Monday, September 12, 2011

Sometimes You Get What You Pay For

My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary on Saturday.  Throughout the day, we spent some time reminiscing about what we were doing at that time a year ago.  "Ooh, right now I was getting my hair done" or "Right now we were running around like crazy people trying to get decorations up" or "It was ceremony time!" It was an emotional and fun look back at our special day, so I thought I'd share one of the more interesting stories almost no one knew about...

I was a VERY hands-on DIY bride (and let's face it... a total control freak), I had wanted as much as possible to be handmade. I was making most of the food, I had already hand-made every invitation and piece of wedding stationery, I was making my own flowers out of clay and I had collected every piece of glass for our centerpieces from multiple secondhand stores and rummage sales earlier that summer.  I had cut willow leaves for our "guest book" tree.  I had certain things in mind and wanted everything to come together in my "vision" from the beginning. 

Since I'm such a procrastinator, of course the few days before the wedding were filled with hectic decisions and I had to let a few things go.  We faced some major issues with my last-minute decision to hire a DJ.  We were already far over budget and neither of our families are big on dancing. To me, it was a silly way to spend money when we have things like iTunes, a laptop and a sound system.  After being continually badgered about it, I finally gave in and put an ad on craigslist to see if I got any bites. I wasn't paying much, but also was just looking for someone to basically hit the play button. Not rocket science by any means. The first reply I got was from a man who said he had professional experience but had been retired for a while now. He figured he would be able to manage hitting a couple buttons. I thought I had hit the jackpot!

He agreed to meet with me first and he picked a bar in a town just north of me. He never showed.  He called me later to say he had been waiting and I never showed.  Well, ok, so we just crossed some wires, right?  We chat some more and I ask how he is with technology and explain the laptop setup.  Seeing as he was communicating via email with me, one would assume he must know how to use a computer, right? We exchanged both emails and phone calls.  He seemed to ask the pertinent questions of me and I'm feeling good about the steal I got. When he asks whether I have a sound system or not, I say I might be able to get one but if he has one it would make things much easier since he should be familiar with his own equipment.  He says something about his equipment being in the basement, but he'd get it ready.

By this point, my time was valuable. My spare moments were spent making thousands of petals for my flowers, last minute panic at my dress being ready in time, food & favor prep and worrying about out of town guests.  I didn't have the time to be babysitting someone who should know what he was doing.  I start leaving confirmation messages about attire, start time, end time...all of the important details. I worried that I wasn't regularly hearing back from him, but again, I had more important things to worry about and in the end, if he wasn't there it wasn't going to be the end of the world to me.  I passed him off to my husband, thinking he could handle anything else that came up.

As the big day crept closer, Tom asked if I had talked to the guy about what to wear.  I told him yes, I had explained it was very formal.  After saying "Well, he's asking if he can show up in a tuxedo shirt", I said that was fine. I didn't care if he didn't wear a jacket as long as he was in a decent button shirt, so I had no issue with that. He was going to be a bit hidden in the background anyway. 
On our wedding day, my sister suddenly got a call in the afternoon saying Tom couldn't reach the DJ. What?!?!?! At this point, we had not arranged for the second set of sound equipment because Tom had already confirmed he was bringing his and that he would arrive at 4:30 for our ceremony which was supposed to start at 5:30.  It's now 3:30 and no DJ.  Now it's 4:00, 4:30, 5:00- no DJ.  I'm pretty sure the guy got a thousand phone calls before finally calling my husband back at 5:15.  Oops, he had gone fishing and had completely lost track of time and sorry, he wasn't going to make it for the ceremony.  Oh, and if we could just use our equipment it would probably be better because he has to dig for his.  What?!?!?! 

I had already had a few meltdowns earlier in the day and I wasn't going to get upset about this because we were so close to ceremony time. Big deal...we have no ceremony music. I don't love the idea, but at this point I don't exactly have a choice.  Onward.

When the DJ finally shows up, it's 7:20.  He was wearing a tuxedo shirt alright...a tuxedo T-SHIRT. A faded, 1982 black screen-printed tuxedo t-shirt.  Yeah.  And, he was drunk from his fishing adventures and could not figure out how to run the laptop.  He continued to get even more drunk during the reception, and groped my bridesmaid. Ah yes, you certainly do get what you pay for sometimes.  Lesson learned! 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Part V - The Rest of The Story

Sitting at the most ultimate of crossroads, I knew any decision I made was going to be life-altering. Where was I going to go?  Did I really want to do this? Was I capable of doing it? My friend had already offered for me to stay with her but I didn't want to impose.  I knew I was going to meet resistance and it was going to be the battle of a lifetime. But, I couldn't stand the thought of being unhappy anymore.

I started to formulate a plan. I quit my job at the bakery.  I couldn't deal with the pay if I was going to be on my own. I went to a temp service and got a job working in customer service and started quietly to squirrel money away. The days were filled with constant arguing.  I began to separate myself, so far as moving into the second bedroom in the apartment and it became obvious. And, the more time I spent with my new friends, the worse my treatment at home got.  Then the threats started... "I'm going to kill myself if you don't come home right now" was common.  Binge drinking followed by violent outbursts. Some days I'm not sure how the cops didn't get called by the neighbors.  

Finally, after a phone call of "I forbid you to be friends with these people. These are not the kind of people we hang out with" it was all I had to hear. I hung up and started to throw everything I could into a bag. I just needed to get out.  Forbidding me from hanging around someone? I don't think so!! I was infuriated.  I used every ounce of that anger as strength. As I packed what I could and loaded up my car, just as I was turning the key, all hell broke loose. Suddenly my car was getting hit and kicked. Screaming ensued. Short of things being thrown at me, the abuse had yet to escalate to real physical contact, but there is no doubt in my mind it would have that evening. Had I been outside, I knew that pounding would have gone to me. I sped away, tires squealing.

I didn't make it far before I broke down completely and had to stop. Tears streamed and I was mentally exhausted. I knew this was far from over and I was already wondering if I was going to regret what I had done. That manipulation started to turn my head screwy. My phone rang non-stop. I knew the odds of my ex showing up at my friend's house was a real possibility and I didn't know how to avoid that.  At this point, I had enough saved for cheap rent and a security deposit, but not much more.  But it wasn't going to happen overnight.  What I was I supposed to do RIGHT NOW? 

I called my friend.  I explained what was happening and the risk of me showing up and what may happen if I do.  She assures me the two strapping men in the house can take care of any problem that shows up on their doorstep.  I am still hesitant.  While she knows the stories I've shared, I haven't shared everything. She doesn't have a clue to what extent this manipulator is capable of pushing things.  I am scared to death.  When I get to her house, I am a wreck. But I am accepted with open arms and ushered inside. I was safe for the time being. 

I used them as my sounding board. What could I say to get out? More importantly, to STAY out?  I had tried hundreds of times in previous years and always got sucked back in. I couldn't just ignore the situation; it wasn't going to go away.  Tom assured me he was there for me and would do whatever he could to protect me.

By this point, Tom and I had become fast friends. He was my rock.  He helped me take the baby steps I knew I needed to take. We spent the next day looking at apartments and I put a deposit down on a tiny little place. I couldn't move in for another 2 days, but it was a completed baby step.  Ok, now on to the next baby step...a new phone. Check. Change email. Check. He kept me safe and comforted.

I started to feel a great sense of freedom, one I hadn't had in a long time. But when I would finish work, I was still always checking behind me in the parking lot. When I'd walk anywhere, I was always looking over my shoulder for the car to come up alongside me. It was a constant worry and I didn't like to be alone.  My ex hadn't yet showed up at their doorstep, but I knew it was coming.  When it finally did, it was disgusting.  The vile things said, the threats, the was awful.  Pure evil.  Threats that I must be on drugs were made privately to my employer and, years later, I would find out to lots of other people in my original circle of friends.  Since I wasn't there to defend myself, the lies stood uncontested. 

The subsequent months were filled with stress. We still had possessions which needed to be exchanged and at every attempt things would get all riled up again. I struggled and struggled and struggled some more, but finally all ties were broken.  My ex was still boiling in the background, getting angrier, but I stopped engaging it.  I didn't return calls, I stopped caring about the possessions still there, I just quit all contact.  I knew I still keep an eye out, but I was hoping by limiting our contact the boiling would eventually slow to a simmer. Eventually, that's what happened. With no knowledge of where I was living or my cell phone number or my new email, the contact finally stopped. 

I said before Tom is my rock, and it's true.  Without him, I don't even know where I would be today or what my life would be like.  What I do know is that I am crazy strong. I had no idea the strength I had in me, but I do now.  And, as a bonus, I found true love. Ultimate, real, actual fairy tale true love. this is what it's supposed to be like??

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Part IV - Divine Intervention or Sheer Chance?

No matter your beliefs, sometimes things so unexpected happen in life and chalking them up to pure coincidence or chance just isn't possible.  Though brought up as a Catholic, I cannot remember the last time I stepped foot in a church. While I had faith of some sort, I was unsure of what I had faith in. Why was I being put through the things I had been through? Beyond my current relationship, I had dealt with other significant hardships in my younger years which had scarred me badly. As a resilient and generally optimistic human being, I was able to push those things aside and function in life. But it didn't mean I was anywhere near happy.

When you're moving along a path in life and suddenly you are faced with that fork in the road, you know that no matter the choice, it's going to impact your life significantly.  Sometimes these choices are easy to make, but more often they are not. 

After leaving my friend's home that night, I faced the dreaded interaction at home.  The badgering "Where were you?" "Who were you with?" "What happened?” The spiteful anger. The "I don't think I like you hanging around those people" comments.  The thrown dishes, the slammed door.  The guilt-ridden sad aftermath of tears.  I was scared to death, but chose not to lie. I met my friend, a friend of hers, and picked out a kitten. Simple as that. When I got flak for bringing a kitten into the apartment, I mentioned I had a few weeks to think about it since they were too young to be re-homed yet.  

The next evening, home alone, I got a phone call.  Seeing my friend's phone number on the caller ID was a relief. In fact, any phone call that didn't come from the "dreaded cell phone" was a welcome one.  
Expecting to hear my work friend on the other end, I answered "Hi Amanda!” the response took a moment and I hear a quiet shy voice on the other end stammer "Hi, uh, actually this is Tom. You know, Amanda's friend, Tom?"  My shock was apparent. I couldn't get words out. I finally said, "Oh! Hi! Wow, I, uh, totally thought it was going to be Amanda." My mind was racing. A pure mixture of adrenaline, panic, terror and excitement welled up in me.  He said, "Well, I'm calling because...uh...I was hoping you might let me take you out to dinner."  More stunned silence on my end. I was processing, but not quickly enough. Did I want this? REALLY want it?  What if he turns out to be a freak, weirdo or another abusive jerk?  At work earlier, my friend had tried to feel me out for a reaction to Tom, but I kept it vague. I said he seemed nice.  In truth, I hadn't been able to stop thinking about him. Those eyes. That smile...While I knew there had been a connection between us, I honestly never really expected it to come to this. I was not a cheater, never would be, so I knew if I accepted this offer I needed to make plans and work quickly to get my life in order. 
After my long pause, Tom said, "It's ok, I know what you have going on and I totally respect it. If you want to wait, it's ok. I'll be here when you're ready".  I told him I needed to get some things in order, but I'd get a hold of him when I could. 

Was this the kick in the pants I needed to finally be happy? To get myself out of the black hole I had been sucked into?  My struggles had shaped me, my personality. Made me what I was then, and what I am today.  After that phone call, I vowed to start living in the present.  I had no idea just how I was going to do it, but I knew I had to. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Part III - Who *Really* Believes in Love at First Sight?

As young girls, we're brought up to believe whole-heartedly in love at first sight. We see the fairy tales in movies and in books, we hear how our Prince Charming is going to come one day and swoop in to take us away to this place of love and sparkly happy endings. 

But, is there really such a thing? Those women who say, "Oh, I KNEW the instant I first saw him! We were destined to be together!" are they crazy? Delusional? How is it possible to just look at someone and know?

At some point, those of us who have not found "The One" can begin to get a little bitter.  We look at those in happy relationships around us and can't help but compare.  Whether completely alone or in the wrong relationship, it doesn't matter. What matters is everyone around us is happy and we aren't. You begin to question whether you'd be happier alone.  You question the karma of the universe...what in the world you did to deserve this unhappiness?? 

Like most girls, I had "the list"... you know, the list of accomplishments you want in your life? We all have them somewhere, right?  Mine was actually written down in my journal, when I was a senior in high school. Whenever I'd look at that list, I felt like a big fat failure.  I was still fat- even fatter, in fact, I hadn't graduated college, I was in a failed unhappy relationship. I had a crappy job with crappy pay, I was still stuck in this crappy town I didn't want to be in. I was 23, it had been 5 years since I compiled this list and I had accomplished nothing.  By 23, I wanted to be happily married, in an established relationship. I wanted kids SO badly. I was nowhere near any of those goals.

Standing there at the entrance to my friend's house, I told myself- NO EXPECTATIONS. It wasn't worth getting all worked up for. As the door opened, I still had a tingle of excitement. I didn't really know anything about this guy, other than I knew he was interested to meet me. I didn't want to come across as desperate or needy (regardless of my situation, I was never either of those things) or trying too hard.  I just wanted to be me.  I was a fat girl and at this point I was at my highest weight ever. I knew that was a major deal-breaker for a lot of guys.  I was always the "she has such a pretty face"-girl. Those of you who have heard that before know exactly how those words make you feel.

I had never asked for a description of him. I reminded myself that I had no expectations. As my friend welcomed me into the house, I glanced over and saw a guy sitting on the couch across the room with his head down.  As my friend started to introduce me to him, his head shyly raised and he smiled. 

That was it.  I was done.  After that smile, I was never the same.  It was tough to pinpoint the feeling I was having. It was instant electricity. Static. Fuzzy. Warm. Inexplicable. My heart started beating a thousand miles a minute. I couldn't concentrate and could barely hear except for that loud bongo-beating my heart was making. After a nod and a "hi", his head went back down shyly.

Since I had no prior knowledge of his physical appearance, I couldn't stop glancing over at him as my friend and I chatted to see what I could gather from this obviously VERY shy guy. He had dark hair, long enough in the back that he had cute curls poking out from the back of his hat. He had nice broad shoulders. Under his big dorky wire frame/tortoiseshell glasses he had these intense, dark, coffee-colored eyes. He sat there in silence for a long time as we were playing with kittens before he finally got up to grab a kitten too.  He was standing next to me and all I could feel was heat. My friend tried to get him to talk and he was a little resistant, giving just a chuckle or an occasional word. Finally she jabbed him in the side and said she was going to switch the laundry, leaving us alone with the kittens. 

And that, folks, was the beginning.  When she left, I took charge of the conversation and asked direct questions.  I got direct answers.  He looked me in the eye and while I could tell the shy part of his personality was there, there was also a LOT more to this guy.  He cracked a joke and once my friend came back into the room, we were comfortable. 

I picked out my kitten, the cutest fluffiest one in the bunch and said I'd need a few weeks to get things figured out. 

Little did I know, I was going to have a LOT more to figure out in the coming days...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Part II, A Fat Girl and Her Cake

Picture it: Working at a bakery. In the middle of the summer. 1,000 degree ovens. Over 100 degrees in the building.  Work starts at 6am, hats and hair nets are mandatory. 8-10 hours of standing on your feet (weekends included), lifting heavy ass cakes, making frosting in enormous 75lb batches. Up to your elbows in cake crumbs and frosting.  But, delicious extra cake everywhere! Cake for breakfast, cake for lunch, cake for snacks, cake, cake, cake...Far from a dream job and one of the worst ideas ever for a fat chick, but as I mentioned it was the beginning of what I call the "real" start to my life. 

When I started in the bakery, one of my co-workers was just a year younger than me.  We didn't have a ton in common, but we commiserated over how terrible the job was and spent the days chatting and getting to know one another. 

By now, things in my life were just getting worse.  We had recently moved to a new apartment and were fighting all the time. I was miserable.  Work was an escape and that was what I focused on...escape of any kind. After getting acquainted a bit with my co-worker, she invited me over to her house because one of her cats had just had kittens and she was looking to get rid of some of them.  We already had two cats, but I was so mentally checked out from my relationship that all I ever thought about was getting out.  I didn't want or need a cat, but if it meant getting me out of the house, I was all for it.

From time to time, my co-worker had mentioned a friend of her and her husband's. I didn't know much about him, other than he hung around with them often and at the time was living with them. We had recently had a big storm and a tree had fallen on his house so he was staying with them until things were fixed. 

She knew I was really struggling and started telling him about me and filling me in on him. She said he knew about my situation but was excited to meet me and kept asking when I was going to come over.  I knew what this potentially meant for me.  I finally gave in and said I'd come over.

After a huge argument and eleventy-billion screaming phone calls from my controlling XBF,  I was already all worked up on my drive over there.  I was nervous, flustered and upset.  I took a deep breath and knocked on the door and tried to calm down.  After all, I was just there to look at cute little kittens, right?? 

Watch for Part III, coming soon. :)