Continued from "Here's Why"....
The phrase “Is it worth it?” comes to mind not because it was so much said to me by observers but implied. And my enlightened response of “Is that so?” didn’t really answer the question. So, I went with, “I think so.”
When one goes through this process of an overseen separation (if they are fortunate enough) they will immediately find themselves surrounded by a team of supporters made of family, friends and even strangers. They range experienced with their own first-hand knowledge, their own first-hand/second-hand/third-hand knowledge of the spouse or partner in question, their own observations of the relationship in question, and some even with their own agendas. But, they all share a common love for the “victim.”
I learned very quickly during these times that social media is NOT your friend. In fact, in my case it only served as a fuel for a majority of these friends to try to convince me I needed to move on.
From my friends, I found that “move on” included a range of possibilities.
During the first few months, Kiersten and I learned very quickly that not only would friends and family choose sides, but Facebook added a whole new thread to the tapestry. Social media general account settings become strategic moves. What is public? What is for friends only? When to tag her? When to block her? Who are my Facebook friends? Who are our shared friends?
What made matters worse was that she and her new-found love were aggressive in their domination of the social media space. And, why not? For them it was for them a shout-it-from-the-mountain-top acclamation. Yay for young love! Unless you are sitting as the former love, then I would be asked the question, “Are you sure about this? Is it worth it?” (I did find out later on that it wasn't comfortable for her, either, to shout from the rooftops because she didn't want to hurt me further but felt pressure in her new relationship.)
What makes it worse….no matter the social media self-preservation algorithm one has concocted, there will be always be a breach in the emotional security wall and friends and family will (with only good intentions) exacerbate this issue. Their intentions are justified out of love as they don’t want to see a loved one hurt, but what is wrong with occasionally believing in the what-you-don’t-know-can’t-hurt-you approach during times of being emotionally raw?
I would hear things like,
“Did you see that thing she posted on Facebook? Instagram? Wrote on her blog? On her website?”
“Did you see that comment he made on her Facebook? Instagram? On her blog? On her website?”
My typical response was, “No, I did not.” I would always hope my response would end the conversation, but undoubtedly it was followed by,
“Well, she said, he said, they said, this photo showed,” and so on.
Their recollections and retellings would immediately affect me physically manifesting in a warm internal wave of nausea-lite symptoms. At this point, I could have responded with,
“Oh, do tell me more.”
But, once again I found my strongest response to be, “Is that so?”
Over time, I found that a majority of these updates would become less frequent, but they never went away completely. I personally did not find it hard to avoid and simply not look on-line for any updates in Kiersten’s life. It was a conscious decision that I have never regretted.
Perhaps the reason why most of my support group found it nearly impossible not sharing their on-line findings with me was that they were truly concerned I was not “moving on.” To them, and again I am speculating here, they wanted me to be done and not pine for what was. I was by no means a saint. I believe it was close to six months in my new life when I did in fact announce to Kiersten in a text that I was “moving on.”
How was I “moving on?” I will defer to the previous list, numbers 2 and 3. By this time, with the advice of my council I was now getting set-up and registered on just about every dating website/app. They included Match, Zoosk, Plenty of Fish, Bumble, and Tinder. Though each platform offered a different user experience, I did come to find quickly that they commonly shared the same 30 women in a town of 70,000 population. In other words, I was not finding it easy to find a suitable date with long term potential for me. And, when I say “suitable,” please understand that I am not suggesting that the women of Flagstaff are not great women. I just knew what I had lost. And, for me, no one came close to filling her shoes. I would suggest it’s an almost impossible task when you look at what we had gone through during our marriage add to that two teenage kids. The best way I can describe it is for eighteen years Kiersten and I had been working on a huge jigsaw puzzle to together. Suddenly, she was not at my side and she has taken her puzzle pieces with her. Now, I find myself looking for someone who will potentially like the “puzzle” I have been creating and has pieces that will fit the missing spaces. I guess over a long period of time the spaces one has to fit with new pieces becomes less constricted by the edges of the past, but I liked the puzzle we had built. I was unwilling to throw the old puzzle out and start over or make a lot of concessions to a new puzzle piece holder. It is in this philosophical approach that I would respond to friends and family when they advised me to “move on” that I was “open to the possibilities but just hadn’t found the right pieces.”
“You’re being too picky,” was a common response.
My response, “Is that so?”
Eventually, I did cast my dating mile range beyond the city I resided. And, with greater populations came more possibilities, but in the end, it was simply not in my cards.
Speaking of cards, a brief history. Around September 9th of 2009, at the age of 36, Kiersten started to spiritually open up through a series of events. While we won’t dive into her own personal journey of becoming a medium in my retellings, I will say that it was a pretty eventful year in our marriage of discovery. Although I had always been highly intuitive, I even turned it up a notch. Whether you actually believe in fortune tellers, card readers, palm readers, psychics, mediums, angels, God or any deity, we all have this thing called intuition. Whether you really listen to yours and trust it is irrelevant to this story. I did listen.
Since 2009, she/I/we had always been told that we (as a married couple) would be together into the unforeseeable future, at some point would renew our marriage vows. That’s why on that horrible evening in April 2014 when she told me she was leaving it just didn’t sit right. I remember thinking that this decision would not be a forever one. More so than from past readings and such, I had that gut feeling called intuition. The thing about intuition and even prayers being answered is that the actual timing of this prophecy/miracle is never made very clear. It is human nature to want most things to happen as quickly as possible, especially if they are good things. But, time plays the precarious role in life of being both on your side and not. This is where my lesson of patience comes to play a major role in my actions. After more than a year passed, I really settled settling into the idea of just floating and not setting a watch to my life. I simply determined that eventually I knew how this love story would end, I just didn’t know the timing. I made peace with that.
There were a few windows for restarts as well (in the form break-ups from him), but with each failed possibility, I kept the faith. I didn’t worry about how many, though my circle of friends and family would remind me. These occurrences would especially draw out the question,
“Now Scott, is it worth it?”
Over time, I learned my best reaction was to keep these moments quiet between Kiersten and I because eventually she would inevitably return to the cycle of abuse she was now calling home. I also learned I was not really helping anyone—friends, family and our kids much by sharing these moments. It made it easier to just keep it to myself as I didn’t want to be branded as the “boy who cried wolf.”
Despite the number of possible openings for us to start again, I also didn’t lose faith because I also could not get an image out of my mind. In fact, the image was memory-like in its clarity and was permanently burned into my mind. It was so clear that I had even wondered if I had seen it in a movie. Perhaps I had seen it and replaced the movie actors in my reimagining with my own family of four. For a few months, I even sought out to find which movie had tortured me so that I could simply dismiss it and let that dream die, but I never found it.
For the sake of keeping somethings sacred and private, I won’t go into the details and location of what this future scene entails. I will only say it is the beautiful day that Kiersten and I, along with our children, will ceremoniously renew our wedding vows. I do not pretend to know the timing of this specific event, as I’ve stated, I’ve learned to be patient.
Ironically, here is some timing that did come as a surprise. Upon Kiersten and I officially deciding we were FOR SURE going to get back together—meaning moving back in as a family and going public with our relationship—we ran off with one another for a quick getaway trip. This was not us “eloping” as we had never filed anything during our separation, we were/are still legally married. It was time to just get out and have some fun.
We had a great few days together. I could also see in her a “joy” that had been lost over the past years. She was silly again. She sang. She danced. Being together again was both familiar but new at the same time. It was exciting and comfortable. I could still see some of the pain and sorrow in her eyes at times, but I could also see that her true light was returning. We sometimes even refer to these three years of our separation and her being away as “her captivity in North Korea” (a 30 Rock reference to Jack Donaghy’s wife Avery Jessup, 26th episode of the sixth season). Needless to say, it was a fantastic trip. As we are driving home, we stopped at a P.F. Chang’s restaurant just north of town. Still making googly eyes at one another and not really still believing we were where we were (figuratively speaking) in our lives, she says,
“Hey, what would you think about getting rings, again?”
“Seriously? Ok,” I responded, but at the same time knowing that P.F. Cheng’s was NOT the location of our renewing vows nor did any of this feel familiar in my predictions.
“Yes,” she said excitedly, “Where can we go around here to get rings?”
Kiersten and I were kids when we met. We were both living in Charlotte, North Carolina at the time. She was fresh out of Ohio University and had landed in Charlotte essentially because it was a straight shot down I-77 South. I had been out of college now for a few years, living in a house with a bunch of guys, and working for a professional speaker and company that trained professionals in public speaking.
I got a call one night from a friend and she invites me out to join her and some of her friends at Vinnies’ Sardine Bar. I decided to go last minute even though I was going alone and not being surrounded by my wingmen. It was the best decision. Kiersten was one of her friends joining us that evening. Our shared friend had invited two friends that evening, Kiersten and some other dude. By arrangement, it looked as though Kiersten was with him, and I was with our shared friend. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. There was just something so captivating. Right now, I even struggle to put words on paper to surmise what that “thing” is that so beautiful and immediately drew me in. All I can say is that it is simply “Kiersten.”
Over cheese sticks and beer, we talked that evening. Very quickly we learned that neither was with the other of our friends. When we parted that night from Vinnie’s I remember standing in the parking lot with her and struggling to let her go and say goodnight.
Upon arrival back at my house, my roommates inquired where I had been. Without hesitation or even preconceived thought I said,
“I just met the girl I’m going to marry.”
Fast forward four months later, Kiersten and I are sitting in my parent’s den on a Sunday afternoon. We are looking to leave soon and take the seven-hour drive back to Charlotte when I lean over and whisper in her ear,
“Can I please tell them what did?”
She just laughs at me knowing that she had kept it a secret to her friends and family, but now I was about to make it public to my parents. She gave me a “yes” nod and smirk that said, “I knew you couldn’t keep it a secret for long.”
I began, “Mom…. Dad, Kiersten and I have been looking at rings.”
My announcement immediately drew cheers of support and even an “it’s about time” from my dad (keep in mind we had only been dating for four months). The excitement in the air was palpable. Before we knew it both sets of grandparents and even an aunt and uncle were on their way over to the house to celebrate. Kiersten and I were sent to the grocery store to go buy Champaign, but for what? Because we had looked at rings?
On our return to my parent’s house, as we made our way up the front stairs, and with a bag of groceries in my arms, I stopped her.
“Kiersten, will you marry me?”
She said yes. Now, we truly had something to celebrate.
We decided that same day to not drive home that evening. We also determined that we needed rings and so we both asked, “Where can we go around here to get rings?”
As it turned, out the only jewelry store in town had sold two generations of Hathcock men our wedding rings. It was a perfect place. And, for a majority of 18 years the rings served us well. Two or three months into our separation, we hit a financial lull. Although the rings symbolized a history, it was clear their monetary outweighed their emotional value at the time and so we sold them—both wedding rings and Kiersten's engagement ring.
Now, almost 20 years later, we needed new rings. There was an outlet mall just one exit down with a jewelry store. Here we were again looking at rings. But, this time something snapped in both of us. Why would we ever spend or make payments on the kind of money we dropped on rings when we were young? So, after realizing these symbolic rings of our new commitment were going to costs us upwards of thousands of dollars we left that jewelry store and headed to a nearby Kohl’s. Two-hundred and fifty dollars later, we found ourselves wearing new silver bands and she got the “diamond” shape and size that she wanted.
Sufficed to say, this occurrence along with the actual carat weight, cut, color and clarity had not played into my future vision of us renewing our vows. But, this moment had also not interfered with its future potential to unfold either. We simply just let it happen. It was a wonderful moment we shared in time together just off I-17.
Now, with rings on our fingers there wasn’t much anyone could say to our faces; although, some of our acquaintances were shocked to learn we were actually married. Honestly, after year two, most of my circle of support had pretty much given up on me anyway by then. I was truly blessed to have such a network of support and advisors. I can’t thank them enough. In the end, my own intuition had clarified my course and I even learned to muffle the noise of naysayers and online chatter. I have learned that everyone knows both everything and nothing. You simply have to trust your own gut or you’ll get lost in chasing what is right for someone else.
I have also learned in life that nothing is a “done deal” but more of a process. I will do my best to watch that dashboard and keep myself in check. I have learned to be less judgmental of others in relationships too. From the outside, you just never know what is truly going on in a relationship. They are complicated, but what isn’t that is worth it.