Even though our relationship seemed to be so much stronger and on the right track, I was still having a lot of trouble settling down and letting go, and I didn’t understand why. Yes, he had made an emotional connection with someone else, but I understood why. I finally realized that the why hurt a lot, but it was the actual events that I was having trouble with. Nothing fit together, and every time I thought I had put it together so I could put it aside, a new anomaly would show up. I finally started a time line to see if I could fit it together so it made sense. In trying to put events in some sort of order, I looked back at the cell phone bill and realized that he had called her, rather that her calling him…which meant that he was not telling the truth. Did he intend to call her before he left home? If not, then he did not take her number with him, and if she did not call him, how did he get her phone number? There was no internet at the historic inn he stayed at…. I pushed him for an answer, and he denied it and denied it and then finally admitted that he had called her. His explanation still doesn’t make any sense because he insisted that he didn’t take her number with him, that she sent it by Facebook – or maybe by email, and that he had driven down the road to find internet service… Needless to say, the evasion and contradiction only made it worse, and J finally pledged to help me make sense of what had happened by writing down what he remembered so that the time line would make sense. I was very bitter about this woman’s role in my life, mostly because J was still defending her and insisted that his pursuit of her had unbalanced her, and it was all his fault. I was even more obsessed with checking her out on line – examining her Facebook almost every day.
Finally, we took a Saturday morning and walked to the fire ring on top of Libby Hill, armed with our calendars, two markers and an enormous pad of paper, which we used to organize a time line of events leading to last fall’s disaster, with every intention of writing it all down, and then burning it in a type of ritual purging. We looked at our individual calendars, looked at the amount of time we spent apart, tried to organize the events into a coherent whole, but really had trouble making it work. The basic gist of the disaster seems to be as follows:
As it turns out, he actually had “boxes” before I did, and therefore reached “the boxes are overflowing and I must run away” feeling before I did. His immediate immersion in the NPS trails project after graduation never gave him a chance to unwind or to regroup. He was gone every weekend for months on end, and was sometimes gone during the week as well. Meanwhile, E’s health became worse every semester, creating a constant looming worry as well as constant schedule disruptions. His dad’s health had the same effect – between the fall of ’08 and the late winter of ’10, the number of trips he made to his dad’s is almost too numerous to count. As his dad’s health began to deteriorate, his step mom became more and more fuzzy and somewhat uncertain, with a lot of pressure from her daughter on J to pickup more and more of the load – difficult since their home is so far from ours.
He still had a full time job, which he juggled with a 25% commitment to the NPS that was actually much more of a 50% commitment. While he loved the work and received an enormous amount of positive feedback, that in itself created more stress, since more and more people needed and wanted things from him, especially his time. He received more emails and phone calls than he could easily answer, and more requests for help than he could have provided if he had devoted all of his time to it. No one seemed to realize that he actually had a full time job that was not related to the NPS in any way, as well as a wife, a child, a house, and dogs – all of which were shunted to the side.
I knew that I had felt increasingly isolated from him during the spring of ’09, and looking at the calendar it was easy to see why. He was gone so much, obsessed with his NPS work, and impatient with anything that pulled him away or required him to focus. He made periodic efforts to reconnect and then would blow them up. And then at the end of May ’09, my health fell apart, even more distance developed between us, and we stopped meeting one another’s needs. He talked again about how isolated he felt. Looking at our calendar side by side we realized clearly how we came to feel distanced from one another – there were a couple of months when we were not home together on the weekend at all. When we finished talking about the calendar and the events that led up to the weekend in Castroville and his stepping so far over the line on the phone, and had written down everything we could think of to add, we burned it in the fire pit and walked back to the house. I expected to feel a great sense of release and relief, but instead just had a massive headache…so did he.