Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Better Version Of Myself--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, February 13

     I met with Yosef.
     “Tell me about yourself,” he said.
     “I wrote a book called, ‘Diary of an Alcoholic Housewife,’” I said. “I haven’t had a drink in ten years and work a twelve-step program, so I’m in the habit of examining my motives and being honest with myself. I’m also getting divorced. My soon-to-be ex-husband was on Ashley Madison the last five years we were married.”
     “What is this Ashley Madison?”
     I explained and watched shock register on Yosef’s face.
     “I have never heard of such a thing!” he exclaimed. “This thing exists?”
     “This thing exists. I’m having a hard time dealing with it. I know if I handle this challenge well I’ll transform into a better version of myself, bring on light, not darkness. But I’m all over the place. I’m grateful and excited for my new life one minute—I sometimes pray for JB. The next I’m visualizing violent ways to snuff him out.”
     “I’m divorced,” Yosef said. He looked at me with compassion. “I’m married for the second time, but I know what it is to get divorced." After a moment he said," Email me the bullet points of your life. I suggest you sign up for Kabbalah U online so I can give you assignments.”
     We scheduled an appointment to speak by phone in three weeks and I left the office. I ran into Mike, another Kabbalah student.
     “I was assigned to Yosef, too,” Mike said. “How did it go?”
     “I’m going to like working with him, I think. He seems like a really good guy.” I told Mike about Yosef’s reaction to Ashley Madison. I watched Mike’s face fall.
     “Really?” he said. “There are websites like that?”
      Tears filled my eyes. “You don’t know about that site either? You have no idea how good it feels to see men shocked and saddened by this, too.”
     “What he’s done, it’s really bad karma. You know that, right? There’s nothing worse than committing adultery with another married person. The chain reaction. All the people’s lives you ruin. Bad things are in store for that guy.”
     Mark nodded solemnly. He looked sad for me. We hugged and parted ways.
     I sat in the car, pulled myself together, and drove to an indoor driving range to hit golf balls. A pro teaching lessons a few tees away walked over.
     “Let me tell you something,” he said. “By the way, I only give free tips to pretty girls. You’re not turning your hips. You’re never going to get any distance.” He put his hands on my hips, had me take a backswing, and twisted my hips back. “Now swing,” he said, turning my hips forward as I swung.
     “My twenty-year-old son has been giving me lessons,” I said. “He told me to keep my hips square to the ground. That’s what I’ve been doing.”
     “Some guys do that, but don’t,” he said.
     “What you showed me feels a lot better,” I said. “It frees up my arms.”
     “Yeah. You’re athletic. You should pick this up just fine. What do you do?”
     “I’m a writer and I teach yoga.”
     “Call me,” he said, handing me a card. “I’ve been working with someone who teaches yoga and I might need someone else.”
     I stuffed his card into my pocket and left. Golf Guy was cute. Maybe I could trade him golf lessons for yoga. I drove home and my mother arrived fifteen minutes later. Tom’s talent show was starting soon.
     “I’m not looking forward to seeing JB,” my mother said grimly.
     “Me either,” I said. “He’ll probably walk over and say hello to you.”
     “I’m going to stick close to you,” my mother said. “I feel like crawling in your pocket.”
     I hugged her.
     We left for the talent show and sat front row center. As the auditorium filled, Terry came out from backstage and told us how our boys were doing. I noticed JB lurking by a side door watching us.
     The curtain went up. The level of talent was impressive. Gamma Ray went on and began playing “Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys. They killed it and the audience went nuts.
     When the show ended, I began chatting with other parents and spied JB slithering my way. As he neared, I narrowed my eyes at him and heard him grunt as he skittered past me. He stopped next to my mother, who was standing twelve feet away. They exchanged words and JB put his hand on my mother’s arm before walking away.
     My mother took Tom and me out for dinner. As we ate minestrone before our entree, Tom ran his hand up and down his shiny tie.
     “Dad spent fifty dollars on our ties,” he said.
     I stared at Tom’s orangish necktie and rolled my eyes. “That thing might be worth a dollar. You have an orange tie from your Halloween battle of the bands. Why didn’t you guys wear those?”
     “This one’s not orange,” Tom said. “It’s red for Valentines Day.”
     “Your napkin is red.” I held up my napkin. “See? I can’t believe Dad spent fifty dollars on three cheap ties. Fifty dollars?”
     “Yeah,” Tom said. “I think they were seven or eight dollars apiece, plus tax. Shipping was more than twenty-four dollars for express.”
     “He’s a retard,” I said.
     My mother, who was sitting across from me and next to Tom, stared at me sternly and shook her head.
     “It’s not nice to say that word,” Tom scolded.
     “Okay then, he’s an idiot.”
     Tom shot me an angry look. My mother shook her head more rapidly. “Don’t,” she mouthed.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Don't All Guys Do That?--"Thank You Ashely Madison" excerpt

Monday, February 11

     I went to Sinead’s for tea. Sinead, a devout Catholic, asked if I was sure I wanted a divorce.
     “Don’t all guys do that?” she asked. “My neighbors got divorced and just remarried each other. Cost them a lot of money.”
     I felt sick, like I’d been gutted. I checked my phone. Gamma Ray had a talent show dress rehearsal after school. JB was there helping.

     “The boys sounded fantastic,” JB texted. “FYI the rehearsal is running late.”

     I felt upset. Like I could cry. I thanked Sinead for tea and drove home. Tom was grabbing Mexican with JB after rehearsal. I cooked myself dinner, unlocked the front door so Tom could walk in, went upstairs, put on pajamas, and started reading a book. I heard the front door open and banging around on the front porch. My phone rang. It was Tom.
     “Are you downstairs?” I asked him.
     “Yeah,” he said. “Why is Blake’s suit on the front porch?”
     “Jody’s son is borrowing it for turn-about,” I said descending the stairs. I clicked off the phone. JB was standing in the living room holding the suit. “Hang that back up on the porch,” I said.
     Tom darted upstairs. JB walked out on the porch and hung up the suit. He turned, started to speak, took a step toward the door, and I shut it on him. I switched off the porch light, and walked back upstairs. If I could make JB evaporate I would. I asked Tom about his weekend. He said he’d spent it watching YouTube or playing Wii.
     “You were plastered to screens the whole time?”
     “We ran errands, too,” Tom said. “We went to Target to buy mousetraps and rat poison. He has a mouse problem. Dad said he’s seen mouse droppings.”
     Tom got ready for bed and hugged me goodnight.
     “I missed you,” I said. “Does it feel nice to be home?”
     “Yeah,” he said warily. “But I have two houses now.”
     “Yes,” I said. “You do. That’s kind of cool.”

Saturday, August 19, 2017

I Can't Look Long--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Sunday, February 10

     I want JB to hurt worse than I hurt. It’s poison. I know it. But it’s how I feel. Anger knots my stomach. It squeezes my heart. My brain releases anger chemicals. Chemicals I’m so familiar with they feel like home. My insides harden. Every cell in my body vibrates. A head-rush comes on. I get off on it.

     “Please drop off a check when you bring Tom home,” I emailed JB. “Post date it to the 15th if you need to. And please don't bring me gifts, amends-making or not. I gave the flowers to a friend.
    “I feel deep disgust when I remember things we did during the five years you were on Ashley Madison and running up debt. I try to look at you. See outward clues of things I should have seen. See the narcissist inside you. But I can’t look long. It’s like seeing vomit on a sidewalk.
     “The years I spent telling you I didn't like the way you touched me but let you have me while my skin crawled. I believed you’d been put on my path for a reason. That I needed to become more selfless, try to elevate our relationship into something beautiful. I hung on two threads: I believed you to be faithful and honest. It was my mantra. My gut told me there was a boogeyman in the room, but I couldn't see him. 
     “You have no idea, and you never will, how deeply you damaged me. I don't know if you're capable of caring beyond the fact that this probably hurts your feelings.”

     I felt a sharp pain on the left side of my chest after I hit send. It persisted. I wondered if I was giving myself a heart attack. I wondered if I was being punished for sending a mean email.
“For the past two months I have done almost nothing but think about what led me to do what I did and why, and why I didn't follow your example to become a more self aware, good person, with integrity, who connected with you on a real level, with honesty,” JB emailed back. “You may not believe this but I actually really wanted that more than anything. Yet I did everything to undermine it. 
     “I don't have any good answers. I do understand that I didn't merely cheat on you or hide things from you, and I didn't merely miss opportunities to connect with you. It was so much worse that than (sic). Your trust in me was complete, and you sincerely tried to build a real relationship between us. Why I didn't honor that with my fidelity, full attention and effort is beyond me. It makes me shudder. It makes me wake up in the middle of the night. I'm really struggling with it. 
     “So now I make these lame friendly gestures that I know you'll bat away, just hoping maybe one day you'll loathe me a little less than you do now. I realize this comes from a selfish place. Me wanting you to like me again. I'm trying to recognize these patterns in myself more clearly now. I'm not claiming to be a transformed man, but I am seeing myself more clearly, (sic)
     “I actually want to know how you are doing. I never really ask because I am afraid of the answers, or worry that the question will stir up fresh resentments. But I wonder all the time how you are doing and what I could possibly do to make things better for you. 
     “I get that you think I am a massive creep. Maybe a sociopath. I understand why you think this of me. My actions were narcissistic and yes, creepy. It's painful to acknowledge this, but it's the truth. 
      “I am feeling a lot of intense emotions these days. Yes, some are of the self-pitying variety, and I am fighting those. I recognize I don't deserve them. I feel regret. I feel remorse. I feel empathy. I also feel an intense grief over the family that I destroyed. It's as if someone died. And I'm the killer. 
     “It may still be too soon, but eventually we should talk. Maybe best in the presence of a third party. I just feel like we both would benefit from this. 
     “I'll bring you a check today. I will need to post date it. Glad you had a nice birthday. I really am.”

     I felt my heart soften. Maybe JB was transforming. I hoped so for his sake. For our children’s sake. I checked the time. It was still a few hours away from JB dropping off Tom at one. Tom and I were supposed to ski and board our last Snowbirds session of the season. I’d forgotten and agreed to play in Tanya’s drumming circle this afternoon and I’d registered us for a Kabbalah class tonight. I called Laurel. She said she and Terry would take Tom boarding with them if it didn’t start raining.

     “It’s raining on the slopes and we’re not going,” Laurel texted me later.

      I texted JB. JB offered to keep Tom another night. I said thanks and drove off with Tanya to bang on Nigerian drums for an hour-and-a-half.
     The woman leading our drumming circle moved us around to different drums and kept changing our individual rhythms. I fused my beats with seven other women. Our drums were talking to each other. I listened to the other drums and my rhythms melted into the whole. It was beautiful. I focused on my own drumming and I’d get offbeat. I smiled. It was a metaphor for my life.
     Tanya and I left for Kabbalah class and I introduced myself to Yosef, one of the speakers, because he’d recently been assigned to be my Kabbalah teacher. He was a tall, dark, blue-eyed, handsome Israeli who lived in California. I would have been interested in him if I didn’t have an aversion to holy types. I waded into the world’s wisdom traditions just so far, grabbed pearls, and jumped out when human muck began floating around. The last thing I wanted was to be in a headlock taking a pounding from a Bible, Koran, Tripitaka, the Vedas, a Torah, or Zohar. I'd already lived through that.
     Yosef began speaking. He said that if we cry out from a place of truly wanting to change, a gate would open for us. He said that when we’re in pain and ask for more, because it’s the exact opposite of trying to escape or shut down, we’ll get the help we need. He explained that when we’re confused, we need to pay attention to details and do the work required. He said everything is built off thought, so think big. And if we want to increase our happiness, we need to live in the consciousness of sharing.
     “You’re going to fuck Yosef,” Tanya said during the drive home.
     I started laughing. “He is good looking.”
    “You’re going to be fucking him.”
    “He’s probably married.”
     “If he's not, you’re going to fuck him.”
    We both started laughing and couldn’t stop.
     “That’s the hardest I’ve heard you laugh in a long time,” Tanya said.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I Do Have A Soul--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, February 9

     Rather than meditate and read something spiritual when I woke up, as planned, I checked email again.

     “I let Tom go to Cooper's sleepover,” JB wrote. “A little reluctantly but he really wanted to go.  I hope you had a nice time for your birthday. I left something for you on the porch, in case you didn't see it. I'll have Tom back to you at 1 tomorrow. I assume you want him at home with you next weekend, but I'd be happy to have him.”

     I walked out on the porch. There were flowers and a card on the wicker couch. I walked back into the house, tossed the flowers on the kitchen table, and opened the card.

     “Brenda, Happy birthday. I am sorry about the ‘Mad Men’ thing. It was thoughtless. Please accept the flowers as apology. And I do have a soul.”

     I threw the card facedown on the kitchen counter. I didn’t want JB’s flowers or card. I’d give the flowers to Jody when she picked me up for dinner later. She was taking me out for my birthday.
     I drove to the barn and galloped BlackJack around in the snow. When I returned, I picked the flowers off the kitchen table and held them over the trashcan. I couldn’t stuff them in. I tossed them on the front porch for Jody.
     When Jody arrived, I gave her the flowers. “These are from JB. I don’t want them but I hope you enjoy them. They’re lovely.”
     “Mitch is leaving me flowers, too,” Jody said, referring to her ex-boyfriend. “I threw the last bunch out. I’ll give them to you next time.”
     A cute little gift bag sat on my seat.
     “You didn’t have to,” I said.
     “I know, it’s just little stuff,” she said.
     Jody treated me to a delicious dinner of red snapper, hummus, and stuffed grape leaves. I opened my gift bag. There was a beautiful gold sunburst charm necklace with a card that read, “Accomplish magnificent things. Make a wish and put on your necklace. Get ready to accomplish the incredible! You can do whatever you set your mind and your heart to. Wear your necklace as a reminder that you are capable of anything you imagine.”
     I started crying and reached across the table and squeezed Jody’s hand. Hard.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Happy Birthday--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, February 8

     I woke up, rolled over, grabbed my phone, and checked email. I keep telling myself I’m not going to start my day this way, but I keep doing it.

     “Happy birthday,” JB emailed. “I hope you have a great day celebrating a life that has been well lived thus far—with courage, curiosity, energy, honesty, integrity, intelligence, kindness and style. 
     “I am grateful to you for being a wonderful, supportive, loving wife to me for 21 years. I am sorry that I wasn't the man or the husband that you deserved. 
     “I am also grateful to you for being a wonderful mother to our children. Our boys are amazing, and it has a whole lot more to do with you than it does with me. 
     “I wish you peace, happiness and fulfillment.”

     I felt deeply sad that our marriage, our relationship, had turned out the way it did. I’d tried to be a good wife. I was glad JB saw me that way. But I was no angel. I’d ruminated about JB’s actions or inactions, built resentments, and treated him with contempt. I’d sunk my venomous teeth in our relationship and poisoned it, too. I got out of bed and cooked Tom breakfast and drove him to school.
     “Happy birthday Mom,” Tom said and gave me a big hug before getting out of the car. “I won’t see you until Sunday.”
     JB was picking up Tom after school.
     “Have a good time at Dad’s,” I said. “I love you.”
     “Love you, too.”
     I drove to the barn and had a beautiful ride on BlackJack in the snow. Then I drove downtown to meet David and Sherry, who were taking me to dinner at Bavette’s and the play “The Book of Mormon.” My phone beeped and rang with birthday wishes, one of them from Blake.
     “Happy birthday,” Blake said when I picked up. “I got this weird text from Dad telling me he’d reimburse me for anything I wanted to buy you, like in some twisted way it could be from him, too. I don’t have any money. I have five dollars right now. And I don’t want to buy you something and have him pay for it.”
     “Your phone call is my present,” I told Blake. “I love that you called me. I think you got that text from Dad because there was weirdness about the present he picked out for Tom to give me. It was a “Mad Men” dvd set. The whole thing with Don Draper. I had Tom return it.”
     “You can’t read too much into Dad’s behavior,” Blake said. “He does what he wants to and doesn’t think. He just bumbles around.”
     I pulled into the parking lot of David and Sherry’s building, the old Playboy building. They showed me around their lovely apartment. They took me out for dinner. I ate the best chocolate cream birthday pie ever. And we laughed our asses off for two-and-a-half hours at the play. I love David and Sherry. I love my sons. I love my friends and family. I love my dogs and horse. Thank you Universe for forty-nine years of fabulous human life that is never boring and full of opportunities to grow and fly.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

We Have To Look For The Black Box--"Thank You Ashely Madison" excerpt

Thursday, February 7

     I met Gina, a friend who’s also a therapist, for lunch.
     “You wouldn’t believe how many men are leading double lives,” she said between bites of her sandwich. “Men you’d never suspect. They do something once, get away with it, do it again, and pretty soon they’re leading double lives. Men are wired differently than women Brenda.”
     “I honestly thought I was one of the guys,” I said. “I’m not touchy feely. I laugh at jokes a lot of women find offensive. I don’t remember birthdays or anniversaries. I don't worry much about what people think of me. I’m not a huge people pleaser. I’ve been slapped upside the head with this wired-differently thing.
      “My mother has a tendency to tell me things more than once,” I continued. “During the last two months, she’s told me at least four times that every man, given a desirable woman and a 100-percent safe opportunity, would cheat. Her sources aren’t usually credible. Who knows where she got her information. But my sister asked two guys she works with if it was true. Both have pretty wives, lovely families, and both told her yes, they’d do it. My sister gasped and one of the guys said, ‘Well, you wanted an honest answer.’”
     Gina furrowed her brow and nodded.
     “I keep trying to analyze why JB did what he did. It’s crazy making.”
     “That’s what we do,” Gina said. “We have to look for the black box when the plane crashes.”
     I walked to the frame shop where Sonia works clutching paintings for her to frame. A thick blanket of snow had covered everything by the time I walked out. Sounds were muffled. I smiled at the silent beauty, the large snowflakes floating everywhere.
     I drove to Tom’s school, picked him up, and took him to Lovin' Oven Cakery. My forty-ninth birthday is tomorrow so we each selected a slice of pre-birthday cake—I chose chocolate and salted caramel, Tom picked Oreo—and we drove home to eat them. We each put a candle in our cake, Tom sang happy birthday, then we each made a wish and blew out our candles. Tom handed me a birthday present wrapped in soggy tissue paper.
     “It got a little wet in my backpack,” Tom said.
     “Thanks buddy,” I said. I opened it. It was the fifth season of “Mad Men.”
     “Did you pick this out?” I asked.
     “Yeah,” Tom said. His eyes shifted back and forth.
     “Really? You picked out ‘Mad Men’?”
     “Well, Dad and I were at Best Buy. I picked out a bunch of CDs, but dad picked that.”
     “I love that you went shopping for me. I would have loved the CDs you picked. Please don’t feel bad, but I want you to give this back to Dad.”
     “Why?” A hurt expression spread over Tom’s face.
     “Dad told Blake he identifies with Don Draper. Don Draper is the main character of this series. He goes out with women behind his wife’s back. He’s good looking and women throw themselves at him. Dad would like to see himself that way, I guess.”
     “Oh,” Tom said.
     “Yeah, so put it in your backpack and give it back to Dad. I’ll drop him an email and let him know. You singing Happy Birthday is all I want.”
     “Okay,” Tom said and crammed a large piece of cake into his mouth.
     “Let’s shovel,” I said. “I’ll shovel the front, you do the back. Sully’s going to love being out there with you. Throw snow on him.”
     “Oh, I will,” Tom said, patting his big dog and getting up to pull on snow pants.

     “Tom gave me the present you picked out,” I emailed JB. “Blake told me you identify with Draper. I'm sure you’d like to picture yourself as him, glamorize your Internet rutting. I’ve lost my taste for the show and Tom is returning the DVDs to you tomorrow.”

     Tom and I shoveled and made snow angels in the quietly drifting snow. When we finished, I checked email.

     “Look, maybe that was a dumb choice in retrospect but I wasn't trying to send any messages,” JB wrote. “Tom and I were in best buy (sic) trying to find something you might like. I really thought you'd like it. I'm really sorry it has gone over this way. 
     “And as far as identifying with Draper... I was talking more about his psychology. Blake mentioned ‘Don Draper syndrome’ when we talked, and I thought we were talking about a personality type. I said I saw some of me in that—isolation, secrecy, detachment. Don Draper is a head case with a pretty face. I was talking more about the head case than the pretty face. Really. I'm sorry it was taken as something more superficial. I agree that would be pathetic. 
     “Brenda, I am not in the mode of glamorizing or justifying anything right now. Since I've left I have been reflecting on what I have done and I am not rationalizing anything any more. I certainly wasn't trying to when Blake and I talked. I don't know how to convey this more clearly.
     “I am really sorry about this.
     “Blake may want those DVDs. You might consider saving them for him. Up to you.”

     “You're just thoughtless and soulless,” I emailed.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

People Are Good At Hiding Things--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, February 6

     “Hey Sis!” Lila emailed. “Reading your mother's response, she is remarkably similar to the way my mother responds to this day. For instance, I was telling mom how furious I am, irate Bill left wine and beer at his house for Winnie & her boyfriend to enjoy while watching the Superbowl!  And Felix, too. They are 20, Felix is 17. (Bill and his girlfriend, yep, still on that 10 day cruise!) Mom's response was, ‘Well you don't think I knew you drank at 20?’  Ugghhhh!!! I responded, ‘Mom, this isn't about you, it is about Bill buying alcohol for his unsupervised, underage children and encouraging them to drink. I need for you to see and support the gravity of this.’ Mom got it and switched gears.
     “I promise you, a year ago, I would have been furious. We would have spent a couple of icy days avoiding each other. After lots of therapy, I am really learning to take a deep breath, express what I'm feeling, and get her on the same page. Mothers can be so damn defensive!!!!!!  Oh yeah, we still battle, but she's my mom. We can be angry at each other, but we're not leaving each other! I also find it better to speak with Mom rather than text or email. The tone of the written word can be so easily misinterpreted and is always there for her to revisit.  
     “Make today a Brenda day!!!”

     My phone rang. It was Miles, my first boyfriend. He was calling to wish me a two-days-early happy birthday. We’ve kept in touch for thirty years.
     “I unfriended JB on Facebook,” I told Miles. “Tom shows me JB’s whacky posts once in a while. His latest was a lengthy homage to Joy Division, a band JB never listened to until one of our hipster friends went on and on about it being one of the greatest bands ever. Tom was laughing. He’s got JB’s number.”
     “A friend of mine just divorced her husband because he’s a heroin addict,” Miles said. “She didn’t know it. People are good at hiding things. JB doesn’t know what he likes or who he is. It’s hard to have a relationship, almost impossible, with someone like that.”
     Miles went back to work. I went back to email.

     “I think maybe it would be best if I didn't go to Tom's talent show, though I would like to be supportive for him, just tell him when the time comes that I couldn't make it and that I will certainly be there for him when he plays during Libertyville Days,” my mother emailed.

     I forwarded it to Lila.

     “Midwestern mothers are every bit as good at passive aggressive as southern mamas!” Lila wrote. “Dang!
     “I get she is trying to be a voice of reason, but you need a comrade in arms to share your anger and grief. Your line, ‘I need my mother to focus on me and my children, not the narcissist,’ is as accurate as it gets. You are the victim and you absolutely need to be babied now. Your children need to be babied, and frankly, they need to see how angry and hurt their grandmother is for their father' actions. Blake and Tom need to see your mother is united with you and will never desert you or them.
     “Every time your mother sees JB, she can forgive him in her heart and keep it there. She must understand that his intentional choices have shattered your family and he has left you with few choices of your own. Therefore, your mother should create a wall around you. The boys don't have to see her slap down on JB, but they would benefit from sharing how shattered she is and, for the foreseeable future, she should be cordial but have as little contact with him as possible. Again, I think it’s better to talk things out rather than give her something to read over and over.”

     I didn’t take Lila’s advice.

     “It was too much to hope for that you'd tell me you'd be there for Tom and me 100 percent,” I emailed. “That's all I wanted.”

     “I would love to be at Tom's talent show, but do not understand what you expect of me, it seems I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t,” my mother emailed. “So, I will plan to be there. O.K?  I am really very sorry for what you are going through and would make it all better for you if I could. Just keep praying, God and I both love you and will always be there for you.”

     “I just want you there for me,” I emailed. “You are my mother. You're the one person I need on my side 100 percent right now. You reaching out to JB to wish him a happy birthday and tell him you still love him pushed me over the edge.”

     “You are my daughter and I am and will be here for you as long as I live. I know JB hurt you horribly, but you will be fine, it just takes time. He will have to live with what he did for a lifetime, and I am sure he knows it. I will come to your home and go with you to the talent show and stay close to you so do not worry. I love you and don't you forget it!!!!”

     I took Tom to his voice lesson. I called Tracy.
     “I’m going to talk to you as someone who has a son-in-law,” Tracy said. “I worry about my daughter getting hurt by her husband. She’s so in love with him. But I can see some things. I don’t know. But I love the guy, too. It’s got to be really complicated for your mother. JB was in her life for twenty-one years and she loved him. She needs closure. This can’t end, poof.”

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hide Behind Jesus--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Tuesday, February 5

     I woke up and started crying again. I picked up my phone and looked at my texts.

     “Brenda, I am so sorry. I had no idea you would react this way. I really feel the Lord expected me to do this. It doesn’t mean that I approve of what he did, because I do not and he knows it. I love you and hurt along with you. Mom”

     My eyes were puffy and red. My face was blotchy. I woke up Tom. He looked at me quizzically. He’s only seen me be strong. Maybe it’s good he's seeing this side. I started packing Tom’s lunch.
     Tom’s band, Gamma Ray, is playing the school talent show in one week. JB will be there. I’ll be there. My mother will be there. I’m betting Jesus will impresses her to hug JB. I can’t take that.

     “Please don’t come to Tom’s talent show,” I texted my mother. “I don’t want to be in the same room with you and JB.”

     I drove Tom to school. I started crying again when he got out of the car. I drove to the barn. Kate was giving her horses supplements and grain.
     “Hi Brenda, how are you?” she asked.
     “I’m dressed and here.”
     “One of those days, huh?”
     I couldn’t even answer. I walked into the tack room and started mixing up BlackJack’s supplements and grain. Kate walked over.
     “Do you want a hug?”
     I nodded. She put her arms around me and squeezed. I hugged her back.
     “Thanks,” I whispered. I suddenly remembered my mother calling twice to ask me if I thought JB would want chairs from Aunt Edie's house. Aunt Edie had moved in with her daughter and her house was going up for sale.
     “I’m supposed to call JB and ask if he wants my aunt’s furniture?”
     “I’d rather see JB have the furniture then the Salvation Army.”
     “Call him yourself.”
     I left the barn and called Lila.
     “I’ve never cried like this,” I said. “It’s shocking. Why am I being affected this way?”
     “It’s another betrayal,” Lila said. “That’s why it hurts so much. I went through the same thing with my mother when I was getting divorced. I had a lot of good therapy and my therapist told me I needed to be specific with my mother, spell things out for her. You need to do that, too. You need to tell her you need her on your side. God, I hate when they hide behind Jesus.”

     “I’ve been crying on and off all day,” I emailed my mother. “I need you to be on my team. The thought of seeing you hug JB at the talent show, I can't handle that. I'm sick of everyone thinking I'm so strong. You have no idea how bad I hurt. This has broken me more than you will ever know and I need my mother to focus on my children and me, not the narcissist.”

     “I have always been on your team, you should know how much I love you,” my mother emailed. “I didn't sleep more than a couple of hours last night after receiving your text message. It hurt me. I would not be hugging JB and I do not plan to have any opportunities to run into him. I do not condone what he has done, it is shameful, wrong and lousy. I do not feel I did wrong by what I did wishing him a happy birthday. I do believe that we have to forgive people no matter what happens, because if we don't, we hurt ourselves more than anyone else. I just hope that Tom isn't hurt because I didn't come to his talent show, (sic) I love Tom and Blake and would never do things to hurt them, so rather than make you feel uncomfortable, I will honor your wishes and not show up.”

     “When you began speaking last night, your tone indicated something was wrong,” I emailed. “I was bracing myself to hear Pearl died. You know you crossed a line. If I had just sucked it up and not told you how I felt, you would be hugging JB at the talent show.
     “This is a horrible episode in my life. It will take me a long time to process. Good for you that you're at the forgiving stage. I am not there yet. If you can keep your distance from JB, the talent show is the 13th from 4:00 to 5:30.”

     I forwarded Lila the email string.