Sunday, August 21, 2011

Toxic Waste

Last week, I decided to take all the toxic waste in my garage to the S.A.F.E. Center nearest my house. These are the items that don't go in the regular trash bin ultimately to a landfill; worn out and expired batteries, burnt out light bulbs, broken electronics, empty plant food and insecticide containers and surplus paint.

Ironically, most of the paint was left from when my ex decided to paint his office. And I get to take it to the dump. Wait, would it be ironic or symbolic, as it coincided with the anniversary of the email? Maybe it was ironic that the paint had been his, and symbolic of the timing I chose to get rid of it then. Or, vice versa? Idk. Moving on.

As I collected the items, a blog started forming in my head about the toxic waste in my life. But then I wondered if I was confusing it with the clutter I had already been going through. As I sat for a day or two and contemplated the difference, little bits and pieces started coming to me. It's more the effects of the two that made the difference for me. Clutter sits on my desk in my office upstairs until I deal with it; junk mail goes into recycling; bills and the payment receipts need to be filed (Note to self; dummy, you have a recycling container downstairs, junk mail should never come upstairs, and file the bills/receipts immediately!) So, clutter is like the litter collecting along the freeways until the crews come along and clean it up. Toxic waste, if not disposed of properly, can seep into the ground water creating an unhealthy environment for all in the vicinity.

Emotionally, I saw the clutter in my life as those 'little situations' that needed to be dealt with; the apology I needed to give but didn't; or the "I was upset when you..." talk. Or, even the positives I didn't recognize, but felt I should, "Honey, thank you for taking out the trash. I appreciate it." These smaller situations can get in the way of emotional progress if allowed to pile up. The toxic situations are the heavier ones; the ones that seep into every pore of your being and just weigh you down and have the potential to keep you there.

I was challenged this past week. Someone who barely knows me let me know in no uncertain terms I still have issues with my ex. Well, duh, I wasn't denying it, but unfortunately, I was having difficulty identifying what the issues were. Whenever I see his name in my text message window, I would break out into expletives (sort of like hives, but verbal) and would wonder what in the *#*$@! he wanted now. As we have shared custody of the two dogs, it was usually related to them. But not always. For example, this last time he wanted to know if a particular store carried the type of carpet cleaning machine we used when the 'boys' had accidents in the house. (He was taking the dogs for the first weekend after his new carpet had been installed and wanted to be prepared.)  Ok, so it was kind of related to the dogs but my first thought was,"How in the #$%^&#@ would I know this?" And next, "Why can't you just call or go by to find out? Are you that lazy?"

My reply was simply, "idk."

Anyway, the messaging went on from there where he offered to share his cleaner with me being as mine is broken, but as I have the dogs 95% of the month, it didn't make sense. But I saw what he was doing. He is hoping to keep the friendship alive even if the romance is dead. After all, he had said that was the most difficult part of breaking up with me; facing the possibility of living without me in his life as a friend, if not as a husband.

I'm not interested. I know many gay men and women hang on to their exes as friends.  In fact, there is a joke out there: Bob and Ted are a couple: Bob has three exes, and Ted has four. How many best friends to Bob and Ted have? Seven. Ok, you get it. I'm not Bob or Ted, I'm me. And I don't collect exes.

But, why am I letting him get to me? What is this toxicity that is poisoning me and sets me into expletives whenever I see his name? (I don't normally use expletives, I am a school teacher and have to set an example. Yeah, like I hang around with my students....But, still, it's not who I am.)

It's the pain. The hurt. That's getting to me, but which pain:

The pain that he ended our marriage? No. I'm better off  now, both emotionally and spiritually. I know this for a fact. I feel it. It feels right to be moving forward.

The pain of how he ended it? Yes. By email, for gods' sake? From the sofa to the dining room table? What happened to the trust? What happened to talking, to communication? Evidently it wasn't there to begin with.

I have come to terms with his explanation. He needed to collect his ideas first, put them down on paper, be organized. I'm a writer and a teacher, I understand that. When I get a story idea, I sketch it out, get an idea of where I see it going. When I plan a lesson, I write it up, but I deliver it to my students. I don't post it on the whiteboard and stand back. I may have accepted it, but I don't have to like his reason.

The pain of why he ended it? No, I've moved past it. I've come to accept it wasn't working for us any longer and actually give him the courage for recognizing it. 

So, it all boils down to the email. But, no. It's more than that. Trust. It's the trust that he couldn't talk to me personally.  After 15 years, he couldn't trust me to listen to his concerns. And therefore, I don't think I can trust him, as a friend, not just yet. That's the hurt, and trust is so hard to recover especially after 15 years.

So, this is the toxic waste I need to eliminate from my system before it contaminates me and potentially gets in the way of my future relationship. And now that I've identified it, I can send it to the processing plant for disposal.

Perhaps I can start processing it, by being more open with him about where I am in my recovery and new life, being more cordial rather than outright friendly.

Because letting go of someone after that long is harder than I thought.


  1. Yes, Jeff, letting go is rarely easy...almost impossibly painful after 15 years! You've certainly done a lot of "journeying" through this process, and I admire your ability to realize so many truths as a result.

    One thing that came to me, was what was underlying your ex's inability to trust in how you'd react to his telling you he wanted to break up. I wonder if HIS FEAR was driving him more than his trust, or seemingly lack there of, in you. Fear and anxiety seem to motivate our behavior and emotions, so much more than the more positive feelings like trusting. Emailing a breakup is one of the most fear-based behaviors.

    You, however, can trust in yourself and trust that, as painful and hurtful as this was, you can grow to trust that it happened FOR you, not just TO you...for you to learn something. In that, perhaps, you can, one day, find compassion for your ex's inability to trust. In the meantime, you can be kind and patient with yourself and where you are. No rushing that....

  2. Evie,

    Thank you again for some very heartfelt and poignant words. I have come to believe that things do happen for a reason and at the time they are supposed to happen. I am beginning to see that the break up is for the better, and better things are on the horizon. I am also beginning to see the necessity in not analyzing others' actions, either positive or negative, but only my reaction.


  3. I'm glad you asked me to read these, Jeff. They are very insightful and give me a lot to think about. :-). -Jim

  4. Jim,

    I'm glad you read them and that they are helping you. See you soon,


  5. Does your ex read your blog??