Calling up Spirits

I’ve had a whole lot of hesitancy show up in my life lately.  I started writing this blog as a means of exorcising some bad juju and attempting to rid myself of some of the bitterness that I still haven’t been able to completely let go.

Instead I’ve found that writing/thinking about the ex- and all the accompanying baggage- has had the uncomfortable side-effect of causing me to dream about him.  A lot. 

I know enough about how the brain works to understand that the dreams are the subconscious’ way of working things through.  I get that.  But the dreams have disturbed me to a distressing degree.  I get up in the morning feeling truly haunted by spectre of my ex.  Not that I have any fears about his physical presence in my life- as I’ve said, he has no clue where I live or interest in finding me- but the scars he helped to form, and the reactions that became ingrained over the too-long years I spent with him, seem extremely close to the surface right now.

He’s there in everything I do lately.  I bought a few new outfits in the after-holiday sales- with gifts cards received from those people who love me, yet find me inexplicably hard to buy for.  Every piece was subconsciously vetted by comparing it to something I would/wouldn’t have bought when I was with him.

I’m not a huge shopper these days (the result of something of a shopping addiction that arose out of my co-dependence with his alcoholism), but I have my own style- developed over the years I’ve been on this earth- and I’m comfortable with how I look (in clothes or out of them)- for the most part, anyway.  But when trying things on, the voice in my head was his- asking if I didn’t think it was time to get back to the gym/pool a little more regularly.  Or the visual of one of the items on The List* that stated that I ‘had gained weight, but I still looked good’.

I can’t stand the fact that I still hear his voice.  I’d rather not hear him anywhere, but certainly not when I am attempting to do something that brings me a bit of joy- like choosing a very few items and thinking about the friends who cared enough to provide me with the wherewithal to do so.

He has been in the forefront of my mind too much lately- to the extent that I’ve caught myself referring to my current partner by the ex’s name.  More than once.  Usually just in my head, but once when speaking with a close friend- who caught the slip and looked at me somewhat askance, since the two are nothing alike. 

I don’t tend to be remotely superstitious, but I’m starting to feel as though thinking about him- even for the purposes of working through some of the residual feelings- is somehow ‘calling him up’ and bringing him too close for my comfort.  I’m thinking this is likely part of the whole process.  I wish it wasn’t.

*The List?  You ask.  Ah.  A little pro-con prompt that he wrote to help decide whether or not his latest fling was worth ending things with me.  It was the ‘good’ (read: easy) things he felt favoured continuing to ‘put up’ with me versus the ‘bad’ things that I caused/did/was that inclined him to serially cheat/finally leave.  He works with computers, yet he left this list on a USB stick that he gave me to transfer photos of our family onto my computer (along with some of the naked pics of his junk that he was sending to those ‘ladies’ he was meeting on the cheaters’ hook-up sites… but that’s another story).  They say that cheaters eventually WANT to get caught, but this piece of ‘evidence’ hit ME where I lived.  Still recovering from it.  I’m sure more of the pros/cons will show up here over time.  I’m still working out how to handle some of the ‘revelations’…

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Torn

New Year.  Time for resolutions and figuring out how the coming year will be different/better from the last.

I’m struggling with that right now.  I keep trying to let go.  To not let the ex- and the memories- take up any of my psychic real estate.  Yet I still have silent dialogues with him- responding to questions I wonder if he’d even bother to ask.

Do I hate him?  I’d like to respond that I don’t want to waste the time or energy hating him or investing any time in thinking about him, but I’ve kinda started a blog about the whole thing, so he is obviously still taking up more space than he deserves.

I imagine that he’d likely have an ‘I told you so’ or two to offer- on any number of topics, but mainly about the direction that my life has taken since we split.  But then again, he’s not one to become all that emotionally invested in anything, so chances are he’s truly in a place where he legitimately never gives me a thought.  Still, I’m sure were he to hear that I’m struggling with some things, he’d be the first to offer up his opinion as to why: because I didn’t listen to him.

Do I have any remembrances of him (not his family) that I could honestly describe as fond, let alone loving?  I’m not sure that I do.  I’m not sure that I ever had those feelings for him.  And if that’s the case I really need to figure out why I stayed in that ‘relationship’ as long as I did.

Holidays and memory

The holidays can be a difficult time for a lot of people- there’s no doubt whatsoever about that.  As I try to keep on moving forward with things, attempting to allay some of the bitterness and resentment, and completely rid myself of the residual fear and emotional caution, I find that the holidays can certainly be a struggle, but each one gets a little better.

The memories can sneak up though.  I have many fond memories of Christmas celebrations with the ex- but those memories remain fond because we spent them with his parents- people I still love and respect.  And miss terribly at times.

It was somehow decided (read: I went along with it since it alleviated the conflict) that all holidays would be spent with his parents.  I would travel to spend time with my family after the holiday proper.  As a result, I lost years with family members, many of whom are now lost to me completely.

But at the time it seemed like compromise.  I realize now that it was control.  Especially since he never joined me in visiting my family and friends.

As I said, my ex-in-laws are wonderful folks- particularly my mother-in-law- who worked very hard to make every holiday special and memorable.

Now that I am able to spend every Christmas in the company of my own loved ones, there are fewer pangs of memory and loss, but they do still surface at times.  This year, as we communally prepared an amazing turkey dinner, after all the baking was done, the presents wrapped/unwrapped, decorations up and enjoyed, I suddenly felt an overwhelming need to speak with my ex-mother-in-law and thank her for all the vast amount of work she always did to ensure that Christmas was an amazing time for the whole family.

She was amazing.  The preparations must have been months in the undertaking.  Yet the whole thing was executed seamlessly and with the house opened to any and all strays who might have been without a place to go.

I needed to tell her this.  To say thank you for the moments of joy in the decade+ of pain.

But we don’t really have much of a relationship any longer.  We tried- one meeting for coffee, cards, letters, emails.  She keeps me in the loop of things that happen within the extended family, who were my extended family for a solid chunk of my adult life.  There is always an uncomfortable element to all our exchanges- not speaking about the elephant in the room (her son’s infidelity and the way that he ended things- she never knew about the abuse, thankfully.  I don’t think she’d recover if she were made aware of that)- and the fact that his behaviour distressed her greatly.  He is her child, so her first loyalty is obviously to him.  But I have never doubted that she loved me, truly, as the daughter she never had.  She was torn- and certainly in the middle of an untenable situation.

She is aware that his current partner was the final coffin-nail infidelity that ended our relationship, and that woman is the mother of her longed-for granddaughter.  She will have opened her heart to that woman, the same way she did to me for all those years, in spite of the circumstances and residual feelings of loss and confusion that she might feel with me absent from the everyday of her life.

So I didn’t call.  I could tell you exactly how Christmas eve, then Christmas morning and Christmas dinner would have been unfolding at their house this week.  I could even have figured out the best time to call- when everyone would be having a nap or a break from one another, and she’d have a little quiet time to herself.  But she, like the rest of us, has moved on, so such a call would have been inappropriate and possibly misconstrued (especially if the ex got even the least wind of such a thing).

I’ll send her an email update of how things are going early in the New Year, and I’ll mention that I thought of her many times over the holidays- with thanks and with love.  But a part of me will always miss being able to just call her up and say ‘hey’ and ‘I love you’.

Just another casualty of abuse and infidelity.

The First Time

We were on holiday in Mexico- not my first choice of destination, but a holiday is a holiday, right?  Since I am not really into hanging out on beaches and drinking watered-down tequila drinks all day, I insisted that we do our best to see as much of the cultural and archeological wonders of the country as possible.

On New Year’s Eve day, we had been to the site at Coba- where the humidity of the surrounding jungle made climbing the pyramid there (particularly given its state of incomplete restoration) impossible, but I enjoyed the surrounding smaller temples and just the quiet solemnity that the age of the place invoked.

Very late in the day, we had made our way to Chitzen Itza.  After a truncated tour of the main sites, we arrived at El Castillo- still open for climbing in those days.  The sun was getting lower and the crowds had dispersed to the extent that the place seemed eerily empty.

In a completely spur of the moment decision, based on the awareness that I was in a place of awesome history and might never be there again, I decided to make the climb.  I did so myself- essentially running up the steep incline of the pyramid’s steps.

Once at the top I had a number of moments of intense wonder as I took in the weight of history and the grandeur of the view with the sinking sun over the flat areas surrounding the great pyramid.  It was an incredible moment of aloneness and peace for me.

Until I realized I had to get back down.  Heights and I don’t really get along that well.  And those steps seemed even steeper when viewed from the descending position.  Especially since the closest thing to a handrail that they offered was a huge chain running down their centre.  I took the steps, one at a very slow time, while clinging to the chain for dear life.

Once on solid ground again, I was exhausted, yet exhilarated by both the accomplishment of getting up (and back down) the great pyramid and having experienced the grandeur of the site.

We made our slow way back to the resort, and arrived in time for the late seating of the New Year’s Eve dinner.  And drinks.  As was the pattern, he drank.  A lot.  I was pretty much physically wiped out, so I nursed a single glass of wine over the course of dinner and the conversation with our fellow resort-goers, and then raised my token glass of champagne (or sparkling wine) with everyone else at midnight.

He continued drinking, but I begged off shortly after the New Year was rung in right and proper, and headed to the room.  In bed, I put the television on, but don’t recall watching anything before I was sound asleep.  Until I was awakened by him on top of, and then inside, me, while U2 played a concert in the background.

I was too stunned to protest- or even struggle- at first.  But once I was fully awake I asked what he was doing- and was met with no response, just a continuation of his ‘business’ as I started to weep.

The rest of the night is a blank.  I honestly remember nothing until the next morning as I got myself clean and then ready to head to the breakfast buffet.  Nothing like that had EVER happened to me before.  I had no frame of reference and no knowledge of how to react.  We were far from home.  I was alone with him in another country.

The only thing he ever said was ‘I shouldn’t have done that.’  No apology.  No real remorse.  But that small, seeming acknowledgement that he had done something wrong was somehow enough to keep me there.

And to let it happen again…

Surprising Pain

I don’t love Facebook.  I use it- it is a good way to keep in touch with friends and family that aren’t nearby, and the events feature is nice- but it isn’t somewhere I hang out regularly.

Today I had a rude reminder as to why it isn’t my favourite place in on the Internet.  It seems to occasionally generate random suggestions for people you might know and want to ‘friend’.  Today the ex popped up as a suggestion.  He was a Facebook friend, once upon a time.  He could keep track of me that way, and ensure that I wasn’t up to no good on the few occasions I left the house without him.  He was ‘unfriended’ as soon as I found out about his last ‘extra curricular activity’ and decided that I’d finally had enough (as it seemed that she wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, and I had reached the point where looking at myself in the mirror had become impossible).

There he was, my suggested new friend, with the extra curricular activity and their child.  He, the guy who didn’t want children, has a child.

Long ago I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t raise children of my own, although I haven’t ruled out adoption, should I ever reach a place in which I feel complete enough in myself to take on the loving challenge of motherhood.  The resignation came out of his insistence that he didn’t want to be a father.  And his implied opinion that I would not be a particularly good mother.

It’s somewhat trite to even articulate the sentiment that he just didn’t want to have children with ME, although that is obviously the case.

Most of me is appreciative of the fact that I am in no way tied to him, since I have seen too many friends continue to have to deal with their exes (the abusers and the just plain assholes, both) for the sake of their offspring in common.  But I do feel a little bit robbed- of the years I spent with him that caused the biological clock to run out of time, and of the potentiality for raising a biological child of my own.

I am certainly culpable in this- I stayed long past the point when I should have known better.  But I bought his lines about ‘early retirement’ and ‘not being tied down’ and ‘travel to exotic locales’ and BS like that and remained childless ‘by choice’.

I would never wish a child ill- and my most charitable side is genuinely pleased that my ex-mother-in-law (whom I love) finally got the granddaughter she has longed for.  But the pain has come as a surprise.  Perhaps it’s partly the time of year, but the image of them and their child has hit me, quite physically, in the womb.

I adjusted the settings on my Facebook account so that he is blocked, which should stop the unwanted imaged from reappearing.

Damage done though.  Just one more thing to get past in this whole ‘moving on’ process.

There, not there

While cleaning up the house on Saturday I made a connection that I hadn’t seen before.

I have always been a fairly tidy person, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t like mess, and I can’t stand dishes left around or laundry being allowed to pile up.  But over the decade long relationship with the ex, my drive to clean became more than a little bit pathological.

I couldn’t sleep unless the dishes were clean and put away, the clothes laundered and put away, everything else dusted/vacuumed/washed and free of clutter… Close friends frequently commented on how much calmed I seemed to be when the house was in order, and how the anxiety visibly built when I was surrounded by mess.

I’m realizing that my constant struggle with disorder was at least partially due to the fact that I was concerned about leaving a trace of myself that could be seen.  If there was nothing on display that definitively linked me to the house, then perhaps I too could fade into the background and out of the line of fire.

And no one could question that I was contributing to the household, as I certainly was a good little housewife.  In 10 years he never cleaned a toilet or picked up a dust rag.

On the surface, everything was in its place.  The tidiness hid the chaos that underlay the superficial perfection of the environment.

 

Forward Momentum

My ex doesn’t know I’m writing a blog- sometimes I’m not sure how aware he is of anything outside of his little corner of the world- and there has been no contact between us for quite some time now, yet I’m still a little concerned about what his reaction would be were he to learn that I’m sharing experiences here.

This startling revelation came as I rode the bus to my job.  It’s genuinely startling because I honestly thought I was long past the point where I gave a damn about what he might or mightn’t think.

For a long while I consciously forced all thoughts away from him.  The (few) good, the (greater number of) bad and the (all too many) ugly.  I attempted to make him cease to exist.  Not the healthiest of impulses, I admit.

Once I started letting him back in to my brain, the bitterness started (returned?) in earnest, and I questioned everything in my current life- to an obsessive degree.  I figured balance is required- which is one of the reasons I started this page.

This morning’s thought about his reaction was accompanied by something like a small panic attack- and an image of him showing up on my doorstep with a knife (not that he knows where I live) which, despite his demonstrated propensity for violence, is not something that, rationally, I think he would be likely to do.  He is far too great a coward to engage in such a public action.

I’m left wondering why I retain any level of concern about his reaction to anything I might do.  My life is my own and he is not permitted ANY input any longer.

I guess this is one of the residual effects of the years of co-dependence and emotional battering that I need to work through as the ‘moving on’ continues.

 

Start

I didn’t know what to call it.  I had no background, no frame of reference, for what was going on.

I’m not sure that I was spoilt, but I certainly had no experience of being treated like garbage.  As if my opinions and feelings didn’t matter.  As if I- and everything I had to say, and everything I accomplished- were commodities that could be used and disposed of at will.

My extensive extended family, and the strong friendships I worked hard at maintaining, were always sources of support and shelter, when such was required.  Yet I was encouraged to stand on my own two legs- to stick up for myself, and solve my own problems as they inevitably came along.

Since tapping into the blogging world, I’m starting to realize that I’m a little outside the curve in this reality.

Abuse, all too often, begets abuse.  It seemingly can become the terrible norm.

As I say, I had no direct experience of abuse myself, and, while there were those around me who probably did, it wasn’t something to be discussed in the polite company which encircled me.

So, as the increasingly erratic behaviours commenced, I looked for explanations.

These first explanations placed the blame squarely on me.  I was obviously the one in the wrong.

When he freaked out about me being ‘half naked’ while wearing a sweatshirt and shorts over my bathing suit while on the deck having dinner at a cottage with friends, I thought that his jealousy was kind of sweet, and perhaps not unfounded.  I could have changed into jeans, since the swimming was done for the day, even though we were on holiday and the preparations for dinner and the enjoyable conversations were a little distracting…

I shrugged off a friend’s concern when it was expressed later that evening.

‘It’s all still new.  He’s insecure.  I’ll just reiterate the platonic nature of our relationship and he’ll understand that you and I have always been just friends.’

When he strongly suggested that I join a gym or start riding my bike again, it was certainly my fault.  I had gained a few pounds and could stand to be healthier.

When I explained that I was uncomfortable with him going to a strip club- especially since one of the dancers was a former acquaintance of us both- he was right to be loudly indignant at my lack of trust.  And to not come home until 4:00 the following night.

He eventually sent me flowers, after all.

I was definitely over-reacting.

In the Beginning…

Against my better judgement.

I fell for it.

For him.

Why?

He was the exact opposite of the person who had broken me.

Or so I thought.

The true opposite of the dynamic, funny, outrageous and charismatic one who left me behind would actually have been a complete non-entity.

I fell for his mediocrity.  I thought his normality would be ‘safe.’  His good family would be nurturing.  His seeming sense of responsibility might be a place of comfort where input and effort were tolerated, but not required.

I was wrong.

I spent a decade living the wrongness.

And letting the wrongs build and build and build and build.

I should have known the first time he flew into a rage and chased the cat around the house.

I should have realized the first time he drank until he passed out on the couch.

I should have realized the fiftieth time he drank until he passed out on the couch.

I should have known that running from happiness to mediocrity as a alternative to pain wasn’t the best of plans.

I didn’t know.

Now I do.