The Last Tear

I still cry every time my kids leave to visit their dad. It’s a total breakdown complete with the sobbing kind of cry. Then every time, I say with conviction, “This is the last tear I will cry. No more tears because it is not my fault. I did nothing wrong and I have so much to be thankful for.”

Then, I dutifully count all my blessings and wipe my tears away. I have so much to be thankful for, but what I really want is my family whole again and I can’t help but feel angry and sad. I am still grieving for the life I will never have. Yes, I know I need to ‘get over it’ and move on. But the tears keep coming. I want the father of my children back in my house. I want him to not be gay and to love me like he promised he would. But the thing is, he was always gay.

From the start, our life together was a lie. I am sure he wanted to love me. But what he wanted more was to have children and to return to his home, near his mom, sister and friends. I went along for the ride, replacing my individual dreams with dreams of our new life and his family. Slowly I gave up who I was and blended into his family, his town, his friends. Never really feeling like any of it was a sacrifice because I wanted my husband and children and me to have a shared story.

I traded in the dreams I had for me for dreams of ‘we.’ I cry as I grieve for the loss of my dreams, my spouse, my family as I knew it.

Not a single tear will erase the pain. I take a deep breath, wipe my eyes and grab my yoga mat and head out the door, knowing that in a matter of time, I will have some peace and my practice will help me balance the pain and loss I feel with the uncertainty of my future.

In time, my grief will be balanced with the joy and gratitude I have for the wonderful opportunities and friendships that would not be present in my life if it were not for these circumstances.

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This Means War

Nickelback – This Means War

He protested, “You can’t take the kids. It will kill my mother.”

“Your mother? I am not divorcing your mother.” I snapped back at him.  “I want my life back and I want our kids safe from your sexual antics and casual encounters with men that you bring to your home. I don’t think our children are safe at your home.”

And that was the fight that launched a custody battle. Of course the Gay Husband still loves his children, but he wants more to please his mom by ensuring that her grandchildren remain close. He promptly changed his pleadings and is now asking for custody to thwart my efforts to leave town. GH wants his mommy to be happy.

I can’t even believe that I am participating in this absurd process. What reasonable person would think that he is a proper and fit parent to care for our children? I guess I am going to find out if one exists.

I’ve asked that this whole charade be fast tracked and that we get a court appointed representative involved in determining custody. GH and I can’t come to terms and agree on who is a better and fit parent for our children and I am not inclined to drag it out and let it go to a trial. That would be expensive and take too long. I want a decision made so that I can start to pick up the shards of my life and piece it all back together. I am not going to be able to do that without our children.  I plan to take them and relocate to my hometown, to be near my family and my support system, but most importantly to get the kids away from this ‘adult’ behavior and give them the educational, cultural and social opportunities that they just can’t get here in Mapdot, USA.

She showed up with her notebook. Unannounced and unceremonious. I however was expecting her. Not because I am psychic or anything, but because I was told that the Gaurdian Ad Litem would come to do a ‘site visit.’ I was also told that she may visit where we work, socialize, and she can call personal references. She may even show up at the kids’ events to observe the environment. No stone should expect to be unturned.

A ‘site visit’ sounds so clinical and impersonal. She was coming to my home. To the home where GH and I remodeled, redecorated and poured our love into to to make it livable for our family. To now have  it called a ‘site’ reduces it to what it really is – walls that are shelter for the kids and me. It is the site of where I confronted GH about his lifestyle. It has been reduced to the fallout shelter where the kids and I now take shelter, waiting for this process to end and the next phase of our life to begin. I guess calling it a ‘site’ is fairly accurate now.

The Guardian Ad Litem arrived to ensure that the children have adequate living space and are safe. It’s her job to look out for their welfare, and that involves judging us as parents and our ability to provide a safe environment. I don’t fear my scores on this test and am confident that I can provide for my kids’ physical, emotional and social needs. GH, I think he wants to do that, but the reality is that he constantly makes bad decisions.  His primary motives are pleasing his penis and then his mother all else falls in line behind that. After those two are served, he focuses on his children. Since he’s moved out, he’s been quite active on the gay websites and quite the social entertainer at the winery and his home.  His parenting has been outsourced to his family.

My day to day life with the children remains the same.  We sleep in the same beds we always have slept in. We cook and eat in the same kitchen we always have and to an outsider looking in, that sense of normalcy for the kids has remained the same. This site is still their home. It houses all their toys, books and childhood memories. My social life remains focused on the kids and my adult time is spent with the parents of my children’s friends. Lately my only ‘adult entertainment’ has been emailing with GI Joe, and that poses zero risk to the kids.

The office interview and the site visit has kicked off this war. We are going head to head. Really, I should not be shocked by the process or the extent that GH and his mom will go to win. Regardless, I am confident.  I am a sane, reliable parent. I continue to provide healthcare, education, supervision, meals, love and hours of consoling to our children. I want that to be recognized. So even though I feel like I am being scrutinized, I find it comforting because I expect that the Guardian is going through the same process with GH.

She is going to visit his ‘site,’ which the kids accurately call a shanty. I expect that she will notice that he provides shelter but safety is questionable. His home is located down a rural country road that includes directions, “turn off the paved road onto the gravel…” His home is located so that he can entertain men and his lifestyle can go unnoticed. Coincidentally that also means that should a jealous spouse find her husband in the shanty with GH, she could unload a shotgun and it would go unnoticed. That is not where I want my children to spend any time.

Also, as a reasonable person, she must conclude that having our daughter’s bed in the same bedroom as the GH’s may not be the best arrangement. Our son’s bed is a mattress on a floor in a different bedroom.  GH didn’t take the care to duplicate the comfortable surroundings our kids enjoyed at home. By the looks of the photos the kids show me and the descriptions, it sounds more like a flop house.

GH’s mom has gone overboard to compensate. She’s been cooking meals for GH and my kids, doing their laundry and stepping it up to ensure that all is spic and span for the Guardian’s visit. Apparently she’s fighting the only way she can – with cleaning supplies.  She has not quite realized that she is not going to get custody and all the efforts that she puts forth demonstrate that her son is even more incapacitated in the realm of parenting.

It is laughable. The extent to which he is going to demonstrate he is involved in our kids day to day life is now on display for the town to see (and the guardian, should she happen to visit). He’s rallied his family to show up at our sons’ ball games, so now our son has his own large cheering section! Good for our son, but the motives are highly suspect.

The guardian will call our witnesses, who will each testify that we are suitable and sane parents. I am confident his mother has prepared all the town to proclaim that GH is a stand up citizen and that it would destroy our children to be uprooted. My allies will assert that I am a better parent and that our kids will be surrounded by loving family in their new location.  Our witnesses will essentially cancel each other out.

Now the biggest decision of our children’s lives will be made by a woman who will have over the course of her investigation, spent just a fraction of a month with them. She’ll have a few hours of interviews, observations and reviewing documents. In the end, it will take her a few hours to write her report and issue her recommendation which the court will follow.   In a matter of weeks, this war will be over.

I fear for the safety of our children while in his care and I will fight to the end to protect them but I have no notion that there will be any winner in this war.

Getting there from here

I drive along and that the lyrics from Talking Heads song, Once in a LIfetime  pops in my head, “And you may ask your self, well, ‘how did I get here?'”

How did I get here here to Mapdot, USA? There are generally three categories of people who live here. Those who are from here, those who are from near here and those who relocated.

Those who are from here have family that goes back generations. Family friendships go back far and regardless of how old someone is, they talk about high school, going so far as to pull yearbooks out to reference the subject of the current gossip. GH and his family are from here.

Those who are from near to here relocated to the area because the may have graduated from the regional university or they found some reason to escape their own home town and this was a safe and comfortable distance.

Those who are not from here usually got here the way I did. By marriage and subsequent relocation. The area is very rural and has very little industry other than the regional university, a couple of junior colleges and the regional hospital which tends to draw professionals to the area.

With beautiful rolling hills and a large national forrest and lakes, the area is ideal for outdoorsy hunter types and as a result draws some tourists to the area. Other tourists come to enjoy wine from the local wineries. The area is ideal for growing grapes and a couple decades ago there were some pioneers who blazed a trail and created a new industry. And that is how I got here.

GH and I bought a vineyard and grew a small regional farm in to a large tourist attraction. He was responsible for all the farming and viticulture areas of the business (the outdoor/man work) and I was responsible for the branding and sales channels. Our business grew and now is an established stop for many tourists in the area. It is like our third child that he will get custody of. I will not be engaged in the business or able to benefit from it financially. And I don’t want any part of it because it is the symbol of deception and the place where he would court and entertain his prospective partners. It makes me sick to see our dream as the backdrop for his fantasy land.

As a result, my time here is over. I need to get my life back, the life that was on course before I took a detour and trusted the GH to lead us here into his web of lies. I don’t want our kids raised in this environment and I’m ready to fight for my rights to leave.

The next place I go will be intentional and I will know exactly how I got there.

Scheduling Bravery

“Honey, we need to talk. Your dad is a lying son of a bitch and likes to have his penis in other mens’ assholes.” No, that probably isn’t  the way I should break the news to the kids. But, the news is going to have to come out. I want GH to tell the kids. I have wanted him to tell them for months, but he’s a coward. Not just a run of the mill coward, but a delusional, narcissistic coward.  He’s  basically a trifecta of stupid and lives in his own fantasy land.

Unfortunately, the inevitable has happened. Maybe I am paritially to blame, but I wont take full credit. The word is out about GH. The king of Mapdot is gay. People know, partially because I have told some friends. But also because GH has his gay ON. He is out and proud with a few folks and has been to the gay bar just north of Mapdot in the Collegtown. He’s also been entertaining his potential partners and their crew at the business. In Mapdot, when something like this breaks, it’s worthy of discussion around the bars, the ball fields, the kitchen tables, and god forbid, now the playground.

I received a call from a friend of mine whose daughter plays with my daughter. Apparently word is out amongst the 8 year olds that “her dad is gay and that is why they are divorcing.” Dare I even ask if an 8 year old really knows what gay is? With what’s on television and the bluntness in which people talk, I can assume that the kids all have a fairly good idea of what gay is. And now my fear is how those kids will confront my daughter. It may range from the mundane description, “her dad loves men like my dad loves women.” They might kick it up a notch with a description, “her daddy kisses boys. ewww. groosssss!” Or my biggest fear, which is probably more likely to occur, is that there will be full on bullying by a bunch of ignorant children who have bigots for parents and are utter homophobes who can string together articulate descriptions of how gays ‘do it.’

As much as I want to don the cloak of cowardness that GH has worn so well, I can’t just ignore this subject. I can’t leave my children unprepared for the social battles they will face. They need some mental preparation but most important, they need the truth. Well, a version of the truth that is age appropriate and gives them the security and confidence to go forward and not be victims.

In a perfect world, GH would sit down with our children and admit to them that he was a gay. He would tell them that he loves them very much but that he can’t continue to be dishonest with about who he is and that it is time that he live a life that allows him to be who he is. He will explain to them that he was weak and afraid to tell anyone he was gay. That he spent his whole life lying to people because he was afraid about how people would react. He’d tell them gently that not everyone in the world thinks that gay people should live an open life and that he was afraid of people being mean to him and saying hurtful things. He and I would then tell the kids together that they may face some people like the ones their dad was afraid of. They may find that they have friends or their friends parents may say mean things. But we will reassure them that daddy still loves them and that nothing has changed for them except that mommy and daddy are getting divorced but we will still be the best parents ever.

So, back to the drawing board for things to tell the kids. My brutal honesty and bluntness will probably do more damage than good to my kids’ evolving sense of self and security (note to self, double up on their therapist appointments). My out loud voice will probably say something caring and rational along the lines of, “You know how mommy and daddy are getting divorced, right? Well it is time you know the reason and unfortunately your dad has been too scared to talk to you about it. Dad’s had a secret his whole life and has been very, very scared about how people would feel about him if they ever found out the truth. In fact, he was so afraid of being honest that he never told me or your grandparents. He’s kept it to himself and it has been very hard on him.  You know what gay is, right? We have gay friends and they come visit us so you know that there is nothing wrong with them. And you also know how some people make fun of them and say mean, hurtful things. Well, Your dad is just like them. He is gay. There is nothing wrong with your dad and he still loves you very much. He will always be the same dad to you that he has been. So if your friends or your friends parents say mean things to you or about your dad, please know that it has nothing to do with you.”

Perhaps I am a coward, but at least I will be an honest one, which is more than I can say for GH. Now, off to the calendar to schedule my moment of bravery, knowing that this moment will be a demarcation in their lives. It will be the line in their lives separating “before we knew dad was gay” and “after mom told us dad was gay.”

Happy in the Eye of the Hurricane

GH and I relocated here to Mapdot, USA because his family was here.  We thought that with two small children it would be better for us and better for our kids if we were near family.

People don’t move here for career advancement. They live here because this is where they are from.  Or to flee where they are from. Or perhaps it is because they want frequent visitation with a loved one who has a life sentence and is penned up in one of the many prisons in the region.  For me having to live here without family, close friends, and a meaningful and rewarding job, reasonable access to a mall with escalators, and access to a major international airport is like being in prison.

The nearest city is two and half hours away. The City is not exactly what I have in mind when I say City – sure there is a collection of home team sports, universities, some arts and theater. The opportunities for fine dining are few, but they exist. When I think of City, I think of abundance. Bright lights. 24 hour diners. I think of the neon lights of Time Square. The City is not THE CITY.  And I am a CITY gal. I like funky boutiques and ethnic foods from locales that require knowledge of world geography to understand its origin. I like theater and dance. Outside music performed on street corners or subways. I like public transportation that has multiple lines and transfer stations. I like hearing foreign languages spoken and a diversity of fashion. I want THE CITY that never sleeps. Before marrying GH and being transported to Mapdot, I had the best of both worlds. I grew up in the suburban, countryside with easy access to Gotham.

But here in Mapdot, my desires have been ratcheted back a few notches and I have grown to appreciate the tranquility. Growing the business, maintaining a corporate job and raising two small children distracted and exhausted me so that there was not an ounce of energy to even entertain the notion of building my own social network or even miss what I didn’t have. Owning a business that is a tourist attraction and getting away from it just doesn’t happen. Five hours of  round trip car travel to experience fine dining and Midwestern diversity was difficult to justify.  Thankfully a network of his family provided entertainment when I wasn’t working.

The sole reason for being here was for family and to run a business that GH and I started.  My contribution to the business for first part of us owning it was to provide an income to support our family and the business and ensure we had healthcare (which came in handy when GH had a heart attack and needed triple bypass surgery as well as a pacemaker; hiding secrets can be stressful!).

Each corporate job I had was for a company that required some travel, mostly to its corporate location or to trade shows. I had a reputation for being a stellar employee and one who had earned the reputation for getting a job done. However, as our business began to grow and it became more successful, it began to get the best hours of the day and the most mind share. My performance was suffering in the virtual cubicle and that with a bad economy made me a candidate for getting laid off.  It makes perfect sense and I hold no ill will toward my former employer; in fact, I am surprised I was able to even perform at a marginal level at anything.

After being laid off, I was unemployed for over two years. I searched for a job with varying degrees of success but identified with my role in our business and dedicated myself to growing our sales and increasing revenues so that I did not need a job to supplement the business. All parents want their kids to grow up and be self supporting and a productive member of society. Our business was like our third child and it was so close to being self supportive. When I dedicated myself to it, I saw it mature and finally got to a point where it was a responsible grown up and supporting itself and a small staff.  I was quite proud of the work I had done and felt like I was contributing. My role in our family and business had been redefined; I was comfortable with it and content.

GH was less than enthusiastic about my involvement. He resented that I was ‘around all the time.’ Since the business was doing well, he was nagging that I “get a job and get off the farm.”  I didn’t think of myself as a dutiful wife, but I did see the value in getting off the farm and earning more and getting benefits again. So, half heartedly I continued to knock on doors and I had several interviews. Most of my connections knew from my corporate days were aware that I owned a business and were reluctant to take a risk with me working remotely. Additionally, the cost of travel was becoming an issue. Unemployment was high and there were many other local resources available to fill the openings that I was applying to.

Locally, I discovered that it was difficult for me to obtain a job with my skills. The kind of work I do isn’t done here and the kind of work that is done here, I am either under or over qualified for. The main industries here are Healthcare, the University, Hospitality, and the Prisons. There is also the lucrative, albeit illegal and dangerous meth industry. After submitting many applications and interviewing, I found a job at the university. The salary for that job was not what I was used to making and there was not a career trajectory for high performers. At a state job, I learned that pay is not tied to performance. If I busted my ass and was a rock star performer, I would get the same percentage of increase that I would get for just showing up and not screwing up. All and all, I was grateful for the job.

GH and others told me, “It’s a good job for the area.” People who knew me knew that it was a consolation. I wanted more in a job. I wanted a good job for me.  I identify greatly with my professional success and felt like even though the job at the university was good job, it would not be a job that I would have chosen given other alternatives.  But after over two years of looking, I had no other alternatives and felt lucky to have found any job. I no longer wondered what the term ‘underemployed’ meant.  My role had always been to have a challenging, high income job. This  job was not particularly challenging nor high paying. Its redemption was that I got to meet interesting people and provide health care benefits to my family.  From that perspective, it made me feel useful again.  Most importantly, I met some amazing members of the community and developed a sense of camaraderie and admiration for those who were in that office.  GH was happy because his escapades could now resume without the high risk of getting caught and he could be confident his healthcare coverage and supplemental income would resume.

When GH found he could be covered on a State plan and didn’t need me for healthcare benefits, my role in his life was diminished. Because the business was successful and no longer in need of a supplemental income, I was made irrelevant. The reality of my financial future terrified me. My prospects for long-term and lucrative employment in and around Mapdot are slim. I realized I was spiriling towards a midlife crisis and trying to figure out who I am and what my worth is in this family. I needed more.

I called a former colleague who knew me well and knew my situation. He had just started a company and could not offer me a paying job but I could help him out. I was ecstatic! I ran to GH and said, “Steve started a company, and because I have experience in the industry, he asked me to help him grow the business!!” His reaction was somewhere between interested and annoyed. Then I went on to tell him that there would be no pay, no benefits, and that I could work part time in between my university job hours.  GH didn’t get it. He didn’t care that I found something that made me happy.

After having been emotionally beaten, my ego and self-esteem were knocked down. But at the last second, I scrambled and was back on my feet., I was finally finding peace and balance with my role in my family, my role as provider of healthcare benefits, my professional circles were expanding again and I was finally looking up.

I recognized this familiar feeling. I was happy.  I was content and at peace.  In retrospect, it I was in they eye of the hurricane that would up end my whole life.

Playing for fun isn’t fun …unless you win

As I was driving my children to the sporting goods store for yet more baseball equipment, my 8 year old daughter and 10 year old son were having a conversation about his season’s first baseball game. He’s gloating about the fact that his team slaughtered the other team. I, while beaming and proud of their win, am obligated to say something parental that will instill a sense of humility in his budding ego. I don’t want to squash his spirit, but I want to temper what could become an egomaniacal ass in the future. After all, they say, it all starts in moments like these.  So I say, “I am glad you won, but you know, you could lose the next game.” Then my daughter chimes in, “Right, it’s not about winning; it’s about having fun.”

Actually, personally I disagree. It is about winning and how you define winning is what it’s about. I have to respond and I pull out the parent voice and say, “She is right you should be having fun.” Oh the pressure I feel to tame and shape an ego without encouraging the dreaded “everyone’s special” and “you are all winners” rhetoric.

Then my son astutely says, “Playing for fun isn’t fun. The fun part is winning otherwise why practice?”  I smile. That is my spirit. I am competitive. I am an athlete and I sweat and bust my ass in the gym and running not just because winning is fun but because losing sucks. It is not just losing on a scoreboard that sucks but losing because I didn’t try hard enough or I gave in. The worst kind of loss, for me is being unprepared. When game time comes, either on the field, at the track or in life, preparation is the key to winning. Knowing that I could have done something to improve my game and my outcome and for whatever reason made a choice not to – that sucks.

My kids are young and I want them to be good at sports. I think kids who participate in sports and have attained a level of proficiency have a competitive advantage in life because they have learned basic life skills early on that become ingrained into their being. These are skills that are transferable to relationships and jobs. Skills like knowing the rules, knowing who the leader is, how to lead as well as follow. Lots of smart people have done lots of studies to prove this concept so I am not saying anything radical but there are others out there who try and dispel the theory. My personal experience is that organized, competitive sports have helped prepare me for life in a positive way. Therefore, I want my kids to have the same experience. Science and social studies aside, I’ll liken it to a family tradition.

Statistically it is improbable that my son will win every game, so part of practicing is learning how to lose with grace and not give up. Wins and losses come big and small. Over a lifetime my child athletes will be celebrating small wins, and letting little losses be instructional. Wining big and losing big then should feel familiar to the little wins and losses; this is one important lesson that competing has taught me.

I begin to think about the major loss I have suffered. My marriage and all the dreams I had; the business GH and I started; my definition of family; the connections I had to Mapdot, USA and my entire vision of my future has been lost. All of it is gone. Lost in a single realization and discovery. Before now, I have never suffered such a catastrophic loss in my life. Now I am fighting to reclaim my life and redefine my future. Competing and the little losses I suffered along the way could in no way prepare me for becoming collateral damage in a war brought on by GH’s deception. But I will not roll over and give up. No way. Losing sucks. For this competition, though, there will be no clear winner.

Last night I made my way to the baseball field to watch my son’s second game of the season. His confidence is infectious; the whole team is pumped from the last win and that emotional energy carries them to the start of the game. They had a solid practice since their last win and are confident in their skill. They are competing as winners.

I make my way to the stands. From my vantage point I see GH and his posse; nearly every child on the team belongs to parents that grew up with GH. Since our separation, only a few people know why we are divorcing. But regardless of the reason and the fact that he erred in our relationship is irrelevant. He has the home field advantage. I am seen as the opposition and the enemy because I have launched a fight for custody and the right to relocate and get my life back to where I want it. I am a team of one.

I take a cue from the team who started the game with a 1-0 record and act like I belong and that I have already won. I am physically strong. I am emotionally strong and I am confident that I have done nothing wrong. I am prepared and have documented a laundry list of facts and a few silver bullets that I may have to use to to win. I have my game face on. While I have no fan base to cheer me on here, I fall back on the lessons I learned while competing. I suck in my breath, hold my head high and visualize my win.

I cheer on my son and his team and watch them progress the score each inning. The team wins and are now 2-0. They are really having fun.