This is how I wake myself up:
I have been back nearly two weeks. They have been a blur of emotions and days and I cannot quite recall them in minute detail.
I have existed: gone through the motions, done what’s expected of me at work or home.
I have not eaten. I have eaten too much. I am now full of emptiness; of leavings and longings and loss.
In the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep (too scared to close my eyes, too numb to keep them open), I wandered into the kitchen in my underwear and started foraging for food.
The sight of my mostly naked body was simply an annoyance. Instead of halting me, it spurred me on. I made pasta without thinking about it. I could have gone to sleep hungry, but instead I started looking for comfort in carbohydrates, for happiness in the bubbling tomato sauce and for love in the soft, melting cheese. I let it caress my insides with warmth. I let it soothe me. I ate sitting on the floor with my fat rolling out around my panties and bra, cushioning the agony, shielding me from the dying sensation that will not leave me alone.
I sobbed into some wine. I wailed in a bubble bath. Tears and snot and mascara mingling with the grimy water, dull as my soul.
I am a tomb of nothingness.
I am sitting in the airport waiting to go home. There is no ring on my finger. He said he would give me a reason to come back. I guess I thought that meant an engagement. I guess he didn’t think that.
On Saturday he told me he planned a surprise day in the mountains for our last weekend. He told me he thought it would be good for us and would make me feel less anxious about our relationship as I left for home. My heart lurched. It skipped a beat. I knew that the proposal was coming…I just knew it! He had just waited until the very end. I put on a pretty dress and even painted my nails so they would be perfect for when he put a ring on.
We drove to the mountains and every moment that was just so romantic for a “will you marry me?” came – and went. We picnicked by a lake and lay in the sun drinking wine. We walked hand in hand, we took a long drive on a deserted road and sat in the middle of nowhere staring at the Rockies and the lakes and the rivers. We laughed and sang and I just couldn’t wait for the moment to come.
Of course it never came.
I almost had to laugh at my naivety, my stupidity, my disappointment.
Last night as we fell asleep he asked if I was ready to be his wife. I didn’t know what to say. The comments like that are the reason I believed he would ask me to marry him before I left. Now I’m just confused by them.
Up until today, I still believed that he would have proposed to me by now. Part of me wondered if he would buy a plane ticket home and surprise me by just showing up. I will go home with that misplaced hope in my heart. He knows how desperately I wanted him to come back with me. He even hinted that he had thought about surprising me.
Today he picked me up and took me to the airport. I envisioned making love and cuddling one last time before we left the house, but he wasn’t even remotely interested. He was only focused on getting to the airport.
We checked in and sat in a restaurant where he told me he had looked at flights for him even a week ago. We didn’t look into each other’s eyes or say anything about how we were feeling. He was mostly agitated about time and needing to get back to work. He was waiting for me to cry, to fall apart and I was dying on the inside. It has been too emotionally overwhelming to find out that we are not where I thought we were and to leave without anything I had hoped for.
He said he would see me in 5 weeks and then added “or maybe less” and I jumped thinking he meant he was coming home too and that was his way of telling me. “I meant that I would see you on Skype”, was his reply.
My heart can’t take it anymore.
At the airport, I waited for the epic goodbye. I had seen this moment a thousand times in my mind. Perhaps he would kiss me passionately and hold me tightly against him. Perhaps he would look into my eyes and say something profound about what I mean to him. Perhaps he would reassure me, put my anxieties to rest. Perhaps as I walked away I would hear his voice and when I turned around, he would be on one knee, smiling at me.
It was, as usual, a complete let down. He was stressed about getting back to work. He put one arm around me as we waited in line and said he loved me and gave me a peck on the lips. It was a nothing moment. He said he had to run and walked away. Just like that. After everything…
I walked towards security and heard his voice. I turned in anticipation to see that last smile directed at me, to have him come back for one more kiss. Instead, he was talking to a girl he knew, her big, fake boobs in between us. He laughed and chatted and then walked away. His last goodbye was to her. His last look was at her. His last smile was for her. And then he was gone.
Now here I am, with no reason to come back at all.
I wish he knew me before I was damaged. I wish he had met me when I still believed in love stories and happily-ever-after – when I wasn’t jaded or bitter or calloused. I wish he could have known me when I loved without restraint, without holding back or guarding my heart. I wish I hadn’t given that part of myself to others or wasted it on the undeserving. I wish he could have known me before the wounds and hurts and heartaches overtook me; before the disappointments and let downs; before the abuse and neglect and rape. I wish he had known me before all this, when I wouldn’t have held back or demanded timelines or been harsh and unyielding. I wish he could see that I want to give him that, but I’m too scared. When he holds me in the night and soothes me and caresses me and my anxieties leave, I lean against his chest – my head upon his heart – and I know this is it. He is my epic love story and I am sabotaging it. I am giving him a hard time because I’m frightened he will not be true to his word – just like the others. Just like the others I am convinced he will mess me around, make me wait for nothing, damage me more. I am convinced in his difficult situation that we, that I, will not survive. I let it come between us because I cannot fight it. Instead I feel like I am fighting him – the one who loves me. He is paying for the sins of the ones who came before him. I wish I could look at him and tell him: I know. My heart knows. I have never been loved this way before. I love him so fiercely it terrifies me. I love his children and the family we have become. When I am not trying to run, I am happier than I have ever been before. When he holds me in the middle of the night as I cry in distress, conflicted, I know I am safe here. I need to remember that moment in all the other moments that overwhelm me.
I have been waiting for a proposal since Christmas. I know what these men are like. Someday will never come. This one keeps telling me he is different to any man I have dated before. I am yet to believe him. He is yet to prove it.
I put my cards on the table when we started dating. I told him I wouldn’t wait around indefinitely. I told him I wanted a marriage and children. I assumed all the risk and made a huge commitment moving in with him 4 months ago. Now he says “if” and “someday”.
I have already given him everything he could ask for: I have taken on his 2 children from 2 different mothers and all the ensuing baggage that comes with. I have tolerated the intolerable for him. It has been nothing but stress since the beginning of our relationship. I have given up a simple happy life for drama and complications because he has no boundaries and hasn’t sorted out the mess he made of his life.
I have foregone dates, romance, quality time and swapped them for mothering, cleaning, cooking and never ending laundry. I have given up sleep ins and freedom for waking up early to dress kids and make school lunches. I have lost evenings of frivolity and fun to homework, bath time and bed time. I have taken on the financial burden of his children, spending money on them now instead of myself. I have given up a life I dreamed of in Africa with my family to make a family with a man who says “if” and “someday”.
I must not be worth more.
I only have myself to blame for giving him everything up front.
I have put up with things many others would have walked away from because he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He used to say, “I can’t wait for you to be my wife”. He never says it anymore. Instead he tells me there is a hole in his favourite underpants while we lie in bed and I am thinking of a wedding and children.
And I know he thinks he is being a good guy buying gifts for my brothers. He would never understand how that statement could do so much damage. How triggering it is for someone with anxiety and an eating disorder. He will never know that I already have a date in mind which I will not wait past.
“If” that “someday” takes much longer, I will be long gone.
We go to the wedding today. I wear 2 different outfits: one to the ceremony and one to the reception. I don’t eat all day so that I might look vaguely acceptable (to myself or perhaps some passers by). My boyfriend doesn’t look at me, or notice me, or comment on my apprearance. Given the horrible things he said a few days ago when I was trying on dresses for this event, maybe it is a blessing – you know the kind they say come in “disguise”.
I starve and I primp and I preen. I paint my face and curl my eyelashes and spritz and tease and my legs are tanned and my collar bones are glittered. I brush and comb and fuss and tuck and pin and change and inspect and criticize and adjust and ruefully accept the outcome. We arrive at the ceremony and he says a blanket “you guys looks snazzy” to all 3 of us. Snazzy…the epitomy of compliments. The truth is he only has eyes for his daughter. When she is around, his son and I cease to exist. I get compliments from his friends at the wedding. Complete strangers talk to me in the washroom telling me they like my dress or hair. One woman hugs me and uses the word “gorgeous”. My boyfriend barely acknowledges me. He is disconnected, preoccupied and I am just the maid who had fed and cleaned and dressed and delivered his children to him while he has been drinking with his friends.
He takes his daughter “for a walk” which is code for calling her mother. I sit at a table for ten fat, repulsive and alone, staring into my appetizer, looking for love. After the briefest pretense I walk away from the table and in my high heels and lace and pearls and curls, I toss back up the disappointment. There is not enough wine to soothe my discontented soul.
His daughter is sick and whiny. She takes up all our attention. There is no time for “us”. There is no hand holding. There is no smiling into each other’s eyes. There is no dancing at this wedding. I hold her and she fidgets, unhappy. He holds her. She cries for cupcakes. No matter what we do, she is fractious. We are home by 10:09pm on a Saturday night. I wanted to slow dance in his arms and dream of our wedding which we both know (but won’t acknowledge) will never happen. The kind of things you do when you are only 9 months into a relationship. I wanted the overflow of love and happiness from this union to flood out hearts. But there are children to take care of and his stomach is upset by the Indian food (which I hear about in graphic, unromantic detail), so we go home. I pour myself wine in the kitchen, take out the flower from my hair while my boyfriend puts his daughter to bed. His woefully neglected son comes to me in the kitchen and tells me that he feels like we don’t love him. I wrap my arms around him knowing exactly what that feels like and hating myself for not being able to stop him from feeling it too.
This isn’t anyone’s dream. No one grows up wanting step children and baggage. I told myself firmly that I was not interested in a man with 2 children from 2 different mothers. I was so sure that I would not fall in love with him. Why would I get myself involved in such an abnormal situation?
But I did. I fell in love and told myself that we would find a way to make it work. I had always wanted children. I had always wanted to adopt children. I was so certain that I could be selfless and loving and play happy families. I imagined I would be an exemplary step mother who embraced the exes so that the children would see us all getting along. I thought I would excel at nurturing and taking care of small people; of helping them to be unscathed by any of us adults. I imagined a home and a family that was mine even though the children weren’t. I would be the perfect girlfriend and eventually the perfect step-mother. Surely I could do this and do it well?
All I have discovered in the last six months is that I am not anything other than selfish and immature. I am shallow. I am not cut out for motherhood. The fact that they aren’t my children probably doesn’t negate this fact.
I had no idea that I could resent an innocent 2 year old because she was the bone of contention between us and her mother for months. The more difficult the mother made my life, the more strain she put on our relationship and the more I was asked to sacrifice for someone I had never met – who didn’t have the decency to greet me – the more I wished that this child didn’t exist. Who wishes for a beautiful, little girl not to exist? What kind of a monster does this make me?
I was not allowed around the little girl for a long time and therefore we did not bond like I did with the other child. She was the reason so much went so wrong for us early on. I nearly left because of her mother and the lack of boundaries between my boyfriend and her. Everything that nearly ended our relationship I was expected to grin and bare for this child’s sake. In the end we both discovered that it wasn’t about the child, but the mother and her issues. I regret agreeing to not be around the child because it has taken so much longer to bond.
I have discovered that there are grey areas. I am trying to learn to be normal in an abnormal situation. I am expected to do a lot of mothering without any of the rewards of being a mother. I have to make sure I don’t step on the mothers’ toes as I learn my role. I am constantly reminded that I am not their mother just in case I forget that I did not give birth to these children. Don’t try and take the mothers’ place. Don’t post a picture of me and the children on social media. Don’t help the children to make their mothers Christmas cards. Feed them, read to them, carry their stuff, spend money on them, clean up after them, cook for them, play with them but don’t try and parent them. I never seem to know where that line is. I worry about it constantly. What if they grow up to resent me or hate me? What if their dad and I break up and I lose not only the man I love, but his children too?
I cannot compete with a 2 year old for her father’s time and attention. It isn’t right. I don’t know how to balance needing him, but not being able to have him because 2 other little people need him. Last night I was distressed about my family back home and ended up crying. A two year old cries louder. I needed my boyfriend. She needed her daddy. I was left alone sobbing in the bathroom at 1am. I cannot be held because she needs to be held. She is 2. I am 32 and an idiot.
I wanted some quality time with my boyfriend after a few hectic weeks. This never happens when there are children around. Plans and schedules change on a whim. I have to fit in. My life is squeezed in around them. There is barely room for me. Between 3 jobs, 2 kids and 2 mothers, I feel like there isn’t much room for me. We seldom go on dates. There is no money because there are children. Every evening that the children are there I am lucky if we get half an hour of “us” time in front of a tv. No dinners or concerts or parties or cocktails or romantic weekends away….there is no money. Now I see how shallow I am; how much I love all the traditional parts of dating. And I like sex. A lot. We were about to have sex last night: clothes were coming off, kissing, touching…I had looked forward to it all day and then the 2 year old woke up. No sex. Again. I fell asleep by myself when all I wanted was his arms wrapped around me.
I look at my boyfriend and realize that he has done the baby thing already. All the firsts that I dreamed of will not happen. He has gone through 2 pregnancies with not one, but two women. He has his first born son. He has his precious daughter; the apple of his eye and the love his life.
When we started dating he didn’t want more children. I wanted to be excited about having our own children together, but it was always overshadowed by the knowledge that he had done this before. And in my heart of hearts I am scared he doesn’t really want more children. He tells me he will give me children to make me happy. I haven’t reconciled in my mind how all this works. And like his ex said, “three children from three mothers? How is that supposed to work.” Because I needed her to say that, to poison it, to take away from something that should be special for us.
All I know is how much I don’t know. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to be a step mother. I don’t know how to deal graciously with the mothers’ while still keeping my boundaries. I lose my mind when the crazy one calls constantly and texts him just to text him, and tries to control our lives. I get upset when I go to his parents house and her photo is still on the wall and his dad calls me her name by mistake. I cry when I give him a special gift for Christmas and sh e gives him the exact same gift “from the child”. I don’t know how to have my needs met without asking sounding like an ungrateful b**ch that I am: sleep, sex, time together, romance, boundaries…
I am tired all the time. I am stressed. I am anxious because I know this cannot work out. I am not meant for this role. All the fun of a new relationship is overtaken by crazy exes and children who will always trump me. And so they should. I am selfish. I am immature. I am a horrible, horrible person. If I know anything it is that I need to end this – not because I do not love him, but because he deserves so much better. His children deserve so much better. I have to leave, to walk away. I just don’t know how.
“You’ve lost weight! Are you in love?”
In love. Yes, I am in love. I am in love with a certainty that leads to starvation and then not just with the idea itself, but with the empty, gnawing feeling of it. I am in love with the notion of fading away because I am terrified to be present instead. I am in love with the knowledge that my demons will spare me the heart ache of being consumed by this relationship. Indeed, they will consume me until there is nothing left to love. Not for him. Not for me.