Story of my Life: Part the Third

Posted: April 23, 2008 in Drama, Headspace, Journal, Memory Lane

(Read part one here.)
(Read part two here.)

There were signs, which are obvious to me now, after everything that’s passed. Signs that my ex wasn’t what you would call overflowing with normalcy. His mother would tell me stories about his childhood, and the reasons he was removed from school in 8th grade to become home schooled until he got his GED. He couldn’t acclimate. He couldn’t socialize or get along with the other kids. He was “sensitive”. He was too smart to be treated like every other boy.

He was breast-fed until he was four years old. (Say it with me now… “Eeeeeewwwww!”)

My ex just didn’t have normal emotional reactions, and didn’t practice normal social behaviors. At the end of our relationship he would be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but at the beginning of our relationship I just didn’t see it clearly – and how could I have, at sixteen or seventeen? I didn’t realize that what began as minor episodes of emotions incongruous with the situation, and “quirks” of personality and behavior, would grow to monstrous proportions.

A few months into our marriage I began to suspect that All Was Not Right. My ex had always had this unshakable conviction that he was absolutely smarter than every other person on the planet. I’m not even exaggerating. He believed he was a true savant. He believed that he wasn’t destined to live the humdrum, normal existence of a typical American family. There would be no nine-to-five job for him. People would pay him for his dizzying intellect. He was worth millions, and some day people would see him for the amazing creature that he was.

Damn, I wish I was exaggerating.

My ex is just one of those people who is fixated on his own reality, at the cost of all else. For six years, the cost was me. In the beginning of our marriage, I took his rantings to be the ambitious dreaming of someone who would Do Something With Their Life. Every kid in his early twenties wants to be a millionaire by twenty-five, after all. His job at Burger King was just something to pay the bills until his plans came to fruition. Plans with no form or substance, but which vaguely involved computers and inventing and programming and talking a lot and drawing little pictures on napkins. Plans that were all in his head and would not pay the bills.

A year into our marriage, my ex was fired from Burger King. The charge: sexual harassment complaints from another employee. Complaints I refused to believe at the time, but now I’m sure they were true. I, of course, quit as well. Now jobless, my ex was convinced this was His Moment. I got another job working 45-minutes away in Portland as a transcriptionist. It paid well enough to meet what little bills we had at the time. He focused on his books and motherboards, and briefly toyed with teaching computer usage and programming. He put together and advertised for a “free seminar” for people to come and listen him to talk about his greatness. I don’t even know what the topics were, but he had a list of them. He rented a lecture hall for a day in a nearby town and raved about how he was going to establish so many contacts and finally make it big.

I was not invited. And nobody else showed up for it.

He did not take failure well.

Now, a normal person would try the first time, perhaps fail, understand this to be the travails of success, and try again. Some people have to try for YEARS before things come to fruition. My ex took this failed seminar to mean that the universe at large was not ready for him, would not accept him. He went into a state of emotional collapse for days. He sat around and stared at nothing. He brushed off my attempts at encouragement. For the better part of a week I stuck food in front of his face, pottered around the house when I wasn’t working, and waited for him to get OVER it, already. Finally, he made up his mind that he, the great unappreciated genius that he was, would have to prove himself in other ways.

Things kind of took a crazy turn from there. He started talking about wanting to start a commune and only invite people “like him” who would “get it”. He wanted to be surrounded by people who would love him for who and what he was. He started talking about how he wanted me to share him with other women, because “If I loved him, I’d want to share him with the world.” He started talking about wanting to build or buy a sailboat (and we did buy a MacGregor 21′ and sailed it a grand total of twice) and live completely off the grid, sailing around the world. He started pressuring me to learn how to make my own clothes and to find every recipe there was for dried beans. He forbid me from reading books (I know! ME!) or watching television, because they only rot my brain and do nothing to help him forward his goals.

I know. Crazy, crazy stuff.

I started voicing my opinions about these plans and wishes of his. Which is when he started truly cutting me down. I wasn’t smart enough to understand. My role was to be his “little wifey” and take care of all of his physical needs so he wouldn’t have to expend any mental energy on them, and would thereby have more mental capacity for his plans. Any expressions of doubt or opinion on my part were met with icy cold disdain at best, or outright ridicule and anger at worst. How could I possibly understand, a mere little girl?

“That’s why I married you young. To bring you up right and make you into what I want.” He said.

Yes, my friends, you read that right. It boggled my mind. That, and his statement that if I truly loved him I’d share him with other women. AND the piece de resistance, “You aren’t my first priority. Maybe you will be in a couple of years, but you aren’t right now.”

I would talk to my mother-in-law, plead with her to try to get her son to act more reasonably. Tell her the things my ex had been saying and doing. She insisted that the more extreme things my ex was stating were just his way of “venting”. That I had to obey him and see to his needs. That he was very deep and needed a special person to understand him. That everything would work out in the end. That I was his wife and as such subordinate, and that this is just the way it would be “until death do us part”. I swear to God, his family believed that he really WAS as wonderful as he said he was. Their poor little misunderstood genius.

I would stand up for myself, in the beginning, when he belittled me. I would try to get him to see reason, try to convince him that he at least needed a job, try to get him to fall under the normal structure of a relationship. He wouldn’t have any of it. He would call me stupid, and worse. He would alternate between getting in my face and screaming, or ignoring me for days on end.

Our fighting came to my Grandmother’s attention. She asked me one day if she had heard him right, when he yelled that I was a “stupid bitch”. I tried to laugh it off, but she knew what was going on. When I went back into the apartment my ex asked me what my Grandmother and I had talked about. I didn’t want to say, but he finally got it out of me. He stormed into my Grandmother’s house, accused her of trying to brainwash me against him, and said he was going to take me far away and my family would never see me again. She called my uncle, and my uncle came over and got in my ex’s face for threatening my Grandmother.

Six days later, we were moving to Arizona.

I didn’t want to move. I didn’t ever want to leave Maine. Not in my entire life had I ever even expressed the desire to leave. I begged and pleaded and cried to my husband, but he insisted we were leaving to “get away from these people that want to control us”.  I pleaded with my in-laws to convince him to change his mind. I knew that if I got in that truck and drove away with him, I would lose myself completely.

To no avail.  I left, sitting beside my husband in the cab of a half-ton pickup truck stuffed with at least one ton of belongings, towing our car behind it.  The teachings of my role as wife and helpmeet were still so ingrained in me that I thought it was my duty to support and follow my husband.  Despite my feelings, despite my upset, despite a deepening and sickening feeling that this man I entrusted my life and heart with was not well, not sane. My mother-in-law and father-in-law were pushing me to go. My grandmother, even, said that I was married now and had to go where he went, even though she was sorry that it was my ex’s argument with her that triggered us to go. None of my other family members tried to stop what was happening, though I know they figured I was grown-up and was making my own decision.  But it wasn’t my decision, not really.  I felt like I didn’t have a choice.  I felt abandoned by anyone who would give me any help.  I felt like I was the only person who could see reason.  I started to wonder if I was the crazy one.  I was nineteen and completely lost.

And so, I said goodbye to my dog, said goodbye to my grandmother, said goodbye to the home of my childhood, and said goodbye to myself. We left at 6:00 on a crisp October night in 1993 to begin the six day, three thousand mile journey across the country, to a life in Arizona that held a plentitude of unknowns.

To be continued…

  1. Taoist Biker says:

    I’m starting this post with something other than “wow” simply to break the pattern, but that’s what it SHOULD start with. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to try to assimilate that sort of true madness–and there’s really no other term for it, is there?–into one’s definition of a normal life.

    To be able to function as an apparently normal person fifteen years later shows a remarkable degree of resiliency, and that’s a hell of an understatement. My respect for you is going through the roof. (Quick, ask me for a recommendation or a quote for the back of your new book or something!)

  2. cariskicker says:

    How the hell did you not tell this story before now? I am seriously glued to the screen waiting for the next installments.
    I can’t wait to find out just where this fine specimen of manhood is now… hopefully behind bars or a\in a federal mental institution.

    Please tell me that you were able to press charges.

  3. Kim says:

    You are and always will be a strong, confident, and as noted above, resilient person. I admire you for your tenacity. Although I never got to meet your mom, I know that she is very proud of you, as is Gram. I am proud of you also and I can’t wait for you to move back home.

  4. Laura says:

    TB – You’re very kind, and I really appreciate your positive feedback! It seems like another life that happened to another person, now. Time does put distance between my feelings and the drama.

    Cariskicker – I told parts of it before this, but… well, I dunno. I guess I figured it was all just my sordid drama and nobody would be interested? I really appreciate all the support I’ve gotten from you all. And you’ll find out “what happened”, rest assured!

    Kimmy – I really miss you so much! I’ve got a long LOOOOOONG e-mail in the works for you. You’ve always been such a wonderful friend – isn’t it funny how you were there for the “It’s against my constitutional rights!” stage when I was protesting becoming a Witness? Cracks me up, now. I love you to pieces and can’t wait to see you again. And I’m so glad you can remember Grammy with me.

  5. Jayne says:

    Oh my poor girl, you were let down by the older people around you. I’m not blaming them as such because their (non)action was influenced by a number of things like their age/generation/upbringing, blind parental love and their religious beliefs. I can see already that you would have carried a lot of this hurt and confusion with you and it’s a testament to your inner strength that you are who you are now. I hope that you’re OK writing all this down for us. Maybe in some way it helps to put it behind you …

  6. Laura says:

    Jayne – I don’t blame them – particularly my grandmother – for it, either. It was just an effed up time. There are times I’m shocked that I’m not stark raving loony… but then again, maybe I am…

  7. Jen says:

    “I’m shocked that I’m not stark raving loony… but then again, maybe I am”

    Oh, you are.

  8. […] readers, if you’d like to read the whole sordid tale, here’s part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, part seven, and epilogue. Keep in mind I was still using […]

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