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.

It is okay

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I think it is okay for a woman to be alone, with herself, single again at 36.

But then again, I have to be.

Because I am.


I did not ask to be alone.

I established and defended a boundary.

A boundary he could not–would not–respect.

No, I told him, I will not pay for all of couples counseling.  No, we do not have to do it on Monday nights.  If Mondays are off the table for you, I will honor that.  Wednesdays are off the table for me.  That leaves three other weekdays.  

You aren’t compromising at all, he replied.

I restated my boundary: Couples counseling is a must if we are to reconcile.

Then we’re over, he said.

Okay, I replied.

He’s said he misses me.  But when we talk, he cannot help but pat himself on the back, lauding, through jokes and comments, how great his presence is.  When he shows me listings of houses he’s considering, I excuse myself to another room to cry.  When he finds me upset, he asks why.

Why?

Because through his actions, I can tell he’s been done with this relationship for a long time.

Because all I’ve ever wanted in this relationship is for him to choose me.

He retreats back to his old stance: If you could give me just one thing, one thing I need to do and tell me that’s all I need to do, but you’ll never be satisfied, he said.

Commitment is demonstrated in words, thoughts, and actions, I respond.  It’s about consistency.  It’s certainly not maintaining dozens of 20-something single women as “options” on Facebook.  It’s definitely not messaging other women.

He does not defend himself.

When I ask, he says he’s not talking to anyone else.

That wouldn’t be a good way to start a relationship, he says.

I remind him he’s said that before, and within 24-hours, he’s begun pursuing others.

What, am I serial liar then?, he asks.

I want tell him yes.  Yes, you are.

But I don’t.

Instead, I calmly tell him that I’m not asking for anything extraordinary.  What I’m asking for is normal.  I deserve to be a choice, not an option.

He scoffs again.

That’s a Facebook meme I see all the time, he says.

You follow hundreds of single women, I point out.  That stands to reason. 

In the end, he called me manipulative again.  What I want–commitment, to be a choice, not an option–is a trap, he said.

Then he asked if I still wanted to get dinner.

When I asked him if he was expecting me to pay for him, he referenced an article he read stating that 69% of women are in relationships for free meals.

I did not date you for the free meals, I reply.

I took myself to dinner.

I cried alone in the booth.

The words on the menu ran together.

Nothing made sense.

Nothing does when someone you still love stops loving you.

Today, my attorney will draft a letter to him.  I want to keep my home.  If I can.

Oh, how I wish he’d simply go away.

Maybe then I could breathe again.

 

 

Road Trip

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As I was driving up I-77 last night, a friend’s voice filled my car: “This seems a little crazy, but also epic at the same time.”

Yesterday morning, I decided I’d drive to Green, OH, to visit my favorite my clothing boutique.  It would be an 8-hour drive non-stop, which meant an 11-hour drive, if done right.

I had no place to stay, and as I needed to work Monday, it’d be a turn-and-burn.  Of epic proportions.


 

After agreeing to couples counseling every Monday night, he made other plans for the following two Mondays.  Let’s begin in July, he said.

One of his conflicting “appointments” was a four-day roadtrip with his oldest son to visit family and hike a Virginia mountain he did when he was his son’s age.  It would be a rite of passage.

He left me sick in bed with a fever.  I can care for myself.

But over the next four days, there would be no phone calls from him.  No messages sent asking how I was feeling.  Nearly two days after he left, he asked me how my day was, and when I responded that I’d spent the day home from work, he told me where I could find some NyQuil in our kitchen cupboard.  The check-ins were sporadic.  There were no “I love yous,” and as he was driving home and I told him I’d missed him, there was no response.

Withholding of affection.  Again.

At some point, I said I’d like a date night that week.  His response was, “Yes! Where are you taking me?”

I replied, “You’re taking me.”

Later, he’d cancel saying I was manipulating him, that I should be doing something nice for him.  He did pick up the tab from our dinner the night he returned home.  I offered to pay, but he declined.  And he cooked dinner the following night for me, his daughters, and their friend, which I thanked him for, though he made snide remarks, to suggest I was unappreciative of him.

“Your good-for-nothing boyfriend is cooking you dinner.”

I replied minutes later, “I’m sorry you feel that way about yourself.”

He canceled our date night the same day I sent a Facebook friend request to a woman whose only mutual friend was him–and she immediately blocked me.  When I let him know what had occurred, and asked him why she’d do that, he immediately shifted the blame onto me: It must have been something you posted or said. 

He never would answer how much interaction he’d had with her.  And he wasn’t going to engage me on the topic any further.  He shut me down.  Quickly.

As I met with three good friends over ice cream that evening, one shared with me that he’d seen him messaging other women while driving home from a recent beach trip.

He’s still predominantly friending 20-something single women.  As he’s explained, he likes to keep his options open.  They’re fun to look at.


After hearing he’d been messaging other women, I asked him if the offer stood to still look through his phone.  He said yes, but that he’d have less respect for me.  Though it lie next to him within arm’s reach, he made me get out of bed, and walk around to retrieve it.  I found nothing.  No messages to other women.

He was upset.  He said he wanted out of this so badly sometimes.  Then he moved to the couch, insisted on my giving him back his phone–right now–and told me he didn’t want anything more to do with me.

Because I’m codependent and cannot easily let go, I eventually went to him, asking him to talk. He repeatedly said, “It’s all your fault.” He said I was the one making this a bad relationship.  He would not comment on his withholding of affection from me.  He accused me of being Hitler.  And then he shut down.

The following morning, I apologized.  He accepted without returning one.  He got aggravated again.  He told me I had acted like a bitch the night before, that I was never satisfied, that I was unappreciative of the fact that he bought our dinner and that he cooked me dinner.

And then he pulled out of couples counseling.  He was angry, banging his hand on the coffee table to drive in his point.

“I’m not going to do counseling. I don’t want to do it. I don’t need to change.”

I calmly reminded him that couples counseling was my condition for reconciling.

“Then I guess we’re not reconciling.”

The couples counselor–who began meeting with me individually, until or in spite of whether my boyfriend “decided to get with the program,” stresses the importance of listening to my body.

I was listening–and I could not stop shaking. I realized that I’d been shaking for more than 24-hours.

I knew I could not stay.

“You’re making me question my entire reality,” I told him.

I’ve never more powerfully felt the effects of gaslighting, and I felt just hours or days away from a mental breakdown.

I packed my bag, shaking.

I walked past him, shaking.

I announced my intention, shaking.

I sat down, shaking.

I nearly didn’t leave.

The typical paralysis set in.

But I did.

I walked to my car, shaking.

I drove to a meeting at the bank, shaking.

I set off on the highway, shaking.

I stopped at a gas station, shaking.

I crossed the stateline, shaking.

But, as I put more miles between us, the shaking lessened.

I listened to music.

Stopped when I needed.

Backtracked to find an amazing taco shop.

Took pictures.

Called friends.

Called family.

I did not cry until I hit the Ohio state line and realized that while he’d interacted with my Facebook posts, he had not reached out to me.  No phone calls.  No texts.  I was devastated.

But I made it.

And I arrived not shaking anymore.

I found a popular lakeside bar and grill and ate an amazing burger with peanut butter and jalapenos, at the bar, on a large outdoor deck with lights strung overhead, boats motoring back and forth, and the roar of a packed house.

I found an amazing hotel.

And for the first time in days, slept deeply.

Today, I shop.

Today, I eat tomato soup and grilled cheese for lunch.

Today, I go home.

 

Elephant Ears

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I love elephant ears.  There is one at our home, in an otherwise forgotten corner behind the front porch.  I almost always forget it exists every winter when it’s retreated into the ground.  Every early summer, it surprises me by pushing through the dirt, its long, green, thick stem emerging from it’s winter nap, just before unfurling those incredibly large leaves.

It’s one of my most favorite things.


 

I have strayed from my meditation readings, though I’ve continued to push through the Steps.  But even those have been put on pause to make space for DBT work.

You were not born this way, you were made this way. 

A personality disorder is really about learned behaviors.  Behaviors can be changed. 

The word ‘Borderline’ has made it back into my life.

And so has the insinuation of body dysmorphia.

And so has the word “abuse.”

You’re swallowing gobs of abusive behavior and I do not know why–you don’t need to.

I know that when you look at yourself in the mirror, it’s as if you’re looking at a funhouse mirror.  That is sad because you’re an interesting, smart, and very attractive woman.

I’m more aware of my anxiety responses.  I recognize them sooner.  I also have new coping techniques.


 

The rejection letters keep coming in my job search.

I often wonder if I should move to the West Coast.  I find more jobs of interest there.  And I’d be so close to the kids.

And then the fears set in.

It’s too expensive to live there, you’ll starve.  Or be homeless.  

What if you get there and nothing changes in your relationship with the kids? 

You’re finally starting to make real connections here.  Don’t quit now. 

You’ll be utterly alone out there. 

Last night in bed, I shared with him about my job search frustrations.

“Let’s strategize my job search,” I joked. “What should I do differently? Because if something doesn’t pan out soon, I’ll be financially dependent on you for the rest of my life.”

The joke is that I’m not.  Our finances are completely separate.  I am holding my own.  Though I want more peace of mind.

He talks about how low the girls in his office are paid.  They’re paid less than laborers he tells me, and while I express disdain for this, he says it makes sense–they’re all fat and just sit in an office eating chips. 

Initially, he suggested I’d experience less rejection if I applied to fewer jobs.  And then he suggested I move.  He knows I do not limit my job search to this area.  Perhaps I’d be valued more elsewhere, he suggests.

“After all, it’s a low-budget here.  A job desert.  So am I.”

I began to probe.

“Why would you call yourself low-budget?”

“Look at me, lying in my wife beater on my $60 bed.”

He’s feeling insecure.

“Are you telling me to leave you? But what about us?”

He scoffs at me for making it about us.

“Maybe I am.”

He won’t talk any further.  He starts calling me ridiculous.

“Sometimes, I feel like you’re telling me an uncomfortable truth but cleverly packaged so it’s not entirely clear.  And when I am close to seeing the truth that’s there, you call me crazy.”

Silence.

Then.

“I didn’t sign up for this beating.  You started out this conversation beating me up.  Now you’re beating me up again.  I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.  I’m not feeling well.  You know this.  You have no respect for me.”

He turned over, away from me.

I did the same.

This is not me.  This is not mine to own.

This is what happens when you’re dating someone who is emotionally abusive.  Who has narcissistic traits.  Who lacks empathy and commitment.

Are you listening?

 

Whore

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Last night, I dreamt I attended a work function with him.  We stood in a massive, empty warehouse.  The energy was electric as we milled about.

His Human Resources Manager was the only other woman in the crowd.  She stood out among the sea of men, her long black hair striking against her tall, narrow frame.

She began greeting everyone in attendance.  In her announcement, she listed off names of those present, concluding with, “and a whore.”

All eyes were on me.

I searched the crowd for my boyfriend’s face.  When my eyes found his, he simply shrugged his shoulders.

I was embarrassed, upset, and felt abandoned.

I turned to those next to me and added my own sarcastic post script: “Yeah, because his dick leapt into me of it’s own volition.”

And then I repeated that line to everyone who would listen.


 

I am to begin Step 4 work this week.

Step 4 involves a making a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of ourselves.  What it looks like is identifying the many people and things we fear, resent, and have caused harm to, and then analyzing why.

The goal is to begin identifying unhealthy patterns within our own behavior.

My sponsor has already identified resentments she’s expecting to see listed: my boyfriend, my ex-husband, and my coworker.

There will be more, but oh, my coworker.


 

If I linger in bed longer than I should this morning, it will be to avoid going to work. Which, for all intents and purposes, is a tragedy.  After all, I love my job.

But since starting my recovery journey, a distance has grown between my coworker and I.  Where we were once very close, I cannot put enough space between us now.

Her negativity is repulsive to me.  Her sarcasm caustic.  Her loudly shared belief in the superiority of her ideas maddening.

I resent her selfishness, her disregard for others, her lack of respect for those we work for, her proclivity toward complaining about everything, her reliance on weed, and I most resent her flippant attitude toward recovery.

In conversation with my sponsor, I shared my frustrations.  I wish I had never invited her to my first CoDA meeting.  I’m angry with her for disregarding the steps, for shaming my emotions during meetings, and assuming she knows best. I am angry that her negativity remains unchecked. 

I cannot control her.  I cannot force recovery upon her. 

I can only establish healthy boundaries between us.  

I want nothing to do with her. 

“I wonder if my disgust over her negativity is recognizing something in myself,” I told my sponsor.  “Her and I were once great friends, and to be that close, I know I had to have been that negative, too. I had to have repulsed others with my own behaviors.”


 

I am aggravated.

I don’t want to go to work.