Decision Tree

“We were going to get divorced anyways.”

I didn’t know that.

I’ll ask him why he said that. 

Oh, NONONOOOO. According to a group- I’m in a Facebook group of women who have been divorced- asking Walt why he told Gidge “we were going to get divorced anyways” is a horrible idea. If I believe Walt to be a narcissist, I should take the GRAY Rock approach. Or If I do not believe he is a narcissist, I should follow the other branch of the decision tree. If he hurt me and broke my heart, then how can I trust him to answer me with compassion? Or another branch, if he cheated on you for 7 years without you knowing, then how can you trust him to answer your question honestly? Will he lie? The answer is quite possibly. There is also the branch that could be seen more as a root, is he an alcoholic? Maybe he had been drinking when he told Gidge  that “we were going to get divorced anyways.” or he could be drinking when I ask him why he said that. Does a practicing alcoholic have the ability or the bandwidth to have an open conversation without causing more harm or lying again? That decision tree would end in No, too. Assuming the desicoion tree did not spontaneously combust due to my very feelings.

Angel Oak photo by Clyde Butcher

I have stood on the roots, climbed all the wandering branches, hung on the craggy limbs and hugged the fat trunk.

If Walt is a narcissist- or at times, acts like a narcissist or when he feels confronted, he talks like a narcissist- then there is no other option than the Gray Rock Approach. Give him as little reason as possible to interact with me. This sounds simple. When he talks remain as flat as a statue. No emotion. Give him no fodder. A narcissist wants attention, admiration and control. So when he talks, I have to become a gray rock. If I give attention, admiration or control, I prolong the interaction and prolong the unhealthy relationship. I tie myself up into the complicated nonsense. I tie my stomach into knots. Walt is charming. Walt is engaging in conversations. Walt. I loved him. As much as I hate what he has done, I want and miss the compartment of our relationship that discussed the kids and daily happenings or NPR stories. I miss the conversations. The moments when he smiled and all his teeth showed. But I can’t have one without the other. According to professionals and other divorced mamas in the know, gray rock. A narcissist twists everything one says. He twists the good into bad. He pretends to like something only to curse it behind my back. All the sudden the world turns upside down. What I know to be true is manhandled. A happy marriage, a happy life becomes disrespectful and lambasted. “We were going to get divorced anyways.”

Let’s say Walt isn’t a narcissist. He is a regular good guy who forgot to tell me he was having affairs for seven years of our decades of marriage. I want to know why he told George “We were going to get divorced anyways.” Or I want to know if that is true- Was h h hhe planning– was he thinking he would divorce me anyways? Before what? When? What did I not understand? Why did he lie? Why didn’t he tell me? Walt has told me that he didn’t tell me about his affairs because he wanted me to be happy. But that can’t be right because then I would have to travel back up to the last paragraph and assume he is a verifiable narcissist incapable of empathy. And I honestly don’t want to think I was married to a narcissist for 19 years and that I failed to notice his disastrously huge Achilles heel. I want to look back at the Walt of our marriage before the affairs and see good. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe he planned to divorce me Year 2. Or Year 11? I don’t know. That is one of my gaping infected seeping puss wounds. He not only took my visions of the present and the future but he is taking the memories, too. Destroy it all. The truth of our relationship was false. The reliance on our future plans was false. And, the beauty of our past together is false because “We were going to get divorced anyways.” Should I allow him to take away my memories too without asking why. Should I ask the man who hurt me why and expect comfort? Seems idiotic. If a knife made this wound, the knife cannot stitch me up. There is no healing found in the knife. But a person isn’t a knife. What can I expect from a person? Given our recent history over the past five years, Walt will not help me heal. And asking Walt for the truth may reopen the wound to new germs.

RAIN by Patti Griffin

Now I don’t want to beg you baby,

For something maybe you could never give

I’m not looking for the rest of your life

I just want another chance to live

Maybe Walt just isn’t capable of helping me heal. Maybe he is hurting. If I look at alcohol as a balm. If I see his incessant busy-ness as his attempt to escape himself. If I see his avoidance of food as an inability to nourish himself. If I see his avoidance of truth as avoiding his pain. If I see his actions as a manifestation of his insides and not mine. Truth escapes him. Comfort eludes him. Peace disorients him. He is in pain? Hurt people hurt people. I know. There is no, what about me? There is no pause button to his difficulties, so that we could play the Martee track. I can’t go to him for understanding because he has no understanding to offer. When I first started writing, I avoided talking about how Walt might feel. Because if I could be oblivious to his cheating then maybe- I have absolutely no idea what he is thinking. How can I write about his intentions, his thoughts, his opinions, if I can’t possibly be inside his head? I don’t need to write about his history possibly, informing his choices. That would be his book. Like Nora Ephron said when writing about her husband’s infidelity- when a bus hits a person, people want to know how the person survived. People don’t care about the bus. I am the injured party. Walt is the bus. Maybe I should have looked before I stepped off the sidewalk. To be clear, I was in the crosswalk and the walk signal was flashing for me. But in this piece of writing, I am conjecturing about why Walt, a person with wonderful qualities and some flaws like all of us, is unable to explain himself to his partner of nineteen years. And if asking him why will benefit me…

Tucked into my queen size bed with my little queen, I settle into my puffy pillow with a flowered case covered by my favorite t-shirt like a security blanket. Mim’s foot reaches for my leg in her sleep. We find each other effortlessly. I face the window with the fringed curtain pulled back. From my angle, I see the night sky and edges of fellow brick houses. A smile sneaks in across my face like the glow of headlights passing by.  All the people I love are under this same night sky. We share these stars and wishes, even Tuck in Santa Cruz. I feel something deep down inside me. Breath comes easily and smooth. My body finds solace on my mattress. My eyes rest without a salty sting. My jaw is imperceivable. It’s old companion, pain is missing. My stomach expands with breath and self acceptance. My breasts are independent and soft- forgetting the memory of a heavy arm resting across them. I think in words. Words often stream across the inner working of my forehead. I don’t know how other people name or claim their feelings, but I see the word printed by a vintage typewriter and the simple pale font appears on the inside of my head. I am looking to my brain to name this feeling I find in my bed. The answer is blank. The white paper is blank. No words pop up on my inner screen. I search the familiar words of before bed feelings. Anxiety. Worry. What if. Bulimia. Missing. To Do. Hatred. Sadness. None of those words fit this novel state. Flipping through the thesaurus inside my noggin, I pause at the page for bedtime emotions. As I look at the stars, I start to recognize this warmth… Is this contentment? I allow the word Content to scroll across my thoughts. I hit repeat. Content. This is damn near happiness. I am growing. I am changing. I am Content.

If I use logic, experience, or friendly advice, I reach the end of the decision tree. The answer is no. No. A clear and definitive no. At this juncture during March of 2021, there is no way to NOT get the answer no. 

Unless… I tell the decision tree I want to confront him. Here I am on the verge of contentment- peace and happiness and some wrangler of the past wants to mangle my pleasant state and inquire why Walt would say “We were going to get divorced anyways.”

I am capable of convincing myself that asking him is a benefit to my own soul. I expect a lie, an avoidance, a comeback, an insult and yet I want to continue down this journey because I want to speak my own truth. There is value and peace in speaking my truth. Of saying- Hey dude, you told George “we were going to get divorced anyways.”

This trail from my heart, through my pocket phone to his pocket phone to his fingers, is travelled. The dirt is worn down by my persistent stomps. But the grass and kudzu and wildflowers are starting to bloom. The grass is almost shin high. The purplish flowering weeds are sprouting. The overpowering green kudzu is starting to overtake the dead rusty kudzu. I could easily scamper down this path after dark when everyone else has gone to bed and the only light is from my pocket phone, but I would step on the sweet butter cups and– and the grass would brush against me making that itchy allergic reaction. It isn’t worth it. I could go in the light of day. I could walk this path deliberately and with all the justice brewing in my heart. I am the only trailblazer on this path. A couple of saplings have started to gather strength. These trees could one day shade me. I believe the view at the end of my hike to be gloriously expansive. The vista would be 360 degrees. My trail began in the woods of Decatur, Georgia not too far from the railroad track, but I imagine an impossible destination. The Irish coast- vast greens and strong boulders. Cliffs to tumultuous water and the sky clear and blue forever. I have escaped the dangerous waves below. I have scaled the mountains or cliffs, kissed the Blarney stone and I am here alone. Arms wide, chest puffed, and head erect. The world is mine. Reaching this unattainable view, I finally understand what went wrong. Or why he lied. Or why he told George that “We were going to get divorced anyways.” The sun warms my skin and pierces through any armour until my heart is warm like a tiny sweaty baby waking up from a nap. I see truth and beauty. After years of wandering, coming to dead ends, and returning home, I continue to fill my water bottle and plan my trip. Google maps does not recommend this route. But maybe if I wade through the polluted creek or cross that urban jungle. If I take that last right instead of that last wrong, I will arrive at my destination. 

The grand beauty of enlightenment would be more breathtaking than the Wonders of the World. I’m scared of the unknowns but I’m willing to risk a panic attack. Just to understand why. Or how.

I live here in this tiny adorable house/condo and I am satisfied. My jewel box where I live with the ones I love the mostest and hide a case of Coke zero under the farmhouse flea market kitchen sink behind a ruffled curtain in the loveliest shades of blue and green. My fig tree is so close to reaching the ceiling. I know Walt has no enlightenment. He offers no enlightenment. He lives in the opposite of enlightenment. But I keep packing my bag and looking at the trailhead with hope and yearning. Wonder scrolls across the inside of my head. Wonder as in, I wonder what happened. 

The different definitions are right there next to each other in a trusted tome- the Dictionary. No wonder I get it twisted in my own brain. I feel something inexplicably beautiful, something curious and something doubtful.

I could say nothing. I could think nothing of this half a life. I could write nothing. I could be over it. I am ashamed that I am not. I voice this to the closest friends and they laugh. Only a non-human would think you should be over this. The lack of understanding needles in. Why. The kind of why that lost it’s question mark some whiles ago. A friend explained her husband was dealing with childhood trauma at the ripe old age of fifty something. He had gotten sober years ago but now the hurts that started his search for resolution were resurfacing. And I thought to myself why do these same people wait for me to jump hurdles faster than this grown man? It might be because I write. It might be because my hairdo – my two pony tails tucked up in messy buns allows my face to show. My emotions and my truths are out there for you to read on your phone or on my face. No make up. No secrets. You see the glimpses of the real me. You know I know. You watch me like a Friday night horror movie rented from Blockbuster. You yell at the cheerleader. Don’t go that way. You know where the danger is. And I’m walking straight into his chainsaw. I know I’m in Texas and he has a chainsaw out in the scary woods but I walk that way, when just yesterday I told the other girls- Avoid The Woods. You know I know because you heard me say it. You saw me write it. You saw me birth understanding and truth and now I am again pregnant with longings for the mercy of discernment. The two exist within me. Knowing the truth and begging for understanding.  I worry that you will tire of me- rehearsing this tragedy over and over while you bought tickets for opening night of a comedy. I want you in the audience with a single red rose feeling moved to tears and the roaring laughter of common denominators. I’m scared of missing my chance. You want a refund. I don’t want to pretend to be sleeping when you see me in person. I want to be the songbird whose notes reach the top of the world. A friend of this same friend confided that she reads my blog. And this is usually how it goes- someone who reads my blog feels like it should be a secret that they know about me. But I want readers. Can I be a songbird if no one listens? Can I be a writer with no readers? An exhibitionist with no viewers (the devil on my shoulder whispers)? I want this to move forward. I am on the verge of a dress rehearsal. Don’t give up on me. Please. 

The decision tree becomes complicated and the sureness of my choice vacillates with my mood. I can not possibly see the bottom through this murky water. I do not know the best way. The trees hold such beauty anyways.

Photo by Ray Bilcliff on Pexels.com

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