Court: Money for Justice?

Today is yet another court date. There is always a 50/50 chance whether or not opposing counsel will show up, or the judge. My attorney is always there, which is good, but it also means I get charge regardless if anything gets done or not. Every phone call, e-mail, court appearance, proposal drafted, motion created/submitted, all of it I gets charged. I absolutely think that my lawyer should be paid for her hard work. But some the charges seem like I’m being taken advantage of. What can I do though? I absolutely need her services.

So we do this slow, painful, stress inducing dance called divorce proceedings. I have broken down in to tears countless times in frustration and feeling powerless. The judge has made it clear that since there was no direct abuse by my husband to our son, he should keep his parental rights despite never exercising them. Never mind that he fought with me in front of our son as I constantly begged him not to; hours on end, almost daily. Never mind the knife he brought in the room with us. Never mind throwing my phone against the wall. Never mind trapping me in his car, or the bathroom, or the bedroom so I couldn’t move freely and was forced to engage him. Never mind threatening to kill himself in front of our son and I so we could “watch,” and then deny it to anyone else.

I have hours of phone calls with this asshole recorded so people would believe me. None of it is usable in court. His ex-girlfriend even reached out to me on Facebook, completely unsolicited, to apologize and detail how she had no idea how manipulative and dangerous he was. Again, it is not directly connected to my son. So, according to the judge, none of this matters.

I wish he would have been physically abusive instead of committing so much emotional torture. At least if he hit me, everyone could see with their own eyes what a piece of shit he is. Oh well I guess. It is what it is, and all I can do anymore is try to take the best care of myself and my son as I can.

Cubicle Prison

Sometimes, I feel very disconnected from the world. I’m like an actor in a play who never got the script and has no clue what lines to say. Quick to smile and even quicker to walk away; I’m not one for prolonged contact with strangers. I have to wonder if I was always like this.

To an extent, I think I can say I’ve never been much of a people person, but that hasn’t exactly kept me down. I aced my honors speech course. I was a student aid for my professor in college helping freshman with literary analysis.  I’m not one to wait a stupidly long time for the waiter to come back to tell them something is messed up with my order. I don’t avoid interactions in which I need to do or say something, but other than that, I couldn’t care less about basic human interaction. Give me a book, a bottle, or scalding hot bath, and I am completely content to not deal with anyone.

What the hell does that say about me? It’s not that I implicitly don’t care about other people. I do deeply care about most people. But in my daily life; the boring monotonous drudgery that is working in a cubicle for 8 hours a day in a state where going outside in the winter months can literally hurt you… I could not care less about the people around me.

“Stay warm!” “The day is almost over.” “It sure is cold out today.” “Boy, he is getting so big! How old is he now?” “It’s almost the weekend!” “How are you?” “Fine.” “Good.” “Did you have a good weekend?” “How was your vacation?” “Oh my gosh you looks so good! How far along are you?” “Good morning!” “Good night.” “See you tomorrow.” “Drive Safe.” And my new personal favorite… “Happy Friday-Eve!” All of this, I am happy to live without. I smile, I nod, exchange pleasantries, pretend to care, but really, if I disappeared to Alaska tomorrow, I would feel no sorrow. I would not miss this congenial pergatory.

I do understand that there are many other jobs out there that are perhaps worse than mine. Physically demanding and/or dangerous jobs, far more monotonous, thankless jobs, or no job at all could all have any person worse off than I. I’m not asking for pity. I am simply stating that this kind of job, for me, slowly kills my soul day by day. If I do anything else right in my life, it will be to get the hell out of this industry and find a job I actually give a damn about.

From Fear

I realized a couple days ago that I am starting to move past the fear I used to live in daily. I accepted a friend request from an old friend without a second thought and then it dawned on me. I would have never done that a year and a half ago. It would have incited such a terrible fight it would have felt like the end of the world. Under his reign of terror, the smallest thing could light the fuse.

I make no excuses about the fact that I am imperfect and played a part in all this, but I did not twist my entire way of thinking into something so grotesque all by myself. I thought I had to get permission to go out with a friend. I was isolated and had very few people I could talk to. Even those people, like my mother and a handful of friends, he treated as enemies. If I ever went out, which was rare, I was under extreme anxiety the entire time wondering just how angry he would be once I got home. I cut plans short or cancelled all the time to avoid this. I even had to be careful what I posted on social media, because if it was negative in any way, he took it as a personal attack on him. Poor, poor him! He would ask how I could treat him like that. Didn’t I know that I should shut up and be grateful for all the long hours he worked? Didn’t I know this was a complete and sufficient contribution to our family? Screw that!

I vividly remember the anxiety I experienced any time I heard the outside door to our condo building open and shut. Was it him? Most of the time it wasn’t, but I still felt the same fearful stab in my gut well after the plenary order of protection went into effect.

In an attempt to minimize fighting, I would try and cook or bake him things to keep him happy. It never did for long. We couldn’t go to the store together, because it always turned into a fight. Yet he would criticize things I bought as wasting money, despite spending hours combing over coupons, ads, and comparing prices and sales.

If I asked him to do anything when he got home, he would tell me I was nagging him. It was like that even before we got married. If I asked for his opinion or for help planning the wedding, I was nagging. The few dancing lessons we didn’t even have to pay for were “unnecessary,” even though I didn’t know how to dance. He criticized me mid lesson for not doing what I was supposed to. Before our son was born, I asked him to come to the store with me to pick out a color for the nursery area in our room. It was one small wall. We fought at the store and all the way the way home. Only after I had been baffled, bawling my eyes out for an hour did he turn the car around to go back and get one measly bucket of paint together.

As a single mother working full time, I understand the tiredness one feels after a long day at work. I get it. But, that is hardly an excuse to be a miserable, angry human being, taking it out on the people around you. I cannot count how many times I was called a b*tch, a nag, a c*nt, etc. Screw that!

He always had to know where I was, and if I developed any kind of autonomy as a person, he reacted as though I was having an affair. “Who is there? Whose d*ck are you sucking?” It went on like this for years. The thing is, I never cheated on him. He was the one who wound up having an affair after our son was born, because he “needed to feel appreciated.” He lost his restaurant and a huge promotion over it. Worse, he swore up and down it was all a rumor. I was supportive of him until the day I saw the proof. After years of verbal abuse, he did the very thing he harassed me about. Screw that!

We never were able to effectively communicate. I would assume he understood rational thought processes. He assumed I knew what he expected all the time. To this day this is a barrier. Even with a plenary order of protection in place limiting our communication to our son, he is still able to reach his hand into my life and shake shit up. Granted, I have grown and the extent of the damage he can cause is minimal, but it is still baffling to me. Who is this person? How could I have thought he ever cared about me in any real capacity? I think he is fundamentally incapable of compassion. I think he is completely incapable of looking outside of his very narrow view of life in which he is the center. Screw that!

I used to live in fear. I didn’t know how to be alone. I only found meaning in being with another person. “They” made me whole. This was my fatal flaw, and it nearly killed me being married to a narcissistic sociopath. Getting away from him was and remains one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I had to rip myself out of a world I thought was real and plunge into a completely foreign world called reality. It’s a world I was not used to and very uncomfortable being in. Change and discomfort aside, I am living a new life today. I am trying to thrive. I will never return to that hell I called a life; married to my worst enemy. Screw that! 

To The Future

I have an amazingly smart little boy. Yes, I know most parents say this.  I got to spend the majority of the first two years of his life home with him. Now that I am working and he goes to daycare, he surprises me with new abilities every day. We are having conversations. He can understand logic. His memory is sometimes scary, as is his ability to figure out technology. Potty training is almost conquered, and he is able to do a lot independently. He has friends that give him hugs goodbye when I pick him up from daycare. He is turning into this little person, and it is all happening so fast.

He is growing up, while I am tearing down. I am trying to get through this divorce and start life anew. I want to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. I am going to have to file for bankruptcy and possibly find someplace new to live; a prospect that is not nearly as scary as it once was. I want to do a couple things dramatically different this time around. I want to find a job I don’t hate, or at least one that is remote. I want to get rid of my car and use the money I save to start investing. I want to live each day as happily as possible. I am tired of the mind numbing, soul crushing monotony of working a 9-5. Endless days spent daydreaming about the weekend, and saying “One day…” No more of that nonsense.

I have learned to live with very little. Granted, my definition of “very little” as an American is very different from most of the world, but as a lower middle class single parent in the Midwest, I do not need much to survive. I want to find a way of living in which that allows me to thrive and create a different future for my son. Really, isn’t that all anyone wants? Perhaps not. But for me, these are my goals.

The Twisted Middle Part Two

One minute he would threaten to take everything away, the next, he was going to leave and never return. It was exhausting and it felt like I was watching some animal caught in a trap fighting for it’s life. But he was fighting for control back, not his life. He constantly threatening to kill himself if I left him. After saying it so many times, his mother, our second counselor, and I managed to get him committed. He was not happy about it. He took all the money out of our joint account and said he would only put it back if I got him out. I felt sad knowing he wouldn’t take advantage of the help provided in the hospital.

I knew it was only a temporary reprieve. It was a holiday weekend, and on January second, I went to court for an emergency order of protection. Since my husband was in the behavioral health unit, the judge did not see an imminent threat and did not grant it. However, a plenary order of protection was set for status.

It was granted by the skin of my teeth. The sheriff had attempted to serve him with the notice many times, but he was never home at his parents. I finally got a hold of the Sheriff’s office and gave them his work address. He was served at noon the day before court. Two years he was ordered to stay away from me, my home, and could only have supervised visitation with our son. I could breath again. I bought a new car since I didn’t have one, got a job, put my son in  the best daycare I could find, and spent two months trying to get free legal representation through the county. Free legal aid in my county is overburdened, and I realized nothing was going to happen quickly if I went down that path. So, I asked my dad for money to pay for a retainer, selected a lawyer I liked, and filed for divorce.

I was told in my consult, that I had a very good chance of getting soul custody of my son. This did not turn out to be the case. Since the abuse was only between my husband and I, the judge believed he should have rights and access to our son. I never kept our son away from him, but he would never spend time with him if I wasn’t there. If I was, it inevitably turned into a fight, and my son witnessed all of it in our small, one bedroom condo. No, my husband did not directly or physically abuse my son, but indirectly, he sure as hell did. In the eyes of the law, however, that doesn’t carry any weight.

So here we are, almost a year later, there have been multiple court dates for status, visitation proposals, unsuccessful mediation, and the money is all gone to fund my representation. What has been accomplished? Nothing. No parenting agreement, no debts nor assets divided. Only more court dates and fees to pay. I don’t know how this will all turn out, but the one thing I do know is that I am a million times happier today after taking that first scary step to get away from my abuser.

The Twisted Middle

After the birth of my son, I no longer had a 9-5 job to go to every day. I had a 24/7 job of keeping this tiny human alive, happy, and healthy. It’s both a terrifying and wonderful thing. After about three months, I started to feel like I had a grip on keeping the bundle of needs thriving, and I started to get stir crazy.

Longing for my old life, I started inviting old friends over. I could finally have a drink again! After all, I deserved it. Well, this is when I began down the path that would lead me to the rooms of AA. I knew I used to drink a lot. I classified myself as a “partier” in high school and college. I became a bar fly while my then boyfriend and I were dating. I was a connoisseur of fine beers. The bar we used to go to had 40 different beers on tap and a revolving door of new kinds. There was always an excuse to go. I thought it was normal to go there every day. It didn’t phase me when we weren’t able to afford the pricey micro-brews anymore and just ordered draft light beers that were cheap. None of it gave me pause.

It was only after I had my son that I started to realize it was not normal. I was home alone all day, every day. I was lonely and simultaneously dreaded my husband coming home. We fought all the time. I was exhausted from doing everything to take care of our son and home. He felt working all the time was doing his part and thought I was unappreciative. I began to drink every day. I got sick and was living off of soup, cold medicine, and beer. I realized I had a problem looking in the mirror one day. I saw a soulless, selfish person unable to stop herself. But I tried anyway and stopped cold turkey. I went through such bad withdrawal I had to go to the hospital over night. It was a wake up call.

I found two AA meetings with babysitting and never looked back. My husband resented this new part of my life. We grew farther and farther apart. My shame of being an alcoholic kept me from leaving him sooner. Every fight we had he would drag it up to sling in my face. A couple times he told me to go buy a bottle in anger. I stayed in the relationship out of shame until I finally forgave myself. I had healed, had a beautiful son, and decided to give my marriage one more truly all in chance. I let down all my guards and recommitted to being a partner to my husband.

The morning after we were intimate for the first time in a long time, I found out he was having an affair with his employee. Good ol’ Facebook Messenger tipped me off. My husband was asleep, he hardly used Facebook, and I was confused why the Messenger “ding” went off on his phone. It was a reply. “I love you too. Have a good day too,” followed by a mess of kissy faces and hearts. The words and hearts blurred, my husband woke up and snatched his phone before I could read much of it. He tried to play it off, but I’m no idiot. I was done.

I turned in to a paranoid creeper for a few weeks. Checking our phone text logs, his social media, etc. He met with her the night after I found out. He said he had to meet her in person “to end it.” That was a lie I wouldn’t find out until several months later.

Queue round two of marriage counseling. The counselor, although intelligent and compassionate, seemed hell bent on keeping us together. I was over the marriage at this point and was buying time until I could afford an attorney. I started a bartender job at a snooty Italian joint so I could save money from my tips without him knowing. He was very controlling and hated that I had a job. He eventually caught on to my motives for saving money.

I had to start recording my phone calls with him. He would threaten me with anything he could and deny it all to anyone else. I finally accepted that if I was ever going to get away from him, I had to be okay with the worst he threatened to do to me. It was a micro-step of faith in something outside of my miserable little world. Then, I was free. I was free of that horrible fear based grip, and he was pissed.

In the Beginning

Once upon a delusion, I desperately chased the “American” dream: The nuclear household with the husband working, the mother home with the kids, in some dystopian illusion from 1950. I thought that my life would be perfect only after I got a husband, got the home, and had the kids. With complete dedication to that dream and in complete denial of anything that could tarnish it; I got pretty far.

My high school was a societal bubble of very different economic, athletic and academic classes. Rich, athletic, and/or rich academic types dominated the school. Low income misfits, stoners, and goths were very few and far between. I didn’t really fit in to any group, but most glaringly not with the rich, athletic, or academic types. In high school, I never did anything impressive. I spent my time day dreaming of the perfect relationship, listening to music to drown everything else out, self-destructing in defiance and rage, or looking for someone to solve all my problems. There was so much angst and pessimism running rampant inside my head; not like in college.

College was a strange new world of seemingly limitless possibility. I found my passion for research and writing, and I was published for the first time. Finally, after relying on myself to pay for college, I graduated Manga Cum Loude with other academic honors. My future seemed bright, but it felt uncertain and terrifying.

I moved out from my childhood home, got engaged after an annoyingly long three year relationship, planned a decent wedding on a tiny budget, got married to the high school “sweet” heart I never knew I had, worked two jobs, managed to buy a small condo in a nice neighborhood, and bought the shiny new car. None of it got me to that happy dystopia I was chasing. In fact, I was completely miserable.

The relationship with my husband began to strain even before getting married. I ignored every warning sign. We fought a lot, and I hated it. After a few years of marriage, I was ready to leave. I was over the idea of having kids to fix everything, but I realize it too late. I wound up pregnant two weeks after making a firm plan to leave. I had even restarted taking my birth control. So, I stayed. Why? Because of a sworn upon promise, “the relationship [would] change. He [would] change.” He did not.

I should have left long ago. I was too busy enjoying being pregnant and learning how to care for a tiny human being. In a daze from lack of sleep, I was too drained to notice the miserable dynamics of our relationship were recurring with new gusto. We had a beautiful son. I could tune out the rest… for a while.