Category Archives: Self Discovery

Rescue (Jail, Part Three)

I was startled awake by the sound of keys opening the heavy door.

My cellmate shot straight up.

“Breakfast!” she cried, and scrambled towards the female officer delivering our food.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes.  I was astonished that I had actually fallen asleep, and immediately wished I knew for how long.  It had to have been at least 6:00 a.m.

My cellmate eagerly handed me a box of orange juice and a tray of something that looked like eggs and hash browns.  She waited at the door for her share.

“Thank you so much.”
I was immediately overcome with tenderness towards my new friend, who had served me first before serving herself.

I was extremely thirsty, so I lapped up the orange juice.  I marveled at how much it did not taste like orange juice.  I pushed the plastic spoon at the “eggs” and tried a bite, but was immediately repulsed.

I looked over at my cellmate, who was already finishing her last bite.  She grunted and snorted as she chewed.

“Would you like mine? “ I asked, gently. “I’m not going to eat it.”

She pawed at and grabbed my tray.  “Yes, thank you.”

More grunting and snorting ensued, and my roommate was asleep again.

I sat and stared at the wall, and listened to the footsteps.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Keys rattled.

Back and forth.

Another hour passed, and, finally, the footsteps stopped at my cell.  I heard the keys turn in the lock.  My heart leapt.

Finally, I’m getting out!

“Spencer.  Follow me.”

Oh, PTL. 

I stood up, and unfolded my Prisoner’s Receipt.  I didn’t know how I’d get home, but, worst case scenario, I’d call a cab.  I just wanted to take a shower and get into bed.

I’m never taking my bed — or my freedom —  for granted, ever again.

The officer guided me a few short steps down the hall.  We stopped at a different cell.  My heart sank as he unlocked the door.

“We’re going to hold you in here for now, “ he said.  “We have to clean that other cell. Plus, you’ll be alone in here.”

I immediately missed my snoring cellmate.

But I don’t want to be alone!  My heart screamed.  Don’t leave me here!  

“You’ll be out of here soon,” he said, and he shut the door and locked it behind him.

AUGHHHHHH!!!  NOOOOO!!!  Everyone keeps saying that, but no one is following through!  I want out, I want out, I WANT OUT!

Dejected, I collapsed onto the bench.  It felt even colder and harder than the last one.

My eyes scanned the room.

The floor plan of this cell was slightly different from the last, except that the camera was aimed straight at the toilet.  I suddenly realized I had to go to the bathroom – badly — but I didn’t want to be on display for all to see.

Damn orange juice.

I debated for a while until I finally made the choice to make my bladder gladder.  When you gotta go, you gotta go.  I did so as quickly as possible, turning my face away from the camera.

It was definitely not my most shining, camera-ready moment.

And then, I sat on the bench.  I waited.  I sat.  I held my head in my hands.  I thought. I listened.

Footsteps.

Back and forth.  Back and forth.

Voices.  Keys.  Footsteps.

I sat.

And, finally, I thought about what I had done.  It’s true: jail is a great place for self-reflection; for rehabilitation.

I thought about the day that was ahead of me.  I was supposed to be at work at 11:00 a.m. I had no idea what time it was, but I figured that tax preparation was probably not going to be on the agenda anymore.  In fact, I’d probably get fired.  I was supposed to babysit Joseph and Katie’s young daughters – girls that looked up to me – that evening.

I was also scheduled to lead worship at church on Sunday morning.

How would I babysit my pastor’s kids?  How would I lead worship at church?  ME?   I was now a common criminal.  I was a Christian Girl whose marriage had failed.  I was alone.  What’s more, I was alone in a jail cell.  I was hurting.  I was angry.  I was desperately in need, and in pain.  I was a girl who, admittedly, had been drinking too much lately.  I made a choice – a mistake – and got caught.

How was I even worthy of anything anymore?

My mind drifted to the lyrics of one particular song I had selected to lead.

I need you, Jesus, to come to my rescue,
where else can I go?

Footsteps.

I paused and held my breath, but they passed me by.

I closed my eyes as the tears began to fall.  I collapsed my head in my hands and sobbed.

I had hit rock bottom, and bottom had given way.

There’s no other name by which I am saved…
capture me with grace.

Grace.  Grace.  Grace.  Oh, that word.  It started to take on a whole new meaning.  I thought about my husband.  I had expended so much energy being angry with him for his choices and mistakes.  In that moment, I humbly realized that I was no different than he.  I was no different than my crackhead cellmate, either.  My hard, holier-than-thou heart softened.  I needed grace and forgiveness just as much as anyone else.

Through my tears, I forced myself to hum the melody of the song.  And then, humming turned into singing.  The acoustics in my cramped jail cell were quite astounding.

I need you, Jesus, to come to my rescue!

It felt good to sing.

Where else can I go?  There’s no other name by which I am saved –

My voice got a little louder, a little stronger.

Capture me with grace.
CAPTURE ME WITH GRACE!
Won’t you capture me with GRACE?!

Footsteps.

They stopped at my door.

 

Jail, Part One

March.

My tax job was, well, taxing.  It was a good distraction, however.  I was on a regular schedule.  Six days a week, I woke up, ate breakfast, went to the gym, went to work, came home, and checked the LA Superior Court’s website, hoping for my divorce to be finalized.

Every day, the status read: PENDING.

Pending.  The next chapter of my life was pending.

I tried to forget about my sister wife, and my husband’s failure to follow through with the divorce settlement.  I was tired.  I needed rest.  Yet, even rest seemed to be pending.

One Thursday evening after work, I drove to my girlfriend’s house in Hollywood.  Several of us were getting together to enjoy some wine, hors d’oeuvres and girl talk. I was so stressed out with work and my “pending” marital status that I didn’t really realize how desperately I needed to relax and socialize.  It was a lovely evening.  We laughed, talked, drank wine and enjoyed each other’s company.  Around midnight, the “party” wound down and we all headed home.

As I drove back to Pasadena, I was overcome with thankfulness for my friends.  I impulsively reached for my phone to send a quick text of thanks and love to one of the girls.

That was mistake number two.

I had just made the transition from the 101 to the 110 freeway when I saw the red and blue lights in my rear view mirror.  My immediate reaction was one of indignance, and then the slow, sinking realization hit me.

Oh, shit, I’ve been drinking.

“Lord?”  I spoke aloud, as I carefully pulled off the freeway.

I’m not drunk.  I’ll be fine.  I should NOT have been texting!  Stupid!!  Still, I racked my brain, trying to remember how much wine I had drunk – also, how much I had had to eat that day.

I rolled down my window to greet the fresh-faced CHP officer.  He was cute.

“Have you been drinking tonight?” he asked, after the formal introduction was made.  He shined his small flashlight directly into my eyes.  The combination of the red, white and blue lights hurt.  I blinked, and tried to adjust to the brightness all around me.

I smiled, and decided to be honest. I can’t be anything other than honest.

“I had some wine, yes,” I admitted.  Mistake number three.

The 20-something CHP officer immediately asked me for my license and registration.  I nervously fumbled around and presented them both, but the officer wasn’t satisfied.  He asked me to step out of the car.

Oh, come on.  

I went through the motions of the field sobriety test.  I was happy to cooperate, because I had never been in trouble.  In fact, I had only received a few tickets in my driving career, fought every one of them, and won. I wanted to get through the damn thing as fast as I could.  I was tired.  All I wanted to do was go home and get into bed.

I was asked to hold my head back and balance on one leg.  I did it in 3” heels.  I was also asked to close my eyes, count aloud and estimate 30 seconds.  I did it in exactly 30 seconds.

Still, the officer motioned to his younger, blonder partner, who approached me with a Breathalyzer.  Was this really happening?  Surely I wasn’t drunk.  I felt fine.  I would never get behind the wheel if I had had too much to drink.  Furthermore, I was doing so well on my tests!  I was actually quite proud of myself.  Those tests can be hard to pass even without alcohol involved.

I smiled and blew into the machine, confident that I would pass this one last test.  I longed for my comfy bed.

The officer looked at the result.

“Okay, Spencer, I’m going to ask you to turn around and place your hands behind your back,” he commanded.

What is THIS test?

I shrugged and obeyed, and immediately felt the cold metal snap around my wrists.  My heart sank.

Great job, Les.  You’re going to jail.  Way to go.  Way to fuck your life up.  Awesome.

My thoughts ran wild as I stood, handcuffed, on that sidewalk in Chinatown.  It was almost 1:00 a.m.  I watched as the officers searched my car.  They rifled through sheets of music, empty water bottles and dirty gym clothing.  My body remained calm but my thoughts ran wild as they escorted me to the back of their black and white vehicle.  As we pulled away from the curb, I immediately passed harsh judgment against myself.

Oh, my god, I’m that person.  I’m a drunk driver. Oh, my god, oh, my god, oh, my…I AM SUCH A BADASS.

No!  Wait!  You’re not a badass!  This is stupid!  You’re drunk!  You’re NOT drunk!  This isn’t happening!  But of course it’s happening. Why are you at all surprised? Your life is such a fucking disaster, and now look what you’ve gotten yourself into.  Stupid choice.

You got what you deserved, you idiot. 

Never in my life would I have imagined that I’d be arrested for anything.  Yet, there I was, sitting handcuffed, in the back of a cop car, heading to jail, for driving under the influence.

I remained silent as the two officers handled me — a criminal.  They explained that my car would be towed, and that I could get it the next day.  They also explained to me that I’d be held in jail for at least eight hours, until I sobered up.

I’M NOT DRUNK!  I wanted to scream.

But I WAS.  I was legally drunk, and so ashamed.

According to the law, you’re a drunk driver if your blood alcohol level is .08.  I would later find out that mine was at .10.

My wrists started to chafe and bruise from the pressure of the metal handcuffs, but I silently endured the pain.  I exchanged somber yet witty banter with the CHP officers as they drove me to their field office to administer a second test on the bigger, more efficient breathalyzer.

All this time, I hadn’t shed a tear. I was strong.  I was a big girl.  I was responsible.  I wasn’t going to cry.

I sat on a plastic chair in the CHP field office, shifting my hands uncomfortably behind me, trying to alleviate some of the agonizing pain.  My wrists would remain deeply bruised for days.

“Ma’am, do you have someone who you can call?  Your spouse? “ My arresting officer asked monotonously, as he filled out some paperwork.

I fiercely fixed my eyes upon his.

“Not anymore,” I answered, and then averted my gaze.

Suddenly, to my surprise, I burst into massive, yet silent tears.  Shame, fear and embarrassment overcame me.

I am a criminal.

“I’m sorry,” I managed, as snot and tears streamed down my face. I wasn’t able to use my hands, so I raised my shoulder to my nose to sop up the fluid.

“This…is just…hard for me.  I made such a stupid choice.”

The officer — clearly ten years younger than me – looked at me knowingly.  “You’ll be all right,” he offered.  “This kind of thing happens to good people, too.”

But I’m not good.  I’m broken.  So broken.

And then they took me to jail.

Upon arrival, I was released out of the handcuffs, booked, and stripped of my personal belongings.  The last item taken was the string used to tighten the hood of my cozy, fur-lined sweater.

“What, do you really think I’m going to hang myself?!” I joked with the booking officer.  She glared at me, clearly not amused.

For a moment, I forgot that I was a prisoner, and not her equal.  I wasn’t ordering a hamburger or buying stamps at the post office – I was checking into JAIL.  My sense of humor was not appreciated.

The TV behind her blared loudly and her co-worker sipped black coffee out of a small, stained, Styrofoam cup.

“Oh.  I guess so.  Well, here you go!”  I gave it to her, cheerfully.

“Don’t worry.  You’ll get it back,” she retorted, dryly.  She then twisted her full lips and shook her head.

My arresting officer gently touched my elbow.  He had been standing there the whole time.  I realized I had started to become attached to the man.

“We’re almost done here, Spencer. I need to ask you a few questions first, though, okay? They might seem a little weird, but just go with it…”  He was almost apologetic.

“Okayyyyy,” I responded, and tried to exercise my cheerfulness once again.  I mean, if you’re going to spend the night in jail, you might as well have a good attitude about it, right?

The officer cleared his throat, and poised his pen above a sheet of paper.

“Do you have Hepatitis, VD or Chlamydia?”

I burst out laughing.

“Uhhmmm, NO.  Should I be worried about contracting that here, though?”

Wait — where am I, anyway?  I had no idea where I was, or how I was going to get home.  I hadn’t thought that far ahead.

He shot me a sly smile.  I was secretly glad he appreciated my sarcasm.

“Have you ever had TB?”

“No.”

“Do you have any special medical problems that we should know about?”

I snorted.

“I really hope not.”  Wakka, wakka!

“Are you pregnant?”

!(#(%)#%)@(%@)%@%!!!!!

“Hell to the no, and I don’t have any baby daddy prospects, either.  Thanks so much for reminding me of my plight.”

He half-laughed, signed his name to a pink slip of paper, which he then handed to me.

So not cool.

“Okay, Spencer, follow me.”

I obeyed.

He led me to a small, concrete room with a large, heavy door at the end of the corridor.  It held a cold, hard bench, a gleaming steel toilet and an observation camera in the corner of the ceiling.  An obsolete payphone barely hung onto the wall, and chunks of black hair littered the floor.  One other woman occupied the cell.  She jumped up, eyes blazing, as the guard opened up the door to deposit me inside.

I clutched the pink paper – my Prisoner’s Receipt — as they shut and locked the door behind me.

Over the next several hours, I would hit rock bottom, and that bottom would continue to give way.

“That’s Not a Real Gun!”

The day after my 33rd birthday, I was held up at gunpoint.

After rehearsal on that Tuesday, several of my fellow cast members and I celebrated our end-of-the-summer birthdays at the Cat and Fiddle in Hollywood.  We enjoyed bonding over cocktails and several raucous games of darts. Rehearsals for our show, Merrily We Roll Along, had been intense over the past several weeks, and it felt good to blow off some steam.

Before we knew it, we had closed down the bar.  As we dispersed to our individual vehicles, my friend Dave offered to walk me to mine.  Being the independent woman who I so love to be, I declined his offer.

“Naaah, I’m fine – I’ll be fine.  You don’t have to walk me to my car,” I dismissed him, gathering up the mass of birthday balloons by each individual string.

“Les, I’m walking you to your car,” Dave stated, firmly.

“All right!  All right!”  I conceded.  “You can walk me to my car!”  I had parked a little far away.

I was not used to kind, gentlemanly offers as such.  Later, I’d be more than grateful that Dave insisted upon accompanying me.

Toting my balloons in one hand and my green purse hoisted upon my right shoulder, we made our way across Sunset Boulevard.  We talked and laughed up the side street where my car was parked, about a quarter of a mile away.

It was a little past 2:00 a.m.

As we approached my vehicle, I noticed another car drive up, slowly, alongside me.  The passenger leaned out the car window and called to me.  I couldn’t understand him, but, for some reason, I assumed he was asking for directions.  (Because, of course, a man would be asking for directions at 2:00 a.m.)

“I’m sorry, what was that?”  I asked.  I was happy and always welcome the opportunity to be helpful.

“Gimme your purse,” he demanded, somewhat quietly, as the car slowed down and stopped just in front of mine.

“WHAT?”

The car stopped, and the man got out.  He kept himself backed up against the open passenger door.

Gimme me your purse,” he demanded, a little louder.

I looked at him for a moment, scrunched up my face, and responded,
“No.”

“GIMME ME YOUR PURSE!”   He gestured with his right hand.

At that moment, I noticed that he was holding a gun.  It rested gingerly up against his waist.  It was aimed right at me, almost politely.

I sighed.  I glanced back at Dave, who was on the other side of the car, standing frozen, with his mouth agape.

I turned back to the guy with the gun.

What came out of my mouth next baffles even me.  Contrary to everything I have ever been taught – or shall we say instinct, maybe? – I took a step towards the man and his gun, and got angry.

“FUCKKKKKK YOUUUUU!”

The “K” sound rolling out of my mouth felt like I was delivering a bullet right back at that stupid guy and his dumbass gun.  It felt really good.  I gestured dismissively towards the gun, and continued to curse.  Loudly.

“Get the FUCK out of here!  That’s not even a real gun.  I don’t have any money, anyway.  FUCKKKKK OFF!

The guy looked at me briefly, and, in an instant, got back into the car.  His driver sped them away.

I watched the car’s tail lights disappear around the corner, opened the rear door and tossed my green purse inside.

I made eye contact with Dave over the roof of my car.  His mouth was still agape.  I started laughing.

“Do you realize what just happened?” He asked me, in disbelief.

I kept laughing.

We got in the car and I drove him back down the empty street, across Sunset Boulevard, and onto another “much safer” side street where his car was parked.

We sat in silence for a moment, until I burst out laughing again.

“Leslie, do you realize what you did back there?”  Dave was shaking his head.

I hadn’t really taken the time to process it.  To be totally honest, I am sure the alcohol I had consumed assisted in my “bravery”.  I hadn’t had time to think about my word choice, or the consequences of my actions.  I most certainly wasn’t representing Jesus very well.

But it was beyond that.  I was fed up.  I didn’t care if I lived or died at that point.  I was in pain. I was tired of people taking from me.  I liked my green purse.  It was mine.  I didn’t feel like giving it away without a fight.

We “debriefed” a little further, making sure each other was okay.  We truly wondered if the gun was real or not, but, regardless, Dave thanked me for “saving his life.”

“Anytime!”

I drove home carefully, replaying the events of the past hour in my mind.  As I got home and quietly slipped into bed, it started to sink in.

I just told a guy pointing a gun at me to “fuck off”.  What is WRONG with me?  At the same time, I’m feeling like a badass!  Thank you, God, for protecting me.  That situation was in YOUR hands and YOU protected me.  Not my own strength, at all. 

A few days later, as the endorphins wore off and the Facebook “likes” and attention from my story dwindled, I was able to process a bit further.  At the same time, I entered into a brief period of darkness and confusion.

I CAN’T DO THIS, GOD.  I CAN’T.  I can’t live this life.  I can’t do anything without You.  I see happy couples, people getting married all around, people with babies, happy marriages.  And I am living with Curt and Kathy, unemployed, no one to go to sleep with at night.  My husband chose to leave me, time and time again.

I know I didn’t come this far to fall.  But I can’t do this.  I am a troublemaker.  Getting mugged and not even caring.  Sometimes I wish I would have been shot and killed that night.

I know you love me, God, I know.  But, being honest, I don’t even know how long I can do this.  Do not let evil win, do not withhold blessings from me.  I cannot see.  I cannot understand because my understanding is finite; human.  I am scared.  I am anxious.  I need Your peace.  I need guidance.  I am utterly, completely dependent upon You I cannot see the future; I don’t even know what You want for me.  How, where?

You haven’t let me down thus far; I KNOW I can trust You.  I have to trust You.  I want to trust You.

Psalm 39 echoes in my heart.  I still wish You would take my life.  Just take me home.  I am ready. 

I cannot do anything.  I need You.  I am exhausted from trying to be self-sufficient.  I know You have plans for me, but what?  I must be patient. I must be still.

“Be still and know that I am God”.  ~Psalm 46:10

Life Begins Anew at Journey’s End

The next few months were busy ones.

I was cast in two shows, back to back, and welcomed the opportunity (and distraction!).  It was so good to get back into doing what I love, and I felt that I could approach my art with a more real, honest perspective.  I spent a lot of time with my cast members and friends, and started to become alive again  — this time in a new, raw and beautiful way.

I met again with the lawyer at the beginning of July to try to sort out the next round of paperwork.  I emailed my husband to ask for his address overseas, so that I could get him properly served with “step two”.  To my surprise, he responded right away, and then added that he thought about me every day, and wished our lives had never gotten off track.

It made me incredibly angry.  I didn’t believe a single word of his sentiment.  Furthermore, my life hadn’t “gotten off track”, so to speak.   And, if it had, it was all due to him and his stupid choices.

Fucker.

The only other communication I had been receiving from him was regarding our house.  He kept asking me to put it on the market, to “just see if we’d get any nibbles”.  What the fuck?  The housing market had crashed; people were upside down on their mortgages, or short-selling their properties.  The only reason to sell a house was to get out from under the crushing responsibility of a mortgage payment.  We had a fantastic tenant, paying the mortgage for us, and we could feasibly gain equity all the while.

I had a suspicion that his parents were behind it all.  One email suggested I “buy him out”.  In another email, he explained that his sister’s husband had offered to spend the summer fixing up the house so we could put it on the market.  Never mind all the work that I, myself, had just put into it.

I was exhausted.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around putting my house up for sale at the moment.  My blood boiled at the thought of my husband gallivanting around Australia without a responsibility in the world, and acting like the victim in our divorce.

I ignored every request.  He wanted money, and wanted it fast.

Fucker.

Using residual anger as fuel, I proceeded with filing more paperwork.  I started getting used to the familiarity of the big, scary courthouse.  I’d drive downtown, get off at Hill Street, and chuckle to myself  that I had “the Hill Street Blues”.   I even developed a favorite parking spot – right next to the park where they filmed a scene in the movie, 500 Days of Summer.  I tried to look on the bright side:  I never would have discovered that little gem of a spot had I not gotten divorced.

One blazing July day, I carefully dressed in my “court clothes”:  a crisp, black, button-down dress with classic black pumps.  This time, I would face the courthouse alone.

Yesterday was a huge day for me, and I think I’m still feeling the effects of it.  Got the paperwork done, copied, delivered to Andrea at 2:30, took the Proof of Service to the courthouse, filed, then ordered a copy of his response.  That was hard to see: his handwriting and shaky mistakes.  It’s tragic.  And my heart hurts.  Hurts so much for him, for us; for what we had, even when it wasn’t all that great.  And I still mourn him.  He’s been gone for nine weeks again.  Still rejecting me.  That hurts, too.  Maybe more so?

And people say, “Oh, he’s crazy to have let you go,” and I know it’s true.  I think I truly can forgive him for cheating because he fell apart.  Fell vulnerable.  Or, in his words, “(fell) off the tracks.”

So, after filing in court, I went across the street for lunch.  Alone.  I sat at the bar and made conversation with the bartender.  He noticed my thick divorce file, and asked me about it.  I just shrugged, and delivered a half-sly smile.

“Getting it done,” I said.

“I guess you have to do what you have to do,” was his sympathetic response.  “But it’s lucky for the rest of the world that a woman like you is now single!”  

I told him I had been asked out twice at the courthouse.  It was true.  He laughed.

“See?”

Then it got quiet.  He wiped the counter down and averted his eyes from mine.  I knew we were both thinking that divorce court was not exactly the place to find a date.

I thanked him, paid my bill, walked to my car, slid into the seat, closed the door, and broke down.  I sobbed and sobbed.  God, it’s horrible, that place.  That courthouse.  Awful.  I don’t want to keep going there.  It’s so cold.

I still do wish my husband would choose me.  But it’s too late.

I don’t want my heart to break again.

Yet I know I wasn’t alone at that courthouse, God.  You were with me.  And sadly, it DOES get easier to be there.  It’s still painful.  I first filed three months ago.  Soon it will be a year since I discovered the affair.  Soon it will be Christmas.  Soon it will be a year since I have filed for divorce.  Then two, three.  Ten.  Twenty.

Where will I be?  Where do I go?  New York?  Do I sell my house?  My car?  And go?  And leave my family and friends?  Do I stay here?  Do I start over completely?  Lose everything?  Where am I going to live?  Where do You want me?

I want to get to the place where I fully forgive my husband.  I can see, even now, what a blessing it is for him to be out of my life.  When I explained to my therapist that I did not believe that he thinks of me everyday, she observed that was a source of deep hurt for me.  And, yes, it is.  He hurt me, very much.  It definitely hurts to not be chosen.

Ultimately, I wanted love to win.  Love should overpower narcissism and selfishness.  Love should conquer all. 

And still — as the lyrics of this beautiful new musical I am helping originate, say —

“Life begins anew at journey’s end.”

I Hate Being Divorced From You

I immediately contacted a lawyer.

I explained to her my situation.  I wasn’t able to afford a long, drawn-out divorce battle, and my in-laws were holding the Quitclaim Deed hostage.  My husband and I had nothing to fight over, really, but his parents’ cruel and intrusive involvement was making things far messier than they needed to be.

Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do.  California is a no-fault state as far as divorces go, so I really couldn’t plead with the judge for some favoritism.  I had to re-focus on moving forward with the paperwork, and accept the fact that I’d have to split everything 50/50.  I was doing all the work, and even helping my husband along, just to get the damn thing done.  I knew, deep down, he would do nothing.  

After all, he was out of the country.  Per usual.

The lawyer gave me sound advice, and, for a nominal retainer, helped guide me through the paperwork.  It would take about six months for the whole thing to go through, provided my husband’s cooperation.   There might still be a way for me to keep my house, but the lawyer posed an interesting question.

“Do you really want the responsibility of a house at this time in your life?”

I sighed.

I didn’t know.  I just didn’t want to lose everything.  To me, the house was a symbol of maturity; adulthood.  It meant I was responsible.  I loved my home, and I wanted the safety and security that accompanied it.

For the next month or so, my journal entries were full of anxiety and confusion.  I had re-entered my social life, and it was met with enthusiasm, support and encouragement. It felt good to return to some sense of “normalcy”, yet the old life was still hanging on.  I had random bouts of grief, where I felt crazy, inconsolable and out of control.  I had random crushes on men, all of which I knew were futile to pursue or entertain.  I wasn’t ready to move forward in that area of my life, at all.

I wrote out my crazy.

Feeling extremely lonely.  Sad.  Vulnerable.  Frustrated.  Wishing my husband would email me and just BE A MAN.  Seriously.  Wishing a man would take me in his arms and love me. 

Why can’t anyone love me?  Oh, my heart, my heart longs for love, my heart longs for someone who loves You, who will love me.  God, forgive me for being impatient.  There’s my husband, whom I still love.  Or do I?  Do I love him?

All of this distraction and I’m not focusing on my divorce.  It’s hard to let go of the life that I loved with my husband.  I loved my life with him.  I don’t know how to wrap it all up – not sure what was right and was truly was wrong.  I am so easily distracted and disappointed in myself. 

I know I have to heal.  And I cannot hurry anything up.  Patience, not immediacy.

I pray about the divorce and the next step I’m supposed to take.  Oh, LORD, it’s terrifying and I feel paralyzed.  I want to go back to a month ago where everything was clear, where I trusted You 100%.  It was just You and me, God.  And it still is, but I’m getting foolish…I feel like crying, I feel like being bad, I feel like I want to crawl under the covers and sleep for a week. 

I’m so real and raw it’s scary.

And then, out of the blue on a typical June Gloom day, I received an email from my husband. It was simple.  He hated being divorced from me.

Little did I know, he was a newly engaged man.

You Didn’t Ever Fight For Me

Very shortly thereafter, I got drunk.

That weekend, I was scheduled to housesit for Jeff and Jenny, and take care of their sweet dog, Mia.  I was exhausted from the day’s events, and asked Andrea to come over and stay with me.

I didn’t want to be alone.

She brought flowers, two bottles of champagne, and beer, just in case.  We drank the champagne pretty quickly and ended up outside, running around, giggling and playing tag within the confines of the white picket fence.  I did handstands and cartwheels.  Eventually we collapsed into a heap of laughter on the front lawn, laid on our backs and watched shooting stars fall from the sky.  We dubbed ourselves, “The Harmless Housesitters”.   It felt good to “play” and temporarily escape the surge of pain that was sure to hit after I emotionally processed what had just happened.

We woke up the next morning and giggled our way to Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘n Waffles for breakfast.   I publicly announced my drunkenness and lack of a bra on Facebook and, frankly, didn’t give a shit.  I had been hiding for a long time.  It felt good to finally look — and be — imperfect.

I spent the rest of the day on Jeff and Jenny’s sunny porch, writing.

I am not strong.  I am weak and needy. Sad, lonely, hurt.  Incredibly hurt that my husband made the choices he did.  We were happy, I thought.  I was happy with him.  I didn’t want to be divorced.  And even though it’s a nice fantasy to think that there is someone out there who will love me and be affectionate; warm and caring – do I really believe it?  Will the love go away?  Who really will love me?

God, I am having a hard time now – the effects of the nervousness have worn off, as has the beer.  And at the end of the day I am alone.  My husband will leave for Australia in one week and I probably will never see him again.

God, I know You are sovereign over all creation and situations.  You have my life in Your grip. You have his.  And You have our marriage.

I genuinely do not want to be married to him anymore.  His journey is far too long and vast – I believe You can perform miracles but I don’t know what Your plan is.

And still – he was the one.  My husband.  My favorite person in the world.  Who betrayed himself, first.  And hurt me deeper than I have ever thought imaginable.  My husband, so plagued by his sin, could no longer truly love me.  And it hurt so badly and it still hurts so much…there really wasn’t closure but how CAN there be?  He’s tragically incapable of doing anything, taking any responsibility.

Yet he will forever remain a part of my soul.  My husband, whom I loved so much.  And still love.  And lost. 

I am scarred, broken.  But I know I am healing.

A couple of days later I had dinner with Tim, Joseph, Katie, Curt and Kathy.  Tim and my husband had met for coffee earlier in the day.  Tim sensed my husband was experiencing a major internal struggle.  He expressed his concern and wonderment at the whole thing  — and told me he was continuing to pray for our reconciliation.

I was confused.  I had the support of all of our friends, but I didn’t want any of them to pray for the reconciliation of my marriage.  I was done.  I had already experienced the final death of the relationship and done all of the work to end it, “amicably”.  My husband did nothing, showed up and told me he was done, and got to walk away, scott-free.

I had lost – and was continuing to lose – everything.  I just wanted to focus on getting the divorce done.  I had just a few days left while my husband was in town, so I had to take advantage of it.  I made an appointment with both the Mediator and our marriage counselor.

I emailed my husband:
If you have any time I think it would be good to talk through the mediation paperwork so we can save some money (time) on Thursday.

Thanks,

L

He offered to meet up with me that night, and somewhere in Pasadena around 8:00 would work.

I mostly need to get information from you.  I can just photocopy the forms that she gave me and you can fill them out.  Any way we can calmly fill out info and allow the mediator to teach us the process will be good. Could we could make it 7:00?  You name the place, I can’t think of one.

He suggested the Yard House.  It immediately stung my heart.

I’d kind of prefer not to go there, since we were there for our wedding anniversary.
I need you to bring all of your bank info (even Australia bank), Sallie Mae, credit cards, etc.  Don’t worry, it’s just information.

He then suggested Lucky Baldwin’s, because he wanted a beer.

I made an appointment with (our marriage counselor) at 5:00 for Wednesday, Maybe we should just meet then?  Unless you want to meet tonight, too.

He didn’t feel like talking about anything, but if I wanted to meet up with him for any other reason, then he was up for it.

I don’t know what else there is to talk about, I guess. Both people are done with a relationship.  I just want it to end well.

He disagreed with such a thing as “ending it well”.  He was tired of fighting, arguing, feeling like he was hurting, and being hurt.

Me too.
I guess if you could hug me one more time I’d really like that, but I don’t trust you at all and I don’t think you really, truly care.
I’m tired of fighting with you.  We are both losing.  Nobody wins.  I never wanted this.
You didn’t ever fight for me.

He didn’t feel like getting into it, and said that he was going for a walk.

Ahh, yes, the walk.  I remember that well. OK.
See you Wednesday.

He balked at my response.

I’m sorry.  I just have sad memories of the last walk you took.
No more digs.
We can end this well.  I want to, because I love you.  And you are free.  I am setting you free.

He never wanted to be free, and said that he never would be.  He just wanted understanding.

I know.  I hear you.
And I just wanted to be loved and not left.

Hot French Waiter

Another week passed.  My husband and I continued to exchange emails, although they were not as frequent. I asked him to come home, and he kept telling me that he was “done”.

It didn’t hurt as much anymore.

The house was on the market for lease, and I started fervently praying for a good tenant.  I specifically prayed that I could find one by April 15th.  I listed most of our furniture on Craigslist, even my husband’s beat-up old pick-up truck.  Ever since discovering the condom in the glove box, I couldn’t bear to look at the vehicle. The truck was registered in my name, but, as a courtesy, I asked him if I could sell it.

He gave me permission to sell it.  Money — right then — was more important than the truck.

So I did.  Everything else started going like hotcakes.  Within a week, I had sold our custom-made couch, an armoire, a dresser, my marriage bed, a vanity table and random bookshelves.  The piano movers also came to finally pick up my piano and deliver it to its new owner.  As I watched the men carry it down the stairs, I wept, bitterly.

My husband had taken everything from me, even my music.

Yet, God is good.  I had sold the piano to a student of mine.  In addition to purchasing the instrument from me, her kind father sent over his daughter’s digital, upright piano for me to keep.  I thanked him profusely.  To this day, I still play my piano. 

My dear friend, Christina, flew in from North Carolina and spent the week with me.  It was so good to have the distraction, and a friendly face in that cold, lonely house.  We drove to Malibu, lunched at Duke’s, shopped at the Grove, hiked to the Hollywood sign, hung out in WeHo at a gay bar, and ate dinner on the Sunset Strip.  On her last night in town, we dressed up and patronized my favorite local French restaurant.

I had been a regular customer for a few years, and always admired the attractive men that ran the place.  When I walked in, my favorite “hot, French waiter” — also an owner — immediately recognized me.

“Lessslieeeee!  Where have you been?!”  He hugged me, hard.

“New York!”  I laughed, as I caught my breath and tossed my hair.  “But I am back now.”

“Back for good?”  His French accent was delicious.

“Yes,” I smiled.

He led us to our table, pulled out my chair and offered me a seat.  Then he leaned into me, and said, matter-of-factly, “Good”.

Christina and I squealed at his swagger, his “Frenchness” and dapper demeanor.

Free bellinis ensued, as did flirty conversation.  Hot French Waiter continued to swoop past our table.  I continued to swoon. Finally, he made it known that he had split with “his lady”.

“Oh, you’re single?” I asked, casually, as I sipped my bellini.

“Yes.”  His voice was low, and he looked straight into my eyes.

“Me, too.”  I stared right back.

“Really?  What happened?”
Hot French Waiter had seen me several times over the years at his restaurant with my husband.  In fact, the two of them had even made plans to go surfing together, yet my husband never followed through.

“He…just decided he wanted to be with someone else, and then wanted to be somewhere else,” I offered, honestly.

A wide grin spread across Hot French Waiter’s face.  He shrugged.
“Zat eees life!”

And he was off, to bark orders at the kitchen staff and pour some more wine for a young couple, sitting nervously in the corner.

Christina watched him bustle about the room, her mouth agape.  Her eyes shot back to me.

“Oh, my LORN, he likes you,” she said, excitedly, in her adorable Southern accent.  She decided to plan a trip to the bathroom, and predicted that, while she was absent from the table, Hot French Waiter would come back and talk to me.  I laughed it off.  I was no where near his league, although, I had to admit that I had fantasized about him for years – ever since I first set eyes on him.

Christina re-folded her napkin and got up from the table.

“Be right back!”  She winked at me, and bounced off to find the Ladies’ Room.

Sure enough, Hot French Waiter swooped back in.  This time, he sat down, right across from me.  He wanted to know if my husband and I were still talking.

“Yes…well, no, not really…”

He touched my naked, left hand.  “How long has it been?”

I took a deep breath, basking in his fragrance.  Oh, my god, he smells so good.

“Six months, seven…”

He grinned again.  “So you’re good.”

“Yes.”  I crossed my legs and my short skirt revealed a little more thigh.

“I’m ready.”

I didn’t actually know what I meant, but it felt good to say it.  It also felt amazing to have an incredibly attractive man pay attention to me.  Touch me.

Hot French Waiter barked more orders  — in French — from his seat.  The other attractive waiter was to bring a specific bottle of wine to our table.  Before whisking himself away again, he leaned in, as close to me as possible, and whispered, “You smell good.”

I tried not to pee my pants.  OH.  MY.

Christina found her way back to the table, where I sat, starry-eyed and drunk, but not from the two sips of bellini that I had previously ingested.  She raised her eyebrows at me, knowingly.

“See?”  She smiled, and sat back down.  The candlelight flickered at our table.  We erupted into laughter.

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, drank the bottle of wine that was offered us, and reveled in the joy of the evening, not to mention the past week.  I was so grateful for the company and support of my good friends, to keep me grounded and help me through the loss of my marriage, as well as my home.

Before we knew it, it was midnight.  The nervous couple in the corner had relaxed, and were finishing their bottle of wine.  I scraped the last of our shared creme brulee dessert onto my spoon. Christina sighed.  She didn’t want to leave Los Angeles the next day.

Hot French Waiter approached our table one last time and delivered the bill.  It did not reflect the bellinis or fancy wine.

Then, suddenly, he asked for my phone number.  He wanted to know if I wanted to “get together sometime”.

SERIOUSLY?

I eagerly wrote down my phone number on the back of the bill.  Ten minutes later, he sent me a text.

Nice to see u, here is my number.

I wrote back.  “Good to see you, too!  Looking forward to getting together.”

Me too let’s talk soon.

That night, I lay in bed and basked in the glow of the evening.  Deep down, I knew I probably wouldn’t get together with Hot French Waiter.  After all, I was still married.  Yet, for the first time, I tasted the thrill – and freedom – of singlehood.

It might not be so bad, after all.

I Am DONE

Almost immediately after my husband’s departure, I became disillusioned with our marriage.

I wanted him to “check in” with me, whatever chance he got.  I asked him who he was with; where he was staying; what he was doing.  I asked him if we could set up a time to Skype, daily.  He never gave me a straight answer.  He told me he would “write more later”.  Furthermore, we were totally broke.  I couldn’t keep up with the bills on my own, even with all the odd jobs I was working.  My husband kept promising that a check for $4,000.00 was coming in the mail.

It never did.

I started to panic.  I called my marriage counselor and asked him what to do.  He reminded me of my end of the “bargain”.  March 16th.  March 16th.

It was barely the first week of March.

I didn’t want to fail.  I wanted to be a good, supportive wife.  I wanted God to bless my marriage, and my attempts at saving it.  I wanted to give it my all, or die trying.

So, I went back to the drawing board.  I emailed my husband.

I want to support you in every way you need me to.  I am sorry if I have been demanding of your time.  I am here for you – there is no pressure to Skype or have a quota of email to fulfill.  I want you to do the best job you can and you shouldn’t have the extra pressure of trying to succumb to my demands.  I’m sorry. Email me when you can; I really will do my very best to give you space and the freedom to do your job.

I’m sorry, I really am.

I love you,

~Leslie

My email had meant the world to him.  He said he loved me so much, and wanted to be there for me, but thanked me for understanding. It brought tears to his eyes.

And then, the long-awaited check arrived. It wasn’t anywhere near $4,000.00, but it was enough for the time being.  I thanked my husband for helping contribute.  He was relieved, and stayed very busy.  Oftentimes days would pass before I would hear from him.  We had a couple of Skype conversations, but he was too distracted.  Our communication started to wane, as I backed off my pursuit of him.  I continued to type and send the daily devotionals, but I did not offer, nor press him for further information.

He wanted to know what was going on.

I know that you are really busy and I am just trying to give you the space you need to do your job, without the pressure of a relationship on top of it, I wrote.

I realized that there truly was nothing that we could do for our marriage while he was away.  I also realized that my end of the bargain was a real shitty one, but felt guilty for not wanting to follow through with it.

I wrote in my fresh, thick, black journal.

I am doing all the hard work, I am in therapy and marriage counseling.  He shows up but is JUST GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS.  He knows exactly what to say  — gives me just enough to hang on, but I am starting to crack and crumble.  If you don’t water a plant it will die.  “Thank you for your support” basically means “thanks for getting off my back and not pressuring me to be in a relationship with you.”  I KNOW this guy.

I feel like I’m sticking with it to please my marriage counselor and my therapist.  I am so tired.

I don’t want to be tied down to him anymore. 

This guy has a LOT to do.  It may be years before he fully matures.  I am not that patient.

I don’t even know if I love him anymore.

I went to therapy twice that week.  I walked in, sat down, and told my therapist I’d had enough. I wanted my life back.

Without missing a beat, she said, “All right!  We need to change our goals, then.”

I was shocked.  I was sure that she wanted me to stay in my marriage.  Wasn’t that the right thing to do?  The Christian thing to do?  Yet, at the same time, it felt so freeing. She told me I needed to figure out what I wanted.  Make a list, write it down, do some soul-searching.

Who is Leslie without her husband?

I would eventually figure out the answer to that question, but to get there, I had to write.

I feel like the winds of change are upon me…instead of doing whatever it takes or being desperate for the marriage, I’m willing, ready and wanting to do what is best overall.  This is my life, and I don’t want my entire life to be like the past six months.

I want OUT of my marriage.  I want MY life.  I want to find someone who will love me for who I am, not what I do, or how I do it.  I want someone who won’t keep leaving me.

I do feel like there has been a death.  I am becoming unattached to him, and my therapist thinks so, too.  I’m just so tired of this.  It’s been six months of hanging on, hoping, praying, wishing, crying, screaming, panicking, fighting, sobbing, drinking, throwing things, reading self-help books, packing, unpacking, long phone calls to friends, crying, crying, pounding tables with fists, searching, asking WHY, trying.

Life goes on.  I don’t want to fix it anymore; I have no interest.  This guy I married ten years ago is non-existent.  He is caught up in his career – great, that’s wonderful.  Am I being unfair?  Maybe, sure.  I am tired of playing fair and being patient.  Being faithful to him got me NO WHERE in the first place.  No promises.  He makes no effort to be in the relationship, even when not pressured.  Patience doesn’t work; NOTHING works.  I gave it all I had and I want it to be over NOW.

God, he’s yours.  Not mine anymore.

I am DONE DONE DONE –

Soon after I finished penning my thoughts, I received an email from my husband. He was staying in Australia, and didn’t know when he would return.