As I sat down to write this post, that’s been percolating in my head for a few days, the first first sentence I thought of was: It’s been a week. But I’m pretty sure that I’ve thought that every week for a long time.
I survived my virtual court hearing and while I didn’t get what I was hoping for, I think I got something better. Time will tell.
Instead of the ridiculous motion being simply dismissed, based on my submission to defend against the claims and the information I was able to submit to the court, we have to return to court in a month after a session with Family Court Services mediation. I’m still in the system, for now, but it’s because the judge is taking my daughter’s well-being very seriously.
For some reason, in this ex parte process, I was reminded of the old engagement ring sitting in its original box in a closet in my dining room. Somewhere I won’t see it unless I look for it. Untouched since August 2017.
I think it has something to do with me realizing, during this whole mess, that I am less affected by the x and his antics. That I recover faster from the shocks of new attacks. I’m over the sharpest crest of healing and it feels really good.
I can face things that, even just months ago, would sting to even remember.
He proposed in 2015, a day before the three year anniversary of us meeting. When my daughter was a few months old. In the restaurant where we had our first date. A day early so his son could be there.
That night, the next few weeks, for maybe a couple of months , I was happier than I had been yet in my life.
When my daughter was a newborn, I was exhausted, but I was also elated. I was so in love. With her. With the x. With his son. With the family we were making and building.
My first real can’t-miss-that-something’s-way-way-wrong signs came while I was pregnant (which is very common in this kind of abusive relationship), but the elation of this beautiful child I could now hold and his role in that had me wearing rose-tinted glasses again. We can do this. We love each other. And look what we made.
In the next year, between putting that ring on for the first time and then finding the very first thing that sent me on my months long excavation journey to unearth the pile of lies my whole life had become, I had thrown the ring back at him twice, saying that I didn’t think he even wanted to marry me.
The third time I wanted to throw it at him, I took it off and put it in its box and handed it to him, saying Give this back to me when you really want to marry me and I can believe that you do.
Six months later, I knew mostly everything. I knew of all the secret purchases. I knew of the weird small lies that were even more perplexing than the big ones. Of his creepy hoarding of women’s photos, some of them even mutual friends. I knew of his affairs.
I knew that the main one had helped name my daughter, had been sent photos of the nursery as I put it together, had helped him figure out what ring to get me and how to propose. Had coached him on even that. He’d shared so much of my life with her while he wouldn’t even say her name around me.
That she knew I existed and knew so many things about me and still thought it was ok to compliment the crib bedding and ask to meet my daughter with one hand and then turn around and sext him with the other.
In 2016, when I knew what I hoped was all of it, I asked him for the ring back. I told him that ring could never be an engagement ring again – could never again symbolize our love – but should at least be able to be mine to sell to buy something for my daughter, to pay for diapers, to pay for bills that he didn’t pay while he hid away new guitars and secret iPads and all kinds of garage sale purchases he said were gifts from family.
In one of my darkest months of that sea-sick year, I sent her the picture at the top of this post. In a Thank You card. To her house. I thanked her for tainting the most beautiful thing in my life by having inserted herself into my pregnancy and my life as a mother.
For having inserted herself into memories of things as innocent as the nursery curtains I sewed myself or the middle name I wrote on the birth certificate paperwork on one of the happiest days of my life.
Told her I hope none of her three daughters take after her.
I was crushed that I had put that ring – that they had talked about – on my daughter. That I had taken that photo on our actual anniversary to announce the engagement to my friends and family.
Being in this type of abuse makes you do crazy things. Makes you justify it all because in a deep, dark place of your brain you can’t possibly face how much control you are giving up so you try to exert it in haphazard ways.
You swing your arms madly trying to find balance not realizing all you have to do is stand still and steady yourself.
You are being silenced. You are not heard.
You are being spun around and around with words to disarm and confuse you.
Nothing – nothing – makes sense and you are constantly told you are not seeing what you are, in fact, seeing.
So you try to make yourself heard anywhere you can. You try to control anything you can.
A year after finding out the worst of it all, we split. For the first time. It lasted a month. In that month, I took the ring to the most reputable small jeweler in my town and asked him to tell me what he would give me in cash or in trade for it.
He traced the serial from it and gave me numbers. Even in trade it was only worth $650. I knew the x had paid thousands. I had found the financing statement months before.
Fitting, I thought.
He overpaid for a medium quality diamond to propose to someone who never cared about diamonds, would have been happy with a CZ that sparkled. Or better yet, a vintage ring or an emerald ring or a simple silver band if what it symbolized was real, true love.
Someone who only wanted honesty and integrity and fell for the illusion of that just as easily as he had for the sparkle of that solitaire.
I took the ring home. It felt somehow wrong to sell it but I couldn’t name why.
Within a few weeks, I decided I would hold onto it. I would keep it until my daughter was a teenager and I would have a ring or a pendant made for her with that diamond. To symbolize the love that existed when she was created. That was real, I thought. That can’t be denied. No matter how we ended up.
Fast forward to the end of last year, after years of counseling and couples retreats and trigger after trigger after attacks for being triggered that started all new trauma scars. To when I left and saw the bottomless pit of his contempt for me. The seemingly boundless character assassination. The way he would lie to good-hearted lawyers to try to get them to abuse me for him.
When I had to face, finally and fully, that even that love that inspired me to allow that microscopic meeting of biology that built this amazing girl I now know was never a real thing. It was a lie. A grand illusion.
One sided. My side.
The perfect grift.
I don’t think anything has been as devastating as realizing that everything I thought I built – everything I nearly died trying to save – was an illusion.
If you had told me in the summer of 2016 that there was something worse than what I was feeling as I stared down that pile of lies and secrets, I would have wailed in pain to think there was something that would hurt more than what I was feeling then.
It was never love. He’s not capable of that.
He will not look back, after time, and see the good things. He will not, as my ex of thirteen years did after having time to process our breakup, say I do know now that what we had was still very real, that our love was real, and the good times still exist and still matter.
He will never come to appreciate all of the things I did and gave for this family, for him, for his son.
I was fuel. I was a supply. I gave and gave and once that stopped, I ceased to exist except as a target and a recipient of his rage. His rage all the more nuclear for having been fully seen and identified.
Once the bone deep pain of it all, all, being an illusion subsided (and that took a long time and a lot of heaving cries), that fact was (is) freeing.
I didn’t give up on something that could be saved. I didn’t break something apart that could have ever stood steady.
From that standpoint, I could see that even something like the proposal wasn’t what I had crafted it into in my memory.
From that vantage point, I could see how uneasy it had made me.
How much, even about that, I had pushed aside in my mind to create the story I wanted to have.
He made his son ask me. That little, quiet eight year old was so uncomfortable.
He made him say Will you marry us?
He never even asked me himself. Never.
It was his favorite restaurant. Not mine.
He hadn’t even followed the advice his mistress gave. She gave good advice, all trashy inappropriateness aside. He downsized it and didn’t even say the words himself.
And then there was that fucking ring.
When I had to face the truth of my relationship, I knew I couldn’t ever give that diamond to my daughter.
I remembered a few months ago that I had wanted a Portland jeweler to design the actual wedding ring if I could ever figure out how to pay for that and a wedding. betsy & iya in Portland is one of my favorite places. I even saved some of my Christmas money to spend in their ‘new’ retail store in February when I visited friends in Portland.
Betsy will post beautiful stories about meeting with couples and then creating their custom rings out of those stories. Her work is stunning.
It seemed that dream was gone. Honestly, I can’t even imagine ever trusting anyone again enough to get married. I hope I’m wrong about that – the trusting part at least – but at my age, I’m not going to hang onto some dream of that to get me through this painful process.
Dreaming that fairytale got me here.
I’m going to keep on making the life I want. Keep making me the self I want to be. Keep showing my daughter how to live with love and truth and compassion.
When I saw one of those custom ring posts a few weeks ago, I had a yearning and a thought.
What if she can take that diamond and break it up and make something beautiful and new and a whole new story than what that diamond started out with . . . something for me to wear that will remind me what I am truly made of now.
Suddenly it was like a pica craving: an overwhelming need grown out of a deficiency. Something urgent and necessary.
I had a virtual meeting with her and another jeweler at b&i this weekend.
It felt extravagant and exciting and like, finally, taking the wheel of this car I’m now driving.
I gave a nutshell version of my story and we talked about ideas.
As she asked me questions and then had ideas bouncing in her head, Betsy said, what if we just turn it upside down and set it that way?
This, ladies and gentleman, is why you go to the artists who know the medium when you want something just right.
I love the symbolism of that, she said.
Perfect, I thought. So simple and lovely. Yet here I was wanting to take a hammer and break that fucker up.
It’s what I’ve done every step of this way: not shatter, not sever, not disintegrate. Just turn it over. Look at it from that angle.
Take something that was only (barely) balancing on a point and set it on its sturdy side.
I have no idea what it will look like yet. It will be a long process. I’ll get drawings and then a wax model and then, eventually, the real actual ring.
In the process, though, is my road map.
Two days before the virtual meeting, I had an epiphany about the upcoming court stuff that made the literal nausea I had had about having to go into mediation with him again dissipate.
I’m not the person who went into that mediator’s room six months ago. Not even close.
That simple, and life-changing, fact is what will make all the difference this time.
When I went in that room, with a 2″ thick folder of documentation and a plan, I knew what was best for my daughter and I strategically and calmly advocated for that. But I still hadn’t named what had happened to me.
I was still confused. Calling it anything but what it was.
I was still crying over what I thought I lost.
I’m not that woman anymore.
Not at all.
Even the court can see that now, I think. The judge can see my certainty, now, for what it truly is instead of having to wonder if it is just retaliation against a man who hurt me.
I will probably dream of this new ring on and off for a while. I will savor the waiting.
A commitment to myself. And so, also, to my daughter.
To always remember my own strength. And tenacity.
He will always try to tear me down. That’s a fact of my life.
He will always, if given the chance, sell out our daughter’s well-being to try to hurt me, bully me, force control over it all.
I cannot change or control any of that.
All of the stories I now know of others like me hold that truth. The attacks will come. You can do nothing to stop them. You can only choose how to live your life despite that inevitability.
I will be like carbon compressed, standing like a pyramid, unable to be tipped over.
Solid. Clear. Tough.
One thought on “Turn It Upside Down”
Thank you for sharing this. You are not alone. Your story will help others who are still trying to make sense of their own relationship with a toxic partner.
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