Optimism, that potent elixir…
Romeo and Juliet. Tristan and Iseult. Lancelot and Guinevere.
My Mom and my former spouse.
I thought I had heard it all. You thought you had heard it all. But the fantastical statements, many of which are designed to deflect blame, continue. With this one taking top prize for Most Inconceivable.
“We are two people who love each who are not permitted to speak because of you.”
To clear up what I assume is a mad mix of confusion and disbelief, let me cast the players for you. The WE is my Mom and my former spouse. The YOU is me.
You can get up now. Dust yourself off.
HGM has been free of former spouse references for awhile. It’s been bliss, no? But this could not slide. Not because I need to trot out his words for us all to shake our head at, but to remind us all how slick adulterers can be when it comes to deflecting blame for their choices.
May 18th was my Mom’s 90th birthday. A party was planned. Guests were coming in from all points west. The idea that Mom was going to be able to get up and dressed and make her way to a restaurant was an absolute fantasy to her hospice nurse. Her strength had long since evaporated. She left her bed only when necessary and with the help of my oldest, and strongest, brother. How would she be able to greet 60 people when her breathing was so compromised, her voice so weak?
And then the hospice nurse would shake her head and say, Your Mom’s will is so strong. Anything is possible.
But we all still wondered…
I floated a Plan B by her which was swatted down with a look that said, Don’t you even think it.
She was adamant about being at her party.
That morning, while she rested in bed, I texted my former spouse to ask that The Dudes call her to wish her happy birthday. I put the phone to her ear. Her brown eyes twinkled as she listened to The Dudes sing. Without fixating on it, I knew this would be the last time they would sing happy birthday to her while she was on the planet. (We’ll still sing every May 18th, as we do for my Dad every August.) I clutched the scene in my mind, freezing it, wanting to hold on to the image of her dancing eyes and happy smile.
And then it all went sideways.
I heard her say, It’s good to hear your voice, too.
And then she grimaced. And then she cried. And my insides went haywire. Literally. I felt electric jolts zipping along my spine, frying my head. It felt like someone set a match to my eyes. My hands were shaking.
It all got blurry at that point, but I remember wanting to get the phone out of her hands as quickly as possible. And then I wanted to fly to him on the power of anger alone and, using only my glare, vaporize his ass. My former spouse made my Mom cry on her birthday. To use a phrase from my Mom’s book – I could have throttled him.
Instead I texted him this:
I appreciate your need to talk to my Mom, but I don’t appreciate her being reduced to tears on her birthday.
And his response…well, you read it. I am keeping apart two people who love each other.
On this side of fantasyland, the real reason my former spouse has not talked to my Mom is because my Mom asked for him not to contact her. She did this after learning that he was STILL lying when he came clean about his affair. Once she learned it was four years, not one, and that he could continue to lie so easily, she was done with him. She reiterated her request when she shared with me her diagnosis, going one step further to say, I don’t want him calling me just because I am sick.
My Mom felt used by my former spouse. She was, and still is, angry. That first year post Pocket Call was agonizing for her. My personal pain paled in comparison to the ill will I felt as a result of the pain his actions inflicted upon her. Gratefully, I quickly realized that I was way better off without him. Nothing is ever gained by being committed to a liar. But I still felt a great deal of anger because of what his actions did to her. If you recall she developed a debilitating case of Shingles – on her left side. Where her cancer then returned a year and half later.
Anger and dis-ease cause disease.
So why did she say, It’s good to hear your voice, too? Because she was taken aback, she’s reflexively polite, The Dudes were on the phone, and she didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t cry because she heard the voice of a person she loves but has been prevented from speaking to by her daughter. She cried because she still hurts. Because her heart is still broken by his deceit, his actions, his affairs. She isn’t crying because I AM KEEPING THEM APART. And to accuse me of that while my Mom is dying is obscene.
Please. I can’t prevent my Mom from doing anything. Not even in her current state. She is a warrior. If she wanted to speak to him she would pick up the phone and call him. When I read to her his text message she said: I detest him.
I have witnesses.
Then she brushed off the experience saying, Don’t pay him any attention.
It wasn’t that easy for me. Out of all the things he’s said to me – and there have been some REMARKABLE statements – this one was beyond belief.
I broke it down like this:
He believes my Mom loves him despite his adultery. He must not have paid close attention to her morsels of wisdom over the years, one of which is: If I can’t respect you I can’t love you. Somehow he thinks he is so fabulous that even though he betrayed her daughter she must still love him. Yea. No.
And this…It’s MY fault they aren’t speaking. NOT his. No. Not his. Me. It’s my fault. They love each other. And I’m standing in the way. Just like it’s my fault that he had a void in him that needed to be filled by another woman/women. My fault that he had an affair. Affairs.
Me, me, me. All my fault.
M, a very dear love of a man who is family even though he’s not blood related, said: She thinks even less of him than you do. He wanted to write to my former spouse and tell him to guard his words. My Mom talked him out of it.
As I said earlier, I’m not trotting these words out to hurt my former spouse. (He doesn’t read the blog anymore…but has someone read it for him. Okey-dokey. Do me a favor: Stop. Move on.) I’m relaying them to YOU because this kind of mad talk is just the sort of thing that can upend a person, make them crazy with Ego chatter and manufactured conversations. Or, in my case, visions of me going Uma on him when he tells me to ‘please go and enjoy your family’ as if I need his authorization.
The only people responsible for the negative fallout due to infidelity are the two people who had the affair. Any other accusations are indicative of the delusional state of the person speaking/typing/broadcasting them. Regardless of how many times they say I take full responsibility for my actions, statements like this prove otherwise.
That night, after her amazing party had come to an end and she was tucked back in bed, bright eyed and so happy, I sat on the porch under the stars and laughed for the first time about it all. Thanks to Mr. Perfect Timing. I don’t remember what he said, but he has a magical way with humor when situations are clenched. He has a way of making you think that sailing through rough waters with him at the helm is going to be a wild, but safe ride. And that you will have so much fun talking about it once on dry land. Cocktail in hand. Made with one of those huge ice cubes so it doesn’t get all watered down too quickly while you laugh so hard tears stream down your face.
I miss Mr. Perfect Timing.
It’s been two years of fits and starts as my former spouse and I try to form a cordial relationship for the sake of The Dudes. Statements like this make it pretty challenging to deal with him. It’s been a struggle. But I am just so over it. I don’t have any struggle left in the tank. His perception will NEVER change. It’s my fault. He did what he needed to do. And everyone should just acknowledge that he’s a great guy who was in a bad marriage.
You got it, buddy. I’ll let your words and actions speak for themselves.
But there’s one thing I will never, ever do. Accept blame for the fact that my Mom doesn’t want to speak to him. I am not responsible in ANY way for his affair and the fallout. I am not responsible for how my family feels about him. And you aren’t responsible in ANY way for your spouse’s affair. Or any of the fallout. If that suggestion is floated by you, grab it and launch it right back at your spouse saying, No one is to blame but you.
But we are responsible for our choices. For making good choices. So I will need to choose to be cordial. And I will choose to be very conscious of the thoughts I allow to percolate in my brain and the feelings I allow to run through my body. In two years I’ve been tested by moving, infidelity, divorce, moving again, and being apart from my Mom as she leaves the planet. I’m not going to cave under it all now.
My brother said, when he learned of Mr. Perfect Timing Pressing Pause, This is your Everest. He meant this time period, not specifically The Pause. He’s right. I feel as raw today as I did when I learned of the extent of my former spouse’s double life. This is a CRUCIAL time. I can chuck it all and become a mess or I can choose to be graceful, and optimistic and thankful.
And just as I typed those last words, the Tall Dude’s teacher came to tell me a story about him. How he is a cheerleader for his entire class. And how he encourages others to be kind to themselves. How he’s made such an impression on her that she CANNOT WAIT to see where he is twenty years from now.
I may be losing my Mom, I may have lost Mr. Perfect Timing. But I’ve got The Dudes. And the opportunity to make good choices. Life will continue to be full of reasons to celebrate. So I’d rather focus on being the one thing I know I can be: Optimistic. Optimistic that my former spouse and I will be able to have a cordial relationship that brings peace to The Dudes’ lives, optimistic that my Mom and I will remain meaningfully connected after she leaves Earth, optimistic that my heart will get strong again and remain open.
This is my Everest. And I’m optimistic that I will summit.
Thank you for your love and support during this time. Your messages have meant so much to me. I am deeply grateful. I’m going to go ball my eyes out now. Shocker.
Carla Carla Cook says
YES, YES, YES! BRAVO!! You always know how to put things back in perspective! I am not responsible for his affair. So why are we told we are? Bull!
Happy Birthday to your lovely mom!
Cleo Everest says
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m not academic when it comes to psych stuff, but apparently the nastiness of having to shoulder blame for the affair is too much for an adulterer to handle. We humans can handle a lot, right? But I think those that carry on affairs are cowards to varying degrees, making it hard to accept full responsibility for adultery. Every aspect of an affair is the full and total responsibility of the one who cheated. EVERY SINGLE ASPECT. Kids are suffering? It’s the fault of the adulterer. Trust broken? Blame the adulterer. Had there been a conversation instead of an affair, a move that says I respect the commitment we made to each other even though I am no longer in love with you, the ending of the marriage would be dramatically different from that which ends in betrayal. When will this be understood? Sigh…. Thank you for the birthday wishes for Mom. I will pass them along. And thank you for being here. Love yourself, Cleo
Louise Kennedy says
As a longtime kitten . . . . a really long time – I can honestly say you have illustrated your message in this post beautifully. So many of the frustrations in life (I feel) are very difficult to put into words (bad and good). This is why you write and we read. Lately, I have been trying to watch myself from the outside – like I am a character in a book. What is her next move? What does success look like? And oh my, how in the hell is she going to get out of this mess? But our heroine is crafty! I hope. . . . Happy Birthday Cleo’s mom! xoxo from Glen Rock.
Cleo Everest says
A, Thank you for your kind words and birthday wishes for my beautiful Mom. Watching yourself from the outside…that is the Observer Self in action! A fantastic way to live a fully present and engaged life. Love that you are doing that. And that you are here. Love yourself, Cleo
Pearl Lee says
Dude. Cleo. I cannot BELIEVE you had to hear these words from that (for lack of better term) doofus. I know it’s silly and childish to call him that but there is no other way I can think of saying it; that is just plain how he is acting!! Does he realize it is YOUR OWN MOM involved?? A person who had, for a very long time, and has now, NOTHING to do with him!!!??!!
I have been reading your blog for a very long time, and while I don’t exactly have the same life path as you, a lot of what you write has resonated with me, personally, and inspirationally. Over the course of reading your writings, I have definitely hung back in the shadows. But, I just had, HAD, to speak up here and say “That’s not right.” So, even though I’m not an expert on anything, I still wanted to express my support for you to do whatever feels right for you to do, right now, as you deal with that. You go cry in that Starbucks (if it was me I would be crying on BART) and, you tell that doofus that he has NO RIGHT infringing upon YOUR OWN relationship with the woman who has carried and nourished and supported you throughout so many years on this earth and is going to be travelling over and out soon.
You do such a great job of keeping your ego in check that (in my unqualified but still saying it opinion) you deserve a 20 minute get-out-of-acceptance-free-card-to-temporarily-rage-on-the-person-that-is-currently-frustrating-you. And even if you don’t take it, I’ll be here raging for you. My ego is not in check yet. Hopefully with time and maybe some re-reading your coaching entries it will be soon. But until that time comes, you have another spirit warrior on your side. I’mma fight for you Cleo. You and your mom, and love.
Cleo Everest says
P, I LOVE that word! It’s less evil than what I wanted to call him. More appropriate when one is trying to remember that we are all here to learn. That life is school. That we all misuse words and say things we wish we didn’t. At the worst possible time. (Although in this case I am certain he believes what he thinks and said exactly what he wanted to say.) I have such clear memories of losing control of my Ego and raging and it’s just too painful of an experience. My body takes days to recover. That’s a sensitive Pisces for you. I need to remain centered so that I don’t take steps backwards, which right now would be the worst possible time for me to do that. Thank you for taking the time to comment and for your fierce, spirited words. You brought a huge smile to my face. And the support right now is so appreciated. Grateful you are here and that you FINALLY said hello, P. Love yourself, Cleo
Donna Caprice says
Cleo – your brain and your pen are a wonderful match. Your writing is funny, heart wrenching, clever and real. So damn real. As much as infidelity seems to be rampant, and as such they flippintly make jokes about it in the media i.e late night talk shows, it sure doesn’t feel funny when it rips our little family’s apart. And the one very important man we wanted our kids to look up to – made a mess of things. A gigantic pot hole of hurt. But what I was blessed to see growing up and right up until a few years ago when my adorable dad passed – was an incredible love story he shared with my mom. And so I know it exists and I know I’d like a taste of that sweet stuff. I’ve been married twice. First one – infidelity of the heart. Second, infidelity of the bank accounts (amongst other things) What your mom said is soooo true. ‘If I can’t respect you, I can’t love you’. Bang on. The other night was my birthday and about 7 of my friends ended up on my deck on that beautiful spring nite and the love and warmth mixed in with the cocktails and nibbles. And wow – at 50 (ish) we sure do have stories. After a few glasses of wine and a few questions asked, like ‘how is it you can be so open and optimistic and happy in spite of everything you’ve gone through? And I realized that in what I thought were the two most important roles opposite me in the ‘movie of my life’ that I didn’t do a very good job casting them. However, no matter what these guys did – I never once felt I wasn’t worthy of love. I have always felt loved…always. That is the most beautiful gift my parents gave me. So if we have that foundation, even though I married Mr Ignore-Us then the Me-Monster, I somehow knew I would be ok. We gotta wade through alot of muck to get there… a shit storm indeed. Then a rainstorm and eventually, the rainbow. xo
Cleo Everest says
D, Thank you for taking the time to comment. Often I’ll read a certain sentence that a kitten writes and it brands itself on my heart. Today, this that you wrote did just that: “I’d like a taste of that sweet stuff.” While it feels safe and mighty to say, I can be alone and happy for the balance of my days twirling on the arms of men as needed, blah, blah, blah…I deserve to have one man, ONE man, that has my emotional back, thinks of me when he wakes in the morning and a thousand times throughout the day, and feels blessed (not I’m lying to you about saying blessed while I bang this other chick – You did see the infamous anniversary card, right?) but truly blessed to have me in his life. I deserve that because that’s EXACTLY what I have to give right now. That’s exactly what I wanted to give to Mr. Perfect Timing. So now I have this big pile of love over here just waiting to be ladled on the right heart. I’m sending some your way for loving yourself. The very best gift you can give to you. I hope many, MANY people read your words here. Optimism, being kind to yourself, loving yourself, choosing to be happy…we deserve and have access to all of these wonderful states of being. Grateful you are here. And thank you for your kind words. Love yourself, Cleo
cindy finlan says
omg Firstly, a conversation at the end of a marriage would take a rational, sane person with some degree of maturity and empathy ( and would start with an apology). This I believe is a rare thing. (and non existent if there are narcsisstic tendencies)
Next, the arrogance, delusion and myopic revisionism is mind boggling!!! I live with it as well regularly. After every bi-polar text I ask myself “is he 10 years old” and the answer sadly is yes, he is a boy not a man. HGM off handed comment to you rings of a small hurt boy saying “nananana, you did this” I am with your mom, I detest him too! I know this feeling. My most recent spray of texts were over his delusion that I owed him money and in between the “why are you doing this to me” to the threats and barrage of garbage about “family” money and how much he did ( which has been revised) over the years and what a b***ch I am, and how I am brain washing our adult children against him…. blah, blah, blah. I did not respond to any. He got so frustrated with my lack of reply he began emailing me at my work address which I have asked him not to do….. 10 years old. Finally when he did not carry through with his threats he texted to see if I got his measly $ he sends for my daughter and then he asks calmly “and what do you think ( son 2) wants for his birthday? Holy nuts, Batman! No response…. my new mantra “Let it go..”
I am with you… as frustrated as I get ( and my tears now are anger and frustration) I want to move forward with grace and gratitude and love my children, my family, my friends… these are quality people who have always been here… I just never noticed them because my energies were spent dealing with a hurt “10 year old” in the body of a man who was suppose to be my spouse,a parent and my partner.
My wish for you this starry summer night ( we no longer have snow up here in the North!!) is that what ever will be with Mr. PT, you ( and your mom) have a new person in your life. And that’s a good thing.
I just returned from a trip to Israel and recentered myself on so many levels I can’t begin to explain it all. The ultimate natural spa at the Dead Sea cleansed me with ahava. Ahava in Hebrew is “love”. It was a journey.
so, ahava, C.
PS missed you when you were on the mountain but very inspiring.
Cleo Everest says
Such wisdom and humor and inspiring choices! I believe we share this feeling – we are held close in the palm of the Universe. I feel so secure. So loved. It gives me the grace to grow. To release the urge to judge and to not take personally the choices of others. My Mom’s energy is flooding me right now. I will not waste a drop.
What a beautiful journey that must have been. So healing and one that must have added a luscious layer of love to your entire being. Thank you for taking the time to comment. You inspire me, C. Love yourself, Cleo
I do not understand this way of thinking. When a relationship ends, how can your former partner expect everything else to stay the same (when household, familial ties and hearts are broken). It defies logic.
Sad, but those who have affairs need to realise that the effects of the affair send ripples of pain out from beyond the parties that are immediately impacted. I know my family could not embrace someone who hurt me and my children. It just seems so disloyal; and my mom is very loyal to, and protective of, her children. This loyalty certainly does not extend to those that choose to put her children in harms way.
Your beautiful rose of a mother no longer needs that thorn in her life. May she be surrounded by joy, and positivity from here on forward 🙂
Cleo Everest says
F, So perfectly put. The expectations of a former spouse are indicative of their emotional maturity and mental health. It’s a sign of a grandiose sense of self if an adulterer expects that those he or she betrayed ought to still feel the love. Thank you for the kind words for my Mom. She is surrounded by her family, and me reaching out from afar, as she steps to the other side. She is ready. They are still sprucing up her chaise lounge on Cloud Nine. Thank you for taking the time to comment and for being here. Love yourself,
Mary McNamara says
What a pathetic, self-centered, delusional, dick. I mean really, is he stupid? How in the world can he possibly entertain the idea that YOUR mother would wish to speak to him on what seems to be her last birthday? He cheated, lied, led a double life, brought his cheap, skanky whore into the lives of her grandsons and he thinks she LOVES him????? My God, he is psycho. May the natural order of the universe quickly give him his recompense.
Robin Black says
I have started four times over the last few days to comment on this, but all I had were LOTS of angry words for your ex spouse. And that’s not really helpful, so I’ll just compliment you once again for being grace personified, and also compliment Fay on her spot-on comment.
I’m so sorry he caused your lovely mom distress, and offer a virtual high-five for dealing with it much better than I would have (your writing has a knack for drawing out my inner big sister, who wants to throttle anybody who messes with people I like).
I hope your week is off to a beautiful start!
Cleo Everest says
R, Thank you for taking the time to comment and for taking the high road! We are all making such good choices! And that is exactly why my week is off to a beautiful start, despite wanting so much to be laying next to my Mom. Throttle. Best word. Love it. And you big sis. Love yourself, Cleo
Mary McNamara says
I wrote a very harsh comment to this and deleted it before it was was published. I decided I was writing it to scold your ex and he is probably incapable of self-examination anyway, so why waste my words? All I want to say is I’m sorry you and your mother had to endure this experience. I’m sorry that he intruded on a moment of love meant to be shared amongst family. I’m sorry that you and your mother had to deal with this unfathomable lack of consideration.
Cleo Everest says
M, I am so proud of you! Your assessment of my former spouse is accurate. Self-examination? The jokes are endless… M, this experience brought us closer together. It sucks that my Mom had to deal with so much anger and pain in her final years, but she found the joy. And HGM created a bond between us that didn’t exist before. I loved her, she was my Mom…but this experience took it to another level all together. And as she left the planet, he showed me once and for all, that he thinks only of himself. So I am relieved of any responsibility to attempt to create anything other than a business relationship with him. The Dudes one day will completely understand. Thank you for being here. Love yourself, Cleo
Well..Perhaps you are the first woman who likes to call a spade a spade..I have read blogs of many woman who have been betrayed,but continue to say they have played a role too in breaking the marriage. .Hence they are friends with the cheaters and surpisingly the other woman sometimes for the children’s sake.If they were friends they wouldnt have done what they did to you and your children.It is like as per the law the duty of betrayed spouse to not let anyone know their father is a cheater effectively saying it is ok to show such behaviour..i totally agree the onus of cheating is on the cheating spouse….How can it be because of the betrayed one,they didnt even know you where cheating..or perhaps all cheaters are narcissit too.