On Friday afternoon I took my usual afternoon nap so that I could make it past eight o’clock still a member of the adult community. I napped on a couch in my lovely living room, facing the large sliding glass doors that are always open except when I go to sleep or when I’m not at home. When I woke the sky was in shades of gray; I tried not to think, but just to feel the coolness and the calm. When I finally got up I put on, for the first time in a few seasons, my light, at-home sweater that I bought years ago at a street market in Tel Aviv with a friend. The September chill felt more comforting than the heat of the summer. While I lay there my mind was focused on the now. It was a lovely interlude from the preoccupations of a wake and expressive self. It was a lovely interlude from the intensity of the first week of school and having to deal with exman and his stringent demand to adhere to the letter of the custody agreement that we drew up three years ago.
In a phone conversation later my mother told me that I shouldn’t think about how I had a lawyer who let me negotiate from a point a weakness and not a point of strength, but that was after we once more picked apart how utterly petty and evil my ex-husband is. It’s not that he really wants my younger daughter there, no. He even said to me in one of the fourteen calls that he made to me in the course of two hours the other night, and which he recorded, that he thinks I want her to stay with me more than is written in the agreement because I want to get more money from him. This is a man who has not paid a penny of child support since we moved out of the house in June. This is a man who ignored this wonderful girl for years while he tried to infiltrate the mind of my older daughter, until she went across the country to get away from him. This is a man who uses and manipulates.
The mantra that a friend told me I should recite to myself is “you’re out of there,” and that is good. I cannot tell you how at peace and happy I am in my apartment. And even the new school year and teaching a grade that I never taught before and needing to create all new lesson plans and teaching four different classes at religious school are all exciting and invigorating. So I know what feeling good is like. But the ache I have for my daughter is intense. As a glass half-full person I tell myself that at least I didn’t have to fulfill the custody agreement when the girls were younger, when it was both of them, that now, at least, his negativity and emotional cruelty towards me and the world will have less of an impact on my daughter, my sweet, sweet daughter who is no longer such an impressionable child.
But it’s so unbelievably hard having to deal with someone who is so very poisonous.
When I told him that I don’t want to have to talk to him, that I want to do these movement-of-daughter discussions via email and to please give me his email address he refused, because he doesn’t want to get emails from me. And when, after his recitation of his time calculations that will enable me to somewhat change the agreement for one week to confirm to my daughter’s request, I told him to just tell me when he would be over and if he was bringing Poops, his response to me was “don’t dictate to me.” My reasoned response was, “I’m hanging up.” And I did. Nor did I answer another one of his insane calls. I turned the sound off my cellphone so I wouldn't even have to be aware of them.
I know there are people who act as intermediaries between formerly-married couples so they don’t have to talk to each other. But I’m too tired of spending money on that man. I will try to deal with him on my own, and I will continue to strengthen myself by standing up to him—for me and my daughter-s. My mantra when dealing with him needs to be “He’s just a bully” because that’s all he is.
I can’t believe how endless this is.
In our conversation the other night my mother reminded me that he had told me that he will hound me until he can spit on my grave. He can’t do that. I am determined to compartmentalize my interactions with him, in fact, the writing of this post is the lighting of the fire and the extinguishing of it for this episode.
Today I wrote eight pages of my novel, which I can proudly say has reached 90 pages and which I am very pleased with. And I took Poops for two half-hour walks. And I created three handouts for my students (one each on apostrophes, commas and an in-class reading log). So I no longer let him impact me, much.
One day it will be four years from now and younger daughter will be off to college. And the burden of marrying wrong will have lifted even more from me—and them. But I will not wish those years to fly past; I want to enjoy my daughter as she grows into the woman she will become. And I want to enjoy listening to her sister blossom with each and every phone call. I will taste the sweetness and let the bitterness fall to the bottom of my cup, unstirred and undisturbed.