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

Divorce in the Time of Coronavirus

The winter of 2020 has been very mild in my area. I am a teacher and colleagues were begging for just a day or two off school to get a mental break, that rewarding rest we crave. Some time to recharge our batteries to return with a fresh smile and rested eyes.

I am a science teacher, specifically biology. When we first heard of this new virus in China we were not scared, we were intellectually curious. And China seems so far away. We had no concerns. We didn’t stock up on supplies. We listened of school closures with jealousy. Not because we want an epidemic nor a pandemic but just some respite. Just a break.

Then it was spreading, we used our knowledge to teach or students. We talked about viral replication, why soap is better than hand sanitizer, how children don’t seem to get that sick from this so they shouldn’t worry about themselves but that we don’t want grandparents, parents, or people with other conditions getting this either. Wash your hands. Don’t touch each other.

Additionally, I am dealing with another type of stress. My husband and I are in the process of getting divorced. All of things that led us to that point, well, it’s too much to put in an introductory blog post. He would like to remain married. I cannot stay married to him. He doesn’t understand why we can’t work it out. I think that trying to teach someone who has lived for 50 years how to have empathy and compassion is something I am not willing to spend the rest of my life doing. My feelings are hurt because he wants to stay together, tells me he loves me when his actions show otherwise. His feelings are hurt because he considers me his best friend and I want nothing to do with him.

Maybe I will get into all of that, maybe not. We have different perspectives. I can’t see them being reconciled. We have 2 kids. A thirteen year-old daughter and an eight year-old son.

When it was announced that schools were closed in Pennsylvania, I was glad. Teachers could see last week that eventually we would close and epidemiologically, closing earlier makes more sense than closing later. Kids are still being fed although they aren’t getting counseling they would normally have in school. Some homes aren’t great. Some kids like coming to school to escape their homes but for the epidemic, we sent them all home.

I am a planner and we made a schedule to follow so that my kids aren’t spending 24/7 on a screen but how do I distance myself from my soon-to-be-ex-husband when we are stuck in our home together, possibly for 4-6 weeks?

I am reading, I’ll try blogging. I am grading late work my students are turning in. My husband is hoping that this lock-in will give us time to talk. That this intense togetherness can heal our problems. I think it will only allow me to practice patience. My husband has attention issues. He always needs to be the center of it. He always wants the family in the same room, doing things together. He thinks this is great, the greatest. Maybe I would too if I felt valued in this relationship.

I know I am lucky, I am not stuck with a physical abuser. I have only been threatened with physical violence by my husband who “loves me”. But that’s not something you do to someone you love.

Three weeks ago as we were turning papers into our mediator, he was saying he can’t make enough to live on his own and pay me child support. I am literally holding my breath waiting for him to refinance our shared home so I have a down-payment to move out while we wait for the divorce to be finalized. Three weeks ago he was scared and worried about making enough to pay me child support for the kids. He kept telling me that I was asking for too much, when I was asking for $500 less than his pay stubs and the state office recommended. Now, he is telling me he is going to take a leave from work if they offer it. He wants to just stay home with the whole family here. So I am just stuck, waiting, listening to his panic and also his refusal to do anything to help his situation.

I stocked up on wine and the grocery store should have more. I am breathing and practicing patience as much as I can.

Today I have already unloaded the dishwasher twice. When does this become a joint effort? Thankfully, he has been leaving to hike everyday. Thankfully, I have time to read. Thankfully, our schedule is keeping the kids’ noses in books a few hours a day. Thankfully, he does not physically abuse me. That has to be a real concern for some people right now.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has resources available. They have people there to chat. There are so many things that could be worse than this but this also is not easy. My prediction of 4-6 more weeks of this is based on what I know about diseases and how long it took for things to settle down in China. I am hoping we are not being held that long. I am hoping he returns to traveling for work soon so we have a break. I wish I had moved out years ago so I would not be stuck in this situation. But I am not one to cling to regret.

What can I do?

  1. Read – Currently reading “Truly, Madly, Guilty” by Liane Moriarty
  2. Blog – tell others how this is going for me
  3. Bake – we are out of bread and english muffins
  4. Board games – forcing the kids to pick one game every night
  5. Meditate – admittedly, I am bad at formal meditation practice but great at taking a breath in the moment
  6. Yoga – the studio is closed but I have some resources to create mini-flows at home
  7. Stream – all those Netflix and Hulu shows that I never have time for
  8. Draw – once a passion of mine, something that has died but can be revived
  9. Knit – Saving this for later

Anyone else stuck inside with someone they don’t appreciate? How are you dealing?