The Power of Self-Control

When 8 women gather at the beach, topics of conversation can range from the highly humorous to the deep, raw details of life. From the mundane discussions of cooking and exercise to the whimsical and rhetorical talks of people and love. And dreams.

Specifically, this dream discussion began with the underlying tone of “recurring nightmares”. Children drowning in pools, car accidents, being chased by the mythical monster under the bed. Or in my case, the monster of my past.

I spoke of my recurring nightmare that I am still with PC…married, together, sometimes in a weird, unorthodox union with Trollup. The nightmare part of the dream comes with the realization, usually well into my unconscious landscape, that I’ve given up my new life and succumbed to being with PC. In the dream (nightmare) I’m always questioning myself, desperately and helplessly…why did you do this? You worked so hard…why would you go back? What were you thinking?

The landscape always changes. PC moves into my new house and starts fucking things up. PC, Trollup and I live in our old house in some weird, polygamous union in which Trollup and I make grocery lists together. PC and I find ourselves together in a random place of the past and decide what the hell, lets get back together. Always, I am anxious and depleted. Always, I awaken from these nightmares with an overwhelming sense of relief. Its not real. Its never going to be real.

Interestingly enough, an aunt commented that she, too, often had dreams of her ex. Twenty years after the man seamlessly left one life and slid into another he’d been hiding. Twenty years after he abused her, left her broken and battered. Twenty years since they’d shared a home and children under one roof. Twenty years later, he still appears in her dreams as the “dad” or the “husband”. The family man he never was.

Weird, right?

Or maybe not. My psychic-medium friend told me a very long time ago that when people spend inordinate amounts of their life together, there is something of a metaphysical cord that connects them. In healthy, loving relationships the cord is thick, unfrayed, unwavering. In relationships like PC’s and mine…its wild, knotted and burning. But it’s there. We could hate each other to the depths of hell and still, the cord connects us.

But she also said, over time apart, the cord grows weaker. In 2.5 years, I have felt that. The things that used to consume my thoughts never do anymore. Our lives have taken separate paths (thank the good Lord) and thus the cord that connects us has weakened. It will never totally die because there are two children entangled in it. But for all intents and purposes, its been stretched long and thin and its ratty and weak. I no longer think of PC on a regular basis (even if my subconscious does).

But as much as my aunt’s ex was part of her story, no matter how horrible, PC was part of mine. And without the gift of amnesia, time-travel, or a completely cold heart, it cannot ever be totally severed. I mean, I’d like to take a knife and hack it in half, brush my hands together and say good riddance. But the casualty there is my two children, who have only begun to blow the dust off of realizing that the father they love so much is not a man of honor, truth, or love.

Today, I was standing at the bus stop waiting for my kids. PC pulled up at the stop sign, just a few feet from where I stood. He casually glanced both ways before turning, and I casually adjusted my gaze when he looked my way. There was no indicator, to anyone else, that the two of us shared two children, let alone that we had been married and spent 17 year together. It was like we were strangers on a train, or two random people in a grocery line. If that doesn’t boggle one’s mind I don’t know what does.

And in the interim of my life as PC’s wife and my life now, a lot of self reflection has occurred. A lot of talking, a lot of writing, a lot of therapy, a lot of venting. A lot of hard questions, a lot of lessons. I was told from the beginning “ignore him” and for fuck’s sake I wish that had been easier to do. I could have saved myself a lot of heartache.

You see, what I am learning, is that PC is going to be PC no matter what I do. No matter how I react and no matter what I say. Nothing is going to change that. The choices that lie in my hands are merely my own…react, or don’t react. It sounds so simple and my friends, it really is. Its just not that simple to figure it out for yourself.

A few weeks ago, a friend texted to invite me out for a drink. She then immediately texted again, “No! PC’s here!” PC, the parent my children were with, was at a bar drinking shots of whatever. I had choices: I could text him: where are the kids? Why are you at a bar? But I know the answer: the kids are with Trollup and he’s at a bar because he’s an alcoholic. I could get in my car and drive down and confront him or at the very least make him aware that I was aware he was at a bar instead of with the kids. But what would that do? If being charged in contempt of custody didn’t change behavior, his ex-wife showing up at a bar certainly wouldn’t.

Instead, I looked at my other friend who had just stopped over and said, “Nope.” We were about to start a lovely evening of wine on the porch. Nothing good would come out of me confronting PC…and more importantly, nothing would change. So instead of cranking myself up for drama and nonsense, I chose peace and joy.

A similar situation occurred last week when PC texted me to “warn” me that I’d better stop talking to “his” friend (someone I had run into and said hello to perhaps twice). Interwoven in his message of warning was a typical PC comment, “You need to learn to control yourself Charlotte. Say hello if the kids are with you, otherwise ignore him. He’s not your friend.”

The message was loaded with anger-provoking words. First, PC, you don’t get to tell me who to talk to. Or what context–kids or not–I’m allowed to. Secondly, control myself? From what, saying hello? Third, just WTF? And I suppose I could have responded with any of those remarks but instead?

Instead, I didn’t respond at all. And the sense of peace and CONTROL that comes from that is proving to be intoxicating.


The above quote would have been just words swimming on a page for me a year ago. Something I wanted to understand, to master, but felt incapable of.

Lately, it feels like something I know. Something I’m living. And its easy and its empowering and all I had to do was…do it.


2 thoughts on “The Power of Self-Control

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