21. A Dry Spell and a Dry Heart
After Hawaii, we went to a few more places, nothing too exciting or memorable, with the exception of the Disney Cruise out of Florida. (I got my separate cruise still!) We really enjoyed that trip—and the repeat cruise trip a year later with his parents when I was pregnant with our first child. We had booked that trip as an anniversary present to his parents, long before I ended up pregnant. That was to be the last trip we (I) would take for a very, very long time.
Talking about this time in my life is quite painful. Within a few years’ time, I experienced a tremendous amount of loss that catapulted me into my darkest hours.
It began when my parents had decided to finally split up. My mother approached me about buying the family home, half in an effort to help us financially, and half in an effort to help her and my sisters stay in the house. My husband and I had felt the pressure of needing to save the house, and my family, from this marital fallout. It was all anyone had left of our memories and childhood, and none of us were ready to let it all go. So, reluctantly we agreed, and that’s when the family disintegration began.
As my dad was getting ready to leave the house for the last time, after signing the deed over to me, I had given him a little present to help him in his new home. It was intended to be a loving gesture on my part to show my support, but it wasn’t exactly received that way, and his reaction was one of hurt. Words were exchanged, and that moment became the ultimate end for me. I had already suffered enough throughout childhood with the ramifications of his drinking and emotional abandonment. Putting that aside, I was trying to reach out to him during this difficult time, to only be shut down. That was my final breaking point—and I let him know as much.
When he left that house, he never came back.
He was only supposed to be leaving my mother, not all of us. My sisters tried keeping a relationship with him, but I was completely turned off by then by his lack of interest in me, and I chose to disown him. He no longer existed in my eyes, and my heart turned cold. A lifetime of anger and resentment bubbled up and began taking over my life, my emotions and my entire soul. And one by one, more walls came crashing down. I thought we would be financially secure, but a bomb was dropped on us and we were
never able to recover. My beloved Nanny passed, and the grief of already losing her to Alzheimer’s only deepened as I realized I lost the one person in this entire world who ever truly understood me. It was completely unbearable, and the darkness just kept enveloping me—to the point where I could not even embrace the blessing of the greatest joy in my life: motherhood.
Although there was genuine, exquisite awe in welcoming my daughter into the world, and it was a new type of blessing and adventure itself, being confined to my home while my husband still traveled for work ate away at me little by little. I had built up an enormous resentment over me having to live in that house and take on the additional responsibility while he still had his freedom to get away on his weekly wrestling gigs. Even though it was his living, it still bothered me that he had that flexibility and I didn’t.
I was never one to be a homebody, but that is what I had become. I took my daughter on little outings, but my overprotective nature and paranoia kept me from venturing out too often. I became a recluse, declining social invitations, unable to attend work functions requiring travel, and we were too broke to go on any type of vacation.
Life was definitely headed in a downward spiral.
Soon after, my Poppy joined Nanny in Heaven, and all of this grief became overwhelming. I tried to pep life up a bit with a few trips here and there, but nothing really sparked my love of adventure anymore. Not even a trip to Las Vegas with my mom. Although it was nice to spend some bonding time with her, the whole time I was worried about my daughter because she was so young and missed me, and my husband didn’t have too much of a clue about how to handle a baby. (He admittedly is more comfortable relating to and caring for older children who are less dependent.) So I couldn’t let go and just have a fun time, as much as my mom tried to comfort me. And that was it for me. I decided I couldn’t ever leave my child like that again.
Instead, I left my entire extended family and moved to Pennsylvania. We just could no longer afford to live in New York anymore. And that seemed to be the perfect place, since I was still able to work from home there and partially commute with my job, and it wasn’t too far away from my family that I couldn’t see them as often as I wanted to. His parents had moved up with us, so I had that extra support with my daughter in case I needed to go to Long Island for work and didn’t want to bring her, or had errands to run, or just needed a little break. I had hoped that life could perhaps turn back around for us, and that the nagging feeling in my stomach about our own failing marriage would subside without all of this added stress. It was actually the ideal situation—on paper.
But Pennsylvania turned out to be the worst adventure of my life.
I truly became a bonafide hermit, and only went out to Walmart on the weekends. That was my big excitement in life. As soon as we moved there, my husband was offered what supposedly was a training opportunity in Texas, leaving me and my daughter alone for three months. With only a few days notice, my little girl and I ended up secluded in this new state and barren home with no friends and only his parents to talk to. The depression and reclusion only worsened, and I no longer recognized the lifeless
woman looking back at me in the mirror. The worst part was I just didn’t care.
As the financial stress grew stronger, and the fights got tougher, I couldn’t take society in general anymore and I pulled away from my family and friends completely. I could not care less about how sloppily I dressed, my growing weight, if I wore makeup or who saw me like that in public. I had no pride in my appearance, my attitude—in anything—except having a spotless house. Our relationship was rapidly falling apart; he would leave to go to side work and I would be stuck at home constantly. We never had any money to do anything, not even to go to a local concert or out to a decent dinner.
There were no more dates. No more trips, outside of the long drive back and forth to work every other week. There was nothing.
Nothing but this huge isolated house among snowy mountains and never-ending woods that I had grown to hate. We did attempt a trip after his Texas jaunt to DisneyWorld to fulfill our dream of taking our daughter there. And although nothing could take away the joy of seeing how precious she was
in this land of magic, it felt like it was still just the two of us, with some man who had become a detached outsider. I choose not to get into the deeper details of this depressive time in my life, but needless to say, this was a major turning point for me. I was at an all-time low. No self-worth; no family and friend connections; no marital connections. Having my son during this time was the biggest miracle of my life. I still thank God to this day for granting my wish, and for being so merciful about it.
By the time he was born, rock bottom had arrived. Looking back now, I recognize that on top of everything, I was suffering from postpartum depression. But my time in isolation was about to come to an end. Everything exploded into a divorce, and I just didn’t know if I could take anymore heartache. I had no idea how the hell I was going to pull off being alone, raising two kids pretty much on my own, with little physical support and under dire financial circumstances. I just knew I had to do it—if not for my
sake, then for the sake of those two precious babies.
I can still to this day remember that instance I came up for air and took control back of my own life.
I looked in the mirror at the tearstained, bloated, soul-less eyed face and said to myself, Enough. I
decided then and there that I was headed back to New York, to my home, to my family and friends (whoever would accept me back), and that this was not the end of my life. This was just the beginning,
and dammit, I was no longer a victim. I never was; I simply was just a drama queen playing a role for the sympathy and attention.
“Look at what he did to me” solicited much more support than “Look at what I’ve done to myself.” That was all about to change, and with that declaration, a new Jennifer was born.
After a rather civil divorce agreement and proceeding, I left Pennsylvania behind, foreclosing on the house and never looking back. It took some time, and a lot of healing, patience and compassion, but I had to put all of my pain aside for my children and make their physical, emotional and psychological needs my priority. I would not have them affected by the decisions of their parents, nor would depression reign supreme over their (our) lives. My dry spell was finally over, and life was about to renew itself.
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