It was such a small thing. So small, in fact, that it would hardly be worth mentioning except the occurrence of it re-opened a wound that I sincerely hoped was starting to close. He brought the boys home from his day with them and I invited him to come inside and see the baby for a minute (he missed his day with her earlier in the week since he was sick and didn't want to infect her). I had a car seat in each hand and he walked up behind me and took one from me to lighten my load. I have spent 3 months now doing all of this kind of stuff alone. Packing and unpacking children from the car, bedtime routines, cleaning the house, getting kids ready for and wrestling them through church, etc. I thought that I was getting used to it and beyond the occasional wish that I had someone in-house to pick up some of the 'kid slack' from time to time (and to be honest, getting a little angry when I think about him spending his evenings watching TV and doing whatever he wants). But that one almost insignificant gesture of help hit me like a slap in the face for some reason. It was so familiar and was a random, vivid reminder of everything I have lost. Not just someone to take half the physical work (although ask me how much I am looking forward to packing up and moving this household all by himself. All of a sudden, him "leaving me everything, including the house" doesn't feel so generous, especially as I am learning how much of a pain it will be to sell by owner and we don't have enough equity to allow me to walk away with anything extra...) I miss being a team. I miss having someone help take part of the emotional burden of this life we built. Worrying about money and the future and how our children are all doing feels twice as heavy when there is no one as invested as you to talk it all out. It never ceases to amaze me how much of a wrench some of those small things can be.
I am often told to take this process one day and one step at a time and while I know it is good advice it comes with some caveats. It's true that it doesn't do to try to worry too much about the future, especially when you are walking into the mist. The problem with taking things day to day however, is that it allows you to think somewhere in your head that this pain won't last forever and that you can be comfortable again (which is still technically true). Except, the only place I can imagine feeling fulfilled and safe again is in the only place I ever really did. In my marriage with my best friend. Then I remember how he has decided to feel about me. Maybe this makes me terribly unobservant or a bad judge of character because you could assume that I don't know what safe is since I have been badly treated for so long. Maybe you're right. Maybe there is more out there for me and my babies that I can't even fathom right now. But to be honest, on a day like today, I don't care. I miss my marriage. I miss my husband. I miss my life. I miss having someone to cook for (who eats something beyond chicken nuggets and mac and cheese). I actually miss taking care of him. It was one of my great joys and I thought I did it pretty well. A few months ago, days before he left, he ruefully pointed out that he "did the little things right and the big things wrong." How true. I never felt like I had much to complain about as a wife and I often told him that I felt lucky that he was so good to me. I do know that I felt cared for on many levels, even if they weren't always the right ones. I felt like I always had a friend who had my back and always would. I never left for the evening and came home to a messy house. You might call it a guilty conscience, but I know it was because he knew how much I appreciated clean surroundings. He did it for me. Every year he brought me piles of lilacs on my birthday (except this last one, when apparently walking into the back yard for them was too much effort.) He was the kind of guy who would jump up to help anyone he saw needing something (you want him to be driving by when you need your car pushed off the road). He loved his children and played until they wore him out. It wasn't until the last five or six months before Sis was born that I ever saw him lose patience with them faster than I did. I just assumed he was stressed out with work. I had always thought he was the better parent, and to be honest, it scares me a little to know that I am. I guess these are some of the reasons why I wake up every morning still so...shocked. I still can't quite believe the choice he has made. I feel about our marriage much the way I imagine a person with a terminal disease feels. I have taken steps to try to move forward, but the biggest message my heart is sending my brain (they don't communicate well at all, by the way) is that "this can't be it. This just can't be the end..." no matter how reasonable I try to be.
No matter how I try to prepare myself for the blows I know are coming, they all still knock me over. I am watching him continue to make bad decisions and put down roots elsewhere and the fact that I am still shocked by his choices make every blow that much harder. He has broken our family and my heart and our children's hearts and unfortunately, I don't believe he is done breaking things yet. I don't believe he will be until he has nothing of value left and has nowhere to go but up. Most of the time, it feels like my road to recovery is so long (even if he came back tomorrow) and his has the potential to be much shorter. A few steps in the right direction would help heal his own heart far more than he even knows. Every day, I look around and wonder how I ended up here and when I get to finally have a choice in my life's direction (beyond attitude).
I have learned that PTSD and betrayal trauma is just that...trauma. It is not something that goes away quickly and you can't be talked out of it. In fact, when compared to other types of trauma (i.e. assault, witnessing a murder, terrorist attacks, etc.) it has been proven to be the worst, most far reaching kind. On a good day, I can look at this and think "If I can make it through this, then nothing can knock me down" but on a bad day, all I hear from that is that it would have been better for my psyche to have had my actual life be at risk. All summer long, I begged J to put some faith in the process of therapy, of repentance and backed myself up with statistic after statistic about how couples who work through infidelity end up stronger or why his statements sound like every other person in his situation (i.e. "I love you but I am not in love with you..." or "I never loved you in the first place..."). Everyone has the same excuses because the process of justification has the same steps for everyone, even though everyone feels they are unique. Those who take the right steps to fix the original problem tend to realize just how lame those excuses are. He couldn't imagine feeling any differently so he refused to try. He felt like his case was unique (as they all do).
Now that I am reading every abandonment/infidelity book I can getting my hands on, I am humbly finding that my grieving process is also not unique. No matter how much I think "you don't know how I feel, or what I felt we had" to those who are assuring me that time will help and heal, my journey has recognizable stumbling blocks and steps as well. Unfortunately there have been studies done on the millions of us who also go through this end of things. Just like I was begging J to consider, taking the right steps and following the right process can lead me back to the light too, in a different way. Or so I'm told. I am kind of shocked every time I open a new chapter and they tell me exactly how I am feeling and why and what I need to do about it when I thought I made that particular thought up. Although I feel like I could put the amount of actual progress I have made into a thimble right now, I am going to take my own advice. Put some faith in the system and accept that it may take time, but statistically it has worked for millions who have come out the other side stronger. I get now how much easier that is to say than to do though.
Six months ago today, I got my first "I don't love you" from him. It still hurts to think about as much as it hurt then to hear it. For today, I have put the self help books away and even my kids were not enough to fully get me out of bed. They got taken to school and fed and dressed, but I have to admit that I spent much of the day in bed grieving my past, my future and my present (I did have the boys join me with snacks and turned on cartoons, so I could feel less like a horrible, neglectful parent.) I took it easy and tried to let myself accept for now that I am not over this. I am not over him, unfortunately. If only there were a button I could push. I wish with all my heart I could say that I was further along in how I feel about this. Right now, it feels like one step forward, a hundred steps back. It's like getting pushed into a deep, dark hole. You can see the light. You know the world you left is still up there somewhere. You pick yourself up and dust yourself off after the inital shock of hitting bottom, but find that the sides keep giving way as you climb, landing you back where you started with a few new bruises. To top it off, I have scared, hurt children to get out of the hole as well. Sometimes you just need a breather. I'll pick myself back up tomorrow and see what it brings, but for today I am not strong or brave or level headed. I'm breathing because that is my only option and I'm just sad about all the small and big things that I really, really miss. I am tired of being an emotional drain on everyone who worries about me. I'm tired of having to process people's anger toward him because I can't help but still be protective in many ways (twisted, I know...) I would give anything to go back under the radar and just be a mom and a wife and raise my kids with thier father and have a "boring, predictable life." But I don't get that choice.
Are you all inspired! :-) This process is a lot of "good, bad and ugly" Today was a lot of ugly. Six months from today, when I am at the year mark, I sincerely hope to have a happier post.