The Needle in a Haystack

A few months ago at the height of my anxiety meltdown I published this post about being drawn to the house where my grandparents lived when I was a kid, seeking closure on a long defunct toxic relationship.  At that time I had to stop and set everything aside because it became too much, especially living in Ohio and being surrounded by constant reminders of my past, the kids being sick, the holidays… it was just a lot and my closure could essentially wait.

Now, as I’m drawing my time in Ohio altogether to a close, I was able to pick up where I left off. I actually haven’t written anything live for almost six weeks, taking the time to schedule all of my posts for SAAM before the end of March. The only thing I’ve written about the day it happened/crossed my mind was the closing on the house. lol. The internet is magic like that! I’ve actually been writing several days if not a week or two ahead since the Twins were born. It keeps me from sitting in front of my computer all the time writing three or four posts in one sitting.

ANYWAY… back on topic here: Having my blog taken care of for a while gave me the extra time to continue my quest. It took me a few weeks, but I finally found it. The proverbial needle in a haystack. One single paragraph in a city news paper, quoting court transcripts. All of these years and I’d been looking in the wrong place. The case was held in a federal court, which should have been obvious I guess with the DEA and FBI involved, but it really hadn’t occurred to me before. As soon as I had that, I had everything I needed and was able to follow the national news trail of the trial. Or at least what they had in the digital archives. 

I know, to anyone else, it doesn’t provide any sort of earth shattering definitive proof to say that my ex was truly involved. Especially since his legal name isn’t anywhere in the transcripts, just an alias I heard a few random people call him, which he told me he picked up in high school. For me, and my own personal satisfaction surrounding the matter, it was enough. To be completely honest, discovering that “his past” seemed to mirror an extremely high profile case in the mid-late 90’s makes my ex and his story less believable. I know the nightmare leading up to the confession of his alleged involvement was genuine because I was there. The explanation for his nightmare? That happens to match nearly word for word this published account of court testimony. In this very publicized, high profile case.

What’s to say I didn’t just include this article in my narrative on my own? A licensed therapist’s professional opinion on the validity of my own memories, that’s what. My ex recanted his story whether it was true or not, and I have a genuine memory of hearing it directly from him before reading it in the paper. It’s in my file, dated from a session three years ago, before my own account of events ever made it here to be scrutinized.

There were some details that were slightly different, but for the most part what he told me was a verbatim recollection of this paragraph. Which could mean he was THERE, and had been retelling his own genuine memories of the event. Some how completely unaware that the other people involved had given their truthful testimony as well. Which then got transcribed for the paper stashed in mountains of archives. OR he had heard about the trial since it was such a big to do, or seen it on the local news and needed an obscure excuse to explain why he was having a nightmare and afraid for his life because of it. All the while never expecting me to remember it, certainly never expecting me to write it down; then go digging around for the truth ten years later. Essentially an elaborate mess of bullshit to cover up whatever he was experiencing in his nightmare, because he is too egocentric to face the truth.

That’s harsh, IF he did actually experience the horrors he recanted to me. Trauma is life changing and creates a lot of dissociation or dissolution. I can understand that; not as an excuse for dishonesty but a reason for the inate compulsion to lie when overwhelmed or afraid. From where I’m sitting, finally clawing my way out of all the rubble left over when his house of cards that was our relationship collapsed, it’s hard to be compassionate anymore. It’s not anger, it’s not hatred, it’s exasperation. If he truly knows better, is completely self aware of his behaviors, yet continues down his self destructive path despite it; I can’t continue to enable him anymore. That’s it. It’s not some sort of jealous vendetta for revenge. I’m done coddling him is all. I’ve dropped him off downtown so to speak, and it’s his responsibility to find his way home. He’ll either make it or he won’t.

I’ve been fighting long and hard to come to some sort of resolution to this mess, for myself more than anyone else involved but with this final nail in the coffin I’ve accepted that it’s never going to get better. The way things are right now is the way things will always be. He’ll never really go away as long as I’m writing, even when I’m not writing about him, he’ll never admit to his crimes, he’ll never tell the unadulterated truth and we’ll continue to bump into each other via cyberspace algorithms, or chance, or fate, or cosmic joke to fight about it all another day. 

The person I fell for, the gentle soul, the inspirational survivor, doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t know if he never did, and seeing those qualities in him was my way of coping with my own trauma during our time together, or if he simply doesn’t want to be that person anymore, opting to rewrite his history while trying to forget the pain of the past. Whatever that pain may be.

He’d rather be known as a misogynist, asshole who took advantage of me than as young guy who lost his bearings after smashing his face through a windshield into the back of a semi trailer at 70mph, and the end of a long term relationship soon after. His most repetitive mantra since our break up has always been “pretend I don’t exist, and it will go away” so really, I could see it going either way. I might have mistakenly given him compassion where it truly wasn’t due, allowed him to treat me poorly simply because he could, not because he was lost trying to recover from trauma. Or he might have reinvented himself after joining the military, the same way he reinvented himself after whatever trauma he endured in childhood/adolescence. There’s definitely some sort of trauma in his past. Maybe it did all originate from nearly killing himself smashing into a truck. Or maybe it was something before the accident which lead up to the smashing into a truck. I don’t know. I don’t think anyone really knows anymore. If they do, they’re certainly not going to go out of the way to tell me so it’s pretty much irrelevant.

I guess finding the article actually raised more questions than it answered, but I’ve wasted enough of my time chasing ghosts. The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last near decade of bickering between us is that he can’t even be honest with himself, and someone who can’t be honest with themselves certainly can’t be honest with anyone else. I only hope that by returning to Indiana, restoring our 200+ mile security zone as it were, that eventually we’ll both be able to truly forget the past, or at least keep it all in perspective.

I burned a photo of us in November as the beginning of my quest to sever my remaining attachments to that part of my life. The damn thing didn’t actually burn all the way. I lit it three times and it burned all the way AROUND my ex but he wouldn’t ignite. Hubs was with me that day and I looked at him and said: “See?! It doesn’t matter what I do, I just can’t get rid of my ex!!” We laughed, and I left the photo behind even though it didn’t completely burn. Being a mystic, spiritual, higher power type person the symbolism of that place and how the photo wouldn’t burn resonated with me. I felt like even though I wanted to be done, something wasn’t quite right and now I understand what that something was.

This entire time I’ve been fighting with myself to “let go”, to forgive him, when what I’ve really needed to do was to accept what happened, accept that I allowed and even enabled his shitty behavior, accept that I might have been wrong about him all together and forgive myself for all of those things.

My therapist said the most profound thing to me during our last session when I finally reached this conclusion: “Some people just don’t want real and lasting love. Some people don’t know what to do with it when they get it. Still others prey on genuinely caring people and use your gentle spirit against you. All of those people are toxic. You have extraordinary empathy, which means you can understand exactly why he treated you so poorly, but you can’t continue to give away so much of yourself. You gave him a chance at real love and he threw it away. That doesn’t mean your love was wrong. It just means he doesn’t want it, and if he doesn’t want it that’s his loss. I know you identify with him a lot based on similar experiences from childhood but you are not him. You aren’t going around raping people and taking advantage of them. You aren’t manipulative, or dishonest. You don’t cheat on your spouse, and you don’t emotionally neglect your children the way your mother neglected you. You overcame all of that, really at an incredibly young age. Most people don’t show up in my office with your level of understanding, willingness to change and ability to grow until much later, in their 40’s or even 50’s. You’re miles a head of most people. Take that empathy and compassion you have for him and give it to yourself instead.”

That. That was it. All I needed to hear was that it was okay that I loved him even when he didn’t deserve it. It was okay that I allowed him to abuse me because I didn’t know any better. It was okay that I ignored his lies and never held him accountable. Instead of the repeating narrative I’ve consistently heard from most everyone else: “How could you let him treat you like that? You can’t love him. Something must be wrong with you. You need to do this, you need to do that, you need to… whatever.” All I NEEDED was a sympathetic “It’s okay that you loved him” and almost instantly all of the internal conflict stopped.

FINALLY a real and lasting peace settled in my heart. I was able to read the articles I found, and accept it for what it was instead of trying to put the pieces of an impossible puzzle together. I’m able to accept that I’ll never know beyond my own memories if our lives crossed paths so many times before we crashed into each other as coworkers and ill fated lovers.

Now as I’m packing my bags, saying goodbye to Ohio, I can truly say goodbye to this chunk of my past as well. I’m not internally fighting with it anymore, which hopefully translates into not fighting with HIM anymore externally. Once I get my book published I don’t feel like I’ll be writing about it anymore either.

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