I quit therapy because I’m special. I’m not like all the other women who have been cheated on and then divorced. I’m different. My therapist kept bringing up boundaries. The concept of boundaries conflicted with my sense of self. I don’t have many boundaries.
I mean, I do have some boundaries. For instance, if you are married to me and you have sex with someone else off and on for seven years and then sleep with another lovely person from the greater Portland area, then I most likely can’t stay married to you.
Other than that one rule I don’t want to have a lot of rules. I’m accepting. I’m loving. You can borrow my favorite dress and neglect to return it and I will never mention it. Or if you come home from school with 15 of your friends and ask for pizza, I will oblige. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I cry a lot. Or you can move into a rental house with two “young women” and divorce me and I will allow you to show up any old morning and make omelettes and waffles for the kids without calling. I never give up on a person. I am Kind with a capital K.
Chad and I were walking down the alley behind our 1950s brick two story condo which goes in a horseshoe. We have walked this loop with our old dog or our youngest or both multiple times a day. It was cold but not freezing and we walked our usual way- Mim riding ahead on her bike. I was feeling special. I was being civilized and kind. I hadn’t thrown his clothes out the window. I hadn’t beat his bicycle with a bat (He didn’t have a car). We were walking the new puppy who wasn’t his. Linus was mine and the kids- a dachshund mix who runs like the dog in the old Mighty Dog commercials- even though he is small he is pulling the leash. I am a step ahead of Chad. The dark of early winter is settling in and I am avoiding the cloudy gravelly puddles. Chad and I are laughing. My face is bright and cheery- I feel the glow radiating into the February air. I’m laughing with him. I’m so special that only a few weeks after I find out his complete years of total disrespect of me, I am smiling with rosy cheeks and laughing. I’m congratulating myself in my head about how wonderful, cool and accepting I am. I have never been cool. This could be my opportunity. I have experienced the feeling of coolness- like the time we had hotel sex passionately and quickly before dinner. I got out of bed and looked in the mirror with the most expensive white thick weave flannel robe embroidered San Ysidro Ranch and my cheeks were flushed and my hair was actually tousled like in a shampoo commercial. Or that feeling I have when I come in from a full day at the beach and my hair is salty and curly and my shoulders are pink and I put on my favorite seersucker sundress and he kisses my ear. This feeling is rising in my chest and flushing my cheeks even though it is cold because at least for the amount of time it takes to loop the neighborhood loop, I’m in control. I’m not the problem. I’m not the reason he slept with Hailey for 7 years and someone else from the airport who must be incredibly young because he can’t remember her age. I’m cool. It is him not me.
I tell him I should have known years ago. He did every stereotypical thing a middle aged man does when he has an affair. Travels for work more and more. Loses 50 pounds. Buys new jeans to show off his leaner body. I teased, “you did everything but buy a red Porsche.” and then the punchline- “but apparently the bike is working for you.” I almost skipped ahead with Linus so proud to not be wailing and bemoaning my fate, I wasn’t going to be like the bitter first wives. Just because I was betrayed and deserted didn’t mean I was a desperate dimwitted wife to no one housewife. I was special.
My therapist didn’t understand me. I think her name was Linda. She said things like how divorce is so hard and one day I would meet someone else and so I needed to set boundaries now so everything would be clear.
First of all, I would never date again- no interest in having the feeling of an elephant crushing my chest or the feeling of utter desolation and exposure at the same time. No, thank you. This will be the last time a man makes me a fool. And second of all this didn’t have to be hard. I could be cool and no problemo. Maybe my therapist had never seen the divorced couple on Parenthood or Gilmore Girls getting along swimmingly and celebrating holidays and birthdays together. Chad and I would continue sitting in the bleachers together at soccer games and meeting for picnics on summer evenings in the hot buggy park park by our house, while the kids hit wiffle balls into the trees. We would talk without anxiety. We would work out kid difficulties with our old ease. When a teenager came home drunk, we would punish them together. When Mim needed another operation on her eyes, we would wait together as she was wheeled back in to the cold metallic room for operating. Marriage had come easy and I assumed divorce would be the same.
There was a pit, no a black hole in my middle. My eye twitched in the crease where my deep set eyes inheirited from my grandmothers folded. My left hip was numb but I think that was because my right shoulder was knotted. I wasn’t sure how I was rising from my bed in the morning because as I lay in bed I imagined a dark cave forming around and above me and the opening disappearing so that no one but a solitary bear could ever see me and he kept to himself. My need to hide was overwhelming.
Sitting on the nondescript sofa, smiling at beige walls with serene artwork I doubted the abilities of Linda or Deborah. Her salt lamp and the aromatherapy machine made of plastic did not reach my pain and did not honor my need to be unlike any of the first wives that had come before me. And Linda, or maybe it was Deborah, wanted me to talk about boundaries.
But I could still pull off special when I needed to. For as long as I remember I’ve known I was special. I thought Mardi Gras parades were a celebration of my end of March birthday. I can remember being 4 and again when I was 5, high up on my uncles shoulders catching beads and doubloons. They were throwing those treasures for my birthday and everyone was partying for me. When I had a broken ankle at 4, the clown at the mall picked me out of all the children and gave me a balloon poodle, as I waited in line for my Orange Julius. I was so special in second grade that I was dumbfounded when the nuns didn’t choose me to be the Virgin Mary for the May Procession. They chose a tall blonde named Jenny Hayes. My mom told me that everyone knew that Mary had brown hair- “Look where she was from,” my mama explained. My incredulity with Jenny being chosen, was that I was the most like Mary. I was the only other human free from original sin. I was the second Immaculate Conception. I was a Mary- completely holy. I was so holy that for my first confession, I made up lies. I had never sinned. Not once, so I lied and said I had not honored my father and mother and I had taken the Lord’s name in vain. I knew I needed to appear humble like Mary would, so I couldn’t tell Monsignor Rolling that I had never sinned so my first sin was lying in the confessional. I did my penance for my made up sins, but I never confessed the lie.
My knowing I was special got confusing for me.in high school. I couldn’t fit in that well. No one else was special. And I knew at the same time that I wasn’t fitting in that well because something was wrong with me. My nose was too big? I didn’t tell private jokes with the other girls and laugh at the stupidity of Wayne’s World on SNL when it was reenacted in the cafeteria over bagels and cream cheese spread by small wooden flat spoons with the spoon on both sides and Purity lemonade, the best lemonade in the world that was made at a local dairy. I didn’t have enough money to be really special. I only had two store bought Laura Ashley dresses. The rest my mom had sewn. If I was so special why didn’t I have friends. I was given the superlative Friendliest in the senior yearbook. I was baffled by this. I had few friends and I was lonely.
I grew up sick. I had an immune deficiency so I was just sick a lot. Pneumonia or sinus infections or horrible rashes. Just constant annoyances and reasons to try and stay home sick every day. When I went to school it was more like I appeared rather than that I attended. And my first therapist told me that I was interesting because she didn’t know if I was wise beyond my years or incredibly immature in development. I might have learned to understand this insight, but her next questions confirmed that she was crazy. I told her about my long term boyfriend. I was 20 at the time. She asked if we had sex and I said yes quietly and she asked how my parents felt about that and if it was a sign to them that I was growing up and I said they didn’t know. She was amazed. “Don’t you think they will be happy that you are experiencing this wonderful part of life.” I said “no”. I quit that therapist, too.
Chad and I had 5 kids in less than 7 years. I double checked the math. Dolly was born in November of 2003 and Addy turned 7 in January 2004. It sounds ludicrous but it was all my dreams put together. We had beautiful little houses with roses and hydrangeas and Chad made bike sheds and a humongous 12 feet by 12 feet sand box. The kids were delicious and I ate their toes after I bathed them. The 7 of us were so special. Marriage was easy. A breeze and we laughed and wondered how people thought it was so hard. We critiqued other family members relationships and found ours superior in every way. Our kids tanned easily and swam well and only one refused to eat vegetables. We didn’t have cable television. No guns. No violent toys at all. No Barbies. We read stories every night and it felt so damn good and secure. I was such a lucky mom to these unusually wonderful children. Our family had so much love and we knew from our work in special ed that children were out there who needed homes. Our family was special and we could share our love with a baby with severe disabilities. We adopted Mim and our family was solid and chaotic and sweetly beautiful. 6 kids.
We screamed special at this point. Most places we went in our town Bluffton, South Carolina, people stared. We grinned. Paraded through restaurants and grocery stores and elementary schools. My babies are striking. Addy is blond and blue eyed and so tan. Tuck is lighter blonde curls and lighter blue eyes and his hair hangs in his face and he has full lips smiling. BeBe has shiny brown hair and the piercing blue eyes. George matches Addy with his tan and hair but his eyes are deeper and hazel. Dolly has a tiny bit of red in her blonde and she has blue yes and ringlets framing chubby cheeks. Mim is dark dark brown with a hint of cinnamon. Her hair is like the ocean at night with the moon reflecting on it with glittery sparkles and deep infinite blue surrounded by complete darkness. Her eyes are dark dark too and she started wearing pink eyeglasses at 3 months so she looks like a tiny old lady with dimples.
It was confirmed. We were special. No way around it. It felt magical to me.