Last Day

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If there is anything I cherished most about the position I’m leaving, it is that inside that small office, life happened, and I was allowed to experience it.

Over endless cups of coffee.  Over a couple glasses of wine.

I survived one of my worst days behind its locked door.  The arms of colleagues braced me on days I could not stand on my own.

I smiled a lot, and laughed even more.  When he was telling me I was an unhappy person, it was in my office I learned he was wrong.  I learned I could be a happy person–and that I am.  And when I wasn’t, I learned that was okay, too.

I was allowed to be authentic.

And because I was, I grew.

Authenticity requires courage because it requires an unboxing of the self.  It’s a removal of the packaging that does not fit–though pretty and prescriptive.  It’s a removal of needless fillers.  It’s an uncertain shifting through paper, plastic, and pockets of nothing.

And when you finally come to the heart of it–to the authentic you–you seem rather small and insignificant outside of the box that once defined you.  You are vulnerable.

Until something happens.  Or nothing happens.  Because it’s your choice.

Authenticity is freedom.  To stay.  To go.  To do.  To feel.  To choose.

There are no barriers between you and the world.  There are no air-filled cushions to protect you from the blows of difficult times, or conceal from the world your true feelings.  There are no more handles, strings, and ribbons with which others can carry you where they like.

The labels of the packaging are gone, so no, those who prefer the pretty and defined are going to be wary of choosing you.  Because after years of allowing others to define you, even you do not know who you are.  You are unfamiliar.  You are undefined.  You are dangerous because you are unknown.

Until you are known.

Because vulnerability begets opportunity.

And its through leaning into those opportunities–as vulnerable as we may feel–we grow.  We make impacts.  We become memorable.  We find ourselves not just functional, but vital.

We become more.

I have become more.

I am more.

And I deserve more.

 

 

 

 

Party

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The company I work for is small, family-owned.

One colleague refers to our employer as “The Island of Misfit Toys.”  Another, a “way station.”  People come here on their way to something else, one said.  They are never meant to stay here.

I think of Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go and ‘The Waiting Place.’

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

NO!
That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing

In many ways, I believe that I’ve sat in The Waiting Place for the past three years.  Waiting for something.  There were days I spent waiting for a sense of accomplishment, a sense of competence.  I spent weeks waiting for compliments, and accolades.  I waited for the shoe to drop.

I waited for validation.

I waited for affirmation.

I waited for visitors, flowers, and gifts.

I waited for lunch, phone calls, and texts.

I waited for the spotlight, for a big break.

I waited for a way to correct my mistakes.

I saw some people move on, though never to opportunities that seemed particularly significant.  One moved closer to family, into a job she hated, and has since returned.  Another left to caretake for his girlfriend’s grandfather, and has moved on beyond that. Another resigned in protest to a tip sharing program the company was starting, though even she frequently gravitates back to visit and catch-up.

And then, there is me.

I am leaving for a full-time job, a pay increase, benefits, and a position that will stretch me.

As for The Waiting Place, I am escaping.

I feel as if I’m not just stepping up, but that I’m stepping out.  Of a time in my life where chaos reigned.  Where uncertainty was the only certainty to which I could cling.  I am moving on.

I am terrified.  Nervous.  Afraid.  And yet, I see this as an opportunity to enter the arena. To set the stage for the next five years.  To align my life with the vision I have for myself. To wield a sense of agency.  To carve a future of my own design.  To find myself in those bright places, as Dr. Seuss pens, because I created them.

Is there anything more terrifying and exhilarating than realizing that the pen that authors your life rests in your hands–and has all along?  I feel the weight of that power, privilege, and responsibility.

But tonight, there is a celebration.  My colleagues will gather to honor me, to celebrate my departure and the new opportunities ahead.

And I know I’ll look around and think of some: Join me.  There is more. 

But until they are ready, they will stay in The Waiting Place, and I cannot fault them for seeking the comfort of the familiar.  I cannot fault them for saying, “Not yet.”  I cannot fault them for waiting.

But as for me…the Boom Bands are playing.

 

 

 

Snakes

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I am training my replacement.

No, not that replacement.  Not the replacement I was threatened with again this weekend as he sat on the edge of the couch with a smile and told me, “This will be fun.”

“What will be fun?,” I asked.

“Finding someone new,” he’d said.

No, I’m not training that replacement.

I am training my replacement at work.  Who, ironically, I replaced.

She is several years younger than I, blonder than I, thinner than I.  My colleagues  greeted her warmly and with hugs big enough to span the three years she’s been absent from their lives.

I put her in my seat behind the desk and took a seat to the side.

She addressed my boss with a casual nickname, not the “Sir,” I’ve grown accustomed to using.  She took smoke breaks.  She was not comfortable in high heels.  She uniformly addressed each tenant as “dear,” and did not engage any in conversation beyond niceties.

As I introduced each office visitor to her, I assured them, “You’re in good hands with her.”

And yet, I’m not as convinced.

Perhaps the edge she presents will smooth.  After all, this was her first day back.  I can imagine that next Monday, I may appear just as clunky when I begin my new position.

I remember when I joined this company three years ago.  I felt as I was stepping into giant shoes she had left behind.

“Your boss loved Catie,” a colleague told me.

When I did something incorrectly, or was criticized by my boss, I quietly feared he would call her back in.

But now that she is replacing me–actually replacing me–I laugh at the hours I spent cowering underneath the perceived brilliance of her memory.

She is not me.

I am relaxed.  I know my tenants.  I know my clients.  I know my employees.  I walk in my heels with confidence and direction.  I am nonplussed when the unexpected occurs.  I take time to build relationships.  I take time to say hello and goodbye.  I read other’s emotions, and offer a bridge to a better state.  I am a trusted confidant.  I am respectful.  I believe in titles, and advocating for the people behind them.  I am compassionate.  I am smart.  I am good at what I do.  And I do it with a finesse that cannot be replicated because no one else is me.


I do not know that I will feel this way when I am again replaced.  By him.

The thought of another making his coffee in the mornings, and sinking into his embrace at night grips my heart like a constrictor gripping its prey.  The thought of another–likely younger, blonder, and thinner–appearing in pictures with him in places my picture was never allowed stings like an adder’s bite.

I do not know why the snake analogies.  Perhaps, unconsciously, I’m drawing parallels between my greatest fears.  And then again, perhaps its another Higher Power Play, for I recall that just yesterday my cousin posted a picture of a small rattlesnake in a blue Lowe’s 5-gallon bucket.

She wrote, “Finally, a rattlesnake!”

Questions poured in.

Did you catch it?

Dinner? 

What are your plans?

Here is a woman who has fished for ‘monsters’ in the Amazon, now playing with rattlesnakes in the desert.

Perhaps there is badass in my blood.


I hope that when I am replaced, when I feel the strike that moment will be for my heart, that something inside of me will remember yesterday’s realization: No one else is me. Any replacement, though she may be younger, blonder, and thinner, will be clunky and less finessed stepping into the path I’ve carved.

I hope that when that day comes, I remember the rattlesnake in the bucket and have the same reaction as my cousin: Finally!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eye of Man

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In Taddeo’s Three Women, she pens: “One inheritance of living under the male gaze for centuries is that heterosexual women often look at other women the way a man would.”

Though my relationship is coming to an end, I still find myself scanning every room for someone more beautiful, more alluring, better dressed.  My eyes will first find the blondes in the crowd.  And if there are none, the young woman with the most exposed and biggest breasts.  Or maybe the one with the longest legs lacking any trace of cellulite. If I settle on a woman who would capture his attentions and stir his arousal, I imagine their chance encounter days, weeks, months after our final separation. It plays out like a poorly-written movie script.

The meet. The instant attraction. The: “You were there, too? What a small world.” The happily ever after.  

Rarely do I imagine my own happily ever after with such rose-colored glasses.  But when I see an older woman, alone, looking as if she’s lived a terribly rough life–that’s she’s survived something tragic and just barely so–my heart seizes.  Please don’t let that be me. 

Yesterday, my counselor suggested I practice more gratitude toward my body.  Thank it for what it’s accomplished, he urged.

This morning, I woke up and felt the smoothness of my cheek with my fingertips.  Thank you, Body, for waking up today, I thought.  I laughed at myself.  This seems like Cognitive Dissonance at its finest: talking to my body as if it’s another person.

And here’s your Crazy Card, my dear. 

But then I went for a run and I found myself thanking my thick thighs for carrying me down the road.

And I ran further.

 

 

Indecision

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I am wracked with indecision.

My counselor told me that having too many options is far more overwhelming than having too few.  He brought his hands up: one holding something invisible, the other balled into a fist with two fingers pointed outward, like scissors.  Making a decision is about cutting the cord, he said, and letting an option not be an option anymore.

I’m negotiating a job offer.  A job offer that, if accepted, would enable me to buy my home.  To refinance it, remove him from the mortgage, and allow me to own it. Actually own it.

We have an offer on the table for this house.  The other is under contract.

I stalled for as long as I could yesterday before telling our realtor why I could not make a decision.  He seemed disappointed.  I put a lot of work into this deal, he said.  And he’s right.  He has.  But this is still our home–my home.  And it’s the cheapest living option available to me.  Hands down.  And with the option of continuing the Airbnb or to let rooms as we have been, it also represents an additional stream of income.

My counselor said he’d tip his hat to me if I chose to sell both properties and move to Oregon without a job lined up, just to be closer to the kids.  And trust me, it’s tempting.

In my mind’s eye, I can picture the weekends spent with the kids.  Walking to breakfast on a Saturday morning, or visiting the library for a presentation about animals.  Or simply hanging out.  I miss sunny afternoons at Mike’s Drive-In with them, eating outside.  My heart aches a bit as I type this.  My heart is definitely with them, from 3,000 miles away.

Yet, I feel an unshakeable responsibility to be responsible for myself.

Let’s face it: I haven’t been.

My codependent nature makes it to tempting to be the victim, to let the responsibility fall on another.  I haven’t made choices that I should have.  I should not have left my marriage.  I should not have given up custody of the kids.  I should not have put his name on the deed.  While codependency is about control, I’m not sure I want complete control over my destiny.  I’m afraid of that responsibility.  I’m afraid of failing.

For much of this recovery journey, I’ve held onto the idea of “righting the wrongs.”

But I’m not sure wrongs can be righted; just as the past cannot be changed, you cannot undo wrongs.  You can make amends.  You can make new choices.  You cannot undo the impact of decisions past.

Just as if I choose to write for 15 minutes and then find myself late for work because I failed to give myself the time I needed to get ready for my day–I cannot undo that.  I can only try again.  But I cannot get back the time I should have spent doing something else.  I think this realization is what I find most paralyzing.  To me, it makes every decision extremely important and weighty.  And so, I find it difficult to decide anything.  I usually wait until the decision is not mine anymore. Let another decide, and then the responsibility of any consequences is on their shoulders.

But that’s not a way to live.  It’s a way to die.

It’s the death of self-will, self-confidence, intention, and purpose.  It’s the death of creativity and choice.  It’s the death of satisfaction and contentment.  It’s the death of peace and wise mind.  It’s an early death.


I have until end of business today to decide what I will do about my home.  If I will accept the offer on the table and sell, or if I won’t.

A part of me saddens at the thought of being left behind in the house we shared.  And yet a part of me sees great freedom in that, to finally do things I’ve always wanted to do.  Paint.  Redecorate.  Finish a few projects.  Put in new flooring. Buy a new stove.  Decorate the front porch for holidays.

If my income is going up, I’d like to keep my expenses down.

If my income is going up, my expenses could go up with them. Some.

Maybe a fresh start would be best. And then again, maybe that doesn’t require a new house, but maybe just a new paint color.

 

 

 

 

 

Move

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I will be moving soon.  If was honest with myself, this has been a long time coming.  And yet, I cannot bring myself to begin collecting boxes and pack.

The houses we own are on the market, and in a handful of days, we’ve had several showings.  I expect an offer any day now.  He is under contract on a new home.  I am still waiting to learn when I can move into my rental house.

There is so much to do.

It is hard to accept that my life is about to change, and the relationship that I left my marriage, my children, my security for will soon be over.

Correction: it is over.

At least I think it is.

We’ve called it quits a dozen times.  And somehow, we end up in bed together nearly every night.  He kissed me on his way out the door this morning.

Yet, we had an explosive argument–or two–this weekend during which he screamed about how done he was with me, how he wanted to get as far away from me as quickly as possible.  I responded to him with tearful begging.  “Please stop being so cruel,” I pleaded. “Please stop being such an asshole.  What the fuck did your mother do to you to create this?!”

“I don’t know,” he solemnly responded.

He knows he is a narcissist.  I keep forgetting that every little thing he does has a hidden purpose, a concealed intent.  Even the kindness.  Even the sweetness that I so want to linger inside of.

But I am not sure who he is anymore. Is he the man who holds me tightly at night, his warm chest serving as my pillow, his gentle kisses on my forehead calming me as I drift off to sleep? Or is he the man who hits me where it hurts the most, with cruel comments about my body, my past mistakes, my unloveableness, who calls me names, who withholds affection, who interprets everything as a ‘trap’ typical of women.

I don’t know anymore.

As I told my sponsor yesterday, I’m feeling a break from reality.  I don’t know that I can trust my own thoughts let alone what he tells me.

It’s not unlike a song I recently discovered that contains the line: “And if you say something that you might even mean / It’s hard to even fathom which parts I should believe.”

I continue to gain weight.

Emotional eating strikes again.  Depression strikes again.  Or maybe it’s a lack of sleep.  Or both.  Or stress.

I went to the grocery store yesterday and bought food for the first time in several weeks.  He’s shared his meals with me, or I’ve eaten out (a lot).  But for once, I shopped.

I filled my small basket with gluten-free pizza crust, individually wrapped chicken breasts, roasted corn, butternut squash noodles, a yellow tomato, baby spinach, sundried tomatoes, a Bob’s Red Mill brownie mix, some dairy-free, sugar-free, everything-free chocolate chips, and fresh almond butter.  I was only slightly annoyed at the total bill.  I was more delighted by the colors I saw in front of me: bright yellows and oranges, deep greens, crimson reds, creamy whites.

When I got home, I put away my groceries and discovered that he, too, had done grocery shopping.  The freezer was filled with Hot Pockets, and microwaveable pot pies, some frozen vegetables.  The fridge had some sandwiches piled in it–homemade with bread and meat.  There were some fresh bananas on a shelf.

He’s been cooking less, himself.  His dinner has been cereal most nights.  His choice.  There was a time when I would have been crushed–he ate cereal most nights at the end of his marriage.  He conveyed this information to me as an indicator that his wife was no longer caring for him, no longer attending to her basic responsibilities.

I still remember the evening he called me in a rage.  He’d come home from work to find his wife had not cooked dinner, the house was a mess, and she was outside in her garden.  I’m so mad, I want to throw her off the property, he said.

I know he’d attempted to drag her out of the house once.  I read it in an email she wrote him during one of their separations.  He was abusive to her, too.

I still hate that word: abusive.

I hate that it applies to him.  I hate that it applies to me.

I hate that I’ve had to educate myself on narcissism, and narcissistic abuse, and survival techniques, and gaslighting, and what he’ll do with his next supply.  And how much it will hurt me.

I think my desirability waned in his eyes when I grew more self-assertive.  He told me as much a month ago.  In a discussion about what changes I’ve made that have been ‘not good’ for the relationship, he cited two things: 1) I don’t do anything for him anymore, and 2) I’m being very self-assertive.

I am grateful that I started this blog so long ago.  While I’ve not written every day, it serves as a record.  I cannot deny my own words from six months ago. My mind, however, likes to alter my memory.  So in reading my own words, I force myself out of denial.  Oh, yes.  I had forgotten about that.  

They say denial is a survival mechanism.  It protects us until we’re ready to face the truth.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to see the end of this, the end of something I so desperately wanted to work because I lost so much to get it.

Correction, gave away so much to get it.

Because I gave so much of myself away that losing him feels like I’m losing myself.

And that’s maddening.  That’s what makes me feel crazy.  That’s what makes me feel stupid. So stupid.

But then that itself is a type of reality check, isn’t it?

I should not have to give away so much to get anything.  I should not have to give away my relationships, my security, my belonging, my sense of self, my finances, my future to get something.  At least, you don’t do those things when getting something good.

It’s ok, I tell myself.

Moving is ok.

Stepping into the uncertain is ok.

At least, I think it is.

 

 

Strange

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He’d said he’d not been doing that well.  He’s having trouble sleeping.  He went to bed, his door slightly cracked.  I knocked, stood in his doorway while we talked, and then he invited me to sleep with him that night.  I agreed to sit with him.

The talk was lighthearted.  His smell seemed new and unfamiliar.  As did mine to him.  And then he nuzzled my bathrobe with his face, his hands rubbing my bare knees.  He talked about how smooth my legs felt.  He held me close.  I gave in.

We were intimate.  He buried his face between my legs–something he rarely did.  He sucked on my nipples–something he often did.  He pushed inside of me, trembled, and kissed me.

And then he had to go to the bathroom.  And then he lost his erection, and could not get it back again.

He was frustrated, angry.  He said he we shouldn’t have done it, that he wasn’t ready.  Then, he wanted to be alone so I went to my room and slept.

He did not sleep.

In a brief text message this morning, he says he’s going to get a sleep aid tonight.

I tell him ok.  If I can be of help, let me know.  I know the walk across the parlor is a long one, but I’m here.

I do not tell him that I slept well.

I do not tell him that I was ok.

I was not hurt about his troubles in bed.  I did not take it personally.  I realized that this was a reflection of his own, quiet struggles.  It was not a reflection of my worth, beauty, or attractiveness.

That is a huge difference from a year ago when a similar incident occurred.  I fled from the room.  I cried.  I asked what was wrong with me.  I based my self worth, my sexiness, on his flaccid cock.


It is a strange thing to emotionally detach from someone you love.

It is a strange thing to feel his lips pressed against yours and feel a part of you enjoying it for what it is–a moment of physical intimacy and waves of pleasurable sensations.

It is a strange thing to experience something that would once cause you to self-identify as unattractive, dirty, repulsive, not worthy of love, and consciously recognize that his limpness is nothing more than that.

It had nothing to do with me.

I know that in his mind, he may blame me.

“I wasn’t ready,” he said.

But I will not accept the blame.

And yet, I feel like a fraud.  Our relationship is over, and others have been so supportive.  Still, I let myself enjoy what he did to my body, with a clear and conscious understanding that it was a moment, not a promise.

This a strange place to be.