I used to write about my life. The insufferable isolation of raising very young children at home provided very little outlet for commiserate camaraderie. Sure I often met with other mom friends, organized baby groups and frequented indoor play parks; but in those places the privileged middle class conversations either felt superficial or left me wanting broader strokes to paint my experience. I began mommy blogging in 2006 as a way to keep my writing craft sharp, distract me from mediocre tedium, and to connect to other like-minded moms through the interwebs.
But as someone who literally wrote an open book about her life, what happens when things become so terrible that I cannot speak of it? Someone else takes an action and to write about that action becomes a confession capable of damaging others’ lives and inviting judgment of one's own. What happens when a woman who publicly discusses the intimate details of baby poop, weening toddler twins and discovering a diagnosis of autism can no longer talk about the very personal details of her life?
The site goes dark and no one hears from her again.
Mommy bloggers drop out of the game all the time. Or it was part of the 2008 zeitgeist when Facebook took over our collective isolation and brought us together with mere one-sentence statuses rather than through poignant posts and the feathering tails of comments billowing out the bottom of wordpressed pages. Instead we created a reunion community of one-liners and Friday night hilarity. We shared wine across 1,000’s of miles with high school buddies who hadn’t partied together since that time we crashed that frat house and the cops came. Remember, remember? If I’m remembering all those good times, I’m not thinking about this present life.
But on Facebook, I created a persona that belied the life that was taking place on the other side of the computer screen. I maintained composure and choose to keep my personal life a secret. It only hurt me more. I refused to be a victim, but I was protecting the perpetrator of my pain.
So is it my story yet? At what point does my experience belong to me again without the fear of reprisal, shame or judgement.
Do you want to know the dirty details? Do you want to know what happened to me? It’s really not that big of a deal. It happens all the time.
My husband had an affair.
And it wasn’t just one. Does it sound bad yet? Marriages weather affairs, it’s not that complicated you either get over it and move on or you go your separate ways. But what if you choose to stay but you can’t move on? What if you stay because you’re 6 months pregnant with a fourth planned child and then you have a medical crisis and you’re worried about finances and how your older three children will cope. And then what if you husband has another affair and you have a newborn and you’re worried about single parenting four young children and not having health insurance. Do you leave yet? What if your cheating husband then loses his job and the family health insurance? What if you have to sell one of your cars and borrow money from his parents; do you leave him then? When do you jump off of a speeding freight train? The reality of that metaphor only happens in action films like Mission Impossible, and that’s what my life began to feel like: an impossible mission.
Then one night in March the earth moved. It shook an island country in the Pacific Ocean and swirling currents of water raked the land of human life. I woke feeling something was wrong. My husband had been working 4-10’s out of town and I thought he would come creeping home from his late flight. He wasn’t in the bed or in the house. I checked my phone for messages and turned on my laptop. I was astonished to find walls of water billowing and churning as I watched horrifying images being posted across my screen from my bed at 2 o'clock in the morning, my infant son resting peacefully beside me. Japan had experienced a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and was under the threat of multiple tsunamis.
I never went back to sleep that night. I tried calling him, my absent man. We had friends all over Japan; I belonged to a community of people with families in Japan. I watched and waited for news instantly cast out over the internet. I did not hear from my husband the whole night or all the next day. I was conflicted with fear and anger. I had already begun to hate him. Night after night following the affairs, I lay in bed next to him seething with resentment. But I still wanted to hear from him after an event like this to connect, to be reassured. I thought he was coming home.
Later that morning a tsunami warning spread to the US west coast. My husband had been in Seattle. Seattle was on the water. I felt safe inland, Portland was miles from the coast, I didn’t worry about a tsunami reaching us here. But then when I still didn’t hear from him later that afternoon, the ubiquitous scenarios ran through my tired mind.
I had coordinated a farewell event that night for 17 Japanese interns who worked in my daughter’s school. After one year in Portland, it was time for them to return home to a suddenly uncertain Japan. Our community was fraught with anxiety and more than our expected numbers came and rallied together for the evening’s presentation in the school’s small cafeteria. We all wanted to be together; strength in numbers; support. I spent two hours standing on stage holding my 14-month old baby, always scanning the audience for my husband who surely should have been home before I left the house. He was supposed to watch the children so I could give my attention to my volunteer job. I stood on the stage, presented gifts, expressed thank-yous, introduced faculty, passed out a relief fund jar and the entire night I tried not to think that I had been widowed from the unlikely clash of an angry tide ripping the Seattle sound from it’s nook in the Pacific Ocean.
The night progressed and word from friends in Japan trickled in through our community. Everyone I knew was safe in Japan, but I still had not heard back from my missing husband in Seattle. I gathered my errant feral children and ushered them protesting into the car after an expired bedtime. They all immediately fell asleep and I drove home in silence and reflection. I imagined that my husband of 12 years was dead and I began to plan my life without him. I thought of all the financial tallies I would have to tidy, all the ways I would have to streamline my lifestyle as a single parent. And as easy as that, I resigned to a new life raising my four children widowed and alone.
As I pulled in front of my house, the front door opened to reveal my husband. There he was, unapologetic, alive and well. I wasn’t happy to see him. I wasn’t even relieved. I was angry – all over again. And I was pissed at him for ruining my newly constructed life. I knew it was time to jump off the train.