Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sacrifice (This is a long one.)

Up until the last year and a half of my marriage, my blog name and address was "Randal's Wife." I've analyzed myself and my reasons for doing that over the years and I've narrowed the reasons down to one: Sacrifice. 

For those that are religious, you may not agree with what I'm going to say about this, but I've got the research and education to back it up. Religion teaches women to be self-sacrificial. It could be argued that religions teach people to be self-sacrificial and not just women, but I promise you, there are many, many more examples of and teachings directed toward women on the necessity of the their sacrifice. I certainly don't blame my parents or any of my truly wonderful leaders and teachers through the years. I am sure that I took the teachings more literally and personally than was absolutely necessary. But my marriage was an exercise in all that feminine sacrifice that I had been internalizing for decades. 

Randal had three graduate degrees from two of the best schools in the country for his fields. Two of the three graduate schools he attended were private schools. We moved to three different states for his education. I dropped out of college to follow him around. I took classes here and there, but his education was the priority. I supported him through each of those degrees. I did homework for him. I stayed up with him so he wouldn't be jealous or upset that I was getting sleep when he couldn't. He even asked that I read or do some "self-improvement" during the time he was studying so that he didn't get too much smarter than me. Seriously. He was worried that after he finished his education he wouldn't be able to relate to me anymore and he would fall out of love with me.

When I was pregnant with our kids, I was incredibly sick, but was still responsible for all of the household upkeep. He wouldn't even change the kitty litter for me - for a cat he gave me for our anniversary. I had to get rid of that cat. I still miss him. After I gave birth, Randal never got up with the kids. He changed a small handful of dirty diapers. He rarely fed them or did anything to help take care of babies. 

Randal did dishes less than ten times in our entire marriage. I can't ever remember him doing laundry, grocery shopping, vacuuming, or pretty much any household chore. That was my job as wife.

There was a point early on in our marriage when I realized that this was wrong. In the first few months, I realized that it was abusive and tried to talk to him about it, but nothing changed. 

I just kept sacrificing myself over and over and over again. All of this to say that when I was done with my marriage, I was also done with being self-sacrificial to a partner. 

Enter Adrian. Adrian. Wonderful, beautiful, scared Adrian. 

More than once I heard of people who wondered why Adrian and I were together. Adrian is a self-admitted liar, he's loud, and irreverent, and always "on stage." The whole world is his audience. He also attends meditation retreats, practices yoga when he finds his motivation, loves riding a bicycle, writes poetry, listens to jazz music like it's a religion, and would do my dishes, just because. Adrian is wonderful. Our first one-on-one conversation started with, "So you practice yoga?" and ended hours later with me wondering what had just happened. He never asked me to change or sacrifice any part of me for him. He just loved me exactly as I was and we had an amazing relationship. 

So why did it end? Because I was done sacrificing myself for anyone. 

Just to be clear, Adrian never asked me to sacrifice anything. 

After Randal shot himself, everything changed. Adrian and I had started a relationship that occurred on weekends with no kids around. For three years we existed in a honeymoon phase. He saw my kids, and I spent lots of weekends with his kids, but we would have whole weekends (sometimes more) just to ourselves to live in our bubble where we could take spontaneous day trips to Tucson or lay in bed all day and listen to jazz music. It was amazing. We had our hiccups, but our love felt like what all the music was about. 

And then everything changed. That bullet didn't just kill Randal, it killed our relationship. At least how it was. I was stressed out and depressed and I thought I had it all under control. Spoiler: I didn't. We both began to pull away. For me, it was so hard to see Adrian disappointed and frustrated. I assumed what I had been programmed to assume: It was my fault. I was making Adrian miserable and he was never going to break up with me. I still loved him so much. I still wanted to be with him, but I was making him miserable and so rather than sacrifice who I was and look at the things I needed to change, I would set him free. It's a load of shit. There are very few people who understand what severe trauma does to a person and to a relationship. Adrian wasn't asking me to change, but that's all I could see. It wasn't immediate regret, but almost. A little more than a month after we split, I told Adrian I wanted to try again, but he had already moved on.

Adrian moving on has been the biggest heartbreak of my adult life. After all the awful things I've been through, getting my heartbroken has sent me into a tailspin I don't understand. I feel kind of silly that this is the case - like I should be stronger - like I'm not a good feminist because a boy broke me. It's something that I actually am very afraid to admit and share publicly, but it's a part of this depression journey and it plays into and adds another dimension to the underlying lies that I believe about myself. Lies that I'm trying to uncover and deprogram.

And now that I've written it all out, I can see the role that self-sacrifice has played in teaching me these lies and perpetuating them. I don't have to sacrifice myself to be loved.

I don't have to sacrifice myself to be loved.

But I can sacrifice ego to improvement and love. Fuck, that's hard to write. It scares me so much. I broke the heart of someone I loved so much because I wasn't willing to sacrifice my ego and look at myself more closely. I had been neglecting Adrian and our relationship and sacrificed him to my ego. I've said that breaking up with Adrian was a mistake. It absolutely was, but it was, also, probably a necessary mistake. I never would have hit rock bottom and seen all the ugly baggage I was weighed down by.

Healing is hard work and sometimes you have to re-break a bone to set it correctly, I've been told the analogy works for mental health also. So here's to visiting old wounds and binding them to the new ones in hopes that they all heal together and make us stronger, kinder, more empathetic human beings.


Post script:
A note about Adrian: Our stories over the last four years are so intertwined, but we still had personal narratives - they matched pretty closely though. Starting with the night Randal shot himself though, our stories became different in deeply personal ways. His story is important too in all this. I hope he'll write it down and share it someday. Until then, ask him about it. He's been hurt and has been trying to process all of this also. Mostly me and my kids got the spotlight because of our relationship to Randal, but Adrian was right there for most of it. He was helping Randal in a lot of ways too, and he heard the gunshot that night also. He did not escape unscathed. Ask him about sometime.

Friday, September 15, 2017

More Back Story and Some Vulnerability

My feelings for and about Randal are complicated and often contradictory. I did care for him. He sincerely loved the people he did. He wanted so badly to be able to help his siblings and his mom. He desperately wanted to be a good father. And he really, really wanted to be a nice person. But he wasn't. He was an asshole and he knew it. But he wanted to be nice. I give him a lot of credit for that. 

He had his strengths though. He was a great writer and he was very smart and he knew how to research. He helped me with my homework often, and I know of lots of other people that he helped tutor just out of kindness. When we finally started therapy, he really was invested in improving himself and his communication. Even after we divorced I could call him up and say, "Do you have a few minutes? I need some validation." And he would just listen to me and offer support and validation. Even when we were married we had good times. We would laugh and be silly and occasionally take the boys on adventures. I miss him. It's hard to say that because my life is easier in a lot of ways since he died. I don't have to worry about him and his mental health and if it's affecting the boys. I don't have to worry about the very small handful of things that we disagreed about when it comes to how we're going to raise the boys. And I don't have to take care of him anymore.

There is only one time before Randal and I separated that he crossed a hard line and I should have left. It was after the 2011 suicide scare and we were living in an apartment in Mesa. We got into a fight about something and he started threatening to kill himself again. Except this time it was the middle of the day and he actually pulled out his gun in our living room and threatened to do it right there. I'm surprised I was able to stay calm and talk him down, but I did. I can barely write about it 5 years later. I'm shaking and tears are filling my eyes, but back then I was calm and collected. I hid his gun after that. I should have given it away. I should have thrown it in the bottom of a lake. 

I have some pretty strong feelings about guns that I never used to have. After his death, I asked that his brother get rid of all of Randal's guns. I don't know if he did, I never followed up to ask because I'm afraid that someone in the family still has them. I'd rather just assume that the guns are gone. It may not be the healthiest approach - sort of like burying my head in the sand. But those guns weren't just a symbol of Randal's death, they were also a symbol of the weapons of manipulation that he used against me and others that he claimed to love and care about. 

I don't really want to spend so much time talking about and writing about Randal, but he is an integral part of what I am dealing with now, so it's helpful to me to write about these things. It helps me see the connections and be able to experience the thoughts and emotions in a safe space. It sucks too. PTSD is no joke. I'm angry and scared. Mostly angry because I'm scared, I think. But I am scared of everything now. I'm scared I might die and leave my kids orphans. My wonderful, amazing, beautiful boys have been through so much and I'm so scared that my mental health is going to destroy me and them. I'm scared that no one will love me and take care of me. I'm scared that I'm not lovable. I'm scared I'm not even likable. I have truly amazing friends and family that tell me constantly that I am loved and liked and all of that. But I don't believe it so it's hard to hear. 

IT'S SO HARD TO HEAR. I want to scream at them to stop telling me that! It's no use. I'm too broken. I want ... No, I need someone to relate to me. I need to see the people I love and like and respect tell me that they feel that way. Or that they used to and they don't anymore. I want to know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Mostly, I just need to know it's a tunnel and not a bottomless pit. And maybe, just maybe, if you hear my deepest darkest secrets and the things I'm ashamed of thinking, you'll know you're not alone either. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Who even does this anymore?

CONTENT WARNING *** POTENTIAL TRIGGERS

It's been ages since I've done this, but I think it's time. I want to say some things and I want to be brutally honest and get some of this stuff outside of me. Don't read ahead if you have issues with speaking ill of the dead, suicide, depression, loss, etc.

My ex-husband shot himself in the chest on March 1, 2016. I lived 5 doors down from him in townhomes. We shared the same building. I heard the gunshot moments after I got his last text. He also sent his mom a text. Within seconds she was yelling at my back door that Randy had shot himself - call 911. I was texting Adrian, my long-term partner at the time. He had just left to run to Circle K. It was 12:30 am. I was studying for a math final. 

Randal knew exactly what he was doing. He had made a suicide plan in 2011. March 23, 2011, he drove out the desert to kill himself. It was the middle of the night then also. I spent 45 minutes on the phone with him begging him not to do it, until our call got cut off. I called him family and closest friends to beg them to try and get a hold of him or pray or do anything they could. My mom called 911 and a police officer and the crisis response team came my parents' home (where Randal and I were living at the time). I didn't know what was going on until I got a call from Randal's brother around 4am. Randal had checked himself into the hospital. I drove down to him and was allowed back into the room where they were monitoring him. Around 10am, my mom called asking if she could bring us anything. I asked her to bring my laptop so I could get some work done while we waited for Randal's psych eval. When I got off the phone, Randal said to me, "How could you?" I had no idea what he was talking about. He said, "I can't believe you can think about work at a time like this. Get out." I wasn't sure if he was serious. He was.

I spent the next 24+ hours with no idea what was going on with my husband. That was the first time I talked to a lawyer.

When Randal did come home the next day he wanted his guns back. We had taken them all - all of the guns in the house - and locked them up or moved them to another location. Randal threatened to call the police because we had stolen his property. Somebody else called them anyway. The same officer who had responded the night before responded again. He gave Randal no sympathy. Randal left in anger that night. As he drove away, he yelled out his window to me, "If I kill myself tonight, it will be your fault." The crisis response social workers who came that night had to counsel me through the abuse and manipulation. It is still painful to recall those days. 

This is what much of marriage was like - not this extreme, but the manipulation was almost always there in some form. Randal did not have an easy childhood. He never had any kind of relationship with his biological dad, which is a good thing. But he had the cards stacked against him from the beginning. I knew that going into our marriage. But I was young and yet still old to still be a single Mormon woman. And Randal had a lot of potential. And he made me feel good about myself, once upon a time. And besides, I had lived 22 years with it being all about me, I was ok with it being about someone else for awhile. And it was. It was almost all about Randal for the 13+ years of our relationship. If I got sick, he got sicker. When I planned my own birthday party, the first one of my adult life, he disappeared for three days and accused me of cheating on him. When I didn't wake up in the middle of the night to do something for him, he dragged me out of bed and threw me on the floor. When I lost my temper once and slammed a door, he chased me into the kitchen and grabbed me by the neck and threw me against the refrigerator. That was the last time he did anything physical. I told him if he ever did that again or if I ever even thought he was going to do that again, I would disappear in the middle of the night with our kids and he would never see or hear from us again. To his credit, he never did anything like that again.

But after March 23, 2011, he had finally crossed the line. I held all the cards. I had spoken to a lawyer. I was ready to be done. I had never used the D-word even once in our marriage. I told him that I would file for divorce now though. He begged me not to, he said he would finally get therapy, he would finally start to address his depression and really work on it. And he did. He went to therapy for a year. I went for about 6 months, and we had a couple's therapist for about 3 months. It transformed us individually and our relationship. During that time he also had some major break-throughs with his health. And in July of 2015 our relationship and marriage was better than it had ever been. And it still wasn't good enough. It wasn't the type of relationship I wanted to model for my boys. And so I left. After almost ten years of marriage I was sure I had done everything I could do save my marriage and also to save Randal's life. So I left. 

That first month was the hardest. The first time I went to sleep without my kids under the same roof was the hardest. I cried myself to sleep. Randal was mean and called me names and told me how disappointed our friends and my family were in me. But he no longer had any power over me. I knew who I was. 

After a month things got significantly better though. Randal and I started getting along. We started talking again - real conversations. The first real conversation we had was on the phone and lasted hours. He told me about the new people he was meeting and women he was dating. I told him about school and work and the different things I was doing. After that, we tried to support each other and co-parent as best we could. On the tenth anniversary of our wedding, I filed the last of our divorce paperwork and we went out as a family and celebrated our family anniversary. It wasn't entirely smooth sailing after that point, but our divorce was so much happier and healthier than our marriage ever was that is was mostly easy to not care about the little Randalisms.

All of that until a week before Randal died when his world fell apart. 

I do not blame anyone except Randal for his suicide. I want to be explicitly clear that it was his choice and it was a fucking selfish one. He didn't just shoot himself. He metaphorically strapped on a bomb vest and walked into a crowd of his closest friends and family and detonated. I'm still mad at him sometimes. And guess what? Sometimes it's easier without him around. I spent almost 14 years trying to keep him alive. 

The hours and days and weeks after Randal died are a whole other story and post for another day. Today is about my depression. When I went to therapy and did all that work in 2011 I really looked hard at a lot of issues that I had. There were some ways that I had contributed to the unhealthy patterns in our marriage. I worked hard to get better and be better. And after Randal died, I went to therapy again. I had an amazing therapist and I started to feel better and do better... or so I thought. Work schedules ended up conflicting with therapy schedules so I stopped going. Besides, I was doing so much better... or so I thought. Turns out I wasn't. 

So here I am... more depressed than I ever have been in my entire life. I am living in a black hole of despair and hopelessness. For the first time in my life, I can not control my thoughts or feelings. It's scary. And I hate it. And I hate myself for being this way. I can feel myself spiraling out of control sometimes and I am so afraid to tell anyone because I have built my whole being on strength. I have been through hell and back. I have hit rock bottom more than once. And here I am, in a dark place that I have never been before. All this to tell you, it's time for me to talk about it. There is so much more to my story and I want to talk about it. And I would love to hear from anyone else out there going through it also - or who has been through it. There is strength in numbers and solidarity.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"Inspiration"

I n the "Things I Miss About Mormonism" category, "inspiration" is pretty near the top. I put inspiration inside quotation marks because I still feel inspired by many things, I just don't feel it is as often. I love to teach. I love connecting with large groups of people on things we feel passionate about. I wanted to be a Relief Society teacher for my entire adult time in Mormonism. I substituted here and there and finally, after I had begun my faith transition, I was called to be a regular teacher. I did that for about a year and absolutely loved it. And then I stopped believing and lost the opportunity to teach Relief Society, Sunday School, Young Women's or anything. I miss it. I know I can recreate those types of things in my new lifestyle, it just isn't as easy. It's sort of like learning a new language as an adult. Or learning how to play the piano or something else. It takes time to be proficient. I began publicly speaking in church at the age of 5. So it was over 25 years of learning and teaching those lessons. It feels like starting over. It is starting over. And it's hard.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Animals, Human Beings, & Bearers of a Divine Essence

T he theme of my life of late has been "rise above." I do not necessarily mean to rise above others, although it can certainly mean that, but rather to rise above myself. Over the last couple of weeks I found myself responding and reacting quite sharply with a family member. I am humbled to admit that it took me several negative interactions to realize that the problem was me. In a situation where I would normally say, "Ok," I was being mean and snappy. I thought that I was justified in my hurt feelings and that I was asserting myself and my boundaries.
But I was responding as an animal would - without thought or consideration for anyone but myself. There was a time in my life where that kind of response was appropriate. But I have moved on from that and it is no longer appropriate for me to act that way. Now is the time to see and seek out the good in myself and in others. Now is the time for compassion and kindness and love and respect. Now is the time to find similarities and ways to validate and uplift others. 
And now is also the time to seek forgiveness.


Monday, December 01, 2014

I Dream of Gypsy

Sometimes my heart yearns to wander - to buy a motorhome and make my way to the mountains. I love the mountains. The tiny-house-minimalist-off-the-grid-kind-of-life appeals to me. I'm not sure if that life is suited to young children though. Maybe it would be. But my other problem is... my treasures. I've gotten rid of a lot of treasures over the last couple of years. I've significantly downsized through living with the parents and divorce and smaller living spaces. The real obstacle in my dream to leading the life of a wanderer is lugging books everywhere. Books are heavy. And while I love my tablet and the ease with which I can get books delivered right to me, I have years worth of books that have been marked in and loved. I can't get rid of those. They are like journals to me - they're my history. Speaking of journals, I also found a whole box of those during the most recent purge. I think there were 17 or 18 of them. I've since stopped journalling as much - blogging is the new journaling and I don't even do that very often. But I also can't get rid of those journals. Over the last 5 years, I've probably gotten rid of at least half of my library (probably more considering the divorce in addition to the other downsizing). And as of right this second, I have about 100 cubic feet of book shelves, but at least half of my books are in storage. I just don't see those fitting in a motorhome or trailer. I'd need a separate one just for my library. But I dream about wandering. I dream of new places and people and sites and sounds and smells and ... I dream of finding new treasures.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Teach and Preach and Work Like Missionaries Do

I had visit tonight from the missionaries. Bless their hearts. Living in my mom and dad's guest house has some funny side effects - like living in their ward boundaries and eating dinner with them most nights. They used to feed the missionaries (and me and my kids) every Tuesday night, but over the last several weeks, they've been busy and haven't been able to do that. In that time, the two missionaries I knew and liked were both transferred. So when two missionaries came knocking on the door asking for Mr. or Mrs. [my married name], I was dubious. I recently got a call from some missionaries in the last ward that Randal lived in that were looking for him so I kind of wondered if these guys were looking for him too. Turns out, they were looking for me. Trying to seek out inactive members or something.

They were nice - like most missionaries are. They asked me if I was a member of the Church. I told them I was, technically. They asked what I meant by that. "Well, clearly because you are here and know where to find me my name is still on some record out there. But [gestures to my not-garment appropriate clothing and pierced and tattooed body] I am not practicing." They politely asked where I was with my faith and whatever. They even asked if I minded that they asked me - I don't. I'm an open book. They asked what my background was. I explained my background - you know, established some credibility. They wondered if I felt like God had abandoned me or wronged me in some way. I don't - at all. I'm very happy and "blessed" and have everything I need and many things I want, I just don't believe in the church or God. One of them asked if he could bear his testimony. "Sure!" I responded. Afterwards, I told him that it is wonderful he has that belief and I remembered when I did too. And as long as that belief leads him to be a better, kinder person, then I applaud it! Then he asked if he could give me a challenge. Why?!? That is where it always breaks down.
He asked if I knew who Alma was.
"Yep, I know who he is."
"You know he talks about the faith of a mustard seed?"
"I do know that."
"Have you studied the scriptures and asked God if He is there and if the Church is true and if the Book of Mormon is true?"
So I schooled him. "I have read and studied the scriptures intensely and probably more than either one of you have. I am very familiar with Alma and every other prophet in all of the scriptures and many more scriptures you have probably never read or heard of. I have prayed and asked God questions and even felt I had received answers in the past. I don't anymore. I don't believe in God and I don't want to believe in God and even if I did believe in the Abrahamic God (I'm not just prejudiced against Mormons), I wouldn't follow him because he's a dick. Thank you so much for stopping by and asking about me and listening politely to everything I have said. I know you boys are trying to do good and you want to help and serve people and I appreciate and respect that."
.......
......
.....
"Is there anything we can do for you?"
"No, I am really am very happy and well taken care of."
"Do you know anyone who might like to hear about.... er, or might need service?"
"I don't, but if I hear of anyone who needs service, I will let you know. I know how important service is to missionaries. And I'm sure I'll be seeing you around, my parents love to feed the missionaries and they usually feed me when they feed you."
And then they left. Bless their hearts.

I really do have a soft spot for missionaries. My dad was a missionary, my brother was a missionary, Randal was a missionary. I've had many friends and family members serve missions. I even considered serving one myself (that's a good story). Since I've stopped attending church, I've continued to interact with members. Anytime a church member wants to stop by and visit, I welcome them. Because of where I live, most of these people I've known for years. I didn't stop liking them when I stopped believing. And I love missionaries! I've heard the stories of how hard and depressing it can be on a mission, I don't want to add to that! By why oh why oh WHY do people assume that when you leave the church or stop attending that you haven't really read and studied "God's words," or that you haven't really prayed to God to know the truth? It is incredibly frustrating! So to any and all who have wondered about friends or family who have left ANY religion: please know this, chances are, they have given it much thought, study, and EVEN prayer! It's a wonderful thing when someone asks me WHY I left... and then listens without trying to persuade me differently. These missionaries, actually did a fantastic job (right up until the very end). They were respectful and polite and didn't try to argue with me. Then he asked if I minded if he bore his testimony! After being so polite to me, of course I don't mind! Hearing someone else's beliefs can be beautiful a thing. Now that I don't hear the same thing week in and week out, I don't mind it every once in awhile. So props to them! And also... bless their hearts.