This post is in response to a prompt from Kelly at *Weekly Anamnesis.* I wrote it before I had a blog and just saved it for when I did. I do not know why, but today seems like the right time to post it.
I like what she does at *Weekly Anamnesis.* I have other things written from her prompts and will share them eventually as well. If any of you are interested in them, she is not picky about the timing of responding to the prompt. Find one you like and go for it! It will be interesting if several people would use the same prompt and see how different their perspectives on a word are. There is one there already with two perspectives on the same event. Quite interesting.
The worst day of my life seems far away and, to be honest, irrelevant now. There are so many people who have had and will continue to have, much worse days than mine. But I guess mine was more than a little horrible at the time because it is still what comes to my mind when I think of “worst.”
My marriage was 3 years old. It was not the epitome of perfection, but overall I was happy and liked being married. (And whose marriage is the epitome of perfection?) My husband had a good job. I had a better job. We had lived in our first house just a year.
My husband was a bit of a restless sort. He had been without a mother since he was 9, and was somehow always seeking a way to fill up the void she left. At the time I did not really know this. He hid himself from me. He made himself exactly what he thought I wanted and was good at it. He looked a little like Jon Bon Jovi (with long hair), and more than one of my friends envied me for “catching” him. Anyway, he drove around a lot visiting his friends and his mother’s family. Since I liked quiet, this did not really bother me. I had no issues with being at home alone sometimes. (In retrospect, it was a LOT of the time). I did have issues with the amount of money he spent while out, on things that were not tangible, and the amount of gas he consumed when our gas credit card bill came.
He worked a lot, too. He would leave for work sometimes at 4 a.m. and stay until 5, 6 or 7 p.m. I did not think much about this. I thought it was part of the restlessness.
Then something seemed wrong. He had a friend at work that seemed to consume too much of his time and conversation. Her name was Chelsea (not her real name). He would tell me about how tough her life was, but I could see that every shred of “tough” was her own doing. At first I did not mind the friendship, but after a few months, it just seemed out of hand. I started asking questions about it. He seemed different. I finally blatantly asked if he was having an affair with Chelsea. He wasn’t. I felt horrible for thinking the worst.
A month later, January 18, he went to work extra early—long before I had to get up (5 a.m.) for my own job. When I got up I found his wallet still in our room. I was concerned because I knew he needed cash that day for something specific. (I can’t remember what it was now.) I checked to see if maybe he had taken the cash out. Instead I found a note from Chelsea remembering a sexual encounter.
That was the worst day of my life. Up to that point at least. How can anyone put into words the utter betrayal one feels at such a time? There are no words. There is only shock. A little anger. But mostly shock.
I called him at work. There was no answer. That was not unusual for he was a manager at a manufacturing facility and might not hear the phone. It was 5 a.m. No one was there to answer it in the office. I called his cell phone. He answered. I asked him if needed his wallet. He was silent for just a moment longer than he should have been, then he said he would be right there to get it. I told him what I had found. At that statement he was silent the appropriate amount of time. Then he told me he was so sorry and how much he loved me and it only happened once. On and on. I believed him. (I would later learn that he had been at Chelsea’s house when I made that phone call.)
Here is the crazy part. I am an unbelievably intuitive person. Most people and situations I can read quickly and accurately. But the closer it is to me, the more I second-guess my instincts and give the potentially erring party the benefit of the doubt. Although I am so good at figuring out people and situations, I never trust my instincts when it comes to myself or other extremely close people. But in the end, in such situations, I have never been wrong. (Except that it is worse than I have suspected.)
So I believed him, but still felt betrayed. But being an honest and faithful type myself, I was willing to move on and put it behind us.
We went on for a month. He went to work early and still drove around a lot, but he did check in more frequently. I still felt uneasy, but beat myself up for not trusting him.
February 13 came, and I was picking up laundry out of his closet. I found a receipt for a Valentine’s gift. My heart froze a little, but I talked myself out of that saying it was of course a gift for me.
Valentine’s Day came. We went out to dinner early because he had to go back to work for some crisis. I got a gift. (Some very nice perfume, actually, but I cannot remember the name of it.) He dropped me off at home and went to work. The gift for which I had seen the receipt had not appeared. So I did something I never imagined I would do. I went to his closet and went through it, searching for clues to my suspicions.
That was the worst. day. of. my life. I found receipts for all kinds of things—including TWO bottles of the perfume I had gotten. Yes, Chelsea got a bottle, too. I found cards and notes that had the most appalling, explicitly sexual writing I had ever seen.
Nausea overcame me. I had to stop. I had to bend over and wretch, even though nothing came out. I had to walk away. Every few steps I had to stop and gag. I know that kind of thing happens all the time to people all over the world, but I never felt more alone in my life. I had a loving family I could turn to, but I did not want to slander my husband to them. I fully assumed we would work this out, and I did not want all my friends and family to hate him or never be able to see him the same way again.
The control I exercised was amazing. I saved all the evidence, but the closet looked normal after I had finished. I did not say anything when he got home. I did not say anything the next day. Somehow I knew that if I did not have control, I would never be able to get another clue. By waiting I found other evidence. It was all the same type—mostly incredibly sordid love notes from Chelsea. But had I thrown it all in his face immediately, he would have cleaned out his car, his closet, his office, everything. As it was, I found more stuff than even made sense. It still amazes me that he was not wise enough to get rid of the evidence—any of it!
A few days later I confronted him. He tried to lie again, but I put the evidence in front of him. He was astounded. The apologies poured forth as a cold, blue Missouri spring, bubbling up to cover everything near it with water. I was a stone. He said would end it now. I did not believe him. I had never believed him, but had talked myself out of my intuition. This time I was finished with the concessions.
The next 6 weeks were the worst of my life. The nausea was ever-present. I could not eat more than enough to sustain myself. I lost 30 pounds in those 6 weeks. I moved in with my parents to allow him time to “get his head straight.” He didn’t. I moved back in and kicked him out after I learned that instead of getting his head straight, Chelsea (also married, by the way) had been sleeping in MY house in MY bed. When I made him leave my house, he moved in with her.
Long story short, he never got his head straight until more than a year later when I sent him the divorce papers. Of course by this time I was long gone. Not with anyone else, but with no love left for him. He had killed every shred of it.
Why I cried a little in court when the judge granted my divorce still baffles me. Truthfully I did not love him anymore, but there was still a loss. The loss of a dream. The loss of a future. What I did not know was that the worst days and weeks of my life would leave me in a place to find the best part of my life—my husband now, Prince Charming.
I was happy with my first husband, but I am not an unhappy type of person. I guess I did not know that there was something better out there. I was content AND happy. But now I realize that I did not even understand the tip of the iceberg about happiness. Sometimes I wonder if it is the same now—if I just am happy and do not realize that it could be even better. But it can’t. How could it? And it doesn’t matter anyway. This time my husband loves me more than I can understand. He showed me the REAL him from the first day I met him. He is not going anywhere. And the worst time of my life was a blessing in disguise. It was, to use a Mary Oliver reference, like shedding my skin for something so much more fantastic than I could have ever imagined.
By Louise Cannon