity pass by without worrying that life is passing me by.

So my dose of happy this Monday is being able to enjoy the silence, to be comfortable in my own skin. I hope each and every one of you can find a few moments this week to enjoy some silence, and just be.