From 7-Eleven to 24-Seven

The finality of it is starting to really hit me.

The finality of it is starting to really hit me. I'm weighed down with the knowledge that the situation has gotten beyond us. Now judges, lawyers, and government agencies have gotten involved, and a simple fix has become impossible.

I can't even talk to the person who at one time had been my closest friend. I can't write her. The sight of the letter I wrote her in the hands of her lawyer made my heart sink in a way I can't even begin to describe. The feeling of dismay was nearly overwhelming. I could practically feel the knife twist in my back. She had thrown out the rope and I grabbed it eagerly and proceeded to hang myself.

We were once a team. We were once on the same side. Now we're adversaries. Every day our positions become more fortified, more entrenched, more intractable. And everyday that passes that I don't see my daughter I die a little more inside. I can't imagine what their strategy must be. How can anyone think that a man separated from his home and everything familiar will be in a state of mind conducive to self-improvement? She claims to want to see me get better, yet she's taking very decisive steps to make me worse. The biggest of these, of course, is her insistence on supervised visitation. The visits on the weekends leading up to June 1 had been idyllic and delightful, a welcome and much-needed respite from the stress my everyday life had become. We bonded wonderfully, and I was thrilled at the way my baby girl thrived in her new surroundings. The June 1 confrontation did not involve or endanger our daughter in any way, and I'm devastated by the intimation that my actions put her at risk. My ex knows full well that it didn't happen that way, but I'm the idiot who acted out. But that's not what sealed my fate. In truth, I didn't do anything worse than what she's done. After all, we're talking about a person who, in the weeks leading up to April 3, hit punched, and kicked me. She knocked me to the floor, and at one point told me, "I'm afraid of what I might do to you. I'm afraid I might kill you, then what would happen to the kids?"

No, my sin was not in blowing up on June 1. After all, I broke no law. The police were there, and they saw no need to arrest me. My greatest error was admitting in writing what had happened, thereby providing her attorney with ammunition to use against me. I played right into her hands. I should have kept my cool, or failing that I should have dropped them off and left before the situation escalated. But I didn't and now I have to live with the consequences. I have to live with the aftermath of my poor choices, and so does my daughter, who was deprived of her father for twenty days. The knowledge of all this is devastating. How many times has my little girl called out for me in vain? I'll never know unless the ex decides to tell me in the context of one of her trademark guilt trips.

I am now, of course, legally prohibited from communicating with the ex. Frankly I would not wish to do so at this point anyway, now that confidentiality between has become extinct and anything I said to her would surely find its way to the lawyer just as my letters did. To be truthful, I'm not even sure that it matters. I don't know what I would say. Part of me would like to describe what these last few weeks have been like for me. But I know that would be pointless. She would immediately counter with a tale of what it's been like for her, and I promise you it would be worse for her. Whatever I had to say would be dismissed, if I even knew what that would be. How would I describe my experience? Would I say my heart is shattered, a phrase that has echoed in my head lately. No, that sounds so much better as part of my internal monlogue than it does in black and white. Would I tell her I cried my eyes out? No, a cliche like that doesn't come close to carrying enough weight to convey the reality of it.

I spent 15 minutes of my lunch break last Thursday in my car, wracked with gut-wrenching, hysterical, convulsive sobs. I cried so hard it was painful, a dull ache that started deep in my chest and emanated in long waves out to my head and extremeties. I heard an inhuman wail and realized it was coming from my own mouth. After 15 minutes I forced myself to get up from where I was curled in the fetal position on the back seat of the car and go back inside. I choked down my lunch and spent the rest of the day fighting back tears, struggling constantly with the sobs that refused to end.

I tried out the words that had become my mantra: "I will not feel sorry for myself, I will not feel sorry for myself," but that rote repetition was not enough to chase the desperate, crushing feeling of despondence that was strangling me. Perhaps this technique that had previously calmed me was not working now because what I was feeling now was not self-pity but depression. And maybe it was a perfectly natural reaction to the unbearable turmoil my life had become.

I miss my daughter. I sincerely believe that if I could see her more I would be able to settle my chaotic mind and start taking firm steps forward. Being without her is killing me, little by little. The pain I'm feeling from her absence is blotting everything else out gradually and I can feel the threat of losing control hovering over me constantly.

The ex says I'm "erratic" then takes action that is absolutely guaranteed to make matters worse. She has her little buzzwords and she throws them out there, all of which are designed to paint a picture of me as a character out of a Lifetime movie of the week: the hulking, knuckle-dragging cro-magnon brute of a husband who terrorizes the long-suffering virtuous victim of a wife. So much of her identity is now tied up in her portrayal of herself as a victim that I'm quite sure she's convinced herself of her own rhetoric: namely, that she is wholly blameless in the breakdown of our marriage and that the fault is 100% mine.

We see the same events so radically differently that I have no choice but to wonder if there isn't an element of willful distortion on her part. This, of course, is what sparked the events of June 1: a disagreement over what else but money. It was such a common and oft-repeated scenario that my fuse was beyond short; it was nonexistent. The resulting argument, while unplesant and largely avoidable, was not especially terrible and would have most likely been forgotten by all had it not been immortalized in the form of another ridiculous and unnecessary protective order. I do not now, nor will I ever believe that she truly feels endangered by me. It is simply a means to an end. The end, of course, is to minimize, if not eliminate her contact with me while simultaneously ensuringthat I will continue to support her, something I had, of course, already agreed to do. But she naturally had to make sure and get it in writing. She seized upon the opportunity I had stupidly presented her with. As far as I'm concerned, that's all there is to it.

The upshot of all this is that I now find myself in a hole. I'm barred from seeing my daughter except under supervised conditions "we agree on," which of course means that she makes the rules and if I do anything she doesn't like she can call the cops on me. I'm over the barrel because she changed the rules, got the lawyer, and ran over me in court. She knew I wouldn't have representation and took advantage of another opportunity. All perfectly legal, just as is raising one's voice in a 7-Eleven parking lot. Only the outcomes are different.

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