I Am NOT the Woman You Are Looking For

And feel sorry that you thought I might be.

Dear John,

Yes, I know that isn’t your name but I certainly don’t want to embarrass you in public. What follows might indeed embarrass you if people connected it to your real name. I don’t want that to happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed most of our day and evening together yesterday. Lunch, wine tasting, walking around town to look at the odds and ends in Wenatchee’s trendy consignment shops. Lots of conversation and laughs. Fun stuff — very promising for a second date.

I looked forward to our dinner together as I drove the winding roads to my temporary home with you behind me in your car. I appreciated you helping me with the groceries and my unexpectedly malfunctioning smoker. (Honestly, if the thing had worked properly for the entire time I was out yesterday, those ribs would have been much better.)

But it was during our conversation while I made dinner that things started to go south. You see, you originally represented yourself as “divorced.” I was very surprised to learn that not only was your divorce not finalized, but you haven’t even filed for divorce yet.

News flash: You are married.

You told me about your troubles with your wife — although I’m not sure why you referred to her as your “ex-wife” when you’re still legally married. I understand that things are not what you want them to be. You told me that she kicked you out, although you also said that she refuses to admit that she did so. Maybe she didn’t? Maybe she was giving you some freedom so you could get your head together?

And I think you need to get your head together on this.

When I asked you outright whether you would go back to your wife, you had to think about it before replying.

And what’s with the apartment without furniture? You say you have furniture in storage — why not move it to your new home? Is it because you’re not committing to that as a new home? Is it because you think there’s a chance that you and your wife might get back together and you don’t want to go through the process of moving twice? You did say more than once that you could pack up everything in your apartment into your van. Are you thinking of moving back in with her? Be honest with yourself! What are you really thinking?

You tell me that you send her money, so you’re still supporting her. You refer to your house that’s up for sale — don’t you realize that she owns half of it? In fact, because of the length of your marriage, that she probably owns half of everything you own? And, until you file for divorce, she can lay claim to half of everything you earn?

You tell me that your separation went smoothly and that you and your ex-wife remain on good terms. But she’s not your ex-wife! She’s your wife! Wait until you finally file for divorce — if you ever do. Things will turn ugly very quickly if you have something that she wants and you’re not willing to give it up. And how do you think divorce negotiations will go when another woman is involved? (Ask my ex-husband. He threw away any chance of the “amicable divorce” he claimed he wanted when he lied, cheated, harassed me, and made unreasonable demands for money and property. He turned what could have been a quick, civilized proceeding into a costly, never-ending war.)

And what about your kids? Do you really want them to remember you as the man who cheated on their mother?

I’ve given all this a lot of thought since you left last night on your long drive home. I realized, with a great deal of sadness, that you’re playing the same game my ex-husband played: poking around on dating sites to see whether you could replace your wife before doing the paperwork to legally end your marriage. You’re showing the same weakness he did: a fear of facing life alone. I honestly believe that you’re suffering from the same kind of confused thinking that plagued him in the final year of our marriage. That midlife crisis gone horribly wrong.

Yes, as I mentioned to you last night, my ex-husband also signed up for an online dating site while he was still married, before there was any talk of divorce. While he was talking to me on the phone about spending the summer with me in Washington, he was dating other women in Arizona, actively looking for my replacement. I can imagine him telling those women the same thing you told me: that you and your wife were separated with no chance of reconciliation. Is that really the truth? It wasn’t the truth for him.

But unlike the desperate old whore my ex-husband wound up with — what else could you call a woman who sleeps with a married man and takes his money and gifts? — I don’t date married men.

I have morals and principles. Being “the other woman” does not fall within the realm of what I’m willing to do for companionship and a warm body beside me in bed. And I’m not looking for a meal ticket or someone to tackle a “honey do” list.

Unlike the old woman who seduced my weak and morally confused husband with her sweet talk, 30-year-old lingerie photos, and god knows what else, I am not desperate enough to compromise my principles. And I never will be.

I do appreciate your honesty, even though it was belated. I’m just not the kind of woman you might think I am.

I’m disappointed. I really liked you a lot after our first date. So much, in fact, that I as I showered and dressed for yesterday’s date, I considered the possibility of asking you to spend the night if things went well. I even made appropriate preparations for whatever that might entail. But your revelations about your true marital status put any such thoughts out of my mind.

I’m also a little angry. I feel misled, manipulated.

So I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I say that I’d like to end this now, before it goes any further. I don’t need to make another bad emotional investment — I’m still reeling from the last one.

And do you know what’s crazy about all this? If the woman my husband left me for had half the moral fiber I have and had walked away from him as I am walking away from you, my marriage might have been saved. Maybe I’m saving yours.

And yes, I’ll speak to you in person before I post this online. It’s not my intention to break this kind of news in writing, especially in a public forum. Only a coward would do that — and although I’ve been called many things, coward is not one of them. This blog post is a reminder to me — and others in my situation — of how misguided some men can be. I’m so sorry that you’re one of them.

With sadness but no regrets,

Maria

Closure

Unfinished business stirs my subconscious mind.

This morning I was awakened by my mother-in-law’s voice calling for help. I hurried to her. She was lying in the bed I occasionally shared with my ex-husband, her son, in our Wickenburg home, propped up on some pillows. She was talking on a speaker phone to her daughter, Suzie. She wanted me to tell Suzie something.

I never found out what. The whole thing was a dream. When I woke, I woke from that dream to find myself in my own bed in my current home 1200 miles away.

My mother-in-law, Julia, is dead. She died earlier this summer. No one in my ex-husband’s family had the common decency to tell me that the woman I’d known for 30 years had passed away. I found out through a mutual friend.

I know my husband lied to his mother about the end of our relationship. I know he painted me as an evil monster who ruined his life and abandoned him in Arizona. I know he told her that because that’s what he believes. It’s part of the delusions that drove him into the arms of the desperate old woman — his new mommy — who he now lives with. It’s part of the delusions that drove him to subject me to mental abuse, unreasonable demands, and harassment during our year-long divorce process. He believes this to be true so he tells his friends and family members.

Anyone with knowledge of the facts, however, knows better.

I wanted to say goodbye to Julia but wasn’t allowed to. When I sent her a birthday gift for her 90th birthday last September — a framed photograph of me and her son taken many years ago that I know she admired — I was accused by my ex-husband of “harassing his family members.” So I never contacted her again.

And then she died.

I tried to get some closure with a blog post written to her. But she’s dead. I don’t believe in heaven and hell so I don’t believe she knows what really happened or can read, from beyond the grave, what I wrote. She never knew the truth.

Why does it matter to me? I’m trying to understand that. It could be because of how I value the truth.

I know how he lied to her and “bent the truth” for the last five or more years of her life. To protect her, he’d say. I know that he did the same to me — although I didn’t realize the extent of his lies until much later. I don’t understand how a person could lie to someone he claims to love. I don’t understand how a relationship can be expected to survive when its fabric is punched with holes created by untruths.

But then again, our relationship didn’t survive. He saw to that by signing up for an online dating service only a week after I left for my summer job last year and moving in with the first woman who would sleep with him. Asking for a divorce came later.

I wonder if he remembers that chain of events as well as I do? Whether he was honest with any of his friends and family members about how he betrayed his life partner of 29 years?

I wonder how much he still lies and who he lies to.

But most of all, I wonder how many of those lies he believes. How far his delusions have taken him. Whether he wakes in the morning feeling the overwhelming hate he must have for me — nothing else could explain his actions over the past year or so — and how much that drives him.

But I’ll never know because I’ll never get a chance to ask. His mommy won’t let him talk to me.

And that’s a good thing. Clearly, the man I loved is dead and buried — killed as a result of a mental illness that drove him to madness and an odd form of suicide. The man who looks like him is a foul impostor I have no desire to hear from.

That’s my closure: knowing that that the man I loved is gone for good.

Expensive Delusions

When verifying the reality of a delusion gets expensive — and makes the deluded people look like fools.

I have to blog this. It’s the funniest thing that has happened since my divorce turned ugly last August.

The Back Story

As many readers know, I’ve been planning to buy and build a home on a lot in Malaga, WA. What some readers may not know is that back in July, when I thought there might be a chance of reconciliation with my estranged husband, I took him to see the lot I wanted to buy.

I envisioned us building a summer home there where I was making 80% of my income during three months. I envisioned him opening the bicycle repair shop he’d talked about on more than one occasion, possibly with bike rentals, along the nearby 11-mile bike trail in Wenatchee. I envisioned us living back in our paid-for Arizona home during the winter, taking it easy with a semi-retired lifestyle that would leave him plenty of time to fly his plane and build skills for his retirement career as a certified flight instructor.

I really thought that if he saw the land and the view that he’d envision the same life I saw for us. A life that didn’t include him being a slave to pay for a condo he didn’t need and I hated. A life with new, fun challenges in a beautiful place that wasn’t overrun with cheap retirees and rabid conservatives. A life with lots of recreational opportunities and a sunny future.

I didn’t realize then that he was already under the thumb of a desperate old woman who had seduced him with 30-year-old lingerie photos. I didn’t realize that he had stopped thinking for himself and was only doing what his new mommy told him to do.

That’s the back story: I found a 10-acre view lot in Malaga and I showed it to my future ex-husband, foolishly thinking he’d like it, too. Then I waited until the divorce was finalized and I got my settlement to buy it.

Fast Forward, May 7, 2013

My husband and his girlfriend/mommy managed to drag the divorce process out to April 2013. Other factors dragged it into May. On May 7, we had the first of two half-day sessions in front of a judge.

I was on the stand most of that time. During the cross-examination, their lawyer — I can’t really call him my husband’s lawyer since his girlfriend/mommy has been giving most orders to him since at least November — asked me a curious question:

“Isn’t it true that you own a home in Washington state?”

The question really took me by surprise. Me own a home in Washington? If that was the case, then why would I be living in Wickenburg, AZ, in a home filled with memories of a life I’d lived with the man I loved? The home I’d been locked out of by the man who obviously now hated me and had been harassing me since my return in September?

I answered truthfully: “No.”

He pressed on: “Isn’t it true that you have been living most of the past six months in Washington?”

I might have laughed. “No,” I replied. Other than a few short trips to Washington and California and Florida, I’d spent most of the past six months stuck in Wickenburg. Packing.

Afterwards, I talked about that question with my lawyer, family, and friends. It had seemed so out of left field. Did they honestly think I was living in Washington? If so, my testimony, under oath, should set them straight.

At least that’s what I thought.

Another Court Date

After another delay, we had our final appearance before the judge on May 31. My future ex-husband testified. Although most of his testimony was irrelevant and complete waste of time, he did manage to convince me that he’s become quite a liar. Or he’s more delusional than I thought.

My favorite piece of fiction: That during the six years of our marriage, he’d helped me with my helicopter business at least 100 times. That’s quite a feat for someone trapped in a 9 to 5 grind who uses his vacation time to visit family in New York and spends most of his other free time watching television. I was able to get back on the stand and insert a dose of reality for the judge’s consideration.

When we left the court, we all let out a sigh of relief. Now that it was in the judge’s hands, it was finally over. They’d finally stop harassing me.

At least that’s what I thought.

The Abuse Continues

The first indication that I was wrong came the day after the court appearance. He transferred the the balance of our joint checking account, which has always been equally contributed to and used for household expenses, to his personal checking account.

It’s not the money that bothered me. Frankly, it isn’t worth spending time worrying about the $445 that was my share.

What bothered me was the fact that the account was being used to pay our sole joint liability: the home equity line of credit. When the automatic payment came through, the payment would bounce and the account would be charged $35.

I knew this for a fact because I’d been watching my husband’s old checking account, which I could see when I logged into Bank of America. He’d drained that, too, but had stupidly forgotten to stop automatic payments from that account. Since September, he had bounced five checks and had been hit with a $35 fee for each one. (I knew because I still got low balance alerts for that account with all the others I monitored. That’s how I found out immediately about his withdrawal from the house account.) Some people just can’t manage their own finances. Good thing I was in charge of paying the bills all those years.

So by removing the money from that account, he’d set us up for bank fees and a possible hit to our credit scores for late payment of a loan.

And let’s not ignore the fact that he had no legal right to remove any funds from that account without the permission of the court unless it was to pay for house expenses. This money was true joint funds used for a specific purpose. Half the money was mine. He was stealing from me.

What a freaking idiot.

Amazing that it took him less than 24 hours to prove again how stupid he could be.

And Now for the Funny Part

On June 5 — still less than a week from that final court date — I was sitting at an outdoor restaurant, having lunch. I’d just spent the morning traipsing all over that 10-acre lot in Malaga with two surveyors, identifying property corners and the northern property line. I wanted to make sure I could visualize what my future 10 acre lot looked like. I wanted to see what land I had to work with.

(I was very pleased with the results. The lot appears about three times the size I’d visualized, working from incorrect corner markers.)

As I sat eating lunch, I checked my email. And that’s when I saw the latest bit of nonsense from my husband’s side of the divorce: They were insisting that I had already purchased the lot. In fact, they insisted that I had closed in January and that I was already developing it!

I really didn’t have any idea where they’d gotten these specific details. Although the email communication I’d been forwarded — from my husband’s mommy/girlfriend to their lawyer to my lawyer — mentioned tweets, I can’t remember having ever tweeted anything about having bought the land. Why? Well, I’d never bought it. So how could they have information about a closing date? And what made them think I’d started developing the land?

An earlier email message answered one of those questions. Apparently, back in early April 2013, they’d hired an “investigator” to snoop around the property I planned to buy. He’d photographed an RV (not mine) and cargo trailer (not mine) on a lot with a view a lot like the one I’d soon have. He’d provided details about septic system takeouts and obvious earthwork. The investigator’s report and some of the photos were included in the email forwarded from my husband to his lawyer to my lawyer. This was their proof that I’d lied in court — that I owned a home in Washington and was building on it!

Click play to cue soundtrack for this hilarity. (Many thanks to Facebook friend Dean for offering up this very appropriate music track.)

The only problem is, the photos showed the lot next to the one I was planning to buy.

You cannot imagine how hard I laughed when I realized this. My husband and his girlfriend/mommy had spent hundreds of dollars hiring an “investigator” to photograph my future neighbor’s property!

How they screwed this up so badly is beyond me. Who gave the investigator the address? Where did it come from? That has to be a story in itself.

How Delusions Become Costly

You realize that to find out what property I own in Malaga, all a person has to do is go to the Chelan County Assessor’s Office website and do a parcel search for my last name. If my husband or his girlfriend/mommy or their lawyer or the investigator had spent about 5 minutes doing this, they would have concluded that I didn’t own any land in Malaga or anywhere else in Chelan country. And if they thought they got the county wrong, they could have done the same for Douglas and Grant countries.

But the trouble is, they weren’t interested in reality. They were interested in producing evidence to back up their delusion.

They were convinced that I owned land in Washington. That was their delusion.

Maybe they did try a property search. They would have come up empty. But in their deluded minds, they knew I had property in Washington. They would have made excuses for why the tax rolls didn’t reflect their idea of reality. Perhaps they hadn’t been updated lately. Perhaps I’d bought the land in someone else’s name. Perhaps the Chelan County Assessor’s office was conspiring against them to hide the truth about me and my vast Washington real estate holdings.

Hey, anything is possible when you don’t rely on facts.

So they hired an “investigator” and told him where to take photos. Maybe they told him approximately where the lot was and he did some “investigating,” coming up with the only lot on that side of the road that was being developed. Having an RV on it must have sealed the deal that it was my lot, even though the tax rolls said it was owned by someone else.

Never mind that the RV on the lot wasn’t the one I owned, the one he claimed in court to have installed $5,000 to $9,000 of improvements in. (Another lie.) It wasn’t even the same make and model. And even though the “investigator” took photos of the Washington state license plates on the RV and the cargo trailer, no one had the idea to run those plates and see who they were registered to? If they had, they’d see that they were registered to someone other than me. Probably the people who owned the lot.

But that would shatter the delusion. Can’t do that. Delusional people only want evidence to support their delusions.

And apparently, they’re wiling to pay to get that evidence.

What Now?

Well, I’ve informed all parties that they investigated the wrong lot. I made it quite clear how amusing I think this is and how incredibly stupid I think my husband, his girlfriend/mommy, their lawyer, and the “investigator” are. I haven’t heard anything more about it.

But I suspect they don’t believe me. After all, they are delusional. I said in court, under oath, that I did not own a home in Washington. I said this on May 7, 2013. I did not lie in court.

But they obviously didn’t believe I was telling the truth then, under oath. So why would they believe me now?

Divorce and the Mental Fog

A side-effect of long-term emotional turmoil.

I should start off by saying a few things.

Even though my husband cheated on me, lied to me, asked for a divorce on my birthday, locked me out of my home and hangar, and, with his mommy/girlfriend has subjected me to all kinds of harassment since I discovered his infidelity in August, I still love him.

How could I not still love him? We were together for 29 years. That’s more than half of our lives. You can’t suddenly stop loving someone you’ve invested your whole emotional being into.

At least I can’t.

He apparently can.

And that’s one of the things that I’m having so much trouble with. I can’t understand how a man who spent half of his life with me, a man who built four separate homes with me over the years, a man who cried in my arms when his father died, a man who traveled and laughed and learned and experienced so much with me — I can’t imagine how that man can simply flick a switch and begin hating me as he so obviously does. How else could a man subject his life partner to the things he’s put me through since May, when he first began looking for my replacement on an online dating site?

How?

The First Two Months

It’s been nearly eleven months since he asked for a divorce at the end of June, ruining my birthday forever with a phone call when I honestly half-expected a surprise visit. After all, he had been coming to see me at my summer job site on my birthday — even when it seriously inconvenienced me — almost every one of the previous four years. We’d been talking only a few weeks before about him coming to spend the summer with me. We’d been talking about which car he’d bring when he drove up with our dog. And where he’d work. I’d even begun making room in my closets and dresser for his things. And had bought new pillows to replace the wimpy ones I had.

At first, I didn’t believe he really wanted a divorce. I figured that something had happened, something had pushed him to say something to shock me — as I tried so many times to shock him out of the malaise that had overwhelmed him for nearly a year, turning him into a moody stranger. I knew even that day that the divorce wasn’t entirely his idea. I knew that he wasn’t willing to face life on his own, that he wouldn’t cut ties with me after a 29-year relationship unless there was a Plan B.

I asked him whether there was another woman and he said no. It was a lie, but I believed him. I’d never lie to him; I couldn’t imagine him lying to me.

I asked him to come see me, to talk to me in person. I offered to pay his airfare. He arranged a trip two weeks later. Obviously, there was no urgency on his part. That should have tipped me off, too.

When we met, he lied to me again. To my face. Multiple times. He watched me cry. He held me while I cried. He cried, too. Yet he seemed resolute. He wanted a divorce. Even when I showed him a wonderful piece of property where I thought we could make a summer home together, he didn’t seem interested in a future with me.

I asked to settle when I got home in September or October. I never told him not to file — as his lawyer suggested in court just a few weeks ago. I never dreamed he would go after the fruits of my labor — the things I had worked my entire life to accumulate and achieve: my investments, my business assets and savings, my personal assets. I thought he understood the meaning of the word “fair.” I thought he was ethical. I thought he had moral standards.

In other words, I thought he was the man I’d fallen in love with, a good man who knew the difference between right and wrong.

Understand that I still didn’t know he was lying to me. I didn’t know that the good man I’d fallen in love with was dead, shoved over a cliff by a desperate old woman who’d stolen his heart with promises and lies and old lingerie photos, eager to capture a new man so she wouldn’t have to grow old alone.

Throughout the first two months, I still had some measure of hope that our relationship could be mended. He didn’t want to be alone. We’d been though so much together. Surely this could be fixed up when I got home.

This idea was reinforced by a good friend of mine where I was living in Washington. He kept telling me that marriages are hard work, that I could make things work when I got home.

I didn’t know at the time that my husband had called him in July and had told him that he still loved me. My friend misunderstood the message and gave me all kinds of false hope.

The fact that my husband still hadn’t filed for divorce simply reinforced that hope. Not filing convinced me that he wasn’t serious — at least not yet. There was still hope that we’d resolve our problems.

At least that’s what I thought at the time.

Emotional Turmoil

Still, my mind was in turmoil. I was trapped in Washington for my summer work, unable to do anything about fixing the problem at home. I missed a deadline on the book I was working on because I was so caught up in my marital problems. And although I’d asked my husband not to contact me about the divorce or settlement for a while, he emailed, asking if I’d given it any thought. I replied that I thought we were going to wait.

That made the situation worse. I couldn’t understand what his hurry was. He’d told me there wasn’t anyone else. Why was he so eager to settle?

It didn’t make sense. He hadn’t filed for divorce yet. How could he possible expect me to settle? What the hell was going on?

The mental turmoil got even worse when he stopped returning my email messages and phone calls and texts. He was actively ignoring me.

It was in mid-August that I discovered that he’d hired a lawyer. I called him to ask him about it. I had to ring the phone at least five times before he picked up. He was rude and angry. He denied hiring a lawyer.

And that’s when I started crying. That’s when I realized that he was lying to me and had been lying all along. If he’d lied about that, what else was he lying about?

A little more fishing later that evening and I found out about the woman he’d been seeing since at least June — before he asked for a divorce.

Yes, he was too cowardly to leave me without having a Plan B. A 64-year-old desperate and vindictive bitch he met online was his Plan B. He was throwing away a 29-year relationship and financial security for a woman 8 years older than him who had some sort of decorating business advertised on the Web and was deeply underwater in a home that had two mortgages on it. A woman who was likely attracted to him because he owned three homes, a plane, and a Mercedes — and his wife owned a helicopter.

My mental turmoil went into full-swing when I made these discoveries — although I didn’t know her age and realize that their relationship was a baby/mommy thing until much later. It suddenly became clear that he hadn’t filed for divorce because he knew I made 90% of my income over the summer and was depositing money in my business bank accounts quite steadily. The more I deposited, the more they’d be able to get their hands on. Every time he forwarded me a check, his mommy/girlfriend probably thought cha-ching! I went into a panic. I was 1,200 miles away and I needed to file for divorce before I put any more of my hard-earned money at risk.

I clearly remember sitting at an outdoor cafe in Wenatchee early on a Monday morning, making phone calls to lawyers in Phoenix. My hands were shaking as I dialed one number after another. I finally got someone interested in talking to me. I hired him and got the wheels turning.

Four days later, at 7:30 AM, the process server turned up at my husband’s mommy/girlfriend’s house to serve him with papers. She slammed the door in his face, claiming my husband didn’t live there.

But he was there. I know he was. Yet another lie.

The emotional roller coaster I was on was still climbing the first really big hill.

A Different Person

It was around this time that my friends began noticing a very dramatic change in me. During the first two months — before I knew about the lies and the girlfriend, back when I thought there was still hope — I was sad but mellow about my divorce. I didn’t talk much about it because there really wasn’t much to talk about. I didn’t get very emotional. I just went on with my life, struggling in private to stay focused on the book I needed to finish, but otherwise keeping my marital woes to myself. I stayed on my diet, hoping the new, slim me would help energize the physical part of our relationship, the part that had grown cold in our final months together.

But when I discovered his lies and infidelity and their obvious plans to take as much from me as they could, I became unbearably weepy. I couldn’t understand how he could do this to us. (And I still can’t.) I needed to talk things out and there were very few people who would listen. I became a different person — not the strong, upbeat person they knew but a weak, tearful basket case who cried randomly throughout the day. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t go a few hours without breaking down into tears. Many of my local friends simply couldn’t deal with it. This made matters worse for me because I needed a shoulder to cry on and the shoulders I thought were available didn’t want to get wet with my tears.

It was the utter betrayal that was killing me inside. Knowing that the man I loved could lie to me, steal from me, and be so completely heartless after 29 years of life together.

It was around then that I started blogging vaguely about my situation. I’m glad I did. I managed to record most of my thoughts and feelings about what I was going through as I was going through it. The sadness, the anger, the confusion. Without those blog posts, I wouldn’t have a clear memory of how I felt.

Although I didn’t realize it, I had entered a mental fog.

The Mental Fog

Last month I was chatting with a friend about how I was feeling. After months of shocking developments and harassment that had trapped me on an emotional roller coaster, I had become somewhat dulled to the situation I was in. Yes, I was still in pain and I still cried a lot more often than what I think is healthy. But I had become able to talk about specific things that had happened without getting all worked up.

For example, yes, I’d found the locks in my Wickenburg house changed when I got home in September. Even though he was living with his mommy/girlfriend in Scottsdale and had a condo in Phoenix, he had tried to lock me out of my only home. It took me many, many months to even think about the cruelty of that one deed without crying. But now I could think and even tell people about it without shedding a tear. It was as if my mind had build a mental scab around that particular wound.

My friend told me that when she got divorced years ago, she’d entered a “mental fog.” Although she couldn’t really describe it, I immediately knew what she meant. And I knew that in certain times of my life — times when I wasn’t focused on something important to me like flying or driving or writing or having a good conversation with a friend — I was in a mental fog.

I thought about it one day and jotted down the symptoms I’ve experienced:

  • Feeling numb after months of riding an emotional roller coaster. There have been many ups and downs over the past eleven months. They’ve filled me with devastating sadness or euphoric joy — and all kinds of emotions in between. After a while, however, a sort of numbness sets in. Sometimes I’m not even sure what I’m feeling.
  • Acting on autopilot. In other words, I was doing things without thinking about them. Things like preparing meals, cleaning the house, and traveling to visit friends and family members.
  • Not fully aware of my surroundings. I don’t go here very often, but when I’m in a serious emotional state of mind — especially when I haven’t slept much — the fog completely surrounds me and I tune out the details of where I am. This often happens when I’m working with my lawyer and I get a flash from the past that reminds me of how good things used to be. It certainly happened in court on May 7 when I broke down in tears from the pain of seeing him sitting on the other side of the court, my enemy after 29 years of a loving relationship.

The mental fog is what makes it difficult to remember so many of the things I did or thought during this difficult time. I think it’s a defense mechanism that the mind automatically puts in place to defend itself. I think of it as surrounding myself in a cocoon of soft pillows before being bounced off of hard walls. The mental fog deadens the pain.

No Flying in the Fog

I should mention here that there is no mental fog at all when I can focus on something that has nothing to do with my situation. I’m talking about reading and writing, having conversations with friends, performing difficult tasks that require my concentration.

Wahweap Hoodoos
Flying over the Wahweap Hoodoos on a solo cross-country flight from Seattle, WA to Page, AZ in September 2010.

Of all the things I do to keep my mind off my divorce woes, flying is the best. When I fly, I focus on every detail of the flight, using my senses to accumulate information about the situation and using my mind to evaluate input and make decisions.

Looking at the aircraft during preflight, monitoring the instruments, seeing where I’m flying.

Listening to the sound of the engine on startup and warmup and in flight, hearing the odd sound of a strong wind in the mast and cowling while idling on the ground, hearing the blades slap at 80 knots.

Smelling engine exhaust when warming up on the ramp with the door open and a slight tailwind, smelling the heat on the rare instances when I use it.

Touching various components I can’t see on preflight, feeling for unseen leaks, feeling the controls in my hand and the way the helicopter responds to my inputs, feeling the force of the wind when picking up into a hover, feeling the shudder of the aircraft when going through a wind shear, feeling the motion of the aircraft when riding turbulence.

If there was something to taste, I’d taste it, too.

The experience of being at the controls of my helicopter is a joyful release from whatever else is going on. When I’m flying, there is no betrayal by a man I love, no ruined relationship, no desperate old woman sleeping beside my husband while itching to get into the home I made with the man I love. There’s only the amazing machine and sky around me, the ever-changing terrain below, and a feeling a freedom that can’t be beat.

I wish I could fly more often.

Other Emotions

Beyond the mental fog, I am feeling emotions I can clearly identify.

One of them is a weariness that periodically drags me down. Specifically:

  • I’m tired of having to explain myself to people who should understand. This is mostly the “get over it” crowd who have been through a similar situation and have worked through their own emotions, yet don’t have the patience to watch me work through mine. I’m also tired of having to explain why I’m fighting in court — that the simple fact is if I gave him what he’s been demanding since September, I would be financially ruined and unable to face myself in the mirror. Yes, I know the only ones who win are the lawyers. I thought my husband knew that, too. But apparently his mommy/girlfriend, who has been controlling his side of the divorce since November, doesn’t understand this. I sometimes wonder if it’s his money or hers that she’s pissing away on legal fees.
  • I’m tired of dealing with lies and misrepresentations. This is coming from their side of the divorce. After eleven months, they’re still lying and misrepresenting the events of the case. This came to a head recently with what I call “The Garage Fiasco,” where they lied and attempted to bully their way into the garage of our home to get their hands on some papers. (Blog post to come.) When will the lies end? How has dishonesty become a way of life for this man? Is that what she taught him?

But there are also positive emotions, most of which I’ve been experiencing recently:

  • Relief that the end is in sight. They managed to delay the court date until April by claiming that they needed more information to evaluate my business but then they failed to do any sort of information-gathering. This proves to me that it was all a ploy to delay things. I think he believed he could wear me down and I’d give in. (I’m not sure where he got that idea; he should know me better. Perhaps his mommy/girlfriend convinced him that I’d give up and go away. What the hell does she know about me?) But with half the trial done and the last court date less than 2 weeks away, I can clearly see an end to this ordeal. And that makes me feel good.
  • Hope that the justice system can be fair. I can’t say much more about this — at least not now. But case law gives me hope that the judge can do what’s right and fair for this situation.
  • My New View
    Having a view like this out the window of my home is something I can really look forward to.

    Positive feelings about my future. Remember that piece of land I mentioned earlier in this blog post? Well, it’s still there and it’s still waiting for me. It’s a 10-acre parcel high on a hillside, overlooking the Columbia River and Wenatchee Valley. It’s private and quiet but only a 15-minute drive into a great little city with everything a person could want or need. Seattle is 30 minutes away by airline or 2-1/2 hours by car. I’ve already drawn up plans for a hangar home that will house my helicopter, RV, and vehicles — for the first time since 1997, every one of my possessions will be under one roof. I’m looking forward to being able to fly from my home, have a garden, and keep bees for honey and wax. Maybe even have chickens and horses again. Best of all: I don’t have to deal with sour looks when I do something my “life partner” doesn’t like but lacks the communication skills to verbally object to. In other words: life without someone holding me back because he’s too fearful to move forward or really enjoy life.

  • Hope that what comes around, goes around. Yes, I’m talking about karma. I don’t believe in karma, but everyone tells me that it exists and is real. They all assure me that the lying, cheating bastard the man I love became will get his in the end. Frankly, I’m hoping that it comes in the form of his mommy/girlfriend having a stroke and him having to change her diapers every day. That’ll serve him right. I can say with certainly that just living with an evil, vindictive woman who lies and does cruel things to others to get what she wants should be enough punishment for any man. (It’s still so difficult to believe he’d wind up with someone like that, but beggars can’t be choosers, I guess. Their mutual desperation is likely what brought them together.)

The mental fog is lifting and what I see ahead of me is so much better than what I left behind.

A Story about (Dis)Honesty in Business

I can’t deal with people like this. Can you?

Drying Cherries
Here’s a photo of me in action over a cherry orchard in 2010.

As many people know, I now make most of my income in the summer doing agricultural work in Washington state with my helicopter.

Each year, my client base has minor changes, adding and removing acreage. It’s gotten to the point, however, that I usually need a second helicopter to help me during a one-month “crunch” period that runs roughly from the third week in June to the third week in July.

As I prepared to start my search for another helicopter with pilot, I was very pleased to get the following message via the contact form on Flying M Air‘s website:

Hello,
I was just wondering if you might know of a farmer who wants a helicopter for the upcoming season that you are unable to take care of? I have several helicopters available and have been doing frost abatement and cherry drying for over 5 years now.

An experienced guy with several helicopters? It sounded too good to be true. I replied:

I am looking for an experienced pilot with a helicopter for one month in the Wenatchee area. It would start around the end of June and run until the end of July. If you’re interested please give me a call.

He called. We spoke. He told me he had five helicopters: a JetRanger, a LongRanger, an R44, a Hiller, and an Enstrom. I told him I was interested in the R44 but only if the pilot had at least 500 hours in helicopters and 50 hours or more in the R44. He said all his pilots had over 1,000 hours.

At this point, a little nagging voice should have been whispering in my ear: This can’t be real. If this guy is experienced and has five helicopters, why doesn’t he already have contracts, especially for the R44, which would be anyone’s first choice of aircraft?

But if that little voice was talking, it may have been whispering. And since my brain is so caught up in divorce bullshit these days, I didn’t hear it.

Instead, I enthusiastically made him an offer for the R44, which he enthusiastically accepted. I told him I’d send a contract so he understood the terms and that I’d be able to give him more accurate dates in about a month. When we hung up, I remember thinking: Well, that’s one less thing to worry about. I even told a friend I’d already found a pilot to help me.

A week went by. I did some traveling. I didn’t get a chance to send the sample contract. There really wasn’t a rush; the work was still more than three months away.

I got another email message from the operator:

It was nice talking with you last week and thank you for the opportunity to work on cherries together in WA. Since our conversation I have had a chance to look a little closer at he numbers for an R44 and it looks like the lowest daily rate I can work with is $XXX per day but the $XXX per hour is the hourly rate needed so you were right on the mark with it. If you can’t do that as a daily rate I understand but I do have an Enstrom that I can get you for $XXX per day and only $XXX per hour.

I don’t want to give exact numbers here; I like to keep contract terms between me and the people I work with/for. He was telling me he needed $50 more per day for the R44 but only $25 more per day for an Enstrom, which I didn’t want. He could save me $25/hour of flight time on the Enstrom. So if I wanted the R44, it would cost me $1,500 more. Since my clients weren’t paying me that much, I’d lose money every day.

Classic bait and switch.

To say I was pissed is an understatement. I don’t like to be played. I know what it costs to own and operate an R44 and I know my offer was right in line with the going rate. So I replied honestly and politely:

Thanks for letting me know your requirements. I’m not sure I’ll be able to collect enough money from my clients to fill your needs. I’ll keep looking for someone else to handle the contracts for me. I don’t think the Enstrom will do the job. I’ll be in touch either way.

A few days went by. I got to talking to a friend of mine who also does cherry drying. He told me he’d been contacted by an operator who wanted to hire him and his Hiller to dry cherries in my area this summer. He told me that he was having a problem with the contract terms this guy was offering. Although the money was okay, this guy wouldn’t pay until after the grower had paid him. So my friend would be providing services with no guarantee of being paid if the guy who hired him didn’t collect.

You know what’s coming, right?

The guy who called my friend to hire him to fly was the same guy who had contacted me looking for work. He was acting as a broker — a middleman. He needed me to pay him more so he could pay the going rate to the guys who would fly for him and pocket money on the side. He wasn’t providing the services with his helicopters or his pilots.

A day or two later, I started writing a nasty email to him, but wisely deleted it.

Another week went by. Yesterday, I got this email from him:

I was just wondering if you have been able to find another 44 yet? If not can you do $XXX per day?

He was still looking for work for that R44, but now he’d dropped the daily rate to just $25/day more than I was offering. In all honesty, I could have made that work. But by then, I knew that I couldn’t trust him. And I didn’t want to work with someone I couldn’t trust.

Here’s where I’m different from most people. If you do something what bothers me, I will tell you about it. I want people to understand where I’m coming from. I’m not going to sneak around behind people’s backs and pretend everything is A-OK when it’s not. So I sent this message and BCCed it to my friend:

In all honesty, I’m not happy with the way you accepted my terms on the phone and then said you had to have more. I’m also not happy that you said that YOU owned the helicopters and I later found out that you tried to hire another pilot to cover cherry contracts for you. I’m thinking that you don’t have enough helicopters to cover your contracts or that you are trying to be a middleman. I’m also thinking that you’re not being entirely straight with me. I am not interested in working with someone I can’t trust. My clients are extremely important to me and I need to feel comfortable with the service I’m providing.

So I’m thinking that its best that we don’t work together this season. Sorry.

Too blunt? Probably. But that’s the way I am. I call it the way I see it.

It was obviously too blunt for him. He fired back:

Ok, so I never said it would actually work I said it may work on the phone. I never said I owned the helicopters, I have been doing this for over five years and have quite a few of my own contracts. I work with several other companies who are very happy with the service I provide. I never misrepresented what I do, just because you assume something doesn’t mean I said it or implied it. As far as being the middle man what are you doing?

Sorry, but I don’t agree with this. On the phone, he made it sound as if he had five helicopters. He even listed the models and told me all his pilots had 1,000 hours. And yes, he did say that the terms I offered would work — why else would I feel as if the job of finding another aircraft was done? I don’t have a recording of the conversation and I don’t have any notes. But I know what I heard and I know I was misled.

I replied:

I am not a middleman. These are my clients. I fly the contracts too. You misled me in our discussion and now you’re making excuses. I don’t deal with people I can’t trust.

And that’s when he showed his true colors:

ok, I should have listened to what people say about you but I thought I would give you a chance.

Yep. What kind of responsible business person makes a crack like that? Not only did he just slam the door on working with me in the future on cherries or frost (or anything else), but if any the other operators I routinely work with ask about him, I’ll tell them about this.

What should he have done? Well, he should have been a little bit apologetic, perhaps saying that he was sorry that he didn’t make the situation clear or sorry that I misunderstood him. He could have offered to start over with a more truthful account of his setup. But instead, he chose to take the line that I was at fault and that he should have known better to work with me after what he’d heard about me.

As if I give a shit what he and others say about me behind my back.

And him give me a chance? Jeez. How out of touch with reality is this guy? Aren’t I the one offering the work? The way I see it, I’d be giving him a chance.

Which, of course, I would now never do.

I got a call from my friend this morning. He had read the exchanges between me and the other guy. We chatted some more about this guy. Some details emerged. He had a helicopter last season and crashed it on a cherry contract. He apparently doesn’t currently have any helicopters at all. The deal he offered my friend for frost work required my friend to fly a certain number of hours for free or pay him for hours not flown. My friend would have lost money this season — especially since there was no frost flying to be done due to unseasonably warm weather all spring. He was glad he didn’t take the deal. And after our talk, he likely won’t be doing any deal with this guy in the future.

Sadly, this isn’t an isolated case. This business is highly competitive. People will say anything they need to in order to get a contract. They’ll promise the world. But when it comes time to deliver, they fall short.

Like the guy last season who said he’d work for me and seemed satisfied with the contract terms, but refused to sign a contract and refused to prove he had liability insurance. Needless to say, I didn’t work with him, either.

This isn’t a game. It’s business.

Oh, and if you feel like spending a month making good money with an R44 helicopter this summer, check this out. The only catch: you have to bring the helicopter.