No, it’s not when you’re thinking.
I’m finally in the home stretch for my divorce proceedings. It’s been a long, hard road, made harder by my heartache and the constant state of disbelief that the man I loved and spent more than half my life with could do the spiteful and vindictive things he’s been doing to me since May.
The topic of loneliness came up in a Facebook discussion with some friends. I had commented about how I loved the spontaneity of my life, being able to turn a day trip into an overnight stay. I mentioned how nice it was to be able to say YES to an invitation without asking someone’s permission. One person commented:
Being single has a lot more perks then people think. Oh sure, it can be lonely, but if you got good friends, and an active life, the feeling of loneliness is rare.
I seldom get lonely. I can stay pretty busy.
Another person said:
In my previous marriage, I felt lonelier during its disintegration than I ever felt afterwards, happily on my own.
And that got me thinking about when I did feel lonely. It wasn’t this week or last week or even last month. It wasn’t really during any time since I left him behind in Arizona on a late April day in 2012. In reality, it was before that — in the final months leading up to my seasonal departure to Washington. As I commented to my Facebook friends:
I never felt so lonely as those last few months before I went away for my summer job in 2012. I moved to Phoenix to be close to him and he was as distant as ever. I should blog about this — I think it’s the only time in my life that I’ve ever felt lonely for an extended period of time.
And that’s true — I’ve never felt as lonely as I did during that 7-month period, from the time I returned to Arizona from my summer job in early October 2011 until I departed for the 2012 season on the last day of April 2012.
Moving into the Condo
It was a weird scene when I got home — although I didn’t realize it right away. My husband had visited me in September for a nice week-long trip around the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. It was the first thing resembling a vacation that we’d had in more years than I can count. It was a nice trip — at least I enjoyed it. I thought he did, too.
On that trip we talked about his roommate moving out of his Phoenix condo. My husband had had the condo for three or four years and his roommate had moved in right away. His roommate didn’t like me much and didn’t keep that a secret. When he wasn’t openly hostile, he was making cracks about the things I did or said, always trying to pick a fight with me. I’m not saying we were at war, but I certainly wasn’t very comfortable when he was around — which was every weekday evening and on some weekends. Watching TV became a community event. So did some meals — either that or smell the stench of whatever prepared food concoction he’d heated in the microwave. Not only that, but because I’m a early riser, I felt that I had to tip-toe around the place in the morning, keeping it dark so it wouldn’t wake my parrot. I can’t tell you how many mornings I sat in the corner of the red sofa reading a book on my iPad because I didn’t want to wake him.
We’d decided earlier in the summer that it would be better if his roommate were to move out. I’d move in with my office and spend each week with my husband — kind of like a normal couple might. (Imagine that!) So when I returned in October, the roommate was gone.
My husband and I filled the void left by his departure by buying new furniture for the condo. A new bedroom set with a king size bed like the one we had at home. We sold the old furniture — which had been a gift from my grandmother — to his roommate for his new apartment. We bought end tables and a coffee table. And a table for the big HD television he’d bought. And a bunch of dressers for the walk-in master bedroom closet, so we wouldn’t need dressers in the bedroom.
We brought my office furniture — or most of it — down from our Wickenburg house. I set up my office in the roommate’s old bedroom. We also swapped the queen sized bed we had at the condo for a full size bed we had at home. That went into my office as a guest bed — as if anyone wanted to visit us. We also bought new blinds for that room. It had two sliding glass doors and the old blinds were ugly and in poor condition. By the time we were finished, the place was looking like a home.
A second home.
Life at the Condo
Throughout the autumn, I lived there with my husband, our dog Charlie, and my parrot Alex.
In the morning, we’d have breakfast together like a real married couple and he’d go to work. I’d go into my office and do some work for a while. Just before lunchtime, I’d put Charlie on his leash and we’d walk to the stores where I’d buy food for the night’s dinner (if we were eating in) and maybe some lunch out. We never missed a Wednesday farmer’s market. In the afternoon, I’d take Charlie to one of the dog parks I’d found in the area — the one at Indian School park was closest — where I’d let him run with the other dogs or chase balls. On other days, I’d take him out to the tennis courts near the condo parking lot and throw balls with him until my husband got home. We’d have dinner together, either in or out, and sometimes would see a movie. Otherwise, he’d park himself in front of the television and I’d usually get comfortable somewhere with a book.
Sometimes I flew. The helicopter was based part-time at Deer Valley Airport, which was closer to the condo than our house. I’d get a call for a flight, book it, and head up to prep. Then I’d do the flight and, with luck, be back at the condo before he got home. Sometimes it went long, though. That’s the way my business is.
On most weekends, we’d go home to Wickenburg. It was a bit of a pain in the neck — having to pack our things and load up the truck, then make the long drive — about 70 miles that took nearly 90 minutes — and unpack once we arrived. Often, we took two cars — after all, he worked about 1/3 of the way home and it didn’t make much sense for him to drive that distance twice. We’d spend the weekend doing stuff around the house — including catching up on TV car shows he’d DVRed — and maybe getting out in the Jeep. We had a nice hike in the desert out behind the house once. Then, on Sunday (if we’d taken one car) or Monday (if we’d taken two cars), we’d pack back up and move back down to Phoenix.
I say “most weekends,” because it wasn’t every weekend that we went home together. Sometimes, I had to fly. It made no sense to go all the way back to Wickenburg and then drive all the way back to Deer Valley the next day. So I’d stay in the condo and either come home after the flight or just stay there. And, of course, since my office was in the condo, I had to be there to get any work done. I worked on a book that autumn and that kept me in the condo on a few weekends.
Understand that this was not the kind of life I liked. While I realize that I do spend every summer away from home, at least I’m sleeping in the same bed for weeks at a time. Bouncing back and forth between these two homes was bothersome, to say the least. It didn’t make things any better that the condo was dark and cavelike from about 11 AM on, there was no privacy with the blinds open, and noisy neighbors woke us up more than a few times. The only thing the condo had going for it was its proximity — walking distance — from so many shops and restaurants and the fact that it had pretty fast Internet.
As for Wickenburg — well, the house needed a lot of work. My old office was a disaster area, but I was never there long enough to put a dent into the big job of cleaning it up. (It took weeks this spring to finally get the job done.) The yard needed some work and we actually did do some of it in January and February. But, overall, I felt that we were neglecting the house and wasting too much time on those long weekly drives.
The Winter of his Discontent
Sometime in the autumn, I realized that my husband was unhappy. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I honestly believed it had to do with his job.
The way he complained about his job, I have to assume he hated it. What else could I think? He complained incessantly about his boss and I had to agree — the guy was being a dick. He complained about not being able to sell because his boss refused to give him the price cuts he needed to clinch the deals. He complained about his boss micromanaging. Even after we’d treated his boss and his wife to a helicopter dinner out — do you know what that cost me? — he continued to treat my husband shabbily, like a second-class citizen. And his work conditions? He was in a tiny cubicle crammed into a tiny office with another guy. This was not the kind of office you’d want to go to every day.
I also knew that he was unhappy with his financial situation. He wasn’t making as much money as he needed to cover the condo mortgage and its absurdly high monthly maintenance fees. I told him to sell. He refused, saying that it was under water. It was only under water about $20K, though. I told him to sell and take the loss on his income taxes. He refused. I told him to sell it to me for what he owed and that I’d sell it and take the loss. He didn’t want to do that either. He just wanted that albatross hanging around his neck.
To top things off was the way he responded to me when I told him I wanted to do something that he apparently didn’t approve of. Rather than speak up and tell me what the problem was, he’d fix me with a disapproving glare and say something like, “Whatever you want,” in a flat tone of voice. He never got enthusiastic about anything. He never seemed happy. Even on the few times we went to concerts and the like, he didn’t seem as if he was 100% there with me.
I thought it was his job. I thought he was at the end of his rope with the situation. I thought that he was jealous of me having so much free time to do what I wanted to do between books and flying jobs. I thought he’d begun to resent my freedom — freedom I’d offered him so many times and was waiting for him to grasp with me.
How could I think otherwise? He never told me what was wrong.
One day in the winter, he emailed a close friend of his back in New York, telling her, “Maria is driving me crazy.” But he never said a word to me. I still don’t know what I did to prompt that complaint to a woman I’d met only a handful of times, a woman he obviously felt better about confiding to than me, his wife.
Much later, in September 2012, after introducing my replacement to his friends at his mother’s birthday party, he told a mutual friend that he still loved me but that when he’d come to see me on my birthday in June 2011, I didn’t tell him that I loved him. He was carrying around crap like that for over a year. But he never told me how he felt. He never made me feel as if he cared about how I felt for him.
He just complained about me to his friends.
It should come as no surprise that they cheered him on when he decided to search for my replacement. Maybe they even suggested it. It seems like something his roommate might do.
The loneliness came over those few months. Living with a man so distant, a man I couldn’t reach, a man who wouldn’t tell me what he was thinking or feeling. He wasn’t the man I loved. He was the empty shell of that man.
How many times did I go into the bedroom with a book, hoping he’d turn off that fucking television and join me?
How many times did I wish he’d speak up when he wasn’t happy about what I was doing or saying? How many times did I wish he’d put his foot down and take control of the situation and show me the man I fell in love with all those years ago?
How many times did I wish he’d just shed the possessions and debt that was making him a slave in a job he hated?
Too many times.
I retreated into myself and my work. I came out when he suggested a marriage counselor and I really thought we could make things work. But he still wouldn’t talk and I was still alone. And then it was time for me to go back to work.
By then, of course, he’d given up on me — although he didn’t tell me that, either. He waited until he’d found my replacement, then ruined my birthday by asking for a divorce. Was that revenge for me not telling him that I loved him the year before? Probably.
But at least the loneliness finally ended.