Thanksgiving, 2008

Back in February, I saw Arrival with my now ex-husband. It was one of our date night movies we watched while we were attempting reconciliation. Without giving away any spoilers, I sobbed like an idiot when the plot was finally revealed. It asked a question of me I was not ready to answer:

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Perhaps that’s why I cried so passionately at the first viewing: I would have done sooooo many things differently to prevent myself from being with Narc in our life-changing marital circumstance…

When I watched the movie again this week; however, I didn’t shed a single tear. And I was willing now, 9 months later, to finally ask myself the same question. It couldn’t have come at a more profound time too, actually.

The week before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays (Easter is number 1!). Growing up, we’d get together with my mom’s side of the family for a huge dinner. There was no family drama. There were no blended family issues to deal with. We went to Nanny and Papaw’s house– we ate, we had fun. It was that simple. It was easy…

In 2008, though, my Thanksgiving was more than just a typical holiday off with my family. It, too, was life-changing.

The Sunday before, I had performed in a drama sketch at church. I wore a new purple sweater that I had just bought at Lane Bryant. I paired it with some sassy black trousers that hugged all my curves. And I was perfecting the new art of straightening my naturally wavy hair. In all honesty, I thought I looked pretty darn cute that day. So when I purchased a DVD of that service from my church for the purpose of critiquing my performance, I was nothing but excited to watch myself.

When I sat down to watch it though, I had a very different reaction…

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Photo stills from that low resolution, poor quality DVD

I truly had an out-of-body experience watching this…

I got on the stage that morning thinking I looked pretty adorable. Yes, I knew I was fat. I mean, duh! Look at me. I had always been fat up until this point. It was a fact that I didn’t much like but had come to sort of accept… but, dangit, big girls are beautiful too and I thought I looked great that day!

…until I saw myself. Truly saw myself.  In that video.

It was a physical, guttural, Oh my God moment.

I. Am. FAT.

I’m unhappy.

I’m unhealthy.

I’m going to die.

I have GOT to get this under control!

I have to change…

The very next day, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I decided to change.

I weighed myself (230). I recorded every morsel of food and drink I put in my body down in a simple spiral bound notebook. I wrote out weekly goals. That week, Thanksgiving week, I wanted to lose 3lbs. I didn’t even want to think about next month or next year or 5 years from now… I just wanted to get through the week. Losing 3lbs seemed less daunting than losing 100lbs… I wasn’t going to psyche myself out by worrying about it. Just get through the week, Laura… Just one week… You can commit to anything for one. week.

My goal for that week was to only have 1 serving of my favorite dishes. I was going to have all the freaking dessert I wanted but, literally, cut them in half (half a slice of cherry pie, half a piece of a pumpkin log, half a brownie…). Those were the only goals I made.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving, I weighed myself. I lost 5lbs. I wrote down my new set of goals for that week (lose 2lbs; No fast food; No Coke; walk on the treadmill 30 minutes for just 2 days). Again, I could do anything for just a week, right? Just one week. Just get through the week…

I did that every week for 14 months.

I lost 90lbs.

On my own.

No Fad Diets. No deprivation. No gimmicks. No Reality TV show… Just me. Just smart choices, determination, and commitment.

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Me on the Right with my friend Sarah on the Left. January 2010. 140lbs.

Not only have I kept every pound off since then, I lost some more weight in 2015 and reached the 100lbs milestone!

 

Though I succeeded in my journey, I faced a lot of obstacles in those 14 months: I lost girl friends; I dated 2 not-so-nice guys; I experienced weight gains… This was all devastating to me.

But it was all worth it. 

In the 9 years since I started my journey I’ve continued to face obstacles: I married a man who betrayed me in the most intimate of ways. I was emotionally and financially crippled by him; I endured painful recovery of weight-loss related surgeries; I had a medical emergency that altered my life and how I breathe even to this day; I survived the trauma of divorce… These things were also devastating to me.

And it was all still worth it.

Looking back at all I’ve been through in the last decade, I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a single thing.

Everything I went through had a purpose. It had a learning experience. It shaped me (no pun intended) into the person I am today; the person I was supposed to be. I am who I am because of what I’ve been through.

This Holiday Season my prayer is that the struggles will never negate the success.  But that I’ll just be so much more grateful because of them.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Good Christian Girl, Divorced

November is a bittersweet month for me: My grandmother passed away; the holidays are creeping up and I actually hate the holiday season. Retail has hardened my heart to the over-commercialization of moments that should be sacred; I struggle with Seasonal Depression; Namely, though, my wedding anniversary was in November. This will be my first 11-11 as a divorced woman.

Divorce is a funny thing. In the church, it’s especially “funny”…It’s still a bit taboo. Stigma surrounding divorce is declining on the whole everywhere else but in church it’s still widely unaccepted. Or, at the very least, looked “down” upon. I struggled with my decision to divorce Narc long before my D-Day ever occurred. I struggled not with the decision to dissolve my marriage but solely with the inner turmoil that I would be perceived as a bad Christian if I left him. That’s my sad, raw truth.

Finding a mistress on Narc’s cell phone was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I took it as my get-out-of-jail-free card. As God is my witness, I’d have filed for divorce that very night if the courthouse had been open.

I wish I could tell you I was strong and that I kept that conviction the next day. That I waltzed up to the courthouse first thing December 20th and filed. I wish I could tell you I stood up to my well-meaning friends and family who tried to convince me to “work” on my marriage– who prayed for “redemption” and “restoration” and “healing” for me and Narc. I wish I could tell you I politely ignored them when they told me I was “too emotional” to file so quickly and that I trusted my own freakin’ instincts that it didn’t matter. All the praying and therapy and fill-in-the-blank wouldn’t work and it never would because I was married to a jackass and maybe even a sociopath. And, deep in my gut, I knew that from the beginning.  I wasn’t crazy!  I was right about him all along.

I was right. I was right. I was RIGHT… and divorce was my only option to cling to the little sanity I had left.

I wish I could tell you that.

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But that’s not what I did.

I played the Good Christian Girl Game and offered forgiveness: I moved back in on New Year’s Eve. I fought my tears and pretended everything was okay when my grandson, stepsons, and Mother-in-law came over as planned for our Christmas time. We had marathon sex that night because maybe if I was more adventurous and showed him what he’d been missing he’d never want to think about other women. I bought “How to be a Better Wife” books by the dozen. I went to a therapist once a week because adultery is just a symptom of a deeper marital problem and I needed to take responsibility for my contribution to all this. I followed every “Save Your Marriage” guru on social media. A lousy cook, I started making dinner a few times a week because maybe I never appreciated all the work he did around the house. If I didn’t take him for granted, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. I wore sexy lingerie to bed instead of pajamas because maybe if I showed more skin, he wouldn’t have to go looking for it elsewhere…

I played the game for 5 miserable months… half-assing it the entire time knowing that I meant nothing to him and that none of it mattered at all.

Why?

Because good Christian girls don’t get divorced.

And all any of this did was prolong the inevitable because I. Was. RIGHT.

He wasn’t sorry. He wasn’tashamed” of himself for letting one indiscretion “get out of hand” online. No. As I would discover, just days later, he wasn’t a victim of her feminine wiles nor was he “shocked” when she sent him that first naked picture… Nope. He met her at a bar, actively trolled her on Social Media, added her, sent her secret messages, and ASKED to see her tits. That’s how it really happened. She was one of several women he targeted, dare I say, preyed upon. And he didn’t stop any of that behavior in those 5 months of “recovery”… He just went further underground with his secret life. He wasn’t the victim. He was the con.

And the joke was on me.

In May, I stopped playing the game.

That first night alone I cried as hard as I did on December 19. I called a girlfriend and she let me sleep on her couch. We trash talked Narc all night long and I ended up laughing and going to bed with a smile on my face.

Slowly but surely, in the months that followed, the tears stopped. I wasn’t scared of the emptiness of my King Size bed anymore. I stopped leaving all the lights on at night. I decorated the house the way I wanted to. I learned how to mow the yard.

I was alone… but I was free.

My divorce decree arrived in the mail a couple months later.

And guess what?

I’m still a Good Christian Girl.

A Hot Cup of Tea & A Bag of Cheetos

I recently read an article by the Chump Lady on how to find a new partner post-infidelity. Ya know, a nice one. One who doesn’t cheat on you. One who actually loves you back—no strings attached. For the formerly “chumped” that sounds unthinkable, doesn’t it? After all, dating can be challenging enough as it is. But if you’ve had the unfortunate experience of being cheated on, letting down your walls and allowing yourself to love and trust again can be downright unfathomable.

I faithfully (no pun intended) subscribe to CL’s blog and I never miss a post. They’re all abso-freakin-lutely spot on but this particular post really resonated with me. Finding a nice partner after being with a toxic one can be boiled down to one word, really: reciprocity. Normal healthy relationships are give-and-take. Toxic relationships only take. She gives several personal examples of this. The one that really struck me was the story of how her current and wonderful non-cheating husband took care of her when she was sick. She came down with a cold while they were on vacation and spent a day or two in bed. What did he do that made her realize he would be her amazing new partner?

He ordered her a cup of hot tea.

Why did this ridiculously simple act of kindness strike such a chord with me? It reminded me of how my ex-husband took care of me when I was sick.

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A couple of years ago, I was on a business trip in St. Louis. My Narcissist ex-husband came with me. After my day of classes and training, he and I would go out on the town and enjoy our evening together. On Wednesday, though, I got that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. Ya know, the one where you just know you’re going to get sick… I staggered back to my hotel room after the longest day of classes ever and crashed on the bed. I left my clothes and winter coat on and lay in the fetal position just hoping to God I could sleep it off. Maybe if I don’t move I won’t puke my guts out; it’ll just go away.

My ex-Narc kept questioning me, “What’s wrong? Do you still want to go out?”

I could only shake my head. Talking wasn’t possible.

“Are you sick? What’s wrong?” he raised his voice, annoyed.

Weakly, I whispered. “Flu… let me sleep…”

He heaved a sigh.

I closed my eyes willing the inevitable to stay at bay.

He turned on the T.V. and settled in to his side of the bed. He made casual chit chat with me as if nothing unusual were happening. Like it was just another night in back home.

Finally, I had to face the facts. I got up from the bed and ran to the bathroom. Everything I had put in my stomach that day was now out of me. My eyes watered, my stomach heaved, sweat began to pour from my brow, and then I felt a startling new development… Still puking, my eyes searched for a waste bin in reach. I grabbed for it and transferred my vomiting to that while I desperately loosened my pants. It was a close call, but I managed to drop them just in time…

“So I guess we’re staying in tonight?” He says after I emerge from the bathroom.

I nodded and shuffled back to the bed. I did actually manage to get my clothes off and put on my pajamas, but I knew that this was going to be a long night.

ExNarc kept commentating on the episode of “Flip or Flop” that he was watching. He too was a realtor and enjoyed these types of shows thoroughly.

Occasionally he’d ask, “What do you think?” of the choices the hosts were making in their latest remodel.

I truly hadn’t the energy or strength to talk. I know that sounds melodramatic but I couldn’t. I felt so awful. I just wanted to sleep and be left alone. Talking requires opening your mouth, and I was scared that projectile vomit would escape from me. Also, I was clearly and blatantly sicker than a dog! WHY was he talking to me like it’s just a normal Wednesday night? WHY was he not even acknowledging my condition? WHY did the thought of going to the lobby, or even out to dinner on his own never cross his mind? God forbid he offer to turn off all the lights or get me some crackers or Sprite. I would’ve vehemently denied them but it’s the principle of the matter. Instead, he was bound and determined to make me feel bad for ruining his evening. The fact that I was sick was inconsequential to him. At the time, though, I was just too weak to call him out on it.

“So what do you think of that?” he asked about something else in the show.

Finally I muttered. “So… sick. Please… let me sleep…”

“Do you think you’ll go to your classes tomorrow?”

“No…”

“So, what am I supposed to do all day?” he asked.

The same thing you’ve been doing all day while I’ve been in class so far, jerk! I thought as I threw the covers off of me and ran to the bathroom again. This time I remembered to sit on the toilet first and put the trash bin in front of me.

When I came out, ExNarc had popped open some Cheetos and was eating them on the bed. The rustle of the paper bag alone sent me back to the bathroom for round 3.

Tears seem to be a natural physiological response when one is vomiting, but this time I was actually crying while I was getting sick.

Really, Muffin? You’re going to eat Cheetos while I’m puking my guts out! What the freakin’ crap? I decided to camp out on the bathroom floor before the next wave hit. I was not going back to that bed and listen/watch/smell my jerk husband consume his crunchy Cheetos!

Did he knock on the door to check on me when I didn’t materialize from the bathroom? No. Did he ever once ask me if there was anything he could do to help me? No. Did he even acknowledge I was sick?

No.

I lost count of how many times I got sick that night. It was the worst bout of food poisoning (or whatever the heck it was!) I’d ever had. And, honestly, I couldn’t remember a time I had been more disappointed in ExNarc… (Maybe when he left for our 1st anniversary to travel abroad for a month… I digress).

The next day I stayed in bed instead of going to my training classes. The puking et al portion of my virus had finally dissipated but I was still very weak and lethargic. ExNarc kept pressuring me to call my employer and tell him I was sick. I, on the other hand, didn’t want to because it would’ve just worried him. There’s absolutely nothing he could’ve done to change the situation so why bother him? Plus, I still felt too sick to physically make the call and discuss it with him!

Of course, ExNarc contacted my employer anyway… and I, the disgustingly sick one, had to deal with the drama resulting in that.

Narcissists relish in drama so he was happy as a clam again.

That wasn’t the end of my Sick in St. Louis story, unfortunately. ExNarc made the rest of the trip a nightmare for me but I’ll save that for another post.

So if I can tie this all together, what does a Hot Cup of Tea and a Bag of Cheetos have in common? They are both prime examples of Reciprocity.

For the Chump Lady, a hot cup of tea meant love. It meant respect, kindness, mutual admiration and appreciation. Things that are normal and present in healthy relationships.

For me, a bag of Cheetos meant lack of love. It meant disrespect, cruelty, and complete disregard for my feelings and well being.

That incident with my ex-husband made me seriously consider that he was more than just mean or selfish. It alerted my attention to the possibility that maybe there was something pathological beneath the surface. Maybe I’m not crazy for feeling unappreciated by the simplest little things. It’s the “little” things that matter, after all. And I was starting to figure out that these little things that were nagging away at me for the past few years weren’t little at all. I was in a toxic, dysfunctional, one-sided relationship. It would be 2 years after that before I would finally realize that there was no Reciprocity in my marriage. I Left my Cheater and Gained a Life on May 19, 2017 (5 months to the day I discovered his mistress).

Did any of this talk on reciprocity resonate with you? What incidents occurred in your relationship that made you realize it was equal or one-sided? Please share your thoughts. Us ex-chumps need to stick together!


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