Friday, 30 April 2010

The Green Green Grass of Home

I had a job interview with the NHS today, my first in a very long time. I spent all week preparing for it. I was made for that job. That job was made for me. Or so I told myself. I refused to think I wouldn't get it. I bought a new suit, researched the company, thought of answers to questions they would ask me, thought of questions to ask them.

And I didn't get the job. I interviewed quite well, the would-be boss told me, but there was a stronger candidate with more recent experience who had worked in the NHS. It hit me hard, of course, because I had allowed myself to take ownership of that job. And I thought what more could I have done? Nothing, the woman said. But there must be a way around this 18-year gap in employment. Yes, I put down all my volunteer experience. But how am I to get more recent experience if no one will hire me?

That job was going to be the ticket out of my misery. It was going to allow me a new life. Never mind that it didn't pay that much. I was all set to go out and buy new work clothes (from Tesco and Asda, being the spendthrift that my future ex-husband accuses me of being). I was going to be a working woman again. Maybe I could even afford to move out.

Tonight, while watching TV (by myself of course), I had a few revelations.

One is that I'm a "grass is always greener on the other side" sort of person. Always have been. Job not going great? Get another one and move on. Unhappy relationship? Leave it and move on. Life is always better on the other side. Except it's not. I have done this before with potential jobs, expecting my life to be magically changed by the mere fact of a different set of employers.

Another revelation I had is that I like to make grand gestures to show my love for someone. I move countries and give up my career. I give up a marriage and cause serious ructions in my relationship with my children. And do you think I get the same grand gestures back? Of course not because not everyone is as stupidly naive as I am. Not everyone is as willing to fuck up their lives. Hubby refused to give up his job and move to America for me. So I moved here, and then felt seriously homesick and depressed for at least 10 years.

The third revelation is that I expect the men in my life to fill a void. As I sat there on my own (my kids won't watch TV with me anymore), I realised that this was what I did every night even before the split with Hubby. There has been an emptiness and a gnawing hunger inside me for a deeply fulfilling relationship. I am lonely, but I've been lonely for years. Hubby just couldn't or wouldn't fill that void. He wasn't the first man in my life who couldn't do that though.

So what to do about these revelations? I don't know. I don't know what the next step is after revelation. I will continue to look for a job. And if I'm lucky enough to get another interview I will try that bit harder. I have to shine. I thought I did today, but evidently not enough to overcome 18 years of sitting on the sidelines. I have to work harder and longer. Somehow I will get there. Someday I will get there.

And the grass will be lush and green.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The Bad Mother

Hubby has a job. I should be jumping up and down for joy. I am not and here is why:

Hubby had three job offers last week (a bit like buses -- you wait ages for one then they all come at once): one on very good money, one with lots of benefits, and one with lots of risks but he likes the people. He took the third. He took the kids out to lunch yesterday to celebrate/explain (depends on who you talk to). Only he didn't tell me he was taking the kids out so I came home to an empty house and defrosted pork joint I'd planned to cook after church. Miffed is not strong enough to describe how I felt. Why? Not because of the empty house or defrosted pork joint. Because he wss sneaky and underhanded about taking the kids out. Because the only family role I am allowed to have anymore is cook/cleaner. It felt like and was probably meant to be a slap in my face. Here he is, Beneficent Dad Who Does Everything For His Kids. I do nothing. I've done nothing for 16 years. I don't wash, iron, and mend their clothes. I don't cook their meals. I don't take them anywhere. I don't help with their homework (actually, I'm not allowed because of my inferior American education). I am a Bad Wife and Mother. And I do not deserve to partake of any enjoyment with my family.

When I discovered where they were (after texting my son and daughter), I decided I wasn't going to cook the defrosted pork joint. I cleaned the house I no longer love. I weeded the garden I no longer love. When they got home, hubby went to the store and bought chicken to cook on the grill I bought him for his birthday one year. Only he lied about it. About 6 p.m. I came in from the garden and decided to make myself a baked potato. I offered to make one for my son as well but he said his dad was going to cook for them. News to me. I came down and asked Hubby (who hadn't offered to include me) and he said it was chicken he'd bought for Daughter's barbecue last week. I said that was in the freezer; he said he'd taken it out earlier and would either cook it for the kids or for his lunch. I said there was no way it would be defrosted in time. I let him know I was unhappy because he'd seen that I'd taken out the pork roast. I looked at the chicken. It was boneless chicken breasts. He'd bought bone-in thighs for Daughter's barbecue, which are still in the freezer. A small lie? Certainly, a stupid one. And why? To undermine me yet again in my children's eyes. I am the Petty Mother who refused to cook when she found out he'd taken the kids out. Need I remind you that we are all still living in the same house?

I am in a no-win situation. If I stand up for myself, as my friends urge me, I look like a Bad Mother. Certainly, Hubby twists it around that way. If I do nothing, Daughter treats me like the doormat I deserve to be. I don't have conversations with my children anymore but I can hear them talking to their dad. In a way I understand. They feel like they don't know me anymore. I am the Evil Mother who broke up their happy home. Except I wasn't happy. And now I really am not happy.

Yesterday, my mother let slip details of a conversation she and Hubby had in October. He apparently told her I spent the $600 she gave us last summer while we were in Florida. Now, again miffed doesn't begin to describe how I felt. My own mother talking about me behind my back to this hateful man. She tried to backtrack and say it was back in October and it didn't matter anymore. This from the woman who still gets mad about incidents that happened when she was 4. She tried to make out that her living situation is as bad or worse than mine. Then went into a long, detailed monologue about how my stepmother had insulted her a few years ago. I told her I wasn't in a fit state to talk to her anymore and hung up.

I know the solution to this situation. I need to get a job. I need to get the hell out of this house. I so wanted a family life, but my family life was shattered long before I got interested in another man. If I had been married to a lovely man, he would still be a lovely man. He wouldn't be a Machiavellian freak who's trying to destroy me every way he can.

I went to a friend's house yesterday and vented. Tears of rage, frustration, and sadness poured down my face. My next court date for the financial settlement is July 30. That seems so far off. We got an offer for the house last week that was £120,00 less than the asking price. Hubby turned it down before I even heard about it. The estate agents rang him first. Typical. Even estate agents know that my opinions have no value.

I hang out in my bedroom a lot with the cats. They still love me. I used to watch TV with Daughter and Son but they have made it clear they don't appreciate my company.

Do I deserve all this? And when will Hubby tire of getting his revenge on me?

Thursday, 22 April 2010

I Am Not A Monster

I'm not a bad person. Really, I'm not. Yes, I have my peccadilloes just like anyone else. But I'm a people pleaser. I like people and I want them to like me. I had a few knocks in life. You don't get to my age without them. There are a few things I believe in passionately. Or did.

One was couples should stay together for the sake of the children. This was almost a religion to me. Stay together and your children will turn out better. Look at me. My parents split when I was 15. It was a horrible, nasty divorce. My mother threatened to kill herself, my dad, me. She was committed to a mental hospital, wrongly diagnosed as schizophrenic, put on anti-schizophrenia medication that turned her into a zombie. I moved in with my dad, and she moved 4,000 miles away when I was 16. My dad immediately started up with the woman who became (and still is) his wife. They didn't treat me too well. I became a wild child, but I graduated from high school, college, and had a career.

Then I moved here, and marriage and the family became my career. That career is shattered now by my own actions (and Hubby's too to be fair). I really, really wish I'd never given up my career. After seeing my mother struggle to get work at the age of 50, I swore I would never allow myself to be financially dependant on a man and risk being in the same boat. And guess what I did? And what a man to be financially dependant on. Oh, he took care of me financially. On his terms of course. See, it's all his money, and he lets me spend some of it on food, etc. Then complains. So I said let's have a budget. He said we didn't need a budget. I could go on and on in this vein. But what good would it do?

The URL for this blog is restinpeacedearabby. The title of the blog is wakeupandsmellthecoffee. For those who don't know, Dear Abby and her twin sister Ann Landers were America's premier agony aunts. They dished out advice to people like "Wake up and smell the coffee." And "Ask yourself if you're better off with him or without him." Well, that was at the forefront of my mind when I created this blog. I was deeply depressed. I had started to go through menopause, Hubby worked away all week and was a bastard basically all weekend, I felt like my life was meaningless. I thought of cutting myself just to make myself feel something. Even pain would be better. Then other things happened. We got a dog. He got hip dysplasia. He had surgeries. Hubby lost his job. Kids moved on to secondary school. Hubby and I were going to buy a business. Deal fell apart. We were going to buy second business. Deal fell apart. Dog had to be put down when he became unpredictable and violent.

And one day I woke up and really did smell the coffee. And the answer to the question would I be better with or without him changed. Because I got brave. I didn't listen to his lies anymore. I can't be the passive housewife anymore. It's like I've been a 60s housewife but now we're in the 70s and I'm breaking free. It's Stepford Wives all over again. I am learning so many new things. I am changing. I didn't realise what a passive mouse I'd become over these last 18 years. Passive at home, that is. I quit voicing my opinions on certain subjects with Hubby years ago. He never listened to them anyway. He did listen to me about the children, but now he treats me like a shadow, and encourages them to do the same. Not directly but in a subtle way. I caught him doing it just tonight. He's accused me of wanting to get my hands on the kids' trust funds. I don't know what I have done or said that would ever suggest I wanted to steal from my children.

But maybe that's what he would do if he were in my shoes. And that's why I can't stay in this marriage. We are poles apart in what we value and value in each other. Hubby has been a good provider and money manager. He would say he's done it all for us. But I disagree with that. He's done it for us, but he's also done it for his own ego gratification. He has no hobbies or outside interests. That's why he got so depressed when he lost his job. He says he's a family man, but he didn't actually do much with the family. He got deeply involved in son's running career but as an extension of himself. He showed no interest in daughter's dancing till last October. I took the kids on ski holiday after ski holiday. He wouldn't go because he'd been told not to ski and it would "be a waste of a holiday." A waste to spend time with his children, to watch them develop a skill they so enjoyed. A waste to spend time with his wife and support her in ensuring their children had a fun holiday. One year he took time off while we were gone to build a fence. I think the point I'm making is that this so-called family man actually prefers to do solitary things.

During the breakdown of my first marriage, I listened to Frank Sinatra a lot -- "Regrets. I've had a few..." I still have regrets, different ones. I can't regret the marriage because there were good moments, particularly in the early years with the kids. And I don't regret having my children. I do regret the horrible way this marriage has fallen apart. I would like to have remained friends with Hubby. I have to be civil because of the kids. But I have some strong negative feelings about him. I don't know if they'll ever go away.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Piano and Dancing

I am eating my breakfast and reading yesterday's paper. In another room Daughter is practicing her piano. Her playing sounds beautiful, and as I listen I reminisce about when she started. She had tried the violin and didn't like it. With her long fingers, I thought she'd do well with the piano. I asked around and found a teacher. A friend offered to sell me her piano. Hubby was dead against it. "Why spend so much on a piano that she'll drop after a month or two?" I persisted. Hubby said, "How are you going to get it here?" I looked in the Yellow Pages under piano removals and found someone.

And so Daughter started her lessons and did well. Now on her third teacher, she practices every day.

When I finish breakfast I walk in to compliment her. She looks up at me. "Can I help you?" she says in a voice that would freeze hell. "I just wanted to say how good you sound." She frowns. "Can you close the door please," she commands.

I walk away, tail between legs. Again. Another attempt at engaging with her. Another slap in the face.

So it has been since last summer. To recap: Last year I reconnected with an old schoolmate. Our correspondence seemed to awaken something in me and I found myself fantasising about a life with this man. I wrote my feelings down in a draft email Draft is the key word here. I never intended to send it. But Hubby found it. Quite how he found it is subject to debate. What isn't was his reaction: swift and brutal. He wrote an email to my sister (not a draft) telling her to tell me to get my act together and that he was cancelling our holiday to America and that I would have to tell the kids and my parents why. He attached the draft email. He printed out a copy of the email to my sister, stamped it "copy" so there would be no mistake, put it in brown envelope with my name on it and left it on my dressing table while I was in the shower. Then he left the house. I did what I was told: I called my parents and told them what was going on and later on I told the kids. Daughter left the house in floods of tears. Son retreated to his bedroom.

Did Hubby and I discuss this? Not really. Let me make something clear: there is a difference between fantasy and reality. This person and I were and are separated by an ocean and 4,000 miles. We did not have sex. We didn't even see each other. In a desperate move to salvage the trip to America, I suggested marriage counselling. I found a counsellor. I made the appointment. We went twice. Hubby managed to charm and impress the counsellor. I said I thought Hubby was a control freak. He said he was just careful. I melted into the couch. I said initially I would cease contact with my friend. And I did. We had planned to meet up but that obviously was cancelled. The trip was back on though.

But after a few days of being treated like a Jezebel by Hubby, I contacted my friend again. Why couldn't we have a friendship? Why couldn't we see each other in America? And so we made plans. And kept in touch. And I got caught by Hubby the day before we were to see each other. Again, just how he found out is subject to debate. For Hubby lies and I don't know what's true and what isn't with him anymore. So my friend and I didn't see each other. We had agreed that it had to be platonic, just friends. Hubby didn't believe this and began a nightmare campaign to rip to shreds every bit of privacy I might have had or wanted.

He also began to work on the kids. And I made a very wrong assumption, which was that my kids would forgive me and still love me. But they took his side. Why and how are subject to debate. I think he showed Daughter some of the evidence he amassed against me (to "save" the marriage, he said.). I think Daughter told Son. He certainly started to have conversations with her in the kitchen with the door closed. I overheard a few. Brochures for holidays to the Caribbean started arriving at the house. Daughter and I have been on a roller coaster ever since. I think sometimes she forgets how angry she is at me and acts almost normal with me. Then something happens to remind her. I say the wrong thing. I do the wrong thing. I spent October and November either in tears or on the brink of tears. Things seemed to ease up in December, then they treated me very badly on Christmas Day. I know it was hard for all of them, and I tried really hard to make it normal. I went up to my room and cried, then squared my shoulders and made Christmas dinner. By New Year's I'd pretty well recovered. Till I discovered my birthday card from my mother had been ripped open and the money inside taken. I had an almighty fit about that.

I think Hubby took it. Why? What would you say to a woman screaming that someone in the house had stolen her birthday money? You would say the postman probably took it. He didn't. He said, "I'm not surprised; you're so untidy." The unopened card had arrived early so I left it downstairs in the kitchen to open on my birthday. On New Year's Day I spoke to my mother and she said to put it in a safe place. Now, with Hubby's history of spying on me, maybe I should have been more careful. But I wasn't. Spying and stealing are two different things. Or so I thought. But I also know that in his diary he had made a note of how much American money I'd given back to him after our trip with a question about what happened to his share of the money my mother had given us when we had visited her. Yes, I held back some money. I held back $100 that I'd held back the year before as well. And I held back what I figured was left over of my share of what my mother gave us.

Daughter thought and thinks I overreacted. It was the postman, she told me later during another argument. Ah yes, that argument. She was to appear in four dance shows at her dance school's annual prizegiving last month. "I want to go to all of them," I had told her. She didn't want me to, then said she didn't care. I took the information sheet up to my room so I could book tickets for everyone. She waited till I went out then ordered tickets for her dad, her brother, and her friends. How did I find out? I found a print-out next to the computer that said "Thank you for ordering tickets." I asked Hubby about it and he said she'd said I could sort myself out.

I don't know if I can express accurately what this made me feel. That girl has been dancing since she was 2 and a half, when I started taking her to ballet lessons. I'd found her one day dancing on the dining room table and watching herself in the mirror and I thought she'd enjoy it. And so she has. I have taken her to lesson after lesson, exam after exam, dance competition after dance competition. I have taken her for ballet shoe fittings. I have done her hair, her makeup. That day that I found the printout I was due to meet her at a beauty salon to pay for her eyebrow wax, then take her to the hairdresser's to get her hair coloured (and pay for that too). I texted her that she could sort herself out. Then I felt guilty about those working women with whom I'd made the appointments. So I turned up at the beauty salon and I paid. I cried the whole way there though. Then I took her to the hairdresser. But first I stopped at the carwash. As the car was being washed, she and I had it out. She even cried a bit, something she rarely does.

Did things improve? A bit. And then not. Just last night I heard her downstairs talking to her father about his two job possibilities (oh yes, Hubby's unemployed streak looks set to end). "Too bad Mum won't get to enjoy it," I heard her say.

I don't know what the end will be to this story. Just last year she sobbed to me that she didn't want her dad coming in her room when he'd been drinking. So I got him to give up drinking during the week. I hate Hubby for his part in this. "It's all your own fault," he would sneer back. Yes, I suppose I am at fault for much of this. And what I think about that would be a whole other post. Some of this is just teen-age girl rebellion, I suppose.

One positive thing is I have apologised to my own mother for the way I treated her when I was 15. Perhaps one day Daughter may do the same.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Working on Getting Work

Divorce is a nasty business, and it brings out the nasty side of many people. Yesterday, I had an appointment at my local job centre to tell them how I'm getting on with my job search (more on that later). The woman I saw and I are both going through marital breakups, but hers seems far worse than mine. So far, Hubby has shown a vindictive, picky, nasty side. But he hasn't physically harmed me -- yet. This woman's husband in a fit of pique threw her to the floor when they were arguing over money. She has bruises. She said she never in a million years thought he would get violent. Then he called the police on HER. She sneaked a peek at her son's texts and discovered he has been telling lies about her to his dad. Now that, I think, is the hardest part of divorce: your children rejecting and betraying you to your other half. I explained that her son has done this because he's afraid of losing his dad's love. I suggested she look up the five stages of divorce on the internet. I told her I won't even buy a lottery ticket till my divorce is final.

And then I looked at this woman and thought, "You have a job and you don't even know all this. How come I can't get a job?"

And that, for me, is the biggest challenge. Yes, divorce is nasty and negative. But it can also unlock doors that have been shut for years. I am on a journey to employment. I started off very naive. Times have changed since I last updated my resume. I've found professional people to help me do it for free. Job seeking is also different. The internet has made it so much easier. Doesn't mean I'm getting employed though. I started off looking for receptionist and business admin jobs, figuring that I would have to start over in the working world. But I didn't even get an interview in all the 50-plus applications I sent off. The woman who helped me with my resume suggested I start looking in journalism and related fields because that's my background. Well, duh. Why didn't I think of that? Then she referred me to a program being run by the local college for getting longterm unemployed people back to work. I'm taking a computer course as well. It's all a learning curve, and it gets my mind off the more negative aspects of this divorce.

One thing my counsellor suggested I do was develop a relationship with myself. I think that's exactly what's happening here. I'm thinking about my positive qualities and how they can be put to use in the working world. And maybe one day an employer will agree with me.

Doesn't hurt to try.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Lies, Damned Lies

I'm trying to decide whether to use this blog as a sort of blowing-off-steam, getting-it-off-my-chest space in which I tell all about the demise of my marriage or as a space to talk about getting my new life off the ground. Perhaps a bit of both.

So much has happened in the months since I last blogged. Not much of it positive. I could blog on and on about Hubby and the lies he's told (and probably continues to tell). Small lies. Big lies. Needless lies. And I know them all. How? The man who sneeringly told me I should never write anything down wrote everything down himself. Then threw it in the bin. Passwords for Passwords for his email account. Passwords for his googlemail account he opened to send me a fake email from my paramour. Passwords for the real list of assets (as opposed to the one he showed me). Did he not know that years of doing jigsaw puzzles with my children made me a dab hand at piecing together his rubbish? And then there was his diary. He felt compelled to write everything in it too. When my daughter texted him to tell him she saw me coming out of his study (I don't remember why I was in there -- either to read the diary or to get a copy of a utility bill so I could open a bank account in my own name). When he told our son's cross-country coach that we were splitting up (in October, but he lied about it in December). I got quite obsessed with all the subterfuge for a while. Then, I decided I was better off not knowing. I just assume now that he comes in my room and goes through my stuff (and every now and again I find telltale signs). I just assume that he continues to lie. I believe nothing he tells me. If he says it's dark outside, I go outside just to check it's true. But I don't go through bins. I don't read his diary. I don't go in his study. I don't care anymore.

He's always been a liar, but I used to have nicer words for it. He embellished the truth. He exaggerated. I used to find excuses for his lying. Not anymore.

One of his acquaintances used to read this blog and told him about it. Zoe P, if you still read this, and I hope you don't, I hope you realise there is more than one side to the story of every marital breakdown. I noticed today that I have one less follower. Was it Zoe? Was it Hubby? Was it Hubby's sister?

Here's another lie I heard Hubby tell someone on the phone. According to him, my first marriage broke down when I got caught red-handed by first hubby having a one-night stand. Pure fiction. The one-night stand happened AFTER the marriage ended. First hubby never caught me red-handed at anything. And how do you think Hubby found out that there ever was a one-night stand? He read a diary I kept nearly 20 years ago. He read that diary 11 years ago but kept quiet about it. Till he read a diary I kept for about a week in September before he took it out of my handbag, read it, and made photocopies of it. I wrote private things that I never wanted anyone to read. I was trying to organise my thoughts and feelings, hoping against hope that I would "come to my senses" about staying in my marriage. More fool I for writing them down.

Hubby bragged to his friend that he would destroy me. He emailed my parents to say they would never see their grandchildren again because he had no intention of ever going on holiday to the US again (did he think I wouldn't take the kids to see their grandparents?). My mother had chest pains all night after reading that. He told Daughter he was going to take her and her brother on a Caribbean holiday, then told her "the lawyers" said he couldn't do it till the divorce was final. I don't know who "the lawyers" were, but my lawyer never said a word about it and I doubt his did either.

Sometimes marriages break down and the people involved don't have a clue why until the divorce proceedings start and it gets down and dirty. And that's what has happened in my case. I realise now that my marriage was in trouble before I even started this blog. It was in trouble before it even started. Hubby lied and I chose to believe his lies. I lied too, to myself mostly, because I didn't want to admit to myself that I'd given up so much for such an unsatisfactory relationship. I used to believe that we could tell each other anything, but the truth is we never told each other much of anything at all. For example, Hubby had a MAN problem that I didn't even know about. He went to the dr. and told me later that it was for something else. I think the dr. gave him some blue pills, which I think he took the night before he discovered the infamous draft email. I think that's why he reacted so extremely bad. I think all of his behaviour since then has been a result of his hurt manhood.

I can understand being hurt and being angry. But vowing to "destroy" me? Involving my family and telling them they won't see their grandchildren again? Lying to me and about me? That's just downright cruel. I didn't set out to deliberately hurt him or destroy him. I should feel guilty. But I don't. I did feel enormously bad for the kids, but after Christmas -- when I tried so hard to make it as pleasant as possible and they tried equally hard to hurt me -- I didn't feel so bad about them anymore. After all, I haven't run off with another man. I'm still here living in an extremely difficult situation. I still wash their clothes, cook their meals, give them money, take them places. I'm the same mother I was. I just don't love their father anymore. They don't know how hateful he's been to me. And I won't tell them either.

So here I am at 50, about to be single again and a lot poorer. Unable so far to find employment. I should be scared, so scared I don't want to leave my marriage. But I'm not. Instead, I'm excited by my pending independence. My mother has warned me that some of my friends might dump me along the way. Let them. If they do, they weren't very good friends in the first place and I'm better off not having to carry that baggage around.