I got about 2 ½ hours of sleep last night. I am exhausted today.
I was up until 2:00 this morning because I made the decision last night to play a lovely game of “What If?” – ever played that? Let me explain the rules: You basically think of any time period in your life and ask deep, mind-blowing questions that make you rethink how you ended up in the present.
At every crossroads in my life there have always been at least two choices. I picked one of the paths available to me, knowing I would have to live with the consequences of that path, good, bad or indifferent.
But there are a few paths I’ve picked along the way that have been totally, completely, 100% wrong. So, in my version of last night’s “What If?” game, I decided to focus mainly on one of those wrong paths. His name is Tom.
I read this article yesterday that said you really only ever love three people in your entire life:
The first is your “fairy tale” love. It’s the love that sweeps you away. It’s what you always imagined love would feel like – the smiles, the flirting, the kisses, the “eyes” from across the room. This love becomes the love with which no one else can compete, because it’s so pure and free and happy.
For me, that was Danny. Funny thing is, Danny wasn’t even my boyfriend for most of my high school career. He was an aspiring musician, beautiful olive skin and eyes like dark chocolate. He was popular. He gave me butterflies. He was new and cool, even if immature and non-committal. But I fell in love, and I fell HARD, and once that happened, I was a goner. Even the way Danny broke my heart was in such a way that I couldn’t hate him or be angry, because he was such a kind person. I haven’t seen him since my freshman year of college. I think about him sometimes, when I’m feeling nostalgic. He’s done everything he wanted to do. He got married, moved to Nashville, and started playing guitar for rising stars in the area. I do not love Danny anymore. I envy the fact that he has accomplished all of his goals.
Your second love is the one that changes you the most. The most challenging. The “rocky” one. The one you put a lot of work into because you want it to succeed. And at least for me, it was the one that broke me, that hurt me, that shattered my self-worth and caused damage from which I am still trying to recover.
Tom was my second love. He was a lawyer that I met online through work. We were both married when we met, but that didn’t stop me from chasing him like a sick puppy, until I “won.” So even though we were 1200 miles apart, broke, completely different and doomed to fail, “at least we had each other.” Tom is the one who taught me that it takes more than love to survive a relationship.
Let me break it down, because I have a feeling that my overloaded brain is thinking faster than my sausage fingers can type. Jackie and I just bought a house, and with that, we are having to use a different electric company than did service our previous home. I have used this company before, so I logged into my email account to see if I could find what the deposit was the last time, to try to piece together a budget for next payday.
And as I scrolled through these older emails, I came across a few from Tom to me, and also from me to Tom. I thought I had deleted all of them, but I found a few, so down the rabbit hole I went.
The contents of these emails I read are not something I am proud of. However, since I like to keep my posts open-record, I will share with you a few excerpts:
Email date September 16, 2013 (a fight about his spending a weekend with his kids at his ex-wife’s house, sleeping on her couch): “Ever since Sunday, when you called me a ‘delusional stupid bitch,’ I’ve thought of the events of the weekend. I’ve replayed them in my mind as I often do. For what I did to cause that reaction from you, I sincerely apologize. I should have taken responsibility for my part in the fight, and I should’ve kept my opinions and feelings to myself. I’ll try to share those kinds of things with others in the future, or just not share them at all. I do not expect an apology from you. I put MYSELF in a position to be ignored, avoided and eventually screamed at, and I want you to know that I do not hold this against you. I love you more than anything in this world, and nothing you can say or do to me is going to change that. The fact is, I’m just so grateful that you gave me a second glance 5 ½ years ago that I’ll spend the next 100 trying to be good enough. I CAN censor what I say, I CAN be the wife I know I’m called to be, I CAN be ‘seen and not heard,” and I CAN be more respectful of you.”
Email date February 10, 2014 (a fight about a girl I caught him talking to): “I swore to myself that I wouldn’t email you, and that I’d stay away until you wanted to talk, if ever. But here I am, graveling again, about to say all of the things you probably don’t want to read…I don’t love you the way you want to be loved. I put a load of expectations on you that you could never possibly meet because you are human, just like me. You can’t walk on water or make the earth move, you can feed me with a silver spoon and you can’t hold my hand. I’m selfish, I have a double standard, I am mean and cruel, scarred and sick. All of the ways I have ever loved you have been executed poorly. If space is what you need, take it. I will wait. I will be here no matter what. Whatever it is that I’ve not given you, you deserve to have it. I can learn to let go so that you can find it. No matter that awful things I’ve done, I hope you know that I didn’t mean to hurt you. You’re my best friend, and I’m sorry I haven’t done right by that. I love you.”
Email date July 1, 2014 (a fight about money – I wanted to take the kids out to dinner and to a movie, and he said we couldn’t afford it): “I can’t sleep because we had a fight and there are some things I want to say, in reflection of our argument. First off, I hope that your hanging up on me just means you’re mad and not leaving. I am not sure I can go through that again. But regardless, you were right to be upset with me…’Thank you’ doesn’t cover it. An apology doesn’t cover it. Excuses don’t cover it. The bottom line is that I am grateful for your time, your attention, your generosity, your pity on this crazy young girl who has only made about three good decisions in her entire life. I know now that it’s not about the $100.00. It’s about showing a little gratitude for any amount of money you offer, for any bill you pay, for any ‘extra’ thing I get. I am here if you want to talk. I love you.”
In tears at that point, reading those emails brought about a “What If?” game that kept me up half the night. I thought about all of the mistakes I made, specifically dealing with Tom, my second love. Now that I’m out of that situation, I can think about it objectively. And the facts are as follows:
- Tom and I had NOTHING in common. He had blue eyes, I had brown. He had blonde hair turning gray, and mine was black. I liked to splurge, he liked to save. He was obsessed with Star Wars, I don’t even know the order of the movies. He spent no less than $6.00 on a bottle of beer and I was content with Smirnoff Green Apple. He came from Do-Gooder, Delaware, from a well-to-do family. To him, I was plain white trash who came from a nothing family in a nothing town. He placed himself, status-wise, above me on every level. And I followed right behind him, agreeing that I was not good enough.
- Tom was mean to me. MEAN. He was never committed to me and so he would find reasons to blow up, hang up on me, break up with me, ignore me, avoid me, you name it. This broke me inside. He made me feel like I was beneath him. He was smarter, he was richer, he was better.
- Since my self-worth was basically non-existent, I had no issue graveling, begging, apologizing for things that weren’t my fault, crying because “what was I going to do without him?” I bent my own standards, I changed who I wanted to be, all to satisfy someone who didn’t really care about me.
- My insecurities made me paranoid, such that I became clingy, needy and starved for attention, and Tom disapproved. He was a loner, and he appreciated solitude and silence while I needed to be in constant communication with him.
- There were trust issues from the get go, that only got worse as time went on. I constantly reviewed his phone records, checked out his female friends on Facebook, went through his phone when we were together, and asked questions about his schedule to a point of pissing him off.
BUT, as is usually the case when I make wrong choices, I stand by those choices just to make doubly sure they’re the wrong ones. I was DETERMINED to make my marriage work, because I needed to prove to my family and myself that I could hack it.
Eight years of abuse later, Tom and I had a fight that was my breaking point. My last straw. I don’t remember much about the fight itself, but I do remember laying alone in my bed in my apartment, crying myself to sleep, which was typical back then.
But that night in particular, as I sobbed, I prayed, “Lord, if you will just take away this hurt, I promise to wait for the right one. I will wait, I will wait, I will wait. It hurts so badly, and I am so broken. I will go to therapy, I will never try to kill myself again, I will straighten out my priorities. Please take away this hurt.”
And miraculously, the next morning, I woke up, and I didn’t feel the incessant need to blow up Tom’s phone and beg for forgiveness. And I didn’t. I didn’t email, text or call him for two weeks (we separated like this probably a dozen times over the two years we were married).
I had hit bottom, and in that misery, I learned a few things about myself: 1.) I needed serious help. I was sick, clinically depressed, hopeless and helpless, all because I made some poor decisions, and Tom was one of them – a big one; 2.) Whether Tom saw it or not, whether I saw it or not, I was a human being, capable of making good decisions, and I could start making them whenever I wanted. I could stop wallowing in my failures. I had value. I was worth something because I was a person. And I needed to start acting like it, regardless of Tom’s commitment, or lack thereof, to me. I was not defined by Tom’s feelings for me; and 3.) I had become so caught up in making Tom my first priority, that I didn’t take time to invest in my children, and if for no other reason, I was going to get my life together for their sakes. They needed my attention more than I needed Tom’s.
And that night, even through tears, I slept peacefully.
A week after that, I went to work, and that is the day I met Jackie (again). He had treated me previously for an allergic reaction at our local ER, but all had been forgotten until the day I was reconnected with him on the third floor of our office building. And I swear, he looked at me to say good morning, and as I glanced back, it was like an arrow was shot right through my heart. I was weak at the knees and I heard a voice say to me, “That’s him. That’s the one. But be patient. You promised you’d wait.”
Jackie is my third and last love. The third love is the best one, because it trumps the others. It’s the easy one. It’s the best friendship and most intimate connection of all three loves. It’s just the “right” one.
Loving Jackie has been such a blessing to my kids and me. I regret nothing about how we met, how we dated, or how we live our lives now. We are a family, finally. We are whole now that Jackie is a part of us. After all those tries, and after all these years, I finally know what love is supposed to feel like, and it is such a relief to know that it doesn’t have to be hard or exhausting or complicated. My love for Jackie is not perfect. It is just love.
With all of the benefits, however, come another set of feelings – guilt, regret, anger and bitterness. Why did I ever get involved with Tom? What was so great about him? In hindsight, nothing. But I got caught up in being “an attorney’s wife” and over time, I lost every piece of me that ever existed. And it took a long time to get “me” back – in fact, I am still working through my issues. Does Tom think about me now? Does he feel sorry for taking away the best years of my life? I wonder if he will find this blog, and read it, and know how I really feel. Does he go through old emails, like I did last night, and think, “God I was a dick to her,” and consider apologizing? Does he treat his current girlfriend (subject of email #2 above) the way he treated me? Does he realize now that I’d have moved Heaven and Earth for him, and that he pushed away the one person who gave a damn about him? Or does he continue to play the victim? Does he see his kids at all, who were the subject of many of our fights? Has he lost weight or hair (p.s. – I found a picture of him and I can confirm that he is almost completely bald)? Is he still paying alimony and child support (which at one time totaled more than Jackie and I make in a month)? Does his current girlfriend allow the same verbal and psychological (and even at times physical) abuse that I did, because I refused to draw boundaries, or does she give it right back to him (wouldn’t that be some serious karma)? Do they live together, sleep in the same bed, watch t.v. together, eat dinner together, unlike we did, even though I begged and pleaded to see him more often?
And the funny thing is – I DON’T REALLY CARE. Other than wanting him to suffer for all he put me through, I couldn’t care less what he does now. I am happy, and I don’t want any part in that life anymore. But for 8 years, he pretended to feel nothing for me. I wonder sometimes, and I wondered last night, if he has hit the same “bottom” he forced me to hit.
I am in a happier place in my life now, and thank God I said “no more” when I did, or else I’d have missed out on Jackie.
Tom, if you somehow find this blog – weeks, months, years from now – you need to know that you put me through pure hell. I loved you and you consistently stomped on my heart, until I couldn’t handle my life anymore. You broke my soul and ruined the best years of my life. I take back every apology that you didn’t deserve, every tear I shouldn’t have shed. I take back every fake orgasm, because, yes, they were fake. I take back the years I spent concentrating on you when I should’ve invested in my children and me. I take back every gift, every “thank you,” every compliment, every ego boost. I take back all the hours I spent looking at who you were texting and emailing, thus busting you in SO MANY lies. I take back Memorial Day weekend of 2011, when you beat the shit out of me. I take back all of the time my kids spent with you, because you never gave a damn about them anyway. You were a miserable person, and even though you blamed it on me, I know for a fact that your life was in the toilet long before I came along, and you dragged my kids and me down with you. I blame you, fully and completely, for the dissolution of our marriage, and even though I’m sure you would counter by blaming me fully, you would be wrong. I know you’re not used to being told that you’re wrong, and a tantrum may ensue, but I don’t care about that either. You are no longer my problem, my focus or the thing I have to survive. I will no longer spare your feelings while sacrificing my own. I do not hope you’re happy. I feel nothing but rage.
The only thing I do not take back are the lessons you taught me. Finally, I am with someone who treats me like a person. Not a doormat, not a dog, not a trophy. A person. A wife. A mom. I am with someone who is happiest when I’m happy. I am with someone who makes me smile, every day, without fail. I am with someone who actually raises my kids and who doesn’t treat them like an inconvenience. I am with someone who provides, protects and accepts me for exactly who I want to be.
He knows how to change a flat tire, unlike you. He takes care of me when I’m sick. He picks up my kids every day from school, without having to be asked or even thanked.
We share our money and I don’t have to have “an allowance.” We talk about the things that bother us, instead of screaming and yelling. We have never once hung up on each other in the middle of a phone call.
He would move Heaven and Earth for ME. He makes me feel like I’m somebody. He has somehow managed to pick up every piece of the shattered heart and baggage that “wasn’t your problem,” and he has supported me through the process of putting it all back together. He has no secrets, no need for privacy. He doesn’t hide his phone from me, nor I him. He is patient and kind and trustworthy and a genuinely good person – something you could never be.
Jackie has made me realize what a mistake you were, and for that I am forever grateful. I love him. And you know the best part? He loves me BACK, which is something you could never do. Sincerely, Meg
In hindsight, though, I am not surprised. Narcissistic individuals cannot love. It is not in their biology. Thank God Jackie came along when he did. I truly believe he was an answer to that tearful prayer, and I will go to my grave feeling like he saved me from myself.
It has taken me a full two days to write this blog post, and I’m so glad I did, because I feel so much better. “What If?” games are not good for my anxiety or sleep level. I’m looking forward to a weekend of unpacking, playing in our new huge yard with the kids and catching up on some Netflix.