Sunday, January 22, 2006

Necessary Communication

I've said this before, but soon after my husband left me, as I was looking into the seeming abyss of my future, there was really only one thing that I knew I wanted for myself now that I wasn't going to spend the rest of my life with him: I did not want to be one of those bitter women that referred to her ex-husband as, "The Asshole." Everything else about myself and my life was up in the air.

So, I worked really hard to forgive him and to give my feelings of betrayal and hurt and anger productive venting. Did I cry? Yes. Did I yell? Absolutely. Did I yell and scream at him? Again, absolutely. Did I have to warn him not to put his arm around me at one point because I knew I'd hit him if he did? You better believe it. But I fought all urges to take any kind of vengeance, even though there was quite a bit of power to do that in my hands. I knew that if I did not treat him the way I would want to be treated, I would regret it in whatever future I eventually created. Hell, I divided the Star Wars figures equitably, letting him keep the cool-ass green tentacle-head Jedi since I remembered that I had given it to him specifically as a gift and so, technically, it did belong to him.

Boy, did I want to keep it, though. Just to show him.

But I think my decision has worked. (I guess that Jesus guy knew what he was talking about.) My heart is more peaceful than it would be if I had kept black thoughts about him close to that heart for the last two years. I tell people that ask me about the island that I was so broken when I got there and I feel like a whole and new person now. It is because after the first few months of being in such a fertile place and being so consistently loved by people, I started losing even my urges to make his life harder and I didn't have to struggle quite so much to do what I knew was best for me. Being away from things that reminded me of our life together helped, as well. It was like life stopped picking at my scabs and I got a chance to let the scrapes heal.

But, I think my husband struggles with his decision to leave and with the conditions of his life that caused him to make that choice. When he first left, I would have told you that nothing could hurt more than that. But, as we were adjusting ourselves to our new dynamic, he did some things that did hurt more, including, ultimately, refusing to talk to me. I think he did these things out of self-defence, but knowing that it wasn't personal almost made it hurt more.

So, yesterday, I had my first conversation with my ex-husband in over a year. Picture the following scene:

I'm standing in the cafeteria of a high school that has a giant speech tournament this weekend. I'm walking with my best friend Susan, who has driven to Chicago to be with me for every significant encounter that I've had with Dennis post-divorce, including going to court with me for the divorce. She spots him across the room and holds my shoulders so I don't turn around and surprise myself. We joke a little to relieve the tension and I ask her if I can just flick him off across the room and be done with it. It's a rediculous concept because I have very consciously not exposed either my students or his to the discord between us and I'm certainly not about to do it now. So we laugh and she hugs me and we set off to go wherever we were going.

Maybe half an hour later, we're finishing up our wander around the school back in the cafeteria, heading to the judge's lounge. We are walking along the hall and leaning up against the wall ahead of us, with his back to us, is a speech coach with giant Steve Harvey-style shoulders in an equally Steve Harvey-style purple suit. I recognize the guy and laugh to myself about him and keep walking toward him as Susan drops back behind me so we can edge by. As I pull up even with the Purple Pie Man, the angle is right that I can see who has been blocked and is leaning up against the wall on the other side, talking to him.

It's Dennis.

I'm still walking, so remember, we're talking split-second responses here.

He pulls his head up and said, "Hey."

I pulled my head up and said, "Hey."

Then I gave him the finger.

Fifteen seconds later, Susan and I were in the judge's lounge and I'm shaking and smiling, almost laughing. I need Susan to hug me and I shake a little while longer and cry a little bit. She tells me that the best part for her was a: it happened so fast and b: after it happened, she heard someone say softly, "Whoa." The best part for me was that I greeted him first.

pause for cheering laughter

Now, I know that I just said a lot of things about forgiveness and the golden rule and being fair. But really, if he wanted to talk, he's had over a year and a half to return my phone calls. I mean, exactly how was that conversation going to play out? Can you imagine? I've come too far to stand around and make public pleasantries with a man who refuses to acknowledge with either his words or his actions that we once had something really special.

So I communicated the only thing left that I needed to say that I could not have communicated while I was still broken. Now that the cracks in my soul are tiny, I'm less worried that the blackness will pour in.

It almost makes up for the Kit Fisto toy.


ExBF said...

Man, it must be the season for these kind of run-ins. Good for you...I've wanted to fly that finger many times & never have. I know being the bigger person is supposed to be all well & good, but sometimes you just gotta let it all out; extra points if you don't even have to use words to do it.

One day he will realize, just like I did, that leaving a girl who buys you action figures is the worst mistake you can ever make...

Oh So Wonderful said...

Wow, I could've written this post! You get the Golden Globe in my book for a stellar performance. Oh, yes, did my ex-husband screw up. But I believe in letting a higher power handle my revenge. Let's just put it this way, there isn't anything that I can do to him that my ex-hubs hasn't already done to himself...

Matthew said...

Maybe being a better person (not THE better person) is an important part of healing and forgiveness (of yourself too) is an important path to healing.
BUT nothing can take the place of delivering a little justice. Congratulations on an excellent delivery of non-violent justice, sometimes the dick-heads need to be told that they are dick-heads. Think of it as a public service.