Journal Entry: October 25, 2014
I said good-bye to my husband at the airport at the not so sunshiny hour of 4:00 yesterday morning. I was surviving on two hours sleep and feeling a whole lot of anxiety. Okay, I was downright scared and shaking part of the time. I have not traveled on a plane by myself since dday. Plane trips with my husband are difficult enough, but what if I actually encounter “her” and I am by myself? I will not be strong enough to just walk away. It would be a disaster. I need to convince myself that it will never happen. We have not heard from her in months. It will never happen…
A year ago I would have been thrilled to head to Phoenix in October. The weather has changed at home. It is now cold and windy, and rainy some days. They are expecting a windstorm this weekend. The forecast for Phoenix is clear blue skies and high 80’s. A very good friend, old college roommate, maid of honor at my wedding, lives in Scottsdale. Well, technically Paradise Valley, but close enough. We would have so much fun. I bet if I called her, she would whisk me away from my fear and anxiety and we would sit out by her infinity pool and drink iced tea and talk about old times, and new times, and cry over my horrible situation. She, after all, introduced me to my husband nearly 31 years ago. We have always had so much fun. But now, I am a traumatized wife who has barely been away from her husband for four hours in the past 9 months, and I am not going to Arizona to see a friend.
I find it impossible to sleep on planes, so therefore, no matter how tired I was I knew I was not going to get any rest, for hours, and maybe not until evening. This bothered me because I am always more emotional when I am tired and I had a feeling I was heading into one of the most emotionally draining experiences of my life, thus far.
My plane ride into PHX was thankfully uneventful. I had pre-booked transportation to the Scottsdale Hotel & Convention center where the workshop would be held. Brian had warned me not to plan anything else for this weekend because it was all about me, and taking my life back. Well, as the shuttle passed by the road that would lead pretty directly to my friend’s house, I felt a pang of desire to contact her. Maybe there would be a few minutes to see her pretty face. But I resisted the urge for fear that I would take the easy way out and opt for one of the gorgeous guest rooms in her well-appointed guest wing.
The hotel that the workshop was held in was very modest by our family’s current standards. The room felt a little like a dressed up motel 6, which I vividly remember from my starving college days. Whenever I had to stay in a motel, I would immediately fold up the polyester comforter that resided on each and every motel room bed, and tuck it in the closet not to be seen again during my stay, and hope the sheets weren’t too scratchy. I did, in fact, relegate the bed spread to the closet, but there was going to be nothing I could do for the hideous, stuck in the wall, air conditioning unit that was banging and clattering away. In the end, I turned off the A/C at night because even if completely sleep deprived, I would not have been able to sleep with that racket. The best thing about the room was the showerhead, a nice heavy, hot stream flowed from that baby, and for that, I was grateful. The sheets also were quite soft and clean and white.
By the time I settled myself into my room, I barely had time for a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant before the first workshop day commenced. The workshop was held in a meeting room at the hotel. I was immediately disappointed when I entered the room because there were no windows. I felt like I really needed the sunshine to boost my mood, but I guess I can understand having a windowless room, for privacy. There were a handful of women already sitting in chairs, but there were also many empty chairs in the circle that was set up in the middle of the room. My anxiety started to kick into high gear. I could feel my heart racing. Although there were a few women milling about, Brian was the only male there and he came up, gave me my name badge, a notebook, a bag of goodies, and a hug. Getting a hug from a stranger who I knew to be a cheater, was not necessarily all that comforting, even if I had talked with him on the phone, or maybe because I had opened up to him on the phone, but I decided to hike up my big girl panties and take a seat. As I sat there, I started looking through the provided materials and surreptitiously counted the chairs around me. There were 25 chairs in total, which scared me and comforted me all at the same time. I would have to talk about my situation in front of 24 other people, but I would also be surrounded by 24 other people who had lived my pain. It was a daunting feeling.
Once all the chairs were filled, except one, Anne started off our weekend with part of her story, her story of being betrayed by Brian, her story of heartache. Following Anne, the other mentors shared their stories. In addition to Anne, there were five mentors. Some marriages had survived, some had not. Some husbands had remained faithful, some had not. Some of the husbands had done the hard work, some had not. All the women were in a good place in their healing, and this is what allowed them to be amazing leaders. The rest of us were then given some time to fill out a sheet that would help us tell our own story in the few short minutes we were given, and we all managed to do it, tell our painful narratives. There weren’t as many tears shed in this process as I might have imagined, because I believe a lot of us were still being quite protective of our emotions, we hadn’t quite opened up yet to this group of strangers who we shared a desperate connection with, because we just couldn’t, yet.
I cannot and do not want to share too many details about how the workshop was organized, or the other activities we shared with each other, because Anne and Brian would not want me to. One of the keys to the success of these workshops, in my opinion, is everyone is going into it with the same innocence, the same purity, the same wonder. I kept an open mind. I am not shy, so some of the activities that may have caused some apprehension in others did not in me, but there were other exercises I could not do. I will share one of those next time, because it is a vital part of my story.
The first day lasted until almost 11pm. I was depleted, had cried many tears, and shared many hugs, had made new friends, and was completely empty by the time I collapsed on the bed back in my room. Anne and Brian had asked us from the beginning to turn our phones off, that this time here in Scottsdale was just for us, just for our healing and we did not need any distractions from home. Unfortunately, I don’t think they made this clear enough before we left our families, so our expectations and the expectations of those at home were that we would be able to check in. I was less concerned for myself than I was for others in the group with smaller children and absentee partners. I let Blue Eyes know before I drifted off for good, that there would be limited communication for the rest of the weekend, and he did not question it. He seemed to be doing fine, but I know he worries most days that this will be the one. The day I leave him. This fear is one of the consequences he created for himself with his actions.
I slept in as long as I could Saturday morning and had pre-ordered room service breakfast, which worked very nicely. I had purposely chosen a private room (I had to argue for it) because I knew I was prone to stay up all night talking, and I also would not be able to sleep anyway with a stranger in the room. I took the opportunity to eat my breakfast alone, in silence before entering that windowless room again with my 24 new best friends. I instinctively knew, it was going to be another long day. I thought briefly about calling The Peacemaker to wish him a happy 21st birthday, but I knew he would not be up yet, and I wanted to speak with the real voice of my sweet, youngest child, not his voicemail message. I figured I would have to sneak my phone during the day to call my boy. I can take care of myself and still wish my son a happy birthday.
I did end up with a few extra minutes before the official start of the day, and I decided to text my friend, who lives right up the street, on the side a mountain, in a big fancy house, and see if maybe, just maybe we could squeeze in a little “old friend” time. She texted me right back telling me (I could almost hear her squealing from her house 2 miles away) that she could hop in “Little Red,” her golf cart, and be down at the hotel in less than 10 minutes. Unfortunately, I didn’t even have 10 minutes, but I was hoping she would be available for a drink after today’s sessions. They purposely did not tell us when our breaks would be, or what time we would end in the evening. They don’t want the attendees doing what I was trying to do. I texted Old Friend back and asked if she was available later in the evening. Unfortunately, and predictably (she and her husband are movers and shakers, busy, busy people) she was not available, they had plans late into the evening. As I entered the meeting space, I was asked to surrender my phone, and I did. But as much as I was getting out of the workshop, I still wanted to run away, run away to something comfortable, and fun, and familiar.
As the day progressed, and many activities were shared amongst the group, it became pretty obvious to me that my biggest obstacle to healing myself and being able to work through the issues plaguing my marriage is not anger, or resentment, or self pity, or low self esteem, or jealousy, or depression, it is fear. An overwhelming sense of fear that permeates every facet of my life since dday. The fear resonates that my husband will not be able to recover from the disease that has ravaged his soul since he was a small child, the disease that allowed him to rationalize all his horrifying behavior. Fear that my desire to walk away from the process will outweigh my desire to see it through.
Once again, it is that deep fear that imbues my inner most thoughts, the fear that I am walking into a trap.