This is part fourteen of the Homey and Me Love Story. It is when my marriage to Rusty had just ended – a few years before I met Homey, but an important part of the story, nonetheless.
Divorce is death. It is death of a marriage, family, and even identity. In some ways, Rusty died. In some ways, I died. I had, after all, taken on his last name at marriage. My identity, as wife, as mother to his children, as his companion and friend died. Although none of us had physically passed, I was mourning a death-the kind of death that exists only in our minds and hearts. I was experiencing the death of an idea and my way of life.
I found out about Rusty’s infidelity in February 2005. In August 2005, my divorce was finalized. Those six months were vital to my healing and ability to move on in life. Here are a few significant parts.
One – Diving into the Wreck
I wrote a little bit about this before. Nearly every day, I would take some time to read through my past journals and make sense of my marriage. For me, the difficulty was knowing that everything was a lie. One day, when I was still talking to Rusty, he said something about “picking up the pieces.”
“You want me to pick up the pieces?” I asked him, laughing cruelly.
“Well, yeah. We can’t just walk away from this. We can pick up the pieces. We can make it better.”
“You know. That’s a nice idea. Someone drops a vase–they pick up the pieces, inspect them, and glue them back together. But it’s a difficult process.”
“I know it’s hard, but we can do it together.”
“That’s the thing though, Rusty. I want to pick up the pieces, but every time I bend over, to pick up a piece of this smashed, shattered, decimated vase–the vase that YOU smashed, shattered and decimated–I find that I can’t even pick anything up. Our entire marriage was a lie. The vase was a hologram. I have nothing to pick up. I’m bending over grasping at an illusion when I just need to walk away from it all.”
“What do you mean? It wasn’t a lie. What about our good memories?”
“What good memories?”
“Like going to Bear Lake with the Cutler’s?”
“Going to Bear Lake!? A good memory?! Ha! That’s a good memory I had with them, but not with you. We went to Bear Lake, our little family, camping in a tent. Like we were a family that cared about one another. Like I mattered to you. What a stupid joke. It isn’t a good memory. It is an embarrassment! It’s a lie that you had to tell me so you could keep on screwing girls at home. It’s a lie that I unwittingly told the Cutlers, myself, and my children…Good memory?!…HA!…Great memory.” I said, caustically.
“What about when Tiger was born?”
“Yeah… What about when Tiger was born? And then less than two weeks later, you went out with Jezebel to a concert that I pleaded with you not to go to. You walked away from your wife, your infant daughter to some crap concert so you could go “get some” with another woman. Yeah…that’s a great memory…don’t you get it? There are no good memories. Everything. Every. Single. Thing. is a lie.”
Even though Rusty was out of the picture, I knew that I did have this shattered vase at my feet, and I knew that I needed to sort through the pieces and look to see if there was anything real left. One evening Panda came to me as I sat at the table, trying to eat. She simply walked up to me, looked at me with her giant blue eyes and gave me a hug good night. As I grasped her tiny body in my arms, I realized, there are at least two real tokens of the past seven years of my life: Tiger and Panda. I was so grateful for them. As much as I felt alone, as I wanted to feel alone, I knew that I had them. As much as I wanted to pretend that the seven years had not existed, I knew that I needed to face the truth for them (and for myself).
So, I chose to dive into the wreck–rather than live in denial. I chose to start the healing process. I knew that by “diving into the wreck”, I was able to start healing because I could pinpoint the real problems that I was facing. I could know what to pray for. All of this helped me to see more clearly so I could move forward.
Two – The Bonfire of Hatred
Sounds pretty extreme. And maybe it was, but I had a bonfire of hatred.
While I was diving into the wreck, there were times when I was consumed with hatred. I hated Rusty. I hated myself. I hated life. I hated that I had lived in Utah. I hated his family. I hated that I had wasted so much time on him. I hated my memories. I hated pretty much everything.
Thankfully, Heavenly Father has blessed me to be a pretty positive person. I also know that hatred really gets you nowhere. I knew that these emotions needed to be relegated. I knew that if left unchecked, the anger and hatred would destroy me. Now, this doesn’t mean that I ignored them because having anger and hatred is a real part of the grieving process. Pretending that you’re not angry is denial. It will get you no closer to healing. You have to address anger without actually giving in to it.
At first, I dealt with my anger by writing in a journal dedicated to Rusty (a collection of hate-letters, essentially).
When I was in a particularly angry mood, I’d listen to the song “Sleep to Dream” by Fiona Apple on repeat. I’d sing/scream along. It felt kinda good.
All along, however, I knew that if I let the anger fester, I’d turn into a bitter person. Although anger is a phase of grieving, it is just that: a phase. I had to make sure I reigned it in.
So…I thought of a plan: In May, Tiger and Panda were going to Utah to visit Rusty. Since they were only 2 and 3 years old, I’d have to fly out there with them. Spunky was going to be going out to Utah at the same time. We’d go together, have fun and hang out. During our trip to Utah, we’d drive down to Moab, where I would have a bonfire of hatred. This would be the capstone of my exercise to “dive into the wreck.” I would be done with it all.
The idea made me giddy. More than a month before packing, I got out a suitcase, and started filling it with stuff. Letters, lingerie, and then, I got the best idea of all: my wedding dress.
“Catania, you can’t burn your wedding dress.” My mom chided.
“You’ll regret it.”
“You could sell it.”
“Sell it?! I’d never sell this to anyone who is getting married. It would jinx them. … Are you kidding me mom? This thing needs to BURRRRNNNNNN!” I laughed at the thought of it.
“Well, if you don’t sell it, then you could use the material for something else.”
“You’re right mom. I am going to use this luscious material. I’m going to use it for heat. It will warm my cold heart!” I was having fun egging her on, but I was also very serious.
“Catania…this bonfire of hatred idea is silly.”
“No mom. It’s perfect. Don’t you see? My marriage is dead, and now it will finally be put to rest. This is it’s burial. I’m taking my wedding dress and all of this other stuff, and I’m going to burn it in the Utah desert, where it’s smoke will rise into the Utah sky, and it will all be done.” My mom shook her head as she left her room. I happily smashed my wedding dress into the suitcase!
Freckles, Spunky, one of Spunky’s friends, and I made our way down to Moab. I had my suitcase full of as many physical evidences of my marriage that I could find. Though we would be staying at a hotel, we found a campsite to build a fire.
We roasted marshmallows, talked, laughed, and cried.
Then it began. I started with the lingerie. Burn. Burn. Burn.
Then, I found letters. Letters I wrote to Rusty. Letters (often of apology) he wrote to me. Sometimes I’d read them aloud before dropping them into the fire. LIES! Burn.
I found the journal that I had kept while “diving into the wreck” — full of letters to Rusty. Letters on why I hated him. Letters explaining the dreams I’d had where I was trying to cause him physical harm. Letters on how horrible of a human being he is. Letters, letters, letters. I tossed the crappy, cheap Barnes and Noble Journal into the fire. BURN!
Then came the big moment.
It went up so fast! The heat was so hot. And, just like my marriage, suddenly it was over. There was nothing left other than a smoldering pile of ashes.
The evening was cathartic. It wasn’t necessarily easy. It was a moment of truth. Yet, I felt powerful. I wasn’t just letting something happen to me. I had let so many things happen to me during my marriage. I was done. I could start my own fire. I could be a strong woman. I was powerful.
Becoming a Runner
Throughout my life, I have prided myself on my feelings about running, “I’ll only run if I’m chasing a ball or being chased by someone.” What was the point? Running…it made me feel like a hamster on a wheel.
On the last evening before Rusty went back to Utah, I was driving home from his hotel. I was still in the midst of confusion and deep sadness. I listened to the music in my car too loudly because I couldn’t hear anymore. I kept the windows open in my van while driving home that chilly February night because I couldn’t feel anything anymore.
As I recklessly rounded a corner, I thought to myself, “Slow down, Catania, or you’ll wind up smashed into a tree or worse.”
I then, countered (to myself, yes), “Really? Worse? Going headfirst into a tree would be better than this.”
Immediately, I thought to myself, “Uh-oh…this isn’t good.” So I said a prayer in my heart. As I said the prayer, I felt a distinct impression. Go for a run. I knew that it meant to go for a run the next morning. I needed to do something with all of this nervous energy I had. I needed to do something that would physically lift my spirits.
So. That next morning, I went for a run. I hadn’t run any more than a few yards in years. I was overweight. I was weak with hunger (the stress had killed my appetite). Yet I ran. I ran one mile. Then two. I ran a third mile. Then a fourth. The fourth mile finished at the bottom of a massive hill. If you are from Southeastern PA, then you know what I’m talking about. I had one more mile until I would be home. And about 9/10s of this mile would be up hill.
I kind of felt dead, but I knew I needed to run this last mile. I needed to run up the hill.
I ran another 1/4 mile. Another 1/2 mile. About 2/3 of the way through this last mile, the hill became especially steep. I wanted to stop and lie down. And I thought to myself, “Just make it up this last hill. You can do it. Just keep running, no matter how slowly you go.” So I did. I ran five miles that day.
After I finished my run, I felt high. I was buzzing with happiness. I just ran up that hill! I just ran five miles! Amidst this time of confusion I realized: I was powerful.
I took a shower and realized the run was bigger than just that little run. I knew that metaphorically I was in a particularly difficult patch. I knew I was running up a big hill. But I felt comforted. The Spirit–the same One that prompted me to run in the first place–whispered to my soul: You can make it up this hill. It will be hard. But when you do, the view will be great. You will be happy. You are powerful.
Later that day, I actually ate. The need to eat from running was overpowering my lack of appetite caused by stress. And that night, I slept well.
After about a week (I was soooooo sore…remember–I was overweight, out of shape, and hungry!), I was finally ready to run again. That is when I became a runner. I started running six days a week.
Running cleared my brain, slimmed my bootie, and helped me overcome depression. Running saved me. God knew it would. I’m so glad that He inspired me to do so. I never would have come up with the idea on my own.
Getting a Job
The day I found out about Rusty and his affairs, I went straight to the bank, opened my own bank account, and withdrew all of our money–depositing it into my own account. We had a grand total of $121.00. I knew I’d need every single cent.
Fortunately, I was living with my mom already, so I had a place to stay, food, etc. But I didn’t want to mooch off of her forever. I knew I needed a plan.
The timing of my separation was perfect: February. I filed taxes, and had them directly deposited into my new bank account. Between being poor, having two children, and earned income credit, I would get a few grand for a tax return. That would help me get on my feet.
In the meantime, I began job hunting. It was a little scary–it had been five years since graduating college, and I’d never had a professional job. I was searching high and low, and then a friend told me that she worked at a temp agency, and suggested I fill out a profile. I decided to go ahead do it.
Through the temp agency, I landed a week-long gig at an environmental-regulation type office (where they studied ground water and other things for the government). It was boring. I copied papers and put them in three-ring-binders. But I was fast, and they liked me. They offered me a part-time job, but I held off because I knew I needed something full-time–with benefits.
Next, I worked for a month at a Pharmaceutical company. That gig worked out so well, I was rehired by them in another department. And after a few months, I was hired on full time by the actual company, rather than working as a temp.
With a new job, and money in the bank, I was able to buy a car and a cell phone. I started putting money away for my own place. I was getting back on my own two feet (with the strength and capability to care for my children, too).
It sounds funny, but having a job helped me to heal and move forward in life as much as any other blessing I had received. I knew that my job was a tender act of mercy from God to me. I had a job that was interesting, it paid well, and I made friends there. I had great benefits and was able to support my family. I wasn’t getting much (if any) support from Rusty, so I needed to have a job that could support my family. And I was blessed enough to find that job. Yet the job wasn’t so consuming that I had nothing left for my children. Things were still hard, but I could see that the Lord blessed me by strengthening me and enabling me to carry my load.
About two weeks before my divorce was final, a new guy started working at my office. I should be honest. He was a new kid. I’m sure he was like 19. Whatever. Don’t judge.
I didn’t really notice him at first. To be honest, I hadn’t noticed men at all yet. While I had a crush on Snoopy–that was different, it was some kind of hope–some kind of extension of childhood that actually helped me for a while. But it subsided after time.
I had noticed men, sure, but I wasn’t really finding anyone attractive. I’d have long conversations with my friend, Spunky.
“There is a new guy that I’m interested in, Catania.”
“Really? What’s he like?”
“Well, he’s tall. He’s got dark hair. Dark eyes.”
“But what’s he like?”
When Spunky and I were in Utah, we hung out with a few guy friends that we knew in High school. They asked what we liked in men. I told them,
They asked, “No. Not like that. What do you like in a man, physically.”
Spunky began answering, basically describing Ben Affleck or Antonio Banderas without saying as much. They noticed that I was silent.
“What about you, Catania? What do you find attractive in a man?”
“I already told you.”
“All you said was personality stuff.”
“Well, that’s what makes a man attractive.”
“Seriously, Catania. There has to be something you find physically attractive about a man.”
“Of course there is, but eye color and height…those are all relative. There are so many attractive men. There are so many hideous men. There are men who seem attractive at first, but then they open their mouths and either they’re idiots or morons.” The dudes started laughing.
“No…I know what you mean.” One guy chimed in.
“I like a nice smile. I like nice eyes. But a guy can have nice blue eyes, green eyes, or brown eyes. And his smile can be big and nice, small and nice, and even have a few crooked teeth and be nice. And it doesn’t matter to me if he’s 5’4″ or 6’4″ I’m short!…But if he tells a funny joke, suddenly his eyes and smile–everything– are even more brilliant.”
“Okay.” They accepted my answer, genuinely.
“Oh. And they have to have good taste in music.”
“I mean, what good is a “hot dude” if his music taste sucks, he’s a moron, and completely unfunny?”
We were all in agreement. For good measure, I said, “Of course, if a guy’s rich, then none of that crap matters.” (joking. kind of.)
Back to the guy at my office. I first talked to him casually in my little break room. I was cutting up my strawberries and eating them (along with Kalamata Olives) for a snack. Kalamata olives always seemed to get a comment from people: they either love them or hate them. He said, “mmm. Olives.”
well..it was more like , “oh-liives.” (or however you would write out olives with a French accent.
Suddenly, I became more aware of the situation.
I said a quiet thanks (or something), and he left. As he walked past, my nose made the second amazing observation. I didn’t know what cologne he wore, but I was instantly obsessed with it. I wanted to trail behind him, lapping up that scent, hoping for him to say more of anything in his foreign accent.
I didn’t know what he looked like. I didn’t know his name. I just knew he sounded nice and smelled great.
I started seeing this mystery dude more often. He worked down the hall from me. I found out he was an intern from France. I’d make small talk with him when I saw him in the halls.
One morning, it was my lucky day. I hadn’t yet eaten breakfast, and I ran over to the cafeteria for a yogurt. I went outside to quickly eat it (I had a bad track record with eating food at my desk). It was a nice morning, for August, so I went outside to eat. To my delight, the young Frenchie was sitting out there, eating, too.
I got up some courage and said, “Can I sit here?”
We talked about something that was completely unimportant, and I’m not sure if I made any kind of coherent sense because I was intoxicated by his cologne.
At the end of the conversation, I asked, “I know that this is probably going to sound strange, but you smell amazing. What are you wearing?”
He blushed and replied, “Acqua di Gio.”
That night, on my way home, I stopped at the mall and went to the cologne counter, where I sprayed a sample of Acqua di Gio on a paper, and brought it home so I could stay high on this scent through the evening. Yum. Yum. Yum. (I know I’m idiotic, but hey…I was just out of a really bad seven-ish year marriage…so don’t judge me.!) 😉
This guy, let’s call him Francois, became a crush. I wasn’t technically divorced, so I knew that nothing would come of it, and I was fairly sure that I was at least eight years older than him. But he was funny and a little bit of a tease. I played along and teased him back.
He would look directly into my eyes when I talked, making me feel like I was the only woman who had ever existed.
He asked me when I’d come to France.
He remarked about the color and clarity of my eyes, saying,
“You were wearing glasses yesterday, but not today.”
“Yeah, I got new contacts.”
“So, those are green contacts?”
“No. They’re clear contacts, corrective – so I can see.”
“So those are your eyes?…Green?”
“Wow…They are so…beautiful.”
And I know, as I write this, that it sounds like such a cheesy pick-up line. Maybe it was. But it didn’t feel cheesy or pick-up-y at the moment. It felt honest. Francois was classicly French, I suppose. He was so confident. He stood there, with an air of superiority, but never looked down on me, personally. He stood up tall, and looked down his large, European, and extremely appealing nose. But he didn’t stand straight, like a German. He was the perfect paradox. Both unassuming and proud. He wore untucked polo shirts with khaki pants and white pumas. His shirt was unbuttoned, showing the slight hint of his collar-bone and chest. His hair was perfectly messy. He asked me questions about the U.S. that sounded like backhanded compliments, and I found myself convincing him that I was more cultured. It was his honesty, His simultaneous posture and slouch, his untucked shirt and perfect scent, his smile, his designer glasses and un-plucked eyebrows that made me realize I wanted to pick up, move to Europe, and find a man that was completely different.
“Catania…I love your name. Are you Italian?”
“Have you been to Catania?”
“No…but one day I’d like to go, and when I do, I’m going to buy a shirt that says, Catania.” He laughed, slyly. PERFECT!
“You should go. We go there every August. In fact, my family is there right now, and I will be meeting them in Catania next week.”
(Inwardly: what?!?!?! You’ll be goneeeeee!!!!! WAAAAAAA!)
“I would love to. One day.”
“Yes, you should. Do you speak Italian?”
“No. I speak Spanish, English–obviously–and I’m learning French.”
“I want to learn to speak Italian next. It is so beautiful. So passionate.” He looked down his nose at me, peering into my eyes, straight through to my soul, and explained, “It’s like a dance.”
How could someone describing a language make me melt?
I called Spunky and said, “I’m in CRUSH!”
Francois went home. The crush ended. I had an Acqua di Gio sample and a new requirement:If I ever get married, that man will wear Acqua.
At the end of August, three days before September started, I was officially divorced. I was free. It was over. Something else was beginning.
I was alone. But I knew that I was powerful in my own life. And I was happy.