13 Projects

Yes – obviously plagiarized, but I think with merit.

I recently decided to part ways with my realtor.  I interviewed 3 new realtors, and 2 of the 3 told me I needed to undo one of my favorite features of my house: the wallpapered risers on the staircase.

This will be my final project, because I have finally learned what I needed to learn.

Here is the background.

My ex  is really handy.   It was his skills that allowed us (so I thought) to flip our 1st house and move up.  The house I’m currently selling had been our home for 15 years, most of it spent in some stage of renovation.

Friends and family always gushed about his workmanship.  They also told me, ad nauseum, how lucky I was to have him, a man with such great skills.  I always felt like a brat when they said that, because all I could ever think about was how lonely I was while he worked on his projects.   I yearned for the day that we could hire someone to do the work, and he could actually spend some of his time off work with us – his family.

As I work on this final project, everything  comes in to focus.

When my realtor 1st suggested I take off the wallpaper and paint the risers I said no way.  I might consider painting over the wallpaper, but not taking it off.  Why?  Because I knew what quality workmanship had gone into papering those risers, and taking the paper off was going to be a bitch.  How did I know?  The same way I learned about all the ways he was an awesome, over-extended, Man of the Year, and I was the whiney emasculating little bitch: I complained.

As with most of his projects he took off  for hours.  Hours turned into days, days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months.  All the while, he’d be slaving away, either at work or on “my project”, and I’d be alone at home with the kids, taking care of, well, everything.  When I questioned the amount of time he was taking he’d:  1)  rage about how terrible I was to question him and 2) throw out triggers to see which one stuck.  “Do you want to do it?” or “you’re the one that wanted it done, not me” or “what difference does it make, you don’t want me around anyway”.  There were several other quips, but these were the 3 that shamed me.  These were the 3 that turned my face red and made it impossible for me to think, let alone defend my disatisfaction.

After I’d complained about this particular project, several times, he decided to show me why it was taking so long.  He brought me one completed riser, and the rest of his raw materials.  He sat me down and explained to me the quality of his workmanship.  First he made a stencil of the riser, because each one was “just a bit different”.  Then he carefully used his stencil to plan his cuts on the plywood. Once the plywood was cut he’d bring it back and make sure it fit.  Then he had to finish the plywood before putting on the wallpaper.  This was the most important part of all: the glueing of the wallpaper.  This, he explained, had to be perfect, lest corners of paper began curling up.  Once perfected he had to cut the wallpaper so it didn’t jut up against the stair.  Sometimes he didn’t cut it exactly right and he had to start over.  It was impressive, the riser he showed me.  There were no bubbles in the paper, the paper was firmly in place in all 4 sides, there was no evidence that any part might separate from the plywood and I watched as he heroically installed it and we stood in awe of his work.

It was with that in mind, knowing the quality workmanship that went into these risers, that I though no way am I taking that wallpaper off.  Until two days ago.

I was sitting on the stairs, talking to my sister, and I was looking at the stairs.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a piece of wallpaper that had come loose and I thought “What the hell-give it a pull”.  Imagine my surprise when the entire sheet came right off!  I was thrilled because I knew what this meant:  this meant that the glue holding the wallpaper on had disintegrated, and each sheet of wallpaper was going to pull right off.  As I talked to my sister I went from stair to stair, pulling off whole sheets of wallpaper, admiring the good fortune I’d finally had to come across – an easy fix that would increase the attractiveness of the house.  Yeahhhh!!

All went well except this one stubborn riser.  I pulled……nothing.  I hunted around for a loose corner……None.  I took a knife and made a loose corner and pulled and ….. nothing.  Initially I thought nothing of it.  Yes, it was the one and only riser giving me problems, but things happen, right?  I tromped down to the shed, got my wallpaper removing tool & DIF, trudged back up the back yard and went right to work.  Obviously this was an insignificant little glitch and I’d be painting in no time.

I spent 2 hours yesterday, to no avail.  Today I decided to get back to it.  After all, it was just this one little problem area – I could take care of that in a jiffy and start painting.  On hour 3, still having little sucess, I got it.

This was the riser he’d shown me.

This, and only this, required the time he’d put into it.  The rest were after thoughts, done in between dates and lengthy phone calls with whom ever he was seeing at the time.

Is it only me who needs numerous light bulb moments?  I’ve had this moment before.  That moment when I think “well I’ll be damned, he really did deliberately divert my attention to get away with whatever he was up to”.   I have thought this so many times during the past 3 years, I can’t even count them.   None of these light bulbs stayed lit.

It is imperative that I, as well as anyone victimized by a covert narcissist, accept, to the core of my being, that everything he did was deliberate.  Why is this imperative?  Because until I’ve fully accepted this, I will always believe I was at fault.

I spent 25 years listening to how I was at fault for all that went wrong between us, and shaking this belief has been, well….damned near impossible.

Each of my “light bulb moments”  (i.e. moments I realized I was not at fault) has been directly related to a single incident.  This has left me, in the overall scheme of things. holding the bag, right?  If his actions were deliberate only this time, it was easy to fall back into the idea that ultimately I was the one that doomed our relationship.

Honestly, this is a more comfortable place for me to be.  It is easier for me to accept that he really did love me at one time, that I truely was his soulmate, that his 1st wife had been an immature dalliance……..it was easier for me to buy all of that than the truth.  The truth is ugly.  The truth is that he saw through me.  The truth is he figured out, really quickly, what my buttons were, and he systematically pushed each one until I became a sick, blubbering, ineffective, half of a person.  Me, the Master’s level psychologist who had great instincts and an uncanny ability to assess character, had been played.   If I accept this premise I have to accept the next one:  I was never loved.  I was never a soul mate.  I am 55 years old and I’ve never had true love.

It is easier to believe that he started out well intentioned and that I let him down, than to believe that the only person I let down was myself.

As I was pondering all of this I got to thinking about his shed.

Our house sits smack in the middle of about an acre of land.  The front yard slopes down to the entry of the house, and the back yard slopes down into the woods.  On each side of the house is flat land.   If you stood on my deck and surveyed my back yard you would note one fact:  one side of the yard is essentially a sheer drop, all the way to the woods.  The other side is a gentle slope, slowly looping into the wooded space behind it.

He built the shed shortly after we moved in.  He built that shed while I was 6 months pregnant with our 3rd (his 4th) child, and on partial bedrest.    He built that shed knowing it would become his get-a-way.  How do I know this?  Quite easily, now that my lightbulb has fully illuminated.  He built that shed in the exact part of our property he knew I wouldn’t venture to.  He built that shed at the bottom of the steep drop, right up against the woods. I remember talking about all of the other places he could put the shed, and I remember his justifying why he put it where he did, although I no longer remember the actual reason. Whatever it was, it was a lie.

It was a bold-faced, deliberate lie.

Perhaps he was having an affair at that time, and knew he needed, in addition to the 7 days a week he spent at work. additional alone time.  Maybe he built it in  between girlfriends.  The important fact is this:  He put it where he put it because he knew it was the least likely place for me to ever go.

I stepped foot into it that shed 2 times before he left. The 1st was when he finished it, and wanted to show it off.  The second was when I was looking for a can of paint.  As I looked I came upon two boxes I didn’t recall seeing before.  We had lost a few boxes in our move, and I thought well wouldn’t that be just like him, to have these boxes under his nose and never even notice.  With that thought I opened the 1st box.  All it had was paper.  Letters, notes like the one’s we passed in Jr. high, those little paper footballs we all made, and those origami fortune tellers.  I stared, trying to decipher what I was seeing.  I knew 1 thing for sure – I’d never seen those boxes before.

There is a haze that invades your brain when you are trying to process the worse news possible.  The “deer in the headlight” feel we get when our Dr tells us our test results aren’t good.  The auto-pilot movements that take over when the school nurse calls and says your child is sick.  That stop dead in your tracks flash that happens during a car accident, or upon hearing the news that a loved one has died.   This was what took over  as I stared at those boxes of papers.

When my mind cleared I started reading them.  “Joan, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me blah, blah, blah”.   “Dan, do you think she likes me?”, to which Dan replies “I’ll ask her” only to get back “don’t do that!!”.

Remember all those notes?  The ones passed down the aisle during latin class, carted around the lunch room and casually dropped on someone else’s lunch tray – those notes??

  • Which of you, reading this right now, has two full boxes  of these notes?
  • Which of you has a shoe box full of these notes?
  • Which of you even has a tiny little gift box stuffed with these notes?

I’m guessing, none.  Why?  Because we grew up.  We grew up and realized our 1st love wasn’t our 1st love at all, they were a teenage crush, after which we threw the notes away!

I’m pretty sure that is what Psychologist’s call “Maturation”.  That day that you look at all of those notes, with your newly developed adult brain, and think “awww…..they are cute.  Which day do I put them out for trash?

I clearly remember the moment I was able to ask him why he had them.   It took me a few weeks to work up the courage.  He told me his mother had saved them, and when she moved given them back to him.  Plausible I suppose.  Then I asked the most logical question which was  “well, ok……but why do YOU still have them?”

You know, my mom has given me a lot of stuff over the years as she has moved.  Some she’s given me because they were mine, some were her “treasured” items which hadn’t made the downsizing cut, others were simply trash.  The majority of these items ended up in the trash.  I have no love letter from old boyfriends.  I don’t have any of those little notes that get passed around and added to, during boring assemblies.  I couldn’t even make a paper origami fortune teller, let alone remember how, or why, to use it.

Yet here sat 2 full boxes of his notes.  Which is why he needed to put the shed in the one place I was least likely to go.

Yes, this was a deliberate move.  There was 1 motive and 1 motive only behind it:  put distance between us.  Give him the ideal place to hide his secrets.  I  guess he kept his trackfones in that shed, knowing after that 2nd  trip down, I’d never go again.

Now, my light bulb is fully illuminated.  I can clearly recall the various times in our marriage signalling major shifts, and each one started the same way:  with me questioning him, requesting equal time, seeking affirmation or simply help with the family.   Each of these “incidents” as he called them, were the nails in the coffin that entombed me, the 1st nailed hammered in  the minute I took my 1st step down that church aisle to say “I Do”.

It is all so clear now, I don’t know how I ever fell victim.  Every other person I know can manage time off from work for a family issue – except him.  Every other spouse does family projects – not projects solely for the benefit of their wife.  Every other marriage includes 2 people that sacrifice; not 1 who claims he makes all the sacrifices, then chides his spouse for being overly demanding.

Even now, as “we” navigate custody, he maintains his self obsessed persona.  Yes, it’s his weekend to have his son, but he’s not going to interrupt his activities to pick him up.  He won’t stay home on Saturday night unless he wants to.  I used to accept this.  I used to think “he works hard, I don’t work, he should get his free time”.  Now I see it all.  I see this idea that “he works”, his go-to accusation whenever I asked for his time/assistance, as his way of controlling the dialogue.  No longer would we discuss his contribution to the Family, instead we’d talk about the fact that he works and I don’t.

I used to keep old calendars.  I wish I still had them.  More importantly,  I wish I had a calendar of his projects.  I believe his projects were of two types:  the type done in full view, which happened when he did not have a girlfriend, and the type that happened in his shed, when he was having an affair.  As I’ve gone through the house undoing much of what he did I can clearly envision which projects were which.  I can also make a pretty good guess as to who each girfriend was during each of his affair projects.

I’m taking the dimmer off of my inner light bulb.  I am choosing to remember, each and every day, that each action he takes, each comment he makes, each choice he chooses, is a deliberate action with one end goal:  to satisfy himself.   While I used to feel sorry for him at times I now see how despicable he really is.  Those moments that I used to question my own thoughts or motives are gone.

All of these thoughts are replaced now with a fully illuminated new truth:

  • He used me.  
  • He is a selfish, shell of a person who will never do the right thing, because the right thing will never service his own desires.  
  • He is, and always will be, a bad guy.

Furthermore,  I no longer intend to engage in rationalizations for his behavior.  Did his parents brainwash him?  So What???  Was he traumatized in a car accident?  So What??  Was he never supported to reach his full intellectual ability?  So What???

He took every event in his life and worked it to his advantage.  He used it to gain sympathy, position himself as victim, and prey on others generosity and gain favor.

He is despicable.  Of this I am 100% sure.

2 thoughts on “13 Projects

  1. Ouch. It really is so hard to let go of the illusion as the alternative is, of course, that I was so stupid. My illusion was the car- he loved working on cars. It necessitated thousands of pounds of tools and equipment and many weekends of ‘hard’ work that left me with all the domestic stuff, naturally. When we divorced, I panicked about how to maintain the car (I do need it to be reliable) and was told it only needs servicing every TWO years! Duh!

    Liked by 1 person

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