Kev: In a generalized way, Catherine, tell us a little about yourself. Where you grew up, siblings, family life, education, and how you got to where you are now.
Nothing magnifies my inability to be pithy yet original more than when someone asks me to briefly introduce myself. Trying to master the Twitter concept just about killed me.
I was born in Austin, Texas to two people who met while serving in the USMC during the Vietnam war. The marriage was brief, the divorce was harsh, and my father still seems to have not gotten over it, some 40 years later.
My mom married my stepfather within minutes of her divorce being finalized, and they had 3 kids of their own to add to me and my little brother.
My childhood is complicated. I got super pissed when…
It’s the Fourth of July, 2014, as I write this, and I feel like I’m celebrating a different kind of Independence Day this year. I feel like celebrating the end of my own civil war.
I think back to August 2012 and it is hard to truly summon up those painful first days of my new chapter without feeling a bit of aching in my heart. That pain was unbearable.
This time last year felt completely different to me.
I had been publically humiliated, betrayed, lied to, and abused by my best friend, and the shock of so many unimaginably bewildering actions had not really set in yet. I had this rage welling up from deep inside of me, and I simply did not know what to do with it. I have very little experience with this emotion. I hate anger and the powerlessness that I feel comes with that emotion in myself.
My mother is Sicilian, and it has been a family joke that we kids are all born with a genius Revenge gene that once activated, could destroy whole countries. I can’t say I ever felt a powerful urge to wreak havoc on anyone before that moment I found out about my husband’s affair, but I sure remember wanting to destroy him and her life the minute following the realization.
I was freaked out by so much in August 2012. Chef had been doing drugs almost continually from
October 2011. He had developed a porn habit that he stopped even trying to hide from me, and had moved his things into our guest bedroom. Disappearing for days at a time had now become so prevalent, I was no longer surprised by the weekly occurences. Our arguments had by then, become physical, and we no longer seemed able to communicate with each other effectively.
I was moving through each day like a ghost, in shock, denial, and fear. I could not imagine life without Chef, but I also could not imagine life staying the way it was either. Because Chef refused to talk to me, I would write him letters, emails, texts…anything that I thought might pierce through the wall he had resurrected around himself. In the beginning, he would pretend he had read what I wrote, but his obvious lack of knowledge about what I had wrote would easily betray his deceit. I knew he was having an affair when he started hiding his cell phone, or wiping the text messages clean. I had an idea of who he was seeing, but no proof.
In the end, I had been right about all of it.
It is nothing short of miraculous what a woman will endure for the sake of love. I had been living in pure hell for almost a year by this time, dealing with PTSD symptoms from a sexually abused childhood triggered by his porn use, isolated from the club (who were my friends too) so he could take his new girlfriend around them without worry I would be told, grappling with financial issue after financial issue sparked by his constant drug habit and hotel room charges, and still holding down my own job. I was flat out terrified of what life would be like without him.
I think the real reason I walked away from my marriage had more to do with my kids than anything else. This horrible, chaotic life had become the norm for me, and though I hated it, I did know how to navigate it. Once my children were involved, though, I realized that I was going to be teaching them something important about life, and it better be a good lesson.
Rebekkah and Dj had known about their father’s drug use for a couple of months. Rebekkah had worked with him and Tanya, his fling, and could see his disintegration. She was repulsed by this new version of her father, and finally walked off her job, just to get away from him. Dj is a much more empathetic and compassionate person than any of the rest of us are, but he too, had to sadly walk away also. He said he didn’t think he could stand watching Chef die.
Caitlyn was in the USAF, stationed in Japan. The week I finally left Chef, she had been home for a visit. She was shocked at the differences in the family she had left behind a year earlier, and after taking an axe out of the hands of her beloved father, who was threatening to kill her mother, she too, had to distance herself from him.
They would never have said it out loud, but I knew my kids were watching me. Desperately, I wished they were far away from me and my tangled, sad world so I could just deal with the crap going on in my marriage without the added pressure of being a decent mother as well. I had no such luck.
I packed a few things up, scooped my 2 remaining kids up (Caitie had returned to Japan), and went to stay in a hotel until I could decide what my next move would be. I dealt with those first few weeks by drinking as much vodka as my body could stand, eating Ambien by the truck load, and sleeping. I hated being awake in this horror show of a life.
I would kill any man who treated my girls the way Chef was treating me. I would have been desperate to make them leave and not allow any man to abuse them. I had to show my kids what to do in a situation like this, and so I left. My heart was broken, and the hope that he would pull his shit together and get me back was still shining bright in the skies of my life back then.
For the next year, I would learn so much about life, love, and myself. Each minute of each day would seem to move desperately slowly, and the sheer number of tears I shed could have filled an ocean. I found every single thing about my life unfamiliar, even myself.
Some days, the codependent wife in me would be unable to not reach out to him, desperate for him to make me believe he still loved me. Others, the raging, scorned wife would coldly dream up ways to make his life mirror the misery in mine. Every day, I would struggle internally to gain control over the mountain of destructive emotions that loomed over me. I hated Chef. I hated Tanya. I hated the club that had turned their backs on me. Most of all, I hated myself for not being able to get a sense of stability and control back over my own life.
I can remember with clarity the day I began to celebrate small victories. I remember deciding to not numb my emotions with vodka and Ambien anymore, and the tiniest surge of determination and self-respect I was able to grasp on to each day I stayed sober.
I remember the time I finally acknowledged that I had no control over Chef and he had chosen to love someone else. I can recall the sense of purpose that settled around me when I accepted the truth about my new reality, and emotionally shut the door to close out the sight of a happy life with Chef. I hold each encounter with him that I was able to keep my eyes firmly on the reality of the situation, and not be tempted to color him with the shades of hope that changes in him would be able to accomplish.
I remember being able to laugh out of amusement again, instead of shock, twisted revenge, and despair. I remember the first day I made it through without crying, then the first week, and then the first month. I remember the transition from needing to hear his voice to forgetting to wonder what he was doing that day. So many firsts! First night I didn’t cry; first time I ignored his phone call; first time I told him I was not going to take him back.
Victory was when I didn’t count down each milestone I passed on my way back to the land of the living again. Victory was when he had no affect on the life I was in now.
I look back now, one year out of hell, and I am amazed at how quickly the time had really been marching by. I am surprised by my resilience despite being ill-equipped emotionally to deal with such a deep betrayal, riddled with PTSD symptoms, and effectively unable to turn to anyone who could help me. I belonged to a large family, but there existed not one bond strong enough that would allow me to ask them for help. I was a newcomer to the harsh realities of life, with only my barely grown children to help me acclimate to it.
More importantly, I have learned to appreciate each wound I suffered, and the valuable lesson I was able to learn about the universe I am a part of right now. One of them being, it takes a lot of courage to let yourself hope. Hope sets a person up to be disappointed, and it guarantees nothing.
Every day brings with it the normal peaks and valleys of life in 2014. I have my financial worries sometimes, and sometimes I am really lonely for someone to love me. I miss only vague things from marital life, like having a partner to help me tackle problems or the feeling of protection I used to feel. What I experience more regularly, though, is a sense of hope that something amazing lies ahead of me.
Hope was the last wound to heal in my heart, and the one that wields the most power over me. I never wanted it to present itself to my life again, still freshly bleeding from the wreckage of losing hope in Chef. And yet, I have found that hope is necessary for any life to be a happy one. I have chosen to live a life of risk, with hope riddling all of it, instead of a safe life, tucked behind protective walls around my heart that stave off danger as well as love.
I am not afraid of Life anymore!!
I hope I will make enough money soon to pay all of my bills.
I hope I will find someone who loves me some day.
I hope my employer will always be pleased with my performance.
I hope my daughter and her kids from Texas will come up to live with me.
I hope Dj will somehow find a cure for his health problems.
I hope Bekkie graduates from school with a degree she will love using to make a living.
I hope Caitie will decide to give me grandchildren before I eventually die of old age.
I hope my Dad will come back here and decide to stay living with us.
I hope my Mom is happy in Texas, surrounded by her family and friends after so long away.
I hope… I hope…I hope.
In fact, Life should wear a cup. I mean to squeeze every good minute it has to offer me, no matter how much she intends to make me pay for it.