My heart’s like an open book,
For the whole world to read.
Sometimes, nothing keeps me together
At the seams.
I’d been sitting there, on the edge on my couch, staring out into the cold, January night, where daylight appears to last ten minutes, the icicles shimmering happily in the streetlights, occasionally flipping through a trashy magazine, wondering when bone-skinny got to be the new black.
I finally stopping flipping through the pages and began to read when I got to the article wherein Giuliana Rancic was discussing her breast cancer (NOW you know how long ago this was), because, well, we Chicago girls stick together (Norrrtth SIIIIIIIIIIIIDE!). In the article, she discussed the treatment of her cancer, and how she’d been vacillating between one option and another.
The way she told the story, her husband, Bill, (North SIIIIIIDDDDDEEEE!) sat down and held her as he told her that she had to do what offered her the best chances at recovery and that he would be by her side, every step of the way; that he loved her and would love her no matter what.
That normally sweet sentiment would generally have one of two effects upon me:
Instead, I found myself weeping, alone, on a cold January night.
I wept, not for Giuliana Rancic, or her sweet husband, Bill, but for what might have been. I’d known for some time that Dave no longer loved me – it’s not the sort of sentiment like, “Hey honey, can you pick up some honey for my tea on your way home from work?” that you can forget. Those are words that cannot be unsaid and unheard, no matter how you try. And I did try, believe me, I did.
I remember my marriage counseling class, given by the church we were to be married in. The couples, we all sat around a long chipped table, covered in that hideous brown fake wood veneer, and I tried my hardest not to scribble out a “Becky Rules!” on an area in front of me that someone before me had peeled away the plastic covering, leaving an open white space that the former bad-ass I’d once been longed to fill.
I smiled about the serendipity of it all – I’d spent many years in that room as a child, practicing for this youth orchestra or that, and now, it felt I’d come full-circle, sitting there with my husband-to-be, listening to a dour old lady talk to us about conflict resolution, communication techniques, as well as filling out a personality inventory (which, for the record, gave me absolutely no insights into myself or Daver, it simply told me what I’d already known). I walked out of there, hand-in-hand with my fiance, our foot-falls echoing the hallways of the church, practically bouncing with smug superiority: I’d beaten the odds, gone from a single mother eking her way through nursing school, to having graduated with some variation of cum laude and now I was going to be a married lady. It wasn’t my life as I’d expected it, but here I was, and I was happy.
“Pshaw,” I remarked to Dave at one point, my superiority flag flying high. “WE won’t get divorced.” Like anyone steps up to the alter with the intention of later stepping up to a judge, saying, “Irreconcilable differences, Your Honor.”
But no. I was so fucking smug about it – I’d finally found the right man, a great father for my son, what could go wrong? He’d seen me at my worst – and I his, what more was there? Divorce happens to *waves hand* OTHER PEOPLE. Not to people like us.
Except here I was, sobbing stupidly into my People magazine, light years from where that smug 2o-something once stood, realizing that, not only does divorce happen to people like me, it has happened to us. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but I knew it was coming. Too many words unsaid or unheard, a chasm as wide as Soldier Field now separating us, there was nothing left to be done.
We’d spent some time in couple’s counseling (which came about after this), in which I learned that Dave had been carrying a backpack full of resentments toward me regarding things that had happened so many years before – those resentments led him to lash out at me, emotionally withdraw, clearly unsure of what to do with me. At one point he told me, “I can’t deal with your problems.” Whenever I’d bring up things like, “my PTSD acting up,” he’d sigh a semi-disgusted sigh; the sort that said (without words), “Another problem? Jesus fuck, woman.”
I eventually stopped telling him.
I felt weak. I felt like having “problems” meant that I was a miserable excuse for a human being – my problems clearly the sign of a shitty character. Who could love someone like that? Someone like me?
And, he’d asked me, once we were separated, yet living under the same roof, after I’d written this, to not speak of our separation, so that we could go it alone. I respected it. Protecting him and trying to pretend that my life hadn’t been drastically altered, however, came with some unexpected side effects: I lost my voice. No longer could I pour whatever was into my heart onto a keyboard. No longer could I tell the world how I’d ached and cried or laughed and smiled. It all had to be said through a fake filter – written several steps removed from my actual life.
Losing my words took a toll far greater than I’d expected. I felt I was living a double life: the one I presented to the world, and my real life; the space in which things, well, they weren’t so funny.
It finally came to a boiling point last night.
The night before, I’d shared my goals for recovery, my plans for the future, my hopes and ambitions, as I sobbed into my blankie. He informed me of the things he needed, and mentioned that nowhere in my soliloquy had I mentioned “staying at home with the kids” or “keeping a clean house,” which prompted the suggestion that “perhaps it would be better for my recovery for me to move out.”
(blink, blink, blink)
Not being particularly rash, or prone to throwing things around the room, I instead thought about that offer.
I mulled it over all night and the following day (yesterday): Could I afford moving out? Could I (with my migraines) manage to go back to work? Would I go on public aid? Would I have insurance? Where could I live? What would I do? Why would now be the time to think about these things if I was (per the both of us) supposed to be focusing on my recovery?
I sat down last night and told Dave that after thinking it all through, I was planning to move out. I wasn’t sure where, I wasn’t sure if I could afford it, but I’d be moving out, getting my head straight, and returning to be with my children. He offered to sign all the divorce papers so that I’d get some alimony.
As for me? I just wanted – and still want – to get better. To feel safe, loved, respected. To work on myself and begin the road to recovery. I wanted the time to heal and grow and make the right choices for myself. To not see my failures played out upon the features of Dave’s face every time I turned around.
Where that will take me? I don’t know.
Nervous Breakdown: 4
Aunt Becky: 0
And that, my dear friends is the way my marriage has ended – not with a bang, but a whimper.
The seconds ticked by, each yawning into the next as though time had truly decided that now it was appropriate to take a break and stand-still. I sat shaking like a Chihuahua at my computer, hoping I’d be able to find that I had some miracle answer; some cure, something to stave off the emptiness gnawing through my gut.
I’d considered the ER, but The Guy (now formerly) On My Couch had my car and I’d asked him to take me, in the vain hopes that the ER staff could change my anti-depressant (not so I could get locked in a padded room – I had no “plans” for a suicide*) or offer me something – anything – to help out, considering my doctor’s office had turned into something out of Oregon Trail – no running water, phone lines, or electricity.
He told me that he could not, in fact, take me to the ER, but that he could drop me off, if I so chose. If there’s anything worse than the thought of sobbing alone in an ER room (perhaps sobbing in the middle of a busy restaurant?), I’m not sure what it is. I said a quick, “thanks but no thanks,” and continued my weeping. I figured the black eyes this would cause would be a pretty awesome fashion statement.
When none appeared, I decided that some trashy television might be the answer. I grabbed my comfort object, my blankie, and my pillows and curled myself up into my wee nest on the couch. From the “Shows You Might (Not) Like” on the Netflix queue, I selected the one show I’d always been curious about – Intervention – and began to watch it.
Pro-Tip: while feeling semi-suicidal and bone-crushingly depressed, do NOT watch Intervention. While it may feel good to say, “wow, I’m glad I’m not THAT person,” when the Intervention fails and the person falls back into their old ways, you’re not left with a particularly positive outlook.
I ended the second episode even more depressed than when I’d begun. My mother had taken the kids for a bit that afternoon, after I called hysterically, begging her to help me.
So by the time I turned off the episode of Intervention, The Guy on my Couch, and my very best friend on the planet had come home from work.
“Hi,” he called to the eerily quiet house.
“I’m out here,” I called back.
He came into the room and sat next to my feet at the edge of the couch, where he’d sat so many nights, watching TV with me. He gave me a hug and I cried a little onto his clean work shirt, which smelled strongly of the outside.
“Sorry I just boogered on you,” I said, a little sheepishly. Having him there made things a little better for me – I was no longer alone.
“S’okay,” he said, “How’s it going?”
(cue weeping because Lord knows, the moment someone inquires after my well-being, my response is to cry like an asshole)
“N-n-n-not so good,” I said. “But I’m going to my doctor tomorrow and the therapist on Thursday. I’m working on getting better – making the right steps.”
“Good,” he replied, a little uncomfortably. “So, I’m going to need to talk to you or Dave about the logistics of moving out.”
“Talk to Dave,” I replied, the tears streaming down my cheeks. “I can barely figure out if I have to pee or not.”
I’d known, to be fair, that The Guy (now formerly) On My Couch was planning to move – he’d spent the weekend checking out places to move, I’d just assumed it was at a *waves hand* far off time way in the future. So when he said this, I expected that he meant a *waves hand* far off time way in the future.
A couple of minutes later, I asked him, “When are you moving?” assuming his answer would be a *waves hand* far off time way in the future.
“Tonight,” he replied, suddenly interested in staring his shoes.
My jaw dropped as I did my best trout impression, “TONIGHT?”
I couldn’t fathom it – I understood the motivations behind his departure (probably more than anyone else) but the timing was atrocious. I did the only thing a non-sane person could do, I began to scream at him. Appropriate? No. Out of character? Yes.
The children arrived home as I sat on my couch, sobbing and snorting into my snot-filled Kleenex like some overgrown toddler: my very best friend was leaving when I needed him the most. The kids came home and piled onto the two of us (no easy feat, considering we were on separate ends of a couch) like they did to us every day. I hugged them and sent them off to the other room to put on some cartoons with a potentially annoying lead character (which, let’s face it, is all of them).
The surge of anger died down as I hugged my best friend in the world, one of the few people who really knew me, and said, “Happy Trails.”
He grabbed his things, waved a sad goodbye to me, his face drawn and wan, and walked out of the door, ready to face his new life.
The sobs wracked through my body as though my heart were breaking. Which, I suppose, it was.
This time, all three of my children bounded into the room, hands outstretched and overflowing with Band-Aids and (oddly) some fish stickers. I thanked them as they covered all visible parts of my body, hugging them close enough that I could feel their tiny heartbeats.
And for one moment – one single moment – my heart felt as though it hadn’t just shattered.
*A big part of suicide is The Plan – if one has a plan as to how they intend to suicide, they are considered more of a risk for actually going through with the attempt. Thanks for the info, Nursing School!
Go Ask Aunt Becky is a purely useless advice column I’ve been running for years (although I’ve been on a recent hiatus). You ask me a question – I try to find you a better answer than “pants are bullshit.” You may always submit your questions through the link at the top. Be warned, I am not a professional – I don’t even play one on TV.
(insert more disclaimers)
Driver does not carry cash.
Dear Aunt Becky,
How is a person supposed to live the rest of her life and maintain her Tiny Tower? Balance is… Hang on, gotta stock the shoe store… Where was I? Oh. Right. How can I keep this game from consuming my soul?
In order to best explain how one can go about living a life while playing Tiny Tower, I have made you a Venn Diagram. It took me an embarrassingly long time to make it, but let’s pretend I just “whipped it up for you,” like those creepy Pinterest people who are all LOOK AT MY HOMEMADE GOODNESS, YOU LAME ASS SLACKERS! HOW DARE YOU NOT CHURN BUTTER WHILE I GROW MY FANCY ORGANIC SHIT (can you pick up a pizza on the way home, honey? I was too busy pinning healthy shit on Pinterest).
So I “whipped up” (lie) this Venn Diagram for you in order to best explain how one balances life and Tiny Tower:
I hope that explains it, Prankster. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to stock my Balls On Ur Face Racquet Ball Court before I fly my Pocket Plane to such exotic destinations as “Detroit” and “Seattle.”
I know that my site is still janked up – you can blame the WordPress update for that (all together now: “THANKS WORDPRESS!”) and I’m hoping to fix it on up soon.
I have some other stuffs to write about this week – I’m nowhere back to normal yet, but I wanted to thank you – each of you – who has bothered to leave me some love. You don’t know how your words have buoyed my soul and shone a light in the darkness.
So, thank you. Thank you, Pranksters.