Remember the scene in Love Actually when Mark, who’s in love with his best friends wife, Juliet, tells her, via signs, that he is moving on? As he walks away, he says “enough”, and it is clear that he has turned the corner. He is done wallowing, he is over pining away for her.
Today, I had my Enough moment. I turned a corner.
Sunday night my ex’s (not technically my ex, as we are not even close to finalizing our divorce) brother died. It was a tragic, sudden death, and everyone has been in shock all week. I sent a condolence card to his wife, my ex-sister-in-law, reached out to his children online, and prepped my boys on how to handle themselves at the viewing and funeral. I felt I had done my part. I had no intention of attending either event since my ex’s GF/mistress (I’ll call her “new girl”) would be there with him. She was introduced to the family 2 months after we separated, and the family immediately accepted her and dismissed me. I have been devastated by this for almost 2 years.
Yesterday morning, I found myself sobbing, and it dawned on me that a man I had known for the last 25 years had died and I, too, needed to grieve. Yet I still had no intention of going to either event.
After yoga I tried to call my sister. I have an old iphone that acts up sometimes, and in trying to call my sis I accidentally butt dialed my cousin. Around 6:00 my cousin called to see what I had wanted, since she “missed my call”, so I started telling her about the deceased, his kids, my kids, the funeral, the viewing, the new girl, etc. This particular cousin’s father was married 4 times, which means divorced 3x, one of which was her mother. She is well versed in navigating the “blended” family. She said “you must go to the funeral”. Through my tears I railed against the idea. How could I possibly show my face at this event, knowing the New Girl would be there, that she is now the family member, that I am a thing of the past, no longer part of the “family”. As we talked, she said it was time to put on my big girl pants. It was time to prove to my boys that while I’m still broken-hearted, and angry, and scared, I will be there for them regardless of how uncomfortable I feel. I cursed her. I pouted. I got a second opinion from my sister, hoping she would say “nope. you don’t have to go”. But I knew it was true – I had to go.
I drove out with my college age son who had missed the viewing the night before. I told him how nervous I was, and he assured me that I would be fine. It was quite soothing, and I’m not sure how it would have gone had I not been with him. We got there just as the viewing began, but were still at least 50 people away from the casket and the family. As I stood there, I felt myself spine grow straight, I felt myself holding my head high, and a strange calm coursed through my body. Yes, the new girl was there. She was sitting in a pew right next to where my ex was standing in the receiving line. She had been there all week, at each event. She looked pretty, and svelte but I couldn’t help wonder what was happening in her mind, her body. How much stress was she under, being the new girl in that family. Not that I feel sorry for her, but I know what she’s in for, and I know it won’t be pretty. She won’t come away unscathed, she might not even make it out alive. I had not one iota of jealousy left towards her.
One by one, my nieces (hmmm….only the females were there) realized I was there and came over and hugged me. They told me I looked great, asked how I was doing, told me how they were doing. We laughed about how much beer they had in the back of their car for the children of the deceased, and laughed when I suggested that tequila shots might be better. They let me know I was welcomed, at least by them.
As I stood there, with my son, talking to me “ex” relatives, I realized – ENOUGH. Yes, I am heart broken. Yes, I feel betrayed, and used and devastated. What I don’t feel, though, is Shame. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I didn’t cheat. I didn’t give up on our marriage, even though I should have. I did Nothing Wrong, except marry the wrong guy.
By the time we got to the casket and the family, I was very clear about why I was there, and how important it was for me to let the grieving family know that I was very, very sorry for their loss. My sister-in-law hugged me long and hard. It was cleansing. It took away some of the pain I’ve felt at how quickly they seemed to embrace the new girl and drop me. The children were clearly happy I was there. I even made it through offering condolences to my ex’s parents and he, himself. I hugged the other sisters, and talked a bit to the other brother. I declined the offer to sit with the “family” and instead sat at the back of the church for the service.
During the service my ex got up to speak. He made our boys come up with him, and they stood behind him. Before he started his prepared speech he asked a brother-in-law to “say a prayer that he would have the strength to get through his speech”. He went on to say that the boys were there in case he “lost it”. The eldest would finish the speech for him, and the younger two would “put him back together”. Yes, his actual words. He then gave a 20 minute speech about himself! He did mention the deceased 3 times. He mentioned that the brother whistled all the time, he mentioned that the brother made a wicked hard snowball, and he told an embarrassing story about the brother at his wedding. The rest of the speech was about him. It was about how he had entered the family, the youngest of 4. It was about how hard it would be for him to navigate the coming weeks without his brother (he did mention the “family”, and how difficult it would be for them also). He talked about a concert he had gone to, and I don’t even know what else.He talked for 20 minutes, essentially about himself. He talked about how he was the one up there speaking because no one else thought they could make it through. And he made it through every last joke, every last story, every last word, with “breaking down”.
When he and the boys left the altar, I was surprised to see my nephew come up to the pulpit. He is 28, the eldest of the deceased’s 3 children. He came up to the pulpit by himself, and, in a calm, steadfast manner, he spent 20 minutes talking about his father. He talked about all of the things his father taught him. He talked about the time he thought he had chopped off his father’s finger while chopping wood, and, despite having been cut, his father still held the next log for him. He talked about the all of the things his father had taught him; all of the time they had spent togehter. As I watched him, and listened to his stories, I grew embarrassed for my ex. My boys will have no such stories. My ex has taught them nothing. Yes, he coached the 2 that were athletic, as long as they were winning. Yes, he cooked food for the musical son when his band came in 1st at States. And yes, he is just as skilled as his brother in household tasks, maintenance and building. Those skills though, he has not shared with them. For if he was to teach them how to do electrical work, or hang kitchen cabinets, or lay a wood floor, he would have to give them the glory when the work was done. Since a narc can’t share the spotlight, he can’t teach his children anything that might draw the focus away from himself, so they know nothing.
As I listened, I wondered if my boys understood what they were hearing and seeing. Did they understand that the 28 year old knew this was a tribute to his father, not a showcase for himself. Did they get how many things he had learned that they never will? Did they realize how wildly inappropriate it was for their dad to have dragged them up there? What a show it was? I don’t know if they did, and I won’t ask them. If I’ve learned nothing else in my 25 years with a narc, it’s that we all have to figure it out on our own. We each need to realize that something is wrong with him, not us. We all need to figure out that he has nothing to offer but pain and degradation.
At the end of the service, before the benediction, the pastor announced that the burial would be private, and asked that anyone not in the immediate family leave. It was with my head held high that I left. I hugged and kissed my boys, told them I loved them and I left. As I was leaving, I was so relieved to be doing so! My years with that family had been filled with anxiety, awkwardness, and the awareness that I was an “in-law”; not one of them. The stress I felt when heading to each family gathering was a thing of the past. I have no need for it any more, because I am not one of them. And, as much as my ex broke my heart, my spirit, my mind and my body, I am so, so relieved to have him out of my life. I am stronger now than I have been for 25 years. I am re-discovering the person I left behind when I walked down the aisle and let him take over my life. I am becoming whole. I am the lucky one – the one that got away!
And, I’ve had ENOUGH.