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The Company Picnic

Most people have one day a year that they dread.  For some, it is the day they have to finally own up and pay the taxes.  For others, it is the particular day of the holidays when they have to sit next to one of the least favorite outlaws at dinner.  Some dread the day they have to put a child on the plane bound for dad’s for the summer.  For me, it’s The Company Picnic.

My company is a rather large organization with 19 offices in three cities.  We serve over 13,000 clients annually in a personal face-to-face environment. Our clients receive services from us, some of them for over 20 years.  We also have affiliates in other communities nationwide. So, essentially, my organization is a large one.  But it is dreadfully small on Company Picnic Day. As long as I live, I will never cease to question how I can be in a basketball gymnasium filled with thousands of people and never see a person I know, yet, take that same stadium and fill it with thousands of people from my company on what we dub as Company Hug Day, and I can find The Evil Ex even if I’m not looking (and I always am, just to avoid him).  This year, not only was The Evil Ex present and accounted for, but so was his Wife, who apparently has now been hired by the company and working in the same office he is working in.  To add insult to injury, his son’s wife, a cute young thing was also there. Now, I have nothing against their happiness, or the fact that apparently there is some real nepotism going on which I don’t understand, because The Evil Ex is not even good at what he supposedly does for a living. Why would the Powers That Be hire anyone associated with him?  I don’t get it. (In fact, the company had grounds and could have fired him 12 years ago.  I know.  I was there.  They didn’t.  Instead, in a classic case of sexual discrimination, they demoted me (the more experienced and qualified female employee…and I’m not making this up or being bitter…I can prove I’m the more qualified and skilled individual) and promoted him.  And why?  Because I foolishly made the mistake to fish off the company dock.  (I was not informed that this only works out for the men in the equation.) I was also too fearful and intimidated to take on the legal battle.   What I take issue with is that it just seems unfair that those who are so inept, succeed over those who are more competent …or seem to.   Okay, the job situation ticks me off, but he’s also inept relationally.  How is it that he gets a relationship though he’s a jerk and I’m a decent person of good character and I can’t find a match that will last to save my soul???  Yeah, let’s not go there.

He is a creeper.  I had a restraining order on him.  He has less than the normal minimum days with our daughter. He should have been fired.  But that’s not how the world works. They retain the men. And fire or demote the women, essentially ruining their careers…especially if they get pregnant.

I guess I am still bitter about all of that.  It doesn’t eat at me…at least 364 days of the year it doesn’t eat at me…but on Company Picnic Day…when I see him representing the most prestigious office in our region (think monied clients and a comfortable corner office to work out of)…the injustice of it all floods my psyche.  You see, back in the day, before we decided to fish, before he decided to stalk me and later abuse me, I worked at one of those elite locations, with that elite clientele, with a very comfortable corner office, with windows, all done up in blue.  My life was made. Until he entered the scene.  And I’m not bitter when I say this, the man is incompetent.  He can’t handle his own personal matters, let alone those required for his job.  The deal is this:  he’s a great liar and pretender.  He can present himself to so many as something he really is not.  He has a way of lying about things so that, while preposterous, they sound believable.  For example, this summer he perjured himself under oath.  He told the judge he was still providing insurance for all of his children due to the fact that one’s children are now covered until they are 26.  The reality:  he has 7 children…not including the one we have together which makes 8. Of his 7 children, 5 of them are adults, and 4 of them are married, over the age of 26, and/or have their own insurance coverage. So, he told the judge he was paying insurance and covering all these people and what it shakes down to is, he’s covering exactly two other children (besides himself and his wife) and not our daughter. I was stunned.  I was not able to reply to this statement because I wasn’t given adequate opportunity. He lied.  He wins.  He puts himself off as this great man of character and of God, but then he doesn’t  pay his half of the medical expenses and he’s an asshole when it comes to negotiating the differences regarding our daughter.  In fact, there is no negotiation. He just does what he’s going to do and I am left dealing with the fallout.  That’s  how our marriage was.  Can I expect anything different in our divorce?

So, he won in the work arena.

He won in the court arena this summer.

And today, apparently, he’s winning in the Love Arena, because he was there with his wife and daughter-in-law, while I was there, completely, undeniably,  and obviously, ALONE.

And by alone, I mean really alone.  The last couple of years I told myself it didn’t matter.  And, really, it didn’t, because I didn’t have his wife and daughter-in-law in my face at close proximity. (Yes, our last names all end with the same letter so I must attend all the excruciating meetings with them.) But also, I knew I was going home to someone.  I knew then, at least, I was in the relational ball park.  Last year at this time it appeared I was winning or, at least, staying in, that particular game.  This year, it is a totally different story. I’ve been kicked off the island, or my partner couldn’t leave my island fast enough.  My inability to maintain a relationship over time is glaringly apparent to me, to the world, to the company and, worst of all, to the Evil Ex and his family who now, apparently, works for our company.

This does not feel good.

I mostly don’t mind being alone, but never having a significant other in my life was simply not what I ever wanted in life.  In fact, even more than kids, I wanted that quality relationship with another adult. I gained in the kids arena, but apparently I’m a complete flop in the relationship arena.  This just doesn’t always sit well with me.  In fact, at times, like today, when I am faced with my failure, it is incredibly painful.  I wonder why he gets the happy relationship though he never spoke to me ever, once, in six years, in his passive-aggressive abusive manner of dealing with people. He is disrespectful, unreliable, and irresponsible and all sorts of other things I don’t want to take up space with here.  How does he get love and I can’t find a quality partner to save my soul? He’s a taker, an abuser, and people flock to him.  I don’t take, I give, I deal honestly and fairly, and men use me up and move on.  No one stays.  What’s wrong with me?????

So I posted that video and post about being Alone.  I’ve made my peace with being alone.  I can handle it.  I’m content most of the time.

The truth is, I’ve lied.  I like being in relationship with a man. I like the companionship.  I don’t like being alone…in that way. I especially don’t like the idea that this is the end of the relational line for me (and the sad reality is that age being what it is, and men being what they are, it is the end).  Like I said, most of the time, this is not an issue with me.  I enjoy my boring, little life.  I have wonderful friends. I love my kids.  I’ve been blessed with four beautiful, intelligent, dynamic individuals as children, who are so successful, in spite of the fact that they had so many risk factors (divorce, poverty, etc.) working against them. I can’t take credit for that.  They chose that. The work I do daily matters, not just to the people I work with, but to the people they, in turn, impact.  It’s an amazing job and I am good at it. I’m grateful for that.  And if you asked any of my friends they would tell you and they do tell me that I am an amazing person.

But…

at the end of the day…

when the kids have gone home to their families…

the friends are busy with their own lives…

…and I can no longer work

…I am alone.

I don’t exactly want the highlight of my days to be my latest, greatest Facebook status update.

I don’t exactly like the idea of rocking alone on the front porch of the old folks’ home.

Apparently, I’m just not amazing enough.

I hate Company Picnic Day.

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Trashed House~My Payment For Trying To Do A Good Deed

I wonder, is it my payment for doing a good deed or is it just that somewhere along the line, maybe when I was a kid, (I was a really bratty kid and lied a lot to my parents) I earned up some really bad karma. Or maybe, it is that bad things, sometimes really bad things, happen to good people. I don’t know. My right wing fundamentalist evangelical Christian friends might say it is because I’m being punished by God for not attending church every week, tithing, and being a faithful servant. Well, as for not attending church, tithing and being faithful they’d be completely accurate. I’m just not sure that’s how God rolls though. I mean, think about it, when Jesus walked the earth he hung with some of the lowest of the low according to society and the religious elite of the day. Rahab, a harlot, was used to save some godly peeps and, well, I kinda think God tends to look past the mess in our lives right into our very inner being and that is where he deals with us on an individual basis. I think the outer stuff, the yuck that I am dealing with now, is just life. It is also the result of me being a naive person, when I should not have been. It is also the result of me simply making some very foolish choices. Hindsight is always 20/20.

But about the next bad thing that has happened in my life. The thing that makes me wonder what kind of evil karma I built up throughout my life only to have it be dumped out on me this year has to do with the rental. I’ve only alluded to it. Here’s most of the story.

Last year, I made the decision to go through bankruptcy (actually a smart decision given all the details which I will not disclose here). In the process, I decided to surrender my home. This was also a smart financial decision when you run the numbers, again, something I won’t bore you with here. This was not a case of me being angry at the bank for whatever reason. I just wanted to make a fresh start financially and the home was more financial and physical burden than I was going to be able to deal with. However, the entire process has ended up taking far longer than expected (over a year and counting). I knew it would take some time and I was not able to stay in the house and risk a move during the middle of the school year. I have three school age kids and my own career would not have been able to accommodate such a transition at such a time. I was getting legal heat from the Evil Ex and needed to make sure my daughter was enrolled in a good school and that she was doing well and liked it. I decided to move to a nearby town and in September we found a place to rent and settled it. And that, was going to be that…or so I thought.

I was approached by a friend….(you can see this coming, can’t you?)…who mentioned that her son and two friends were looking for a place to rent temporarily and would I be interested. Well, no, not really. I mean, I really had no desire to be a landlord or make the place a rental; I just wanted out. But this was a friend I have known and worked with for 14 years. Her kids and my kids grew up together, went to school together and our kids are now graduating together. This woman has impeccable character and is a top notch quality person. Her son is also. The friends came highly recommended. So, I did a bit of research, wrote up a rental agreement, we all signed it, they paid their move in money and I moved out. I left the place in pretty decent shape. It wasn’t perfect. I had some stuff in the garage still to move out, but the place was, for all intents and purposes, a clean and homey dwelling. The friends of the friend’s son turned out to be disastrous.

Things started being a problem almost right away. I’d drive by the place and see that it wasn’t being maintained, then the rent began to come in partial payments. Two months in and I was working on evicting them. Fortunately, they ended up getting out within the 30 days after being served the rental termination notice. Then I got another renter in, who was actually, at first, responsible and timely in her payments. She got some roommates to help share the rent and utility expenses and all was golden. That lasted about two months and things began falling apart. There were violations of the rental agreement, which I followed up and she attempted (though not satisfactorily) to remedy and I gave her a 30-day notice of termination of the rental agreement (we have a month-to-month). Rent was not paid completely last month and rent didn’t appear at all on the first. I went by to collect on the first, no response. I went by the next day. The house looks deserted, but the door is wide open. No answer when I ring the bell. I try contacting my tenant with no response. I drive by the house the next day, the door is closed, otherwise there is still no sign of life. The dog does not bark when I go to the door. This goes on for a week and I’m beginning to think they’ve abandoned the house. Finally, I get in touch with the tenant, over a week after the missed payment and the termination notice. She confirms that she received the notice. She also confirms that they have indeed abandoned the place, with the intent to come back for her stuff by the end of the month; the others have already gotten all their things out. In a phone conversation, I express my concern about the security of the home if no one is living there. She agrees that she will get her stuff moved out within the week and move the rest of her stuff to the garage. I gave her till the end of the month to get her stuff out of the garage. In exchange I get the possession of my home and I won’t go after her for the late rent. Her week to move her stuff ended yesterday. Today, after my radiation treatment, I went over to the house to check things out.

This is the scene that greeted me when I drove up to the home:

I just had a really bad feeling about this. I immediately texted my tenant asking about all the stuff and she actually texted back saying she’d had a garage sale and this was the leftovers. On the mattress, there is a sign that reads, “Free. Please take.”

This is what the living room looked like when I entered:

Those are the window blinds that were in great condition when I moved out…now all broken and scattered on the floor. The big black stain in the middle of the carpet was not there when I moved out. You can’t see it well from here, but there is also smoke damage on the fireplace brick. Nice. Here’s the other side of the living room:

It gets better, before we head back to the bedrooms, let’s check out the kitchen.

The back slider was left open. Check out the grass in the back yard. We left them a lawn mower. It sure looks like they made good use of it. Here are views of each side of the kitchen:

2They left the kitchen sink.

And some food for any guests that might stop by:

I just can’t fathom how people can operate like this. They were in violation of their rental agreement for trash being left around. I gave her the appropriate amount of time according to state law to correct the problem. An attempt was made, but it was nowhere near satisfactory. Look what they left behind in terms of trash:


The thing that really irks me about this is that for the entire time I was renting this house to both sets of tenants, I paid for the garbage service which included a recycling bin and a yard debris container. What kind of mentality is it that thinks that it is okay to live in squalor like this let alone leave it for someone else to pick up? But let’s just do a quick tour of the rest of the home. My skin is beginning to crawl and I’m glancing around for the rubber gloves and sanitizer.

Part of the rental agreement stipulated no smoking in the house or garage. Apparently, the rules don’t apply to these folks.

Those aren’t just carpet stains you see in that picture with the pillow in the corner. That is dog poop on the carpet.

Of course, no rental trashing by tenants is complete without some damage to the walls. This hole is about a foot long from top to bottom.

That wasn’t the only hole either, but it was definitely the largest one. In all there were three holes in walls, and a wall had been repainted a hideous purple-blue color. The wall was previously white. Other damage to the home included damage to lighting fixtures:

Broken glass on the floor:

The toilet looked a lot like the kitchen sink:
I guess they had a crappy experience living in my home. Here’s the genius work in the master bathroom:
I’m not sure you can make them out. The writing reads, “I am beautiful. I am a leader. I am an amazing mother and friend.” I’m thinking that explains a lot. She must have run out of Prozac.
Last but not least, the garage is the coup de grace:
These mattresses are as high as I am tall.
Yes, folks, this was the disaster that I walked into today after getting my tenants out. When I moved out all the lighting fixtures had just been replaced. Now they are all damaged and missing light bulbs. I had just had someone put new screens on every window a couple of years earlier, and only one window has a screen left. There are stains on every carpet, holes in walls and the yard alone will take weeks to clean up. There is damage to doors, the air vent grate has been kicked in and there is rotting food everywhere.
Upon returning home, and while uploading the photos, I did a quick Google search on landlord’s rights when tenants trash a house. Turns out, in most states, this is not a police matter, it is considered the risk one takes when renting. It becomes a civil matter. In my case, I know these people are unemployed and even if I did go to court and win (which I would), I wouldn’t see any of that money ever. I’d spend more than I’d be awarded just to get it back. Here’s another kicker: I have to do this clean out myself as I have absolutely no financial resources to pay someone to clean it up. The Hesitant Boyfriend’s long stretch of unemployment and even longer stretch till he gets paid for the work he started last month is straining my monthly budget beyond belief and it was already strained before I picked up the tab on his car payment and insurance this month. (Which he promptly decided to increase the cost of by getting into a fender bender with a Cadillac.) Add to this the fact that the 18 y.o., just got her license and her cost to be insured inflated my insurance bill to over $400 a month.
Yes, I am the poster child for the club “Smart Women Who Basically Make Idiot Choices In Every Aspect Of Their Lives”. Or maybe Some Divine Being mistook me for the Morton Salt Girl who is comfortable with the idea that when it rains it pours.
Which leads me back to the thought about karma vs. punishment vs. it’s just life. This all happens to be just great timing. The tenants are out of the house, but the house is completely trashed. Just making the house secure and sanitary so it isn’t a public health hazard is going to take some doing. I’m halfway through my radiation treatments and my energy is in limited supply as it is. Just as all this crap is hitting the proverbial fan of my life, The Hesitant Boyfriend and I ran headlong into a deal-breaker, that I just can’t get past. I’ve told him he needs to move out and get his Hesitant Stuff sorted out, because sorting it out in anger on me or my children is just not how I roll. All of this is just very, very, very unfortunate.
This afternoon as I looked upon the devastation that is my life right now, I turned to my son and said, “I am truly at the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life. It is worse, even, than when I had to call in help to clean out after the Evil Ex.” And yet I had no tears to cry. I could do nothing, but make sure the doors were closed and locked, all the electrical items unplugged, and walk back to my car and get in and drive away and try not to gag in the process. My brief search on Google helped me realize that while tenants can trash houses, and unhappy people who are unhappy tenants often do trash houses, my situation could have been so much worse. While this clean out is bad and I’m going to have to figure out a way to get it done quickly and on the cheap, it is basically a matter of dumping and cleaning. At least, I hope that is how it works out.
As I am up late documenting this damage and pondering the irony of this all, I strangely aware that while none of this is fun for me, I’m not exactly in a panic about any of it. It is kind of like I’m playing a game of Monopoly and I pulled the “Go Directly To Jail. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200” card. I’m stuck in the Monopoly Jail of life right now, not able to move forward or improve my situation because I simply keep drawing the bad cards. It’s a season. It’s not forever. (I sooo have to tell myself that right now because there is that teeny voice that sometimes squeaks, “What if this NEVER changes?” or, worse, “What if things just keep getting worse?”)
In a nutshell, it can all be summed up in the following conversation I had today with my oncology nurse:
Nurse: So…how are things going? How are you handling the treatments?
Me: Great. This is the least of my worries in life.
Yes, she looked at me like I’m crazy. Maybe I am…just a little.

How Do You Know When It Is Love?

When I was younger, I knew so much more than I do now. I knew exactly how my life was going to go and I knew that one day I’d fall in love and recognize The One. I grew stupider with age, apparently, because my life did not go as I planned and I have no idea what The One would look like or act like if I crossed paths with him. What I do know is what doesn’t work for me. I guess sometimes knowing who isn’t the one, is very helpful, but it doesn’t help you recognize him when he appears. It only means that without the red flags, he could be the one.

I also wonder, if everyone who could possibly be the one, turns into not being the one eventually, no matter what.

I mean face it. At some point, everyone reveals their issues. At some point, even if the issues aren’t deal-breakers, they can become so exhausting one just gets tired of dealing with them…again…and again…and again. Sometimes it just seems as though it might be easier to throw in the towel and just go the road of life alone. As people age, the “luggage” they haul around becomes heavier to tote also. It also, on occasion, can bust wide open spilling all sorts of questionable items here and there. This creates conflicting and painful emotions for everyone involved.

I know that my past does not qualify me to discuss what true love is. I’ve experienced my share of failures in the love department. I’m certain that my partner picker is broken, or at least sporadically defective like a watch that works but which goes out intermittently. I pick people who are good people (like my first ex), but who is not good for me. At other times, I pick people who are not only not great people, but who are disastrous choices. (My very first sexual encounter and my last ex come to mind. Interesting that both relationships had so much in common.) In spite of the failures of my past, I think I can adequately discern when a relationship is decent. Sadly, I have a difficult time discerning when it is time to call a relationship quits and when it something worth hanging on to, in spite of all the noise created from our luggage that busts open at the most inopportune times.

So…rather than bust my relational brain (which is of limited capacity anyway) worrying about what love is and whether or not I will recognize The One (if he’s even still out there and available), I have decided to base my decision making in relationships on how it is different than past failed relationships. I know, it sounds convoluted and like I’m sneaking in the back door, but hang with me for a minute.

In the past, my relationships have been a certain unhappy way. Granted, my expectations were completely unrealistic, but also, things were horrible and I was unhappy…desperately unhappy. Of course, I didn’t realize this usually until after the initial glow of infatuation wore off and by then I was usually married to the guy. So, after spending nearly 22 years collectively in very unhappy relationships, and since being divorced, spending a significant time meeting people and learning what definitely won’t work for me, I think I’m getting a little better at sensing when something might be significantly better than anything I’ve had in the past.

Currently, I’m in a relationship that I’ve been in since mid-2010. I mean, I met the guy in the first half of 2010, but we didn’t really get serious until that October. In February of 2011, he moved in and we’ve been together ever since. Now, I’m not saying this is the ideal arrangement, nor am I saying it is always perfect by any means. I’m also not saying it is horrible either. What I am trying to get at is that this relationship is quantitatively different than any other relationship I’ve ever been in. The ways in which it differs from every other are very positive rather than negative and unhappy.

Yes, this is the same guy that said, just earlier this week, that he was “hesitant”. Like I said, things aren’t perfect. On the other hand, what I failed to disclose in that post is that I am also hesitant. Some would say my reasons for being hesitant are far more significant than his reasons, but I kind of think that depends upon who you are and what your tolerance for pain is. (I’m only kind of kidding about that last part.) But from the onset, let it be known that I am fully aware that if this relationship is going to work, it is not going to be trouble free. I have an Evil Ex who is beginning to threaten some ugliness. I have 4 children from two previous marriages and coordinating the parenting plans is a Herculean effort in scheduling. Not to mention, my kids carry their own anger and resentment about how their lives were destroyed through divorce. Yet another adult male figure in the mix can make the relational dynamics a bit tense, at times, even though, for the most part, they really do get on well together. But on occasion, my luggage can spring open and fly everywhere. As can his. He also has an Evil Ex, and she makes my Evil Ex look like Glenda, The Good Witch. He also has 4 children from his liaison with the Wicked Witch. Oh, and did I mention, he’s unemployed and has been for 2 years. Further, because he’s been unemployed for that long, he owes a lifetime of back child support. The Wicked Witch has a stranglehold on the children, so having them come visit us, ever, is not an option. Like I said, I have no illusions that if this relationship is going to last, it isn’t going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. But then, was anything worth having that easy to come by? It’s a question I wrestle with.

I digress.

I was trying to explain how this particular relationship is so very different than any other.

First, we are not only on the same page about things in life, we think in tandem. I can look at him and know what he’s thinking most of the time. We have the same values, goals, priorities, and interests to find a ton of things to talk about with each other. We have enough different interests to provide each other some space and independence.

He’s also intelligent. Like, on the brilliant edge of intelligent, which makes him a clueless geek in other ways. And…for me…it is incredibly important to be in a relationship with someone intelligent. I often find, when dating the less gifted, that there is that point you reach when you both finally just run out of things to say. Now, for me, to run out of things to say, means I have really hit the wall. With my Significant Other (SO) we never run out of things to talk about. And the things we talk about are really, really interesting; not just stuff about the weather.

Another way this relationship is different is that I’m not afraid. In the last two marriages I had, I lived in constant fear that the guy would become angry and punish me emotionally for whatever sin I somehow unknowingly committed. In my first marriage, he punished me with his explosive anger. The Evil Ex punished me by pretending I did not exist. In this relationship, I feel confident enough that I can disagree, and I am not worried that I will be mistreated as the result. Further, I don’t risk straining the relationship when I disagree. Wow. What a concept. I can say, “No, I am not okay with that.” We might have a discussion. We might even argue. We always come back to the table and negotiate an agreement that we both can live with. Always, at least always, so far. This is huge to me since I’ve spent a large portion of my life in abusive relationships where I had to try to anticipate the other person’s mood, and I lived in fear. I could never express myself honestly without fear.

We have fun together, even when we might be having a problem in another area of our lives. We still seem to be able to genuinely enjoy each other’s company, knowing somewhere deep inside, that we will work that problem out too.

He can admit he’s wrong, and mean it. That’s significant. Few men are able to do this. Fewer, still, mean it when they admit it. He actually goes one better and tries to change. And the change sticks.

He is willing to try to grow and change and become a better person. This challenges me to look at where I’m not as perfect as I’d like to think I am, and where I might not be the best person I could be and it motivates me to renew my efforts to improve.

He believes in me. He doesn’t exactly say this all the time, but he does say it sometimes. The rest of the time, he demonstrates it.

He wants to spend time with me. After a year and a half, he still looks forward to spending “just us” time.

I could go on.

Is this love? Is it a good match? Is this something that will last?

I don’t know.

What I do know is this:

  • If he were dying or seriously ill, I would not mind caring for him.
  • I can see us hanging out together at the old folks home.
  • We are working through some really tough single parent post-divorce issues right now and the lines of communication are open and the stress only momentarily flares.
  • I don’t want to be with anyone else. If it isn’t him, I don’t really want anyone else…ever.

So, I’m not sure I’m any closer to defining true love or determining who The One is, if there is such a thing, but I do know this: This relationship is significantly different and far more positive and beneficial than any other relationship I’ve ever been in.

Because of that, while I might not necessarily go racing to Vegas to get hitched this weekend, I’m not exactly going to kick him to the curb either. Will it last? I don’t know. I can’t predict the future. Based on the cards showing in this hand so far, I’m thinking the odds are great that it will last, in spite of the challenges we will have to face and endure in the next decade or two.

One last thought, if something were to happen to him and I were unable to see him ever again, I would be deeply grieved. I’ve never felt that way about anyone but my children before (well, and family and a few close friends but never a boyfriend or partner). I think I have to pay attention to that.

 

 

The Evil Ex

Ever had this happen? You’ve sent your child off to be with her other parent for an overnight thinking you will see her the next morning at her regularly scheduled time. As you are heading to bed you get a message in your voicemail from your ex stating that she will not be returning to you until another time several days out. It turns out he is taking advantage of the vagueness of the legal jargon in the order to garner more time for himself with his daughter. He is also, in the process, completely disregarding his child’s commitments and life and activities and routines, which she will be unable to do since he just arbitrarily decided to obliterate all of that. He doesn’t care about working together on her behalf at all. He only cares how difficult he can be and get away with it.

Yes, he’s one of those kind of ex’s. Regrettably, (I do, and I have every day since marrying him) he is my ex and this is my daughter(I never regret her, only that he is her father). I don’t mind a dad wanting to spend time with his kid. I don’t mind adjusting schedules when things come up and I don’t mind attempting to work things out. But…none of that is what he is doing here. What he is doing is a clear case of adult bullying and emotional abuse.

Here’s some background, but a bit of a disclaimer first. I’m going to be vague and speak in generalities for my own reasons. You, the reader, are just going to have to trust me when I say that spending more time with him would not be in the best interests of my daughter, for so many reasons and on so many levels. He is the evilest kind of evil: the kind that can conduct the evil while at the same time convincing everyone around that he’s doing a good thing here.

This man couches everything in terms of what is fair and right and in the best interests of our daughter, when the truth is, he does only what works for him and gives him a sense of power over someone; in this case, me. He is at best, an adult bully; at worst an abuser. In this instance, he is keeping her for a few extra days, because he thinks he can.

He can’t. I can call the authorities and insist that they enforce this. I know this. But is that really the smartest thing to do here? Is that, and the resulting tension and stress that would go with such a scene, really in the best interests of my daughter? I don’t think so. He also is banking on me thinking that way. He’s hedging his bets. Knowing I just went through my second cancer surgery, he’s banking on the fact that I won’t want to create any more stress for myself. He knows I won’t want to create a traumatic situation for our daughter (even though he’s perfectly fine with doing it himself).

Here are the issues I have with this kind of power play:

1. He utilizes the element of the last-minute surprise to his advantage all the time. He could have been a proactive adult, thinking ahead and discussing well in advance of this evening what he would like. Instead, without warning he pulls the wild card. This creates all manner of tension and negativity and he knows it. He did this routinely and intentionally in our marriage. When I reacted or couldn’t turn the proverbial Titanic on a dime, I was made out to be inflexible and “controlling”.

2. He doesn’t play by the rules. Ever. He creates them and re-defines them based on what he wants at the time. Everybody else’s schedule is at the mercy of his arbitrary dictates. It’s exceedingly difficult to operate a life with this man anywhere in it.

3. He expects to be treated with fairness and respect, but he doesn’t give that treatment to others.

It is really very sad that this situation exists. It is tough on me, but it’s worse on our daughter. I hate to say this, but I can’t wait until she turns 18 and I never have to deal with him again. But never having to deal with him again will never change the fact that I will, for the rest of my life, regret ever having met the man.

Summer

It’s August.  The still midnight air hangs heavy like a thick comforter that won’t move, suffocating in its stillness.  The air conditioner is ineffective in my badly-in-need-of-updating 1970’s-style ranch home. You could say it’s a fixer-upper.  The windows, the single-pane aluminum type, gather condensation on the inside during the winter and do nothing to keep in the cool air during these sweltering hot nights.  Back in the days of the last marriage, a second-mortgage was taken out, the amount of which was originally intended to finance the much needed home improvements, however, the ex’s coercive tendencies along with my fear and intimidation of him, combined with my desire for a great deal less chaos than we had at the time, resulted in all that money going toward his custody battle.  It was a losing battle on all fronts.  Custody was not awarded, the resulting parenting plan divisive and chaos-inducing, and it ate up all the second-mortgage money; a total of nearly $30K.  The house remains a fixer upper,  just like my life.

I’m awake tonight, thinking of the summer nights four years ago, when I was homeless, having left my house and my ex under a civil protect police escort because the tension between the ex and I was at an all time high. I’d been advised by the officers to get out, since he wasn’t leaving (and he was much bigger than I). One officer said, “I’m concerned that if you don’t leave, this has all the makings of something tragic we will read about in tomorrow’s paper.”    In the 30 minutes I was allowed to gather the most important essentials, I cut cable wires, grabbed technology, clothing and only the essential toiletries.  Not one of my more glorious memories. In fact, when I have to define the word shame, that episode is one of the top five in my life that come to mind.  In times like that, you quickly learn how little stuff you really need in this life.

I ended up living in a small travel trailer in a trailer park borrowed from friends while I waited for the court hearing to see which of the two of us would end up with the house that I had purchased on my own, without him.  Tonight, I remember those nights.  In the trailer, with my daughter, then six, hardly a lock of any protective value on our flimsy trailer door, a hundred yards from the interstate with the incessant rumbling noise of semi’s barreling by.  There was little sleep to be had during those nights either.

I’m back in my own home now, but on the verge of leaving it again, this time, for good and by choice.  When and how, and where my final destination is, I don’t yet know.  These uncertainties occasionally keep me up at night.  When they don’t, they certainly gnaw at me all day long and re-surface in my dreams. When I was younger, I only had myself to worry about taking care of, and though I wasn’t always certain of the destination or the outcomes of my choices I didn’t have the ever-present concern for another human being’s physical survival and emotional well-being.  These things, these parental worries, nag at me all.the.time.  The worries always end with the final, culminating question: Will the children be all right?

So much has happened in the last four years.  On the surface I’ve gone from sleepless nights frightened behind flimsy travel trailer walls to sleepless nights behind sturdier, but deteriorating, stick-built walls. I’ve rebuilt a life after a very traumatic second marriage and subsequent divorce. My children and I are working on healing, a process which I will forever regret that they have to endure and for which we will all likely be healing from for the rest of our lives.  We’ve established routines and created a new way of being together.  It is a way that emphasizes honesty, respect and consistency.  This doesn’t mean things are always calm and quiet, but they are stable and they are much safer for us all. I have to say, “No, I can’t afford that,” much more often than I used to, but after four years, things are getting better…or they were until the latest recent developments on the job front and with the second ex transpired.  The thoughts traveling through my consciousness vary greatly from details of how I will make ends meet with these new colossal expenses looming on the horizon, to knowing deep down, that somehow we will survive because we always have.

Among the thoughts of financial worries, dealing with the fallout of divorces, job stresses and the well-being of all my children swirls the heat, the deep silence of the heavy night punctuated by the yowling of neighborhood tomcats, there is the knowledge that the bad times don’t last forever, the good times will return though they won’t last either.  This set of challenges must be faced and endure,and though it won’t be easy or fun, at some point in the future, I will be able to look back on these nights, the way I do on those trailer park nights and realize, “I made it through that.  It’s going to be okay.”

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