Monday, April 21, 2014

Life on the Otherside: Becoming Fearless

Jason and my experiences during our divorces left us with amplified fear. Here he is a highly decorated warrior and he feared opening his email for dread of what Jo would do next. We have hid from confrontation, sometimes betraying ourselves and each other, so as to not upset the balance and mistakenly thinking “we couldn’t handle anything else.” Our divorces were by far the most difficult years in each of our lives and our darkest days. Jason and I are stronger every day; we pray to become fearless. Two weeks ago I would not have dreamed of posting the following, but I am no longer afraid of consequences. I have to communicate the most destructive parts of our stories to express how we climbed out no matter how uncomfortable we or others feel; to help others journey through similar tragedy with more grace. We are called to tell our stories so we can be interconnected with one another. If we don’t how can we find and comfort each other in this vast sometimes overwhelming world?

After Peter had filed that first horrific motion leaving me utterly exposed and humiliated, I reached out to my family. As you know, I had been estranged for four years prior so not the best daughter or sister. But it was like my family put hand in hand, surrounding me as if walls of a mighty fortress. It did not take convincing of any sort, I told my story and what I was up against. They were there with absolutely no energy turned toward Peter. This was a war and I needed to find refuge somewhere. My support went out to even my extended family and David and Susan, longtime friends of the Walton family. 
Peter mentioned during a parent coordination meeting that he couldn’t believe my brothers wouldn’t talk to him; he had been friends with them nearly his whole life (Peter and my youngest brothers were both 9 when we met). The parent coordinator said that in cases like this it is completely normal for each family to take care of their own. I had that luxury; Jason did not.

When they learned of Jason, he was the only one. They were thrilled that I had something good finally, that there was hope of a happy ending. My family adores Jason and has a great deal of respect for him. Both nieces and nephews love their Uncle Jason; he is their hero.

Betsy and Jo were sisters-in-law for 12 years; Jason has only one brother. They never lived near each other so communication was generally by phone, email and Facebook. Jo had nothing good to say about anyone behind their back, especially her husband. She escalated to fever pitched disparagement after Jason filed for divorce. Betsy listened; Jason’s brother listened and both believed Jo; they thought the worst of Jason. I know this because I was with Jason when he received a two page hostile email from Betsy chastising him and defending Jo. Jason agonized over his response, hoping she could hear his story and asked that Betsy not communicate with Jo as he had recently litigated one of Jo’s motions with information that had come from Betsy and Jason’s brother. They had been quoted by Jo within the motion as a way of backing her allegations against Jason. “Even Jason’s family…..” Betsy and Jo continued to communicate by phone, texting and publically, and very actively, on Facebook.

I was introduced to Betsy in May of 2011; Jason and Jo were officially divorced and had been legally separated since 2009, Jason trying desperately that whole time to get divorced. Between that meeting in May and the Christmas from “The Family that Stole Christmas,” Betsy had done nothing less than campaigned against me. The flow of information went from Peter to Jo, Jo to Betsy and Betsy to the women in Jason’s family (I’m not saying that anyone accepted, just given the information). This information was from that first horrific motion that left me utterly exposed and humiliated. It was happening all over again……I had to endure the initial abuse, litigated it for a year, litigate it again in Jason’s case and now hear it was all over…re-victimized again. I had already disputed everything that was untrue, legally and formally, I thought it was done. In hostile divorces parties disclose the worst things about each other, Peter being so diabolical; our case had to be sealed. So my soon to be family was hearing about my worst mistakes, embellished stories and absolutely malicious lies….because Betsy would not allow me to represent myself or Jason himself and chose to communicate information originating from Peter and she gave credence to an embittered and jealous ex-wife. Jo, in her obsession, was using Betsy and the attention and energy Betsy gave was fueling Jo’s legal firestorm. Jo was able to keep her white knuckled hold on Jason and now me. I tolerated this as to not upset Jason’s family dynamic. I nearly left Jason on many occasions because of it.

After the NCIS investigation and Betsy continuing to give heed to Jo’s assertions and thereby hurt me and Jason, Jason trying to protect me and himself, implored his Judge to order Jo to stop disparaging him and me to not only the children but to his own family. The Judge granted his motion and ordered all harassment and disparagement to stop; she would be in contempt of court if she continued to contact Betsy engaging in this destructive talk.

As Jason continued to deteriorate in the aftermath of the investigation, I’d had enough of playing family politics; I harshly confronted Betsy, the last portal where information about Jason flowed freely to Jo and information from Jo flowed freely back to my soon to be family. In that conversation Betsy relayed to me in a dismissive, minimizing and teaching sort of way “that divorces are hard and  Jo and Jason would figure things out” that “the boys do talk” [it has been ruled in Jason’s case that Jo questioning the boys so intensely has been more psychologically damaging than the issues she raises] and she knew things “were not going well” yet she was “neutral,” “she wanted to stay in contact with her nephews” [by liking and commenting on Jo’s Facebook page], and when I attempted to talk about Jason’s side of the story I was met with, “I don’t want to be involved. I don’t want to hear anything.” And a few times, “I feel sorry for her.” As one example, she went on to say that she “accepted my lifestyle as a lesbian. Her living in a liberal state, she was good at accepting people for who they were.” She did not ask one question, ask if I was indeed a lesbian, ask about how Jason was, ask how I was…she only defended her ongoing and public friendship with Jo.

Jason and I have struggled with Betsy all along, being so blatantly against us, but we decided to forgive and forget and focus on moving forward. With Jason retiring we looked-for a new found relationship with Betsy and his brother and planned to visit with regularity. At our wedding, a family member thought it odd that when she spoke to Betsy and Jason’s brother about how much they all loved, respected and were thankful for Jason she noticed that they were silent and looked oddly uncomfortable with her opinion. This was an innocent interaction as I had shared nothing with her about Betsy’s predilections toward Jo.

A few weeks ago I learned Betsy and Jo are still communicating. I tried to shake it, but I became depressed and couldn’t settle an uncomfortable feeling. So I thought I would ask Betsy if she was able to cut off from Jo. Even the slightest energy keeps the fire lit.  I received a voicemail the next day from Jason’s brother scolding me as if I had misbehaved like a child. Jason took a call from Betsy and she again spent the entire conversation defending her communication, asking no questions, stating passionately that she “was only being neutral,” and speaking as though she was a victim of mine as I had interrupted a date night. She repeated herself until Jason agreed. I had asked a question, wondering how vulnerable I could continue to be with her; I had been delighted to engage with her for a short time.

I realized the depression was about me betraying myself and continuing to act like a victim. I was afraid of Betsy and was paralyzed. Jason and I were walking on eggshells not speaking our thoughts and feelings for fear of the consequence, within his family. As an additional blow, Jason had just dropped another 6 thousand in litigating Jo’s attempts to “Abate all Parental Contact.” Jason, also concerned about continued communication, the fact that he was still litigating timeshare, and being alienated from his children for three months, shared his concern and also asked for an apology. Her response mocked that he had not spoken to his boys in over three months, a claim that she had done everything she could to support Jason then a request to delete her contact information. Just like that. This is a clear sign that we have accurately hit a deep seeded nerve that is about Betsy and Jason’s brother and not us.

From a fearless perspective, it’s simple. We can see plainly that we need to let Betsy behave as she will, communicate with whom she likes and it was incorrect for us to have asked anything of her. What would have been a healthier approach would have been to observe Betsy’s stance in that first email and to disengage. And then accept the pressure of a shift in the family dynamic until it resolved. It really could’ve been that simple. No more depression. Jason and I are stronger because of this.  A few days later Jason and I listened to a voice mail where his brother says that they need to work together to make sure “Betsy doesn’t receive any more crazy texts from me.” My fault, with Betsy and Jason’s brother, is that I love Jason with all my heart……

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Thank you for your comment. Positive feedback and helping those that have experienced the same tragedies are what keeps me going.