Saturday, December 31, 2016

Intentions Are Cheap--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

     (Friday, November 30, continued)

     “As for our separation, I'm grateful for a few extra days at home (I hope this email doesn't change that). While living with Troy I will figure out a longer term arrangement, I'd rather it be in the burbs. I want to be as close to home as possible. That's really important to me. I'm investigating things.
     “I will respect boundaries and not make unannounced appearances or anything of the kind. If you have other ground rules, we can discuss them. But I want to see Tom as often as I can, and Blake when he's home. I hope the kids don't end up hating me. That would be unbearable. I also want to have an opportunity to gradually repair our relationship to the degree possible. I still hope for eventual reconciliation, which I know will be difficult to earn. I know you would say impossible. At the very least I hope for eventual healing. Together or separated, I hope we can find peace and solace as the parents of two amazing boys, who have spent the better part of our lives together, yes with good and bad times, but lots of good. I love you very much and I am in agony over the mess I've made and the pain I've caused and am about to cause. 
     “I plan to focus in the coming weeks on improving my health and taking an inventory of my life. And getting back on top of my game professionally.
     “I know it's said that people can't or don't change. In a sense that is true. But I believe people can improve, become more self aware, change their lifestyle and their behavior. They can become more sensitive, spiritual and present. That's the journey I am planning. Intentions are cheap. You can judge the outcome a few months down the road.
     “The only request I have, as I said yesterday, is please don't move too quickly to file for divorce. I am assuming you are already getting advice, which you should be. I have not yet talked to anyone. I hope we can let the separation happen for a while and then take it from there. I want to support your effort to finish your book, and I don't want you to have to make any big sacrifices right now. I'm looking into ways I can perhaps increase/supplement my income, though haven't come up with anything just yet. 
     “As for what we tell Tom, I've given it some thought. We should talk about that directly. I would like to have a father-son night with him Saturday if that's OK wit (sic) you. I cry every time I think about telling him."
      “About a decade ago... I had a one night stand.” JB infected me with HPV a year ago. “secrets mostly fall into the category of, ‘why didn’t you just tell me?’” No. They don’t. “I have been hiding some debt.” More, I suspect. “. . . sensitive, spiritual and present. That’s the journey I am planning.” JB smirked whenever I spoke of spiritual matters. “… I think the only thing that matters right now is getting to honesty.” Not much honesty here. I read JB’s email again. I read it a third time. I started shaking. My breathing got short and shallow. I felt like I was flying apart. I saw myself lifting a shotgun and blowing JB’s head off.
     (To Be Continued)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

All These Stupid Little Secrets--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

     (Friday, November 30, continued) 

    “1. I have been hiding some debt. It's about 11K, less about 2.5K in outstanding expenses from work. Amex, citibank and chase (sic). The sources of the debt will be detailed below. I have been whittling it down steadily.
     “2. I drink more than you may realize, and it's gotten a little bit worse in the past year. I probably have 3 beers a day on average, sometimes a little more. That's too much and given my family history, troubling. There is also an association in me between booze and poor judgement. It's one of the many things about myself I really need to examine. I think my guilt over my secrets may be a factor in my increasing use of alcohol. Also, I have learned that I have high blood pressure, which is not helped by my lifestyle of drinking lots of beer and coffee, plus the stress of trying to keep all these stupid little secrets. 
     “3. I have hid additional taxes in the past. On a few occasions over the past years, I've had you write checks for estimated taxes and then I filed later, sometimes we owed an additional 1-2 K which I would put on amex (sic) or on my citicard (sic) rather than tell you about it. 
     “4. Rather than come to you to talk about our share of the Michigan expenses, I've just buried them. We generally owe about 1500 per year for our share of the taxes, utilities and so on. I've been lax about collecting from Troy and Leslie but have recently sent them a statement. Leslie settled up but Troy still owes me about 1K. We have the fall taxes looming on the Michigan property. Our share is about $700. I also bury my life insurance payments, which are about 500 a year, but it all adds up.
     “5. The buyout checks are larger each month than I have told you. I've used the difference (about 600) to work off my debt. 
     “6. Some of the buyout checks that didn't come were genuine because the companies renegotiated the buyout deal. But on a few occasions I used that precedent as an excuse to keep the checks to try and whittle down my bills. This month is an example. I've probably done this 2 or 3 times over the past couple of years. 
     “7. I borrowed the capital one (sic) card in the basket in your office on my last trip as a just in case. I ended up using it but have paid it off already. It should have a zero balance right now. I returned it to the basket in your office and will not us (sic) it again.
     “All of the financial issues can be addressed if we sit down and really go through our finances, as unemotionally as possible, and figure things out together. Maybe right now isn't the best time, but we can't put it off for too long. Next year refinancing may be necessary to stabilize our finances as we figure out what our futures will look like. We'll probably need some professional advice.
     (To Be Continued)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sizable Lies And Omissions--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

     Friday, November 30

     My heart and stomach dropped when I began reading JB’s email.

     “I've promised to come clean on everything I've kept from you, so here it goes,” JB wrote. “This is probably too little too late but I feel that I owe this to you. This isn't going to help my cause, but I think the only thing that matters right now is getting to honesty. I didn't even have the guts to tell my therapist most of these things. If I had, maybe we'd be in a different place right now. This will be a long email but I ask that you please read it.
     “Please understand I may try to explain some of my actions. I have no intention of excusing any of my behavior. 
     “You probably are assuming I've been seeing women all along. That's actually not true. I've actually spent most of our marriage avoiding compromising situations on the road, which aren't as prevalent as you might thing (sic) but they can and do happen.
     “I haven't been perfect, unfortunately. About a decade ago, maybe a little longer, I had a one night stand with a woman at a conference in Florida. The two times I made this mistake had certain things in common. The women approached me and paid a lot of attention to me. They were younger, attractive but not amazingly so, and they were aggressive and made all the moves. And way too much alcohol was consumed in each case. None of this excuses my behavior, obviously, but I think the clear pattern is that my ego was being stroked and my judgment was impaired by booze. I've always had a pathetic need to feel attractive to women and when anyone feeds that, I am vulnerable. There have been a handful of other instances over the years where women have flirted with me and I was vulnerable to making a mistake, but nothing happened. At various times during our marriage I've imagined or contemplated having an actual affair, but never had one or took any serious action to find one. The two times I did cross the line, beyond any fleeting physical gratification, they produced only negative feelings -- remorse, guilt, emptiness and regret. These feelings were very strong this last time in particular. I was aching the next day. If anything, it's made it clear to me that I'm not really cut out for infidelity. Yet there is no denying I've been guilty of it. I repeated a mistake I told myself never to repeat. I can't change that now. You have no idea how much I wish I could. 
     “I am not sure we were in such a great place when this happened the first time. What is really killing me right now is that I felt good about where we've been recently. I've enjoyed the past several months together in particular, and have felt closer and more in love with you than ever, which makes my recent actions so much more repellent and inexplicable and tragic. But as I am about to describe, my accumulated secrets were holding me back from being fully available to you and were starting to take a toll on my health. It's what stood in the way of fully repairing our marriage, and I'd been struggling to find a way to reveal them to you so that we could have a completely honest relationship. And yet I have passed up every opportunity to come clear and finally be completely real with you. Until now of course, when I find myself completely out of rope.
     “As you will see, the other secrets are mostly fall (sic) into the category of "why didn't you just tell me?" It would have been so much easier. These represent a lot of dumb, careless decisions that I covered up mainly out of embarrassment or desperation. The one insight I did get from therapy was that my ACOA (Adult Child of an Alcoholic) status is consistent with a need to keep up appearances at all cost and avoid conflict. My intense conflict avoidance may be the one thing that has caused me more trouble in my life than anything else. You've pointed this out to me countless times.
     “I'm guessing some of these will not come as a big surprise, but there are some sizable lies and omissions contained here."
     (To Be Continued)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

But Thailand Was The Only Time--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

     Thursday, November 29

     I walked into my doctor’s examining room, stripped, put on a paper gown, and jammed my heels into the table stirrups. Dr. Shoal inserted a speculum and swabbed me.
     “Visually, everything looks good,” she said. “I’ll call you tomorrow with your test results for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. You’ll need a blood test for HIV in six months. In light of what you just told me, the HPV you were diagnosed with a year ago was most likely something new your husband gave you. It’s unlikely a twenty-four-year-old case came back.”
     I felt like a robot. I drove to Tom’s school. I walked into the office and Mary, the secretary, looked up and gave me a saccharine smile.
     “I need to speak with the school psychologist,” I said.
     Mary gave me an odd questioning look. “I’ll call and see if she’s available.”
     When Mary got off the phone she said the psychologist was with a student but would call me. I left my name and number. I didn’t know how to tell Tom I was divorcing his father and needed help. And Tom would need help. I walked to my car. My text alert dinged.

     “The urine test was clear for chlamydia (sic) and gonn (sic) but the swab test won't be ready til (sic) next week,” JB wrote. “That will confirm tests And (sic) screen for any other possible infections. The urine tests are supposed to be accurate but not 100%. 
     “Troy can take me whenever. I can move in this weekend.”

     JB was going to move in with his brother. Excellent. I fed Tom dinner, JB came home, and while Tom was in the shower, I turned on JB.
     “Remember when my doctor said I had HPV last year?” The color drained from JB’s face. “She says you re-infected me. It wasn’t the case you gave me twenty-four years ago when we were dating.”
     “But Thailand was the only time I was unfaithful,” he stammered. “I swear.”
     I looked at him disgustedly. “The only reason you told me you cheated is because you thought you gave me an STD. Right?”
     JB looked at his feet. He nodded.
     “You’re leaving for Los Angeles in two days and will be gone a week,” I said. “That’ll give me time to figure out what to tell Tom. We’ll tell Tom when you get back then you can move to Troy’s. I’m leaving. I have dinner plans.”
     I met my friend, Matt, at an Italian restaurant. Matt and I’d reconnected two weeks ago at our thirtieth high school reunion. He’d invited me out to dinner in a text. Days after I’d said yes, he told me he’d lied to his wife about our having dinner plans. It made me uncomfortable. I’d decided to cancel but then my marriage blew up. Matt is a lawyer.
     “I know you don't do divorces, but can you recommend a divorce lawyer?” I asked.
     “I have a great one in mind, but I want to make sure she’ll take you on. She’s winding down her practice."

Saturday, December 10, 2016

I Went To The Doctor Today--"Thank You Ashley Madison" except

     I drove Nicole to the dilapidated farmhouse where she and her boyfriend, Ken, live. I’ve known Nicole since first grade. We grew up kindred eye-rolling spirits in Seventh-day Adventist school.
     “I’m leaving JB,” I told Nicole.
     “Oh, darlin’,” she drawled. “I’m so sorry. I thought he was great. I thought you had the perfect life.”
     “No one’s life is perfect.”
     “Well, yours seemed to be. I’m going to call JB and tell him he better behave and treat my best friend right.”
     “You’ll do no such thing. I want to get rid of that asshole.”
     “Oh, darlin’, you don’t want to end up like me.”
     “Thanks for your concern.”
     “You really want to leave him?”
     “Damn straight I do darlin’,” I drawled. “What the fuck’s up with that southern accent? We grew up together. You never lived down south.”
     Nicole nervously mumbled something. The rest of the ride she spoke in her normal voice.
     Several text alerts dinged on my phone. I parked next to my house. There was a long text from JB.

     “I went to the dr today near my office about my bladder problems,” he began.

     Tom and I had gone bike riding Sunday. As we peddled to the house I was happy to see JB raking leaves. He was doing it without me asking. He’d become oddly helpful lately. Days earlier, he’d organized the pantry. JB stopped raking and stood next to a pile of leaves. He was pouting and appeared lost in thought. Typical.
     “Why the sourpuss?” I needled.
     “I don’t feel good,” JB said. “I haven’t felt good since Thanksgiving. I’ve been peeing a lot and I get a pain right here.” He pressed his hand near his groin. I think I should go to the doctor.”
     “When’s the last time you saw one?”
     “I don’t know. Years.”
     “I’ll text you my internist’s number. Blake goes to her. He likes her, too.”

     “I told him everything,” JB’s text continued. “He checked me out and didn't find anything specific. It may be anxiety. It may be an (sic) urinary tract infection. He took a swab and a urine sample and gave me a general antibiotic called levaquin (sic) to be on the safe side. You might want talk to to (sic) your dr. An antibiotic might be a good idea for your peace of mind.
     "I know how badly I have fucked up and now I have to accept the consequences. My behavior was unforgivable. Its (sic) hitting me like a ton of bricks. I'm so sorry. I am so ashamed. I can't even face you. 
     "I will alway (sic) live up to my responsibilities to you and the kids whatever happens.”

     Sunshine streamed into the car. I watched dust specs float. I felt like vomiting. I slumped. I read and reread JB’s text. JB’d said he’d used a condom then added that weird comment about a blowjob. Who knows what he fucked in Thailand. I called my doctor and got an appointment tomorrow. I glided into the house. Tom was already home from school.
     “Hey buddy,” I said, trying to sound normal. “Get started on your homework. I’m hopping in the shower, making you something to eat, then teaching yoga.”
     I didn’t want to teach yoga. I wanted to curl up in a ball.
     I returned home from yoga and JB was in the kitchen. I stared at him. I felt deep loathing. He couldn’t look at me. I washed up and went to bed. The bed felt good without him. JB’s footsteps sounded on the stairs. His footsteps made me cringe for years. When they turned into Tom’s room, relief rushed through my body.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Blissed Out/Hellish Panic--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

    Wednesday, November 28

     I had a Kabbalah class this morning. Somewhere to go and get spiritual support. I felt relieved and hopped in the shower. It occurred to me that JB could possibly move into his sister Roz’s apartment. Roz was divorced and broke. I got dressed and, as usual, JB was at the computer.
     “Why don’t you call Roz and see if she wouldn’t mind having a roommate?” I asked.
     JB stared at me blankly. He furrowed his brow. He stiffened. “Oh! You mean me?”
     “Yeah, I mean you,” I chuckled. “I mean you living with her.”
     “Shit!” JB gasped and stared at his feet.
     “Call her. Bye.”
     I walked downstairs, hugged Tom, who was eating a bowl of cereal, kissed him, and left JB to take him to school.
     Kabbalah class was on the ego and the soul and figuring out which one I’m operating from. If I’m in the moment, excited, and passionate about what I’m doing, I’m operating from the soul. If I’m worried, anxious, fearful, doubtful, or angry, that’s my ego. So if I’m rehashing the past and getting twisted up about the future: ego. If I’m stuck in thinking loops about the same old crap: ego. I was advised to laugh at myself and pull myself back into the present and not beat myself up. Beating myself up is ego, too. I’m well practiced at beating myself up and all the other ego stuff.
     I drove away feeling happy. I was excited to start my new life. The sun was shining and the world looked beautiful. I was in the flow. Then I started worrying. Would we sell the house? How would I make money? I’d been a full-time mom for twenty-one years. I taught yoga and wrote part-time. Fear gripped me. I began to panic. I reminded myself I was in ego and brought myself back to the beautiful woods I was driving through. My phone rang. It was Nicole. I let her go to voicemail. Nicole had left many messages knowing I was going to pick her up from the hospital after my class. I’d visited her Monday and had to wear a Hazmat suit so I wouldn't catch her intestinal infection. Nicole had pulled a curtain around her bed several times and shat in a portable toilet.
     The drive to the hospital was an hour long and I swung on an emotional pendulum the whole way. I felt blissed out then hellish panic. I pulled in front of the hospital and Nicole was waiting at the door.  Apparently her nearby, drug-addict, alcoholic friends could’t bother getting her. She gingerly hobbled to my car.
     “Will you drive me to Walmart so I can get a prescription?” she drawled. She was pouring on her sympathy-seeking false hillbilly accent. “I don’t have money. I could pay you back. I could . . .”
     “I’ll take you to Walmart,” I said. “Forget about the money.”
     We waited at the pharmacy for Nicole’s prescription. Nicole rested against a wall periodically sucking in her cheeks and rolling her eyes and steadying herself and glancing at me to see if I was watching. A fat, bald, toothless guy limped toward me.

     “You single?” he asked me. “You live around here?”
     “No and no,” I said grabbing a magazine and pretending to read.