I know it is an idiom. The idea of a broken heart. Your heart doesn’t literally break like some glass ornament that can shatter when it falls from the tree. It is merely an expression indicating great pain. Pain usually associated with the loss of a love.
I know this pain. I know this pain intimately. For me, this pain, while usually referred to in emotional terms, is one I experience on a physical level as well as on an emotional level. It resides in my chest, just to the right of center and it feels like someone wedged a pickax in at that particular point and is now trying to pull my heart right out from my body. It is a physical pain as well as an emotional pain.
What I didn’t know, until this last year, was that sometimes a broken heart occurs for reasons other than lost or unrequited love. A broken heart can occur absent love. A broken heart can occur when a dream that you loved, that you hoped for, that you worked for, dies. Broken hearts might always be about love, but they are not always about lovers.
Parenting is tough enough when there are two parents in the home. It is even more challenging when a parent has to parent solo. There is no longer another person to help out with getting kids to various activities and events. There isn’t another person to help with the cooking, grocery shopping and household chores. By the time the afternoon taxi runs are done, dinner is finished and cleaned up, a single parent is often ready to collapse, but then, there is homework to supervise, or television to monitor, or any number of things that require tending to. The life of a single parent is often one of sheer fatigue and exhaustion. And that’s if the parent is in good health. Should a single parent come down with the flu, life then becomes impossible.
I used to think, when I was married, that moms were never able to get sick. My husbands, when they got sick, collapsed and could have cared less about what went on around them. And I, being the dutiful wife, made sure they were unable to sleep undisturbed until whatever it was passed. Sadly, I have never had these kindnesses reciprocated. During the few times I did get sick, I was not allowed to sleep, I was constantly interrupted by children’s demands. I was still expected to cook and clean as if nothing was the matter. In my second marriage, I contracted walking pneumonia and had just been told by the doctor that I was ill enough to be admitted to the hospital. She left the choice up to me and I went home. My sensitive husband, having just heard the doctor’s diagnosis, decided to have all of his relatives (some 23 or more) over at our house for an afternoon. Imagine it. 23 people, most of them loud, obnoxious children, in our 1400 square foot home. I should have taken up the offer for hospitalization. This is just one of many reasons why he is now known to me as “The Evil Ex”.
This weekend, I was sick. Not just runny nose, coughing kind of sick. I was flat-on-my-back-couldn’t-move sick. It started out as a sore throat, and the next day every muscle in my body hurt so badly I was nearly paralyzed with pain. I was a little congested, but not much, and no cough. No nausea, except for a few hours one evening. I just could not move, and I had the worst headache ever…for three days. I haven’t been that sick in a very long time.
Needless to say, everything in my world stopped.
No laundry was done. No groceries shopped for. No housecleaning happened. Nothing.
In my world, if these things don’t get done during the weekend, they don’t get done until the next weekend, and that creates problems for us in getting through the week. Since my dryer is still not working, I had to wait until I had enough energy and strength to haul the wet laundry down the stairs and into the car to go to the laundromat and dry them. Then, of course, there’s the return trip where I haul the dry laundry up the stairs and put it away. Fixing meals? Thank goodness I had some of those quick microwave burritos on hand or my kids would have starved. That combined with the fact that it was a weekend where my kids were all at their other homes made it possible for me to get some rest and sleep it off. I’m feeling better now. Still weak. Dizzy. But I can move. I have some energy to do small tasks, if I rest in between.
At times like these, I truly wonder how we single parents make it through. I am grateful my kids are older and can do most things for themselves. They understand that I’m not up to par and they pretty much leave me alone. My heart goes out to those single parents dealing with younger children, and fewer resources or support systems than I have. I wonder how they make it through.
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.
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.
The days and nights are hard right now. No, I would not wish this particular man (the Non BF, now turned the Gone BF) back for anything. Things have transpired, text messages sent from a day’s drive away, that revealed that this man was many things, but never was he in love with me. He was far too immature for that. He was also unable to be honest, about where he was with things, about what was troubling him, about what he wanted or needed. He’s also unable to take responsibility for his part in this, it remains all my fault and he contends that “he never wanted this.” (And yet, he did nothing to prevent it from happening when he easily could have, instead running as far away as he could, not unlike a petulant adolescent.)
As usually, happens, I think, this ending became final, for me anyway, as the result of a small incident: a stupid text message. This man had lived with me for two years. In all that time, I had never been anything but crystal clear about what I would tolerate and what I would not, what I could pay for and could not. He knew that I believed we were working on something lasting. This was not a casual roommate or friends with benefits arrangement for me. He knew this. He also knew that the only reason I was cohabiting with him was the understanding that eventually there would be a public, legal, formal commitment. It turns out, The Gone BF, knew he wasn’t going to marry me, and I’m now beginning to suspect he knew this for quite some time, at least a year. Yet, all this while, he was perfectly content to live a charade of loving me and wanting to spend the rest of his life with me when he had no intention of doing that at all. So, the sad, depressing truth is that this man knowingly used me. The even sadder truth was that I truly cared about him, enjoyed our time together so much, that I unknowingly let him use me. I ignored the thousand of teeny tiny flags that should have indicated a disconnect somewhere. You know what they say about hindsight.
Two days ago, he texted me, angry that I had not given him any hangers, but instead had packed up his clothes in garbage bags without them. (He’d literally gone through every closet in the house, collecting all the white hangers for himself, so that each piece of his clothing hung exactly half an inch apart on white plastic hangers.) And now, the man who lived for a year for free while I paid for everything, is bitching at me because I kept the hangers. Hangers, I might add, that I purchased at the Goodwill when we moved in to this new place last summer. Again, his tone and message implied that this was all my fault. It suddenly became very clear to me how juvenile this man was, and also how very self-centered he was. While we were together, this was hard to detect because he really did a lot to help out…at first. In retrospect, though, he ended things without discussion the minute they no longer worked for him. It was a small, silly text message, but it was the moment I mentally disconnected. No, I truly never want to see this man again.
It doesn’t necessarily make things easier. I was living a fantasy that wasn’t ever what I believed it to be, but I enjoyed my fantasy, for the most part, and didn’t want it to end. Instead, it ended harshly and abruptly. Literally, one week all seemed great; the next he is gone and, after two years of unemployment, he has a job and is living in a city far away. There was no discussion, no haggling over stuff or money, and certainly no good-bye. The angry teenager just ran off.
So, I pass my days slugging through my obligations, trying to maintain composure. I’m experiencing now, for those first few agonizing times alone, all those things we did together, which I enjoyed so much: grocery shopping, meal preparation, morning cups of coffee, bike rides to a favorite lunch spot in a nearby town. I’m doing these things alone now. It’s painful, and my chest feels like it is going to be crushed with the weight of the loneliness. The reality is, that I will very likely be doing these things alone for a long time, possibly the rest of my life.
I miss what I thought we had.
When parents divorce in my county, if there are children involved, the parents are required to take a class that deals with the issue of helping children through divorce. It’s not a horrible class ,but it is required. The judge will not award a decree unless both parents take the class. I signed up and took the class as soon as I could after filing for divorce from The Evil Ex.
I remember the class well. I was there, fighting back tears and doing my level best to appear calm and well-adjusted, in spite of feeling like I might, at any second, dissolve into a liquid mass of human saltwater. I signed in, took my gratuitous paperwork, got some awful coffee, and found a seat near the side of the room toward the front. Shortly, after I sat down, a man entered. He looked like your typical geeky professor type. He strode up to the woman at the sign in desk and announced, “I’m being voted off the island, and I hear I have to take this class, so here I am.”
So much for feeling miserable. I couldn’t stop chuckling about it each time I thought of it for a good year afterward. Humor has a way of numbing the pain sometimes.
This week, I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been able to work. I have a job that allows me a great deal of time off each year. This is not paid time off, but it is still time off. Because my job is so demanding and stressful during the rest of the year, I loathe working during these off times. This year, due to medical expenses from my cancer treatments and the gradual drain of the Non-Boyfriend on my pocketbook, I decided to sign up to work five weeks this summer. This week was week three. It’s been wonderful to have something to go do each day that helps me forget that I am being voted off my own island.
On Tuesday of this week, the Non-Boyfriend and I voted each other off the relational island. Later that day, one of my colleagues began sharing at break, how his wife of 27 years just voted him off the marital island this last May. (I did not start talking about my situation. He brought up the topic all on his own.) He is still reeling from the shock and surprise and grief that comes from being blindsided. I can relate.
I mentioned a few posts back how I changed my status on Facebook to single right after I realized that the Non-BF had been planning a secret escape from our crumbling island. It wasn’t long before I had friends commiserating with me digitally, offering their condolences. Many contacted me privately. Some of these folks are single eligible men. One of them is a person I “met” digitally about four years ago through a blog I was writing at that time. He lives on the other side of the country, and even though I’ve long since stopped writing on that other blog, he’s kept in touch through Facebook. We’ve never met in real life. He, too, was just voted off the island of relational bliss.
Yesterday, he mentioned flying out to see me at the holidays. We will both be sans children and negotiating a “couples” holiday season alone. Neither of us is looking forward to it. Now, I’m fairly certain this will not happen, but I do find it interesting how things in life can conspire to distract me from the pain I am dealing with. Random little interactions like this tend to be like the emotional epidural that completely knocks out the pain of the relational rejection I’m birthing. You can still feel the pressure, but the pain is not there. I’ve been voted off the island by one particularly unhappy individual through no fault of my own, really, unless finally saying no to mistreatment is a fault. Less than 48 hours later, I have people entering my life inviting me to visit their little island for a bit.
No, I’m not going to stay long on any of these islands. I will most certainly not even spend the night. I am not ready for that. But, I ask you what is the harm of stopping by someone’s island for an afternoon of friendship, sun, and maybe even some libations? Can anyone refuse an invitation to spend a day at the beach with fun companions?
I was voted off an island I didn’t realize was crumbling. Maybe it is time for me to realize that there are possibly much bigger, stronger, more enjoyable islands out there.
He left this morning, early, and was gone all day. I came home, his personal effects were gone. His place in the bathroom vacant, empty, hollow. It hurt. For so many reasons it hurt.
I thought we had something.
I thought we were building something together.
I was investing my life, my self, my heart because I really thought we had something, and not just any something, but something good, something that could go the distance.
He returned home this evening, mentioning he will be gone tomorrow. He let drop the news that he’d interviewed for a job two hours away. How long has he been planning this move, I wondered? What else is going on that you aren’t telling me. I voiced my questions aloud and received only unconvincing answers which confirmed my worst fears. He’s been planning this ending for a while. When he was going to let me in on it, I have no idea. Maybe he was going to write me a letter and leave it on his pillow. Or maybe I’d just figure it out when I returned home from work one day to find all his things cleared out.
Tonight I’m in pain, because this new revelation that he’s actually been planning to leave me for some time is news I cannot bear. How do you live with someone you know loves you, allow them to pay your bills, feed, you, house you, and all the while you are planning the cruelest sort of reciprocation: instead of “I love you” it’s “Good-bye.”
I do not understand this.
Worse, I have no idea when this change occurred in him. I just sensed things were amiss, I addressed it, and he’s gone. He was merely biding his time looking for an out.
I thought we were good together.
Apparently, he didn’t agree, and I missed all the clues, until now.
I am a fool to have cared. I am a fool to have trusted. I am a fool to have believed.
Tonight I pay for my foolishness with tears. Tonight I cry.
Tonight I’m exhausted. I should be able to sleep; I’m certainly tired enough. I even took a sleeping pill. I’m so tired that just writing this takes effort. And my legs and feet hurt today. Every day it seems it’s something new. Aging sucks. The pain keeps me awake when I should be sleeping.
But here I am.
Wide awake and nothing to do.