Thursday, April 14, 2016

Real Life?

Years ago, back in high school, I had a phase where I loved reading mystery books, psychological thrillers, and books that really made you think and question what was going on. I read many, many books, and would get caught up in the stories and how fantastical they were, thankful that no matter how engrossed I became in the story, they were just fiction.

It's a completely different feeling when you're living out one of those stories. 

My love story started out like a proper romantic novel might. The dashing, tall, dark, and handsome man caught my eye with a gleaming smile, and we were swept up in love. Over the course of a few years we went from best friends to soul mates to married.

We fought long and hard to have our first child. We lost our second before we knew whether the baby was a boy or a girl. We bounced back, and welcomed a second son into the world.  We were content. We were at peace. We were thriving.

So I thought...

Together, we fought to provide a loving home for our two sons.  My husband worked hard, long hours, so that I could stay home with our boys.  He told me repeatedly he thought it was best, financially, and for the children.  So, we made due with less than many people, renting a cute old home, not having a ton of time together, but striving to make sure our children were raised by loving parents, and a mother who had all the time in the world for them.

I had no idea there was a secret life being lived outside this scenario.  I had no idea that dark things were happened outside our home in the name of our family, until months later.  I chose to believe my husband when these things came to light, and believe that inherently he was a great person trying to do what was right, believing he loved his family deeply and would do anything for them.  I believed he was a good person who had fallen into some mistakes and bad decisions.  I chose to work through these things with him, stand beside him, fight for our marriage, fight for our family, and believe that good would prevail.

I became pregnant with our daughter in the midst of great tribulation.  It was a complete and utter shock for many, many reasons, a large one being that I was told it was highly unlikely I would ever become pregnant without medical assistance.  My husband was paying for some of his poor decisions when I found out I was pregnant, and I was devastated.  I knew the timing was horrible, and I was not sure I could handle having another baby around while dealing with everything else my marriage was throwing at me.  I cried day in and day out, even though the few people I trusted to tell all told me that "everything happens for a reason" and "it's God's plan, not ours," and other such phrases.

Knowing things were in a bind financially, I had applied for jobs, and had just accepted a position the day prior to finding out our third little miracle was on the way.  I worked long hours most days of the week while allowing my sister to spend those hours with my children, raising them as she knew I would love them to be raised.

When I found out our third baby was a girl, he wasn't with.  I went to tell him in person, and the light in his eyes and the smile on his face was genuine, thrilled, and joy-filled.  He was finally getting that daughter he had hoped for, that I was sure would never happen, believing with my whole being we would have four sons someday.

I was exhausted.  I was strained.  I was working, raising children, pregnant, worried, fighting for our marriage to prevail.  But I had faith and hope and everything inside of me believed things could and would be okay in the end.

By the time our daughter arrived, things seemed to finally be getting back to where they were when our lives were good again.  I was finally thrilled at the prospect of a daughter being placed in my arms.

She arrived, and was beautiful.  We were smitten with her, as were her brothers.  Our family felt so whole and complete.  He told me many times it didn't make sense for me to go back to work with the late night hours and expense of daycare, so I should stay home and he would provide again.  He had gotten a raise and a promotion, and so it worked out okay.  Things were good and back to normal.  It was like a dream.

Only the dream wasn't what I thought it was.

Months passed by, and at the end of the summer, out of seemingly nowhere, as I had, over the course of the previous months, confronted my husband as to his distance, wanting to work on things that seemed strained again, and straight out demanded to know if he wanted out of our marriage and he swore up and down, inside and out that he wanted nothing more than his family and his wife, he told me he wanted a break.  I was shaken.  He told me he was not going to come live at home until we went to counseling together.  I was truly relieved at the idea of counseling because I had suggested it many times and he often told me we didn't need it.  So, we made an appointment and went.  I thought we were going to continue going. He paid for the session an arranged others.  Then he decided he didn't like the counselor and we weren't going anymore.

A few nights later, creepy, scary things were happening at our house when he wasn't home.  In the dark of the night, our garage was broken into, our freezer tipped over, someone running through the yard.  Someone broke our window with a rock.  Someone turned on our outside hose and ran it through our back door into our kitchen, opening the front door as they walked through while I did laundry below.  I called the cops multiple times in a week, and they gave me a few ideas of who, what, or why it could be happening.  Uncertain and terrified, at the urging and help of a few close friends, I took my three children and left town without a word.  Someone egged my van randomly while I was gone.  When he found out we weren't home anymore because he offered someone to stay at our house a night and I had to tell him I wasn't there, things stopped happening.  It was strange, but I refused to jump to any conclusions, and to this day, I have no real answers.

While away, I found many phone calls in his call logs to a random woman all hours of every day.  He swore it was for work. I didn't believe him, but there was nothing I thought I could do to prove otherwise.

He came and brought us back home after about a week.  He didn't stay at the house although I begged him to sleep in the basement because I was terrified for our safety.  It seemed so strange to me that he wouldn't and as always, he used work as an excuse.

It was weeks later that he refused to pay rent, saying he couldn't afford it (although I found out a bit later that he could, he was making much more than I ever knew about and I had no idea where any of it had gone), and his children and I were evicted in short notice.  A friend rescued us and we stayed with her a few months, while I found a job at a daycare that the children were able to attend. Then the children and I went to the homeless shelter a while before finding ourselves in a transitional housing apartment.

Despite the very strict rules, we stayed multiple months before I was able to find an apartment for us.

During this time, he had our family vehicle, and I had to trust him to come and get the children and I for work each day, and then to return us home.  There were many times I hadn't heard from him until minutes before he was supposed to be there, and there were many times he failed to show on time at all, leaving me in a panic and having to find other rides to work. He didn't seem to find urgency in high temperatures and illnesses with the kids and it would take all sorts of begging to get him to allow me to take them to the doctor or have him take them to the doctor.  He was always busy. Eventually, the children and I were blessed with a van so that I could be self sufficient.  He visited a bit, acted like he cared and wanted to be with us, but he was still a bit distant.  The children were seeing him daily, which was a nice change, but he wasn't really there half the time he was there.

It took many months before he let me know where he was staying. He would tell me with a friend or other such things, but never specific.  Eventually, he was renting a room in someone else's apartment and the kids and I were able to visit.

He came to me a bit over a year ago to confess and ask forgiveness for the many, many things he had been doing over the course of the year beforehand.  I forgave him.  He asked to reconcile.  I agreed to try under strict guidelines.  I was extremely leery and cautious, but allowed myself to believe in miracles and to have hope that our family would be together again and our marriage could be restored.

We spent a few days together after that, Easter was one, and our daughter's first birthday party and the evening of her first birthday.  He seemed to be trying.  He seemed to really want his family.

Then, the wind was knocked out of me and the world around me seemed to fall apart when the day after her birthday, I received a random message from a guy I had never heard of, asking how to reach him.  I told him he didn't have his phone at the time, and I asked who he was.

"He told me he told you.  We've been dating over a month now."

I couldn't breathe. I thought I was going to pass out from trembling and dizziness.  There was a photo of the two of them together in a bar.  They were hugging.  My husband had a secret boyfriend, while he was trying to get the family back together.  He had never once said anything about this friend, even in his confessions he only spoke of women.

I confronted him when I was able.  He said it was a goofy drunk picture.  I could honestly understand that because he's always been one to give hugs, and I knew he was battling a drinking problem.  I chose to give him the temporary benefit of the doubt while he was going to prove it was a lie and this guy was out to destroy our family.  He swore he wouldn't talk to him or anything of the nature.

Except he did.  And he wasn't very secretive, and I found out.  He still denied their relationship was romantic and they were just friends. I knew better. I confronted him so many times and it was always the same, but I knew better.

He saw the children a few times over the next few weeks. I even allowed them, for the sake of my own sanity because I was exhausted, to have them overnight without me.  I found out he was sneaking this guy friend around them, and the children around that friend's family.  I confronted him and was given many stories, lies, and discrepancies.

I told him that he wasn't going to have the children alone until I met this guy. I told him we were over and his relationship with the other man didn't really matter, but since he couldn't be trusted to be honest and I didn't know this guy or anything about him other than they went to bars together and I was being lied to, he couldn't have the children alone.

And then he disappeared.  Completely disappeared from our lives. It's been almost a year.

In the following months, I found so many more secrets that he hadn't confessed to.  More lies, cheating, and so forth.

He made it nearly impossible to find him.  He worked under the table so he couldn't be tracked for child support.  Anyone that I new he had contact with prior or during refused to help me or would lie to my face about him.  I was hitting wall after wall.  But I was persistent.  In December, he was finally found and served with divorce papers.  It devastated me to have to file for divorce myself.  I was the one, all along, fighting for our marriage, never wanting to be out.  I wanted to fight.  He clearly didn't want to be married to me, but he wouldn't divorce me. I had to.  It was a hard pill to swallow.  Come February, everything was finalized, and I felt some relief.

I thought the crazy plot twists were over, but every once in a while, something new and obscure still pops up and I live through the emotional storms all over again.  Thankfully, through it all, I've had some consistent support systems, and I've had God.  I have places to lean when I feel like my legs are going to fall out from under me all over again.

I've never felt the world crumble as many times in my life as I have in the last two and a half years.  It's been exhausting.

As I sit here this morning, writing, because writing is my therapy, I scrolled through photos to find one to add to the post.  I watched my crazy, psychological thriller of a story unfold before my eyes, although you cannot see that in any of the photos.  The photos so clearly depict the deep, dark story that I had kept hidden for so long to keep my pride in tact and my life guarded never really existed.  There's mostly smiles and hugs, baby chaos and other such things.  You don't get to see the terror, the exhaustion, the tears, and the agony that existed simultaneously.

The past years have been the most exhausting of my life.  It's been years since I've had consistent, quality sleep or relaxing days.  And for the most part, I'm okay with that, because I've fought to keep myself surrounded with happy thriving children and a job that I love.

I find often that I'm unsure who I can really trust, still.  I know that God has me, and I can lean on him, and I know there are some people walking beside me on this earth that I can truly trust.  But I find many times that some I start to trust I find I cannot.  It cracks the heart a little each time, but such is life.

I find myself putting down my guard to new friends more often now.  I spent the last year or so feeling like I shouldn't, couldn't, wouldn't be loved by people.  I felt like if the one person who spent over ten years telling me I was the best friend in the world, the most loyal person they knew, the most compassionate, tender hearted, loving, hilarious, all around wonderful person could up and walk away from me without a word in any form, despite the promise to be friends no matter what happened... well, than anyone can or probably would leave me too.  I mean he knew me best, inside and out, and he couldn't stay, so no one else would want to.  He promised to and no one else ever made that promise in front of family and friends and to God.  Surely, I'm not worthy of love from anyone.  God is the only one who could love me, because he loves everyone.  No one else really could, and I expect them to disappear too.  I battle this still, knowing it's a lie, but often feeling it's the truth.

 I'm so thankful for the support I have that prays over and for me and reminds me to turn to God when I feel he's too far away.

I question my mothering often.  I put such pressure on myself to be a good mom, because I'm the only parent they have.  If they don't know I love and care about them, then they are completely devoid of good parents.  I know that I'm not a terrible mom, but this is another attack I deal with, especially over the course of the last three weeks where I've been so sick and in so much pain that I can hardly function by the end of the day.

That enemy, he's a sneaky, vile one.  He definitely knows where and when to attack and he latches on deeply, my friends.

I spent many months feeling like I must be crazy.  I was sure I must be mentally ill to have missed the first instances of my former husband's betrayal, let alone his cheating, wanting to take a break, alcoholism, and whatever else that has gone on that I either haven't spoken of or do not know about.  I must be crazy to believe he loved us and wanted us.  I must be completely insane and making all of this up, because it cannot be real life.  It's just a messed up movie, right?

Unfortunately, it's not.  It is real life.  It's a day by day challenge.  Sometimes it's a breath by breath marathon.  I'm living those novels I read, and it is not nearly as entertaining as reading them.

Yesterday was rough on multiple levels, and I poured my heart out to a friend. She prayed for me. Immediately after, the lyrics "Jesus is my strength, my shield, and He will never fail me." Came through the radio I hadn't realized was on. They've been my mantra since.

Fortunately, I know God has a great ending in store for my children and I. So, I'll make it through each plot twist and wait for boring and commonplace things to happen instead.

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