After hours and hours of individual trauma therapy, one of the pivotal pieces of advice I ostensibly came away with was that I needed to take better care of myself. I needed to focus more on what truly makes me a whole person and not focus so much on the needs of others. I had done enough putting other’s needs before my own. In fact, the person I had spent the most time catering to and taking care of ended up being the person who hurt me the deepest, the person who temporarily stole my life away.
As I have moved through this trauma and healing journey, I cut way back on doing for others. This process of being kind to myself, and not getting myself into a heap of trouble helping other people at the cost of my own sanity, has been difficult. I did not realize giving so much was like giving some of me away, it took a toll.
My habit has always been to say yes, to everything, and then figure out the logistics later. I have volunteered in numerous capacities including spending thousands of hours chairing auctions and other charitable events, some in the general community, many at my children’s schools over the years. I have become quite skilled at these volunteer activities. I did have to cut back when my older son decided private school was his destiny. Private school commenced at high school for him. Approximately nine years ago I started back to work full time for our company. Every penny I earned went into the boy’s educations. First it was private high school, for both of them, then small private liberal arts colleges, for both of them. And a few hundred thousand dollars later, we have one graduated and one having transferred to a local state university. I would like to stop working soon, but we are building a beach house. They broke ground a couple weeks ago, by the way. I am thrilled. My responsibilities at work were significantly pared down last year and I have not had the energy or desire to get back to a full time schedule. I do feel lucky that I have this choice, and many days I feel like having choices has spared my sanity.
My first instinct, however, is still to say yes and help people. I don’t think about reciprocation or even if some of the people I do things for have been kind and loving to me when given the opportunity. I have always been a very forgiving person. Take my sister Elizabeth, for example. Beautiful little blonde haired, blue eyed Elizabeth was born when I was 16 years old. What a little cherub, a Gerber baby for sure. She was the sixth and final daughter for my Dad. She grew up in the shadow of her many older siblings. She is not the youngest, she is one in the middle as there are twin boys younger than Elizabeth. Over the years her sweet little personality started morphing into a petulant girl with a chip on her shoulder. We took to calling her Eeyore due to all her whining and acting like things just never went her way. My Dad is quite the bully and he and Elizabeth were constantly butting heads.
Years passed and Elizabeth grew into a beautiful young mormon woman with very little aspiration in life, I think, other than marrying and having a house full of kids. She fell in love and married a mormon boy. I was asked to handle all the flowers for the wedding and Elizabeth chose hydrangeas, one of my favorite flowers, but a little tricky in bouquets especially on a hot May day, outdoors (flowers play a prominent role in this story, so bear with me). All was right in Elizabeth’s world now. She had a man totally devoted to her…
As it turns out, Elizabeth had serious trouble getting pregnant. After a few years of trying desperately, and then a few expensive rounds of IVF, she and her husband finally welcomed a baby boy. All was well with the little family. Elizabeth’s husband had hopped around a bit working in elder care facilities. We didn’t know a lot about him other than he seemed very nice and sincere and hard working. At one point, he voiced his desire to get out of the elder care industry and my Dad encouraged us to take him on at our company as he was so hard working. It wasn’t such a stretch as two of my brothers already worked for us. At the time, we needed a marketing manager, so we hired him.
And that is when the trouble began. My sister’s husband, who I will call Matt, turned out to be a liar and completely insubordinate. Unfortunately, I had the unpleasant job of managing him and his behavior. I nearly went off the deep end. He lied obsessively and he often missed work due to unreasonable circumstances and he was completely belligerent with Blue Eyes. Before he started working for us, he and Blue Eyes got along great, but something drastically changed as soon as he became our employee. He didn’t seem to have any trouble with me, just Blue Eyes and another one of our employees. He also had a terrible habit of not showing up to work. He would say he was working from home, which was not really a thing at our company and then he would be completely unreachable most of the day. He refused to learn anything about our business or our industry. I should have fired him after his first month, but I could not help worrying for my sister and my young nephew and I hoped he would settle in. They moved to Portland and away from the rest of both of their families just for this job. As the months wore on, things only got worse. We realized there was probably a really good reason Matt had moved around so much in just a few years and it didn’t have anything to do with the facilities where he worked. Matt was Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. When we were just talking socially, about a family event, or a recipe, or a book or a movie or whatever, he was so pleasant and easy to talk with. We agreed on just about everything. At one point we were reading the Twilight Series (do NOT ask me why I read that drivel at all because I honestly do not have an answer… it certainly was a waste of a few hours of my life) and he and I found the same parts of the books ridiculous and hilarious and whatever. We promised to watch the first movie together. But then, his evil twin would appear and all bets were off. He would get so angry and red in the face I thought he would explode. At one point while he was working for us, he decided to leave the mormon church. I was shocked. He called me and told me his family blamed me and Blue Eyes for influencing him to leave the church. What the fucking fuck? We rarely ever discussed the church. I have never been mormon, but I respect the fact that a big chunk of my family (from my Dad’s second marriage) are mormon. To each their own. I was shocked that Matt left the church, but I was more shocked that somehow he had managed to pin it on me and Blue Eyes.
After approximately a year of hell, Blue Eyes decided we had to fire Matt and he set up a 9:00am meeting with him on a Thursday morning. The Wednesday night before that meeting, Matt sent me and Blue Eyes a letter of resignation. The letter was straight forward and provided no elaboration on why he was quitting. We asked him not to come back to the office. We would gather his things and have my brother (who of course was also his wife’s brother) deliver the few personal items he actually had at the office to him and collect his company iPhone. Meanwhile, I had not had a chance to speak with my sister. And I would not get that chance for months and months and months. I have no idea what Matt actually told my sister about me, or Blue Eyes, or our company, but whatever it was, it must have been pretty inflammatory for my own sister to just stop talking to me.
Unfortunately, before Matt left our company, we would eventually find out, he decided to sabotage us as best he could. He undermined us with one of our critical employees. He told the employee who he had recently taken up running with before work that the company was going out of business. That he had got his hands on some of our financials and we wouldn’t last three months (this was nearly six years ago, and guess what, we’re still thriving). He also sent that same message to numerous other people by email, his own personal email, but he sent them from our company server. Blue Eyes was furious. Not only did losing the employee mean a lot of extra work for Blue Eyes and others, but Blue Eyes had spent years building his business out of nothing. How dare some good for nothing loser try to destroy him. Blue Eyes refused to attend family functions when he knew Matt would be there.
At one point, one of our nieces had an emergency appendectomy. I called her mom, Sarah, to see how the niece was doing. Sarah asked me why Blue Eyes was no longer attending family functions. I told her I am sure she had heard some story or other from Matt and Elizabeth and frankly, Blue Eyes was not in the mood to defend himself or have petty arguments with my family. I said Matt had done some dishonest things regarding the business and Blue Eyes takes his business very seriously. That business also supports numerous families, including other members of our family. Blue Eyes was not willing to be in the same room with Matt.
No sooner had I hung up the phone with Sarah, than I was unfriended on Facebook by Elizabeth. Turns out, this was all happening the same week Blue Eyes’ brother committed suicide and I was alone dealing with that situation and now here I was being questioned by and abandoned by part of my own family. I will never forget how this made me feel. Realize guys, I am 15 & 16 years OLDER than these sisters. I do not play their petty little games, but it would be nice if someone had my back for a change. No such luck. I also received a rather scathing email from my sister Elizabeth explaining why she just could not be Facebook “friends” with me anymore. She said they had moved on from the sordid incidents of Matt’s employment with our company, but apparently we had not and she felt sorry for us. She said a few other not so nice things and that was it. As it turns out, for a couple years after, we did not cross paths with Matt or Elizabeth. We were never invited to the same family functions. Elizabeth continued to bad mouth me and Blue Eyes to family members, but we never took that bait. Enough is enough. We are not children.
Then, out of nowhere, Elizabeth sent the entire family an email, including me. The email described the horrible predicament she had found herself in. As it turns out, Matt was not the stellar guy everyone (but us) thought he was. As she explained in the email, Matt has a very dark side… HELLO! Matt was back to working at elder care facilities and he came home one day to tell Elizabeth he no longer wanted to be married to her. He was mean and verbally abusive. She was shocked. She knew he had a temper and a dark side (even though she did not share that with anyone in the family), but she had no idea he didn’t want to be married to her. She thought things were fine. I mean, she was not able to have any more kids, but they had their one precious boy. Life was good, or so she thought. Matt immediately moved into the guest room. He became distant and didn’t show up at home some nights and when he was home he had completely changed. Elizabeth confronted him with questions of was he having an affair. He expressed anger… how dare she question him and his integrity (most betrayed spouses know what that sounds like). Until he came home one night and said he could not keep up the charade any longer… 32 year old Matt had been having an affair for nearly a year and he was leaving her for his affair partner, a 20 year old boy he worked with named Leo.
Matt is gay (and obviously always has been) and is now married to Leo. They sued Elizabeth for full custody of Elizabeth’s son because 22 year old Leo “always wanted a family of his own.” As it turns out, Matt was sexually abused by his own brother when he was a boy. He kept all his pain and anger and resentment inside, most of the time. His being mormon and being gay were mutually exclusive, so his first stab at a more honest life was to leave the church. Eventually he was able to reveal the truth about himself, but not without a lot of pain, anger, hurt and abusive behavior towards a lot of people, mostly my sister. Life has been hell for her for three solid years and he is constantly fighting to remove her from having any custody of their son.
Elizabeth has apologized to me many times for her behavior towards me and Blue Eyes during those Matt years. She said there was no way she could choose between her husband and her sister. I told her I never asked her to choose, just to be a mature adult. Apparently she believed that the sister she had known her entire life and the brother in law she had known since she was four years old had suddenly turned into completely different people just because Matt said so. I never even asked her to acknowledge her husband might be stretching the truth. I think she knew deep down there was something amiss with Matt, but she did not want to face the truth. I think she would admit this if I asked her, but I don’t feel like asking her. I don’t really care. I will say, however, that I have done absolutely nothing but try to help my sister, and I have never done anything to make her feel bad or to abuse her. I can say that since d-day, however, I have looked very carefully at my relationships and evaluated those people in my life who have never abandoned me or lied to me or treated me badly. I no longer am able to forgive and forget in the same way I used to. I am more cautious now. I will admit I have given too much away without asking for anything in return. I am tired of being used.
So here we are in August 2015 and Elizabeth is getting remarried in two months. She has asked me to help with the flowers on her wedding day. She said she knows she can trust me to do exactly what she wants. She won’t have to worry about that one aspect of her day. She loved what I did before and even though she wants something completely different this time, she wants me to work with her on this. I love flowers and of course I love my sister Elizabeth. I will share this day with her and make sure those flowers are perfect, but I will not re-open myself back up to her. As sad as this sounds, I do not trust her with my vulnerable heart. I have learned my lesson.
As I tried to figure out exactly what Elizabeth wants, I started researching what flowers will be readily available in October and what will fit her cream, grey and green color scheme. She wants simple and carefree. We are going to try to fit succulents into the arrangement. I have a high school friend who is a florist and lives very close to where Elizabeth will be getting married. In searching photos to provide to Elizabeth, I ran across what I think is the perfect bouquet. Coincidentally, the arrangement was designed by someone in Blue Eyes’ past. The flower lady appears here, last paragraph (Who is my best friend), and here (Should I thank the flower lady). I know Blue Eyes was grooming this woman. She fits Blue Eyes “profile” and she is an amazing florist. I received so many gorgeous bouquets during the time Blue Eyes was frequenting her flower cart. Part of Blue Eyes’ boundaries are that he will not see or speak to any of his previous acting out partners, including women he was grooming. I realize this is like shooting myself in the foot here because I loved receiving those gorgeous blooms. Obviously the flower lady is not the only good florist in town, but still…
I figured there was no harm in me having a chat with the flower lady regarding my sister’s bouquet/wedding flowers, but when I went to her website, I saw that she had been unable to open her flower cart for quite a few days this summer due to excessive heat. She was struggling and asking for donations just to stay in business as the cart is a big part of her revenue. I immediately felt bad for her and considered donating to her business. I also thought well, maybe I should give my sister’s wedding flower business to her instead of my high school friend. Then I started thinking maybe I should tell her about Blue Eyes so she doesn’t wonder what ever happened to him and why he doesn’t purchase flowers from her anymore. I mean I seriously contemplated telling her the entire story. I planned to donate online and then ask her for a meet up. And then a little voice inside my head said, STOP!!! Florists are a dime a dozen. My friend can put together the arrangements from the photo. This flower lady means nothing to you. Don’t feel sorry for her. You cannot save her business with a little donation and one small wedding job. You owe her NOTHING. Then I started researching this woman who had my husband’s sex addict eye for a brief period of time. I searched out her real name (because for some strange reason she uses an alias for her “floral artist” name). I found her with very little work on my part. I found loads of pictures of her wearing very revealing dresses, some while she was actually working at her flower cart. Her breasts are fairly well popping out of her frock. No wonder Blue Eyes frequented her cart. She looks like she stepped out of an old burlesque show and then, I do find pictures of her in skimpy corsets… she is/was a burlesque dancer. A very very voluptuous (as Blue Eyes likes to call big women) one. She has an old and very seductive MySpace page, and other websites. She is single. Everything I read about her is very risqué and flirty, which makes me wonder just exactly what her intentions were with Blue Eyes. We all know what his intentions were.
I realized I dodged a bullet. I will not be contacting the flower lady for anything. She will not be one of the privileged few to know Blue Eyes’ real story. She is definitely not safe. I am learning guys… slowly but surely I am learning to trust myself, trust my instincts, and protect my heart.