Sunday, August 15, 2010

My ex anniversary

Today is the day I was married to my first husband. He won't remember it was today, I'm sure this is just another day for him, he won't forget me- ever but he has long forgotten the date.
It's not like we even made it to our first anniversary, though we were legally married for five years, we lived together in matrimonial hell for four and a half months and were separated until we finally got a court date five years later. We fought constantly- to be honest, if we weren't fucking, we were fighting and sometimes we were doing both. I married him for the usual variety of all the wrong reasons, and you would think I would regret it but I don't.
I am sorry I didn't possess that self esteem not to want to date him in the first place but I didn't. I had one Catholic friend (might I say she was Catholic when it suited her) who said when I re-married that I should not be allowed to wear white but you know, if I wasn't being stoned to death for not being a virgin bride, I think wearing white should have been the lesser sinful act.
Besides, nowhere in the Bible does it list a color for a wedding dress. And I am pretty sure my hymen wasn't white anyway.
But I digress.
I don't regret it because I learned a lot of life lessons from it. I learned I was nowhere near ready to be married and deal with that kind of commitment. I learned that if you spun around and threw a stone in a crowd, I would probably hit someone my ex husband had cheated on me with. I learned I wanted better for myself and I could survive the shame of divorce. I learned I could make a mistake and walk away and forgive myself.
I learned that I needed to stop listening to the negative voices in my head and move on, that if I made myself a victim of my circumstances, it was my own fault. And I learned I could break up with someone and wish them well.
I have never fought with someone that much in my life. Really, it seemed like every second we were together, we were fighting. I don't know that I have ever been so miserable.
It was a desperate marriage at a desperate time for me.
His birthday was December 9th, and I remember going to Target the week before to get him a birthday present. Then came the hunt for the card. Since we were newly married, I thought it would be nice to get him a card that said husband on it. As I picked them up one after the other, and read the sappy, drippy, sentimental crap, I realized I didn't feel ANY of it.
And I cry at poignant commercials.
I'm all about sentimental, drippy crap.
I thought- I should get him a funny card. So, I began in earnest the search for a humorous card- one that said 'husband' and not 'love'.
Uh oh.
Yes, it was, as they say, My Aha moment. Oprah would have been proud. I think before Oprah defined that, I called it my moment of clarity or my moment of enlightenment. But I realized I had to leave him. Love was important to me and I realized that I was out of love with him, that I felt some vague obligation to be a nice person but my heart was finished with it. It was over.
Then, I thought- well I can't leave him right before his birthday, it will devastate him. And I should probably stick it out til after Christmas because it would be mean to break up with him right before Christmas.
I set a goal of January, and decided I would stick it out til then.
I gave him all of his birthday presents and smiled and was sweet to him on his birthday but I only made it til December 12th before I left him.
Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do and life intervened and I decided it was just time.
He screamed at me to come back for about a week and a half but I was done.
Don't feel too bad for him- he was living with someone else by January and he moved to North Carolina with her and they had two babies.
They told everyone in North Carolina they were married. She hated me for a while until she figured out I wasn't incarnate evil and wanted to get the divorce as badly as they did. She waited five years to marry him.
And three months after we divorced, she ran off with another man in Effingham, Illinois. He called me up and wanted to get together. Really?
One day, out of the blue, he called me to tell me he was sorry.
He was trying to get sober and was in AA and he was making his amends. I raked him over the coals a little "So, remember that one girl, did you sleep with her, too?"
The answer was always yes.
I told him, "Nice to know I wasn't crazy like you said. And that my instincts were pretty good."
So, he said "Will you forgive me?"
I replied "No. Not yet. I'm not ready. You hit me, you choked me, you cheated on me, you emotionally abused me and you destroyed my self confidence for a long time. I'm not letting you off the hook for these things and I am not ready to forgive you yet. I think I will one day. I have already let go of the past and I'm not angry with you any more but I don't think you have earned my forgiveness yet. I think you have a ways to go- but I ask you to pay it forward and be good to the next girl. Learn from your mistakes and be a better person and treat her well and in that way, you can earn my forgiveness. But not today. I will give you this, I sincerely appreciate you calling me up to tell me you're sorry and to make amends- it means a great deal to me to have this conversation with me and I thank you from my heart."
Eventually, I did forgive him, but I have never told him so. I have no anger or ill will towards him. I have no place in my heart that is hateful any more. I do wish him well. And I hope he grew as a person and became better. I haven't really talked to him since that day.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Looking back, I think I can pinpoint the exact place in a relationship where I should have walked away. Of course, I have never been the kind of gal who gives up easily. I think this has served me well in many areas of my life- being in for the long haul and not walking away when it was time to put in the hard work- after all, this is what got me my college degree, eventually. This is what gave me the tenacity to not give up on things I wanted to do but it also meant I beat on dead things for a while before I let go.
I also remember the places where the relationships died for me but I didn't hang on for too long of a post mortem. I remember the point where apathy took over and I realized I could walk away. The point of no return was a relief in most cases. I admit there was a time I looked for it in this relationship- instead of me knowing it was over, I reached a point where I knew it was solid. I reached a point where I realized that all of the crazy hormones wore off and I didn't think I wanted to leave. I reached a point beyond where I had ever been before and realized the deepening of this love was the real thing. All the bluster and desperation and oxytocin spikes were no longer leading me around. I stepped back one day and realized this was it, this thing had quietly come. The newness had worn off, the insecurity had worn off, the terror, all of the things that caused me doubt and angst had worn off. And then I had survived the boredom, because believe me, the boredom will come- and beyond that was- this incredible and completely unexpected other side of a deep and abiding love.
And this was the transcendent thing.
Beyond the fighting and the bickering is a quiet and abiding commitment to not give up on one another and underneath that is this beautiful friendship. I don't know how romantic it is. Sometimes it's very romantic and sweet- sometimes it is warm and comforting- sometimes it is dull and quiet- and other times it is laugh your head off.
I like it. But I know it is not for everyone.
I don't know if I would have gotten here without those learning points. It all seems so completely obvious in hindsight- it would be amusing if it had not been so darned tragic!
I've gotten good at a few things in hindsight. I can see really clearly how quickly it was wrong...
If you catch your boyfriend of two weeks making out with a guy- walk away.
Don't let him yell at you and act like it's your fault!
If a guy asks you to dance and then tells you he wants your phone number, but he has a girlfriend the proper response was "I don't date guys with girlfriends." (hey, I got that one right) and walk away. I should not have followed it up with "Call me if you break up with her."
Cause when he called me a week later, I started dating a cheater! (And here I was so proud of myself for sticking to morality and not dating a guy with a girlfriend)
When you show up at a party to pick up your boyfriend of three weeks and no one can find him at the party and he eventually comes into the kitchen where you are waiting patiently and he shows up disheveled, with his sweater on inside out, looks at you resentfully and says your plans for the evening aren't important enough to leave the party- doesn't invite you to the party and asks you to leave-
walk away.
When your boyfriend thinks it's hilarious to grab the wheel of your car while you're driving to mess with you- and then gets all pissy and tells you that you have no sense of humor. (Might I add my infant son was in the back seat this whole time-) Walk away.
Now, nobody is perfect and we can't expect them to be but I had very deep conversations with all these guys and all of this happened within the first month of the relationships. They seem like obvious red flags, right? Most of them admitted to cheating in all of their previous relationships. Why I imagined I would be any different is beyond me.
Like I said, it would be funny if it hadn't had such stupid and terrible consequences. But you know- eventually I did walk away. I can tell you all of the points of no return- they make me sound a little less foolish. All of this happened before I was 22 years old, so I do have youth to blame.

Comic Touch

I'm a little sad today to close this show. It was a really wonderful cast, the kind you love to work with. I am really dedicated to this art form and it is a joy to see others who are as well. This cast was fantastic- everyone knew their lines, everyone knew everyone else's lines, so well in fact, that if one of us faltered for just a second- there was no hesitation- we stepped right in to cover.
I knew my part backwards and forwards and that is a really good feeling-
Everyone listened and took part in the show with a complete dedication. I had a wonderful director who kept me feeling secure and confident, made me feel a part of the collaboration- listened to my ideas and thoughts, and gave me the freedom to explore this part.
There were the usual flubs and flusters and a couple technical issues but for the most part, this was an extremely smooth run. I loved this part- not just because I was the lead but because I was active and challenged and FUNNY.
I'm not used to really being funny. Or I should say believing that I am funny. My funny confidence is not huge. Still the shy girl, still somewhere in my head if people are laughing, it must be because I did something embarrassing. Oh what a difference that makes.
I remember studying comedy, oh, not in a class or anything but when I wanted to write it and people were assuring me that I was funny, really, I was. One person said I was funny because I always got the joke- I never understood why the hell that made me funny.
In my teens and twenties, I was surrounded by people who were hilarious on a regular basis and just the thought of keeping up with the quick wit flying around the room seemed impossible to me. When I was put on the spot, I just froze. I needed to think about it. I used to think of all kinds of funny things on the way home that I wish I had said, but I always appreciated comedy. You know, how we all repeat Monty Python lines- now, it's like that with Family Guy.
Later I was convinced I could only write heavy drama, the serious writer- I wanted people to take me seriously. At one point, a friend of mine convinced me to write a comedy and it was quite successful, it was a play that was produced twice. It was a real revelation for me. Not only was I capable of writing funny things, of having comic timing, I really understood it.
It turns out I had been studying comedy for years. Not on purpose, like I said, not in any sort of formal setting but I realized I knew all the rules- I realized I knew exactly when the punchline needed to happen- there was the set up- here was how many times the repetition would be needed and HERE was the biggest bang for the joke.
Some time later, I was asked to do a class presentation to a group of high school students on how to write a play. After we read one of my plays, I had to give them a short talk. I wrote about The Simpsons. Yes, they are the great equalizer, the bridge between grown ups and teens- everyone loves The Simpsons- and they have been around so long that people grew up watching them.
I explained to them why funny worked- how you take an average, regular situation, heighten in and take it to the absurd and that is what makes it funny. I wrote down for them the rules and gave a nice little talk. I was losing them until I mentioned The Simpsons. I realized this is universal with all sitcoms and comedy formats.
So, I understood it, intellectualized it, thought deeply about it, but could I do it? My husband thinks I am hilarious, but he finds humor in everything. He's an easy audience- also he gave me a false sense of funny. I realized one day not everyone might think I am as funny as he does. I have been the straight man in a funny play but this play was going to ask me to be funny myself. The director seemed to believe in me, and I was committed. So I tried to be funny without trying to be funny... yeah I know. That's kind of a contradiction but it seemed to work out okay. And I had really very great and funny words to say- Luckily, the audiences rewarded our very hard work with laughter.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The next part, along the way

Yesterday I booked my flight to Los Angeles. I love going back. I will begin the process now of filling my time with meetings and people and becoming acquainted with my city again.
I got a pretty good deal flying into Santa Ana instead of LAX, it's a drive, a bit but I think worth it for the significant savings.
I am in the submission process with film festivals, so far I have submitted to six festivals but I won't hear anything until after September 1st, some will be even longer. I'm ridiculously excited and scared at the same time. I don't want to deal with the rejection but some is sure to come, and surely I have dealt with enough of it in my life. It can't all be roses.
I am so glad I stuck with this. Just having and knowing that this is real now is really worthwhile.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Point A to Point B

I think I used to live on adrenalin and survival instincts. Lately, things have been going so well, with the exception of an idiot ex boyfriend who wants to harsh on my life buzz- that I am exceptionally nervous.
I don't think I've ever been one of those people who expected things to go badly but when they did, I wasn't hardly surprised either. I have amazing survival instincts. I will go into the mode and stay there, cocooning myself and my family from the blows sure to follow.
As a survivor of an abusive household, I'm sure this is par for the course. So, this unexpected wave after wave of good fortune and hard work paying off is really quite something. Little disappointments come into play but for the most part, I am riding a nice wave of good news.
I don't know why it makes me nervous. It shouldn't. I should stop and enjoy it, right? Part of me is worried about the next thing that happens- how will I survive if this doesn't work? Part of me is going into survival mode and making allowances for the necessary sacrifices.
My foolish ex boyfriend wrote an unnecessarily nasty letter to the state full of lies and viciousness- targeting me personally and pretty much calling me a whore- wholly inappropriate and vindictive.
I have shored up all of my strength in knowing that the law is on my side, that I have done nothing wrong and that his nastiness will reveal the person he is. I admit, there is a huge part of me that wants to strike back and let him know his treatment of me is unacceptable but I think I will just let him hang himself. I've raised an amazing human being, my son. A child he hasn't seen for the last nine years. He wants the child support to end but my son has chosen to go to college and as a full time student who lives with me, I am entitled child support through these years.
He claims he didn't receive a copy of the grades and wants the last year of child support to be re-paid to him. This is laughable since not only did I send the grades but the state has a copy of them.
I really wish I could feel sorry for him. I might if I didn't loathe him so much. He missed out on his son and only thinks of him as a monetary obligation. It really is a shame.
But again, I do feel like the person with the good fortune here. I accepted less than adequate child support because I wanted his abusive and corrosive behavior out of my life. He chose to abandon his son and I had the privilege and joy of raising an extraordinary individual. He is loyal and honest and has such a good heart. And he never lacked for a father- his stepfather more than filled the bill since he was four years old.
This week I found out I am eligible for an IMDB page because of my festival submissions, I got a phone call from a woman from The Oprah Winfrey Show about an email I sent a while ago, and I'm planning a trip to LA very soon. My ex is not allowed to bring me down. My friend recommended an excellent lawyer and I'm a very lucky girl- and I didn't even need a lottery ticket.
I feel like all that adversity, those times when I was hanging on by my fingernails- there is a purpose in finding that within myself. There is a purpose in surviving those things- the really gritty and difficult stuff. I feel like the training ground for this stuff made me realize I'm not a quitter. I have a friend who has just entered a deep and dark time where she is going to be tested. In a way, she is lucky and she has no idea of it. The other side of this crisis she is going through is going to be self discovery on a level so deep that it will stun her.
I don't want to tell her this because she needs to find it herself, I just know as a survivor, she will get there. She's going to be this amazing, unstoppable force of nature- after this terrible adversity. She will find gratitude and love and I know ahead, she will also experience some real suffering but I am sure the other side of it is coming for her.
I find you can't say this to people in crisis, so I will shut up and be supportive.
When I was pregnant with my last child, I didn't want to hear such things because I was wholly mired in my own depression, and the hormones were not letting me out.
I know all my well meaning friends were right about all of it. But there is a point when you just want to spit at optimism, it takes too much effort to do anything but just keep breathing- sometimes that wallowing is necessary. Sometimes curling up in a ball and letting it out is what you need to do.
But in spite of all of this bit of bad news with my ridiculous ex, I cannot keep the smile off my face. I am inexplicably happy. I think because I am finally following my bliss! Yesterday, I took the last bow on stage- does it get much better than that?