Marry Me! (Part 31 of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me
Homey and Me

This is part thirty-one of the Homey and Me Love Story.

It was March 17th, there was a dusting of snow still on the ground from the storm the day before, and Homey and I were at my house…shooting the breeze. Well, actually Homey was on one knee, shaking, and sweating despite the fact that it was only 65° in my house.

Homey held up an open ring box, with a diamond ring sparkling, and demanded, Marry me!

I started to say yes, but then laughed, realizing that he left me no option to say yes or no. I motioned for him to get up, started putting on the ring, or maybe I was hugging him…I don’t know. I can’t really remember the details. But I’m sure that we were kissing and that we were so mushy that you would have needed a barf bucket if you were there. It was the best.

Before Homey had come out to PA, we had given ourselves a curfew, and we were getting really close to it. So we hugged, kissed, celebrated, and then Homey left for the night.

I wanted to call him right away. Instead, I started texting him. We texted back and forth until we couldn’t stay awake anymore.

I was engaged…to be married.

I went to my bed, alone, realizing that this experience was limited. Everything in my home was different. I wouldn’t walk up my creaky stairs many more times. I wouldn’t be sleeping alone much longer. I wouldn’t be checking my phone every three seconds to see if I had a text from Homey. Soon enough, I’d be moving to Arizona, and we’d be together. In fact, we’d be together forever.

I wasn’t on cloud nine. I was on cloud nine-hundred ninety nine.

The rest of the weekend was a blur of happiness and excitement as I showed off my engagement ring and told everyone my big announcement. With every repetition of the phrase, “We’re engaged!” the fact that I was engaged felt more real.

***
Homey went back to AZ, and we continued to email and talk on the phone, but now our conversations were laced with real plans. It was an exciting time.

One of the first things I had to do to prepare for our wedding was talk to my bishop about canceling my temple marriage to Rusty. Here’s the thing, marriages performed in the Mormon temple are considered to be eternal. When we are married, the priest performing the wedding doesn’t say, “’til death do you part.” Instead, under proper authority, this priest is sealing a husband and wife as a married partnership together forever. This scripture explains:

“And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens;…” – Doctrine and Covenants 132:46

Marriage isn’t only a social construct. It is ordained of God. It is a covenant, the crowning covenant, that we can make during our mortal lives. Marriage is an eternal covenant made between God, husband, and wife. Getting married in the temple isn’t just a wedding. The temple marriage is a significant and sacred covenant. Divorce isn’t really meant to be an option.

Elder Oaks explained,

““Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:8–9).

The kind of marriage required for exaltation—eternal in duration and godlike in quality—does not contemplate divorce. In the temples of the Lord, couples are married for all eternity. But some marriages do not progress toward that ideal. Because “of the hardness of [our] hearts,” the Lord does not currently enforce the consequences of the celestial standard. He permits divorced persons to marry again without the stain of immorality specified in the higher law. Unless a divorced member has committed serious transgressions, he or she can become eligible for a temple recommend under the same worthiness standards that apply to other members.” – Dallin H. Oaks

So, if we are living the way that we should, then we would have no need of divorce. We would not enter into a covenant that we didn’t mean to keep. If we are serious about our commitment to God, then we will be serious about our commitment to our spouses, even when it is difficult. When we truly accept the gospel and the covenant of temple marriage, we rely on the Atonement to aid in our marriages.

Even though my story is ultimately a happy one, divorce has always brought confusion and sadness in my life.

Divorce isn’t ideal, but Heavenly Father knew that people wouldn’t keep their covenants. He knew that there would be victims. He knew that there would be a need for divorce, so He allows for it under certain circumstances, but it isn’t meant to be a quick solution.

In the Mormon tradition, when a man and woman who have been married in the temple are legally divorced, the blessings and obligations of the temple covenant are not automatically revoked. Only someone with authority from God can cancel the temple marriage. As the Savior teaches,

“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. – Matthew 19:6

Because the temple marriage isn’t instantly revoked at the time of a legal divorce, Mormons go through another process. Often, it is referred to as a “temple divorce.” However, as I began my own process, I soon learned the true name of this process: the cancellation of temple blessings. What a difference this makes. “Temple divorce”- sounds pretty cut and dry – sign a paper, and voila… However, “Cancellation of Temple Blessings” sounds more difficult. I don’t want to lose out on my blessings. I don’t want the covenants that I have made and kept to be cancelled. For this reason, most people do not receive a cancellation of temple blessings when they are divorced. Instead, they wait until they can be re-married, so as not to lose the benefit of such covenants.

I had not broken my covenant with God nor with Rusty; therefore, I still received the blessings of this covenant. These covenants are very sacred, so I can’t really spell it out to you, but I can tell you that I was protected throughout my marriage to Rusty, throughout my divorce, and throughout my life as a single woman. Someone asked me what good my temple marriage had been since my marriage had ended in divorce anyway. To this person, I proclaimed, It wasn’t the temple that failed me; it wasn’t God that failed me. It was Rusty. I have lived worthy of my covenant, and can still appeal to God for all of the blessings of the New and Everlasting Covenant…What good was my temple marriage? It led me to be closer to my God, the temple has infused my life with the Spirit. And the Spirit has saved me – literally and spiritually.

So, I was being blessed by this covenant, but now that Homey was in my life, I knew that I wanted to be able to make this covenant with him. In order for this to occur, I needed to see my Bishop and begin the process of a cancellation of temple blessings.

In some ways, this process was exciting. I would be getting married soon! I was moving on! My prayers were being answered. But for the next six weeks, I would feel so much stress – the stress of completing all of the components of this process, and the spiritual stress that also accompanies all big changes. It was a challenging process. There were three main ways that the cancellation process kind of scared me.

One – The Process itself

First of all, the process of a cancellation of temple blessings is exhausting. I had to meet more often with the bishop. I had to have extended worthiness interviews. Old “stuff” that I hadn’t thought of in years was brought back to light. I had to write a letter to the First Presidency. My bishop would have to get in touch with Rusty. My bishop would have to get in touch with Homey’s Bishop. After all of this, I’d then have to have an interview with the Stake President.

The Stake President and Bishop would also send letters to the First Presidency and give their thoughts.

My request, forms, and letters would all be sent on to General Authorities, and they would evaluate everything. Prayerfully, a decision would be made by the First Presidency. They’d send me back a letter, and I’d know if they had agreed to cancel the temple blessings or not. It was a long process that required a lot of work.

Homey and I prayed about it and decided to set a date for our marriage. We didn’t know if I would be granted a cancellation of temple blessings. We decided to act in faith. I had kept my covenants. I knew that God would keep His, too.

So. I met with my bishop, and I started the process. The first thing I had to do was write a letter to the prophet. If you are not Mormon, you need to understand how huge this is. Essentially, I had to write a letter to the Pope. The only one who can revoke the covenant of a temple marriage is the prophet. Yikes!

I wrote my letter to the Prophet and First Presidency of the church. You can read more about that experience here. I sent a copy of this letter to Homey. I was so happy to receive his response.

Catania, this email is gonna be brief. I just want to thank you so much for sending me a copy of your letter to the First Presidency. You are an AMAZING woman. I’m so lucky. ohmygosh I will never forget how lucky I am. I LOVE YOU more than raccoons love shiny stuff in a box.” – Homey to Catania, March 2007

Not only was it nice to hear Homey talk about how much he loved me, I’m so glad that he compared himself to a raccoon. He really was my kind of guy.

Two – An Unwanted Reminder

Even though Homey was supportive of me, and even though he knew my past, the process of a temple cancellation was a constant reminder to me and to Homey of my past.

Sometimes, I just wanted to pretend that I had never been married before. I wanted to be pure. I didn’t want a shadow to hang over my relationship with Homey. For the most part, this was possible. Rusty was such a distant memory that it never came up between Homey and me.

However, when we began the process of the temple cancellation, there was no getting around the constant reminder of my first marriage, my past life, and I kept worrying that Homey would be turned off by all of this. Homey was, after all, a bachelor who had never been married. Would all of this talk about Rusty and my first marriage make Homey realize that I was tainted meat? that I was worthless?

Just when my worrying and fear would reach a fever pitch, I’d get an email from Homey and be comforted by his words:

“I just barely fell asleep on the couch and had a dream that we were married…and we were at the golf practice facility hitting golf balls. My oldest bro was there with his kids (this will probably happen because he lives in Tucson and loves golf), and Tiger and Panda were there running around with them. This one will definitely all come true in just a few short months. Anyway…it was good because it feels so right every way I think about us together.” – Homey to Me, March 23, 2007)

Or…Just when I was sure he’d realize I was “tainted meat” and that he was “settling,” he’d say something like this:

“Why are we getting married? Pregnancy, financial security, loneliness or wanting to get out of the family home are not valid reasons for getting married.

We’re getting married because I love you more than anyone I’ve ever loved and God’s plan for us is that we are married to one oanother to obtain all the eternal covenants, blessings, and ordinances that Heavnely Father has outlined for us. I want to be with you all the time. And if I HAVE to go to work, then I want to be with you the rest of the time (other than maybe a round of golf here and there… 😉 I really truly love you. you’re not pregnant, we won’t have (much) financial security, I’m not lonely, and I don’t live with my parents…so it must be love. 🙂 – Homey to Me, 29 March 2007

Even though our meeting was unconventional, it was right. Through the process of the cancellation of temple blessings, I was learning that all of the afflictions I had experienced in life were consecrated for my gain. (See 2 Nephi 2:2.) I began to learn (and frankly, I’m still learning this) that I didn’t need to fear. I could trust God, and I could trust Homey.

Three – The Usual Fear that Comes from the Adversary

Besides the constant reminder of my divorce and the process of the cancellation, I was facing a third challenge: the Adversary. This challenge proved to be the most difficult.

It seems like from the second that Homey proposed to me (well, the second he got back on the plane to AZ), I was bombarded with doubts. I have already discussed some of the doubts (about divorce, etc.) I constantly worried about my worthiness. I worried that the cancellation of temple blessings wouldn’t happen. Some of the people who should have supported me proved to be the biggest problems. I was constantly second guessing myself.

Worst of all, my cold feet returned, and with a vengeance. I began to wonder, Do I love Homey? Really? Will I really be happy with a man, or am I happier without one?

I came to the conclusion that I was in love.

Which led to another doubt, Should I really be marrying Homey, or am I blinded by Love? I have always been so blind. I’m a terrible judge. Perhaps I’m making the biggest mistake of my life.

I wanted a “big” sign that this was right. But instead I was simply feeling a quiet sense of peace. I had to remind myself of the miraculous nature of a quiet sense of peace.

One Saturday, I went to the temple. I was feeling burdened with all of the stresses coming in my life. By then, I had quit my job, and I was already living with my mom again. In some ways, major decisions had been made that I couldn’t “unmake.” I still didn’t know if our wedding would happen. I was still waiting to hear from the First Presidency on the cancellation. I was overcome by my emotions and stress.

I walked into the temple sad. Sadder than I had been in a very long time. Would I be able to feel peace without the nagging of doubts?

I attended the temple, and my heart began to settle. I was reminded that I could trust God. He is a God of Miracles. He created the Earth; surely He could perform the miracles I still needed in my life. I felt his love, and by the time I was leaving the temple, I without really knowing it, I started singing a song in my head,

“You can make the pathway bright,
Fill the soul with heaven’s light,
If there’s sunshine in your heart;
Turning darkness into day,
As the shadows fly away,
If there’s sunshine in your heart today.
f there’s sunshine in your heart,
You can send a shining ray
That will turn the night to day;
And your cares will all depart,
If there’s sunshine in your heart today. – You Can Make the Pathway Bright, Helen Silcott Dungan

I hummed the song as I walked to my car. When I got in the car, I sat down and said a silent prayer, thanking Heavenly Father for the chance to go to the temple. Suddenly, the song I was singing dawned on me. I know that the song was Heavenly Father’s way of telling me that things were okay. Instead of worrying, I could make the pathway bright by allowing God’s sunshine in my heart.

I also realized that we have agency. Even when the Lord blesses us, we have agency. We don’t have to accept the gifts that God gives us. Heavenly Father had personally answered my petitions and prayers (and Homey’s), and allowed us to meet and court one another. While this was an answer to my prayer, I didn’t have to accept the gift. I could still walk away. However, I knew that Homey was a miracle and a gift, and if I chose to walk away from this blessing, I might not receive another.

Though so much of my future would be an act of faith, I could trust in God. I could be happy. I could scatter sunshine. I knew that His hand had been in my life up to this point, and that as long as I continued to come to Him, His hand would stay in my life–guiding me, stabilizing me, reaching out to me in love.

***

A final excerpt from an email from Me to Homey:

“I read a quote today–from Boyd K. Packer. It included the following scripture, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear,” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30). I realized that I need to take this to heart. Sometimes I get afraid, Homey. Sometimes I’m afraid that the temple cancellation won’t happen. Sometimes I’m afraid that we won’t be able to get married for a while, and that we’ll miss Cancun, and that it will be difficult. Sometimes I get afraid that moving is going to be too difficult and hard. Deep in my heart, I know that these fears are unfounded and wrong. They are, quite honestly, Satan’s stupid whisperings. He’s trying to get me down. He tries in so many ways. But today’s quote helped me to know how I can overcome my fears–BE PREPARED. I have a bit to do for preparation, and it’s a good thing that I have 53 days to do it. That’s plenty of time. And this helps me have confidence. I’m grateful for the adversities that we are facing together. It helps me to love you even more. It helps me to see that our love and marriage are wonderful things. I know Heavenly Father is happy about them. He is the one who set us up! I know that we still have more to overcome. And I know that if I continue to put my confidence in the Lord, supporting you as you also put your confidence in the Lord, then we will be able to work together. It is exciting, Homey. I’m realzing–instead of me being the only one–the only one to receive revelation, the only one to feel the Spirit–I will have you, too. I know that you can lead me, and that I can trust you. It’s exciting–we’re going to be married. We’re going to be “one flesh.” We’re going to be united. I’m really happy about that. I have a lot to learn about this. I think that I come from a deficit because I learned bad habits. This experience will help me to learn how to be a good wife, I think–and how to truly trust in both the Lord and in His Priesthood.” – Me To Homey, 27 March 2007

And this is what happened…we struggled as we waited, together, on other sides of the country, to see if we would be able to get married in the temple. Every day, I checked my mail. Every day I prayed. Every day I wondered, will we be married at the Washington, D.C. Temple in May? Will we be able to celebrate with friends and family? Will we go to Cancun? or…will we tell our friends and family to cancel their plans? Will we have to postpone the trip to Cancun?

Will we have to wait?

Click here for part 32.

Life as a Divorced Mormon Woman (Part 17 of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me
Homey and Me

This is part seventeen of the Homey and Me Love Story. It is when I was living life as a divorced mom – a while before I met Homey, but an important part of the story, nonetheless.

i
A few weeks after my initial separation, a friend from my church invited me to go to McDonald’s with her and her children–the kids would all play in the Playland together while we talked. It sounded like a nice idea. She stopped by and picked me up, and we went to Mickey-D’s together.

For the most part it was a nice outing. She asked me how things were going. She asked me what I planned to do both in my immediate and long-term future. I was open with details. I told her that I had started divorce proceedings and that the timeline would be several months before we were divorced. I also explained how I was looking for jobs and once I had a job, I’d save some money until I could afford to move out of my mom’s house and find a place.
“So, you think that you’ll stay around here? In Pennsylvania?”
“Yeah. I really can’t imagine going anywhere else.”
“True. That will probably make it hard to date LDS people later on, though.”
“I know. I’ve thought of that. Sometimes I think that maybe I’ll move to Utah, but I don’t know anyone there. It’s hard for me to guess what I’ll do. I guess we’ll see what happens.”
“When can you start dating again?”
“Well, my divorce won’t be final until the end of summer, or so. Which is good-I honestly can’t imagine it right now.”
“That’s true…you know, my husband often goes to the singles ward with his calling*, most of the people in the singles ward are pretty young, though.”
“How young?”
“Like in their twenties.”
“Oh…well, I’m only 26,” I replied.
“Yeah, but…they don’t have children. Most of them haven’t been married before.”
“I figured that. I’ve thought about it, though. I don’t really mind dating anyone at all–even if they haven’t been married before.”
“I’m sure that you don’t mind, but do you really think that a young man who hasn’t been married before will really want to date a woman who has been married and has had children?”

Obviously I had thought of this before. I even told the Bishop that I felt like “tainted meat.” But I had been assured that everything was fine. I knew that I needed to trust in the Lord. I wasn’t tainted meat, I was a daughter of God. My past didn’t matter–the only thing that mattered was who I am. It took me a while to really believe this, then there at McDonald’s it all came crashing back down.

I knew that she didn’t mean to hurt me, so I just listened to her without saying a word. (If I had, I would have started crying)…She gave me “ideas” like moving to Utah where there were more divorced members of the church, talking to the Bishop who probably knew of a few other divorced members, or waiting out my life as a single woman. None of her suggestions involved getting to know some of the young Mormon men – who lived near me but had never before been married- and went to the singles ward.

When I got home, I called Spunky, and saying, “I’m tainted meat!” part jokingly, but mostly serious. (Heck, I was crying).

Life as a divorced, Mormon woman was going to be tricky.

ii
One evening, at a ward party, when I was still pretty recently separated, Brother Stone asked me, “Where’s Rusty?”
“He’s not here.”
I knew that many people still didn’t really know that we were getting divorced. There were some people who had caught on, but it’s not like the Bishop was going to go up to the pulpit and announce, “Catania and Rusty have gotten a divorce, people…”

I’m not idiotic enough to think that people are going around and talking about me in their spare time. But I also didn’t want people to feel like they had to dance around this issue or feel uncomfortable around me based on some rumor that they may have heard. So, I decided early on to take a painfully blunt approach.

When Brother Stone asked where Rusty was, his wife shot him a look.
He looked back at her with complete confusion. I knew that he was honestly wondering where Rusty was–that he had no idea why Rusty wouldn’t be at the ward party with his family.
“Rusty’s in Utah.”
“Oh…on business?”
“No. He lives there now.”
“Are you guys moving back?”
“Nope. We’re getting a divorce.”
He looked shocked. I didn’t want him to sit there and suffer, so I continued, “Not to sound rude or anything, but I found out that Rusty was living a very interesting life, so I asked for a divorce. When I asked for a divorce, he moved back to Utah.”
Brother Stone still looked pretty uncomfortable, like he was sorry for bringing it up.
“Hey. Don’t worry about it. You didn’t know, and I’m not sad. I’m gonna be fine!” We exchanged more pleasantries, and I could tell that both Brother and Sister Stone got it, they didn’t need to feel uncomfortable. I didn’t feel sorry for myself, and neither should they.

iii
While I was single, I was serving as the Primary Chorister*. For the most part, I loved that calling. The kids are cute. You get to stand around, act silly, and sing. However, it wasn’t always easy to do while I was going through such an emotional time.

One Sunday, I had to begin teaching the children Families Can be Together Forever. As I sang the song, I caught a glimpse of my own two daughters and thought about how my marriage, our family, was – in a way – ending. It was impossible for me to teach without crying. Thankfully, the kids were already somewhat familiar with the song. They couldn’t hear my voice cracking as I sang.

iv
My social life with church friends also changed. I was working full-time, so I didn’t go to quilting club. I didn’t have time to read for leisure anymore, so I stopped going to book group. I was already away from my kids 40+ hours a week, so I stopped going to “Ladies Night Out.”

We didn’t have dinners with families anymore, and my kids didn’t go on as many play-dates. It wasn’t because people were being judgmental. It’s because life had changed. Sometimes that was hard. But I want to write about this because if you are a single woman, especially a single mom in the Mormon church, I want you to know that it is okay. It gets better. People know you and people care about you. Some people might insensitive things, but it isn’t on purpose. People become uncomfortable when someone gets divorced because it wakes them up to how vulnerable their own marriages are. Now, I know that some people truly are jerks, but for the most part…they’re not.

v
I was assigned a new Home Teacher. His wife would come with him. We talked about running, and the Tour de France. They listened and laughed when I told them about crazy guys that I dated. They always said hi to me in the halls at church. They even had me over to dinner.

I knew that they were my friends.

vi
As time went on, many of the people in my ward started feeling more comfortable with the fact that I was single and that I was okay. More than once, I had a conversation that went like this:
“So…how are things going? Are you dating?”
“ehhh…it’s kind of hard to date here if you want to date Mormons.”
“I bet!”
“But it’s okay.”
“You know…I have a brother. He lives in California, but he is single, and he is so cool. I wish you could meet him. I’m going to have him come out here and visit. If he does, would you mind if I set you up?”
“No problem,” I’d say (with a laugh). “Let me know when he’s in town.” For the most part, these didn’t pan out. But it was nice to know that people cared about me and liked me enough to want me to date their brothers and friends. It is a little cheesy, I know. And sometimes I had to fight the temptation not to get annoyed. I learned to see these offers as compliments.

vii
One day at church, the primary pianist and I were chatting.
“You’re really looking good, Catania.”
“Thanks.”
“No…seriously…Have you lost weight?”
“Yeah…actually…about 200 lbs.”
“What? No. You–you weren’t that big before?”
I started to laugh, “Well, about 180 of that was my ex.”
We laughed together and she gave me a “You go, girl.”

ix
Another week, at church:
“Catania! I saw you the other day–running. I honked, but you probably didn’t realize it was me.”
“Where was it?”
“Over on Glenside.”
“Yeah…I think I remember. You drive a red van, right?”
“Yeah…Glenside is quite a hill. Did you run the whole thing?”
“I did.”
“Awesome!” Meg, the woman talking to me, exclaimed. I genuinely accepted her excitement because I knew that she was a runner. She continued, “You’re a pretty serious runner, huh?”
“I don’t know. I just like running. It really helps beat stress.”
“That’s true. But I’ve got to say, I saw you running a few months ago, too. And it was only 25 degrees. Only serious runners go when it’s 25 degrees.”
“Thanks,” I said, smiling.
“Have you run any races lately?”
“I’ve run a 10K.”
“You should run a marathon.”
“I don’t know about that…” I said, with trepidation.
“Oh…you can do it. You already run outside when it’s cold. And you can run up the hill on Glenside. That hill is no joke.”
“I know, but a marathon is so…far.”
“What is your longest run that you’ve run so far.”
“Ten miles, actually. I ran ten miles last weekend…it was amazing!”
“Ten miles! Then a marathon will be no problem for you. Just a little more training. You should do it!”

x
Another week at church:
“Cute skirt, Sister Ryan.”
“Thanks!”
“You always have the cutest clothes! I want to go shopping with you!”
“Thank you so much, Martha!”
(It was a young woman who said this…any woman—any Mom— feels cool when a cute teenager compliments you.)

xi
And another week at church, I was leaving the building with my kids to go home. Sister Kunz was also walking out. I have to admit, I’ve always looked up to Sister Kunz. She is faithful, smart, and talented. We made small talk as we left. I told her how much I enjoyed teaching her son Matt in primary. He was a cute kid.
“Thanks,” she replied. Then she asked, “So…how are things going?”
I knew that she was referring to my life as a single mom, the divorce, etc. “Actually, they are going really well.”
“You know—I can tell.”
I smiled as she continued. “I mean, you look great–obviously. Whatever you’re doing is working.”
“I have lost some weight… I started running!”
“No. It’s not just that. You look really happy. You look lighter-like you aren’t weighed down anymore, but are free.”
“It’s true. That is how I feel. Even though a divorce is a sad thing, living a lie is even worse. Even though I’m alone, I’m so much happier now.
“That’s amazing…You’re a strong woman,” she said, with a tear in her eye.
I had one in my eye, too.

***
Even though things were kind of uncomfortable at first, over time people in my ward got used to my being single. Nothing was ever “the same”, but that was okay. My life wasn’t the same. Everyone accepted me as I was, and I felt grateful that there were so many people who cared about me and were cheering me on.

The Singles Ward

Okay, I have to be honest, I never actually became a part of the singles ward. Since I had two children, I always stayed with my home ward. But, when I was finally officially single, I started going to singles functions. My first singles activity was institute.*

Sister Schmidt, the institute teacher, was going out of town. She called me and asked if I’d substitute. I said yes…so my first singles activity wasn’t just going to institute, but it was teaching an institute class. It was kind of interesting.

I can’t really remember what I taught about, but I remember that the lesson went well. The students seemed receptive. And I remember telling myself not to check out the dudes while I had to teach the class…Just teach the lesson…afterwards you can flirt.

I noticed a few guys. One was a smart-allecky kind of guy–funny, but not my type. One guy looked like he was 18, a baby. One guy kept falling asleep during my lesson! One guy was super nice and had contributed a lot to class. He had a really preppy look: naturally blonde hair with blue eyes. He wore a golf shirt, tucked in, and Sperry top-siders. He had contributed a lot to the class, and had an infectious smile. His name was Dan. Then there was this dude who was in an orange and white striped golf shirt–with the collar popped. He didn’t seem anything like the other dudes. He almost seemed European. His eyes were icy-blue a -la Daniel Craig. He didn’t say much during class (and by much I mean anything), but he seemed to listen intently.

Of course, I noticed these dudes while I was teaching class, so I didn’t really get to talk to or interact with anyone until after the class.

When class was over, everyone scattered. I gathered up my papers, and Dan came up to me, asked me a few questions, and told me that I had taught a really great lesson–that he had felt the Spirit very strongly. His compliment was genuine, and I smiled and talked to him for a while. Maybe I could have a crush on him? 🙂

Everyone else started to migrate out to the gym. A bunch of the guys were playing basketball. Other guys (and girls) were hanging out on the stage, talking. Dan introduced me to the group. He had to get somewhere, so he left, and I stayed and stood around–listening to all of these people talk about whatever was going on. There were a few people in this group that hadn’t been in the institute class. One was this guy, that was almost cute. I could tell he was staring at me. Finally, he asked, “You don’t look young. You look like your in your twenties.”
“Yeah…” he cut me off.
“Let me guess. You’re twenty-fi…six.”
“Actually, yes.” I said. (Just so you know…most of the girls in this singles ward were really young. Most of them were nannies from Utah. So…I kind of stood out.)
“Well…you’re pretty. So what’s the deal? Why are you twenty-six and single? What’s wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with me?” I asked, incredulous.
“You have to admit…most Mormon girls that are thin and good-looking don’t make it to the age of 26 without getting married.” I was simultaneously humiliated for myself, the girls who were around us, and him.
“Well…I’m divorced.” I said
“Figures…why? What happened?” I couldn’t believe it. I still didn’t know his name! He hadn’t asked for mine. I was getting so annoyed! Did he really want to know my situation? Did he really care? I figured that the least I could do was make him feel uncomfortable for asking me.
“Well…let’s see. I guess the reason why it didn’t work out is because even though we got married in the temple, even though he was a return missionary and we always held a temple recommend, he decided he was a sex addict and then cheated on me with several women.”
He stood there without saying anything. I guess he wasn’t expecting real baggage.
“So, after seven years of lies, and finding out about the truth, I got divorced. The way I see it is that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. There was something wrong with my ex, and I didn’t have to deal with it anymore…That’s why I’m here now–26, cute, and unmarried. Is that satisfactory?”
“Yeah…”he said sheepishly. “I guess that’s a worthwhile reason.”
I wasn’t sure about this whole “singles” thing.

It was getting late, and I had two children at home, so I excused myself.
As I left, I saw the Euro-looking dude in the hall–getting a drink of water.
“Hey, good lesson.” He said. He had an accent. I was right about the Euro-look.
“Thanks,” I said.
He wasn’t in his orange and white shirt anymore, but had changed, and he was about to walk into the gym. Before he did, I said, “Wait…weren’t you wearing something else?”
“Yeah. I changed…I’m going to play some basketball.”
He was wearing a tee-shirt that said Toulouse, France. Even though his accent didn’t sound French, I couldn’t place where he was from.
I pointed at his shirt, “Are you French?”
“French?” He looked at his shirt, “No…this is where I served my mission.”
“Oh,” I said. “I bet that was a beautiful mission…So, I know that you’re not French, but I can also tell that you’re not American.”
“I’m not.” he said.
“Well, where are you from?” I asked, with a smile.
“Germany.” he answered.
“Awesome. Well, I hope you’re having a good time here. What’s your name?”
“Markus,” he replied. “You?”
“I’m Catania…nice to meet you.”
“Good to meet you, too.”

Markus went into the gym, and I went to the parking lot and drove home. I had survived my first night at a “Singles” event.

*****
*In the Mormon church, we call our local congregation a “ward.” Sometimes, if there are enough people, the A ward will be created specifically for Single Adults. Additionally, all of the priests and other ecclesiastical leaders in the Mormon church are lay-people. We have no paid clergy. So many people are called to serve either in their own ward or they may help with other assignments as needed.

*In the Mormon church, we have an organization for the children ages 3-12 called Primary. On Sundays, after we meet for our services, the primary children go to a Sunday School class where they sing songs and learn about the gospel. I was called and chose to accept the calling to volunteer my time to be the chorister for this group. It was a lot of fun.

*Institute is short for Institute of Religion. These are religion courses for adults (usually college aged). These classes are not a part of regular Sunday worship. In Pennsylvania, they usually were held on a week night.

Click here for part 18.

Six Month Wait (Part 16 of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me
Homey and Me

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.
Silence.
“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.

Pretty tricky.

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.
“Why not?”
“You’ll regret it.”
“No way.”
“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.

This really happened, y'all.
This really happened, y’all.

A piece of advice: Never wear a wedding dress in a fire.
A piece of advice: Never wear a wedding dress in a fire.

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.

A Crush

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,
“Funny. Honest.”
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.”
“Definitely.”
“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?”
“Euh…sure!”
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?”
“Yes.”
“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?”
“Yes.”
“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.

Click here for part 17

A Plan to Dive into the Wreck (Part 15 of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me
Homey and Me

This is part fifteen 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.

***
It was a Sunday, after church, that I told Rusty I was going to file for a divorce. When he heard the news, he called His parents, and made arrangements to fly back to Utah. Everything was coming to an end. Although I was heartbroken, I was feeling hopeful. I knew that divorce was the right thing for me and for my family. I knew everything I needed to know about Rusty and his affairs. I had spiritual confirmation of my decision. I don’t want to say that I was over it, but I was happy about moving forward with my life.

Throughout this time, I was talking to friends incessantly, including Snoopy. My heart simultaneously leapt and broke every time I heard his voice. He was both comforting and unsettling. We would have conversations where he would make me laugh (he had always been one of the funniest people I had ever known. A little bit about Snoop: he was kind of quiet. He was one of those guys who would sit off to the side of a room, and just kind of chill. Then, when he said something, it was always the best, most hilarious thing anyone said. I loved that he didn’t talk too much. I loved that when he did it was important. There was so much that I liked about him.) All of those feelings were resurfacing, and I was getting confused.

One day, I was talking to Snoopy, and I told him that Rusty was gone and I’d be asking for a divorce. I can’t really remember how it came up, but I told Snoop that I was really happy about it. He seemed a little surprised.
“You have to realize, Snoop, that I’ve been in a bad marriage for a long time.”
“I know, but it seems so soon to be happy about it.”
“That’s what I’m saying, though. I’ve been lonely for years. All along, I couldn’t make sense of how I felt. When I found out the truth, it was hard–really hard–but it was also…liberating.”
He seemed a little surprised.
Then, he started asking me questions.
“If it is so easy for you to get over Rusty, then why did you marry him in the first place?”
“What do you mean?” I knew what he meant, but I really didn’t want to have this kind of conversation with Snoop.
“Why did you marry him? If he was a lying jerk, why would you marry him?”
“Well, I didn’t know he was a lying jerk then.”
“Oh. Okay. Well, what was it about him then that made you marry him?”
“I thought he was attractive,” I said this hoping that I’d be able to think of a way to change the subject.
“What do you find attractive?”
“Well. I don’t know.” In a way this was true, but in another way not as true. At that point in my life, I didn’t know what I found attractive anymore.
“Sure you do. What do you find attractive?”
“Well, when I got married it was a little different than how I feel now. Things are different now.”
“What was it when you got married?”
“Okay. When I first met Rusty, I thought he was cute.”
“What made him cute?”
“He was tall. He had brown hair and brown eyes. He had a nice smile.”
“Is that it? Tall, brown hair, brown eyes?”
“And nice smile,” I said, teasingly…hoping to change the mood of this conversation.
“I’m tall with brown hair and brown eyes.”
“Yes you are. And you have a nice smile.”
“Okay. Then what was it about Rusty?” Have I mentioned that I hated this conversation. Couldn’t we just pretend that Rusty never existed. That seven years passed because of some mystery and I somehow had these two kids, too?

Even though I hated the conversation, I finally just tried to be as open as possible. I supposed Snoop deserved answers. “I fell in love with Rusty because of his vitality for life. He was charming. He was always in the middle of it all. It was intoxicating at the time.”
“Charming, huh. That’s what girls always say. What is so great about being charming?” Snoop didn’t let me answer. “I guess I need to be more charming. Then I’ll get all the women.”
“No, Snoop. That’s not what I’m saying. Rusty’s charm is what made me like him at first. But it also is his greatest downfall. It is why he cheated so much. It is what made him such a great liar. Don’t you see, I was an idiot. Being charming means nothing. Rusty’s charm didn’t do much for our marriage. Because I have kids I hate saying this, but sometimes I feel like marrying Rusty was the biggest mistake of my life. But what can I do about it now? Nothing. It happened. And now I’m getting divorced. I can only be grateful that the Lord blessed me to get out of it now, and that I still have my entire life ahead of me.” Snoop, though still agitated, genuinely listened.
“I guess,” he finally replied.
“Look, Snoop. When I think of you, I’m honestly in shock. I don’t know how you made it through BYU without getting married. You’re attractive. You’re hilarious. You’re smart…I mean…did you get your money back when you graduated without finding a wife to marry?” (I was still attempting to add some humor to all of this).
“But…I’m not charming.”

I can’t really remember the rest of the phone conversation, and perhaps this is more than one conversation I’m remembering getting lumped together, but I do remember getting off the phone, and once again regretting that I had ever met or married Rusty. I especially remember regretting hurting Snoop. I wished that he would be able to forgive me. But there were too many offenses. There was the boy I talked to at the blues festival. There was the time I took Rico Suave to the prom. And, above all, there was Rusty. Despite the pain I must have caused to Snoop, he would still call and check on me. He would still tell awesome jokes and have me laughing in the worst time of my life. He was still my friend.

***

One night, I was lying on my bedroom floor, listening to John Mayer (huge mistake for a girl who has recently been through a rocky relationship), and daydreaming about Snoop. I had a clairvoyant moment, and had to laugh. I was sixteen all over again! On the floor. Doodling. Writing in my journal. And crushing on Snoop! Admittedly, this time around it was much worse…and it was funny knowing that my kids were in the room next to me, rather than my brothers.

But this moment made me begin to realize that I should probably stop talking to Snoop. I wrote him an incredibly long email, in which I told him how things happened that made me want to marry Rusty (including how things didn’t work out with him, so it made me open to the idea of dating Rusty very seriously). I was as honest as possible. I apologized for hurting him. And I told him that I had to stop talking to him, so I would appreciate it if he didn’t call me anymore.

Obviously, I wanted to talk to him every minute of every day. Snoop helped me to ignore what was going on in my real life. But, I knew that this was not the healthy way to get over my divorce. I had to attend to my own mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health for my own sake, the sake of my kids, and the sake of any other person involved (including Snoop). So…I stopped talking to him.

I hated not talking to Snoop. Prior to my insistence that we stop talking, we did not talk every day. Not even close. Maybe once a week or so. But I loved those conversations. We’d talk for hours, and I cherished every second. I tried to remember each word he spoke. I laughed. I ignored everyone else on earth. Then, after every conversation, I’d call Spunky, or Freckles, or Blythe, (or all three) and recount everything we said, with sighs, giggles, oohhs, and ahhs. Not talking to Snoop, in a way, meant not having hope. But, the Spirit* prompted assured me that not talking to Snoop was the best thing to do.

***
The night before I went to see the lawyer to file for a divorce, I read a poem by Adrienne Rich:
Diving into the Wreck
First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

I was reassured by my choice to stop talking to Snoop. I knew that I needed to dive into the wreck of my marriage, and that I needed to do it alone. Even though doing it alone was so hard, I thought of a plan to help me. I was going to “dive into the wreck,” but first I needed supplies. Instead of flippers and an oxygen mask, I needed three empty journals, the old journals I kept throughout my marriage to Rusty, and time. The next morning, I got up and found the box that my journals were in. I brought them to my room. I then bundled up in a coat, and made my way to the appointment at my Lawyer’s office.

My lawyer and I discussed the divorce, which was easy since Rusty and I didn’t have any shared debts or assets. I paid the lawyer $800. (I would pay him the balance when the divorce went through in 3-6 months.) I left the lawyer’s office and headed to Barnes and Noble where I procured the rest of my supplies for my voyage into “the wreck.” I bought three journals:

Journal One

My first journal was a sleek, classic Moleskine. It would be a place that I recorded my daily thoughts. I was keeping my normal journal on my computer, but I wanted to have a small journal I could take with me everywhere. Often, I had horrible thoughts, horrible memories. Sometimes, I would write them down. Sometimes, I would write something else down to get my mind off of the memory. Either way, I knew I needed something a little bit more portable than a computer. I also knew that if I was going to dive into the wreck, then I may stir up even worse feelings–likely to come at any time. I wanted to be prepared with a method to both address and dismiss these feelings. A Moleskine would do the trick.

Journal Two

My second journal was the cheapest, crappiest, ugliest journal I could find. Unfortunately, Barnes and Noble doesn’t have many ugly, crappy, cheap journals. I found a black journal with gilded edges for $4.99. It would do. This journal would be dedicated to Rusty. While I was “diving into the wreck”, I knew I’d feel angry. I knew that I would want to yell at Rusty. I would have these dreams at night–where I was doing things to Rusty–screaming at him, hurting him. One time, I had a dream that I was beating him with a lawnmower. I would lift the lawnmower above my head, and heave it, smashing him again and again. He always just stood there without saying a word, unscathed.

This journal would help me to satisfy that angry itch in the most positive way possible. I knew that I didn’t want to actually hurt him–and not because I’m a good or noble person–only because I fear God more than anything else, and I knew that if I was to expect any kind of healing from God, then I’d need to learn to forgive Rusty. So, I resigned myself to imaginary violence by buying myself a journal where I could channel my angry thoughts then leave them.

Journal Three

My third journal was beautiful. It was red leather, with a pretty heart imprinted on the leather. It was simple and classic. This journal was dedicated to Snoopy.

I knew that diving into the wreck would be hard, and that I would crave support. Of course I had the support of my friends, and I wanted their love, but especially wanted support from a man. I had been betrayed and humiliated by a man. I wanted there to be a man who would hold my hand, support me, say nice things to me. In many ways, I wanted a man to save me.

Though I was a damsel (or dame, I guess) in distress, I knew that I would have to save myself if I wanted to really be healed.

So, I bought this beautiful journal, and whenever I felt like talking to Snoop, I’d write him letters. Long letters. I’d write about observations, funny things, sad things, happy things. And so, I began an imaginary relationship with a real person through this journal.

Diving into the Wreck

Now that I was fully prepared. I “dove into the wreck.” Every day, I spent about half an hour, reading through my old journals, “to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevail.” I needed to search to find “the thing I came for: the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth.
” In other words, I needed to see the damage of my marriage and life, find the treasures, the wreck of my marriage (and not just the story of the wreck). I needed to know the truth and not the myth of what I believed my marriage to be.

This poem taught me that I needed to look at the wreck of my marriage from the most objective point I could muster.

I gave myself a time limit each day (30 min-1 hour) and an overall limit A month and a half.

So…I began to analyze my wreck, I tried learn from it, and I promised that I would leave it forever.

***

*The Spirit you will notice that I often say this. Obviously, I’m a spiritual person. In the Mormon faith, we covenant with God. When we are baptized, we promise to remember God, and Keep His commandments. He promises to bless us with the gift of the Holy Ghost, who will be a constant companion, comforter, and guide to us if we are living worthily. Throughout my life, and especially at this time, I leaned heavily on the Spirit to help me know what I should do.

Click here for part 16.

Two Weeks and a Major Decision (Part 14 of the Ham Love Story)

Homey and Me
Homey and Me

This is part fourteen of the Homey and Me Love Story. It is when my marriage to Rusty was ending – long before I met Homey, but an important part of the story, nonetheless.

***
Saturday morning, 9AM finally came. It was my mom’s 10th year anniversary. My marriage was ending. I got myself ready and then went to the church. The day was cold and grey, reflecting how I felt. I was full of nervous energy, on the verge of vomiting.

When I got to the church, I saw my Bishop*. My sweet, tender Bishop. Through the service of this Bishop, I knew that not only did Heavenly Father love me, but He ached for me – and that He had been aching for me for longer than I even realized.
“Hi Bishop.”
“…Catania.” He replied, his face full of anguish for me. As I think of my Bishop at the time, the following scripture comes into mind:

“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life–” – Mosiah 18:9

This Bishop fulfilled these roles. He mourned with me, comforted me, and both his service and words testified of God.

It’s funny. The Bishop had just gotten a job in Washington, D.C and was considering moving down there, but had been prompted to stay in PA until the end of the school year. I honestly feel like he was saved for me. I don’t believe in any coincidences.

Anyway…I met with the Bishop, and then Rusty arrived. Visually, we were stark opposites. Although I know I didn’t look my best, I was showered and dressed in Sunday Clothes. I had (minimal) make-up on (make-up is no good when you’re busy crying your eyes out…although a little doesn’t hurt–it makes the crying even more dramatic! 😉 Rusty arrived in the same clothes he had on the night before, crumpled and wrinkled. He wore a hat, and his hair was dirty and greasy. I doubt he had brushed his teeth. There was a sense of desperation about him – not of pain, but of being discovered.

My Bishop had me stay in another room while he met with Rusty. I read scriptures and conference talks*. When the Bishop was done speaking with Rusty, he came and spoke to me, individually. He also gave me a priesthood blessing*. Finally, we met all together.

I don’t remember much of what was said that meeting, but I remember the feeling of disgust that consumed me while sharing a room with Rusty. I looked at him, embarrassed that I shared his name and that I had shared so much with him. He was like a disgusting scab that I wanted to shed myself of.

I think that what made him seem so disgusting isn’t because he was physically gross -he didn’t look that much different than he did the day we were married. The disgust I felt for him came from the knowledge of who he actually was. I saw his hands – the hands that I had loved so much – aware that only a day before those hands were treasures to me. Now, those once revered hands repulsed me. He was repulsive because of his lie.

Up to this point, Rusty had only admitted to having an affair with one woman, though I knew that there were more. While he met with the Bishop individually, he admitted to two more. Yet, I somehow knew there were more women. While I was with Rusty and the Bishop, we went through a line of questioning. The Bishop asked if there was anyone in PA that he had been with. The strangest thing happened. Rusty squirmed like a roach on his back. He couldn’t lie, yet he couldn’t tell the truth, either. He just squirmed–truly uncomfortable.
The Bishop didn’t back down.
“Is there anyone here?”
[Squirming]
“Rusty, is there anyone here?”
[Nearly inaudible] “Yes.”
“What happened?”
[Squirming]
“What happened?”
[Squirming]
Rusty. What happened.”
[Even more squirming with a reluctant answer]”We had sex.”
Those words rang out like a shot. Immediately, I stood up and went out the door, clutching my stomach. I ran to the water fountain. I was sure I’d vomit.

The Bishop (not Rusty) raced after me and began to apologize profusely.
“I’m so, so sorry, Catania. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“Don’t apologize, Bishop.”
“No, really, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have put you through that.”
“No. Don’t apologize. I needed to see that; God knew that I needed to see that.
The Bishop put his arm on my shoulder, physically comforting me, and we finished our meeting.

***
Before I go on, I have to say that I still believe that I needed to see Rusty in that situation – nearly forced to tell the truth. While there wasn’t a gun to his head, the tone in the room as the Bishop asked him those questions was absolutely serious. Gravely serious. I know that in that specific moment, God wouldn’t let Rusty lie, and I needed to see it. I needed to see how physically difficult it was for him to tell the truth. I needed to know who Rusty actually was. Though I was emotional and having a difficult time processing all of what was happening, I needed to have these moments of pure clarity–no matter how hard they were to take.

***
After I arrived home from the Bishop’s meeting, I checked my email and found a note from Snoopy. It was friendly, full of generalities. He asked me how things were going. I decided to tell Snoop that there was a possibility that I’d be getting divorced. I didn’t give him any specifics, but told him that everything I thought about my marriage had been a lie, and I was trying to figure out the course of action to take.

Almost immediately, Snoop responded.

He began the email by recounting the time we first spoke on the phone: “I remember you told me about this dream where you were riding on a skateboard, and rainbows were following you. Do you still have dreams like that?”

I crumbled.

“…and while were on old subjects, I remember being really hurt when you asked Rico Suave to the prom instead of me.”

That stupid prom! It was the worst mistake of my life!

Snoop reminded me of the healing power of the Atonement–that even though life is unfair, we can be healed. He let me know that he’d be praying for me. And he reminded me that I had a friend in him.

I was so sad, so confused, so frustrated.

***
A few parts of the next two weeks.


My mom told me that I should never talk to Rusty again. I told her that I wasn’t sure what I’d do. I told her that I needed to think about it. I wanted to make this decision with my eyes wide open. She got frustrated with me–my ups and downs, my indecision, and finally said to me, “You’re mad because I was right about him.”
“What do you mean?”
“I knew all along he was cheating.”
“Well, you never told me that.”
“I did, Catania, but you didn’t want to listen, and now you’re mad at me because I was right.”
Her assessment couldn’t have been more inaccurate. I felt even more alone.


Almost every day, I’d go to the hotel, asking Rusty question after question after question. He never squirmed again. He just recounted experience after experience with complete nonchalance–matter-of-factly. Like a sociopath.


Right away, I went to the bank, opened a new account (in my name only) and then withdrew the money from my joint account, depositing it into my own. I knew that if I chose to get divorced, I’d need money to support the kids.


I found some of the letters Rusty had written to me over the years. I wrote, “Lies, lies, lies.” On each of them. I found his journal (he’d write in it every so often when we, as a family, wrote in our journals). There were entries about family and kids. I crossed each entry out, writing, “Lies, lies, lies.” I brought them all with me to the hotel, and gave them to Rusty.


Every evening, the Bishop would call me, checking in. He had urged me to make my decisions carefully.
“You have been married in the temple*, Catania. The decision you make isn’t one to be made lightly. Either way – if you stay with Rusty or if you leave him – the decision will impact the eternities. Make this decision carefully. If you rush into any decision, I’m afraid you’ll close off an opportunity.”
The was wise advice from my Bishop, but it was also hard. I wanted for someone just to tell me what to do. Thankfully, I followed His advice, and have been very greatly blessed.


When the count of Rusty’s “women” neared a dozen, I told him I didn’t want to know anything more. I realized not only was this destroying my spirit, but I was in physical danger. I asked my mom and Gigi to take me to the county clinic where I could get tested for an STD.
When I walked into the office, I was utterly humiliated. I didn’t belong here! I wanted to say it to every person in the office, “I don’t belong here!!!”
The receptionist handed me a stack of papers–medical releases and questionnaires. One of them had the question: How can you practice safe sex in the future?
It was my golden opportunity. I answered, Don’t have sex with lying, cheating husband.
My mom said, “Catania…don’t write that!”
Gigi, who had accompanied me to the clinic countered, “Why not?…It’s the truth.”

When it was my turn to be tested, a nurse went through the questionnaire with me. When she got to this question, and she let out a howl, “Oooooh! Girl!” and laughed.
“It’s the only way I can think to be safer.”
Though she was jovial for a second, she became serious. “What you’re doing is brave. It’s the right thing to do. I hope that you’re okay.”
Her words of support brought tears to my eyes. “Me, too.” I said.


One day, when I went to the hotel, I brought my scrapbook(s) with me. I had several. I had spent hundreds of dollars and even more hours creating those scrapbooks. In an act of rage, I told Rusty it was all a lie. Then I proceeded to rip every single page into shreds. (It was pretty dramatic and quite cathartic!)

***
There were many things that happened during those two weeks that influenced my decision, but two things, in particular sealed the deal.

One

I received Snoop’s email (the one that made me cry) in the afternoon. Later on that evening, I went to Rusty’s hotel to talk things through. My mind was swirling.
“Rusty. What is it? Why do you love me? Why do we stay together?”
“You know I love you, Catania.”
“No. I don’t know that. In fact, it seems like you hate me.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Rusty. What is it? What do we have? Why would we fight for this marriage?”
Rusty thought a minute…finally, he answered. “We both really like hockey.”
My eyes widened.
“Hockey?”
“Yeah. We both like hockey.”
I laughed out loud. “Hockey season’s cancelled, buddy.”

I didn’t tell Rusty this, but as he said those words, Snoop’s email flashed through my mind. I began to cry as I realized that the man I was married to couldn’t come up with anything to fight for, anything to love, anything about me or our marriage. Yet, the man to whom I didn’t speak for 7 years could still remember my essence.

Rusty and me: We didn’t have anything. It was a sham. A lie. Less than nothing.

Two

The day before I made my final decision to get divorced, I was at church. Life was a roller-coaster that week. Up and down and up and down. One minute I thought I would try to work things out with Rusty–for the kid’s sake–for our marriage’s sake. The next minute I thought it was impossible. I didn’t know what to do.

As I was leaning more and more toward divorce, Rusty was trying to fight it. He promised to get professional help. He promised to stop. He promised that he loved me. But I still wasn’t sure. I prayed that I would have guidance on this decision.

One day, at church, I was walking in the hall. Rusty passed me, and I looked at him, saying hi. When I did, he didn’t return my salutation. He didn’t smile. Instead, he just looked through me. I felt like a high school girl who has a crush on a popular guy. He doesn’t even know I exist, I thought. At first, I was (mentally) making excuses for him. But then I realized, If there is anyone here he should recognize, then it should be me! Every emotion, every thought, every prayer, every blessing culminated in that single moment when Rusty looked through me.

I made the decision to file for divorce.

***

*The Bishop is a priest or leader of a local congregation. In the Mormon church, we have a lay leadership, so Bishops and others serve without pay. They have families, jobs, lives, on top of being the leader of congregations that usually number between 200-300 people.

*Conference Talks – Twice a year, the leadership of the Mormon church speaks to the general population in a meeting called General Conference. These talks are then printed and distributed in an LDS magazine – The Ensign.

*Priesthood Blessing – a special blessing given by a Priesthood holder. In this kind of blessing, the man acts as a sort of mouthpiece, expressing a blessing from the Lord. These blessings are given by request, and can be a source of increased strength, clarity, help from the Lord. They are often given during times of illness or great distress. Priesthood blessings are very sacred. Having been a recipient of many Priesthood Blessings, I can bear witness that these blessings are truly from God, and that He has endowed us with His power.

*Temple Marriage – some people in the Mormon church choose to be married in the temple. These marriages are considered eternal. In fact, the verbage for such an ordinance is for time and all eternity rather than ’til death do you part.

**
Click here for part 15

2/11/05 (Part 13 of the HaM Love Story)

This is part thirteen of the Homey and Me Love Story. It is when my marriage to Rusty was ending – long before I met Homey, but an important part of the story, nonetheless.

***
It was February 11, around noon, when I sat down at the computer, mechanically, trying to hack my way into Rusty’s email. I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. I prayed to make sure that it wasn’t a mistake for me to get in his email without his consent. I knew that it could be a major betrayal of trust, but the Spirit reminded me, He is not to be trusted, and you know this. So…I found myself at the computer, trying a few passwords.

None of them were working.

I noticed the prompt forget your password? Even though I hadn’t forgotten it, I knew it was my best chance of figuring out how to get into the account. I was asked a security question: What is your favorite sports team? I knew Rusty well enough to attempt to answer this question. I also knew that Rusty loved sports. There were so many options. I tried them. Jazz, Utah Jazz, The Utah Jazz, St. Louis Cardinals, Cardinals, The Cardinals, Saint Louis Cardinals, Chicago Bears, The Bears, The Chicago Bears, The Eagles, and on, and on, and on. I wasn’t coming up with anything. After a few minutes of unsuccessfully guessing, Panda came into the room begging for lunch. I decided to give up the email quest. I figured, It isn’t meant to be. I was both disappointed and relieved. However, as I left, I didn’t turn off the computer. I figured I’d do that after feeding the kids.

After making sandwiches, eating, and cleaning up, I felt myself drawn, again, to the office room where the computer sat. I knew it was on and waiting for me. I told myself I’d just go up, turn it off, and then pray again for comfort and strength. I knew that everything would be okay.

When I went up to the computer, it was as if I was on “auto-pilot.” I sat down at the computer and just started typing: F-l-y-e-r-s. And BAM! Just like that – I was in.

I was so relieved to find the email inbox empty – except for a note from an guy in Utah – that Rusty had a landscaping business with. Yet, my “auto-pilot” was still on, and instead of logging off of the computer, I was checking the sent mail.

Then my heart began to sink. There were dozens. No hundreds of emails from Rusty to other women. I only saw subject lines…but they were bad enough. I clicked on one that said Thinking of You.

And I read that filthy, vile email.

The email was a note reminiscing on a time when he had been back to Utah, for His grandfather’s funeral, and he had met with a woman at a hotel. They had various sexual exploits. I was disgusted. I knew it was true. It was all over. I read the email once, then I called my dear friend, Blythe, and read her every word of the ex-ex-ex rated email. I think she choked. Then I said to her, I have to let you go.

I called Rusty. He was working with my step-dad. Again, I asked him, “What’s going on with you and Jezebel?”
“Nothing, Catania. I promise.”
“No, really. What’s going on with you and Jezebel?”
“Catania, is this because of the p*rnography you found the other day?”
“Rusty. I know. I have read your emails. I know that you cheated on me with Jezebel.”
Barely audible, Rusty stated, “It’s true.”

I hung up the phone and felt like I would vomit. Instead, I just collapsed. As I fell down to the ground, I kind of…cackled/choked. It wasn’t just a cry. It was despair. Even though my life had been hanging heavy for weeks, it finally took that last crash. I was finally beginning to jolt into awareness.

I remember that moment – lying on the ground, truly pounding it with my fists like a two year old having a tantrum. It was also nearly an out-of-body experience. Another part of me seemed to hover above myself – very aware of how crazy this was. Catania, you are crying, I thought to myself.

My mom came upstairs, and I don’t remember what I told her, but she now knew. I was still feeling like two people. Catania 1 was lying on the ground, crying in the ugliest way. Catania 2 was hovering above, shocked and embarrassed for Catania 1 – telling her hey, you’re crying! This is weird! This is exactly how it would happen in a movie! You’re acting like a two-year old! Catania 1 kept crying on the floor, shaking, holding back vomit while Catania 2 hovered and thought, this seems a little over-the-top…faker and then replayed the fall that Catania 1 had done upon reading the email over and over and over again.

I looked up at my mom and saw Tiger and Panda standing beneath her, anxious.
“Why are you crying, Mama?” Tiger asked, worried.
“It’s okay, let’s go and watch a movie, okay?” I knew that I wasn’t convincing, but I also knew that she would happily watch a movie.
My mom took the girls downstairs and started a video.

Instead of going downstairs, I called my Bishop on his cell phone.
“Bishop?”
“Hello? Yes?”
“Hi. This is Catania from your ward.”
“Yes.”
“Um. I’m calling because I know that you have an appointment to meet with my husband tomorrow, but I’m beginning to think that you’ll have to meet with me, too.”
“Okay…”
“I just found out that Rusty has been having an affair.”
I heard him pause and take a gulp.
“Look. I’m at a conference for work right now, but I’ll call you back. I’ll pray for you. And you pray, too.” He then paused and said, “Catania, pray — Right now you are in your own personal gethsemane.”
I nodded my head, unable to say anything because of the sobs and tears steraming down my face.
“k.” I finally muttered.
I hung up the phone, and collapsed again – this time on the bed – internalizing what the Bishop had said. I knew it was true. I was going to experience my own kind of “gethsemane” – I knew that I was about to live through more pain than I ever thought possible.

***
I sat on the bed, crying for a while, but a nervous energy began to consume me. I called Blythe, I called Freckles, I called Spunky. I called Red. I called the Princess Club. I called friends from Utah. I called friends in PA. I wrote an email to Jezebel and read through all of Rusty’s emails. I wrote emails to a few other women that I suspected Rusty had slept with.

Rusty came home, and we went upstairs to talk things through. I called his parents, his siblings, and his best friend. No matter how hard I tried to embarrass him, he didn’t flinch. Repeating the story – even in the most shocking way to other people – didn’t make me feel Rusty and worse or me any better. I was still sobbing. And Rusty stared at me as if he was wondering when this episode would end.

I asked Rusty all of the evidentiary questions…who(too many to tell, really), what (sex, in any and every way you can think), where (in my home, in Moab, in cars, in their homes, in tents, and…well you get the idea), why (he didn’t know…maybe he had a tough time acclimating to married life), when (september 1998, two months after we were married, after work, that day in the canyon, at the depeche mode concert, while I was at Young Women’s, while he was studying, when he went to the “library”, etc), and how (easy- he lied to me, to himself, and to everyone again, again, and again.)

After a few hours of questioning, we came downstairs. I was disgusted. Some of my mom’s friends (Vito and Gigi) were at my house. They were apprised of the situation. Vito acted like a father to me. He said that he wanted to break Rusty’s neck. (Which made me smile). When my mom said that Rusty was not welcome in our house, Vito offered to take care of him. Vito took Rusty to a parking lot behind McDonald’s and kicked him out of his car. When Rusty asked Vito where he was going to sleep, Vito replied, “That’s not my concern.” Rusty, still confused at this sudden turn of events protested, “But I can’t just sleep in this parking lot.”
Vito responded, “Listen, buddy. You’ll be better off in this parking lot than anywhere near me.”

For the rest of the evening, I cried, cried, and cried some more. My friends cried with me. They were appalled and sick for me. I felt the strength of so many people who cared.

Before I tried to sleep, I had the thought to email a few old friends. I emailed my dear friend Garet and told him what was going on. I felt like I needed to talk to people who knew me. I also emailed Snoopy. I didn’t tell him what had happened right away. Instead, I just told him that I had run into his parents a few weeks before (I had – at a church function). They told me that he was at Law School. I asked him how life was, and I told him I was back in PA. I wished him the best. In doing so, I wished that I’d hear back from him, without knowing what he’d say or what I’d say – if I’d tell him about me and Rusty. Writing my friends kept me busy for a little while. Then it was back to the reality of the moment.

Throughout the night, I sat on the guest bed, expecting a phone call from Rusty. I expected a phone call of sorrow and remorse. I wanted a phone call where he told me that he loved me, why he loved me, and that I was beautiful. I wanted him to tell me that this wasn’t true – it was a mistake. Even though so many people rallied around me; even though I felt the love, strength, and support of my ecclesiastical leaders; even though I knew that God was aware of me and had me cradled in His hands, I just wanted to curl up and cry in the arms of my husband.

Instead of a phone call from Rusty, I got a phone call from Red who listened as I gave her every painful detail. Whiles speaking to Red, I came to understand exactly the Spirit was trying to teach me about Galatians 5:1 (at that time). I needed to stand fast in the Liberty wherewith Christ had made me free. As long as I was yoked to Rusty, through marriage, I would be yoked to the mire of his sins. I wasn’t completely ready to call it quits on my marriage, but I had a strong feeling that I needed to use all of the energy I had left to get as far away from it as I possibly could. I was getting the idea that if I didn’t, I’d find myself stuck in the mud, miserable, forever.

After my conversation with Red, I stopped calling friends (it was the middle of the night!). Catania 2, my rational side, hovered above me and watched as Catania 1 took off her wedding ring, took some Ibuprofen, wrote in her journal, and cried some more. Morning could not come soon enough.

***
Click here for part 14.

The Longest Week (Part 12 of the HaM Love Story)

This is part twelve of the Homey and Me Love Story. It is when marriage to Rusty was ending – long before I met Homey, but an important part of the story, nonetheless.

Rusty and I drove with our two little girls – Tiger (3) and Panda (not quite two) – to Pennyslvania after living in Utah for over 6 years together. We were starting a new phase of our lives, which was exciting to me. I had felt “stalled out” for so long. I figured this change would help me, Rusty, our children, and our marriage. It seemed to be so good.

In October, we moved into my mom’s house while Rusty started a new job and got ready for school. We would stay there a few months until we found a suitable apartment.

Things went well. Rusty worked. I was able to spend time with my mom and my younger brother. So much change had happened in my life to notice much of anything in regards to my marital relationship. By the New Year, though, things were really settling down. We were still at my mom’s house while Rusty started school. He was working then traveling about 45 minutes to go to his classes, so the days were long. Even though I was sidetracked by hanging out with my brother, I was itching to move on, get an apartment, and be our own family again. I was also itching for more attention from Rusty. I figured that because we removed ourselves from the stress of Utah, things would be better. But the habits of our relationship remained the same, and we didn’t communicate or interact with each other much.

Our relationship was a concern to me (as it had been in Utah), so I found an online course – to help strengthen our marriage. I emailed the course to Rusty (it was to be done by both of the members of the couple), and he agreed to do it. As I studied this course, I thought more of Rusty, and what worked for him, and even though I felt uncomfortable, I began to try to be his dream woman. I ached for any kind of attention or approval – no matter the cost to my own integrity.

*
Just when I thought we were turning a corner in our relationship something horrible happened.

Tuesday Morning

I had been up early, subbing for a *seminary class. After class, I went to check my email and noticed an address in the url address line – it had a pornographic title.

Because of the way this website came up, I knew that it had been specifically visited in the past. I knew that it wasn’t any kind of accident. I looked at the website for a second. It was horrible.

I decided then to go through the history, where I found dozens of pornographic sites. Each worse than the one before. The blank stares of women exposing their most private, beautiful selves disgusted me. They were no more than objects. Things. And I thought of the men, the man, that would look at this. Did he not know that this was a woman? A daughter? A person who felt, laughed, loved? Did he not know that she was more than two legs and breasts? Did he not know that he was more than some sexual being, capable of more than simply fulfilling this rudimentary desire?

As I went through the websites, I knew that it was Rusty who had been looking at them. As each image hit my brain, I froze, and realized that this wasn’t the first time he had looked at something like this. I looked at each woman – feeling uglier, fatter, and increasingly worthless. Even though I couldn’t put my finger on it, I was beginning to understand our relationship.

I didn’t tell anyone about the p*rnography right away. Instead, I sent an email to Rusty. I told him we’d need to talk. I told him I found the pictures, and that they were repulsive.

He came home that evening, contrite. Like a dog with its tails between his legs. And I wanted to believe it.

Wednesday

Although I wasn’t feeling that much better about our new problem, I was willing to work through it. This problem afflicts so many. I covenanted to help my husband through it, too.

Thursday

I struggled still. Seminary was awful, I’m sure. I got home and read scriptures, looking for solace and strength. I knew that I could and did forgive my husband. I knew the power of the atonement could help us overcome this problem in our marriage. Yet, I could not be comforted. I didn’t understand why.

I talked to my husband about it.

He told me about his favorite *conference talk (that he had read earlier in the day)- Peace of Conscience and Peace of Mind, Richard G. Scott. Rusty had never before initiated a spiritual conversation with me, so I stood staring as he spoke to me. I could tell he was trying to manipulate me. I wanted to rip the Ensign Magazine out of his hands. This had been my favorite talk. I knew that he didn’t mean what he said, but that he was trying to say what I wanted to hear. I also realized that all along everything he had said to me was a variation on this exact circumstance – he spoke what I wanted to hear. I pretended to listen to and accept what he was saying.

*
I went to a meeting at the church. The entire activity was focused on unity and gospel teaching in the home. I had a heavy horrible feeling. It wasn’t anger. It was a stupor of thought, I suppose. It was discouraging, despondent, and completely desperate.

*
After my meeting, I came home, still upset. He didn’t sense it, but I finally told him how horrible I was feeling. He then acted like he understood and told me that things were about to get tougher before they got better.
“You know, I was talking to a friend at school today.”
“Yeah?” I responded.
“Yeah. He just went through a divorce. He told me how many people end up getting divorced in this program.”
“Really…Why?”
“Well, just because it is so time consuming. I will have a lot of projects and work to do, and will have to spend a lot of time at school.”
“Okay.” I was unsure as to why he was warning me about this now.
“Yeah. But I really think that we will be able to make it. You just need to know how time consuming it is. I will have a lot of group projects and things that I can’t do at home.”
This warning that Rusty gave me had a different effect on me that I think he attended. I felt warned, but not that class would be difficult. I felt like what he was saying was strange. Like he was trying to groom me for something bigger. Or like he was trying to reel me back into some kind of trap. In any case, I didn’t like what he said – not because of the subject matter, but because I didn’t trust his purpose or his timing.

Thursday Over-night

I had three dreams. In each of these dreams Rusty was having sex with another woman. I knew each woman by name – they were acquaintances in real life. When I woke up, I asked Rusty a question,
“I feel like there is something you’re keeping from me, Rusty.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I’m not sure. I just feel like there is something really wrong with us, with our marriage, and that if you don’t tell me, and I find out, then there will be no hope whatsoever.”
“Catania…I’m sure you’re still stressed about Tuesday. Don’t worry. I’ll be seeing the bishop tomorrow.”
Rusty moved to hug me, and I let him, but I didn’t reciprocate. I don’t think that he noticed. He seemed relatively aloof to all of my thoughts and feelings – only aware enough to do and say things that he hoped would keep me playing his game.

Friday Morning

It was because of the dreams. It was because of the Spirit. It was a combination of things that caused me to wake up on Friday morning feeling worse than I had all week.

I didn’t do much as far as seminary went. I showed up, distraught, and thankful that our class was combined with another – eating breakfast and watching a movie. The other teacher attempted small talk with me, but I didn’t know what to say. I was completely distracted. I didn’t know why I was feeling so bad still.

After seminary, I went out with my mom to a craft store that was closing. The deals were amazing. My mom and I had been looking forward to going to this sale. But I walked along, oblivious. Outwardly, it may have seemed that I was moping. Inwardly, I couldn’t think or even move. I was upset and distracted. I wanted the feeling I had to disappear, but I didn’t even know what the Spirit was trying to communicate let alone how to cheer up.

I went home, and did what I always did when overwhelmed: I prayed and studied my scriptures. The prayer I uttered was pained and disjointed. I opened my scriptures to Galatians 5:1,

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” – Galatians 5:1

And I wondered what sin I needed to give up in order to stand free in Christ’s liberty.

I couldn’t think of what I needed to do. I wondered if I need to more purely forgive of Rusty. I wondered if there was just “more” I should have done. I didn’t expect the prompting that I would receive. Check Rusty’s email.
–What? Why?
Still the feeling remained. Check Rusty’s email.
–I shouldn’t snoop around in his private life. It shows that I don’t trust him.
You don’t and shouldn’t trust him. Check Rusty’s email.
–Is this really the right thing to do?
Check Rusty’s email.
–Okay. I will try, but I don’t even know his email address or password…
Just Check Rusty’s email.
–I will check Rusty’s email. It feels so strange to do, but if it is the right thing, then I’ll be able to remember the account and figure out the restaurant. If not, then I won’t be able to read his email, then I’ll talk about it with him tonight.

Resolved to check Rusty’s email, I closed up my scriptures, went to the computer, and turned it on.

***
*Seminary – a religious scripture-study class for high school students. In PA, it took place before school.

*General Conference – A meeting twice a year where the membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints hears talks and counsel from the prophet and 12 apostles, and other leaders of our church.

***
Click here for part 13.