I want permission to be angry. I have made tremendous strides in the last year in regaining myself, and yet--there is still what feels like a clogged pressure valve somewhere that is impeding my ultimate progress. I am being restrained.
Things have come to light since Alex's death about which I have every right to be furious. To vent. To rage, even, if such is my wont, and through that process, to achieve some catharsis. As much as I knew was wrong, the things I did not know, while not shocking, have been like continuing punches in the gut as they've been discovered, via the cleansing of computer files, the sorting of financial records, phone and e-mail logs, etc. Just horrifying. And here's the thing: You do not speak ill of the dead. Surely there comes a point at which that "rule" tips, but I don't know what that point is.
Don't get me wrong: I am beyond being hurt by Alex, or being angry with him. Our relationship had evolved into something totally different, and non-intimate, in every sense of that word (you cannot have any sort of real relationship without trust, and trustworthiness was absent on one side of the equation for oh, such a long time), years ago, so I was fairly insulated against most of that by the time our marriage was "officially" over (which, in my view, was the night I left). That kind of pointless enmity accomplished nothing before his death, and it accomplishes nothing now. But just plain ANGRY? Yes. Angry at a level of betrayal I would never have imagined a decade ago, that, yes--but also, fury at being silenced about it out of something that I am surely imposing upon myself... a sense of propriety, loyalty to my child, kindness to his family, embarrassment at having been in the middle of it all and being fooled so well and so thoroughly. Whatever it is.
Of all considerations, Bella is of course number one. And she, like me, is learning more and more of the truth, through discoveries of her own that I cannot prevent or predict. But there are things that she does not know... there are things that almost no one knows, because they are just too outrageously awful to consider, much less to dwell on. Someday, she will likely know a lot of it. Now is not that time. I must protect her sweet innocence as much as I can, and I find that the conversation regarding her father now is much the same as it has been all her life. I don't know why he did that, Baby. He was sick. No, that's not an excuse, and yes, he still made his own choices. It's complicated. He loved you. Same refrain as always, because it's still all I have to offer, as always.
And here's the catch to THAT: As this daughter's mother, I have a responsibility to her to assure that she knows, that she really understands, that all of this horror that I have been minimizing, excusing, even hiding, for years, is NOT OKAY. Not EVER, not for ANY REASON. She has to be allowed to understand that it is permissible to love her father and still know that his was not a model to be emulated or duplicated of what it is to be a proper man, husband, or, sadly, even a father. She needs to be able to pick the good and shining qualities that he imparted to her apart from the wreckage that he left in his wake through constant betrayals of trust. I have to raise a young woman who will look for, and expect, and DEMAND, a completely different standard than the one set for her through living example, both by the father who failed the test and the mother who kept re-setting the curve lower and lower. She deserves better.
So far, though it is, I am painfully aware, early, she has as good a handle on this as you could possibly expect--probably because she had lived it. At least I hope that is the way it's working. She knows that she can absolutely trust me, no matter what. And know this, Universe: I now have a zero tolerance policy for being lied to. No three strikes, no second chances. Not anymore. There will never, ever again, be a time in my life when I will discovery an infidelity, on the part of a trusted partner, of any magnitude and not respond instantly, decisively, and with extreme prejudice. Not any shape or form of a lie will be tolerated. I just cannot go through that any more--I won't. One thing that my family instilled in me my whole life was that you do not lie. You just don't do it. How I managed to become someone who tolerated lying, I do not know. And that frightens me, because if my daughter ever asks me "why," I am not going to have an answer. Love? Delusion? Hope? Denial? It doesn't really matter, does it?
Ultimately, I think that that is part of what is killing me a little inside right now. If you know me even a little bit, you know that I am an open book. Transparent. That the way I process things is to spill my guts, usually in writing... to pour it out on a page and let others who have experience to offer share that with me. Just to get it OUT OF ME, even if no one responds. That is a critical piece of who I am, and the stifling that I'm feeling right now just seems so... dishonest. Yes, I put up with a lot of dishonesty, but I was never, ever dishonest myself. I was accused of it--in every way, from having my motives questioned in irrational, rage-fueled tantrums, to being accused during a court proceeding of having an affair. I can stand firm in the knowledge that I never betrayed a trust. That I am faithful, and that I am honest.
Wait. Let's walk that back a step. Because that's not entirely the truth, is it? Because being honest isn't JUST about not lying, is it? And let's face it, I might not have ever lied to anyone, but I sure as heck kept quiet about some very not-right stuff. And that in itself is not right. It wasn't right that I was put in a POSITION to feel as though I needed to do that, it wasn't right for me to FEEL that I needed to do that, and it wasn't right for me to DO that. Not really. Because even if those "lies of omission" didn't hurt a single other person, they hurt ME. And they still are. That is just not who I am, and the longer I suppress that, the more it hurts me, and interferes with forward progress. I have become close to someone who has helped me to recognize this "withholding" trait I've developed as a defense mechanism over the years, and I truly believe that I have come almost fully 180 degrees in shedding that reflex. Of course, only having people in your life who you can trust makes that a lot easier, but still. It was sort of a shocking revelation to me, Miss Truthiness Poster Girl, that I was, in my own way, harboring a less-than-genuine personality tic, and I'm grateful to the one who pointed it out along the way, and grateful to be rid of it.
Which brings me back, full circle, to where I started, but I realize now that I don't actually want permission to be angry. I want permission to be HONEST. Now I just have to figure out who grants that to me, and go about getting it. I don't need to be able to fill the world full of sordid details--God, that would hurt worse, I think--but I need to be able to say, once and for all, "This is how it really was, and how it really was, was wrong."
I have a life to get on with; a life which is looking pretty wonderful and full of beautiful potential right now, in which I am surrounded only by solid, dependable, amazing people... let's go get that, shall we? It's right there for the taking.