First of all, I had a cigarette for breakfast. Not a good start, especially after almost two weeks of not smoking. This is, of course, my fault. For all sorts of reasons. One reason is, every time I quit smoking, I quit using patches way too early in my endeavor to be done with nicotine. I rationalize that patches are expensive and I can beat this on my own.
I am an idiot.
But, then, being an idiot is something that, in some areas, always seemed to come easy to me. My main area of idiocy? Getting married and then getting married again.
I’m pointing this out because, after not the most joyful morning, I got around to checking my email. I get a lot of email. Like, an unbelievable amount of email. This, too, is my fault. I have seventy-five blogs, I know everyone in Austin, I’ve got friends all over the world. And we all have email. Oh, poor me, having so many friends!
Really, though, lately the email has been beyond over the top, often with a hundred coming in and a hundred going out. Every day. Every. Day. That does not include spam. Mostly I whip through it as quickly as I can. Usually email doesn’t rattle me.
But sometimes something shows up that bugs the shit out of me. Like this morning, there was an email from my most recent ex-husband. That’s two in two months from him. Today’s email was part of a bulk email he sent, inviting me to a show he’s performing in to benefit his sister, who became a widow and broke her hip almost simultaneously in December.
I like my ex-sister-in-law just fine. I feel for her. But still, I do not want anymore fucking emails from my ex-husband. Back on June 4th, the very day we got divorced, it was thought that my ex-sister-in-law’s husband was about to die any second. And so, before I went to the courthouse, I made a big pot of matzo ball soup and I gave it to my about-to-be-ex-husband and asked him to give it to his sister. That’s what I do for people when they are hurting—I make food for them.
My ex-husband returned the soup container not long after. I asked him if he’d given the soup to his sister. No. Apparently he and his kids—you know, the ones that broke all my shit—ate the soup themselves instead.
So now, he wants me to come to an event to help her? So, what? He can take my ten dollars and spend it on himself? And, further chapping my ass—he has enlisted my son’s band to play at this benefit, which left my son worried that I’d be mad at him. How sad this makes me, that my kid, who loves helping other people, would feel conflicted about his role in helping someone out just because the adults in his life were such dumbasses.
Am I cranky enough for the six of you?
The last email I got from my ex came the day before my birthday. He was wishing me a wonderful year. And he referenced some recent events in my life, which, as best as I can tell, he heard about through my blog. Granted, this blog is a public thing. But my already raw ass is further chapped. Here’s a guy who, while we were married, banished me from living at his house, allowed his kids to stomp all over me, did not intervene when his previous (dead) wife’s sister had big family parties and insisted I not attend. He did not want to see me, speak to me, or read my emails. One year ago today, courtesy of the unforgivably shitty way he treated me, I was holed up in my bedroom, too sick to get out of bed, a state I remained in for a very long time. And all along, he never apologized for his part in things, never showed remorse, would not help me when I was unable to eat or function.
And now he catches up on my life and emails me about it? And he acts like none of that happened? And what? He expects a response?
He used to tell me that if I wasn’t happy, he wouldn’t be around me, couldn’t be around me. I was not “allowed” to be unhappy in his presence. I was not “allowed” to do all sorts of things. The rules were long, complicated, ridiculous and impossible.
I finally got so fucking pissed off at him and his bullshit that I started going to AA. I did not go to AA because I thought I’d start drinking again. And I did not use AA to quit drinking in the first place, though I had nearly eight years of sobriety under my belt the first time I walked into an AA meeting. The reason I went is because finally, I knew with full clarity the meaning of “powerlessness.” I felt totally powerless over my anger at him and his cruelty and spinelessness and narcissism. I just wanted to spit in his face.
But I knew that was wrong. And I knew that, really, I didn’t want to be angry. And that the anger was making me more sick. But goddammit I was so angry.
So I did AA for awhile, and I kept a piece of paper on the wall that said Number of Days I Have Not Talked to The Narcissist. Each day I got through without contacting him, I got to reward myself with a hash mark. I’d amass these and feel better with each passing day. Then I’d succumb (as with the cigarettes) and call him and feel like shit and have to start all over again.
Until finally, no need to think about it, write it down, attend meetings: I just stopped giving a shit about this man who had broken every promise he ever made.
And then he has to contact me.
That first note that came in, wishing me a happy birthday, stirred the embers. But I refused to take the bait. I allowed myself to feel indignant—how dare he casually pop in like that, no apology offered, and think he could just send a cheerful note. I deleted it.
Today’s email just pissed me off. I took the bait. I responded, tersely, telling him that he needs to stop contacting me. The best I can do for this man is the best I can do for the man who abused me throughout my childhood and continued that abuse, long distance, for years after I left, until, in my thirties, I just cut him off. And the best I can do is this: not hate him but not hate him from a distance.
If I never see my father or my ex-husband again, that will be entirely too soon.
I got another email last week that pissed me off. This one from a different man. Last May, to escape my pending wedding anniversary, which came about a week before my divorce, I went to Galveston. For reasons I won’t go into, except to chalk it up to the idiot factor, while I was there, I made contact with a man in Austin (yes, through an online dating site) whom I went out with one night upon my return.
Before I go another sentence into that story, I have to say that just thinking of the Galveston trip reminds me of this: my ex-husband, who wasn’t even my ex-husband then, would monitor my actions via my blog, though he would not see me or speak to me in person. When he read that I had been dating another loser—Strike Anywhere—he informed me (during a rare moment of communication) that that is when he took off his wedding band. As if I would know this, as if I ever saw him to see if his wedding band was off or on. And yet, when he read in that same blog that I’d been in a car accident on the way back from Galveston, driving 80 mph, and that I very easily could have lost my life, he didn’t even drop a line to see if I was okay. Like he only cared if I was fucking someone else, not if I had a near-miss with death.
Back to the other story. So I get back from Galveston, and I go out with this guy. And we have a good time. No physical contact. No promises. Just an evening of music and conversation. We meet again a couple of days later and he starts telling me about how we’re going to spend our future. And I, still not yet divorced, freak out. And I tell the guy that I can’t see him anymore. And he says he understands.
But he doesn’t. First he sends long emails. Then I tell him, no, really, you need to stop. Then he sends short emails. I ignore him. I’ve laid out my boundaries. I was clear, kind, and not at all ambiguous.
And still, he persists, emailing me last week, fully eight months after the fact, still wanting to hook up.
I learned, from research I did while being stalked by my first ex-husband, that if you respond to someone, even if you wait til the one hundredth time they try to get through to you, then the message you give is, It takes one hundred times to get to me.
Even as I write these words, imagining my ex-husband and this guy-who-won’t leave me alone reading them, I think, damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Because I can express myself, my anger, and in doing so be true to myself and my lifetime need to express myself. But then I can worry that these guys are reading, interpreting, beating off to the fact that I’m mentioning them at all.
And so I am pissed off again.