Helicopter Pilot Reality Check

Another message from a reader; he gets it, too.

I just wanted to share another message from a reader, along with some comments. Here’s the message; I did get permission from its author to share it here:

Hello, Ms. Langer. My name is XXX, I’m from Los Angeles, CA, and I’m 27. I just got out of the Army back in January after eight years of service, and I’m kind of lost. Don’t worry, I’m not here for guidance, or advice. I just wanted to thank you for your “So you want to be a helicopter pilot” articles. Though short and concise, they are a substantial truth in the sea of opinions and “knowledge” that is the internet. I have been considering using my GI Bill on flight training, thinking it would be a great way to make 80 thousand a year right out the gate. I knew in my heart of hearts that there had to be more to it, though, and I was right. Thank you for the reality check, the information, and for putting things in perspective. I’m still strongly considering it, but can now make a better informed decision. I believe nothing worthwhile is accomplished without paying your dues or overcoming challenges to get there. Your articles took the “too easy to be true” out of my mindset. Thank you.

(Emphasis added; more on that later.)

Messages like this one are part of the reason why I blog about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences as a pilot. I want to share what I know (or think I know) with other pilots and folks who want to be pilots.

He’s referring to my series of blog posts titled “So You Want to Be a Helicopter Pilot.” Originally written about two years ago, I’m preparing to update, revise, and expand the series and turn it into an ebook. It’s my attempt to inject a dose of reality into the whole helicopter pilot career discussion — a discussion that has been fraught with fallacies.

False Advertising

News Travels Fast

I still remember how I heard of Silver State’s demise. I’d been using their maintenance services for my helicopter. Early — before 8 AM — on a Monday morning, my FAA POI (Primary Operations Inspector) called me. “Do you have possession of your helicopter?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “It’s in my hangar.” I remember feeling a moment of panic. Was it in my hangar? Or somewhere else? Why was the FAA calling me? “Or it should be,” I added quickly. “Why?”

He replied, “Silver State went out of business yesterday. They locked up all their facilities. I just wanted to make sure your helicopter wasn’t locked inside their hangar.”

To this day, I wonder what kind of ordeal I would have been put through to get my helicopter out of their hangar if it had been in there that weekend.

I blame Silver State Helicopters, the now-defunct pilot mill, an organization with a pyramid scheme as its business plan. Some readers might remember this company, which locked it doors on Super Bowl Sunday in February 2008, just days after conning another two (from what I heard) students into signing up.

Silver State was well known for conducting helicopter pilot career seminars at auditoriums all over the country. They’d run radio ads to advertise the events, luring people in with promises of $80K salaries as helicopter pilots. I never attended an event, but I was told that it wasn’t uncommon for them to put several helicopters with flight-suited pilots on stage in front of their audience. They’d paint a picture of a glamour job with a big paycheck. All you had to do was agree to pay $70K to $80K (prices varied) to go through their program. They had financing — I believe they used Key Bank — available at the event and even promised to hire all students as flight instructors to get them started on their career path.

Hundreds of people fell for their sales pitch and signed up. (Let’s face it: Who wouldn’t want to be a helicopter pilot making $80K/year? Cool job, great paycheck. Double win, no?) This enabled the company to keep expanding, adding more locations and more helicopters. They also started churning out more and more pilots. They used tomorrow’s revenue to pay for yesterday’s growth, relying on a constant, ever-growing stream of new students to stay solvent. They built their own bubble which was doomed to burst when financing became expensive and pilot jobs became scarce.

Meanwhile, the pilots in the program soon realized that the $80K jobs they thought would be available when they got their pilot ratings weren’t within reach. They needed experience. And while Silver State did hire them as flight instructors, when a flight school has as many instructors as students, it’s tough for any of those instructors to actually get any flight time. So not only did the company flood the market with pilots, but it created its own bottleneck for pilots who needed to build time. And although some folks reading this might disagree, many employers questioned the quality of a Silver State education and simply would not hire the school’s graduates, even if they did have enough flight time to qualify for a pilot position.

Unfortunately, even after Silver State folded, other flight training operations persisted in using their formula to attract students with promises of high paying jobs while glossing over the fact that thousands of hours of flight experience is required to get those jobs. That’s the “80 thousand” referred to in the email quoted above.

Reality Check

And that’s why I wrote my “So You Want to Be a Helicopter Pilot” series. I wanted people to get an idea of what it was really like to train to be a helicopter pilot. Each part of the series explores another aspect of what’s important to build a career as a pilot.

The part people seem to have the most trouble with is the part about getting experience before you can step into a good job. I cover that in Part 9: Pay Your Dues. People just don’t get it. Or they don’t want to get it.

Just last week, I saw the following post on a Women Helicopter Pilot group on Facebook:

Seems like the only realistic way for us ladies who recently finished flight school at commercial level is to slave by being an instructor first to ever build over 1000 hours to be employed by any company. I understand you learn a lot but I have no patience to teach, hence I didn’t sign up to be a helicopter instructor. What’s left to do?

I took great offense at this comment. The author seemed to insinuate that it was just women who needed to build 1,000 hours of flight time to get a decent pilot job. She used the word “slave” to imply that it would be a great ordeal to build those 1,000 hours as a flight instructor. She made it clear that she didn’t do her homework or ignored the reality presented to her: that it’s very common for all pilots — men or women, fixed wing or helicopter — to work as flight instructors to build the almost universally required minimum of 1,000 hours PIC time to secure an entry level pilot job.

And just the other day I got an email message from a blog reader that said:

my name is XXX, and i have currently got 100 hours on the R22, and am looking for some sort of way to build my hours up or for much cheaper. very passionate about flying. I’m a single man, 23 years of age and willing to go where ever is needed. please may you assist me by just directing me in the right path?

He’s kidding, right? He’s a 100-hour pilot and he’s looking for cheap flying time? Does he realize he’s standing in line behind several thousand people with the same passion and goal, most of whom at least bothered to finish commercial training to move forward?

Hell, even I’m looking for cheap flying time — it’s gotten to the point where I can’t afford to fly my own helicopter without someone paying for the flight time.

But the comment that sticks to me after many years is the one posted on my 2009 blog post, “How to Start Your Own Helicopter Charter Business.” I wrote the post after getting too many messages from wannabe pilots who saw owning and operating their own business as a shortcut to building a career as a helicopter pilot. These guys didn’t want to pay their dues. I made it pretty clear what they would pay instead in that post.

The comment said:

I have read all of your blogs and wannabe pilots and their dreams and aspirations. I will tell you of my plans, and I am sure you will shoot them down like a kamikazee pilot barreling down at your aircraft carrier. I saw and understand your step by step approach to the biz. It sounds as if you discourage the thought of anyone even pursuing the dream. like its a complete waste of time. My best friend and I are recently both divorced, and have no pilots license..period, starting from scratch with our good credit and 401k in tact, we wanted to go to panama…the country and start this Helicopter tour business…very little to no competition. We wanted to start an exciting business and this seemed the one. We are willing to hire a pilot for us initially and front the startup, then get our license along the way…what do you think? Hold on….let me get my boxing head gear on, and my bullet proof vest, and my sport cup…hold on…there, got my hockey mask on now too…ok Maria…give it to me…dont hold back! Tell me what I dont want to hear, but need to hear…you got any positive advice as well? thanks

It sounds as if I’m discouraging people? By introducing a dose of reality? By pointing out that things aren’t as rosy as you might believe? By explaining that it’s costly to get started? By reminding readers that they have to work hard and pay their dues to succeed?

This comment got under my skin. It made me realize that no matter how much I try to help people by sharing my advice and observations and experience, if what I have to say doesn’t match their preconceived notions, I’m just “shooting them down” and “killing their dreams.” (This comment was especially ridiculous because the author didn’t seem to have any insight into the helicopter tour business he was hoping to start with a partner in another country. WTF?)

Do you think a person with an attitude like that will get far in any field?

Whatever.

Back to the Message that Prompted this Post

Anyway, the message I got the other day (refer to the quoted text at the beginning of this post) made me feel good. Someone was listening, someone was trying to use the information I shared to help make an educated career decision.

Like the person who wrote to me last month, this guy gets it. He understands that you have to work to achieve a goal. He understands that any goal worth achieving has challenges.

This guy has the right attitude. He’ll succeed in anything he sets out to do — even becoming a helicopter pilot, if that’s what he wants.

I’m not going to say that it’s impossible to make $80K as a helicopter pilot. I know pilots who make that much and more. But they worked hard to get ahead in their chosen field. They built hours and skills. They had the right attitude; they made their employers want to invest in their training. They proved themselves worthy of the positions they were put into, year after year.

But what I really want to make people understand is this: The only reason you should pursue any career is because you’re passionate about that work. Do not let earning potential — either real or imagined — make your career choice for you.

I made that mistake when I was starting out in college and beyond. I made great money but I was unhappy for the first 8 years of my working life. Life’s too short to be unhappy.

Wouldn’t you rather make a living wage doing the thing you’re passionate about doing?

So my advice to anyone who’s gotten this far in yet another long-winded blog post is this: pursue a helicopter pilot career only if you’re passionate about flying helicopters. If you put your heart and soul into it and you prove yourself worthy of the job, the money will come.

In the meantime, you’ll be doing what you want to do and every day will be its own reward.

What Is Truth?

I thought I knew, but now I’m not so sure.

One of the things I value most in life is truth.

Maybe I’m old fashioned. Maybe I’m idealistic. Maybe I’m a dreamer.

Maybe I’m just an idiot.

But throughout my life — especially as I got older and began understanding the world around me — truth became a guiding principle. When I ask a question, I expect an honest reply. When I watch the news, I expect to see and hear what really happened. When I look at a photograph, I expect it to be an accurate representation of what was in front of the camera lens when the image was captured.

To me, it’s impossible to function effectively and make the best decisions unless the information you have is the truth.

Lies waste time. They build distrust. They lead to bad decisions. They destroy relationships.

And there’s a funny thing about lies: they’re usually discovered and the liar is revealed as a liar.

Lying is stupid.

Truth in Today’s World

Sadly, truth seems to have little value in today’s world. The most recent political campaigns really brought that home. There were numerous advertisements that misrepresented the facts to the point of actually spreading lies. The most notorious examples were Mitt Romney’s Jeep ads which played in Ohio and elsewhere, and claimed that Chrysler was sending Jeep manufacturing jobs to China (among other things). This had already been proven false after Romney made the same claim in a speech just days before. But they aired the ad anyway, purposely spreading lies.

And no, Romney wasn’t the only liar out there this past campaign season. There were plenty of other liars on all points of the political spectrum. It got so bad that numerous fact-checker websites and news site features popped up to share the burden with established sites such as Politifact.com.

But this post isn’t about politics. It’s about truth. And lies.

The public these days seems to have little regard for the truth. They hear various versions of something that interests them. Rather than take the time or effort to determine which is most accurate, they choose the story that best matches what they want to hear — the version that supports their belief or their decision. Everything else is disregarded — either forgotten or categorized as untrue.

Anyone with an email inbox and a second cousin or uncle knows the kind of crap that floats around the Internet. Crazy stories, conspiracy theories, links to articles that anyone with a skeptical eye would cringe at. The problem is, that second cousin or uncle believes what he’s sent you is true. And he got it from someone else who also believes it. And so on and so on. It supports their beliefs or decisions and that’s all they really care about. They want you to know the “truth” so you can share their belief or decision.

As you might imagine, this drives me — a person who values real truth, no matter what it might lead to — bonkers. Life’s too short to waste it with lies. And some decisions are too important to make them based on lies.

Am I the only person to understand this?

Is it Okay to Lie?

In an effort to replace my soon-to-be ex-husband with a suitable partner, I’ve resorted to online dating services. (A big mistake; I’ll blog about it in detail when my experiment is over, hopefully soon.) The topic of truth vs. lies applies to these sites in a number of different ways.

When you sign up for these sites, they ask you a series of questions about yourself and your ideal mate. Some sites have very rudimentary questionnaires. Others have extremely lengthy questionnaires. Indeed, one of the sites I’ve tried offers more than 10,000 questions for you to answer.

One of the multiple choice questions on one of the sites went something like this:

Is it okay to lie?

• Yes.
• White lies are okay.
• Not usually.
• Never.

This question reminds me of the old puzzler, the Liar Paradox, which is sometimes expressed with the single statement, “This sentence is false.” Is it false? It can’t be true or false, hence the paradox.

Similarly, if a person responds that it’s Never okay to lie but he’s lying, how much else is a lie? But, as usual, I digress.

Side Note: My unwillingness to lie got me into serious trouble years ago at a family gathering. It’s a kind of funny story, so I’ll tell it here. I can use a good laugh. The trick is to tell it without names so I don’t get in trouble again. Here goes.

My soon-to-be ex-husband’s Brother was married to Wife. Wife absolutely hated Girlfriend who was the girlfriend of Brother’s Cousin. Got that? Two couples: Brother and Wife, Cousin and Girlfriend.

At a huge Thanksgiving dinner at our old house in New Jersey that Brother and Wife attended but Cousin and Girlfriend did not, Wife asked me, “Would you rather have Cousin and Girlfriend here than us?” Not knowing how to answer that loaded question without lying — because I honestly liked Cousin and Girlfriend much better — I simply didn’t answer. Wife exploded in anger. “You rather have them here than us?!”

Needless to say, things between me and Wife went downhill from there. No great loss, fortunately. I have no patience for that kind of petty bullshit.

I had a problem with this question. In general, I don’t believe in lying — and I don’t generally lie. When asked a question I’m not comfortable with being 100% truthful, I’ll avoid answering the question or I’ll dance around the truth or I’ll make factual statements that might not answer the question or I’ll answer part of the question that I have no problem with. In other words, I’ll do everything within my power to avoid lying.

But then I started thinking about white lies. To me, a white lie is something you tell to spare another person’s feelings. It’s not true, but it’s also not harmful.

Every man should know, for example, that the answer to his wife’s question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” is “No,” no matter what the truth is.

But even a white lie like that could cause harm. Suppose the wife is going to her 20th high school reunion. Suppose that throughout high school she was teased mercilessly about being overweight. She wants to look her best — indeed, it’s important to her that she look great. And suppose the dress doesn’t really make her look that good at all. Wouldn’t it be better for the husband to recommend another outfit or even suggest going shopping for one? Isn’t it better for his wife to make the decision for this important event based on factual information?

So what’s the answer to the dating site question above? I think I might have chosen “Not Usually” — and that’s because I wanted to be truthful with my answer. But, as you might expect, most of the “matches” for me that answered this question said “Never” — leading me to wonder how truthful they were being.

I’ll save my rant about honesty on dating sites for another post.

Lies and My Life

Because I don’t lie and I don’t believe in lying, when someone else lies, it really bothers me — probably a lot more than it bothers most people, given my earlier discussion about truth in today’s world. And when those lies are about me and they’re presented in a place where truth is vitally important — I’m shattered.

That’s what happened to me last week. Without getting so detailed that I get myself in trouble, I’ll just say that court-submitted documents accused me of performing several acts that I not only did not do, but I would never do. These documents also lied about the ownership of a specific asset that was mine.

Reading these documents was like being stabbed in the heart — especially when I considered where the lies had come from. Listening in on a phone call with the judge who might be making decisions regarding my financial future and hearing these same lies repeated was like getting that knife twisted. Someone was lying about me to a judge and I was unable to defend myself properly. To me, there’s nothing worse than being in this situation.

I realize that I’m not the only person on the planet to be a victim of lies submitted in court. It’s just nightmarish to find myself in this situation.

The FugitiveThink of all the movies you’ve ever seen, all the books you’ve ever read, all the news stories you’ve heard about, where the protagonist — a “good guy” — is victimized by lies told about him to make him seem, to everyone else, like a bad guy. You watch or read or hear what he’s going through and you squirm, feeling for him, rooting for him, glad that you’re not in his shoes.

Right now, I have a pretty good feeling of what it’s like to be in those shoes. And trust me: it sucks. There’s nothing worse than the thought that a decision about your future might be based on lies presented by other people who will benefit from your downfall. And that’s what I’m dealing with now.

After the phone call, I went to my regularly scheduled appointment with my grief therapist. And I spent the entire hour crying. There was simply nothing else I could do.

It wasn’t just the situation I was in — hopefully, the falsehood of the claims (established on Saturday) and my lawyers will be able to fix some of the damage done to my character. It was the simple fact that someone I used to trust had lied about me. Lied extensively. Lied cruelly and hurtfully. Lied for a selfish, hateful purpose.

As someone who doesn’t lie, it was hard for me to accept that this other person would — even though events of the past eight months have revealed more lies than I can count. It’s just so hard for me to accept.

Black and White

I’ll admit that one of my big problems with truth is that I’m always trying to categorize something as true or false. This caused a lot of trouble between me and my soon-to-be ex-husband throughout the later years of our relationship — and it continues to do so today.

You see, the problem is that he saw shades of gray where I saw black and white. He’d say that he couldn’t make a conclusion about something because there was no yes or no answer (shades of gray) and I’d clearly see a yes or a no answer (black and white).

Don’t get the idea that I never saw shades of gray — I certainly did in many instances and still do. But often, when I saw black and white, he saw shades of gray. That would cause arguments that often went unresolved. I couldn’t convince him of my point and he couldn’t convince me of his.

Sometimes, this would frustrate me to no end. I understand that not everyone sees things the same way. I understand that not everyone has the same knowledge or experience on which to base a conclusion. But in many of the instances where we argued, I simply could not understand why he couldn’t see the situation the same way I did. And near the end of our relationship, I began to suspect that he was arguing with me over it because he didn’t want to admit that I might be right. Or just for the sake of arguing.

(In the 20-20 vision of hindsight, this should have raised red flags with me. But I had too much invested emotionally in our relationship to admit that there was a problem. I thought he was an honest person. I didn’t realize that his personality would allow pride to trump truth.)

I saw my soon-to-be ex-husband on Saturday and was able, for the first time since July, to speak to him privately. It was an eye-opening experience. Either he’s the best actor in the world and should be given an Oscar for his performance, or he is not the evil monster I thought he had become. I’m left confused, unsure of what is the truth. Is this black and white or gray? I don’t know.

Or is it a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? A lot of friends and family members have been talking about this being “midlife crisis” and I think there’s a distinct possibility that some physiological factors — perhaps even andropause (discussed in this WebMD video) — may have triggered his seemingly irrational actions over the past year or so. I’ve certainly seen him present himself as two different people, depending on circumstances. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. These days, I just don’t know who I’m dealing with.

But to be fair to him — which many of my friends and family members will argue is a waste of my time — I’ve tried to think about some of the things that led to the downfall of our relationship. I’m not talking about how he ended it — that’s black and white to me. I’m talking about the points where we disagreed.

He said on Saturday, for example, that I wanted a business partner instead of a husband or lover. (I can’t remember his exact words, but I know he said “business partner.”) I never thought of our problems this way. I certainly wanted a loving husband: someone to do things with, cuddle with, make love with. Someone to plan and share a life with. And I think we did have that kind of relationship for most of our 29 years together. But I admit that I also hoped he could be part of my business life.

There were two reasons for this:

  • For the past 8 years or so, he’d been bouncing from one unsatisfying job to another, never really finding a job that was a good fit for him. Throughout that time, I offered him options to work with me part time in my business endeavors — real estate, FBO management, and helicopter charters — hoping it would help me grow the businesses enough to support both of us. But he never seemed interested in fully committing to the work I needed him to do. More often than not, he’d let me down and I’d give up. The last regular job he had before we split was making him absolutely miserable and I wanted so badly to help him — even going so far as to offer to relieve him of the debt he had from a property he’d bought that had gone underwater with the housing crisis. But he simply wouldn’t let me help.
  • Around the time we got married in 2006, he promised that he’d join me in my business when he turned 55. Since then, I’ve been planning and working hard to make this transition not only easy for him but financially feasible for both of us. Although he broke this promise — he turned 56 in May — I always had hope that he’d still fulfill it. I saw a great future for us, migrating north in the summer for work, goofing off wherever we wanted to for the rest of the year. A sort of semi-retirement. I thought we were on the same page with this goal. He never told me we weren’t. He only said he wasn’t ready “yet.”

I’m trying to think back on these things, trying hard to see them from his point of view. But it’s difficult, probably because he wasn’t honest with me when they happened. Was he just agreeing to things I suggested and pretending they weren’t a problem for him the same way we tell “white lies” to spare people’s feelings? I don’t know. I hope not. I value truth — I want my life partner to always be truthful to me, no matter how much it hurts. (“Yes, that dress makes you look fat.”)

But he waited until our relationship was over — and he’d replaced me with another woman — before telling me the truth in a long overdue conversation at the edge of a parking lot.

And that hurts.

It also makes me wonder just how many of those 29 years was spent living with lies.

Why did he keep putting off the conversation the marriage counsellor said we should have? Had he already planned his escape from me? That’s what I’m left wondering. Is he evil after all? What is the truth?

Twisting the Truth

But even the truth can be twisted into something that’s not quite true. Something black and white can be turned into something gray.

That’s what I’m facing now. Certain facts — truths — are being used as “evidence” of something that really didn’t happen as described. This is being done primarily by exaggerating the importance of these facts, blowing them out of proportion, and neglecting to present other facts that reveal their true significance.

Here’s a purely hypothetical example. Suppose you bought a small house as a rental property. You chose the building, you made the downpayment, you got the mortgage in your name, you were making all the payments. You were the property owner and solely financially responsible for it. Now suppose you needed to move some furniture and do some repair work. You ask a friend of yours for help and he says yes. You move the furniture together. He fixes a leaky faucet while you scrub the toilets. There’s no talk of payment for his services; he seems happy enough just to let you buy him lunch or spend the rest of the day doing something else with him. Meanwhile, throughout your friendship, he asks for similar favors to help him with things he needs done and you’re more than willing to help. This goes on occasionally over the course of a few years. Eventually, you get tired of being a landlord and sell the property at a profit.

Now, years later, imagine that friend stepping forward and saying, “Hey, you owe me a piece of that profit because I helped you manage the property and you never paid me.” He doesn’t mention any of the things you did to help him out over the years.

The truth is, he did help you with some of your management chores. The truth is, you didn’t pay him with cash for his time or efforts. But can he twist these truths to prove that he had a financial interest in the property? I guess he could try.

Is it right? Well, I could launch into yet another long discussion of right vs. wrong, but it would likely read very much like my truth vs. lies discussion here.

Everyone seems to have their own idea of what’s right and what’s wrong. Personal ethics apparently vary from one person to the next.

Even when someone knows deep down inside that a path he’s going down is morally or ethically wrong, he can convince himself that it’s justified, often by reminding himself of the truths that support his path. It’s easier to look at something with a sort of “tunnel vision” that only shows the facts you want to see than to see the big picture and all the facts and make an ethical conclusion.

It all depends on your conscience — and whether you have one.

Deep Thoughts Indeed

This blog has only a few categories or blog topics. “Deep Thoughts” is one of them. I created the topic to categorize posts that explored issues that were more philosophical than anything else. In this topic, you’ll find posts about politics and religion, as well as thoughts I have about life, relationships, injustices, emotions, communication, and, of course, divorce.

This is where I bare my soul to readers, where I let them into not just my life, but my head. This is where I share what I think and why I think it.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me about these things. All I expect is for readers who read these posts to think about what I’m saying. Maybe my point of view isn’t the same as yours, but maybe reading what I think can help you understand how others might think.

At the same time, I welcome non-abusive comments from readers. What you have to say about my blogs posts can help me better understand the way you and others think.

This discussion of truth was difficult for me to write — mostly because I had to draw on recent experiences to illustrate the points I was trying to make. Those recent experiences have been extremely painful to me. Every day brings more confusion, more disappointment, and often more pain.

Although I have such strong feelings for the idea of truth and want to see it throughout my world and life, I know that’s not much more than a pipe dream. Truth is hard to come by — which is what probably makes it so precious to me. Lies can and do hurt. And truth can be twisted so far that it could become a lie.

But is it too much to hope for truth and honor and ethics in our everyday life?

I hope not. Because when we get to the point where truth, honor, and ethics are no more than old-fashioned concepts defined in a dictionary, I don’t think life would be worth living.

The Man I Fell in Love with is Gone

And I don’t know who this other guy is.

Yesterday was my second court appearance for my divorce.

The first didn’t really count — it was just an appearance to set dates for the appearances that would follow. My husband and I both showed up with our lawyers. Neither of us got to say anything of substance to the judge. They set dates, we wrote them down, the judge left, and we left. Simple.

Yesterday’s appearance was different. Yesterday, we were each put on the witness stand and questioned by the two attorneys. At stake was who would be able to live in the house and use my hangar until the divorce was finalized.

I don’t want to go into detail about what was said and done. Two reasons. First, I don’t want to save the experience forever on the pages of this blog. It was extremely painful to me on so many levels. Second, my lawyers would probably scold me, depending on how much detail I provided and what I said. It’s not worth pissing off my lawyers or getting into trouble. My legal team rocks.

But I do want to briefly touch upon what I realized when my husband came to the stand and began answering questions that he and his lawyer had likely rehearsed in advance: he was not the man I fell in love with.

It’s funny, in a way, because it looked like him and it sounded like him. But the things he said were not the kinds of things the man I fell in love with would say about me. The man I fell in love with loved me just as much as I loved him — if not more. He always spoke kindly to and of me. He always defended me.

This man, however, was in attack mode, bending and stretching the truth (almost beyond recognition) to make a case against me. The man I fell in love with would never do that.

No Real Surprise

I don’t know why this surprised me so much. I knew the man I fell in love with was gone. I knew it this summer.

In June, while going through a pile of papers that I’d brought with me to Washington to sort out when I had time, I came across two greeting cards that the man I fell in love with had sent me years ago. They were the kinds of cards people in love share with each other, sometimes for no apparent reason other than to express their love. I can’t remember exactly what they said, but I do recall one of them mentioning “love” and “forever.”

I sat on the floor in my RV, looking at the two cards and thinking about the man who had sent them to me years ago. And as I thought about it, I realized that that man was gone — dead, I thought. The man I’d left in Arizona in May didn’t give me cards or flowers or anything else for no special reason. The man I left in Arizona spent most of his time glaring at me when I did something he didn’t like. The man I left in Arizona seemed almost too eager for me to leave.

So I wrote a letter to the man I’d left in Arizona — who is apparently the same man who showed up in court yesterday. I appealed to him to remember the old days, the days when he told me that I needed to “make it happen,” the days when he was an idealistic dreamer and inventor. I asked him what happened to that man. I told him what I suspected: that that man was dead.

I didn’t know it, but as I was writing that letter, the man I’d left in Arizona had already found my replacement. His response to my letter arrived in my mailbox, forwarded with my mail, the day after my birthday, the day after he told me he wanted a divorce.

Right now, all I regret is sending the man I’d left in Arizona those cards. They’re gone now, along with the man who sent them to me, the man I fell in love with. I’d really like to have them back to help me remember him and the way things were.

The Upside

Amazing as it may seem, there is an upside to all this.

Listening to the man in the witness box bend and stretch the truth to build a case against me was like a slap in the face — a slap of reality. Although he’s spread the word among family and friends — and even to me in email messages and written notes — that he still cares about me, that’s so obviously not true. It’s just another lie in a long series of lies that were likely spun to put me off guard about what’s to come. The man in the witness box doesn’t give a shit about me and the 29 years he and the man I fell in love with spent with me. The man in the witness box is simply seeking revenge for imagined offenses. The man in the witness box cares only about himself.

And knowing that now, without a shadow of a doubt, will help me begin my healing process.