Saturday, February 20, 2010


When you feel like the universe is trying to send you a message do you get signs from multiple sources? I woke up this morning with a horrible migraine, a flash of an indian tent with moccasins lined up outside the door, and words spoken in anger by Sonny on General Hospital ringing in my ear. Uh oh. I knew immediately where today's blog was going and it wasn't anyplace good.

Let's start with the indian tent and the moccasins. The indians had a much better system for dealing with a broken relationship (i.e. divorce or separation) than we will ever have. I don't know who thought of it, but it was brilliant, because it involved no third party. The woman made the decision by placing the man's moccasins outside the tent as if they were walking away; it indicated he was gone and not to return. His welcome was revoked. It was very public and there were no take-backs. Because it was public, it was a matter of pride on the man's part to honor the decision and pick up his moccasins and walk away. There was no barging into the tent and demanding that his woman rethink the decision or else. Awesome system.

I could spend a lot of time defending my General Hospital addiction or not. Let me just say this. GH and I have had a relationship since the 6th grade. I had a mad love affair with Days of Our Lives that lasted way too long and when it was good, it was very good, but when it went bad, it was terrible. And I slinked back to GH and it forgave and I have been faithful ever since. Enough said. Anyway, what did Sonny say???? I don't have it exactly right, but it was more or less this...."Olivia, everyone else in this has admitted their mistakes but you. It is time that you own what you did wrong in this terrible mess. You need to claim your damage." Imagine that loud and intense and it should be about right.

I took two tours through Divorce Recovery Group at Warren Baptist Church after my divorce. One of the things that you had to do was claim out loud in front of the group your part of why things went wrong in your marriage. As close as I got to that was I enabled him to behave badly. That was true. I did enable him to behave badly and that was the truth insofar as the marriage went. In order to actually claim my damage I had to go back before the marriage. I got away on a technicality.

Today I get to own my damage.

We started dating in May 2001 and he proposed on Dec 31 2001 and I said "yes" even though it was too soon. I bought a house a few months later because my condo wasn't big enough for his kids when they came to visit. It was four bedrooms. After the buy I took a long, hard look at the living room and realized that the wallpaper didn't match our living room furniture. Egads. It clashed badly. My mother's golden rule is to never paint over wallpaper. Had I known that there was wallpaper on top of wallpaper I would have rethought mom's rule, but then I would have missed out on the most enlightening experience of my life. I thought it would take 3-4 days tops to remove wallpaper from living/dining room and paint. I called friends and family to start on Saturday. My Not Yet Husband (NYH) was working and we began. After going at it all day Saturday, we hadn't made much of a dent on the dining room. NYH worked 4 days on and 4 off and his first working day was the Saturday we started on the house. I was thankful when his four days off rolled around so that he could start putting some muscle into it. I was exhausted; I had worked on it all weekend and after work for the four days he'd been on 12 hour shifts.

I remember calling him to see how it was going on his first work day at the house. It was 2:00pm or so. He hadn't gotten to the house yet. What? When I got to the house at 5:00 or thereabouts his truck was outside but I couldn't find him or any evidence that he'd done any work at all. He was asleep in the hammock in the backyard. Two weeks later and with zero help from NYH it was almost time to paint. I had roped every friend I had into helping get the wallpaper down. Unfortunately there were places that it had pulled the sheetrock out and there were some gaping holes. Lots of putty required followed by lots of sanding. My friend, Norm, loaned me his sander because the holes were so large. Using sandpaper by hand would take forever.

It is just NYH and I at the house and the putty is dry and the sanding needs to be done. I ask NYH if he will use the sander on the large holes while I sand the smaller patches by hand. No, he will not. He's never used a sander. Well, I've never used a sander either but it doesn't look hard. Hold the sander against the area to be sanded. If you've never held a sander, that thing is heavy. It is also noisy. I didn't like what NYH had to say, but I was pretty used to his lack of willingness to help by this point. Mr. Fixit he wasn't. However, even I wasn't prepared for what came next. As soon as I turned the sander on, he turned it off. He claimed it was too noisy for him. It hurt his ears. I was just going to have to sand those large areas by hand if I wanted him to help. I plugged the sander back in. He walked out the front door. He came back in twenty minutes later to find me ON A LADDER HOLDING A SANDER ABOVE MY HEAD. Note: the sander is heavy and my arms are tired. My arms are shaking they hurt so bad. He stands there and watches me for several minutes. Apparently it isn't so loud that he can't stand and observe and then he walks through the house to go I don't know where. I'm thinking, "Who is this guy? I understand about feeling uncomfortable outside your comfort zone and I can forgive that. But where's your decency? Your common decency? Any MAN with any self respect would take over this job when he sees someone in physical pain. And if you can't even do that you could stand behind the ladder just to make sure I don't fall." Before I wasn't in love with him, but I had love for him. That day I stopped respecting him as a man and a person. I couldn't even like him. And that was the moment. That was the defining moment of our relationship. He didn't know it, but I knew it.

That night we drove back to the condo together and all I could see in my head was an indian tent and shoes lined up. Then I saw the front door of my condo and all of his shoes lined up like they were leaving and I opened my mouth several times to say it. "This is over. I want you gone. You can sleep in your truck, at your mother's, your sister's, a friend's. I really don't care. It's done." But it was stuck in my throat. And so my mouth kept opening and closing but nothing came out. And then we were back at the condo and it was too late. And then we were walking down the aisle and it was too late. And then his kids moved in and it was too late. But the words were always there, stuck.

I lost my voice and my self-respect. That's my damage.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, honey...this post makes my heart break. I am recently divorced too but have decided to not blog about it yet... thanks for the courage to put this out here. What wonderful words and images.

    I kept thinking of the house as a metaphor...all these things underneath that you spent so long trying to cover up...

    It is not damage, not permanent anyways, for you to silence yourself. Your voice is the most natural thing in the only have to give yourself permission to consistently speak up and shout and yell when needed. Everything is fixable when it comes to human beings.



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