Read Part One HERE.
Read Part Two HERE.
Read Part Three HERE.
“I know this is going to hurt, and I’m sorry. I can’t watch him lie to you any longer. Steve is dating someone else.”
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t feel. I couldn’t think.
It’s hard to describe what it feels like when your gut and your intuition are right in the worst way possible. I think I was in shock, possibly. Utter disbelief. I didn’t cry, I just went to work.
Steve and I had been “together” for nearly ten years at this point. We shared everything. I knew all of his passwords… so I went to look. The proof was everywhere. Money spent on someone else. Flowers sent to someone else. “I love you’s” given to someone else. I didn’t know if I would need proof in the future, so I screenshotted everything, and then logged out. (I would never log back into any of them again.)
Then, I confronted him.
I sent him a message over AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). I told him that I knew. He was cheating on me.
His immediate response was, “I’m sorry.”
There are HUNDREDS of pages and many many hours of conversation that happened after this moment. There are records of them documented somewhere. None of that is the story that I intend to share here. In ending the conversation, I told him that I was disgusted, and hurt, and I never wanted to see him or speak to him again. I wanted a divorce. I took off my wedding ring, and threw it across the room. And then I cried.
Up until this point in my life, I had never known real, crushing sadness. Soul consuming sadness. Unrelenting sorrow. The weight of it upon me was overwhelming. I didn’t know how to deal with it, didn’t know what to do. And I didn’t have anyone to turn to. I cried and cried, through the pressure in my chest and the hurt in my heart. I cast around for something, anything to hold on to.
I called my mom.
My dad answered. Mom wasn’t home.
Fucking GREAT, I thought, Not even my MOM is here for me.
I tried to hang up the phone, but my dad could hear something was wrong. It’s important that you know that I have lived away from my parents for almost 15 years, and my dad and I have spoken on the phone a mere half-dozen times. We love each other very much, and we love to talk in person… we’ve just never had a telephone relationship. Dad could hear the sob right behind my voice and asked me what was going on. I told him. I sobbed again. And I said that I wanted to just come home.
He was silent for a minute. I could tell he was processing what I had just said. I’m not entirely sure what happens to a father when his daughter’s heart has been broken, but when he started speaking, it was with the calmest, most loving voice I had ever heard coming from my father.
“I’m so sorry, Mand. Of course you can come home. Of course your mother and I want you to come home if you need to. But…
… but if you come home now, he’s left you with nothing. You have nothing. If you stick it out, and finish the program – you have your degree, and a career, and no one can take that away from you. No one.”
The gravity of his words took a few seconds to sink in, and I knew immediately that he was right. I couldn’t abandon Ultrasound. I could finish. I really could.
My life shifted a little. I was angry and hurt, but tried so hard to be present to my own reality. I wanted to hurt Steve back… but I didn’t want to do anything I would regret. I wanted to run wild, and go crazy… but I knew that wasn’t really ME. I wanted to find someone else to make me feel whole again… but I knew that wasn’t what I truly needed. I needed to stay the course, do an excellent job of my clinicals, graduate with honors, and then move home to be an ultrasound tech in Canada.
I was so desperately lonely, I started reaching out to everyone I knew – past, and present – in order to fill my time with anything other than loneliness. I sent emails and text messages, IMs and myspace messages. I reconnected with old friends and deepened friendships that I hadn’t given much energy to. One of the people that I had contacted was Brock – Steve’s old roommate. To be truthful, I had always found Brock attractive, and his energy infectious, but when they lived together I was incredibly loyal to Steve. I didn’t interact much with Brock, and tried to make sure that I never did anything to make Steve jealous.
So, I wrote Brock an email asking how he was doing. We corresponded almost daily for weeks and weeks. We talked about me, and my schooling. We talked about him and his girlfriend. He was incredibly kind. I remember, without any hesitation, words of advice he gave to me regarding Steve. He told me not to harden my heart too soon. He said, “Sometimes guys need to make sure that they are making the right decisions. Some go about it by trying all the wrong decisions.”
While it wasn’t enough for me to forgive Steve, it did make an impression on me. It was one of the most profoundly powerful bits of advice I’ve ever been given.
Months passed. Literal months that now seem like a blip on a radar. I worked every day, unpaid, during my clinicals in order to become an ultrasound tech. I got a second job in the evenings so I could have money – Steve was no longer willing to financially support me. I made friends and I went out for drinks and I found some really amazing happiness. I started to find my strength. I began to realize that it wasn’t Steve that was the incredible part of me – it was ME. And I made some promises to myself.
I promise I will never put up with being hurt again.
I promise I will never forget how strong I am.
I promise I will never stay with someone when my heart says go.
I promise I will always listen to my gut… it is not wrong.
In July of 2006, I was just weeks away from finishing my ultrasound clinicals completely. I would graduate, pack my things, and drive my car North. That was my plan.
And then life threw me a curveball. Again.
I received an email from Brock after a brief hiatus in communication. He had been busy with life, and I hadn’t been desperately seeking connection, so our correspondence had fallen off. But his younger brother was being stationed in Arkansas in the Air Force, and was ALSO getting married there. So Brock was going to be in Arkansas with his family and his girlfriend, and they wanted me to come to the wedding.
This put me into a tailspin of uncertainty. I knew I liked Brock; he was a really great friend. I knew he and Jenna had been together for ages. I didn’t want to cause any problems, or hurt any feelings, or be a general pain in the ass. I knew I had been through too much.
I called my mom and told her about Brock’s invitation. I told her that I had thought deeply about it, and just decided that it would be a bad idea – in general – for me to go to this wedding. I really didn’t need to be getting involved with any boys, and I was going to be coming home soon anyways.
My mother’s voice throbbed with pride when she responded, “Mandy… I just think that’s the best decision. I’m so proud of you. You are absolutely doing the right thing.”
Without hesitation, I sat down to compose a reply to Brock’s invitation. I’m so sorry, I just can’t make it work. Gas is really expensive, and I can’t afford to pay for a hotel room. Thank you so much for your invitation. Congratulations to Thomas, and I hope you all have a wonderful time!
To be continued…