I’ve continued to dabble in the online marketplace. You know, that place where attractive, scary, toothless. hairy, balding, supermodel, and average dudes all converge, strike a pose, and hope you’ll pick them.

My profile is honest: I say I “never” drink. I say I have kids. I say I am 5’10”. Those things will never change. Yet, I seem to attract 5’7″ men with a Bud in their hand.

I don’t think this meat market is the place for me.

A gentleman I met a couple of times called last night. He wants the uncomplicated friendship stuff because he’s not really ready to date. A series of health issues has taken him off the market for awhile. And, yes, I’ve been around long enough to know “not really ready to date” means “not interested in dating you.”

“Hey, not a problem,” I said. Truly, it wasn’t. I appreciated him speaking up and saying he wasn’t interested in dating. Really, I did.

“I still would love to hangout and watch a movie. Maybe order some pizza,” he said.

“That would be great. You know where to find me.”

I got Friend Zoned.

I just met another gentleman for coffee this morning. I cancelled the first time because I chickened out. He’s a little shorter than I normally consider datable. Taller than I am, but still not heel-wearing height. (God, 6’2″, remember? 6’2″ minimum.).

We’ve talked by phone, exchanged texts. We have a similar education background, similar interests in old movies and quality literature.

He was persistent. “Let me know when you’re available,” he said. “I’d really like to meet you.”

I finally agreed. What’s the harm? He’s a nice guy. I’ve learned from all those meetings-after-the-recovery-meetings  that conversation over coffee can be enjoyable. Easy stuff.

We set a time. We set a place.

I arrived early and ordered my tea while my heart rate started elevating, sweat puddles forming in my armpits.  Thank goodness for wool sweaters this time of year. I don’t know why I was so nervous.

He walked in: gray wool coat, great hair, nice eyes, gentle demeanor. Holy shit, he’s hot.

“Are you Online Guy?” (I used his real name.)

“Yeah, I am.”

Wow, he’s really attractive. I found myself drawn to his demeanor, the way he carried himself, the sound of his voice. You know how you meet someone and you just want to be around them? It was like that.

“Nice to meet you,” I said.  Shit, I sound like all those dorky first meetings I’ve heard in coffee shops. 

“You, too,” he said. “Hey, I hate to do this to you, but I’ve got a doctor’s appointment. I’ve had this sinus thing and they just called on my drive here and can get me in in 1/2 an hour. I didn’t want to cancel on you because I really did want to meet you. I wanted to see you. But, this appointment…”

“Hey, no problem. I’m meeting my kids in a little bit anyway.”

“Really, I wanted to meet you.  I’ll take you anywhere. We can meet here again. My treat. You name the place. Can we reschedule?”

“Absolutely. If you’re going to make it back over to your doctor, you probably should head out. Just let me know when you’re free and we’ll try again,” I said. Fuck! He saw me, figured I wasn’t his type and made a doctor excuse. I don’t want to play this game anymore. I don’t have the stamina to do this. 

“I will.”

He left. I continued to sip my tea and relax in one of my favorite places in all the world, hoping my face wasn’t glowing red and hoping no one around me was feeling sorry for the girl who got left at the coffee shop. Nothing to see here, people. I can handle this. See, got my tea, got my smart phone. I can handle it. 

Maybe Online Guy was telling the truth. Maybe he really did have an appointment. I mean, he did drive 1/2 an hour to meet me in nice clothes and will have to drive 1/2 an hour back to the doc — if that was a true story.  Otherwise, I just had the fastest date of my life. Less than 2 minutes. From a 20 year marriage to a 2 minute date — Wow! I’m getting much faster in my turn around time.

Ugh!

I don’t want to do this. I really don’t want to do this.

My online dating profile went active with a mix of excitement and shame. Really? This is my life? I am shopping the online catalog for a date?

My sponsor isn’t really happy with my decision to swim in the dating pool again. “Can’t you wait?” she asked.

No. I can’t.

“I know I can’t tell you not to date because you’ll do it anyway. But, can’t you at least give yourself a week?”

No. I can’t.

I admit: my profile is a distraction. I don’t want to think about Chef Man. When the longing thoughts enter my brain, I push them away. Or, I try to. I’m an alcoholic — pushing thoughts away doesn’t work for me. I am powerless over my obsessive thoughts.

I don’t want to have the thoughts. I can’t have the thoughts. I shouldn’t have the thoughts.  I’m not supposed to covet someone else’s man. He belongs to someone else. It was all a fantasy — not real, nothing was real.

He’s attached. Don’t think about him, I tell myself. I even went so far as to say a little prayer, “God, let him know I miss him and that he was important. But… don’t bring him back to me. Help Chef Man find peace and help me let him go.”

I have even had my screaming match with God, kneeling in the adoration chapel at my church. In the silence and reverence, I have my best fights with God. Always one sided.  I scream, silently.  God listens. If the little old ladies kneeled next to me knew my prayers, I would probably be thrown out.  Of course, they may be screaming, too.

“Why the f*** God did you bring Chef Man into my life? What the hell were You thinking? First you give me The Wizard, now, Chef Man. Really, God? Really? You have got to be kidding me. I specifically asked You to show me who was supposed to be the man in my life. The next day, Chef Man appeared. I trusted God. I thought that’s what You wanted. How the f*** am I supposed to know now? How am I supposed to trust when You send me the losers? What is so wrong with me that I attract the losers, the liars, the cheats? Why, God? Why?” 

The tears poured, dripping off my nose on to the pew in front of me. The angry words gushed through my thoughts as I bowed my head. When I looked up, an older lady had glanced my way. I wiped my eyes and hoped my thoughts weren’t too loud. I resisted the urge to turn to her and say, “It’s OK. I’m just having a fight with God. He’s got broad shoulders and can take it. We always make up, but I just gotta do this.”

There’s peace in letting God have it all — the good, the bad, and the profanity.

When the obsessive thoughts enter my head, I remind myself that even if Chef Man were to leave the girlfriend, even if he were to enter extensive therapy, even if he were to “fix” himself, I would never trust him. Ever. That isn’t the relationship I want. It isn’t the partnership I desire.

So, I shop online. I email the pilot with the adorable puppy. I text the humorous tall guy. I visit on the phone with the film buff guy. I take a walk with the computer analyst with good taste in coffee. I cancel the coffee date with film buff guy because he turns out to be shorter than his profile first revealed. I listen for my gitchy feeling that tells me something isn’t right.

And, I compare them all to Chef Man, both his good and his bad qualities. He’s my benchmark until I can create a new benchmark.

“Will you at least ask God to help you know what to do?” my sponsor asked, exasperated but loving me unconditionally.

“Yeah, I will.”

Hey God, I’ve been prayin’ for somebody I’ve never seen. And I don’t care what he looks like as long as he loves me. No I’m not particular. But could he have blue eyes just like the sky and blonde hair, wavy and light and 6 foot 2 is my favorite height… Oh wait… That’s the song. God, I’ll take a nice guy, preferably tall, who wants to be a partner in my life.

“This is Chef Man’s girlfriend, Amy. The one he’s lived with for the last five years and has a daughter with. Call me. We need to talk.”

I started shaking when I listened to the message from the unfamiliar phone number.

Chef Man is… was… shouldn’t have been the gentleman I thought I was dating this past year. Apparently, I was only a distraction, a fantasy, an escapist drug from another life.

“Um… I just got a call from Amy,” I text Chef Man. He was at the restaurant, busy closing. Or that’s what he said. With the mounds of lies he has told me, he could have been clubbing baby seals in his basement.

My phone rang again. Same number. I didn’t answer.

I listened to the voicemail. The verbal vomit of an injured animal oozed from the speaker. I know her words. I know the phone call. I know the pain. I know the shriek, the high-pitched, not-in-control terror of her words.  I’ve made the same phone call she made to me — five years earlier to The Wizard’s other woman.

I couldn’t stop shaking.

I called Chef Man. Fuck the busy closing the restaurant crap. It was time for truth. The call went to voicemail.

“I just got another call from Amy,” I tried to keep my voice steady, tired not to let my own wounded animal out. “What the fuck is going on? I don’t mess around with other women’s men. We need to talk NOW.”

My phone dinged with a text: “I’m on my way.”

Five minutes later he was at my door.

We sat on my couch, the place where just hours earlier we lounged with fingers intertwined. Now, I sat at one end, my knees pulled to my chest; he sat at the other end, tears brimming on his eyes.

“I live with Amy, our daughter and her two kids. I knew if I told you, you wouldn’t see me.” No shit, Sherlock.

I didn’t say a word. I tried to make my space on the couch as small as possible, lessening my footprint in the world to avoid the impact of his words. I knew about their daughter together. I knew about Amy. The story I got was that they broke up two years ago. He had his daughter on Monday and Wednesday nights. She didn’t do overnights with him yet because she was so young. I didn’t know he and Amy were still together.

“I didn’t mean to fall in love with you,” he said. “But I did. Your voice, your lips, your intelligence. I just wanted someone to have conversations with. I fell for you.” Fuck you. That’s the same thing I heard from The Wizard about his other woman. 

“My plan was to get the house finished then leave,” he said. “I’ve slept upstairs, in the basement, wherever I can. I hate that place. I hate being there. I hate being with her. My brother and sister-in-law keep asking me why I don’t leave. I am so sorry.” Yeah, Genius, where are your fucking balls? Be a fucking man. Only cowards do what you do. 

My voice squeaked, hardly above a whisper. “Please tell Amy how sorry I am. If I would have known…” The tears started pouring. “If I would have known, I would have never… Please tell her how sorry I am. I’ve made the phone calls like she made. I know the pain. Please tell her… Please tell her I know the pain. I am so sorry.”

“I will.”

I continued to sit on the couch, still shaking, a warm cup of tea in my hand, when Chef Man got up to leave. The door closed. I took two more sips of tea, then sent the Bat Signal up in the recovery sky.

“Who’s still awake? I need to talk,” I texted my sober recovery friends. Less than a minute later, I was on the phone with a good friend explaining the details.

“It’s not your fault,” she said. “You asked the questions. You verified the best you could.” As I talked to her, more phone calls and texts from recovery friends came in.

I am not alone.

I won’t reach out to Amy. I can’t. Anything I said would create more harm. So… I write this for Amy and for all the women who have been in her shoes… and in mine.

Dear Amy–

As a wise friend once told me: if I was truly sorry, I wouldn’t have done it in the first place. I’m sorry are just words. But, they are all I have right now. I am so sorry.

When Chef Man first contacted me, I asked him directly if he was married, separated, attached in anyway. He told me about his ex-wife and that he was divorced in May. He told me about you and that you hadn’t been together in two years. I believed him.

If I would have known, I would not have engaged in any way with him. I asked on multiple occasions about his past relationships. I asked about you. I asked about his ex-wife. He always told me you were one of his ex’s. I thought I did my due diligence.

A couple of months ago, my gut instinct started screaming at me that something wasn’t right. I started asking more questions. On the night you called me, I was preparing to break up with Chef Man because I knew something wasn’t on the up and up. What I didn’t know was that something was you.

I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve made the phone call you made. I know the gut-wrenching pain. I was left for The Other Woman.

It’s hard for me even to conceive of myself that way — The Other Woman. It’s not what I thought I was. It’s not what I wanted to be. It’s not a title I would ever choose for myself. I never intended to hurt you or your daughter.

I didn’t know. I swear to you: I didn’t.

Please know you deserve better. You deserve a man who will respect you and give you the relationship you want. You deserve the very best of the best. You are in my prayers. Every night I ask God to give you the strength you need to have peace in your life.

I am so sorry.

Dorothy

I felt it: the stabbing pain, the oozing blackness, the twisting anger.

What the f*** is going on here?

Chef Man kept talking.

“You and I really need to go to this restaurant. It’s some of the best food I’ve ever tasted,” he said, going on and on about a meal he shared with a friend. A female friend. A female friend who flew in from out-of-state to spend several days here.

“That’s nice,” I said. I threw in a few “uh-huh” and couple more “nice.”  Then, the conversation ended and jealousy flared out my ears. That’s what happens when it doesn’t come out of my mouth. I looked like a bad Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Why the f*** am I jealous?

The female friend is a work colleague and… how can I put this to not offend anyone? She is of the heavier persuasion, or so Chef Man says. She’s not his type, or so he says. They are just friends, or so he says.

I understand. Really, I do. I have male friends. The Shiny Lure is still my BFF, go-to guy with any “help me understand the male sex” questions. I understand the opposite friendship thing. I’m good with it.

I didn’t understand my jealous-anger flare.

So, I got quiet.

Very quiet.

Chef Man noticed.

About noon the next day, he sent me a text, “You seem put off.”

“Confused, maybe,” I said. “I’m just being quiet for a bit.”

He stepped back and let me be quiet. We’ve had this discussion — how do we each handle anger. He said he walks away until the air calms. I said I get very quiet. We hadn’t seen the work in action until now.

I wrote about the anger and jealousy, running the scenario through a spot-check inventory. Sure enough, there it was in black and white: I wasn’t being honest with the poor man. I hadn’t told him what was really bothering me. I hadn’t told him I wanted to planned time with him like his friend was getting.

I called my sponsor to confirm my findings.

“Give the man the space to show up in your life,” she said. “You keep repeating this pattern with him. It’s time for you to change something.”

I called Chef Man, ready to speak about my new-found epiphany, positive he was waiting by the phone for my call. I got his voice mail.

“Hey, just me. I hoped I’d catch you on your drive to work,” I said. “Listen, I got quiet because I didn’t know what was going on with me. Bottom line is that I want to be able to plan time with you. I don’t want all of our time to be spent at just my house. I want to go to dinner with you. That’s all. So, I’m calling officially to ask you if I can plan time with you tonight to have dinner or dessert. I’m free after 7.  Let me know.”

Nothing.

Not a call.

Not a text.

An entire five minutes passed and the man didn’t respond.

Then, one hour passed.

Two hours.

Three.

Four.

Five.

The nerve of the man! How dare he not stop in the middle of his 14-hour work day and address my emotional needs.

F*** it! I’m out of here!  Mentally, I broke up with Chef Man.

His text arrived later in the evening.

“I stopped by at 5,” he said.

He stopped by with the female friend to introduce her to me. I wasn’t home.

We talked tonight, face-to-face, in a deeper heart-to-heart than we’ve ever had.

“I know it’s time for me either to step up and start loving you — start really showing you love– or I need to step out of the way,” he said.

“Yep, that’s it exactly,” I said. No butterflies in my stomach. No sweaty palms.  No fear. My eyes not flinching from his. The words seeped from that place deep inside me where the universe builds and grows.

“I love how well the parts of our lives have intertwined,” he said.

“I do, too,” I said. “They work well together.”

He went on to explain his past relationship fears and past hurts. He told me about The Wall, that thing many of us construct to keep out fears and hurts.

“I’ve tried to play this fairly light and easy,” I said.

“I know you have.”

Other words were shared — the silly stuff, the intimate stuff, the heartfelt stuff.

“Do you need me to step back?” I asked. Again, the words came from that deeper place of calm in me, the place where everything is okay regardless of the answer. My eyes were on his. No flinching.

“No, let’s talk out a couple of things,” he said. It was time for him to go. The restaurant was calling. He needed to pack — he’s leaving for several days on business. We won’t see each other until the end of the week.

A few minutes after he left, my phone buzzed:  “Miss you already.”

“With only enough child-support to cover her rent…” 

“With three young children to support…”

“When her husband left her with a pile of debt…”

You know the stories — the classic rags-to-riches, American Dream, seize the day, pull yer’ self up by the bootstraps sorta tales. The protagonist is a mom who finds herself divorced and penniless without a way to pay the electric bill or feed her kids. There’s the antagonist deadbeat dad who doesn’t pay child support.  Mom is desperate, motivated, creative. Using just the supplies under her kitchen sink, she invents a perpetual motion machine; she discovers the cure for bad fashion in MegaMarts; she creates a water filtration system that saves the world; she writes a novel about wizards. Now, she makes $3.5 billion annually and her children are recent graduates of Princeton and Stanford.

**Please insert a photo of your favorite, attractive, successful 40- 50- 60-something woman standing in front of a mansion, yacht or luxury car here.**

I read these stories with hope, with cynicism, with envy and, always, with tears. How does the mom go from sobbing on the floor in the repossessed house to CEO of a world-renowned company? What happened? Tell me! I need some insight here.

The tales seem to follow a pattern. She worked hard. She took the opportunities when they presented themselves. She showed up. She believed. She kept putting one foot in front of the other even when she didn’t know where it would lead. And, she kept her fear in check.

Ta-da — instant success. Just add water and stir.

This week I got a job offer — a big job offer. It’s money. It’s benefits. It’s full-time. It’s an office. It’s near my home. It’s doing everything I have been doing as a freelancer, only bigger. Much bigger. Multiple times bigger.

When I first submitted my résumé for the job, with little or no hope for getting it, the executive director asked me my salary requirement. I gave her the number. After a grueling interview process and an absolute certainty I didn’t get the job, the director offered me several thousand more than I asked for.

“Normally, we start this position at $$$,” she said. “But we’re offering you $$$$ to make sure your insurance expenses are covered.”  She reviewed the benefit package with me over the phone. I listened, trying to keep my heartbeat under 5,000 beats per minute.

“I’d like to take the weekend to review the offer,” I said, acting as-if there was something better on the plate and hoping my voice wasn’t shaking.

“Please do,” she said. “I wouldn’t expect you to accept immediately. I’ll email you the written offer.”

I panicked.

Since the phone call, my breathing has been shallow. My heart is still racing. I’ve spent sleepless nights, tossing and turning, convincing myself I can’t possibly be qualified for this type of position.

Are you sure you don’t want me to scrub your toilets or make your coffee? Are you really super-duper, absolutely positive you read my resume? Are you sure you want me and not one of the others you interviewed? Are you dialing the right number? This is Dorothy. The alcoholic. The loser who is divorced and scraping together nickels to pay the bills. The woman who hasn’t had a real full-time job in 15 years. You’re sure you have the right person?

My body aches. My shoulders are tight. There are dark circles and bags under my eyes.

“You are such a f***ing alcoholic,” my sponsor said. “Only an alcoholic would look like you do because of a job offer like this. What’s your problem? Get off the f***ing cross. I feel like smacking you. Really, I do. Accept the damn job. This is what you’ve been praying for.” Love and kindness oozed out of her words.

“I’m terrified,” I said.

“What are you afraid of,” she said. “You can do this. You’re not alone anymore. Call and accept the offer.”

I called. I accepted. It’s kinder and gentler than a sponsor ass-kicking.

Last night, I squished and pulled and piled pillows, trying to find one position where my shoulders and hips wouldn’t ache. My eyes drifted from the ceiling to the wall to the cobwebs on the lampshade.

I did it. I accepted a Big Job. There’s no turning back now. 

Then, it hit. The Big It. The Ah-Ha Realization. The Opportunity to Pause and Look at the Path I’ve Walked.

And I began to sob.

Everything — every little step, every seemingly insignificant movement forward, every no-pay-low-pay job experience I accepted — all of it has lead to this moment.

Right here.

Right now.

I’m doing it. I’m living this new life in recovery.

And this is only the beginning.

“You are relevant and worthwhile,” Chef Man said as he got into his car. He’d stopped by for a few minutes before heading to the restaurant.

“Thank you. Who knew?” I laughed, throwing out my arms in a grand gesture.

“I did.”

 

 

 

 

I felt the damp coldness, my arm and hip landing somewhere in the middle of the squish.

“F***! You’ve gotta be f***ing kidding me,” I screamed.

I threw the covers off and climbed out of bed, lowering my nose to the sheets, as if I really needed the sniff-test to know what happened, as if some mysterious liquid from space penetrated the atmosphere, came through my roof and squirted in the middle of my bed.

My nose confirmed earth-bound, rather than alien liquid: cat pee.

“F***!!!!” I glanced at the clock: 12:47 a.m.

“Why the f*** now? Why, God? Why the hell are you having the cat pee in the middle of my bed. I just wanted to go to sleep without any freakin’ cat pee.”

The sobs began — those uncontrollable gut sobs that tighten the muscles so much that snot comes out my nose.  For a few seconds, I considered sleeping with the pee. Who the f*** would know? Who the f*** would care?

I flipped on the overhead light and began ripping bedding off the mattress. “You f***ing cat,” I said. “Why?” He sat on the edge of the bed looking at me, just a cat stare.

“Get off the damn bed so I can clean up this mess.” My hand twitched, pulsing with ancient anger, the urge to smack his furry body fluttered beneath my skin, urging my fight muscles to draw back and strike.

Hitting him is going to scare him more. Don’t. 

I lifted his hefty, furry body off the bed and continued pulling the urine-soaked sheets, blankets and mattress pad off the bed. The cat laid on the floor, his round belly sprawling across the wood planks.

I threw the soiled linens into the bathroom and slammed the door, rattling the windows. I’ll deal with them tomorrow.

I pulled another blanket off the rocking chair, wrapped my body in it and threw myself on the sheet-less mattress. The cat hopped up on his corner.

“You had better not pee on the mattress,” I sobbed. He curled himself into a ball, similar to the one I curled into.

And I cried out into the night. “I cannot do this anymore, God. I can’t. Please just make it stop. Please. I can’t take the pain anymore. Please God.” The cat came closer and curled next to me.

It’s been a brutal two weeks. Kid #2 announced he was living with his dad, The Wizard. The Wizard accused me of horrendous things — much of which Kid #2 believes. Then, The Wizard took The Kids on a trip to the place we used to go as a family. The Girlfriend and her kids went, too. The candle on the shit-cake came when I sprained my ankle walking across my dining room, keeping me incapacitated for much of the weekend.

Now this: cat pee on my bed.

I cried myself to sleep, on the bare mattress, huddled under the blanket, begging for God just to make it all go away.

Sometime in the depths of the dark night, I startled myself awake from a vivid dream. In it, I was trying to escape from something. I don’t know what — something evil, something wicked — an all-encompassing force. I drove away with friends or family or The Kids or someone, moving as fast as we could from the invading force. In the distance, just as we rounded the bend in the road, I saw it: a mountain-sized stone face, alone in a valley. Fire bubbled inside its mouth and behind its eye-openings — a furious fire. The fire spoke, words tumbling not from the stone mouth, but from the fire itself: “Keep doing that. It makes me stronger. Every time, I get greater.” The fire flamed higher and burned hotter. I heard a laughter before my body jerked back to consciousness.

I pulled the blanket around my neck, huddled deeper into it and fell back into a dreamless sleep.

The cat had started peeing on my bed the night Kid #2 and I had our fight. The cat I call my “God cat” is letting me know things aren’t going well. He doesn’t speak words, only actions.

My cauldron of resentments has been brewing and stewing, flaming and flaring to hide the real hurt, the painful stuff.

And some days, I don’t know what to do with the hurt.

Today, I took action to put out the fire: therapist, sponsor, step work, prayer and work with another alcoholic. I hear that’s how it works.

There’s still a lot of action to do.

 

 

 

I sprawled on the floor, my dress twisted around my body.

“F***!”

Electrical pain impulses surged from my ankle to my stomach. I do not want to throw up. I’m not going to throw up. Please, God, don’t let me throw up. Gurgles and churns lurched in my stomach, threatening to turn the health shake I had for lunch into a liquid projectile.

Tears began to roll. “Please, God, don’t let it be broken,” I said out loud. “I don’t have time for a broken ankle. Come on, God. No broken ankles, OK? I’ve got enough on my plate right now.”

I saw my phone within arms reach — right there on the floor where I dropped it when my shoe caught on the carpet, twisting my foot into an angle meant only for contortionists and yogis.

I’m all alone. There is no one here. Sh*t. This must be what the little old ladies feel like when they fall and can’t get up. I’m going to be a little old lady with no one to take care of me. No one will care when I fall. I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. 

Tears grew into sobs which grew into embarrassment for laying on the floor, crying like a three-year old.

I knew I had to figure out if my ankle was broken, if I could stand, or if I needed to call someone to get me into an upright position and transport me to the emergency room.  I began running through my memory a list of people in town this weekend, who hadn’t left on exciting three-day-weekend adventures.

Before you panic and call in the calvary, see what’s going on with the foot.

First, the toes. I could move them. With thought and pain.

Rest. Breathe.

Then, the ankle. I could rotate it slightly. With thought and lip-biting pain.

Let’s try standing, I thought, hoping my stomach would keep a firm grasp on its contents.

I heard a snap. I know I heard a snap when I fell. Please, no hidden fractures.

I propped myself on my elbows and rolled to the uninjured side, pulling myself up with the support of a dining room chair.

Upright. Good. Now… weight on the foot. 

I pressed my toes against the floor, the foot tingled and throbbed. My stomach lurched again. The ankle could handle a little weight, enough to get me to my bedroom where I fell on to the bed, shaking. My leg twitched, sending my whole body into a sympathetic rhythm.

I sobbed, not so much from the pain, though it was intense, but from the fear: I was alone. What the f*** was I supposed to do if it was broken? Who would help me?

The Kids are with The Wizard this weekend. The custody insanity continues with Kid #2. Other than my cat, who watched with concern from the corner of the bed, wondering who would feed him and pet him if I was incapacitate, there were no other living creatures in my house.

“Come on, God,” I said into the air. “I don’t need anything else. Please.”

As my body shivered in pain and fear, I text my friends. “I twisted my ankle. How do I know if it is broken?”

I don’t know why I chose a text instead of a phone call. Maybe I didn’t trust my voice or the tears.

Immediately, the friends replied with what to check and what to do, along with offers to come help.

I’m on the couch now, my foot elevated and iced, on Day 2 of “Easy Does It.” In my non-medical opinion, it isn’t broken, just sprained in an awful way. A bruise has formed across the top of my foot and my left ankle is twice the size of my right.  Last night, Chef Man delivered dinner to me: a sandwich from his favorite deli. He waited on me, bringing me water and napkins and whatever I needed before he had to head to his restaurant to work.

“Let me know if you need anything else,” he said, as he let himself out. I felt myself bristle at his kindness. As much as I craved it, as much as I appreciated it, I was afraid to submit to it, to show weakness and need. I was afraid to show vulnerability.

It’s hard to hide vulnerability when my leg is perched on pillows with an ice pack dangling around my ankle.

God, I don’t want to stumble through life alone. Please grant me the willingness to set aside old hurts and old fears so I can be open to a new experience in a new relationship. By the way, God, if You don’t mind me asking, why? All those times I was sh*t-faced and stumbling, I never hurt myself like this. Why now?

 

Ms. Bride-to-Be is a PhD chemist who works out of her beach-front home to develop alternative fuel sources using seaweed and sand. This revolutionary fuel will also serve as a cure for cancer. She is the daughter of world-renowned concert harpsichordist, Mr. Father-of-the Bride, and internationally known Mrs. Mother-of-the-Bride who has starred in 372 films and published 97 books while raising Ms. Bride-to-Be’s 9 other siblings.

Ms. Bride-to-Be met Mr. Groom-of-Epic-Wonder at a train station in the south of France on a rainy day in April. They were both on an 100-day tour of the Mediterranean coast. Before she boarded the train, Mr. Groom-of-Epic-Wonder bought 4 dozen white roses from a flower cart on the station’s platform. He dropped petals at her feet, lining her path, while doves were released overhead. 

They were married at a private sunrise mountain-top ceremony and will honeymoon on the moon. 

My Sunday routine, on those calm days when I have the luxury to find my center, is to make a great cup of coffee in my French press, grab the newspapers from the driveway, then lounge on my deck flipping through the The New York Times. But, wait! Before you run to the White Pages and try to find Dorothy in New York City, please note I do not live anywhere near the East Coast. I’ve only been to New York once and didn’t really like it when I was there. It’s not a place I will make any extraordinary attempt to visit again.

The newspaper, however, is a different story.  I get the Sunday Times because I love the writing, the words, the swirling language. I begin with the front page, reading my way through international crises, moving on to exotic travel, then landing somewhere in the middle of the Vows section.

Sometimes the love stories make my heart go pitter-patter and happiness oozes out my pores. Other times, envy clouds the descriptions that seem so far out of reach, so much like fairy tales, I am left wondering how ordinary people end up living such fabulous lives. How did they get there and I’m right here? Did they discover the secret formula for the maintenance and care of the White Picket Fence?

With the insanity around The Wizard, his ugly move for custody of Kid #2 that involves outrageous claims about me, more court dates, more attorney expenses, and drought-laden bank accounts, I read these wedding announcements with an envious desire and a hefty cynicism while a familiar emotional pain drums in the center of my chest.

Kid #2 announced he wants to live with his father, The Wizard, and The Girlfriend, who is known among my friends by various names such Ronald McDonald, Broom Hilda, Southern Floozy, and, the simple, but descriptive, Skanky Home-wrecking Whore, though my sponsor requests I call her by her actual name. 

All the old emotions of abandonment, rejection and anger resurfaced when Kid #2 made his request, citing all the reasons why The Wizard and The Girlfriend provide him with a better home. How can a drunk and a whore have a better home than my messy, but sober home? I don’t understand. 

For the first time in a long while, I found myself in back-to-back AA meetings, trying to ground myself in my program, to find balance again. I shared what’s really going on with me, shaking like a newcomer while tissues were passed my way.

“Keep talking about this,” Old Timers tell me. “Share whatever you need to.”

“I hated when people told me to be patient and to keep doing what I’m doing,” another person said. “But, it worked. I have a better relationship with my kids now.”

It seems there are many others in the rooms who have experienced the same thing — children who push them away, who experiment with destructive paths. There is some comfort in knowing I’m not alone. 

I’m tired of rejection. I’m tired of hurt. I’m tired of the ache that happens right in the center of my chest. I want stability. I want balance. I want to heal. I want a happy family and Sunday dinners and flowers strewn at my feet while white doves flutter above my head. 

I want the impossible fantasy.

When the external is crazy, when the pain seems impossible to carry, when I can’t catch my breath, I do what I’ve been taught to do: don’t drink, call my sponsor, go to meetings, rinse and repeat. 

The result: My sponsor invited me to her house for the evening, so I wouldn’t be alone. Another program friend invited me to Mass, then a meeting. A non-program friend invited me to her house for dinner. My brother sent me a text from half-way around the globe while he laid in bed in an emergency room in a country where he doesn’t speak the language: “So sorry, Sis. Keep it in perspective that all things work to the good of those who love the Lord. I don’t know why I’m sick and having to leave, but it is in God’s plan and some day I will know and some day you will know how God is using The Wizard. We are here for you.”

I am not alone. 

You probably won’t see my love story on page 11 of the Sunday Styles section. My story, to-date, would make most brides and grooms run screaming into hermit-hood. My life isn’t a warm and fuzzy read on a lazy Sunday morning. But, hey, after those Sunday Times’ brides and grooms say their “I do’s” and their lives begin to swirl and whirl and they find themselves curled in a ball on their bathroom floors hoping the earth will open up and swallow them whole, there are people like me who can say, “I get it. I’ve been there. And, I survived.”

 

 

I signed up for the White Picket Fence version of life.

Yep, when the Universe, God, the Powers that Be were handing out lives, I jumped in the White Picket Fence line.

Sure, there was the Cross the Himalayas on a Yak line, the Live off the Land Raising Cattle line, the High-Powered Top-Executive line, and several others I couldn’t quite make out from where I was standing.

I jumped right in that White Picket Fence line with the other dreamers. Everyone looked so nice: hair coiffed, clothes pressed, makeup perfect, teeth shiny. And the fences… Ah, the fences. They looked so bright and shiny with glowing white brilliance from where I stood.

“They’re not going to assign us mini-vans, are they?” I asked the person in front of me. “I really can’t do mini-vans. I’m allergic to them — break out in hives every time. Maybe, I should try the yak line. I’m not allergic to yaks.”

“No, I think we get to choose the vehicle,” she said. “But, the fence has to be white and picket. Besides, yaks are so… furry and smelly.”

The line inched forward. I began imagining my life: College. Big wedding. Loving, doting husband. Two gorgeous, intelligent kids. Nice house in the suburbs. Two cars. A cat. Maybe, a dog. Ah… the perfect life of merriment and happiness. Oh sure, there would be challenges, like where the kids should go to school or what color curtains to pick out, but I could get through it. I knew I could. With the perfect husband who loved me, I could handle even the most daunting of challenges, like whether we should have hard wood floors or carpet.

It was my turn. I was assigned White Picket Fence life #3479832-9.

“I don’t understand,” I said. The White Picket Fence rested in my hands, but didn’t look quite as bright and shiny as the ones I thought I saw when I was at the back of the line. “Why am I getting a fence with all these scratches and dings?”

“You’ll find out,” they said.

“But…”

The line moved fast. There wasn’t time for a lot of questions. Hundreds, thousands, of others stood behind me waiting for their fences. I was sent on my way.

“Have faith,” the Life Handlers yelled to me.

 

I didn’t realize my White Picket Fence life #3479832-9 contained the code for divorce, insane ex, affairs, out of control teenage son, fear, gut-wrenching emotional pain, financial challenges, alcoholism, endless court dates, elderly dog with bowel control problems, hair-ball puking cat…

Why didn’t I get in the yak line? I think I would have looked really good on a yak in the Himalayas. Next time, I’m going to read the fine print:

A white picket fence is no guarantee of a perfect life. And neither is a yak. 

“You sound like a battered woman,” my attorney said, as I talked to him for the first, second, ninetieth time. “You keep going back for more. I work for you and I’ll do what you want me to do, but my advice would be much different from what you’re doing.”

Kid #2 didn’t come home this morning. (See yesterday’s post for an update on this drama.)

I called The Wizard.

“He’s not coming home. I’ve already been to court and appeared in front of the judge.”

“What? Why?” I asked.

“You’ll see when you’re served.”

Next call was to my attorney.

“I don’t know what’s going on. The Wizard said he appeared in front of a judge,” I said, adding in the information about last night. “Can you find something out for me?”

I waited. I waited. I waited.

Chef Man stopped by for coffee and waited with me. He took Kid #1 and me to lunch. I’ve never been so grateful. This man didn’t dive into the depths of the drama, but rather talked to us about life, the universe, everything over sandwiches at one of the most incredible delis I’ve ever been to. He was there when I needed him most. And I didn’t even have to ask. He was just there.

I got home and waited more.

My attorney finally called.

“They’ve filed an order of protection,” he said. “They say you broke Kid #2’s arm.”

“What?!? You’ve got to be kidding me. I broke his arm?”

I went over all the things the cops said last night. I reviewed everything I did. His arm wasn’t broken.

“The courts can really do this? They can keep me from my son for disciplining him? I didn’t use excessive force. I had to restrain him because…” and this is where my voice cracked and the tears started. “…because he took my cell phones. He pass coded my work phone. He stuffed my personal phone in his pocket and refused to give it back.”

In the two and half years we’ve worked together, my attorney has never heard me lose it with tears. Today, he did.

“You haven’t mentioned how bad things have gotten,” he said.  “If I were you, I’d keep him out of the house. You can’t let him do this to you.”

“Let’s do what we need to do to get him back.”

An officer arrived to serve me the papers — Hey, wanna cookie? Some coffee, maybe? I don’t think we’ve met. You must be new. — I immediately drove the papers to my attorney’s office where we went over the wording.

The judge had denied the petition pending a hearing, but Kid #2 gets to stay with The Wizard until then. Can I just say I hate the f***ing court system right now?

“What happens when he has a baseball bat or knife next time?” my attorney said as he sat across from me in the familiar chairs of his conference room.

The words formed — those words no mother ever wants to say. “I don’t want Kid #1 back in the house. This is escalating. I have to protect myself. It’s not normal for my wrists to hurt after he’s grabbed me. It’s not normal to have police officers at my house every week.”

“No, it isn’t,” he said. “Take some time to think about this and talk to your counselor first before you make a final decision.”

When did this become my life?

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