Here it is New Year’s Day. I’m flying my daughter half way home for the holiday, and instead of feeling immense joy for the absolutely AMAZING New Year’s Eve memory the two of us will cherish for the rest of our lives, I am plagued by a colossal weight of pain and sadness.
I can’t seem to get out of my head.
At the moment I feel as if I am wallowing in my own agony and I have this image of our Labrador Retriever standing outside soaked in the pouring rain, tail between his legs, ears flat against his head, and his eyes giving the saddest, most forlorn look anyone has ever seen. Our well-trained dog does not bark, doesn’t even whine. That’s all good, except he would stand there for hours until someone noticed him, instead of trying find a way to get our attention.
I guess this is a reminder for me to “speak up” and take care of my needs with my recovery community.
I’m so tired of feeling loss and pain.
I’m tired of allowing my hopes to rise only to have them get smashed to pieces yet once again.
I wish I could be like the knights my daughter and I watched at Medieval Times last night and battle my negative emotions to their death.
I know the truth though.
I can’t feel joy without feeling pain.
The negative emotions are as important as my positive ones. Learning to manage them is essential.
I can’t bottle the discomfort, bury it in the sand, and hope that by doing so I will never feel that pain again. I only end up burying my happy feelings too.
I can’t let negative emotions overwhelm me, sucking me into the undertow, allowing wave after wave to pulverize me.
I need to acknowledge my loss. I need to acknowledge my pain. I need to grieve.
It’s so hard to do this when the Knight of Shame is standing there ready to also take me down. I hear his battle call and try not to engage.
It’s tough, because deep down, I know 2018 brings me so much to be grateful for. I have no reason to be feeling this amount of sadness.
I should be celebrating life.
Oh, to “should” oneself is to shit on oneself.
The Knight of Shame chastises me for getting stuck in sorrow.
Like quicksand, I feel as if I’m sinking and don’t have the strength to fight back.
The knights of all my negative emotions surround me, and I don’t feel as if I have the strength to continue fighting them. Sometimes, it just feels easier to give up. I have fought so hard for so long.
This was my New Year’s Eve struggle. This is where I’m at as I start 2019.
I went from the most incredible high I’ve experienced in the past four years to once again getting knocked down, feeling immobilized and stuck.
I guess its time to bring my Fledglings up to date.
Then End and A Beginning
I ended my current job of 18 years with a BANG!
I could not have wished for a better crew to spend my last four-day trip with. I was blessed to have all three overnights end up in my home town, to have my sister-in-law and her husband open the door to myself and my crew for Thanksgiving, and to have my youngest daughter join me at the hotel for two of the nights.
What stood out the most for me was that my wife also joined with the celebration. Not only was she working 10 hour shifts with a rotating schedule (so extremely bad for circadian rhythm), she sacrificed much sleep to join us briefly on Thanksgiving and my final night with my airline crew.
I was blessed that I got to see her for our fifteenth anniversary. I know we have planned to finalize our divorce next year, but my inner child longed to spend one last anniversary with her. One last time to express the gratitude and love I have that she is my wife and the mother of our children.
God granted me that one wish.
Speaking of granting wishes, I was also granted the wish of moving on to a major carrier in December. My wife and I thought I would have achieved this step around 2004, but due to circumstances beyond our control, (September 11th, airline bankruptcies, the economic downturn in 2009) our dreams were placed on hold.
It’s interesting now to realize that the Knight of Shame has attacked me at every step of my career.
All I wanted to do was to provide for my family. Not only was I unable to provide for them financially (we had to live at Grandma’s house for many years just to make ends meet), I was always gone physically and emotionally from them.
I held onto a ton of shame and resentment toward my career that I was unable to be the husband, father, and provider that I wanted to be.
Wow! So much pressure I put upon myself over these years!
That resonates deep down to my core.
My new airline offered a welcome dinner, which included bringing a spouse or guest. I had a choice. I could take my wife with me, I could go on my own, or I could invite someone else to join me on my new adventure.
I can’t tell you the number of friends who warned me not to take my wife. “Phoenix, why take the woman who is going to divorce you? Take someone else, take anyone else. Take me. Or go on our own. Just don’t allow yourself to once again get your hopes up! We don’t want to see you get hurt again. Start your new career and your new life with a clean slate!”
It was Rafiki who helped me with my final decision.
“Phoenix, I understand your dilemma. You made a promise to your wife and you don’t want to break that promise. There’s nothing wrong with you changing your mind and declining the invite. You are taking care of you.
“As well, there’s nothing wrong with deciding to take your wife with you. You show integrity and love keeping that promise. Not only do you hold true to your word, which has been very important to you, but your wife has been with you since the start of your career. She has been excited and also looking forward to this event. It is understandable and acceptable to want her to celebrate the next step in your journey.
“My advice is that if you do decide to bring her, you must not forget what her wishes are. She does not want a relationship with you. She still wants a divorce. You need to maintain boundaries and not get your hopes up.
“Her being there with you does not mean she’s willing to be in a relationship with you. She is supporting you and celebrating your successes as your friend.”
I told myself what I always tell myself, “I can hold boundaries.”
Ok, let me rephrase that.
I held physical boundaries. I did not pursue or push myself upon her. I did not do what I used to do in my addiction and early recovery using guilt, shame, emotion, or any other manipulative technique I could manage to evoke some kind of response to gain validation in her eyes.
I enjoyed her company.
I soaked up the heat from her radiant beauty.
I felt pride surge through me as I introduced her to the 25 other new hires and watched her tactfully make herself comfortable around the other wives and my new Family of coworkers.
I allowed her to take control when they talked about benefits and leaned into her sharp auditory skills to remember what was being said the first day of class, while I annoyed her with my obsessive typing to try to keep a written record of the entire discussion during the day.
I was grateful my wife was there by my side.
I know I would have been ok had I gone on my own. And yet, I also know, had I chosen that option, part of the night and first day I would have been plagued wishing she was there.
Her presence made my transition so much more special to me!
I was more grounded than I had been in a long time. I was happy.
I was extremely grateful.
When it was time for her to leave, I didn’t get the proper chance to say goodbye. I was in the middle of class and she had to jump on a van to the airport to catch her flight.
And yet, class let out a little early that day. I had just enough time to spend another 20 minutes with her at the airport, so I rushed over so I could say goodbye to her one more time.
As her airplane pulled away from the gate, I felt an old sensation in my body, an old painful emotion sneak up on me.
I felt the sadness I would feel as my step-sister would leave to fly back home after spending the weekend with us. I remember her smiling PSA airplane mocking me because I was not smiling. I felt loss.
As a kid, those were some of the most painful times. Eight years ago, I did EMDR on that one experience.
I’m now flashing back on how excited I would be that my sister was with us. So much so that I would come across as a needy and annoying younger brother. I realize how much blame I shouldered believing I was the reason she stopped coming to visit.
No wonder all I’ve wanted was my definition of “family”; Mom, Dad, and the kids. The only time I truly felt my family was connected was when my sister was there.
In fact, looking at timelines, it wasn’t until I was in High School that my parents put more energy into the three of us instead of waiting to do things as a family of four; a couple of years after she stopped visiting.
Even my adoption by my step-father felt more like a convenience rather than something that was given from the heart. I remember my parents explaining that if something happened to my mother, I’d end up in a foster home since they had no idea where my biological father had gone.
I remember my mom saying that the timing was right because when my father disappeared was the same time as when my step-sister pulled away from her dad. My step-father and I needed one another.
And yet, the legal adoption did not fill the void and rejection of Daddy leaving me. That has been a hole I’ve been trying to fill for decades.
By the time my parents started investing into me, the damage had already been done.
I watched my wife leave, both feeling sadness and joy at the same time. Sadness that she was leaving and yet such an enormous amount of joy and tenderness for her as well.
Nineteen years later and I still can say, I truly do love her.
For the fifth time in our fifteen years of marriage we took a trip with just the two of us. Something I really wish we could have done more often.
It was a magical.
It was unexpected.
It was a memorable three days.
Speaking of Magical and Unexpected…
After my wife left, it was time for me to get focused. Time to HIT THE BOOKS!
I had three weeks to prepare for an oral exam. Three weeks may seem like a lot, but learning a new airplane with new procedures, there’s a wealth of information I needed to get lodged into my brain.
Eight hours a day of classroom work followed by another six to eight hours of studying and with my batteries recharged, nothing was going to stop me.
You see, most of us pilots are Type A personalities. You can tell us, “don’t worry, you’ll get this.” And yet, we won’t feel comfortable until we know everything down to the tiniest detail.
Second day of class that something unexpected happened. I received a text.
Being the nerd I am, I was on my computer. A text would come in and my response would immediately go out. My biggest complaint in my marriage had been the lack of connection I had when I was gone. To not respond, would only make me a hypocrite.
Really, that’s my excuse to make sure I answer every text. I was ecstatic my wife was connecting with me and I longed for more.
I’d end up sharing something I was learning or some fun tidbit about our airline. My wife would reach back and talk about her day.
Christmas was coming up and I had planned to go home on my few days off. Planning for the holidays and what to do with the girls kept the texts coming.
My wife and daughters were also following their Christmas traditions of seeing the Christmas lights, going ornament shopping, etc… Through pictures and texts, I felt as if I was with them.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on perspective, my wife was working graveyard shifts for the two weeks right before Christmas. While it was a terrible schedule for her, it allowed us the opportunity to connect when I was studying into the wee hours of the night. We Face Timed, she called me, and we continued texting to one another.
For the first time in years I was able to wish her goodnight and great her in the morning with a response in return; something I have forever longed for. I believe many people take for granted the ability to wake up every morning with their spouse. Sleeping alone in a hotel has been one of the hardest parts of my career.
I had written a piece titled Bids for Connection last July in response to a Facebook post my good friend, Solomon, shared. This is what I longed for when I was gone away from home. I craved connection with my wife.
It felt as if we were connecting on an emotional level we that we hadn’t done in many years. Both our barriers were down and we enjoyed each other’s companionship.
On top of that, I no longer felt the Knights of Jealousy or Resentment attempting to destroy my Knights of Joy and Happiness.
I was grateful my wife and my daughters were doing things together. It brought me much pleasure to see them embracing the Christmas spirit. I may not have been there, but I felt as if I was sharing it with them. I was part of their experience, no longer tainting it with my own demons of insecurity and envy.
The connection we had spurred me to be more successful in my studies. I was motivated, focused, and a wee bit stressed (I mean I wanted to do well). I was determined to succeed.
My wife gave hints about how long it would take to drive to work from “her” house compared to my house. We were reminiscing about the good in our past. She even had brought up how well I had done researching her wedding ring, not realizing that a couple of weeks earlier I had done a Wed Share Day post on that very topic.
Soon it was time to take my oral exam.
The instructors were correct. The previous class was correct. Everyone was correct.
The oral was a breeze. Nothing to be worried about.
Much of that was due to the amount of effort I had put into it.
I’ll Be Home for Christmas
With a big part of training behind me, successfully completed phase one, and having the ability to leave early, I quickly sped to the airport and was soon heading home. I felt so much anticipation, excitement, and joy about what the next three days were going to bring.
I am so grateful for my youngest daughter when I arrived at my wife’s place.
We had planned, for a Christmas present to my wife, to go “all hands-on-deck” and clean the house for Christmas. Doing four, 12-hour graveyard shifts two weeks in a row, along with the craziness of last-minute Christmas preparations (and swapping of body clocks), my wife had fallen behind with household errands. Also, those of us who have teens, know how tough it is to motivate them to help out.
My youngest daughter and I cranked the music and busted our asses off to make sure the house was clean and all the laundry was done before Mom came home. That would allow us all to enjoy the holidays without the stress of worrying about the chores that still needed to be done.
It was a valiant effort and somehow, we managed to pull it off. My daughter stayed awake with me until 3 in the morning when we finally completed our tasks.
We had an absolutely amazing Christmas.
My wife and I ran last minute Christmas shopping. This has always been her biggest wish – not doing the Christmas shopping on her own. Unfortunately, with my career, this has always fallen on her shoulders and I never have really made it a priority to be attentive to that need.
The two of us were able to bust out some errands that needed to be done: build a bed frame for my oldest daughter, put a new door handle on my youngest daughter’s bedroom door, and fix my youngest daughter’s Cole Sprouse cardboard cutout (something she’s been wanting us to do for months).
The girls all decided to once again go look at the Christmas lights, this time with Dad. We wrapped presents, watched movies, made and devoured cookies, and had meals together. We even had my wife’s male friend over on Christmas day.
I have come so far in my recovery and growth. Never once, in the couple of hours he was with us, did I dance with my tiger. There was no tiger in the room. Two years ago, I never could have imagined that there would be a day where I would say I enjoyed both his company and my wife’s company in the same room.
I had come home.
The wish that I have held onto all these years had come true.
Or so I had thought…
My wife and I went for a walk Christmas day. It was such a beautiful day.
The sun was shining. It was warm. Our dog was prancing, content to finally get out of the house. It was just the two of us. And people were so approachable. It seemed as if everyone we met were in good spirits.
It matched what I was feeling inside.
We talked. This has been the one reason why I’ve held on so hard all these years. It’s the ability for the two of us to be vulnerable with one another.
“I’ve always held people at an arm’s length, not letting them truly know me. You, on the other hand, I don’t have a problem allowing myself to be known to. Yet you allow everyone to know you. You have a lot of people to turn to. People who trust you.”
“Don’t compare yourself to me. You’re an introvert. That is who you are. Embrace that and don’t try to be someone you aren’t. For years, I tried to make you be like me, not appreciating you for who you truly are. You don’t need to surround yourself with a lot of friends. Just keep a select few.”
“I really don’t have many I can turn to.”
“You will when you allow yourself to. I love having you by my side because I love watching how you interact with others. You’re an excellent listener and quick to keep a conversation going. You don’t realize how much you shine when you allow yourself to let your guard down. You don’t realize how much you are truly loved by others.”
We talked about many different topics. We even talked about our relationship patterns, something our counselor was trying to figure out over three years ago. It’s what I’ve observed, but not talked about. I try as much as I can not to discuss our relationship or what I have learned about our patterns with her. That usually ends up coming across as me trying to “fix” us.
I have learned to listen and when to interject my thoughts.
I felt more love grow in my heart for her as she not only allowed herself to be known, but listened to me with interest.
Being that vulnerable allowed my wife to talk about what was on her mind. She acknowledged that there’s still a lot of unfinished work she needs to do on herself. That she needs to rip off the scabs and deal with the pain that she’s been unwilling to deal with from our past.
My wife explained how her body still gets triggered. Christmas Eve I startled my wife with my unexpected touch and another time, when she desired a hug, she broke it off explaining that her body felt “sad” and she just wanted to cry.
I have listened to a few podcasts about PTSD in partners of sex addicts this past week to continue to understand and have empathy for my wife. A couple of quotes resonated with me were:
- “What happens in the mind of man, is always reflected in the disease of the body. The body does keep score.”
- “The body remembers what the mind forgets.”
This was what she was trying to tell me. Her body has never forgotten. Her body is still keeping score.
I understand her struggle. I have similar trauma reactions that occur in my body. And it pains me that she still has those reactions due to what I did.
Then the blow came.
“Phoenix, I do love you. And I really wanted to tell you today that my Christmas gift to you was me. I know that it is what you want. I still feel pain in my body with your touch. I don’t know if it’s you or me, but I don’t want to live like that forever. I have work that I still need to do. I can’t give you what it is you want.”
My wife was not aware of the significance of the Phoenix. I believe, in many ways, she has seen the Phoenix in terms of recovery from my addiction, not the deep truth behind it. I explained that the Phoenix symbolized my struggle with our pending divorce, me moving out of the house, and representing that through pain there’s growth and that through pain there’s something beautiful on the other side.
My wife mumbles, “Maybe I need to see the divorce through to find the beauty on the other side.”
The breath is knocked out of me. For one fleeting moment, I resent the symbolism.
The next morning, as my wife drove me to the bus, she explains through tears, “I used to think you didn’t love me. I now know that you do. I love you too. I’m just unable to give you want it is you want.”
I walk into my hotel room later that day and I’m bombarded with all the pictures I had printed out only a week before. I had put over 30 on my walls for decorations, half were of her, the other half our girls. The memories that had brought me immense joy when I left to go home for Christmas four days earlier now became a reminder that I once again deluded myself into believing that things would be different this time around.
I curl up on my bed in the fetal position, trying to find comfort in the mist of my pain. A pattern I have continued to recreate for over four years.
I try hard not to despise my career. It is my passion and what I love.
I try hard to find strength. But I find weakness in the prison of a hotel room.
Once again, the Knight of Resentment beats me over my career choice.
The Knights of Shame, Sadness, and Despair stand in line for their shot at the action.
New Year’s Eve
Here it is, New Year’s Eve, and for the fourth year in a row, I was not bringing in the new year in with my wife. Due to my career and my year in After Care for my recovery, I have missed numerous New Year’s Eve celebrations with her.
That’s hard for me because I met my wife 19 years ago…on New Year’s Eve.
In High School, I couldn’t wait for 1999, not just because of Prince’s song, but because I believed something BIG was going to happen. And yet, that night I was supposed to fly a 9pm bank run because businesses feared the computers would shut down with the roll over date. The Y2K Bug Scare.
That flight was canceled and I had no plans. With only an hour before the New Year, I showed up at a friend’s house. Not the BIG event I had envisioned in the 80’s, and yet something BIG did happen.
I met my wife that night.
We went out on a date a week or so later and I fell in love with her from the start. We had the ability to talk to one another that very first night, just like we did Christmas day. She has claims we had gotten together when she was too young, before she had a chance to really date and see what other options were out there.
That may be true for her, but I had been around the block a few times. I knew from the very start that she was the one I wanted to be with. She was the one I wanted to be the mother of my children. She was the one I was going to marry.
Maybe that has been why it’s been so hard for me to accept and let go. Because, for whatever reason, I had an instant bond with this woman. The desire to protect, defend, provide, care and love her has been present ever since the beginning.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the emotional maturity, the practical skills, nor the inner self-confidence and self-love needed to follow through with my desires.
I let the Knights of Insecurity, Shame, Jealousy, Anger, Resentment, and Fear dictate my actions.
The only Knight that I had learned to lean on to protect me was the Knight of my Addiction. He served me well as a teen, but destroyed me and the woman I loved as an adult.
I would do anything to work with my wife as she heals from the trauma I caused. I’m at a point in my life where I believe I finally have the patience to give her the space she needs when she needs it and yet be there when she requests my presence.
But that is not what she wants.
In a way, just like her friends, she only allows me to get within an arm’s length.
That is our pattern.
- She allows herself to become vulnerable to me. Not vulnerable in the sense of being known, for she lets herself be known to me. But emotionally letting her guard down and opening all of herself to me.
- When those walls come down, she finds the need to quickly protect herself by putting them back up.
- I retreat.
- She feels the abandonment.
- She reaches back out to me
- I come running back to her.
- It takes her a while to allow herself to be that vulnerable with me again. I am patient.
- Eventually, the pattern repeats.
I had three days off around New Year’s Eve. I decided not to come home and planned to stay in my hotel studying during that time.
My wife suggested that my youngest daughter fly out to spend a couple of days with me so the two of us could celebrate New Year’s together. That would give my daughter a much-needed break from her sister, allow for some father/daughter bonding time, and give my wife some needed alone time and time to connect with her friends.
In addition, I wouldn’t be alone for New Years.
Her love and thoughtfulness meant the world to me.
My daughter and I had such a wonderful time together. It was her first time traveling on an airplane by herself.
We will never forget our day and our spectacular night. I felt honored and privileged to have my daughter with me.
Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to my daughter, I fought my evil Knights all day.
I struggled not to be pulled down into an abyss of pain. I tried hard to stay present for my daughter. I truly was enjoying our day and evening together and yet, the loss I kept experiencing in my physical body kept my depressive state just under the surface.
It’s how I understand what my wife means when she tells me her body feels “sad”. My body ached in despair.
It also didn’t help that my youngest daughter wanted to listen to country music. Country music always brings my wife to my mind. Prior to Christmas, when I would hear country songs, warmth flooded my body. New Year’s Eve, country music caused the tears to flow.
As everyone counted down the New Year the only thought I could think of was that 2019 will be the year I will finalize my divorce.
I had allowed all my defenses and guards to come down once again.
I had allowed myself to hope.
I had ignored the advice of my friends.
I headed my own intuition.
I had come home.
Home was only an illusion.
I allowed our patterns to continue.
Not only did I allow them to continue, I contributed to them as well.
I don’t want a divorce!!
Happy New Year; the year I become single.