I think the thing I always attempt to do when in the middle of a crisis is assess the situation as objectively as possible. After the initial shock dies down, I tend to sitrep the events in my head (and sometimes on paper) to start looking at the “truths” of a situation at any given moment.
Not the emotions. Just the facts:
- I was now living in my house alone, (save for the tenants).
- I was physically, (but not legally) separated from my husband.
- I was working a steady freelance gig that paid my rate.
- I had new tenants.
- I had to wash the dishes.
- I had to get the clothes out of the dryer.
- I had just fed the cats.
But how did I get here?
One night I was sitting on my couch, (which was basically my new base of operations) drinking yet another glass of red wine and I thought back to November. Back to the moment that I realized that something had to give.
After my new tenants had signed the lease, they luckily waited until late December to move in, so that we I could finish the reno of the apartment.
My last tenants had stayed in my house for 6 years. There wasn’t any major damage, just some normal wear and tear and a plumbing problem that I needed the space empty to deal with. My contractor was a blessing. I’ve known him forever, and he did all the reno on the brownstone after I’d first bought it, and well…fired his two predecessors. You see, sometimes men see a young female owning her own home and think that she can be taken advantage of. He was the only one who treated me like the well-paying customer that I was, and I, in turn, paid on-time and never bounced a single check on him.
I believe in treating people fairly, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, tipping well, and giving unwarranted compliments. I don’t know, it’s just how my mama raised me and I guess I’ve been sort of paying it forward. Because this man saw the plumbing work and the amount of painting that I had to do and quietly set to work. I told him I was low on cash, but if he could at least take care of the leaky bathroom tub and I’d somehow handle the rest myself. At the time my husband and I were still together, but he was conspicuously absent. He must have sensed this, because when I came home from work one day, he’d finished fixing the bathroom and one of his men was painting it and the kitchen.
I panicked, because I really only had enough money for the bathroom.
When I called him he simply told me that he knew I was “good for it” and that he’d bill me the following month and to pay him “whenever”.
I love that man, I swear.
My husband was nowhere to be found.
He was working on a new show which he said was taking up all of his time and didn’t I understand that he was exhausted when he got home and no it wasn’t paying anything but it was an Equity production and that meant a bunch of press and didn’t I get that? Too exhausted to argue, I agreed. And I set out to prime and paint the entire top floor of my brownstone by myself.
I remember getting up early in the morning before work to paint the apartment and then coming home at about 7 or 8 and scarfing down a sandwich or cereal only to run upstairs and do it again until 9 or 10pm.
I remember one night, it had to be about midnight that the roller I was using just stopped working. I tried yanking it off to replace it, but it just wouldn’t come undone.
And then of course, it did.
I splattered paint everywhere, all over me, the wall and of course the one part of the floor that didn’t have the drop cloth over it. I remember my hands shaking as I wiped up the mess from the floor, just trying to get it together before it all dried. But the more I tried to rub at it with my damp cloth, the more I tried to fix the giant mess around me the worse it got.
The irony (for once) was not lost on me.
I just sat down in the mess and wailed like a child lost at the mall. The only thing running through my head was…
You’ve failed. You can’t fix this. This marriage, your career, your health, your weight, children, all of it. You’re done.
I bawled and bawled until I was an exhausted, paint-covered mess. It was an ugly cry because I think I was facing all the things that I did not want to accept.
How is this my life?
My nose ran so much I thought it was bleeding. And as I swiped the back of my hand across my nose in an effort to clean it up, I only succeeded in smearing more paint across it. Which, for some reason, seemed incredibly funny at the time. Next thing you know, I’m rolling around a paint covered floor, crying and laughing hysterically, absently wondering if the neighbors behind the house can see me all the way up on the third floor losing my mind at 1 in the morning on a Thursday.
As I set about cleaning up the mess, I thought about how for months, instead of forcing the issue with my husband, I had been just quietly trying to “fix” everything. He said he needed space, so I gave it to him, he said he needed help paying some medical bills, so I paid them, he wanted me to help him with his own project, so I helped. (Even though it was not making us any money, nor helping me with my career any). He needed help recording an audition, I’d stop whatever I was doing and help him…for hours.
Then stay up late to finish my own work.
He complained that I worked too much, so I stopped going to social events, and other work-related things and came home trying desperately to figure out how to pay all of the bills, (guru, ODesk, anything), he said he was depressed, I sent him to a therapist. Every new problem that he brought up I tried to fix with as much efficiency and as little complaining as possible.
Because this is what I thought good wives did.
I was wrong. I was trying too hard to be patient and loving and kind, (and occassionally sarcastic) instead of basically telling him to grow a set, and deal with his own problems. Or at least to meet me halfway.
Instead the pressure was making everything slowly erode around me. Falling apart slowly at first, and then much more quickly. We were living like roommates, the last vacation we took was our honeymoon, he was hardly around and when he was, he was cranky or sullen, and giving off an energy that I just didn’t want to be around. Sex? What sex? I realized that (very messy) night, two very important things.
One, the demise of my marriage was picking up speed and Two…
I was powerless to stop it by myself.
That night, as I showered and scrubbed paint from places it had no business being, I made some priorities:
- My health and well-being and happiness were just as important as his.
- Unless a task had to do with food, cleaning, tenants or making money, I was not.going.to.do.it.
- Our marriage needed help, but I had proven incapable of fixing it on my own, so I would talk to him about going to couples’ counseling, so we could set about the task of fixing it together.
- It was quite possible that he might reject the counseling idea, and even our entire marriage at this point and I might lose my last (healthy) chance at becoming a mother (biologically).
So be it.
By the time I was all cleaned up, my fingers were all wrinkly, my hair looked like the cats had slept in it and I was shivering like heroin addict without a fix, but you know what?
I felt better.
Jump forward some 30 odd days later, tenants all settled in (they loved the paint job btw), I was home from work and I was sitting in my house alone, (well, with the cats), wondering if I’d made the right choice.