“You know, life fractures us all into little pieces. It harms us, but it’s how we glue those fractures back together that make us stronger.” -Carrie Jones
I felt foolish and stupid and lost. I stood by the front door of our home and looked out at the gorgeous open space in front of me. We had built this house when all of that was just farm land. Today, there were twenty-five other houses in our neighborhood and I wanted to be in any one of them – any home but mine where only chaos seemed to perpetually exist. I wanted to be someone else, any one of those neighbors.
It was an upper middle-class neighborhood, mostly families, about half were single income households. It was the kind of neighborhood where the parents stand at the bus stop in their slippers holding coffee cups that were either empty or turned cold as we stood there – no matter the season – and chatted about our busy lives, children, and home life. They thought mine was great because I didn’t ever let them see beyond the wall that I had built to keep the absurdity contained. Some of us attended the same church, most of us were involved at the school in some capacity, and if nothing else, we ran into one another at the grocery store at least once a week. In all those places, perception – illusion – was important. I had fought hard to fortify the mirage no matter where I was, to hide any indication that ours wasn’t the typical suburban marriage. Only a handful of very close friends got to see the garbage in my life and even then, it was only the stuff that was still floating on the surface. No one got to unlock the mental drawer and open that file tucked deeply inside.
My heart was shattered. I didn’t understand how it could – again – be decimated so intricately. I thought I had stitched it together with glue and string and secured it with locks… I thought I had buffered its ability to be broken ever again. This time it was so, so complicated. My family, my mom, my sister, the rest of us – our daughters – what do we say to our daughters?
I didn’t ask Hubby to leave, he didn’t seem to want to go. We didn’t know how to move from this point. Hubby could not explain how or why things had gotten to this point, only that he was confused, ashamed, hurting, and undecided about the next step. We scheduled back to back therapy appointments to try and unravel all the emotions and thoughts that had us both thinking we must be crazy.
Abee didn’t come to work on Monday and I was a little worried. I called Emma to make sure someone was looking out for her – after all, she was my baby sister. “She’s here” is all Emma said to me. Of course. She would run. She ran to the only place that was safe since mom was away – to her twin.
Mom flew home but she didn’t fly into our area – she flew to Emma’s city. She went straight to Abee who apparently was comatose or something. WTF?? Because I had three kids and a business and a life – I didn’t get support? No… it wasn’t that. It was because I didn’t surrender to the pain. Not yet anyway. When I finally got to talk to mom she was a little less adamant that it hadn’t happened but she did point the finger directly to Hubby. He was the problem! Being almost 20 years older, he should have known better – he was a devil. She hated him. She was going to take Abee and move, far away – out of Hubby’s reach.
“You’re leaving again? what?” I didn’t know how to respond to this. I didn’t know how to process the words that I heard my mother speak. Abee was the victim here? Seriously? I got mad. All the feelings that had been abated over the last several months as I saw them – well, didn’t see but felt them carry on an affair right under my nose – with total disregard for me and our family – lashed out at my mother.
“What about me? Why do I end up being punished for this? I’ve waited more than twenty years to have you be a part of my life in a meaningful way and you’re leaving again? Because of this?”
I unleashed all the abandonment sediment that had rested in the riverbed of my soul for all these years and thoughtfully dared my mother to do it again. I wasn’t going to let it happen. “Please mom, please stay. We’ll make it work.” I said. “I need you”.
Mom was house rich and cash poor. She would have lost a ton of money if she left. Sadly, she was financially dependent of Abee for the lifestyle that they lived. It wasn’t possible for mom to stay and for Abee to leave. Abee was dependent on us for income.
It ran over and over in my mind and I couldn’t find another solution. If I wanted mom to stay – Abee had to stay – Abee had to work – she worked for us. Shit.
My back was against a wall. In therapy, all I did was run through possible scenarios and none of them ended with mom staying a part of my or of my children’s life unless Abee continued to work for us. We paid her more than she could probably get somewhere else and mom’s livelihood was directly tied to her income. I was between a rock and a hard place; cornered, if I maintained the need for mom to be here. She was the only person I felt like I could count on. For me, healing required her presence.
Our therapist thought I was crazy and Hubby was against it but I demanded that we find a way to work through it and keep everything as it was. I went into hyper-control mode – attempting to manage some degree of emotional safety. I squared up and directed almost every detail of my day so that I could stay in ‘safe mode’. I turned into a robot of sorts – moving from one task to another so that our children were as insulated from the trauma as they could be. Clearly, something was wrong and we tried to comfort them but we were entirely imperfect. Our fighting was too loud, our words too strong, and our uncertainty too deep to maintain consistent levels of composure.
I couldn’t talk with anyone except mom and my therapist. Who would believe this? Even the therapist was incredulous that we could make this work. I insisted that ALL of us be in therapy – with her. It seemed logical to me that if one person was on the inside of our thoughts and emotions, our dysfunction, and our healing process; it would be easier. I refused to listen to her challenge to my rationale and she eventually yielded to our request albeit with the caveat that it was highly unusual and may someday make a great story. (!)
I felt incredibly alone in my anguish. My best friend, my sister, my confidant, was no more. My husband, my partner, my supporter, was gone. The combination of the betrayal and loss of what I thought I had was more excruciating than even the death of Rocky twenty-one years earlier. With death comes finality. This was different. Even though I moved my desk into a different room in our building, when I walked into the office every day I was reminded of the deceit and deception that had existed in my life. We still had to work which, meant meetings, phone calls, and planning sessions; it couldn’t be helped. We were small, there was no place to hide.
My instinct, my priority, my need …was to keep my family together and that’s what I set out to do.