I’m going to tell you a little story today. I want to give you a tiny peek into a corner of my brain where I have been living recently. First, though, I want to explain the catalyst to this creative inspiration. Samantha’s post today about the grieving process made me stop and think about where I am right now.
The Five Stages of Grief include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Those “stages” are all interchangeable, and you generally don’t experience them in any particular order. I examined each of those stages today, and considered where I might be on the spectrum.
I quickly determined that I’m not in denial. In fact, it’s more like I am finally coming out of it. I have lived in the fantasyland of denial and delusion and optimism for so long, hoping and hoping and hoping that my husband would change. I have been trying not to harp on the failures and lies, instead focusing on the positive things, even if they were sometimes as small as breadcrumbs. That denial left me thinking that although my town was far from perfect, it was like a charming, old town somewhere in the mountains that was built of stone and could weather any storm without being too much worse for the wear.
I have also bargained with myself and with my husband for quite a while – feeding my denial with the hope that THIS deal, THIS agreement, THIS conversation, THIS slip, THIS lie, THIS time would be different, enough, the last time… However, I’m not there anymore, either. I left the bargaining behind the same time I stopped trying to deny my reality.
Depression has also been my constant companion for quite a while. It has been there looking over my shoulder at almost every corner of my little town. Although my depression is still hanging around, I am not living in his deep, dark cave anymore.
After my husband left, those first 2 weeks were much different. I started really accepting the truth that I can’t expect the truth from my husband. During that time I felt disappointed about the lies, but I was almost resigned to the fact that this is what my life has become. I had accepted that he had done what he had done, he had continued lying to me, and there was nothing I could do to change that or him.
I also felt such relief when he was out of the house. It felt wonderful to reclaim my domain. I cleaned and cooked and washed tons of laundry. I felt accomplished and proud of myself for sticking to my boundaries. This was progress for me! It was the first time I have drawn a line and then left it there once he crossed over it. I didn’t let him erase it and draw his own line farther into my personal territory, encroaching more and more into my comfort zone, leaving me backed against a corner. That was my normal pattern, and I had broken it.
If you’ve been following along with the stages so far, we have already hit on denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That leaves one option for my current stage of grief for the destroyed fantasy of my relationship. I actually didn’t have to think very hard to come to this conclusion. I am angry. Tired. And ANGRY!
The title of my last post said that I am “getting tired” of all the lies. That’s actually not accurate. I am already extremely tired of the lying. It’s not that I’m “getting there.” I have arrived. In fact, I am the mayor of the town. Or maybe the governor (inspired by the last episode of The Walking Dead). Yeah, that sounds about right. I feel just diabolical enough right now to have a wall of severed heads in my office. Only every single one would belong to my husband.
That town is the setting of my story. It’s a dark and twisty place. There are lots of dangers lurking around. It looks like something out of the set of Revolution – no electricity, buildings in ruins, vines growing all over everything… The current Frankenstorm that is hammering the East Cost is the perpetual weather there.
I have always been the governor of this town. My husband was my partner – my right-hand man, so to speak. We determined that there were issues in our town, and set about trying to fix them. Once we had decided on something we wanted to do, we would figure out how it could be accomplished and work together to make it happen. Or at least that’s what I thought…
Sometimes I would identify a threat to our town or the progress we were making to repair it. In order to protect our little town, I would put a boundary around that area – complete with cones and a “Danger” sign. He would agree, nod his head, say he completely understood and that he respected that boundary. Then he would walk right over it. He would demolish any signs or markers I had erected to protect myself and our town. He would march right through without any heed to the promises he had made.
The sneaky thing is that he would do it at night, when there were no lights on that boundary and no one there to guard it. When I eventually found the destruction in the morning light he might first say he didn’t do it. He would say it was someone else’s fault or give an outlandish explanation. If I found his fingerprints all over the crime scene, he might then “come clean,” apologize, and swear he wouldn’t do it again. Alternatively, he might try to make me feel bad about where I placed that boundary. He might blame me for putting it in his way.
No matter which option he chose, at the end of the interaction my boundary was no longer standing intact. Sometimes he would move it. Sometimes he would pretend to rebuild it, but leave himself a way around. Sometimes it was so smashed up that it didn’t seem there was any way to repair it. On rare occasions, a brick wall would be built there to block that particular boundary from being crossed again without a lot of effort. Even on those occasions, there were always lasting remnants of the vast destruction that had occurred there.
This time I was able to stand back and survey my little town from a distance. I saw all of the craters, demolished walls, the smoke coming out of buildings that had been set on fire, the graffiti covering the walls, the overgrown shrubbery, and the wreckage of my trust and hope and love and marriage. For the first time I realized our town wasn’t quaint. It wasn’t slightly flawed or full of “character.” It was destroyed.
I realized patching up this one boundary, moving it a little farther back, letting him “get away” with another crime against me and the town was not the answer. I decided to banish him from the town for 3 months and go about the business of cleaning up and restoring my township. For two weeks I have been throwing away garbage, hauling away debris, and taking inventory of what was left over. Being a governor keeps you busy, after all.
In the last day or two I realized that I had allowed him to drop bomb after bomb on my town over the years. I stepped back again and saw that two weeks of hard work on my part had done a little bit, but the devastation was so immense that the town might never recover. I thought about all the time I had spent on the town, how many times I thought he was there next to me building it, how I had trusted him to care about it as much as I did.
Then I recognized that while I was living in that fantasyland of denial and hope and optimism, he was stomping around wreaking havoc on everything. He would be in planning meetings with me, talking about ways to make the town better, then leave and destroy something else. I realized how naïve I was to keep believing that he had the town’s best interest at heart, even if he “slipped up” and lied or smashed something. I felt guilty that I had let him stay in the town, damaging things so much that now they are in a completely ruined state.
Then the anger rolled in on a strong gust of wind. I became indignant and full of rage for all of the broken bits of the town lying at my feet. How dare he attack the town like this! What a complete ass!!! I wanted to seek him out in the desolate outer reaches beyond the town where he was banished to throw some of the ashes and rubble at him. I wanted to scream and rage and show him just how fucked up everything was – because of him!!!
Just as quickly as that thought entered my mind, so did the anger at myself. He wouldn’t have been able to do so much extensive damage if I had grasped earlier that this town was not what I thought it was. If I had comprehended that I was the only one working on the town, caring for the town, nurturing and putting energy in it. Maybe I would have left that town behind altogether and be in a new town by now where plans were kept, boundaries were respected, and there was another person just as committed to making it flourish as I am…
I’m still standing in this destroyed town. Anger and depression are my companions while the storm rages on. I still don’t know if the town is worth rebuilding. I don’t know if it will ever be inhabitable again. I don’t know if he will come back from his exile as a strong, capable, responsible, reliable, accountable man ready to actually work on making this town viable. Or if things are past the point of that ever being possible. I’m fairly certain it’s the latter, but only time will tell.