Saving the children

Wow. Living with my verbally abusive and physically threatening husband, I have kind of lost grips on reality. Only very close friends and a few family members know my full story of what is going on. And sometimes, his behavior, I start to assume that I am seeing things as worse than they really are. I do view everything he does through this negative lens.

Last night, my 13yo asked me to comfort her because she was overwhelmed with anxiety. She’s afraid there are people hiding in our house. Like she thinks there might be someone behind the couch, in the closet, under her bed. Logically, this is laughable because we are home 24/7, we have cameras on the doors, what would these hiders eat? But fear is not logical. So we went into her fear.

We laughed a little bit about how our house would be a terrible place to hide and talked about how hard it would be to hide here because we are all home all the time. Then her thoughts jumped to her dad making her give him a hug goodnight after she told him she didn’t want to kiss him. And in that embrace, he asked her, “Am I a good dad?” Her gut was to say. “no,” but she doesn’t want to upset him so she said, “sure.” And he released her. But then, my poor sweet child, was upset with herself for saying something that she didn’t want to say. He is making her betray herself.

And then we talked again about her anxiety. And how never being on solid ground with H, we never know how anything we do will be taken. It will either be accepted or loudly rejected but there is no way to predict which way he will go. She is tiptoeing around all day trying to not make him mad. She plans her meals around when she sees he has left the house because that is how strong her desire to avoid awkward and self-betraying conversations is.

For a long time, I thought he was a good dad. Even up until maybe a few months ago, I would have said, he’s a good dad. But that’s a lie and the kids were aware of it long before I was. He does the same things to them that he does to me. Asks an opinion and then attacks your opinion. With things as ridiculous as what kind of ketchup you like. Disagreeing is not allowed.

What has this taught my kids, it has taught them that to dad, there is a wrong answer to every question. And just like me what they have learned to do to cope is to just stop speaking to him. He doesn’t care what we think, he only wants us to confirm what he thinks.

I was lying to myself, or I was unaware, for so long of the damage he is doing to them. I thought, it was fine except for the way he treats me but the way he treats me is the only way he knows how to interact with people. He doesn’t have empathy in relationships, he just wants control and coerced respect.

13yo agreed last night that when we are allowed outside again, that she would go see a therapist. I just hope the damage is not too far gone. I hope that having two separate houses will at least give her one place of refuge. I secretly hope that when he sees it isn’t all fun and praise for him with the kids that he will lose interest in seeing them so much.

My poor babies. I feel completely responsible for this. I know better now and I am doing what I can to get myself and them some space from this dementor.

I just hope it is enough.

They are wise. They have good hearts. I just need to keep enforcing that they should trust their visceral reactions and not ignore them. Their feelings matter. Their opinions matter. How they feel matters.

He is such a psychopath.

When finalization is not final

This week we started teaching online for my school. That has been interesting. I use a lot of technology in my classrooms but because everyone in the nation was trying to school online, there were some problems with access and database errors. It made for a busy week of online teaching because I had tons of emails from kids everyday asking for help.

Tuesday night we had a finalization session with the mediator. All of these terms we wrote up on January 1, 2020. It was March 31, 2020. At the finalization it took a long time because my husband is trying to get the lawyer to understand that he doesn’t want to agree to any terms. He is telling her how he isn’t working which is again, his CHOICE and not some shitty thing that happened to him. When we asked her for recommendations abut child support, she basically told us if we wanted her professional opinion, it would cost an additional $900 and we would have to have another meeting.

As is typical for my husband, he didn’t want to spend the $900. Eventually after a 90 minute meeting, we had everything “finalized.” The lawyer took her notes to draw up the papers which she promised to us the next week.

AH! It is actually moving forward.

Then came Wednesday morning. I am in a Zoom for a meeting, answering emails, and in the middle of a massive Schoology outage when my husband comes down in to the home/office and says “we need to talk.” Which to me always means he needs my help and wants me to do something for him. I told him I was working until 3pm and got back to it.

At 3pm I went up to the kitchen to see what he needed. First of all his unemployment claim was denied because he voluntarily left his job. This is what I told him originally when he said he was taking the leave but he said someone else called and he would be paid. So he is not getting unemployment. And I don’t think it is something he is entitled to. He shouldn’t get unemployment for taking the chicken-shit way out and avoiding work. If he HAD stayed at work, his coworkers were paid full time and have not had to report to work so it would have been a good situation to be in. But no, he took the unpaid leave. When I brought up that he made this mess he said “I took the COLA because I was afraid of being on reserve (on-call)!” This is NOT what he said when he signed up for the COLA. When he signed up for the COLA he said he was taking it to avoid getting COVID-19. He told me he took it out of fear of getting sick. And I have no sympathy for him being afraid of being on reserve. I was on reserve at the same job for the better part of 6 years! He could handle it. But he didn’t want to do hard things, so he folded.

The next shitty thing that he wanted me to solve is that he sent the lawyer an email to say she should stop preparing all of our papers! While sitting at my desk all day, I do not read my personal email and so I wasn’t aware of this until he mentioned it. When I looked at the email he sent her it was like someone drunk was typing with alphabet soup. He sent her screen shots of different schedule from some app and said he wanted a schedule like one of these. This makes no sense because none of these schedules would fit with his normal work schedule!

Alternating weeks! God! I would LOVE alternating weeks! Then I could make plans and not have to talk to him about when he is working but he repeatedly said before in earlier negotiations that alternating weeks would not work for him. So we went with 2 weeks notice of his schedule. And now he emails her that he wants alternating weeks? I told him it makes no fucking sense.

Well, he doesn’t want alternating weeks. He just wanted her to know that he wants the kids 50/50, which is already in the documents. And he thinks the child support that we agreed on in January and that has remained the same figure since January is too high. He had the figure since January but only decided a night after the “finalization” session that it was too high. Why didn’t he think of this sooner? Because he doesn’t think. He just panics when it is too late. Why couldn’t he have brought any of this up BEFORE the “finalization” session?

I emailed the lawyer back and sent her new terms. We did lower the child support. He was right, it was too high but it took him 3 months to articulate that in a constructive way. And he derailed getting the documents finalized. Was that his plan?

Thursday he worked on getting in touch with banks for the refinance. All day he worked on this. When I woke up this morning, Friday, he tells me that no bank will lend money to him to refinance because he isn’t working. Again that was his CHOICE. No, it is not surprising but it is also infuriating! Had he just gone to work like he was supposed to and not volunteered for a leave out of fear, we would not be having these problems.

He doesn’t think they are problems because he loves it when the whole family is stuck in the house together. This is his dream come true.

Thursday night after dinner he shouts “SHIT! I forgot the taxes in my budget!” This is odd because he didn’t make “his budget.” He copied the file that I use and changed the numbers. I have taxes in my budget, why would he have deflated that? He ranted and said he was selling the house. Which sucks for me because I will get less equity if he sells than if he refinances. It sucks for the kids because then they have to move twice. It sucks for me because we would both be looking for a new house and he could out bid me for my tiny little slice of heaven I am looking.

I breathed. It is not my job to solve his problems. I am not responsible for his circus. He kept repeating it over and over “I forgot the taxes!” Over and over. I kept breathing.

An hour later he says “oh, they were here all along.” It is a spreadsheet. All the bills are in one column. I am not sure how you could go through the 20 categories for over an hour and not notice that one of the categories as called “taxes” but that is what he did.

This morning, no shock, the bank refused to give him refinancing terms until he is back working. I highly suspect that he called the bank and said, “hey I was looking to refinance my house and cash out some equity but I don’t have a job this month so would you approve that?” To which the obvious answer is no. I am not saying a bank would loan to anyone who was out of work. But I am saying that if it were me, I would have presented my paystubs for this month, which are still normal and hoped for approval. I think he is looking for anyway to stall this whole procedure.

And it makes me want to scream but I will just breathe.

The good thing about school being demanding right now is that I can spend most of my day with the kids in the basement. They days pass more quickly because I am busy and actually have a lot to follow up on each day.

Monday is April 13th. Almost he middle of April, and so May will come sooner than it probably feels right now. And of course there is a chance that when May arrives many things will be different. And so all I can do is focus on work and loving the kids and be as patient as possible. The only thing certain is that things change.

Beautiful Hopeful Day

I woke up early and made my favorite matcha green tea. While my phone was charging, I read my book, sipped my tea, and read the ness on the iPad. This morning the headline is that US cases of coronavirus have exceeded China.

My son woke up and came to snuggle with me. My husband came downstairs and said “good morning.” They left to walk the dogs and do some calisthenics. As they were leaving he said, “go ahead and tell the lawyer we are ready for the finalization session.” I went up to take a shower.

The light in the bathroom was gorgeous. Streaming in through the slits in the blind. The birds are chirping outside. It’s a beautiful spring day. There is an end in sight. I can handle this. I can make it.

After my shower I retreated to the basement office to finish my online lessons for next week. My son joined me to work on his school work. My husband followed because he doesn’t like to be alone. I was working when he said, “Have you seen this house? It’s $250k, is that in your budget? You could move there?”

“This is not your problem to solve,” I said. I didn’t mention that he’s looking for houses on the wrong side of the tracks and my budget is closer to $130k, but it doesn’t matter. It isn’t he business.

“DON’T BE RUDE TO ME!” He yells.

“Husband, I am working. Can you please let me work?” I replied. My sons eyes are welling with tears. He covers his ears.

“Why did you take my stuff? Would you like it if I took your stuff? I’ll take your book bag,” he picks up my school bag that I need for work. “How about I throw this on the lawn?” he shouts.

“I didn’t take something you need. I HID something that can kill me. When I can move out you can have it back.” I have already explained to him it was hide the gun or take the kids and run to safety.

“You are a real idiot,” he hollers. “Why do you always act like an idiot?” My son is crying now. “Expect to find your things on the lawn. I’m throwing your stuff out!”

“Try it and I’ll call the cops!” I shout after him as he heads back upstairs.

He comes down a few minutes later and rummages in the closet. He can’t even find the ketchup in the refrigerator, there’s no way he will find his gun. Maybe a 1% chance.

My son and I keep working. I calm him down. Explain that his dad has his feelings hurt because I want to move out so he’s acting out. That it’s okay to cry. He calms down and 10 minutes later is in a Zoom with his class, bright-eyed and cheery.

We went upstairs for lunch remembering what a beautiful day it was. We made our lunches and ate on the deck where my husband was reading his phone. He says to me, “I really love you. I still think you are cute. I do love you.” Is this the same guy who just screamed at me that I was an idiot? Am I the crazy one here?

The deck is big so we can all sit out there. Later he tells me again that he lives me and asks what he can do to fix this.

“Nothing,” I reply. It is too late. I’m afraid of him. I don’t trust anything he says. He just called me an idiot this morning, threatening to throw my things away, and this afternoon he loves me?

The lawyer hasn’t responded to set up a mediation appointment. It is a beautiful day. It carries so much hope. Tomorrow it is going to rain. And so these are the things we know are true, good times and bad times come and go. If times are bad now, eventually things will change. Just be patient and do what you can to create a new reality.

Good intentions

My mom is a chronic pain patient. There is a lot to her story that maybe I will go into some other day. She takes all kinds of medications to help her live with her pain. The past few years, she has started texting my sister and I things that don’t make sense, late at night. Sometimes it is an elaborate plan to take my kids on a trip that she physically wouldn’t be able to do. Sometimes it’s chastising me and my sister for not visiting enough. It’s always after 10pm and always something that makes no sense. If I respond when I see the text the next day, my response is ignored. She pretends the whole thing never happened.

So it wasn’t a huge surprise that my mom texted me an elaborate escape plan late Thursday night. Telling me how I should pack up and run to safety. Saying she would see me this weekend. Making it sound like we had arranged plans when we had not. But it was surprising that she included my husband on this text chain.

This combined with everything else going on in the world was too much for his fragile psyche to handle. And he kind of lost it Friday morning. I explained that my mom was just texting under the influence of drugs and it was nonsense but it made him scared that we would leave the state. And fear sparks his anger. He screamed at the dogs for barking as neighbors walked by. I don’t mean he shouted for them to stop. I mean with the full force and volume of his voice screamed “SHUT UP!” at the barking dogs. This scared my son and I who were in the same room. My son started to cry. My husband didn’t notice anyone else. My daughter ran downstairs because she assumed he was yelling at me and she thought it was her job to save me.

We were all frozen and huddled together on the couch. He then moved a chair to the back window and sat looking out at the yard. Then sobbed uncontrollably. Shaking, loud. Sobbing with the full intensity of profound loss. He sobbed for maybe 3 minutes but it seemed like a long time when we were waiting to see if this was the end of the rage or the beginning. Then he wiped his eyes and left. I finally exhaled.

The kids said they were ok and we snuggled a while longer. His phone location showed he was hiking. Which at least gave us an hour without having to worry. I packed a few days of clothes for the kids and I. Packed my journals, my knitting, my books. Packed the kids school bags so everything could be quickly grabbed in an emergency. I tried to open his gun safe, to see if he took his handgun with him or if it was at home. I couldn’t open the safe so I hid it. There was something inside but I was unable to tell if it was ammunition or the gun. I texted friends and asked if I was crazy. Many encouraged me to leave immediately. But I am hesitant. I think if I leave, that will make his behavior even crazier? It will be more upsetting to the kids if we just run out of the house?

And he hasn’t, yet, hurt us. He is verbally abusive, yes. Usually only to me. He is unpredictable, yes. Which puts everyone on edge. But I also know after an inappropriate outburst like that, even while he defends his actions, he tries to be extra nice to show he is a “good guy.” I am no longer fooled, but it does mean that there is a period of can after the storm and he likely won’t be angry when he returns.

I texted him after I was packed. I told him that his yelling made us feel unsafe. And if he could not keep his actions under control, I was leaving and taking the kids out of state, to my parents’. Meanwhile, I texted my mom and told her I know that was an accident but you made my situation worse by texting him too. Please put your phone in a drawer in the kitchen before bed so this doesn’t happen again! I talked to my dad about her behavior but he says, “she’ll just be mad if I confront her about it.” He refused to take responsibility for her nor encourage her to take responsibility for herself. They want to help but they are very unhelpful.

The kids and I spent the day on eggshells. It was a gorgeous day. My daughter and I took the dogs on a long walk. Our suburban neighborhood looks like something out of the Twilight Zone. Families of 4-6 people, some with dogs, walking together everywhere. Some in the middle of the streets to maintain six feet away from the other walking families. We saw friends and shouted greetings and conversations from six feet away. Wild times.

Around 2pm my husband announced that he signed up for a voluntary leave from work. This means he doesn’t have to go to work and is also not paid. He thinks this is great because he won’t have to go to work for the next six weeks. I am not thrilled because he is normally the source of most of our income and he did not discuss this with me at all. If he’s not working, he can’t refinance the house. I can’t get my own place. I can’t move out. He says he did this to “protect the family.” But I am sure it is a cowardly act to trap me into staying in the house with him longer. I took my daughter to Target.

He’s texting me “Who has anger issues now?” because I am fuming that he would do this without even checking with me. He says he will collect unemployment $700/week, which is about 2/3 his salary. That seems too high. But also, I’ve collected unemployment. (I was pregnant and a flight attendant and after 26 weeks I was not allowed to fly per company policy.) You have to call in. You have to call back every week. In normal, healthy economic times it took me hours to do this in order to get paid. He doesn’t even have enough patience to figure out how to call in sick without throwing his phone. He won’t be able to do this! He’ll expect me to do the work for him, and I won’t!

He doesn’t understand that not telling your spouse, even if we are separating soon, about a major financial decision is a legitimate reason for me to be mad! While the dogs barking is not a reason to be mad! He sees no difference. And I had to leave because he cannot discuss things. We stayed out for 2 hours waiting in an extremely long car wash line. My daughter learned to pump gas.

When we got home I explained how he should have discussed this with me. How will we pay our bills? How is he going to support himself when I move out? He says “don’t we have savings?” Yes. Savings to use to pay the taxes on this house. Savings to use to buy furniture for my new place. We don’t have savings to spend on food because you don’t feel like going to work. So he says, “fine, I’ll take it out.” Still, no discussion. I am not okay with that. Then if he gets sick he will say I forced him to go to work. He’s like fine I’ll put it back in. Still no discussion! It’s maddening! I told him he can do whatever he wants but he should understand that half the savings is his and half is mine. That disability takes several weeks to arrive. And he shouldn’t be surprised when he has spent all the savings making up for his lack of income. He says he understands. But I bet you $100 he will blame me when there is no savings.

So he is never looking out for me but I am always trying to do what is fair for the both of us. And I need to leave as soon as I can. My dad says he can give me a down payment for a new house but realtors are closed. Can they sell homes? If I leave would he ever refinance the house or would he try to just live there, never giving me my equity back? Would I be screwed?

The courts are closed, we can’t file divorce. The lawyer-mediator didn’t realize that I had sent them all the required documentation so they were just sitting there waiting and doing nothing on our case. It seems like everything that could be going wrong, is.

As predicted, my husband is playing extra nice. I have been sleeping in my daughter’s room and since his yelling at the dogs, he has been bringing me tea in bed every morning. He has been running to McDonalds to get breakfast sandwiches. I am not fooled. It is just a matter of time before he explodes again. But at least it is a break from the stress that his instability brings. Maybe if he is not anxious about getting the virus he will be easier to live with.

Today I need to go through my finances again and decide if I will rent an apartment (which is expensive) or buy a house. Should I wait for my equity as a down payment or take the cash my dad is offering? Maybe these choices don’t really matter. Maybe all that matters is that I leave so I can find some peace?

I got up at 2am to use the bathroom. I had 6 messages from my mom, including one blank audio message. She sent them at midnight. She was begging me to call a shelter and leave my house immediately. ??? What the fuck. I know this is news for her but I have been living with my husband’s anger for almost 20 years. While I recognize it is emotional and verbal abuse, he doesn’t hit me. I hid the gun. Yes, he has obvious mental health problems but he won’t get help. My life is not in danger. I am not ripping my kids from their home to go to a dirty shelter in the middle of a pandemic! And why am I explaining logically because she obviously texted me while on drugs. After just telling me the day before that she wouldn’t text. That she would put her phone away. What if I was in a more dangerous situation? Her actions could have gotten me killed!

On top of the escape plan she was mad that I told my dad that she accidentally texted my husband. Am I the one with mental health problems? It’s so hard to tell. No one is acting logically. She said he was mad and I shouldn’t have told him. If she doesn’t want me to tell him then she needs to stop texting at night when she is on drugs. She responded this morning “FINE!!! I won’t ever text u!” Honestly, she is the least of my worries today.

Then my dad texts, want to FaceTime? Sure! *sarcasm* I’m stuck in my house with my soon-to-be-ex-husband while my mom is calling domestic violence shelters but let’s all get on FaceTime and have a nice chat. Am I the only one who sees this is weird?

I hope that this pandemic will be over soon and I can find peace. I would just like a quiet peaceful life. I think it is worth asking myself, what am I doing that is preventing a peaceful life. Identify those things, and work to make changes. That’s why I don’t see my parents often. That is why I am leaving my husband. I just want to find some peace.

And this morning I have a sore throat! Please spare me corona. Unfortunately, when I have previously been hospitalized for my own bad health, I have found staying in the hospital to be amazing. Relaxing and stress-free. It is peaceful. But I don’t want to be that sick. I don’t want to scare the kids. I need to be here for them.

Om shanti, shanti, shanti. Thank you mom, for helping me to practice. Thank you corona, for helping me to practice. Thank you husband, for helping me to practice. Everything is temporary. Everything changes. Things will not stay like this forever. The only thing constant is change.

*note* I know that both my mom and husband have mental health problems. And I have done everything I can to encourage them both to seek help for anxiety, depression, and counseling for childhood trauma. Both deny they have any problems and indeed blame me for their behaviors. My mom today, instead of seeing the problem was she texted my husband her secret plan for my escape, she thinks the problem is that I told my dad about it. My husband instead of seeing the problem is he made a major financial decision effecting us both, he sees the problem as I value money over his health. I don’t want him sick! But I also don’t appreciate, “surprise! I quit my job!” when he has no financial plan about how that will work. Mental health issues are diseases that people need to seek treatment for. At the same time, I am not willing to sacrifice my quality of life forever for people who aren’t interested in introspection or improving their own mental health. So, I apologize if any of my descriptions here seem less than compassionate towards people with mental health problems. I do have compassion, which is why I still talk to my mom and why I have stayed with my husband for so long. It is difficult to draw the line of when do I give up and work on my life without you because you aren’t willing to work on your own life? It has taken me a long time to get to this point. And how I wish I arrived here last year so I could be done with it all and locked in my own peaceful home away from the drama! But that is not my reality. So I am just doing the best I can today.

Peace and Love -Lyn