Anything But This….

I would never get involved with a married man. This is a rule I am unlikely to break because of my experience as a divorced woman. The script will be familiar only with different actors.

During the final stages of my ailing marriage, my ex husband found someone new. I strongly suspected this, but never worried about validating my suspicions or confronting him. I was loyal, and accepted the emotional wasteland of my marriage, after I was given the opportunity to give complete and unconditional love to the small human being my husband and I created together. I believed that he would soon rally back and we will be able to build something out of our flawed partnership for the sake of our child.

In this naive conviction, I was shocked then crushed when the husband chose the other woman and sent me away with my babe in arms. The world as I knew it ended. But then I awakened, and after experiencing the crushing loneliness, only possible within a relationship, I found out that now I was merely alone with my little baby. Soon I was aware that I was no longer standing under the looming shadow of my husband’s perpetual discontent. I began to see opportunities I never noticed before, I prospered in a new job and lived in new places.  While I regained my freedom and happiness, the other woman ended up with everything I lost; the tyrant husband, the shadow of discontent, and the unhappiness, followed closely by another divorce.

I am not crazy. I never want to become that other woman.

Help Me Out

August will mark the five years anniversary to my arrival in Cape Town, a time when I finally faced up to the fact that perhaps I did not want to go on with the status quo of my marriage. You may say, and correctly that it took me a long time to realize it, but well, that is the way things were.

From where I am sitting now I shake my head in wonder. How on earth was I bullied to think for nine years that I was to blame for all the ills of this relationship. How did I ever accept the verdict of my husband and his judgment on everything when I was an adult with a healthy common sense myself. It all goes down to upbringing and culture. My mother – bless her and keep her healthy- is the most wonderful woman in the world but by her example she encouraged a subservience to the male head of the family, and unfortunately for myself and my sister we did not have any other examples to a healthy balanced relationship. If you add to that the fact that my ex is 13 years my senior with that much more experience than myself, a female who had a very sheltered upbringing, you may understand where my feeling of inferiority came from. Regardless, of the reasons I was intimidated into thinking that it was always me to blame until East London.

I am often reprimanded about my fondness for East London, a sleepy town in the Southern African province of the Eastern Cape. Admitting that you lived there is apparently extremely uncool.  East London to me is the place where I finally rose up emotionally to my chronological age. It was a long, long time coming.

I will always remember East London for its rolling dunes and beautiful beaches, for the twin rivers that border it and for the simple uncomplicated people who live there. One day I will go there again with someone I love whether it is a partner or a son it does not matter, but I would like to show someone what I found there… I found myself.

It was a long journey that I made alone, without the help of a mother, a sister, a trusted girlfriend or even an agony aunt, but I did have a therapist. It was back in July 2005 that I saw a therapist in East London, I tried desperately to speak to someone and even in such a sleepy hollow as this town -or perhaps exactly for that reason- therapists were booked for months in advance. This one had a slot after two weeks, maybe she was not that good. The only thing I remember about her place is the cream-colored couch and the light pastels of her consultation room. During the hour session, the woman did not speak much she just listened and commented and in that hour I articulated all the negative feelings accumulated throughout six years of marriage. The therapist made the appropriate noises and comments throughout and pointed me to the road that I have already glimpsed when I phoned for an appointment. It was not love that I was living it was an act of willful manipulation. It was time for me to break free and I did.

One month later found me on the shores of Cape Town. A few miles away from the Cape of Good Hope, and to me it was Good Hope. I had a lot of time to reflect on my past life and to think about the way forward; what I really want for my future. I could not, or was not allowed to severe my marriage completely, because at the time my husband  kept trying to win me back, for the wrong reasons now I know. It was the first time though since coming to South Africa where I lived according to my own rules, without having to defer to his every strict edict. I had a great time and indulged in simple pleasures that were not allowed at home: Staying up late, sleeping in, reading in bed, chocolate, cheese and many other treats and junk foods that were extremely frowned upon in my married life. I exercised when I wanted to, and rediscovered the simple joy of doing things for pleasure, not because I needed to break a sweat or do a chore. I also enjoyed the company of Spliff the cat, who shared my bed on some cold winter nights, another no-no in my husband’s dictionary.
The people I shared a house with – two singles dealing with their own problems with relationships and life- gave me plenty of insight, advice and anecdotes, and together we formed an unlikely but rewarding friendship. I enjoyed their company, more so because they also fell on the disagreeable side of my partner’s rules, he had something against overweight women and gay men.
Along with all these personal benefits, things were slowly going my way on a professional level. I bought a computer and worked on my first large freelance translation project, while I also attended interviews for jobs in Cape Town.

Still, no matter how successful I was, or how much I rationalized my relationship and analyzed its glaring flaws, there were many hurdles to conquer mentally and emotionally. I was helped along by a song that came out that year: All These Things I have Done by the Killers.
I would wake up at night sometimes to listen to FM radio on my headphones and would start humming along to the beautiful melody and the lyrics. Unlike the hopelessness of Losing My Religion, somehow there was an underlying theme of hope in this one, and the person crying for help, finds or at least expects to find a way out.
The best part for me was the refrain of : I’ve Got Soul But I am Not a Soldier. It translated my exact feelings: I do have a heart and emotions and I am capable of love and hope, but I will not continue this endless battle of my marriage, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The video of that lovely track, and the lyrics are below.

When there’s nowhere else to run
Is there room for one more son
One more son
If you can hold on
If you can hold on, hold on
I wanna stand up, I wanna let go
You know, you know – no you don’t, you don’t
I wanna shine on in the hearts of men
I wanna mean it from the back of my broken hand

Another head aches, another heart breaks
I am so much older than I can take
And my affection, well it comes and goes
I need direction to perfection, no no no no

Help me out
Yeah, you know you got to help me out
Yeah, oh don’t you put me on the back burner
You know you got to help me out

And when there’s nowhere else to run
Is there room for one more son
These changes ain’t changing me
The gold-hearted boy I used to be

Yeah, you know you got to help me out
Yeah, oh don’t you put me on the back burner
You know you got to help me out
Yeah, you’re gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you’re gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you’re gonna bring yourself down

I got soul, but I’m not a soldier
I got soul, but I’m not a soldier

Yeah, you know you got to help me out
Yeah, oh don’t you put me on the back burner
You know you got to help me out
Yeah, you’re gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you’re gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, oh don’t you put me on the back burner
You’re gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you’re gonna bring yourself down

Over and in, last call for sin
While everyone’s lost, the battle is won
With all these things that I’ve done
All these things that I’ve done
If you can hold on
If you can hold on

I read in one interpretation that the lyrics are written from the viewpoint of God. Speaking how people turn to Him only when they need help, which makes sense. However, like any work of art this song evokes different feelings, images and memories in different people. The message for me was hope, eventually I shall prevail, or find help, I have what it takes.

In April 2008, I moved with my six-month old son Robert to the same house that welcomed me when I first arrived in Cape Town.  I was determined this time to finish what I failed to do almost three years ago.  The circumstances this time were more difficult than the first time around, but on some levels I was much happier. I never took walks alone to the beach anymore and wondered about my future, I never worried about what I would do about love. I had all the love and the future I wanted in my son. When my song played, there were two of us to dance to it.

My Ex and the Art of Manipulation

I spent nine years married to Robert’s father, and six months after our son was born he decided that he needed more from life. I was at the time trying to get back to work after an extended maternity leave and put up with living as refugee at a friend’s home and losing almost everything I worked long and hard for. Throughout all this there was one thing that kept me going and kept me alive it is loving Robert.

Throughout my marriage I always felt inadequate and not good enough. This feeling was enforced by the treatment of my ex husband, who always looked down upon me and made feel inferior. Five years ago I broke up with my husband for the first time. We were both working on HIS dream running our own business, a service station in a scenic coastal town of the Eastern Cape. During that time I worked as hard as he did, and for very little rewards, but still battled for my space. My salary went to pay off our bond and I was reduced to asking him for money. I was denied a computer, and an internet connection, because these were not part of his priorities. I was severely reprimanded when I used the internet connection at the office, and was given extremely harsh treatment on one occasion when I did some of my translation work late at night at the office.

Throughout all that I was working for HIS goals, and denying myself mine. I was manipulated by blind love for him and sense of responsibility of what makes a good wife. My unhappiness gradually drowned out my love for him. As the workload and responsibility of running the garage wore him out he became more and more hostile towards me, citing me as the only reason for his unhappiness and telling me at every opportunity: “We do not need you at the garage”, making me believe that the only things wrong at the business was my attitude which was bringing everyone down.  I lasted two years under this psychological torture and then I decided that I did not care anymore and drove over 1000  km  from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town.

He never thought I would do it. He tried every single trick he could, and in the end he decided to play soft instead of hard. He ended up convincing me that I would be carving a way out for US from the drudgery of running this business. I still loved him at the time so I took him back later when I had a job and a place of my own in Cape Town. It would have been the biggest mistake of my life if it weren’t for Robert. And because of Robert I can forgive every single cruelty his father committed against me.

I have been divorced now for two years, and I must admit that I still had feelings for my ex during the first year of our divorce. But sometime during this past year my feelings towards him were finally laid to rest. A week ago my friend Britt asked if Robert’s dad was seeing someone, and it struck me that I really did not care.. It was a relief and a revelation at the same time.

My ex is only important now inasmuch as he is important to my son. Robert loves his father dearly and I love my son enough to put up with what I consider typical insufferable behavior of my ex. But when he tries using my son as a manipulation tool I feel resentful again.

I do not dwell on the past much, and I battled to condense the narrative of my divorce story, there were many more ways my ex hurt and manipulated me in the past, when we were first married, and when I arrived in Johannesburg as love-drunk bride and found an austere and brooding husband I never really knew. These memories do not serve a useful purpose in my life at this moment and they are therefore filed away, for now. Unless typical ex behavior occurs, and today is one of these days.

I found out today that I might be a candidate for an interpreting course that could take me to Gauteng for a week. The course is part of a contract I may be doing for a government entity to interpret during the World Cup.

Typical ex reaction: You should think of Robert and not of yourself. Translation: It would really inconvenience me to look after him during these days. Okay I already had misgivings about leaving Robert for a week. I miss my son even when he spends one night at his dad’s, but still I answered: Huh, isn’t earning a living part and parcel of thinking about Robert? How about maybe I ask to increase maintenance?

Ex reaction (very shocked): You should think carefully of what you are doing. I am doing everything I can for my son and [insert here sob story about how hard done by he is and how he is on the verge of losing his job but this man told me just a few months ago that he was looking to buy himself a flat in a posh area of town]. He could tell that this was not having an effect on me, so he went on with a veiled threat: “Are you aware that our son can only leave the country with my consent?” “I would do everything I can so that he has a father, I will gladly be his guardian”.

Oh really? If one week with your son is considered strict inconvenience then how would you deal with a lifetime? Secondly, if I ever leave the country it would be because of a job offer and I know the answer that will shut you up for good if this situation arises:  Pay me an alimony equivalent to what the overseas job pays and I would gladly stay home.

My ex has no power of manipulation over me anymore. I see through his every action. He is motivated by fear of losing money in EVERYTHING he does. Losing me did not hurt him as much as the paltry alimony and divorce settlement. He is cold and calculating to the extreme. I would like to think that he is different when it comes to our son, for the sake of Robert. But still he blames Robert’s occasional misbehavior on ME. He wants me to speak to his teachers to stop giving him cakes on Friday because he figures sugar consumption makes him hyper-active. Friday is baker’s day at school and all the kids wait for it every week, and I am supposed to go and deprive my son of it just because my ex has him some Friday nights. It is so easy parenting on planet ex. I never ask or try to interfere with what and how he spends time with our son. Honestly I do not want to know his parenting style because I do not want to be judgmental. I trust that if I do what feels right on my side Robert will be okay.

If I ever over compensate in something with Robert then it is with love. I always try to show love, in words actions and behavior. I figure that this is one of the things that my ex did not get much of as a child and I pray that I am not raising the father over again. I cringe to think of my son’s world if he only has his father to come home to; a world of all rules, no sweets, no joy, no laughter.  I only cling to the one hope that my son with his love, his innocence and his intelligence will outdo the manipulations of his father.

Celebrating Freedom

Apart from marking my son’s 20th month today has other implications for me, and for South Africa.  Today would have been my 10th marriage anniversary and it is also Freedom Day here in South Africa.  It marks the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994.

Last year at this time I was still living with Jackie and although I was not officially divorced yet, she said to me cynically that from now on I can celebrate freedom on Freedom Day. Only my brain got the joke at that time because my heart was still sore, but today I can say that I am celebrating my freedom.

It took longer than I expected for the feelings to completely die, even as late as January this year the emotions still competed inside me, I wanted at turns to hurt, to impress, to punish and to hurt my ex husband. Now I really do not care anymore and the absence of feeling is such a relief.  In the past weeks he came over a few times and visited with Robert here.  And although this prompted me to put some order in our space,  I felt no obligations whatsoever towards my ex, he was visiting with Robert, not with me, so I mostly ignored his presence.

I am glad that I can live for myself and my son. I have arrived to a space where I am self-sufficient and content. I am proud of what I achieved. I can glance back at my previous life as a married woman without bitterness or sadness, because when I go to sleep and holding my son I know that I am holding everything that ever mattered to me.

Poor Joyless Man

Many years ago my ex husband and I saw the film American Beauty. In the movie we meet the protagonist Lester, a married man with a teenage daughter. We watch as his marriage (and life) derail in bizarre circumstances. I can still remember the scene where Lester laments to his wife Carolyn : “How did you become so…. joyless?”. If there was one word to describe my marriage or my ex husband, that will be it… joyless.

Two weeks ago my ex and I came into another awful confrontation. He had expected me to pay him over the occupational rent (money paid by the buyer to the seller for occupying a property while it is still registered in the seller’s name) for the house that was sold in the Eastern Cape. He thought that it was his right, in lieu of the maintenance he paid us (?).  Stupidity prevented me from disputing such ludicrous proposal when it was made, but I figured out how unfair it was a few hours later. The money from the sale of the house was supposed to be my divorce settlement and my ex has washed his hands clean from every expense that related to finalizing the sale of the house. Out of my pocket I paid for the auction which turned out to be an absolute flop, and from the proceeds of the sale I paid the real estate agent commission the rates and taxes, the costs for cleaning the pool and a final municipal bill that amounted to over R 8000.  Whenever anyone asked him something about the house in Gonubie he referred them to me, saying that the house now belongs to me. So I do not understand under which pretext does he want to claim the amount of occupational rent ( R 9000 for two months). When I stated my case in these words my ex went ballistic and called me names, and threatened -as usual- to withdraw Robert’s support.

Obviously he was still resentful even days later because he indicated that he wanted to be out of my medical aid. He still asked me though for prices of discounted flights to Canada, which I get as a benefit of my job.  I have to say here that I have come to a point in my life where I am no longer resentful of my ex. I can write horror stories of his maltreatment of me, his emotional abuse, his selfishness and stinginess.  When he flies at me with unfounded accusations, throwing at me what ” I did to him” I want him at the other end of the world. Perhaps this is one reason why I want to facilitate for him getting a ticket to Canada. It is the perverse wish that something will happen to keep him there, and out of my hair for good.  But all this notwithstanding, sometimes I still feel sorry for the man, and his damaged personality. He is a person incapable of feeling love, not the way I feel it anyway.

My ambiguous feelings towards the man came full circle yesterday. I phoned him to ask him again whether he was sure he wanted me to take him off his medical aid. I found a confused and agonized person. His plans of spending Christmas with his family were derailed by his mother’s frosty reception. His “relationship” isn’t what he expected. He paid me a backhanded compliment by saying that I was intelligent in comparison and although I seemed to do everything wrong I was a hundred times better than other woman (this type of compliment is typical to him so I cannot take offense). He even said that he is starting to realize that he was probably better off married to me, and all he wanted now was to see Robert grow.

Now I am not going to make too much of what he said.  He will soon revert to his old self again, and once he is strong he will believe again all the lies he tells himself. Still I found myself once more in my familiar role as psychoanalyst and adviser. I offered some tepid advice, and tried to avoid to many ” I told you so”s.  I am certain though that the man will never change. Sometimes his conscience catches up with him, it is usually when someone else offers him the type of coldness and cruelty he dispenses to others. But then he runs away from the truth again, mixing up with people who would tell him how great he is and convince him he is not a horrible person person after all. His mother by her very existence uncomfortably gives him a mirror of the very characteristics he hates about himself; he is too weak to change, and too proud to accept them. Instead he escapes into self delusion, with whoever wants to live the lie with him.  I feel sorry for his wasted joyless life, at the same time I am grateful that I was given the chance to escape it. I only hope those misery genes will not get passed on to our son.

Lawyers, Telkom, Ex-husbands and Hospitals.

I feel drained and very upset today. My eyes are red and itchy from crying and my head feels like I am suffering from a hangover, but it is just the pent up frustration and depression.

My depression started yesterday afternoon, as I was desperately trying to finish a translation assignment before the deadline. Robbie was hanging around me, crying, cranky, clingy and unhappy. I should have known that something was wrong with him when his teacher at the day care said that he slept during his five hours there. Later he became warmer and I gave him a suppository; but it didn’t do much. His appetite hasn’t been good since he had the ear infection last week, but today he didn’t want to eat anything, and when I managed to get something into his stomach he threw it all up after a few minutes. This is the second time this happens in the last 24 hours. The first time he threw up on Sunday afternoon while we were out for a walk; the mess was phenomenal but he didn’t seem worse for wear, and was quite chirpy while we had a bath so I discounted it as an isolated event and took him to the daycare Monday morning.

As if work and a sick baby was not enough to keep me busy I also had a Telkom technician install my phone line yesterday. The phone proved useless when I wanted to phone Robert’s pediatrician and I had to use my cell phone. The pediatrician advised me to give Robert only liquids tonight and see how he is tomorrow. He told me to bring him into hospital if I was still worried. I was trying to control my feeling of worry, but once my job was safely sent I started to feel guilty and decided that perhaps Robert needed more medical attention. His temperature was still high, he was unhappy, and had a dazed look in his eyes. I had to call my ex-husband to take me of course, and although he agreed readily enough it was again one of those days when I wished I had an alternative.

Robert’s dad moved out of our area, and now lives closer to Cape Town center, so traveling must be an issue for him. By the time he arrived I was getting exasperated and felt my nerves fraying. Robert’s condition probably did not justify my intense reaction but my feeling of helplessness towards his sickness did. When we arrived at the hospital I fumbled with filling forms, and was unable even to remember my own cell number. I felt completely inadequate and emotionally out of control; I did not cry but I dithered and blabbered endlessly. I must have felt sorry for myself and my situation as a single mom. My ex-husband brought up the name of a woman a couple of times; how she helped him move and stored some of his furniture at her place. In contrast I felt alone and helpless, having to rely on him again if I wanted to provide my child with proper medical attention.
I watched the rapport between him and Robert and how my little one preferred him to me as a playmate, even in his sick condition. It brought a lump in my throat to see them together and I wished my ex-husband really had in his heart the love he was outwardly projecting onto his son. I also wished I was in a position to provide my boy with a substitute father.

Between myself, Robert’s dad and a kindly nurse we gave Robert a sponge bath and his temperature was brought down. A terrifyingly young-looking doctor examined him and diagnosed an ear infection. He did not give any medication for the stomach ailment and only prescribed an antibiotic. Obviously Robert’s earlier ear infection was not cured. My conscience bothered me about this one; perhaps I should have given him the whole bottle of anti-biotic, but for god’s sake it was a huge amount that would have lasted 14 days. The GP initially prescribed five days and when I feared that he was developing a cough I continued with it for three more days, what is wrong with that?

On the way home my ex and I spoke and again the name of the woman was dropped and I felt really miserable. I always suspected the existence of a woman, but now she has a name, and I am sure she cares about him (or whom she thinks he is) a great deal. Life is so unfair ! A single man like him gets the help and devotion of some willing woman, while I struggle with my child without any help. Even my supposed friend has decided to shut me out of her life because of a dispute over money.

Yesterday was also supposed to be a good day because I finally received the revenue from the sale of the house in the Eastern Cape. My lawyer’s behavior, however, left a bad taste in my mouth.  He charged me a fee for supervising the sale of the house in Gonubie, and took a dent out of what I figured would be my net sale revenue.  When the house was sold some lawyer in East London (who was contacted presumably by the real estate agent) started the process of transfer. When my lawyer found out he wanted to be in on the process because the order of divorce stated that he was the one who was supposed to do the transfer (and collect the fee from the buyer). From my perspective, I did not give a bent farthing which lawyer did the transfer as long as I did not get to pay anything, and that was what I told my lawyer. His response was : He had to be involved to look after my interest and make sure that I get paid my money, and no I needn’t pay for the transfer.  I did not pay for the transfer, but the dear lawyers decided to share the cake : The purchaser pays the lawyer in East London ( as it is normally the case) the lawyer in Cape Town crooks his client for a fee and everyone is happy : both lawyers get a cut (when normally only one would), and the ex husband gets his money in full (because the lawyer did not act on his behalf duh), and the poor client gets to pay for the pleasure of everyone. Crooks or what? The bill for my lawyer’s “supervision of the transfer” read like a bloody essay and there is not a single thing on there that I couldn’t have done myself for free. The only thing that I might have missed is the commission that they charged me for the occupational rent, but that was about R 1200. So in effect the lawyer charged me four thousand Rands to save me twelve hundred. I was quite unhappy with this and wrote to the lawyer who gave me a discount (returned to me 15% of the fee he unfairly charged me). I accepted the discount because I learned that when one is in a losing position, anything is better than nothing. The business relationship however between me and this lawyer is over. I am going to make some other crook’s day for estate planning (a fancy legal word for writing a will, maybe to justify the horrific fee).

Today things started crumbling further for me when I discovered that what Telkom technicians installed for me was an analog line, and I had to wait another 30 days to upgrade it to DSL. Again, I spent hours on the phone trying to get some sense out of anyone. Mostly perhaps WHY did they install me a normal line when I specifically order a DSL line? I tried to explain to the machine-like people on the other side that I would now be waiting for 2 months to get my internet connection, which was the main reason why I wanted the phone in the first place. Their bland voices just said that they do understand, but in the end Telkom does what Telkom wants and never mind the wishes of the customer. I have had every possible unpleasantness from Tekom, yet they are somehow regarded as above reproach. None of their consultants is ever willing to give you information on how to submit a complaint.

I was still reeling in shock with all these developments, but my baby looked fine and I decided to go to the bank and collect my replacement credit card. I am slowly starting to replace the contents of the wallet I lost over two weeks ago. So I am here standing at the queue, and I it was almost my turn when Robert decided that it is time for another episode of projectile vomiting. This time I was mentally and physically unprepared and I just abandoned the queue and ran out of the bank. At the next block there is the pharmacy where I usually buy our prescriptions, I stopped there to get some tissue and wipe my son up and bought a pack of re-hydration fluid. At the checkout I just broke down and started crying in front of the cashier, who was trying to tell me that things will be alright, but at that point all I could think of was : Enough Already !!! I am done.

At home I was in for another episode of dealing with a sickly child. Cleaning him up, trying to make him eat, trying to get him to drink and wiping up the resulting mess, from his face, from the floor and the carpet. Tomorrow I am taking him to his regular pediatrician which means another call to a reluctant father and another unpleasant day, but let us just get over this one first.

Another Irrevocable Breakup?

The hardest days for me to work are the Sundays, because these are the days I leave my child into the reluctant care of his father, and today was an extra bad one in terms of work pressure.  As I was nearing home my heart sank further when I saw the car of Jackie’s “boyfriend” parked in front of the house. I simply despise the man; I find him vulgar, impolite and simply stupid.  On one occasion, not even my closed door hindered his imposition, and unfortunately whenever I tell him directly what I think of him, he laughs it off as an attempt to hide my weakness to his physical charm, or should I say his impressive physical attribute which he never ceases to speak about.  I was not looking forward to an evening of listening to his vulgarity, which somehow amuses Jackie.

There was more crap waiting for me behind that closed door, however, but mercifully I did not know that, and when my cell phone rang I took the call just outside the house. I remember looking at the afternoon sky when the real estate agent told me breathlessly that she sold our house in Gonubie. My heavy heart began lifting a little when I asked her for the details. She told me that she brought me the price I was aiming for after her commission, and promised to fax me the offer to sign early on Monday.

I did not get to tell Jackie my good news because when I entered the house she met me with that silly “boyfriend” in tow, there was also another friend of hers present. I saw her smile while she told me that Petey had left a present on my bed, and indeed the room smelled of it. I was just too angry to speak for a few minutes as I raced to peal off the sheets of my soiled bed, and tried to clean up the mess and the smell before my son arrived.  In one moment I knew that I had enough, I have had Petey for three years, and not once had he done this, not even while he was crippled from his fall out of my third floor window.  I just knew that he only did it this time because he was locked in the room, and was not used yet to getting out of the window. As I snatched the dirty sheets, and steeled by the knowledge that my days of penury are almost over, I blurted it out: Look, it is not because of this, but I cannot stay here anymore. I am moving out in two weeks, when she asked me what I meant I told her I am moving out and that she should put that in her pipe and smoke it. Jackie took this very hard and hurled accusations at me, attacking my integrity and implying that I deserved what my ex did to me because I lacked decency. It was not composure or good manners that kept me silent, it was just shock, she went on and on about notices, contracts and money for electricity that I “owed” her.  What about paying these? she said, I just answered we will see, and kept on topping my avocado toast. I marvel now at how cool I remained, but I simply had no recourse against her poisonous tirade.

In the middle of all that my ex dropped off my son,  so we took a break from the fighting, but then I heard Jackie speaking to her mother on the phone and I asked to speak to her after she finishes, because she was my landlady like my dear friend Jackie pointed out. I wish I could say that the mother was harsher on me than the daughter, but it is not true, we only get hurt from those we care about.  Mrs L pretended that she did not know the story, so I told her that I found another place and will be leaving in two weeks.  I was more or less prepared to her line of argument: The contract I signed (the piece of paper I insisted to have in order to apply for my own phone line coming back to bite me), and how supportive they all were of me, etc. The only thing that unsettled me was my landlady’s claim that she gave me her maid Lucy.  She said that Lucy will no longer be allowed to look after Robert, and this was something I was not prepared to think about since Lucy’s help was central to my ability to show up at work.  I was shaken, but I managed to keep a clear mind. I went immediately after this conversation -while Jackie was busy in her room with her friends- and fished out the “contract”. My copy was the only copy available, and I could not trust keeping it in the house, so I just shredded it to pieces and flushed it down the toilet.

Soon after this I took Robert out and walked with him to get the anger out of my system. But before I left I called Lucy and asked her to meet me opposite her daughter’s place. Lucy has been good to me always, I told her everything, and she calmed me down and told me not to worry. She said that Jackie’s mother cannot prevent her from working  in her own time in the afternoon, and if she insisted on preventing her then she has to pay her whatever I pay her. We both knew Mrs. L well enough to know that she would not do that.  Speaking to Lucy felt good and I was calm again.

I remember coming back to a darkened room and having to put my boy to sleep on a blanked on the floor to avoid contact with the still soiled mattress.. As my little baby snuggled against me to have his evening snack I felt so empty, drained and abandoned and the only thing I thought about was phoning my ex.  I had nobody to share the joy of unloading the house, or the pain of losing a friend. As I explained to him what had happened my voice chocked and I cried. I do not know what I expected from him, but old habits die hard, and after the ugly argument with Jackie I had nobody else to talk to.

When Robert slept safely in his crib.  I cleaned up the mattress and washed out the worst dirt from the sheets. I asked Jackie for new sheets and she gave me some. We talked somewhat,  and she tried a more conciliatory tone with me this time.  She claimed she cared about me, and there were a few tears shed from both of us. My tears felt cold on my cheeks, they weren’t the hot tears of remorse and healing.  They were tears of calm acceptance, something has been irrevocably broken.

Auction Blues

The highly anticipated auction date for the house in Gonubie was yesterday. My conversations with the auctioning house have been sobering lately because I can sense that there isn’t much interest there and they are definitely struggling to show a presence in Gonubie, when they do not even have an office in East London. Compared to the hype they stared with I was preparing myself for disillusionment, but I did not anticipate its monumental proportions. They called me yesterday afternoon to tell me that they had a single bidder for R 400,000. This is even less than what was actually paid for the house. I was sorely disappointed and lamented the money I threw away at this auction ( R 10,000 for the auctioneers + R 1000 for cleaning the pool) in addition to refilling the pool with water, and god knows what this will mean to my final municipal bill.

My dreams of breaking free from this existence at Jackie’s have been shattered, and I was caught at an extremely low point when I spoke with Ron today. I could sense that he wasn’t doing well either, perhaps because the expenses are much more than he bargained for. He said that perhaps he should have understood the triangle of conflict in our life together and how we interchanged the roles of villain, victim and benefactor. He even said that perhaps we should have tried counseling. My personal situation is so bleak that I cannot sympathize with him a bit. By and large he was the one who led us to this particular turn of events. I can hardly remember myself being the villain in this relationship, and he rarely -if ever- played the benefactor. The imbalance was starkly revealed with the birth of our son and his almost hostile attitude towards him, which really frightened me.

When my ex firmly stated that he wanted OUT, he could not understand that my first impulse as a nursing mother would be to protect and defend my young one. The response is not unique to us humans, and is widely observed in the animal kingdom. Females display uncharacteristically hostile and aggressive behaviour when there is a threat to their young, it doesn’t matter whether the threat is real or perceived. His threatening behavior provoked my anger, hostility and aggression and I retaliated very strongly and decisively, by filing for divorce and going through with it this time. I saw with my instinct that a man who can shut out his wife and his newborn son simply doesn’t love her anymore, and perhaps doesn’t even love his son enough.  Yes, I did hurt at the time, and I still do. But I know one thing for sure, I have no regrets. Even though I still care for the man, my trust for him is completely gone, and that is why there is no future for us together anymore.  All I want now is a place of my own, I have had it with living under the dictate of other people.

Reclaiming My Space

Robert’s mom has moved her virtual space. I decided to change the blog address and make it un-googleable. This is now my private space to curse, scream, laugh and cry. The only person who got hurt by leaving it open to my ex and his family was me, and therefore I decided to reclaim it.
Now I can say whatever I like about my ex, but mostly I can grieve in peace, without him eavesdropping or gloating over my sorrow. At times it is very difficult to keep my feelings apart: I am angry, then sad. I am driven by a powerful hatred, then I feel the awful pain of rejection. It is an emotional roller-coaster.

I am still hurting and will continue to hurt for a while. The long nights I spend in front of the computer are devoted to an obsessive search for my ex. I try to find his profile on social networks, so that I might get an inkling of what he is up to. Outwardly though I try to appear as if I couldn’t care less. I did make the decision to stop loving my ex, but sometimes I still miss him, or more accurately I miss the person I thought he was. I have to figure out the extent of my responsibility toward the disintegration of my marriage, and I am desperate for answers. Yesterday I discovered the online presence of the first ex-wife and I had to stop myself from typing her an innocuous email. I don’t know what I am trying to accomplish by contacting her, find answers, revenge or vindication? Maybe one day when my emotions cool down, I will be able to understand my motives. Until then, what I do with the information is irrelevant because the woman I found does not match the unfair portrait he has drawn at the beginning of our relationship.

Although I did reclaim my private virtual platform I do not want to remain a prisoner to the inner dialog of internet ranting. I want to get out and get a life. Towards this end I am going to get mobile and take my son wherever I want to go. Tomorrow will be the beginning of this plan.

Some Random happenings:
– Looks like I do not have sufficient credit rating to get a contract with my cellular provider. I am trying to get a new camera phone without success. Even the cell phone company does not believe that I am a good person. God knows what put me in the dog box this time: My divorce, my new ID number since my naturalization or my poor salary.
– Jackie is a great sport: She took Robert yesterday to get his immunization for the month, then drove me to the wool shop. I bought some delicious new yarns because I want to knit Robert another a sweater and a new jacket to replace the one that got lost on dad’s watch.
– Robert had two injections yesterday, and I expected him to have a rough night, but he handled them better than last time. His weight was 9.38 kg, height 74 cm, and his head circumference is 45cm. He has dropped to slightly below average in weight, but he is still taller than 90% of babies his age. I think I have to feed him more.

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My ex is tightening the screws on me in order to inflict even more pain. I am past feeling any more hurt from him, but I am getting extremely angry with his low-life revenge tactics. It has been a week since our divorce, and according to our consent papers he is supposed to pay me a lump sum within seven days from the date of divorce. The lump sum is actually my money which I paid over to him last August, and for sure he is sticking to the letter of the law and paying it over, but at the eleventh hour.. seven days almost to the second from the date of our divorce. So today I get this great message informing me that so and so has paid into my account my maintenance and the lump sum. I am now waiting until this windfall reflects on my actual finances.
In the meantime I have all these bills to pay: My rent, the balance of the lawyer’s bill, and many other obligations. Yes, he is doing this on purpose, otherwise why would he pay his portion of the lawyer’s bill immediately and leave me and his son to suffer for the extra week? Yes, he cares, very much.

In my official blog posts I only write a diluted version of the events, and Mr. Fakeman takes pleasure in sending me the poisonous reaction of his family to what I write. Only one family member showed a little bit of understanding to the hurt that I am feeling.
I sent my ex-in-laws a link to some photos I took of my son since I moved out and I copied him on the mail, asking everyone to respect that my baby blog has turned a little personal because of what is happening. My naivety unleashed an avalanche of emails from my ex. He who has mastered the art of ignoring me, whom I have to ask at least twice if I needed him to look after our son, at the times when the nanny isn’t available; started to send me an email every day forwarding me vile comments from his family. They do not know me, they can never judge. And I dare say that they only think they know him.

Last Sunday he sent his family pictures of my son, to mark his nine months birthday. His mother said that mine weren’t half as good. Of course they weren’t. Mine are just snapshots that happened spontaneously. The few shots I was in show me, as an unkempt, tired, and wild eyed woman – not surprising considering my circumstances and the fact that I was holding baby and camera as well. His pictures, in contrast, are carefully staged to look good. His friend/girlfriend must have taken them, so he was able to relax and concentrate on the way the look of “love” should be reflected through the blind camera lens. Yes, the camera doesn’t lie, only he does. I haven’t seen the picture but they were described to me, and since I misread his photos before, I now believe that people transfer their own emotions to the images. Our perception of facial expression are not always accurate, that’s for sure.
Yes, let the whole world know that I am resentful. I am writing this down in order to remember how unfair and fake this man was -and still is- towards me. Because I am the type of person who quickly forgets the injustices they suffer at the hands of others. This time I won’t forget.

On the few occasions he showed up to pick our son, I couldn’t help but notice his fresh appearance, the new haircut and the new shirts. In the meantime I stand before him in my cereal stained clothes, my hair that badly needs styling and new highlights, and my general appearance of fatigue and dejection. For sure he does have enough money for polishing his image, and he has enough money to go on excursions north of the city with his “interesting friends” but he cannot spare the money to pay me and his son our dues in time. I cannot and will not forgive him ever, and god help him if one day I gained the upper hand.

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