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Another new month. I love writing these batches, love sitting down and making myself put words in this little box. I never feel forced to create, however; instead I look forward to this writing time each day. Sometimes I think this moment of reflection is the only thing that keeps me sane...
I'm considering doing a theme this month -- confessions, perhaps, or maybe just ruminations on marriage, family, or the past. Regardless of the type of content the month holds, I will say that today feels fresh, like a new beginning, and I enjoy that feeling very much.
My first husband had an "emotional" affair. He came home from work one morning -- distant, as usual; angry, as usual; alcohol on his breath, as usual -- and told me that he was in love with Janice, one of his coworkers at the factory where he worked most nights. I can remember the exact moment he told me: where we were sitting in our small Wisconsin apartment, how hot my tears felt as they coursed down my cheeks... I remember the shock, the resentment, the incredible anger. That moment wasn't the end of us. It was the beginning of the end.
I call it an "emotional" affair because my heart won't believe that my ex-husband took things further. I could be wrong. Absolute faith in one's spouse dissipates when an announcement like this is made.
I don't recall what happened in the days following his declaration. Things either continued as before or suddenly disintegrated. It's almost funny how I can't remember now if the name-calling started then or if it had been going on all along. I
know that I can't believe I let it all go on for as long as I did.
I started to change right after my ex-husband declared his love for Janice. I withdrew. I had given up my college teaching position to move with him to Wisconsin, so I didn't have the outlet of work friends, and I knew no one in our building. My ex's daily tirades left me feeling worthless, small, and dirty, and I eventually stopped going to church because my ever-lowering self-esteem made me embarrassed to be around others. With no friends and no outlet, I turned to the Internet, to chat rooms, for support -- a move that would change everything.
I'd been in chat rooms before, of course, but never with a need so great -- never with such a beaten-down loneliness that made me desperate to speak with someone who wasn't trying to break me. It's difficult even to describe how alone I felt, how helpless, as my marriage disintegrated and my ex continued aiming his verbal daggers at my heart. At first I went only to Christian chat rooms -- I felt most comfortable there -- but, feeling especially dejected one day, I searched and found a room called "Married and Lonely." Against my better judgment, I clicked the link.
"Married and Lonely." I hated the name of that chat room because it described exactly who I was and didn't want to be. I wasn't supposed to be a statistic; my marriage was supposed to last forever. But I was wrong. We weren't immune.
In that chat room, I realized the extent of my loneliness. I wasn't just mourning what my husband and I had shared, but shame kept me from confiding even in my family. I felt genuinely alone with no one to talk to -- no one, that is, except one man I met in that room.
Curiously, not everyone in the "Married and Lonely" chat room was married and lonely. The man I met there -- I'll call him John because that seems to be the thing one does -- was neither married nor lonely; perhaps that should have been a warning to me about his sincerity. However, my need for someone to confide in was great, and I found myself leaning on this man who could make me laugh and forget about the husband who had said he was in love with another woman and was at that moment away from the house, working his night job.
John and I met in the chat room each night after my husband (I'll call him Ray) went to work. I didn't feel guilty of hiding anything from Ray, however -- at least not initially. Ray slept during the day in our spare room, and since our computer "lived" in that room, it was impossible for me to be online until he left for work.
John was a good listener, something I desperately needed as Ray's name-calling continued to destroy the little self-esteem I had. And I liked John. Maybe I started to like him too much.
Ray worked nights, as I've said, and would often play pool with some of his workmates -- including Janice -- after their shifts ended. Ray loved pool. He also loved to drink. His father was an alcoholic, and Ray was well on his way to becoming one. Sometimes he would come home when I was still in bed. I hated those mornings. Drunk (or near it), he would slam through the bedroom door and fling obscenities at me, calling me names I don't feel comfortable recording here. Sometimes he threw things at me. I was afraid.
John was my refuge.
John and I continued to talk in the chat room, by IM and e-mail, and finally by phone. He listened to me, let me cry and vent. He confided in me as well: about his own marriage and the sadness in which it ended. I enjoyed talking to him, but more than that, I
to talk to him. And as my husband grew more distant, as his words grew more demeaning, as his temper continued to flare and his use of alcohol escalated, I found myself longing for a different life ... for a man like John.
Hearing John's voice made my friendship with him seem more real, and I realized that my feelings for him were growing stronger. I knew I had to tell Ray. However, Ray found out on his own and, ignoring his earlier declaration of love for his coworker, accused me of cheating on him. Our marriage continued its decline after that, the fighting worsening until our divorce several months later.
I think about Ray sometimes, hoping that he's okay. He was a good person who was fighting a hard battle with that Demon Alcohol, and our marriage was the casualty.
John and I continued our friendship after my divorce, visiting each other many times. Now, several years later, we're married and have two young children. This whole experience has taught me the importance of communication within a marriage, and although John and I have our disagreements, our love for each other and for our children binds us -- and we cling to that love daily.
We had some excitement last night: my sister gave birth to Emily Erin! This is a momentous occasion in our family for more than the usual reasons. That story tomorrow...
As a child, my sister dreamed about the daughter she'd have someday, and when she and her husband started a family, she waited excitedly for her girl. And waited. But instead of pink and Barbies, she was blessed with blue and trucks: four boys. She continued to long for a daughter, and when I was expecting my own girl, she became depressed and couldn't speak to me for months, her mourning for her unfulfilled dream was so great. However, ten years after her first son's birth, her fifth blessing has arrived: Emily, born last Tuesday, proof that God answers prayers!
I stagnate. I get up every morning, and I stagnate, never accomplishing the things I want to do, never finishing the majority of the tasks I start, never advancing, never growing, never being the person I want to be. I stagnate.
Too many things and not enough hours: so true. My list of things to do is long, intimidating, so I do ... nothing (of significance). What about Bible study? Praying? Writing? Cleaning? Playing with the kids? Being a friend? What about ...
Because I don't know how to accomplish everything, I do nothing. I stagnate. I'm stagnant.
I am becoming someone I didn't want to be, and I watch the rain falling on this dull, gray day and consider the person I used to be and how back when I was she then she didn't seem to be the best person either, but now that I can look back from the vantage point of the person I am now, in this frozen minute, I realize that the person I was years ago was actually a pretty good person, someone I wouldn't mind being right now as I listen to the rain drum against the roof and dream.
The most beautiful sight is the light I see in my children's eyes when they're excited about something. Today I watched my three-year-old son skip and laugh as he played on the slide at the zoo's playground, his eyes sparkling and clear and bright, and I've witnessed that same effulgent, enthusiastic spark in my fifteen-month-old daughter's eyes as she explores her world. Their eyes are so clear, so unclouded by life's sad realities. They wonder at everything, and for them, everything is possible. I pray they never lose that sense of wonder, of possibility, of faith.
When I was young, nearly every Sunday afternoon my parents, sister, and I would climb into our blue Buick and drive the seven miles to Grandma's house, where a huge dinner would await. Grandma would cook roasts studded with garlic, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, homemade pies... I can recall both the tantalizing smells that tickled my nose as I stepped through her door and the laughter of family members gathering around the table. I probably didn't always appreciate this communion with family, but now, looking back through older, world-weary eyes, I understand the preciousness of those halcyon days.
Alex desperately wanted to call Sabrina, but each time he picked up the phone, a voice in his head ordered him to put it down because she would want nothing to do with him and his cowlick and frying pan face, and furthermore, she was out of his league anyway and would never stoop to him. Meanwhile, Sabrina waited by her phone, not daring herself to call Alex, listening instead to a voice in her head that taunted her about her bumpy nose and stringy hair and enumerated the million other insecurities that would forever (and stupidly) keep them apart.
My three-year-old had his flu shot yesterday, and the nurse gave him a Silly Bandz for being good. He had seen other kids wearing these bracelets but didn't own any, and he was excited when he learned he could pick out whatever shape he wanted. He chose a lime green bunch of grapes and wore the band proudly for the rest of the day -- until he and his little sister got into a tug-of-war over it and broke it. He's upset, of course, and now wants Mama to buy more. Just what was that nurse thinking!
I had my first kiss in my school's hallway when I was in seventh grade. I was twelve, and he was thirteen. Our "relationship" -- consisting mostly of phone calls -- didn't last long. We tried dating again a few years later, but my strict curfew derailed our romance. Although we really were better as friends, I do wonder what happened to him. Once I heard he had become a preacher. Another time I was shocked to hear he might have been one of the boys involved in a molestation scandal involving a local priest... I hope he's happy, wherever he is.
I grew up being fearful of new things and resistant to changes. My parents were strict; they didn't allow me to do many of the things my friends were doing, mostly out of a fear that I would get hurt. I admit I felt like an outcast many times. Now that I'm a mother, however, I understand my parents' desperate need to protect me from the unknown. My only hope is that I'm able to protect my children while at the same time giving them enough freedom to experience all the things that will help them become well-rounded adults.
My life revolves around reality TV. Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it's true that most shows I watch are in the reality genre. Lately, I've wondered if I'm watching
much reality. The other night, I dreamed that Gretchen from
was scheming to take my computer, and I was still livid when I awoke. It feels strange that people I only think I know are starting to invade my dreams. Maybe it's a sign that I should
a little less reality and
my own instead.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to find when I got off the school bus and raced into the house was an array of chocolate chip cookies spread out on the counter, cookies my mom baked and had waiting for us with a glass of milk. She would always save us a bit of the cookie dough (I know, I know -- eggs!), which she, my sister, and I agreed was even better. (My dad was the lone dissenter who claimed that the cookies were best.)
Today is my mom's 73rd birthday. Happy birthday, Mom!
Whenever I hear Don Henley's "The End of the Innocence," I'm transported back to 1989, and I'm seventeen and lying on my back on my twin bed in my old bedroom, staring out the window at the pine tree in the front yard, the tree I've stared at countless times before, and I'm thinking of what-should-have-beens and what-could-have-beens and dreaming about possibilities and about what-soon-might-bes and the future and love, love that promises to lift me above it all, above him, above them, and, cross my fingers and hope, above myself.
Here it is, almost the end of October, and I'm still trying to decide if I want to participate in NaNoWriMo next month. I won back in 2003, but that was before I had children. (I applaud all the parents who do NaNo.) I'm not even sure why I'm considering it since I find it so hard already just to complete the little bit of writing I do each day. If I do participate, however, I think I'll do so unofficially and work on nonfiction; I'll make my own rules and play the game my own way. How about you?
Her life was a schedule. She woke each day at precisely 7:10 a.m., used the bathroom, went to the kitchen to make decaffeinated coffee, then turned on the small TV on the counter and sat to watch the news -- same network each morning. Her day followed in the same way, each moment mapped out to be exactly as it was the day before, every movement she made identical. When the inevitable change occurred and threatened to disrupt the orderliness of her day, she retreated to her bedroom, feigning a headache and caressing the gun in her bedside table.
Alvin was a collector. However, he didn't collect things honestly; he didn't purchase them or find them. He stole them instead. He took Stella's self-esteem and Mary's faith. From Audrey he swiped confidence, and from Chrissy he nicked hope. Love was what he filched from Eunice, and optimism was Harriet's loss. Over and over Alvin took from the women around him, leaving them empty, hollow, shells of themselves. He had all he needed then to weave a rich tapestry thieved from broken lives and shattered dreams, a beautiful thing, perfect and whole. Then he sold it and collected more.
She was a visionary, a seer. For the price of a coffee she would look into her globe and call up futures, answering tedious questions through gritted teeth and plastered-on smiles:
Whom will I marry? Where will I work? Will I ever have kids? How many? When?
Before long, she grew greedy and declared her gift was worth more. So she raised her price, turned many poor, desperate people away. But with her price increase, her ability decreased -- and soon her vision was gone.
Pity she couldn't predict her
Everyone has a thing, a defining quality. Peter's thing is making mountains out of molehills; overreacting is his specialty. Failing one test sends him into a panic about failing the entire course. Forgetting to call his girlfriend once equals a lifetime of loneliness. Deciding which movie to see when the one he wanted is sold-out becomes a major dilemma involving complicated dissections of plots and their suitability to his current state of mind. And Peter wonders why women never stay with him, why his parents no longer call him often, why his friends have dropped away one by one...
She woke up this morning with her boyfriend-staying-over-for-the-first-time face on: eye makeup that had been applied lightly so it wouldn't smear, cheeks painted a pale pink flush. She smiled as he kissed her and got up to leave for work. When she heard the apartment door close, she arose from the bed, went to the bathroom, showered, and put on another face, her editor-of-the-newspaper face: made-up yet not overdone. And as she worked, she thought of all her faces and realized that she no longer knew which one was real...
Today brings memories of evenings spent trick-or-treating, Mom and Grandma chatting on the sidewalk as my sister and I ran from door to door, ringing bells and begging candy from the strangers we were told not to talk to every other day of the year. We would invade the local neighborhoods, ending at Grandma's house, where Dad was handing bags filled with candy to other beggars. Then we'd dump our candy on the floor, assign each piece to piles labeled "like" and "hate." Somehow the "hate" pile always became more desirable after all the good candy was gone.
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