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.
I was in kindergarten and kissed a pudgy little boy beside me on the playground. My little friends pointed and laughed. I wanted to die. I did not, because I made a choice.
I was in the fifth grade and my classmates noticed I had boobs. My friends pointed and laughed. I wanted to die. I did not, because I made a choice.
I was in high school and suffered through the angst of a breakup. His friends pointed and laughed. I wanted to die. I did not, because I made a choice.
I had a huge fight with my parents and disappointed them. I wanted to die. I did not, because I made a choice.
The choice? Tomorrow would be a better day if I lived.
My husband of twelve years stuck a gun in his mouth and made a different choice. He left behind three daughters under five years of age. He died because, to him, there was no other choice.
We were finally ending a long divorce – a divorce spawned from years of domestic abuse due to his mental illness. For almost 12 years – 365 days and nights of tears, I woke up and thought tomorrow would be a better day if I lived.
Often times, I felt it was his “grace” that allowed me to live. Every now and then, in the grips of pain from a fist or a kick, I wanted to die. Still, I always made a choice to live.
For weeks after he left this earth, I asked, “Why?”
I needed an explanation – a resolution – for his choice.
Most of us have had those moments in which we think we don’t want to live through the day. We think for a split-second, “What would it matter if I was gone?”
We think we don’t matter. We wonder if we’d be missed. I wish that, before he ended his life, I could’ve answered these questions for him.
Since I cannot, I will do it here:
“What would it matter if I was gone?”
Regardless of our marital state, you helped me create three daughters.
Before the first one goes to school, I will have to explain that her father is dead. Before she learns to write her name, she will understand what a grave is.
The two youngest daughters will not have a decent memory of their father to carry through their adult lives. They will look back and only know your face because there is a picture. They will only know stories – not through their own recollection – but because I will fill in the blanks.
They will never be able to take their father to a “Daddy/Daughter” dance. They will not have the man who helped give them life give them away on their wedding days. Father’s Day will always leave their hearts heavy. They will, one day, know that you didn’t consider living for them, loving them, that they were not enough for you.
“Would I be missed?”
A few days after your death, I had to sit down on the bed and explain to the children that their father would never come back. Ever. The day has not come yet that they haven’t cried for you in some fashion. The oldest has a picture of you in her room on her nightstand. She talks to you when she has something important to say. She tells you about her birthday, her missing tooth, her new puppy, and when Mommy has made her mad. When she is frightened, she screams for you to help her, because Daddies are big and strong.
The man who didn’t feel like he had a choice went into a rage that day. He broke things, he screamed, and he broke down. He walked into the room filled with all the children’s things and did not see any of them. All he saw was that he didn’t have another choice, that he didn’t matter, that he wouldn’t be missed.
In front of a rack of his children’s clothes, ranging from size 18 months to 5T, standing before a toddler bed and dozens of smiling stuffed animals on the floor, he thought that the only thing that mattered was taking himself out of everyone’s life.
Ceasing to exist.
Becoming a memory and nothing more.
Later, I stood in a funeral home to pick out a casket for my husband. I wanted to die. I did not.
I made a choice to live. Sitting in the living room looking at the Christmas tree, stockings lined up bearing the children’s names and a dozen smiling stuffed animals on the floor, I see the only thing that matters: making memories and so much more.
Unlike many other stories here on The Band, my ex-husband didn’t beat me or abuse me, but I during my marriage, I started to lose my sense of self.
I went to a therapist a few years into our marriage for some issues that were mine, and in therapy, I came to realize that he had some issues, too. I had some issues with depression which I worked through with medication and my therapist.
My ex used to give me grief for going and working out – complaining that I “never spent any time with him,” although he spent hours a day glued to online computer games. He also had anxiety and some Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but never wanted to admit it.
When our son was born, I did more than 95% of the parenting. I was a single parent who happened to be married.
He installed the security system for our son’s daycare, and, three weeks later, it was broken into. So he was called in the middle of the night to go to the daycare and make a DVD copy of the security video for the cops. This event apparently triggered flashbacks of the trauma that occurred several years earlier, when he walked in on someone burglarizing our house.
A month after the daycare break-in, he had a huge breakdown. We’d gotten a baby sitter and gone out to have a few drinks – nothing really crazy. That night was spent with him curled in a ball on the bathroom floor as I tried to calm him down. Eventually, he agreed to allow me take him to the emergency room for help. He was agitated, irritated, and anxious. They sent us home, advising us it was a panic attack, and told him to see his regular doctor.
He promised he would see the regular doctor and he did…but he refused all types of treatment – no drugs or therapist for him. He told me he knew his triggers – he had it under control. But I began to notice his behaviors getting worse – he didn’t like being out at night. He didn’t sleep well. He didn’t like being home at night when I wasn’t there, if I had a work function to attend.
He complained that we didn’t have sex enough. I worked a full-time stressful job outside of the home and came home every night to perform the majority of childcare and the house.
He liked the money I made, but never let me vent about my job, like a partner is supposed to do. I spoke to my OB/GYN about medication to help to increase my sex drive. My OB told me that I also needed to have consistent time to myself every week to recharge – just an hour or two would do. So I told him that. He told me our schedules didn’t allow for that, even though for years he had gone to a foreign language class once a week and, at one time, also had two evenings each week to himself to play online games.
That was the last straw for me.
I began to sleep more. I stopped taking care of myself. So I called my OB and resumed my medication. I told my friends what I needed to do and they hashed through all the good, bad, and ugly issues with me, strengthening my purpose and resolve.
We tried marriage counseling, and the counselor affirmed my concerns regarding his anxiety issues. She helped give me the courage to walk away.
I did not want to be a statistic. I got married believing it was forever. I loathed the thought of letting go of that dream, breaking up my family. However, I knew that my son deserved to know his mom was happy and healthy.
And I am. I’m off my medications for anxiety or depression, though I wouldn’t hesitate to call someone if I needed it. I have a great support network of family and friends who all helped me through the rough transition.
My divorce was final on December 14. I walked down those steps outside the courthouse and wasn’t sure how to feel. It wasn’t exactly something to celebrate, and part of me mourns what I lost, but I know that I can move forward now.
My husband hasn’t been himself lately. He’s seemed down. Distant. Very grumpy. He gets angry a lot. Things have been very unpleasant. Finally, after putting our daughter to bed the other night, I broached the subject.
“Honey, is there something that’s been eating at you lately? You don’t seem very happy…”
“I’ve been grumpy, haven’t I?”
“Well, yes, you have. And it’s not like you. I’m concerned.”
I desperately wanted him to tell me my instincts were wrong. Reassure me. Say I had misconstrued the situation, and there was nothing going on. Instead, he sat down and let out a long, heavy sigh. His shoulders sank, and his body language told me something big was coming. I was terrified of what I was about to hear.
Then he used the words I don’t think a wife ever does want to hear: mid-life crisis.
We talked for a couple of hours, during which he outlined all the things about his life he is unhappy about:
The status of his career and the lack of opportunity for advancement with his company.
A feeling he has not accomplished enough (particularly in comparision to others).
The lack of other job options.
The fact that having a child later in life means he will not be able to retire anytime soon.
Our financial status since we decided I would quit working and care for our child full-time until she starts school.
The things he can’t do because of the above.
His physical state – the signs of aging he is noticing.
Our lack of a social life.
All the issues we are dealing with concerning our own parents. And how much worse things are going to get. Soon.
I was relieved to not hear him listing our relationship or family life. He said those are the things that keep him going and bring him the only happiness he has. Although he is not able to enjoy them as he once did.
He is not enjoying much of anything these days.
I calmly pointed out that some of the issues concerning him are under his control, and some are not. I asked what he thought he could do to change or improve the former, and how he could learn to let go of or accept the latter. Furthermore, what could he do to invest in himself? Carve out time just for him, to engage in something that will truly make him happy? He has a number of hobbies he loves, but he hasn’t been devoting any time to them recently.
It was a good conversation. He seemed relieved to be able to get it all out and that I accepted his concerns without judgment. He hadn’t thought about some of the things I brought up and seemed somewhat encouraged.
Since then, however, he continues to sink deeper. Grow more distant. I fear he is becoming severely depressed.
I’ve been through a major life transition myself. In fact, I’m just coming out of my own period of discontent. The transition to motherhood was not an easy one for me, but I am finally in a good place. I’ve made changes and taken control of my own happiness, which has made all the difference. I have a better outlook on my life – our life. But have I been so focused on myself I haven’t given him enough? Or could my recent experience help me help my husband through his difficult time?
What was most noticeable and concerning to me during our conversation was the tone of his voice and the pained expression on his face as he talked. He was a man deflated. I hurt for him.
I’m going to admit I had a selfish reaction as well. What does this mean for ME? My marriage? Will it survive? I want to support him, do everything I can to help him, but I also feel a strong desire to protect myself and my daughter in the event this ends badly.
I fear there is a storm coming, and I don’t know what to do. I am so scared. I want to help my husband get through this. Most importantly, I want US to get through this.
Some days, despite the blessings I have, I am reminded over and over and over again that I do not have the one thing in my life I thought I would have: a child.
It seems like everyone I know is expecting their first, their second child. And I try really hard to be happy for them. I try so hard to mouth the right things, because I am happy for them. But every one of those words of congratulations tears open the scars – I will never have a child. Not a child of my own. (And I do very much consider an adopted child to be my own, by the way.)
My wife is not just simply not ready, but also not…capable. I’m not talking physically, but emotionally. I’m already keeping our home together, taking over pretty much every responsibility.
I may be a bad person, but I can’t take care of all of our details, make sure she’s taking all of her medications, and be the sole caretaker of a child as well. Hell, I doubt we’d be able to qualify for adoption if I have to somehow bind everything together, and honestly, I don’t think that would be a good environment for a child anyway.
So. I’m left with a bitter choice that I can’t actually make: my wife, or my life-long dream of a child.
Take the time to inhale your grandfather’s scent – he’s the last grandparent you have and you won’t have him much longer.
Embrace the Puppy Love at age eleven with that boy who you will still think you love.
Try to remember every second of dying Easter eggs with your Mum – when you dye them with your own kids, every year, you will question how she made them so beautiful.
Don’t take your big brothers for granted – they have taken care of you since you were born, and not all teenagers would’ve been so willing to let their baby sister tag along as much as you did.
Embrace your whole childhood – when you get older and watch your nieces suffer, you will realize how very lucky you were.
Dear Pre-Teen Me,
Don’t “dump” your boyfriend five-hundred times. At twenty-eight, you will still regret being such a jerk. Also don’t take him for granted – he was a decent, patient, kind boyfriend for an eleven-year old kid. Take the time to look at each of your boyfriends in a different light; one day you will learn they could’ve been more, but you were too blind to realize it.
Realize that just saying you think you will have big boobs doesn’t mean it will happen.
At least not naturally :-).
Dear Teenager Me,
Don’t be such a bitch.
As you get older, you realize that having bitchiness ingrained in you makes it difficult to have friends. People aren’t as accommodating as your teenage friends were.
Don’t let that one man pressure you into something you’re not ready for – sixteen really is too young to make the commitment you made. You will always question that decision.
When you are nineteen and fully disgruntled with life, you will meet a man who will make you realize that life outside of this still exists. He will be there for you, no matter what, for the next ten years (and counting). You did good not pushing him away.
Also, physical abuse is never okay. It gets better – it stops, but you should’ve spoken up when it happened.
Life could’ve been so different for you.
Dear Twenty-Something Me,
DON’T sleep with that man.
Even though neither of you wanted to regret the act, you both will. An affair is never okay – regardless of how “in love” you are, regardless of your reasoning.
It will ruin your friendship for awhile, it will ruin your marriage for awhile (although, not enough to make you strong enough to leave), and it will ruin your soul forever. Even when everyone else has forgiven you, you will not have forgiven yourself.
IT IS NOT WORTH IT.
Please realize that your husband will never change. He will change long enough to keep you around whenever he senses you may be gearing up to leave, but he will not change.
He can’t be someone he’s not, and you can’t either.
Stop trying – just being you is enough for someone, even if it’s not for him.
Your twenties aren’t all bad.
Your two children will be worth it – you will see so much of yourself in your daughter. Know that entire first year of constant crying, up five+ times a night, constant demands to be held does get better. She will not be the angelic infant your son was, but you will see her fighting spirit every second of the way.
Embrace their differences – this will be difficult sometimes, but overall, you are doing a decent job.
Dear Current Me,
GROW SOME BALLS AND LEAVE ALREADY.
That man you met at nineteen still feels like he’s The One.
He’s still your support, your encouragement, your confidante, everything that your husband isn’t – and never will be.
Every ounce of your being (his too) screams that you belong together.
Act on it – make it happen.
Don’t keep letting fear hold you back. Don’t waste another ten years without that love. Your excuses aren’t particularly valid, no matter how you package them.
And quite frankly, an innate desire or moral conviction to only get married one time isn’t worth the unhappiness you’re causing yourself.