Well folks, after a long hiatus of thinking I know what the hell I’m doing, I’m back in therapy.
And by “back in therapy” I mean I spent one hour with a therapist under the intention of trying to learn how to parent my children, who are struggling thanks to PC and his diabolical ways. And, since our system is so fucked up, I can’t just put my 11 year old in therapy without PC’s consent.
So there I found myself last week, sitting on a couch with fluffy faux-fur pillows and rapidly trying to stuff into 60 minutes the entirety of PC (and to a degree, Trollup) and what terrible, horrible, no-good, rotten pieces of shit they are. I tried to verbalize example after example and I assured the therapist that I know the things she was telling me: don’t let your kids see your anger, your hatred. Be their safe space. Let go, because you cannot control it. I know all of this.
I just don’t know how I’m supposed to execute my life as this serene, flawless, maybe even martyr-ish mother who never says anything bad about the man who consistently and repeatedly torments her. Who argues with her, makes every aspect of her life difficult. The man who wasted 17 years of my life and the man who is now hellbent on spreading rumors of her new relationship and in the midst sees nothing wrong with the damage he’s doing to the inner workings of his two children? I’m supposed to squelch the thoughts in my head that I want revenge on him, that I want him to suffer and hurt in long torturous ways that will last a whole lifetime, in return for what he’s done to us?
Yeah…soooooo. Maybe some anger issues.
And then we throw in the new relationship, and the therapist’s words that people often find themselves rebounding and second relationships after a disasterous first have a 70% chance of failure. Well, thank you, Ms. Therapist, for holding a candle up to the fears that I have and warming them up just enough that I can feel the sharp, quick burn. Because, of course. Why wouldn’t I be terrified that something that feels good, seems good, and makes me happy would of course never last?
On top of all that she wanted to know about my childhood. I assured her that I had perfect parents and she kept digging. Honestly, it was pissing me off a little bit. I had come to her, a highly recommended therapist, for help in parenting and talking to children who have a monster for a father. Now all of the sudden I was under the microscope and she was heading down the wrong path. For goodness sake, me being PC’s victim has nothing to do with my childhood. Me falling into this relationship with a man who is the exact opposite of PC is not the same thing. And neither of them have anything to do with how my parent’s raised me. The point was, PC did this and PC alone. And now my children have to suffer and none of this is fair.
“Charlotte,” she said, “Do you think you are the only person dealing with an ex like this? Most divorces have one or both partners who are terrible. Most children of divorce grow up with this and most of them turn out just fine. You cannot control him and you have to learn how to do that. And that starts with you.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know all this, Ms. Therapist. What I can’t figure out is how to do it. And I disagree that PC is a common entity, that most divorced men out there are childlike, narcissistic alcoholics who spend their every waking moments either drunk or plotting the next level of harassment of a woman THEY THEMSELVES CHOSE TO LEAVE. I’m in disagreement over that. PC is his own special breed. But.
She made a statement that went something along the lines of tying my childhood and how my parents raised me together with the type of partner I sought out. Why was I attracted to PC in the first place? My initial response was “Because he was a liar and he sucked me in by wining and dining and promising the world.” When the real response is, “he offered stability and safety and he seemed like he would take care of me.” (I was wildly off the mark in that assumption, obviously.)
Ms. Therapist made me answer another question. “What did you seek out in your new relationship?” I sputtered around with words like I didn’t seek anything out, it just appeared and musings of sparks and romance and someone who has a kind heart and is just…good. She shook her head and said that wasn’t what she asked. I thought about it over the week and the thing that resonated the most?
He makes me feel incredibly safe. Like he will take care of me.
And what have my parents done for the past 2 years? Well, of course. They’ve taken care of me. They’ve kept me safe: food, shelter, and water. Safe financially. They’ve made my decisions for me. To the point that at 40 years old, living in my own house (that they own) and working and raising 2 children I still cannot make my own decisions without asking them. (See also: wanted to get the kids a kitten. So badly. Dad said no.)
So. Well-played, Ms. Therapist. Well-played indeed. It took me nearly a week to come to this conclusion and I’m not really sure what all of this has to do with how the fuck I’m supposed to protect and nurture my children when the other half of their parental units is evil, but I’m intrigued now. You made me think of so many other people in my life…my best friend for example. My old neighbor who is second in the BFF line. My cousin, who I once dropped out of college and transferred to a new college with. What did all of these people offer me?
Caretaking. Safety. They all made me feel safe, secure, and as if I didn’t have to be the adult.
And why did I feel that way? Well I, of course, know the answer to that immediately. Because my disability, my inability to hear like everyone else does, completely severs me from being a totally capable and functional adult. Surrounding myself with people who act as caretakers makes me feel safe. And I’m willing to bet that that plays very nicely into my massive pit of anxiety in general and my fears of failure and my most basic distaste of being alone.
There is a weekend coming up. My children will leave with PC on Friday night and I will not see them for 48 hours. Its only Wednesday, but the creeping anxiety and horrible anticipation that occurs as every other Friday approaches is looming. This has not gotten any easier since the beginning. I detest every other Friday. I often cry when I close the door and watch my kids walking down the street with PC, looking up at him with their little faces so full of hope, and him with his big black storm cloud aura that’s so powerful its nearly visible.
I have no plans this weekend. My beautiful, budding romance of course comes with extenuating circumstances, mainly in the form of opposing custody schedules. My happy place, the pool, is closed and once again, despite all the work I think I’ve done on myself, I cannot enjoy a weekend alone because I’m bitter and angry and inherently, I want someone. Something.
I’m angry that PC did this to me (even though I don’t want him.) I’m angry that all my friends who say “lets do this and lets do that” have someone to go home to while I, at age 40, do not. I’m angry that even though the universe put this great love story (sorry Ms. Therapist, but I’m not letting go of that. Rebound or not…) in my path and then said, just kidding! Here’s your future but you can only have it for 13 minutes this week and one day next week and 500 text messages in between that are not the same as a flesh and blood under your fingers and if you go out in public it will be a matter of minutes before his ex or your ex starts calling or texting and interfering. Sorry!
So. I will go back to Ms. Therapist again. Because the therapy I did while surviving the worst was just scratching the tip of the iceberg. Because I still remember what my college friend Kelly told me awhile ago, keep going. Its hard at first but after awhile you dig deep and that’s when the real work begins. Because I want that rested, glowing peace that is etched on Kelly’s face these days. Because I’m tired of the constant need to fill myself up with something, anything. Because I don’t want to screw up my kids. Because I don’t want my insecurities to ruin a relationship that for all intents and purposes is good. Because I’m beyond tired of fighting the devil: whether his mask be one of crippling anxiety or the hateful physical space of PC.
Because I’m just so, so very tired of being unable to just…be okay. And maybe that’s where Emerson’s quote ties in with me. I cannot be my own, because I’ve always been another’s. My parents’. PC’s. My children’s. I, quite literally, have no idea how to do this. It’s easy to be in a crowd, be in the company of anyone else, and feel secure, grounded, accomplished, impressive, and capable. Safe.
Its quite another to be able to grasp this while being alone.