Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Express Your Anger--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Thursday, December 13

     “Good morning,”JB emailed. “Hope you're doing ok. When would you like me to come by tomorrow night? Thought I'd take the boys out for pizza or something. 
     “Troy and Pris have said I can stay as long as I like, but that doesn't mean forever. Pris has lost most of her work hours and is job hunting so perhaps if I offer to chip in a little rent I can stretch it out there for a while. Sooner or later I will need a place, hopefully suitable for the kids to visit. 
     “I am sorry for everything. I know ‘everything’ is a long, long list. I love you and miss you and the kids terribly.”

     I stared at the email on my phone then whipped it into my purse. I drove Tom to school, taught yoga, rode my horse, then Blake and I hit golfballs at the driving range. Tom went to a friend’s house after school and was invited for dinner, so Blake and I went out for Indian.
     “You’re handling this really well Mom,” Blake said, stuffing his mouth with dal makhani. “You’re going to be great. I can tell.”
     “It helps having you around,” I said. “How are you feeling about all this?”
     Blake shrugged. “I’m okay. I don’t think it’s really sunk in. I don’t know.” His phone vibrated. He pulled it out of his pocket. “Dad,” He sighed disgustedly. “I don’t feel like answering him.” He shoved his phone back in his pocket.
     I dropped Blake off at home and he hopped in his car to go see his friends. I drove to get Tom and waited for him in the driveway.

     “Did Blake say how finals went?” JB texted. “He's not answering my texts.”

     I ignored him.

     “Can you ever forgive me?” JB texted again. “I've lost everything and the hardest thing about that is knowing I deserve it. I would do anything for a chance at redemption.”

     “About the buyout money,” I texted. “Would you ask Stephen to email the total sum he owes us and forward it to me?”

     Stephen used to own the company JB works for. He’s supposed to send our share of the buyout money monthly, but JB often told me Stephen was short or skipped payments.

     “I'd rather you told me how you felt,” JB texted back. “Your communication has been very calculated and lawyerly. Express your anger or your hurt or your violation or sense of betrayal. Let's talk. I'll sit there and take it; I know I deserve it.”

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Think Long And Hard Before You Divorce Him--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, December 12

     “I went to see a urologist yesterday,” JB emailed. “I wanted a better explanation of the test results I shared with you last week, and to make sure the GP I went to gave me the right medicine. I'm still not feeling quite right. The guy was Dr. Tim. 
     “Dr. Tim said the lab result of gram-positive cocci was meaningless. That is a commonly occurring bacteria. He said I probably have either uretheritis or prostatitis caused by some bacteria that isn't showing up in the labs. He said the levaquin that I was prescribed wasn't the right antibiotic to cover all the bases. 
     “He gave me a single dose of suprax and a week's worth of doxyciline. He's confident that that will clear up whatever is there. He also said this would eventually clear up on its own. 
     “I wish this subject would go away, like a lot of things, but I want to keep you informed so you can share this information with your dr. 
     “Of all the things I've done, this one is eating at me the most.”

     Literally. Ha. I emailed my doctor. She assured me she was not concerned, that I had nothing to worry about.
     Tom came home from school and I made an early dinner.
     “Blake is coming home tonight,” I said as we ate. “He’ll probably get home while I’m teaching yoga. Do you want to tell him or wait for me?”
     “You do it.”
     “Okay. If Blake asks where Dad is, tell him you think he’s working. It’s probably true.”
     “I’m glad Blake’s coming home for a month. You’ll have your brother a long time.”
     “I’m glad, too.”
      I got home from yoga and Tom was standing at the back door. He was staring at me with huge eyes.
     “Blake is here,” he whispered.
     “Hey Blake,” I yelled into the house.
     Blake appeared in the kitchen and hugged me hard. We talked about his six-hour drive home, his finals, chit-chatted about his hockey team, his roommate. Tom stared at me.
     “Let’s sit down in the living room,” I said. The three of us sat down. I looked at Blake. “Your father and I are separated and your father is living at Troy’s right now.”
     Blake looked like I'd slapped him. “What? You’re kidding.”
     “I asked him to leave and he moved out December 1.”
     “He’s been cheating on me.”
     Blake sat back on the couch. He massaged his jaw. “I just, wow, I can’t believe it. Dad?”
     “The guy who never buys himself anything, never goes anywhere, does anything?”
     “He was apparently doing plenty. He accumulated a lot of secret debt. This has been going on for years.”
     “What?” Blake stared off vacantly trying to square the father he thought he knew with the one I was describing. “How did you find out?”
     “He told me.”
     “He told you? Out of the clear blue?”
     “He thought he gave me something.”
     “Oh my God.” Blake looked sick.
     “I’m healthy,” I said. “He’s been on websites for years finding married women who want to cheat.”
     Blake struggled with what he was hearing. I looked at Tom. He was perched on the arm of one of our couches. He was hearing this for the first time, too. His eyes were enormous. Early on Tom had demanded to know why I couldn’t live with his father and I’d held back details until his social worker, Ryan, told me to tell him. When I'd offered to explain, Tom looked scared and said he didn’t want to know after all.
     “I’m sorry,” I said, looking at Blake and Tom. “I’m sorry this is happening.”
     “You have nothing to be sorry about,” Blake said. “You didn’t do anything. My God. Look at you. Look at Dad. He’s not even in your league. What the fuck is his problem?”
     “I feel terrible for you guys.”
     Blake’s phone vibrated. He pulled it out of his pants pocket. “Dad’s texting me.” He shook his head. “He wants to know if I had a safe drive and if I got home okay. Fucker. I’m not answering.”
     Tom jolted ramrod straight. His eyes got even larger. He swallowed hard. Blake’s phone vibrated a couple more times. He looked at it, exhaled disgustedly, and stuffed his phone in his pocket.
     “Tom, you have school tomorrow,” I said. “You should start getting ready for bed.”
     “I’m going to the gym,” Blake said.
     I hugged Blake and kissed him on the cheek. He squeezed me hard.
     “I love you,” he said.
     “I love you.”
     Blake left and Tom hopped in the shower.
     Earlier in the day my attorney sent me a divorce petition that had another client’s name on it and other errors. I’d called her and she’d explained her assistant emailed me before she’d proofread it, but I was still upset. I was unsure I wanted her representing me. I decided to call my friend, Audrey, to get her divorce attorney’s contact information and picked up my phone. There was a text from JB.

     “I just learned from Tom that Blake just got home. I assume you plan to tell him.  Please let me know once he knows. I will want to talk to him. Thanks. I hope you are doing ok. FYI I have been doing some apartment hunting.”

     “Blake knows,” I texted. “Don’t sign a lease until we get finances figured out. I still think Roz could be a good option for the interim.”

     “I won't sign anything. Want to see what's to see what's (sic) out there. I'm ok at Troy's for a little while. Roz has no room for me, and I want to be in this area if possible. How did Blake take it?”

     I ignored JB and called Audrey.
     “I need your divorce attorney’s contact information,” I said. “I’m feeling shaky about mine.” I took a deep breath and told Audrey JB’s latest admission.
     “Think long and hard before you divorce him,” Audrey said. “You’ve had twenty-one good years. You’ve traveled around the world. You got to stay home with your kids…”
     “Are you kidding me? I can’t live with him! He’s been having unprotected sex and exposing me to God knows what for years! He’s racked up twenty-seven thousand dollars in secret debt! Are you nuts?”
     “Marty and Jill wish they’d never divorced. Jill can’t find a job or a man. Her grown kids have to live with her so she can stay in her house. Marty told me if she had it to do over again, she wouldn’t. Her life got a lot harder. I’m just saying, think long and hard about it."
     “I’m supposed to sleep with him? Spend the rest of my life twisting and turning over what he’s doing, what diseases he’s got, how deep he’s digging our financial hole?” I looked down at my body. It was shaking. Miraculously, our call was dropped. Neither of us called the other back. I sat on my couch and shook uncontrollably. Audrey was raising two girls on her own. She had a hard life. I understood where she was coming from, but I will not speak to Audrey about this again. Not until my divorce is final.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I Don't Think A Pill Will Fix All My Character Flaws--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Tuesday, December 11

     “When are you sending details?” I texted JB this morning. “Please disclose everything. I can’t take any more slowly dribbling out. It’s all going to come out, so get it over with.” 

     “I know...,” JB texted. “Sending you a letter shortly. Sorry for the drip drip.. I’m ashamed and embarrassed..but you are right... It's inevitable.”

     I rode Jack. When I was done I drove home, parked next to my house, and checked email sitting in my car. There was one from JB.

     “When I tried to come clean with you earlier, I was trying to do it on my term (sic) by admitting I’d done wrong but framing it in a way that might seem somehow forgivable. That obviously didn’t work. And I managed some fresh lies, half-truths and omissions while I was trying to ‘come clean’ with you. 
     “You are right, being sloppy with money and carelessly piling up debt is a lifelong pattern with me. As long as I’ve been an adult I’ve had varying amounts of secret debt. Some of the debt is the result of inappropriate behavior, which I will share below. Most of it is the result of letting small mistakes add up to bigger mistakes, and by not addressing them, they become so big it’s impossible to imagine coming clean. 
     “There are a lot of mundane expenditures, rounds of golf, lunch, and so on. A lot of business expenses, most of which were reimbursed but the missing receipts or disallowed expenses (movies, minibar) all add up as well.  Some bills to the IRS and IL Dept. of revenue for additional tax payments. Using expense money to pay down one credit card while balances pile up on others.  Late fees, bank fees, interest, insurance payments.
     “Then there was some stuff that wasn’t just stupid and careless, but wrong. The first fresh lie I told you is that I had a one night stand 10 years ago. That actually never happened. Up until about four years ago I was a perfectly faithful husband. I was guilty of many things, carelessness with money being one of them. I indulged in the odd dirty movie and looked at other women but I wasn’t a cheater. 
    "I made up the 10 year old fling on the road because I thought one mistake a decade ago, while certainly wrong, might be a way to acknowledge wrongdoing in a way that could be forgivable. Not sure why I thought that would work. The truth is more recent and not so easily forgiven.
     “About four years ago, I was restless, depressed, bored and starting to feel old and past the peak of my career. Rather than talk about it, or get help, or try to make positive changes in my life, I started down a dark path that I followed on and off for the next few years. 
     “I discovered websites catering to people having affairs. I joined Ashley Madison in 2007 and it soon became an obsession that waxed and waned but didn’t completely end until this year. I deleted my profile six months ago and haven’t been back. But what was done was done. I probably spent $300-400 a year on these sites. 
     “While I joined AM, my main focus was chatting online with women, at times explicitly. I convinced myself it was harmless, but it was really a gateway drug to infidelity. I dabbled in a few other similar sites, but AM was the main one. 
     “I didn’t have any actual physical contact with anyone for the first year or so. I did spend a lot of time emailing and instant messaging with a number of different women but nothing ever developed beyond chat. The process of getting to know someone, having her respond to me and stroke my ego became a kind of addiction, or at least an obsession. Pathetic as it sounds, I was in it for the attention. 
     “I would go through periods where I spend (sic) a few hours a day doing this, then would come to my senses and stay away for weeks or months, then eventually go back. This stopping and starting pattern was ongoing for the entire time I was involved with the site.  
     “In summer 2009 (sic), I met a few women face to face and one of those led to a liaison in a hotel room. It wasn’t a good experience. It was awkward and I felt terrible afterwards. I dropped off the site for a while after this. I drifted back gradually and also had a liaison with another woman I met online during the following spring. And I stayed away for a while again after that. 
     “In early last year I again drifted back to AM and the cycle started again.  I eventually started chatting with a married woman from the North Shore. We hit it off and a friendship developed. After a while started (sic) meeting for drinks or coffee, and things progressed gradually into an affair that went on for about a month and a half.  I won’t pretend that I was dragged into anything but we were both ambivalent about what we were doing. It eventually fizzled out for that reason. But we did meet in hotels about 4 times. 
     “I haven’t spoken with her nor have I initiated any other relationships since on that site or anywhere else. My interest in the site waned, but I did keep my membership going for a while. I finally permanently deleted my profile this summer and I haven’t been back.
     “I now realize that going to therapy helped to shake me out of my destructive patterns. Even though I wasn’t completely honest with my therapist about all I had done, as long as I was seeing him, my focus was on talking about and thinking our (sic) marriage, the family and trying to understand myself better. That process seemed to keep my worst impulses in check and helped me focus on the right things. 
     “Over the past 3-4 months in particular I really did feel that I was finally starting to focus exclusively on being a husband and not letting my mind wander down dark paths. Despite the burden of all the secrets I was still carrying, that made me feel pretty good. I still hadn’t resolved all the behaviors that drove me to secrecy, but I was feeling more content than I had in a long time. I genuinely treasure the time we spent together in Spain. And all times we have spent together. 
     “What is strange and hard to understand is how compartmentalized this all was. I always loved you and desired you and wished for a strong relationship with you but at the same time did so many things that made that undermined that (sic) possibility. I can’t blame the Internet, but it certainly made easy something I might only have fantasized about otherwise. 
     “Then there’s Thailand. I can’t explain that one. I could almost forgive myself for the past but I can’t forgive myself for this one. It was just ego and moral weakness and impulsiveness and stupidity and selfishness and thinking I am far from home and it didn’t mean anything. I have to own it. That incredibly bad decision has unraveled everything. 
     “Ultimately, the secrets were the root cause of the distance and lack of emotional connection that you often complained about (rightly so). It is a vicious cycle. The more secrets you keep from someone, the harder it is to be close with that person. I’ve thought countless times about coming clean on everything, but I never had the guts. I still don’t. I can only muster the courage to do this in writing. Looking you in the eye and telling you all this would be excruciating. 
     “We do need to communicate about the kids, and we need to talk about how to deal with the financial challenges of having two households and fixing the mess I’ve made. We are going to have to find a way to reach some peace between us so we can work together on whatever the future holds. 
     “I love you, and I am so sorry for failing this family. I know I’ve hurt you to the core with this betrayal. I know your anger is raw and that anger has probably been advanced considerably by reading this letter. I keep digging a deeper hole, but we can’t move forward until the secrets are out. I’m sorry to have dragged this out longer than necessary.
     “Regarding therapy, if we had money for it I would go back. I think a fresh start with more honesty would help me. I have even started to wonder if I’d benefit from medication, an idea I’ve always resisted. I have incredible difficulty with focus and concentration and it seems to keep getting worse. I don’t think a pill will fix all my character flaws, but it might help me see things more clearly as I try to get back on the right path. I don’t know. 
     “This may sound crazy now, but at some point you and I might benefit from seeing someone together, even for just a few sessions. It doesn’t have to be about repairing the marriage, though I’d welcome that. It could just be about getting all the issues out so we can move on in the best way possible. 
     “Below are my credit card logins. Pore (sic) over them and ask me any questions you like. I am now completely giving everything over to you and to fate or a higher power, or whatever it is that determines what happens next.”

     I sat frozen in my car. I was breathing rapidly. I burst out crying. I abruptly stopped. I burst out crying and stopped again. This was repeated many times. I walked into my house jangly and unsteady. I pictured JB texting and emailing. JB almost always had a phone in his hand or a computer on his lap. I’d believed he was talking to international clients. He texted and emailed before and after groping and fucking me. I felt filthy, defiled, diseased.
     I called my friend, Tracy, a realtor, and asked her to come over and tell me what the house was worth. We walked through my house then sat at the kitchen table and drank tea.
     “You’ve been unhappy in your marriage since I’ve known you,” Tracy said. “I’ll never forget you talking about ‘the hand.’ How ‘the hand’ would reach over and you’d seize up inside. You knew a lot was wrong. There was a boogieman in the room but you couldn’t see him. You felt him but you couldn’t see him. Now you see him.”
     “I’ve been waking up at three in the morning in a cold sweat,” I said. “The things JB’s done or might do jolt me awake. My sweat smells peculiar. I used to work for CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, representing abused and neglected children. My office was in a juvenile courthouse connected with a juvenile detention center. There were holding cells between the court house and jail. The cells had a strange yeasty smell. I smell like that.”
     Tracy’s eyes widened. “I smelled like that when I was getting divorced, too! I had to go on medication. I started taking Xanax so I could sleep. I couldn’t sleep for months. I couldn’t take it anymore.”
     “I had no idea how much this fucks up a person Tracy. I wish I’d been a better friend when you were going through it.”
     “You were a good friend. You came over and did yoga at my house every Friday night.”
     “But I had no idea how bad you felt.”
     “You have no idea until it happens to you.”
     Tracy left. Matt texted and asked me to go out Friday night. I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want to be alone on a Friday night. I said yes.

     “We should get together and talk,” JB texted. “If you need more time to process that's fine but we should talk about what has happened and what happens next. And we need to talk about telling Blake... He'll want answers and I know I need to be honest with him."

     I ignored JB.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Consider Paying Someone To Kill Me--"Thank You Ashely Madison" excerpt

Monday, December 10

      I steeled myself and checked email.

     “I wanted to share this with you as a draft,” JB wrote. Take a look at each of the tabs.
     “I know you will want documentation for everything. I will provide it. 
     “You should look at all these numbers and if you have better information (particularly around monthly household expenses), then just plug in the numbers and the totals will adjust automatically. Then we can take another look at what our options are.
     “Once you take a look at the life insurance totals you might consider paying someone to kill me and make it look like an accident.
     “As I have mentioned before, one option available to us is to reduce the 401K set aside to free up some more cash. I would only want to look at that as a short term plan to reduce debt and/or build up a cash reserve. I don't want to get too far behind on our retirement savings. I think the best approach to the debt is to retire the smaller balances first, then address the larger balances.
     “As for my budget. My suggestion is we agree on a number and you write me a check every month, or one every 2 weeks. Once we agree on that I can give you back the debit card. 
     “Anyway, take a look and take your time with it. I owe you the other thing I promised in my text last night. I will get it to you asap. I want to put some thought into it.
     “Sorry for all my desperate texts and emails. I know very well that they are falling on deaf ears. Just know my feelings of remorse and regret for all I have done are very, very real, as is my intense yearning for you and the kids, hell even for the dogs. I am determined to make this right. I know it's a long-term project. 
     “I love and miss you,

     I looked at the spreadsheet. JB’s not $11,000 in debt, he’s $27,454 in debt. I stared at my computer. I felt dizzy, nauseated. The tone of JB’s email left me stunned and numb. He thinks this will blow over. He believes I’ll tidy up his mess and stick it out. And he’s getting ready to dump more shit on me.