Poly Nirvana

Love, Life and Rational Polyamory


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~This is what remains.~

The note said, I’m sorry if I left a mess.

It didn’t say, I’m sorry I left a mess. That single word, IF, left me fuming.

(Today’s emotions are brought to you by the Second Stage of Grief: ANGER, and by my First Night of Real Sleep in ten days.)

If?

Of course you left a mess, you bastard. You left people confused and hurting and picking up the pieces of a life you chose to leave behind. You made a choice for yourself, and in doing so, took away the choice of every single person who cared about you, loved you, disliked you, or even hated you.

You have no idea what you have done to your children.

But I do. I got to say the words, over and over, to beautiful faces who only ever wanted their father to be okay. To be happy. To be healthy. To be present.

I have to tell you something. It’s very bad, I said.

Your dad died last night.

The look of horror on my child’s angelic face was one of the most raw moments I have ever lived through. I still cannot think of it without feeling a mixture of bile and hot tears in the back of my throat. One of my others, in his moment, sucked in a breath of air so sharply, that the silence of his exhale left me wondering if he had simply ceased breathing all together.

This is the mess you left behind.

He killed himself.

I had to say it. They had to know. And I had to tell them.

You left this mess, but I get to clean it up. And I rejoice, you fucking bastard. I rejoice in the glorious children who remain, not because of you, but in spite of you. Do you hear me? These kids are wonderful and smart and funny and bright and shiny and WILL move forward, IN SPITE OF YOU.

I got to sit at the funeral, my arms around my children, helpless to fix what you’ve done.

Our daughter cried tiny tears, which she wiped quickly away with the single tissue crammed in her small hand. She didn’t want me to see. When I reached over to brush the hair out of her face, she pushed my hand away, and moved her body so that the space between us was larger. She’s only eight. It’s too much, it’s too big, and I hate you for doing this to her.

This is the mess you left. This is my mess.

They are not your legacy. I won’t let you have them. They are not monuments to who you were. They are a testament unto themselves, and to the beauty and resilience of human beings who are able to survive ugly and difficult pasts. The mess you’ve left? That’s now part of their history, their story. And this is the worst thing you could have ever done to them.

And I am sorry. Tomorrow, or next week, or maybe next year, I will feel something different. This is what the books say. This is what my therapist assures me.

But today I get to be angry.

Bastard.


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~Once~

Once upon a time, I fell in love with a man.  I was twenty-one.  It was time to get married, and he said he loved me back.  The stars aligned, just as I had been raised to believe.

I called it love.

We were engaged after three months, married after another three.  It was tumultuous.  He was challenging.  He was also challenged.

Three years into our marriage he was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.  I don’t know if it was Type 1 or Type 2, I could never keep it straight.  I lived with it.  The type was irrelevant.  We held everything together for years.  It was a loud, angry marriage, and it lasted much longer than it really should have.

His mental illness eventually cost him everything.

Friday, I spent the afternoon telling each of my children that their father had committed suicide.

I have a lot that I wanted to say, to write, but I find myself wordless now.  I am holding it together for them.  Special Man was here most of the weekend, and he is holding me together.  These kids are amazing and strong and wonderful, but they are not okay right now.

They will be though.


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~Boundary~

My ex-husband is mentally ill.

Not simply mentally ill.  He is utterly disabled.

It is something that I had to deal with for many years, as he deteriorated, and became more volatile and violent.  He was verbally and emotionally abusive to me and the kids, and sometimes physically abusive.  When I took the kids and left, I had absolutely no idea he would continue to deteriorate to where he is now, and  I would be here, six years later, about to say this:

My children’s father is now a ward of the state, and is currently at the state hospital in Blackfoot, Idaho.

It’s kind of bizarre.

It’s also heartbreaking, tragic, exhausting and emotional.  Especially because I see my oldest child exhibiting many of the same red flags, and it hurts my heart.  For a long time, I thought if I said the right things, did the right things, and walked on the right eggshells, that I could control, fix, or manage things.  I was horribly wrong about that.

As it happens, Mrs. A also deals with her own demons, and this weekend I witnessed some of the emotional instability that she struggles with.  I won’t get into details here, except to say that I took the brunt of it, with her venomous closing sentence to me being, “I’m happy that hurt you.”

I can’t.

I can’t be in that position.  It’s taken years for me to be able to stop internalizing the irrational actions of my ex and my child.  I took much of that on myself.  And in the end I was angry and resentful and hurt and so, so weary.

So it seems I have a boundary.  I won’t knowingly get close to someone who’s mental illness causes them to hurt me or those I love.  I am not insensitive.  I am not uncompassionate.  I can be kind and friendly, but I will protect myself and my heart.

I’d really like to veto this whole situation.  I can’t, and I won’t. But I am a mamma bear who is desperate not to see her people hurt.  But this is the difference, to me, between a rule and a boundary. My boundary is for me. I’m unwilling to make a rule…for him. I have to step back and let Special Man manage his relationship with her. I don’t really like it, this watchful waiting. But I love him, and that won’t stop because he chooses to have a relationship with someone I am not comfortable being close with myself.

I can’t decide if this makes me a bad person or not, but in the end I suppose it doesn’t matter.

I just can’t.


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~So~

My ex-husband is getting married. In two weeks. I found out about this a week ago.

Being formerly LDS, and married in the LDS temple, where “eternal marriage” is considered the most holy of ordinances, I received a letter from the church asking me my feelings about him being “sealed” to another woman.

“Hallelujah”, I thought.

“I have no issue with him remarrying,” I wrote.

Of course this has brought up questions from the kids about marriage, and relatiohships, and when I’ll be getting married again. Because that’s what you do, when you’re old and single. Get married. My daughter, Georgia, says I should just say, “Man, I wish someone would propose to me”, and then Special Man will marry me. It’s been a rough week. Not only do I get to process some residual feelings from my failed marriage, but I get to deal with some of those mononormative knee-jerk reactions that I still carry. Marriage is romantic and dreamy. Weddings are exciting, and everyone is full of hope for the future, and love for each other. Weddings validate. It doesn’t matter that my children have yet to meet this new wife of their father, or that this wedding is happening extremely fast for any sane person’s taste. They are still validated because marriage is the ultimate stamp of respectability and acceptance.

I have a stable relationship of two and a half years. A wedding would not make it any more stable or loving, but it’s hard to get away from those societal norms. To be perfectly honest, I think Special Man and I would be terrible domestic partners. Seriously. (I’ve told him this before, and he disagrees, but I think he knows I’m right.) Still, the dress and the doves and the declarations of love…what little girl hasn’t been told that this is the ultimate accomplishment of her young life? And the fantasy still makes me sigh a little, though I’m a realist and I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever marry again.

A romantic commitment ceremony in the woods, however, might be another story.

A few nights ago we had birthday cake for SMF with the kids. It was good, and comfortable. I wouldn’t want to trade my alternative relationship configuration for another automatic marriage. I couldn’t.

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~Resting~

I slept thirteen hours last night. Hard.

Who sleeps thirteen hours?

I spent an hour last night at the local Hobby Lobby, with my baby sister and her fiancee choosing flowers for her wedding in January. I used to dabble with flower arranging, worked a in a flower shop or two, and helped out on holidays here and there over the years. It’s a big project, and feels even bigger because I’m not quite on board with the idea of her getting married at such a young age. She is just a baby! I realize I’m projecting some of my own personal baggage onto her, but I’m trying to keep it in check. She and Fiancee will be getting married in the local Mormon temple, which means that anyone who is not a worthy member of the LDS church, will be unable to attend. As a sinner, I get to wait outside while the ceremony takes place inside, and then the couple will come out and we will disperse to the church meetinghouse for a reception in the cultural hall, which is pretty much a multipurpose room and gym and sometimes there’s a stage on one end. Of course, they raise the basketball hoops out of the way for things like wedding receptions.

Lest you think I am not respectful of other people’s life choices, I am. I will make the flowers beautiful, and I will truly wish her well. I hope that she is happy, and that, unlike me, she doesn’t feel, in twenty years, that her choices were limited by the Mormon status quo. I used to be bitter. Now I’m just a little regretfully wistful.

I seem to be fighting with Special Man, and I’m not exactly sure why. I see a pattern, in myself, that I’m not sure how to change. I’m a terrible fighter. I want to withdraw, run away, apologize and make it all better. It’s not the apologizing that I take issue with. It’s that I use it as an avoidance strategy. It’s one I used with my exhusband often. Walk on eggshells, be the compliant good girl. Lose myself in keeping the peace. And now I’m hung up on being heard, and I wonder if it’s making everything worse; if I’m making everything worse.

So there it is. I’m going to nest in today, let the kids order pizza, eat some chocolate, and watch movies. If I can get some puppy cuddles in, all the better.


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~Memorial~

Today in a thrift store, I found a wedding cake topper that is identical to the one that was on my wedding cake twenty-one years ago. I’d had a vague idea that I wanted to have something to represent the death of my marriage for the Day of the Dead altar I am planning on November 2nd. When I saw the white ceramic bride and groom, I stopped and looked at it for a minute before I picked it up. I was a little sad for that girl who got married at age 22, but I also was flooded with a feeling of relief. Who I am now, is far from who I was then. I lived the life that was expected of me for many years. I may still be trying to find my way, but now I try to live with choice and intention. And that is a very good thing.

I have a lot of patterns that I am trying to change. Patterns of shame which do not serve me any more. I am aware, and I am present. I don’t always know what I’m doing, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to live my life according to someone else’s idea of who I should or shouldn’t be.


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~After~

I came out of an ugly, sixteen year marriage angry and exhausted.  A lot of my anger was directed at myself.   I had worked so hard to be the wife who didn’t upset him, the woman who didn’t look at him the wrong way, the girl who didn’t say his name in That Tone Of Voice.  As time went on, it became harder and harder to keep the peace, and I was too tired to walk on the eggshells any more.

So I left.

Fast forward to Friday night.  This very last Friday night, August 24, 2013, at approximately 6:15pm, Mountain Standard Time.

Special Man was upset.  Irritable, tired, and a little snappy.  It doesn’t happen often, and it didn’t last long.  He had worked himself up over something I’d said, or not said,  that, to him, looked and felt very different than the actual conversation we’d had a few hours earlier.

I don’t think this exchange lasted much more than ten minutes, before he apologized the first time.

But I couldn’t get over the sick feeling in my stomach.  I told him to just take me back to my house and go home.  He told me no, we were going to dinner, and he kept driving.  I felt like I was going to throw up.

He apologized again.  He said the words, “You’re right.  I’m sorry.”

And I couldn’t get away from it.  All the unspoken things my voice hadn’t let me say for all those years, with a completely different man, were sitting, clenched into a knot, at the base of my throat.  I kept swallowing, and trying not to cry.  I felt afraid, and I felt hopeless.  I had failed to make this man I loved desperately, happy.   I was doing it wrong, and I had messed everything up, because I hadn’t anticipated his unspoken needs.

Even as this anxiety was taking hold, my brain was soothing me, feeding me all the logical and rational comfort that it could push onto my neuro-transmitters:  He is not that man.  He is not your husband.  You are not going to pay for this later.  He loves you, he adores you, and HE IS SORRY.  

By the time we got to dinner, he had not only apologized a third time, but it was over for him.  He was relaxed, he was happy to be with me, he was affectionate and conversational.  He had moved on.  Gradually, I thought it was over for me as well.  We had dinner, and then we spent the rest of the evening in my home with good conversation, plenty of physical touch and periods of comfortable silence.

The next day I woke up feeling unsettled; restless.  He was home with Meta, and as I went through my day I just felt off.   Work necessarily kept him unavailable to me, but I found myself needing to connect.  We had a brief late dinner that night, and though I felt alright, there was a thought playing on a loop in my brain.  What if I say the wrong thing? 

He called me on it.  “What’s going on in your head?”

I didn’t know, I wasn’t sure, I couldn’t say.   I started to cry.

“My stomach still hurts from last night”, I said. “I can’t come down from it.”  And then, “Maybe I have PTSD.”  I giggled and tilted my head away from him, wanting to make things light and make things better.  (I’m pretty skilled at deflection.  It’s a gift.)

He just looked at me.  “Maybe you do.”

I couldn’t speak.  “He would go after me for hours,” I said, so quietly, I wasn’t sure he had even heard my words.  I looked away from his eyes, and slid my sunglasses on so that the very busy Mexican restaurant would be spared my breakdown.

“I’m sorry,” he said, again.  “I don’t want to ever make you feel the way he did.”

I tried to tell him, that it wasn’t him, it was me. I wanted to tell him that I was broken and ruined, and maybe I’d never be fixed.  But I couldn’t speak.  He looked at me, and I looked at him, and I stayed silent.  He didn’t look away.

Special Man held my hand, and smiled, and I could breathe again.  He led me outside into the parking lot of the restaurant, and we wandered around a small gathering of  classic cars.  I fell in love with an exquisite, deep red ’53 Corvette.  I stood there, with a man I loved, appreciating a beautiful car, on a summer night.  I wasn’t ruined.  I was loved and cherished.

(Also, I really wanted that car.  I’ve never lusted after a car like that.)

Conditioning is a powerful thing.  The present  reaction I was having to conflict with him, was reinforced by a past bad relationship, an unpredictable, sometimes violent man, and a scared voiceless girl.  I am not that girl anymore, Special Man isn’t that man, and this is not that relationship.  There are so many “inspirational” quotes out there, that speak to not living in the past, not letting the past determine your future, yadda yadda yadda.  I did a quick Google search  for some kind of quote about reconciling past and future,  and I thought my teeth were going to fall out from the sickening sweetness of the sentimentality.

Except for this:

“What’s past is prologue.”  ~William Shakespeare, The Tempest

It just IS.