Monday, August 8, 2011

Lesson Learned

I feel blessed. I know that statement might sound a little silly or premature for anyone who knows the battle I've been fighting, but the reality is I do feel blessed and I feel compelled to share why.

I have friends. Many, many friends who care deeply about me and my children. I used to view myself as someone who had few friends and many acquaintances, but that's just not true. I have seen during this past year how many of the so-called acquaintances are actually true friends. So, to my friends, I say thank you for your continued love, encouragement, and support.

I have a great family who has been there as my safely net--catching me every time I fall or even slip a little. They really are amazing and loving people.

I have role models, though they probably wouldn't consider themselves such, they are the ones who have given me the strength to continue on when I have felt I wasn't strong enough to do this. They are (mostly) women who are currently or have in the past overcome huge obstacles and did it with an exorbitant amount of faith and courage. I admire these women and yearn to be like them.

I have a lawyer who is talented, passionate, and amazing at what she does--it's obvious why she is one of the best.

I feel blessed because no matter what the outcome of this will be, I believe I will be okay.

Court, although extremely painful at times, went well. I have come out on the other side of this believing that we did all we could do. And with that comes a small feeling of peace.

Court Detail:
First of all I have to set the stage. The husband is at the far left of the courtroom with his lawyer. The in-laws are also to the left with their lawyer. Then I'm on the right with my lawyers. The first two days I had two lawyers there working as a team (which was pretty cool to watch how well they worked together). Then the last day it was just me and one lawyer. I looked overpowered because of the sheer number of people opposing me. It would have been intimidating if I didn't have truth on my side and believe in my attorney.

Both opposing attorneys are the antithesis of mine. While mine is energetic, theirs are somewhat lethargic and slow. Mine is strong and determined, theirs are passive with, seemingly, no agenda. Mine is happy and positive, theirs are plastic and somewhat gloomy even when they smile. Mine is succinct when she speaks, theirs fumbles around for words. Mine seems to embody everything you picture a good lawyer doing, while theirs you end up wondering how they ever made it through law school and why they chose this career. It's such a stark contrast.

The first day in court was our day to present witnesses and our evidence. I was on the stand for a good 3+ hours. Not my funnest moment in time, but not my worst either. I felt like it was going well until cross examination. Then it was like trying to convince someone to believe you when they've already made up their mind about your guilt. It's awful and feels like a bad dream that you want to wake up from.

His main points seemed to be that I signed the relinquishment, end of story. That I was a willing participant in my husband's deviant sexual behaviors and that I was under no duress at the time of relinquishment. What he clearly couldn't see (or didn't care to point out) was that duress is accumulative and that I was being forced to participate (and LIKE it) or my husband threatened divorce. If I didn't behave as he wanted me to, then he would divorce me and take my children. That was always the threat. Their lawyer also tried to say that because there was no physical abuse that abuse didn't happen.

The next day was just as difficult because I had to sit there, listen, and try to digest a copious amount of lies. Even my father-in-law wasn't completely truthful. That surprised me, but I kind of understand--he's been living with 2 manipulators and liars who have been feeding him the lies for over a year now, so he probably believes what he is saying. Who knows?

One of the other witnesses they called was a bouncer from a strip club my husband made us go to. He was truthful, but not really helpful to the opposition's case. I had already stated that I had been to clubs with my husband because it was a requirement. So, his testimony was nothing short of a waste of time. Except that in cross examination my lawyer asked if he had ever seen my husband there by himself. His answer was, 'Oh, yes!' It was pretty funny.

The third day was last Thursday. It was still the oppositions turn to finish up witnesses. So, that left the mother-in-law and the husband. We knew it would be a long day just because of who was on the stand!

It's amazing to me how good of liar my mother-in-law is. She can spout off any lie without a second thought, she can talk enough to turn the question around and never actually answer what was asked, she has this uncanny ability to appear creepily friendly, but slice you with her words. I shiver just thinking about her. My lawyer found no reason to cross examine her because she's not credible and won't be truthful and will just waste time in the process of trying to get a real answer out of her.

So, all that was left was the husband. I learned a few things about myself from his testimony. As shocking as these things might be, I hope you all will get a laugh out of it and hear my sarcasm even as I write this list of things I discovered about myself (these are all the things I can remember that I had never heard before...I'll leave out all the ones I had heard over and over again in my marriage):

He said--when I was pregnant with Bethany I wanted an abortion.

He said--I faked a miscarriage to my sister, Bekki, because I wanted to keep my options open.

He said--we only moved to Boston because I didn't want to live in Utah (true, I didn't want to live in Utah just up the road from his parents or worse with his parents!), it was just a coincidence that Harvard happened to be in Boston, so he got to attend his dream school.

He said--I wanted and asked, on several occasions, for the adoption because I didn't want to be a mom and I couldn't handle it.

He said--I had sexual addictions and he was lucky that they just happened to be things he liked and was into, too.

He said--I wasn't a virgin when I got married, but that I had had multiple partners and sexual encounters.

He said--I had viewed porn frequently before I got married (good grief! I didn't even know what porn was exactly before I got married. I knew what it was NOT, but I didn't know what it WAS. Naive, but true).

He said--I, frequently, threw things at him and at my kids. He cited me throwing cereal bowls and cereal at them (just a word of clarification: I don't eat cereal and neither did my kids because they didn't like it. We rarely ever had it in the house. So, the likelihood of me actually throwing a cereal bowl is pretty bleak).

He said--I yanked, pulled, kicked, bit, spanked, slapped, and hit my kids. And that I told them often that they were worthless and that I hated them. (Anyone who has seen me with my kids knows that this just simply isn't possible--though I do have to say, I did try spanking, but my kids just laughed at me. It was completely non effective, so I turned to more positive methods of discipline).

He said--I, frequently, was yelling and screaming at him and the kids (more on that point later).

He said--I suffered from extreme postpartum depression after I had Bethany--(His self diagnosis. I never saw a doctor because I felt fine)

This list is longer, but I think these are the ones that shocked me the most. However, the words that came out loud and clear were the words unspoken--even my lawyer picked up on it. That he was so utterly PERFECT and accepted no responsibility for anything that had transpired during the marriage because he was the quintessential ideal husband--no faults, no issues, no problems with him at all.

The highlight of the day came while my lawyer was questioning my husband. He was becoming flustered and she was becoming very passionate about what she was saying. He then declared, "Stop yelling at me!" I almost laughed out loud! My lawyer retracted momentarily and apologized for, perhaps, sounding like she was yelling, but reiterated that she was not. Even the judge said, "I don't think she was yelling at you." Haha! It's only funny because of what he had been claiming: that I frequently yelled and screamed at him the kids. Well, if he thinks that yelling is what my lawyer was doing, then it's pretty clear that his and his parent's definition of yelling is drastically different from reality!

Then in the middle of the opposing counsel's (boring, long winded) closing remarks it started raining outside, then thundering, then hailing and lightening-ing. We were on the top floor of the courthouse so it was so loud and deafening. I thought that the roof was going to cave in and lightening was going to strike them all down--perhaps, that was just wishful thinking. The timing of that hailstorm couldn't have been more perfect.

The last thing I wanted to add regarding this trial. It was long, tough, and very grueling. But I learned something so critically important during this process. And I learned it on the very last day in the very last hours of court.

I was watching my lawyer give her closing remarks. She was so poised. She was articulate. She was calm and collected. She was prepared. BUT she was animated and passionate when she spoke. There was nothing passive about her. I wouldn't call her aggressive because that's too manly of a term and she is anything but manly. And I thought to myself, "wow, it's okay to be like that. It's okay to be passionate. It's okay to be articulate. It's okay to have an opinion and defend it. It's okay to be a woman who knows her own mind. It's okay to be confident, self assured, and to have a career you enjoy." This was revelatory for me because for 5 years I was told it wasn't okay to be who I am. It wasn't okay to have moods. It was a bad thing to be too happy or too sad or too angry or too frustrated or too passionate. But I saw in those last few hours of court that it WAS and IS okay. Not everyone is going to like me, but it's still okay to be me.

As for the outcome of the trial, we will have to wait. The judge has 60 days to make a ruling, so I'm not expecting a decision before then. We've done all we can do to this point and it's out of my hands. I now have the test of sitting back and trusting in the Lord and that truth will prevail.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Whole Fam Damily

My brother Kristoffer's birthday is today. He would have been 35. A grown man. What a crazy thought!

When Kris was 4 years old, he got cancer--Leukemia. Devastating news to any parent. Though, to me, I grew up with his illness and so it was normal. He lived a short time but influenced many people for good during that time. He went into remission 7 times before he died 13 April (Good Friday) when he was only 13. I was 12.

It has been years since I remembered and celebrated his life. I suppose I have been too busy living or, more accurately, I made myself busy because it has always been too difficult to celebrate his life. So, I'd like to honor his memory by remembering and thanking my family, of which he is still considered a part.

I have a family; a wonderful, crazy, messed up, loving family! They are not perfect, but they are there for one another. And like a piece of old tough fabric, intricately woven together over time--this family has become beautiful, strong, determined, and steadfast. They are immovable. And I have to remember that it was this family, my family, who caught me, cradling me to safety, when my world came crashing down. They were my saviours...still are.

By modern society's definition, I have a large family. By Utah's standard's, it's a medium sized one: Mom & Dad, 8 kids, 12 3/4 grand kids. And when we are all together, (which is rare), it borders on resembling a chaotic musical, complete with our own theme music and voice over narration.

That, we can all agree, is Mom's doing. We are all musically inclined, thanks to her and her ability to use (sometimes) not so gentle persuasion to get us all to sing, play the piano/instrument, or, at the very least, to whistle a tune without modulating into a different key. When we were little, she had us singing and performing all over the community, often while wearing Raggedy Ann and Andy costumes! So, there was just no point in resisting the musical gene. (Pictured is Bethany playing dress-up at Grandma's house, in our old costumes).

My dad, on the other hand, has always claimed he must have been out playing in the fields when the talents were divvied out and, therefore, missed out on any such musical ability. While, I don't believe he's lacking in the talent department, I do think that's why he married my mom. She was soooo beautiful, had the voice of an angel and possessed more talent in her little pinkie than he thought he'd ever have in a lifetime.

We lived on the lower end of the middle class spectrum. Mostly this was due to the fact that my parents decided to have as many kids as God would bless them with and to make the sacrifices necessary to allow my mom to stay home with us while we were young. (This example set the stage for my belief and desire to sacrifice luxury to become a stay at home mom, myself. This was subconsciously ingrained in me as the ideal, so, I strove towards that goal at all costs).

It's easy to get lost in a large family, but I think all individuals, who grow up with siblings, know that everyone has their own unique place in the family. My family is no exception. These are my perceptions: My oldest brother was the talented one: musician, actor, playwright, director, (even if it was only for pretend on the playground) and we mustn't forget, he was THE boss--our moral compass to condemn or condone our actions. My oldest sister: the beautiful one and the ring leader--if she decided it was worth doing, we all followed along. My second oldest sister: the peacemaker and the crafty one. My older brother (Kris): the entertainer and jokester. Me: I was, simply put, the middlest (all that that implies) and I was known as Happy Jacq. My younger brother (Joey): forever the baby. My youngest sister: the compassionate one and 'the shimmering glowing star in the cinema of firmament!' My youngest brother: the easy going trumpet player who every one of us love, admire and adore.

Not a whole lot has changed since then. The major difference is we grew up and I don't think we see each other as ONLY these things anymore. Though, I think it does takes us by surprise sometimes when THE boss no longer tells us what we should be doing, but rather, listens and sympathizes. Or when the compassionate one takes a firm stand, demanding justice instead of mercy. Or when when the peacemaker instigates an argument and fights to the death. Or when the beautiful one doesn't think she is stunning. Or when the happy one...well, isn't laughing anymore.

Through the years, my family has stuck together and supported each other during very difficult times. I knew this from past experience, so, it's surprising, looking back on it, that while I was in my marriage and was isolated from these friends, I began to believe I had no one on the outside that cared for me. I believed my family was my enemy. That they were disappointed in me and the person I had become. I believed that if I left my marriage, I would be labeled 'the divorced one', and therefore, I wouldn't be accepted, but would be shunned. I truly believed I would have no where to go and I would be a single mom alone.

What a sense of relief and enpowerment I have felt, as my life came crashing down around me breaking into a million little pieces, as I have found out that I'm not alone, but am surrounded, held up, and sustained by my family.

Thank you, family!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Postponed and Divorced.

I entered court last Tuesday with a certain expectation that our case would be heard. I exited court last Tuesday with an unexpected delay and an unexpected surprise.

The Delay: Our court dates needed to be rescheduled. So, Tuesday's and Friday's court dates were cancelled. Unfortunately, the next available dates, when all parties involved would be able to be in attendance, aren't for another month. Bummer! (That word doesn't do justice to how I feel about another delay, but my vocabulary is at a loss.) The new dates are 15 & 18 July 2011 and 4 Aug 2011.

The surprise: Our wonderful judge ordered the divorce to go through! It will be finalized within a few days. Everything else relating to the divorce is in abeyance until the case is heard. I would venture to shout, "I'm free, at last!" But without my children, I do not feel free and I, certainly, don't feel much like celebrating.

This week has found me to be in such a lugubrious mood until I met someone today who had a very refreshing view on life. I couldn't help but absorb some of his energy and viewpoint. Everything this stranger said and did had a positive spin to it--not in an annoying, that-person-is-way-too-happy kind of way, but, rather, in a very real and tangible way.

There was no pretense or facade he was trying to wear. It wasn't a mask. It was just the way he saw things. And just from one brief conversation, I could tell he lived every day and every moment of his life viewing the world through these tinted glasses.

After this brief encounter, I found myself wanting to view life and my current situation a little differently. Although I would love to say I will forever and from this day forth become a person who exudes positivity with every breath, (I love the thought of that), I am too much of a realist to believe that I could change that quickly or that intensely in such a short amount of time. And I fear, if I tried, I would come across as pretending. So, instead, I'm opting to find a happy medium between the sad realities of life and the happily-ever-afters I want.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day

Mother's Day sucked! End of story.

I have to admit I was elated it was overcast and rainy! The brooding clouds fit my mood. If it had been bright, sunny, and cheery, I think it would have, easily, been catalogued as the worst-day-ever. But with the bleakness of the weather I felt, at least, God understood my plight and had planned, accordingly, for rain. So, while it was not my favorite day, it wasn't my worst.

I had planned to, dutifully, attend church, but as I drove into the parking lot, I was struck with the realization I couldn't face the endless praise of Motherhood that would certainly ensue upon my entering the chapel. In my current state of selfishness, that would be too much for me to handle. I decided being alone, completely alone, would be the best course of action for me. So, I turned around and headed back home to spend a day in the solace of my garden.

Unfortunately, I had been planting flowers for a measly 15 minutes before the downpour started. Looking up into the gray sky, I stayed, soaking in the big, wet raindrops. The rain quickly blended in with my salty tears and I sat there crying for what seemed like a millennia. For the first time, I didn't care what my neighbors were thinking. I didn't care what people driving past might be thinking. All I could do was sit there wallowing in self pity while the rain poured down around me and crying because I missed my children; I missed being a mom. For an entire year, that has been taken from me and the weight of that is unbearable to handle alone.

My entire day was like that. No, I didn't sit in the rain for the entire day, but I felt like doing that. Instead, I drove around aimlessly and allowed myself to feel sorry for myself. Probably not the healthiest thing to do, but I think it helped me. I think it helped to mourn what I've lost. I have lost a year and I can never get this year away from my children back. That, in my opinion, is a loss to truly mourn.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I can see clearly

To all abusers and manipulators out there in the world, I just have to ask: Why do you do it? I know some of the answers to that, but I just had to throw that question out into the cosmic abyss.

I got another email from my husband yesterday. Interestingly, both my Dad and brother-in-law, Joel, had premonitions just this past weekend that he might try and make another attempt at fixing our broken marriage (controlling me). They were right, he did.

I will save you the gory details of the lengthy and quite wordy email and just give you the tidbits of info that are quite telling of his nature. It was the same old rhetoric: Jacq, you're broken and sick, you single-handedly ruined our marriage, you are abusive and neglectful, I don't trust you, the girls don't trust you, and my parents don't trust you...BUT I still love you and and I will sleep better at night knowing that I am continuing to try to reconcile our marriage!

The best part, (do you hear the sarcasm?). He says, only he will be the one to decide if and when I adhere strictly enough to the conditions he sets out in order for me to see my children. He claims that because he no longer trusts me, I will have to prove that I am good enough, well enough, obedient enough to see my children. Also, that I'll need to prove this to his parents, but he won't guarantee that they will ever drop the adoption case because that's in their hands not his.

Who is he to decide whether I am trustworthy enough to be with my children? While I am fully aware of my imperfections as a wife and mother, (I don't pretend to be the epitome of perfection, never did and never will--I'm much too aware of my own flaws), I know I am a good, fun, kind, and loving mom. I make mistakes. That's one thing I know will never change! So, I know that I will never be able to become trustworthy enough for him. The bar he and his parents measure me against is set too high. It's unrealistic. I cannot achieve perfection all the time, in every situation, and with every mundane task I'm required to complete. I couldn't do it in the marriage and I know, moving forward, those requirements are impossible. That, my friends, is the crazy making! Feeling like being a normal functioning human being isn't good enough.

On top of that, I just have to ask, in what realm does his wanting to reconcile our marriage even makes sense? Do people who are healthy (emotionally) knowingly seek to be with someone they are claiming is sick and abusive? I don't think so. Hence, my interpretation of his email was: Jacq quit it out. You are not obeying me. This was not in my plan! This is my attempt to control the situation that has exploded into chaos. And I am manipulating you to try and get what I want. I will threaten you. I will lie. I will expose you. I will ruin your life, if you don't shape up and do what I say. BUT if you do conform, then I will lovingly take you back--however, you still won't have your children!

So, it has become clear to me that I am a lot healthier than I was a year ago. While I am still fighting the effects of living in an abusive marriage, I can now see so clearly the manipulation and lies and I want nothing to do with it. I'm simply done with it. And as Ben Folds sings, "Bye, Bye, I tried. I've landed."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thing. Just things.

I never realized just how hard it is to live without my things until I didn't have anything except, literally, the clothes on my back, a couple of changes of underwear, and some basic makeup items.

You see, I took very few things with me the day I left because I believed I would be able to come back at any time and pick up the rest of my belongings. After all, my husband did convince me to just separate temporarily. He said, "Don't tell your family about the divorce. Don't get a lawyer, yet. Just wait it out, ponder and pray about it and then we'll meet back together at your next therapy (in 5 days) appointment. At that time, we can then discuss divorce or reconciliation." Why he was planning on attending MY therapy session is a story for another day. The point is, I left the house that day without my most of my things.

To be completely honest, I don't have very many things, though. I've never had a plethora of money to spend frivolously and I've never been someone who hordes junk. In fact, I regularly (every year actually) go through my storage boxes. I toss out anything that hasn't been used or looked at during that year and I throw away any paper or gadget that has lost it's sentimental value to me. I do this because 1. I hate clutter 2. I see no point in keeping something that isn't being used. 3. Very few things hold enough sentimental value to me to keep around.

Don't get me wrong, I do adore gifts from other people. It makes me feel loved and wanted. I remember every gift I was given, from every person, and when I received it. The reality is, very few items make it to the keep-forever-and-a-day pile.

I understand there are a lot of people who just can't, no matter what, get rid of anything because everything, it seems, has strong emotional ties. I get it, I tolerate it, and I usually don't even mind if other people do it. I just never have been like that. So, after I was served divorce papers (at my therapy appointment) and was forbidden from entering into my in-laws home to retrieve my things, I was somewhat mystified when I realized how attached I had suddenly become to my things. And I found an extreme loss at not being allowed to retrieve them.

My family, thank goodness, helped me out by restocking my personal hygiene items, gifting me with an occasional piece of jewelry, and taking me out to buy a few new articles of clothing every now and then so that I would have some basic necessities. But after only a few short days of being without, I found myself longing for my closet full of shoes. I missed my piano, books and sheet music. I longed for my P90X DVD set. Daily, I grumbled under my breath that I had no running shoes, multiple outfits to choose from, and sadly, I even pined after my home decor, even though I had no home of my own in which to display it. I realize this was silly, yet it's how I felt.

Well, last week (almost a year after I left) my old things and I were reunited once again. What a happy reunion! I had a entire trailer load of stuff my husband was claiming to 'give back' to me. I must say, I was somewhat disappointed at what I found while sorting through these things. Only about 1/4 of everything located in the trailer was actually mine. Some of it I recognized as items belonging to my in-laws (junky dinnerware, utensils, goblets, shelves). Some where things I knew belonged to my husband. And some I had never seen before in my life. Some items, actually, still had prices tags from a thrift store attached to them. It was as if they had cleaned out an entire room full of junk and pawned it off on me, in a hope that they could claim they split our assets evenly. Incredible! And ridiculous! What I found even more astonishing, was that not all of my possessions made it back to me.

Like I said before, I really do remember every gift that was ever given to me. So, while I am happy beyond belief that I now have a choice in which shoes to put on, I am acutely aware of the glaring fact that I am still attached to those other things I didn't get back.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why her?

I recently learned that an acquaintance I went to high school with, just left an abusive relationship, too. She lasted over 10 years. As we sat talking I felt myself relating to her sad, depressing tale, the abuse she endured, and her current view of herself. Yet, while we were talking, a question plagued me, "why her?" She seemed to have everything going for her. She is strikingly gorgeous. She oozes self confidence (at least she seemes to), she is so musically talented. She comes from a fantastic family. Looking at her, it just didn't add up.

Now, I don't pretend to know exactly what her feelings are or what it was like for her, but I could relate to the words she used to describe what she went through and the questions that she was asking mimicked my own almost word for word.

The question I most identified with and needed answered was: why us? What was it about our own selves that made us attract some guy who would abuse us...and what was it that made us not see the abuse and stay so long in the relationship?

That question has plagued me, elluded me, baffled me.