November 26, 2017

you lucky, lucky girl
you have an apartment
just your size. a bathtub
full of tea, a heart the size of Arizona,
but not nearly
so arid.

“Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell” by Marty McConnell

On Thanksgiving weekend 2014, Eric and I began our move to Brooklyn so I could take a job at BuzzFeed. After a whirlwind holiday weekend spent acquiring a new mattress and picking out a couch and buying two armchairs and a trash can, he flew back to Houston. (He hadn’t found a job here yet, and would stay in Texas with Indiana and the bulk of our stuff until he accepted an offer in NYC, which turned out to be three months later.) That Sunday night, I sat in the bare apartment, with Chuck and basically no stuff, alone and a little scared and a little sad and very uncertain about what our future here would look like.

Three years later, I am sitting in the same apartment. The couch Eric and I picked out that Black Friday arrived a week or so later and is beautiful, as are the two armchairs; I hate the trash can but haven’t bothered to replace it yet. There is a plenty of stuff here now — lamps and pots and pans and blankets and rugs and a dining room table and all of my books. And I am here with Chuck, alone and a little scared and pretty sad and very uncertain about what my future here will look like.

I’m sure if you asked Eric, he’d use cliches to describe what happened. And I wish I could honestly say “we grew apart” or “we made the decision to separate.” But the truth is, my marriage collapsed under the weight of an impossible-to-untangle knot of toxic masculinity and untreated mental illness. That collapse — which began with zero warning in late August 2015, two weeks after a truly perfect trip to Vermont for my thirtieth birthday, and officially ended in mid-October of this year — was deeply traumatic and utterly, breathtakingly surreal. The decision to end our marriage was not a mutual one; I had no say in the matter.

I know better than to ask the Internet for privacy. But what I do hope you will give me is time. Because this is a story that I am just not ready to tell in full publicly. I’ve actually been going back and forth for a long time about whether or not to write this post; I really wanted to hold off on saying anything until I could just tell the entire story. But I realized that it could be a while before I’m ready to do that, and, well…it just seemed like saying something was probably a necessary thing I should do. Doing it like this isn’t my first choice, but, well…none of this is my first choice.

If you are wondering why I didn’t say anything publicly sooner, it’s because my priorities for the past two years were my marriage and my husband; I was concerned that writing about the situation — which was incredibly sensitive and also super personal — could make things worse. So I was waiting until there was some sort of resolution, and I truly, truly didn’t expect it to go on for as long as it did. (Or…to end this way.) That said, it hasn’t really been a secret. All of my IRL friends and a large number of my coworkers know, and most have known since Day 1. I ultimately decided to give the Internet the same amount of me that I gave my acquaintances/the coworkers I’m not close to: I stopped talking about my personal life entirely and just kept things professional. I didn’t lie about it, or even try that hard to keep it a secret; I assumed people knew something was going on and I didn’t really care if they found out. (Also, to everyone who was curious but chose not to “casually” mention Eric or push me to talk about this before I was ready to: thank you. Truly.) I didn’t feel great about not talking about it openly, but I was in survival mode, and Eric’s well-being and my marriage were my biggest priorities. And all of this *gestures around* — figuring out what to say and how to say it, and dealing with people’s judgment both of me/Eric/my marriage and of how I’m choosing to talk (and not talk) about what happened to me — is exhausting. I just didn’t have room for it. 

If the fact that I wasn’t forthcoming with you makes you feel some kind of way, know that I barely even kept my mom updated with everything that was going on. Thinking about all of the terrible things that happened hurts. Talking about it hurts. Writing about it hurts. (Everything…just…hurts?) I just didn’t want to talk about it. I still don’t.

And on that note…if you are reading this and want to be nice/supportive but don’t know what to say or are worried about shit being awkward, know that I will truly not be hurt or offended if you don’t say anything at all. (And TBH, it’s better to say nothing at all than to say “everything happens for a reason,” IMHO.) As I’ve written before, sometimes the kindest thing you can do for people who are grieving is just give them space. That said, I’m not made of glass and don’t want or need to be treated like I am. So, whatever — if you do want to say something and aren’t sure what to say, here are a few solid options: I’m so sorry. You didn’t deserve this. And, maybe the most important thing: I believe you. Or just send me a heart emoji! Like, whatever!!

As for how I’m doing, I’m…alive? Upright?? I no longer know how to accurately answer when people ask me how I’m doing. Is there an untranslatable German word that means, “I am fine but also my life/the world is falling apart, so I’m BAD, but I’m also like…functioning and here and…fine? I guess?” Because that is how I am. I am both OK and not OK. Like, I got promoted at my mid-year review and I published a book and I manage a team of incredibly wonderful people and I love my work. I have great friends and an amazing apartment and Chuck. But I am also incredibly angry and deeply confused and so hurt and so sad. Like…my husband abandoned me. I was gaslit in a pretty extreme way for two years. That takes a toll on you, fundamentally changes your worldview. Some days, I just feel utterly detached from reality. So the best answer I can give to “How are you?” is, I guess, “Here.” You know? Like, I don’t know what else to say. I’m just…here. This is where we are. This is where I live now.

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