Escape Route

Continued from Armoured Up

Running away from any problem only increase the distance from the solution. The easiest way to escape from the problem is to solve it. ~ Anonymous

When Abee said she “just needed to be alone” I realized that any progress toward a new beginning I thought existed, was only in my imagination. It was possible that she needed space now that the house was empty and she could privately grieve but I wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later when I was investigating company accounting statements that I actually understood. I noticed a number of charges to the corporate American Express card that were made at retail stores for hair products and swimwear. Obviously curious, I checked the dates on the calendar only to find out that it was the day I had offered to hang out with Abee. Remembering back in more detail I recall that Hubby hadn’t been around either. We didn’t tell one another our plans anymore but I was in the habit of paying attention to when he was or wasn’t home. Well, I’ll be damned. He had taken her shopping on the company’s dime…

A few other incidents occurred across a couple of months that forced me to keep very close tabs on how much money was being spent from OUR company’s funds. Also, the time that Hubby and Abee were spending together in public increased as I received frequent ‘reports’ of them being seen out and about. I had to surmise that now Mom was gone, there was no more voice of reason about the impropriety of their relationship. Hubby attempted to intermingle his weekends with the girls into spending time with Abee as well but they were confused as to why Abee was around with their dad, helping him find a new house, etc. No one was being honest and I was getting fired up.

No matter how hard I worked to cope with the depth of the betrayal from my husband and sister, it was constantly in front of me, requiring me to readjust on a daily basis. There was never time to build tolerance as every time I turned, it seemed as if there was another question from someone… “are they still together?” “What does she see in him?” “What do your kids think?” “I can’t believe it!” or something that brought it all back to the front and center of my consciousness. It didn’t matter what coping mechanism I was using at the moment, I had to find another one. It was as if I was building a tolerance to the methods most common and had to constantly find something better or stronger to help me get through the next round of questions or the next battle of nighttime tears from the girls. There were days when I would be driving into school crying out of frustration on how to put that relationship into perspective. There were nights when all of the broken promises bombarded me like slivers of fragmented glass, ripping metaphorically into my already damaged heart. I was tired of hurting. I wanted to escape.

It was a stressful spring all around. I had missed a week of classes while in San Deigo and so I was playing catch up with my classes. I was noticing my mom’s absence daily as I would attempt to pick up the phone and call to ask how she was feeling or to see how her bridge game went. One evening I was sitting on my bed thinking about mom, going all the way back to my childhood. I remembered, even after all those years, the day she had left to join the Army. As a twelve-year-old, I wanted to come home every day to my mom. I wanted her to teach me how to cook and sew (well, she didn’t really sew…) I wanted her to talk with me about girl stuff and play Barbie’s before bedtime. One this particular evening, as I was reflecting on the pain I felt as a child when mom left and the pain I was feeling that night, wanting to turn to my mother for solace… I cried out in deep desolation, for all of the times that mom had forsaken me. The sorrow escaping my body had been suppressed for more than three decades and yet it wasn’t only that, it was for everyone who had left me – intentionally or otherwise. In that one moment, I understood the intensity of my abandonment sentiment. I grasped right then how I had moved through my life from the footprint of rejection and desertion.

I wrote letters that night to Mom, Rocky, Dad, Hubby, Abee, and a couple of other incidental people who had left me or rejected me for what was to them – either nonvoluntary (i.e., Rocky & Dad) or conscious decisions motivated by needs that did not include me. I was able to recognize that outside of death, those people weren’t really leaving ‘me’… they were focusing on what was good for them. They were satisfying their own needs instead of considering the needs of others and while this is what most of us do… many of us are satisfying the OUR need NOT to hurt people we love.

This is the great dichotomy in which we live really… if we make decisions that make us happy regardless of how other people feel – will we ‘really’ be happy??  If I know that by choosing one direction of happiness for myself means that many others will be miserable… can I still experience the joy I was anticipating? Where exactly is that balancing line? Where do my needs and the needs of others intersect? Why does someone always have to sacrifice?

I considered my own pain. It was quasi-torturous to stay in that house, the one we built together – in the town where we had dreamed of raising our family… to hear people say that they saw my sister and Hubby at the such and such restaurant or driving down the road together… If I moved, I could escape all that. I wouldn’t have to be in the same town with constant reminders or notice the look on people’s faces who knew that my sister, the one I bragged so much about when we hired her to work for us, was hooking up with my soon-to-be-ex-husband. I wouldn’t wonder how many people were whispering behind my back. It would be easier to leave – to start anew but the girls… they wouldn’t want to go; they had been raised here. They were embedded in our community, in scouts, sports, and school. They loved this house, their rooms, and the neighbors. I didn’t want to pull them away from their lives. I could go. But then, I would be just like my mom. Leaving my kids to pursue something that offered me personal relief even if it was going to be temporary.

Funny that my oldest daughter was almost exactly the same age as I was when mom left me. Is this life offering the same lesson? Can I break some kind of karmic string if I stay and stare down the temptation to relieve myself? It was so enticing… the possibility of ending in-you-face-betrayal simply by relocating but I couldn’t do it.

I sat on the edge of Sara’s bed one night specifically to let her know that I was there with them, that I would always be there and that from everything… absolutely everything comes something good if we are patient enough to wait for it. I explained that nothing was more important than self-respect and that no matter what happened in her life, no matter the man (or men) she would meet – that compromising self-respect should never – ever – be an option. I hope she heard me. I believed that maybe, just maybe – a reason for all of my turmoil was to teach my daughters and that – gave me hope.

Well That’s Awkward

“The most confused you will ever get is when you try to convince your heart and spirit of something your mind knows is a lie.”  – Shannon L. Alder

The only ‘complaint’ I had (I use this word deliberately with the definition of ‘expressing displeasure or unhappiness’) was my inability to satisfy Hubby’s libido. I found myself reaching way past my comfort zones in an effort to be creative and imaginative when it came to our sex life. I tried creating some outrageous fantasies that sounded at least a tiny bit believable to my brain… it was the only way that I could be convincing. My definition of fantasy is something that is ‘imaginary’ – it exists in a world outside the realm of reality – and belongs there. Fantasizing felt somewhat safe assuming it fit that definition and I allowed myself to wander the spectrum of sexuality. Some things were tantalizing…

It wasn’t yet a ‘thing’ to openly discuss casual girl on girl encounters and yet they were quite common in every porn flick we ever watched. I admit to some broad curiosity but I took the ‘fantasy’ to a new level and vocalized it in detail on an occasion or two. You would think that I had insisted on manifesting an experience by the enthusiastic response it spawned. For weeks, I fielded questions about how I would go about making it happen and/or did I know of someone that I was attracted to. I easily became frustrated with the questions as it was all imaginary in my mind and should have stayed that way. The frustration grew to disgust with the vigor of interest from Hubby and the relentless prodding for more details; it felt like an interrogation. I became sorry I ever went down that road.

It seemed that Hubby was particularly interested in creating encounters with ‘others’. One evening while entertaining at home, a gentleman approached me and made the comment [modified to reduce crudeness] “I’m told you have great body parts”. I almost dropped my drink and looked at him with a dumbstruck expression, unable to formulate sound. “I’d love to see for myself”, he smiled. I was nauseated. The room grew hot and black. I wanted to run but couldn’t see where to go, I didn’t know how to get away. I was pregnant for christ’s sake! So many thoughts were spinning around in my mind and nothing stopped long enough for me to have clarity. I turned away and left the room with nothing more than a grunted sigh.

I found Hubby and asked him what the F*** he had said to that man. He told me and laughed. He was drinking. He had been consuming a lot of alcohol lately. There was no reasoning or arguing with him as long as the beer was in control. I left everyone and everything and went to bed. I wanted to lock the door – part of me didn’t trust anything or anyone in that house that night. I didn’t sleep, rather I laid there and thought about all the times things that had gone down like this. All the times that I had failed to satisfy Hubby, his needs, his desires. It’s as if they were inexhaustible, limitless. How did I work with this? I was profoundly embarrassed to be approached by some random guy who had intimate knowledge about my body. It felt like an immense violation of my privacy, of our love, of respect. My nerves were on fire as I imagined the confrontation this was going to produce.

When I was finally able to address the situation, I was faced with comments that completely invalidated everything I was feeling. “What’s the big deal” he asked. “I was complimenting you”, he said. “I’m proud of my wife”, he boasted. I didn’t feel heard, or validated, or valued. I felt cheap and trashy. There was something about my feelings that implied they were small and inconsequential. The ‘proud’ and ‘compliment’ words were louder and more attention grabbing than my feelings. There was a shift in my spirit that adjusted Hubby’s words to have more value than my emotions. I didn’t notice it then – it just happened. His language unzipped some nefarious part of me that needed ‘proud’ and ‘compliment’ more than I needed self-respect and dignity. Those attributes became microscopic and cold in my soul. They could not cohabitate in the world in which I was living.

I didn’t know what to do with this event. In my mind it spoke poorly of my husband so I didn’t want to tell anyone. On some level I was ashamed of my reaction – or complete lack of one – but it was predominately sub-conscious. I convinced myself that it was actually a complimentary incident and used it as evidence that the man I married really loved me. I may have told Michele and Dee some version of what had transpired but I’m pretty sure it was presented in a positive light, without disparaging commentary. I kept the rest to myself.

My mom had become one of my best friends. We talked almost daily for a minute or two and she spent extended time with us when she was able – mostly on the way to or from her parents’ home as they were aging and mom dedicated a ton of time to them – a whole summer at a time. It was mom who first brought to my attention the amount of beer Hubby consumed on a regular basis. She spent a week at a time with us and was known for her observational abilities. He had always been a drinker; we both were. I however, did not enjoy being drunk. Ever since my 25th birthday and the probable alcohol poisoning I experienced that week, I monitored myself pretty well. Not to say that I haven’t overindulged since then, it just wasn’t with any regularity. I guess I had become accustomed to Hubby’s consumption patterns. He was never loud or obnoxious when intoxicated, in fact he became loving and gentle; quite vulnerable actually – a trait I coveted with him. I started keeping tabs on how much beer disappeared and with what regularity.

Spring came and found us rearranging sleeping quarters to prepare a nursery for baby #4. We spent time with Dee, Tom and all the kids, picnicking, dinners, and game nights. We came home from an amusement park one day – all of us but in two cars – with plans to gather again for dinner. Hubby asked me to call Dee and tell her to “bring all the leftover beer” when they come over. He didn’t ask me to ASK her – I heard him say TELL her. It stirred my insides. I wasn’t comfortable ‘telling’ her to do us a favor. They came – she brought the beer. I was seven months pregnant so I wasn’t drinking but beer was flowing otherwise. The four of us sat outside on the patio, gathered around the table that I had spray painted green earlier in preparation for summer, and the kids played in the yard. We had eaten and we were now simply enjoying the great late spring twilight. It was a relaxed evening, one of hundreds we had experienced throughout the years and I was having fun. I was sitting in a chair against the house so that my vantage point was the whole patio and yard beyond. During a spirited string of conversation, I glanced down – below the surface of the table – and observed quite accidentally, Hubby’s foot rubbing the length of Dee’s leg.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy

The Walk of Shame

“A lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect!” ~Unknown author

My intention was to ask him to dance but when I eventually found him in the nightclub he had his arm around a little blonde and I figured once again, this guy was out of my league.  I enjoyed the rest of the night with my friends and woke up in time for the Saturday morning meeting. It was a little bit like a cattle call as we all headed into the conference hall, a bit hung over coveting the coffee we were lucky enough to grab from the massive urns outside the ballroom. We had to sign in so the line slowed just before the doors.

Just as I was getting close to entering, I saw him – the guy who winked. He was tall, just a couple of people ahead of me and he had curly dark hair. I elbowed my bestie, pointing him out – attempting to be totally nonchalant. I dropped my head just long enough to provide my signature and as I walked through the doorway he was there, literally by my side with an outstretched hand “Hi, glad to see you made it through the night. I’m Bill.” I stammered some kind of hello and then quickly moved along in the flow of my friends to find a place to sit all the while chiding myself with the notion of ‘geez, what are you – in 2nd grade or something’????? Again, the idea of dating, of meeting a new person was so entirely awkward… it was almost painful.

As if I was in a high school cafeteria noticing the new boy in school, I sat at that morning conference table asking my friends to scour the audience in an effort to find where he was sitting. He seemingly disappeared, blending into the crowd as if he was a chameleon in a tropical forest. No one could find him. With a deep sigh and another notch in the belt of tough luck that I constantly wore, we forged through the day.

Later, at poolside, I saw him again. He was sitting with a large group, drink in hand, engaged in doing what all of us were attempting… having fun and relaxing. My BFF was AWOL – she didn’t come down by the pool with me and hadn’t shown up all afternoon. I was behaving like an idiot. Yes, I am being grossly self-critical but seriously, that was me… diving into the pool rather boldly, right in front of that group of people where curly haired Bill sat with his cocktail. I’m pretty sure no one payed me one moment of attention. I was experiencing humiliation that was completely and totally self-inflicted. Where were besties when you needed them? She could have saved me from deprecating behavior.

That night found us in the ballroom again for a presentation of awards to the top 10 in a bunch of different categories; sales reps, sales offices, etc. My friend group was associated with a top 10 office so we were decked out in our finest fashions with perfect hair and makeup. Again, we scoured the room on foot to find Mr. Curly Hair and again, we didn’t see him. While moving onto dessert, someone at my table asked me what the guy’s name was again, I replied with what I remembered and then looking at the evening’s program, we saw his name. He was a Top 10 rep. Shit again. That was just one more thing that pushed him out of my league. Deep breath – move on.

As is customary, these conference events went on, and on, and on. After the awards ceremony, there was a cocktail hour and then dancing with a DJ until last call. We were all drinking, dancing, and having fun. It was approaching midnight, meaning my birthday was about to begin. I was ready to bring 29 in with furor. The last year in this tortuous decade needed to be great in order for equilibrium to exist and persevere. I was dancing the night away when a gal from my home office showed up – Curly Hair in tow – and introduced us right there – mid dance – as she declared how shy I am.

It wasn’t long before we tired of dancing and trying to scream at each other over the music so we stepped out of the nightclub with our cocktails and found a place to chat. I was crazy nervous as we started to orchestrate getting to know one another. I was surprised to find that the conversation flowed smoothly and was rather effortless; time flew by. Our drinks empty and the bar closed, we headed to my room to raid the bar.

My roomie wasn’t there but there were three gifts, wrapped in birthday paper waiting on my bed. Yay! I love presents! I opened the smallest box first. It was a container of scented, edible, massage oil. O.K., next – a flat package. It was an annual edition of a male nude pictorial (later we realized it was geared toward gay men; depicting men intimately touching). The last box was about 12 inches long and 4 inches’ square. Um… everything in my body screamed – leave now; put the box down and exit the room. DANGER… DANGER.  I attempted to act on my intuition and moved toward the door, blushing and fumbling for a rational reason to find friends – any friends. “Let’s open it” he says. “That’s ok, let’s go.” “No, really – what do you think is in in?” as he picked up the box and began peeling the paper from its edges. I grabbed the box and as I did, the top corner ripped off the box to identify the contents.

Ok, kill me now. Please, God – strike me or at least give me disappearing ability, immediately. The box contained, as you have undoubtedly guessed, a dildo. All I know is that he began to smile broadly until his entire face was engulfed and with a deadly, serious voice stated “we are going to have fun, you and I”. Oh my god, can we just leave – get me out of this room. It took all of my energy to gather any remaining dignity and exit quickly. What I didn’t know is that a tone had been established right then, a seed of expectation had been planted.

We eventually ended up in his room and the make out session of all make out sessions ensued. For the first time in more than 4 years, my mind wasn’t on Rocky and my body was on fire. He played me like a violin and reminded me of JG, the man of my early years who taught me about pleasure. All of my reserves melted and I rejected every ounce of self-respect I possessed in order to satisfy the calling of my primal voice. I woke up in the morning feeling embarrassed and somewhat ashamed of myself. I didn’t want to be a one-night-stand girl. In fact, I had resisted that temptation on so many other occasions, I was pissed at myself. Since I was completely unaware of the principle of self-compassion, I beat myself up, grabbed my clothing, and proceeded to embark on a very long walk-of-shame. I had watered the seed of expectation.

It turns out that my BFF was reacting to a prank birthday gift she had received back home and wanted to share the undignified excitement with me. If she was going to get a dildo for her birthday, then so was I. We discussed the details of the prior evening and laughed until we were breathless over the absurdity of it all while we packed and prepped to leave.

Sunday was going home day. Curly hair guy and I connected and were awkwardly conversing over lunch as several people stopped by our table to say goodbye on their way back to where they belonged. My BFF was patient but strong willed as she packed us some roast beef sandwiches for the drive home (and as it turned out with WAY too much horseradish) and gave me the ‘come on’ eyes more than a few times. I was trying to save my dignity by engaging this guy in small talk and pretending that I wasn’t morbidly embarrassed from my lusting lack of self-control. I obligingly provided my phone number to Mr. Hot Stuff and left Lancaster. I secretly hoped that I would never return.

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