OK. Now where was I? Two months ago, I fell into a vat of pain, black and viscous, deep anguish that made the surface of my brain ache and shivering tendrils of hurt to shoot through my limbs. My blood sugar dropped to my toes and my body weight dwindled from low to lower as I skipped meals, too upset to lift a fork to my trembling lips. I fought back tears in Target and wiped them from my eyes at the dinner table.
Why? Because I finally convinced him to walk with me. It was meant to be a "Come To Jesus" meeting; I had every intention of reciting a list of my un-met needs as we walked alone through the warm, misty afternoon. When he came out and declared his unhappiness, I was stunned. Somehow I thought that I was the only one truly suffering in the marriage, withering away from the lack of affection and companionship, from the intellectual gulf between us and my growing disgust as he whiled away each evening with beer, wine, chewing tobacco, and dumb TV. I failed to think that he too suffered from my eye-rolling, my mocking of his vocabulary, my contempt for his opinions, and the way I looked at him with pointed distaste as he poured himself yet another glass.
He spoke dispassionately about our differences. "It's a no-fault," he said. I suggested counseling, but he said it would be like putting a band-aid on a broken leg. He wanted to move out, "temporarily," he said. Could we save this marriage? There might not be anything left between us to save.
And then I fell tumbling, into the oily vat of thick, black pain. This man, who I could hardly bear to be around the day before, glimmered like a prize just out of reach. I yearned for him. I couldn't bear to be left yet again. The first time I was twenty-one and unencumbered; losing my philandering boyfriend was a gift, that, at the time, felt like death. Nine years later, I was left again, this time after a five-year marriage, holding a newborn baby in my arms. This time was so much worse, abandoned in my 40's with a long-lapsed teaching career and three cognizant human beings who would be forever scarred by the disintegration of our marriage.
I cannot imagine comforting myself with gooey, creamy, sticky, salty food when I am hurt. I do not self-soothe with alcohol and tobacco holds no allure for me. Instead I am hyper-alert in my pain, trembling and wild-eyed and shrinking from food. I force myself to eat (healthy food!) because I know I have to, but it is an act of will to survive, not a pleasure or a comfort. The emptiness consumes me.
Then I turned to Meat Loaf. Sipping a glass of wine and listening to "For Crying Out Loud" on You Tube after everyone else had gone to bed, euphoria and hope coursed through me, causing my heart to swell with love and tenderness. Everyone, I thought, wants to be loved with such profound, grown-up love. I had failed to give that love to my husband. Instead I had given him derision and ingratitude. I had pulled away, firmly entrenching myself in my team-sports-hating, anti-husband stance. I just needed to show him that I, the mother of his children, could love as deeply as Meat Loaf. Meat Loaf would save our marriage. I sent him the link to the song and went to my lonely bed, reverberating with the knowledge that my husband indeed belonged "inside my aching heart."
But, sadly, he remained impervious to Meat Loaf. Rather than coming to me with "open arms," he shrugged dismissively when I asked how he liked the song. "It was all right," he said. His anger and hatred swelled and he brushed away my affectionate overtures. The aching of my brain intensified and I zeroed in on a woman who appeared on his Facebook page, three pictures of him with his arm around her after thriathalon events. I searched his phone, drove by her house, read his emails, and generally drove myself to the brink of insanity until God intervened and sent me to a therapist.
She made me stop. I was to not even think about checking out his wherabouts or trying to determine whether or not he was having an affair. Whether or not there was an affair was beside the point. I was to disengage my brain from making myself crazy, I was to stop calling him, stop texting, stop emailing, stop following him, stop reaching out and touching a man who did not want to be touched. I was to stay still and quiet, like someone wanting a deer to approach in the thick of the forest.
And so I did. I dropped the idea of my husband's affair. I remained calm, letting his fits of anger blow by me like the wind. I stopped reprimanding him, I started providing family dinners, I dealt consequences to my mouthy teenage daughter when she made her opinions and judgements known. I stopped counting drinks and started attending Al-Anon meetings where I am learning to let go of the thought that the fate of the world is dependent on my ability to control everyone else's actions.
Where are we now? It is hard to say. His fits of temper have lessened although he is still prone to spasms of irritation at little things, a microwave left open, a toilet unflushed, a light burning in an empty room. He sleeps in Babygirl's room (I moved Babygirl into mine) and the air is thick with alcohol fumes when I go in to get her clothes in the morning. But he is less grudging with the affection and no longer speaks of moving out. When he returns from his business trip next week, he says, he will try sleeping with me again. This is not the relationship of my dreams, but I have clawed my way out of the vat of pain; I eat regular meals and my brain no longer hurts. Slowly, I am making my way towards finding peace within myself. Whether or not this marriage ultimately works, I will embrace the peace; the peace is well worth the price of my temporary douse in unswimmable pain.
To be continued...