This is my family. My beautiful daughter Chloe, and my handsome husband Mathew. This picture took 12 years to make it’s way in front of a camera lens. The moment you see there, is still surreal to me. It almost didn’t happen. Our wedding, in my opinion, was perfect. I would have signed anything just knowing that Mathew was going to be by my side for life. This man and I took a very long, difficult, sometimes ugly path to finally be together. Some people know the full story, others do not and will judge my life as they see fit. I could really care less honestly. This blog is my side of the story.
Where to begin? Guess I’ll just jump into it. In high school Mathew and I were buddies with secret crushes on one another (his not so secret!) I was all about the boys, and dating the quarterback of the football team. Let’s call him Mr. Football. He’s not in the story very long anyhow. My hobbies were marching around with the band, and playing on the softball team all four years (Go Jackrabbits! Ya, we were horrible.) I was a nerdy jock with little to no girl friends besides my teammates. I had 1980 bangs that took me at least twenty minutes to perfect in the morning. I loved my giant curling iron! Not even exaggerating when I say that. Without it I wouldn’t even get up to go to school. One time in Physical Ed we had to swim, and wouldn’t you know it I bought a battery operated curling iron for my dumb bangs! I had long blonde locks that I made sure were in place everyday. I remember vividly that my buddy, now hubby, would wait for me between classes. I couldn’t wait to see his face around the corner when the bell rang, and come to find out he couldn’t wait to see the sun shining off my hair. We gave our usual hug and hello, and he’d watch me date my way around campus. I knew how he felt without him saying anything. I could just tell by the way he’d look at me, that there was s a silent respect there for one another. He was ‘rough around the edges’ with some influences of a sketchy nature at the time, and I didn’t want to be connected to that. However, his character and personality were exactly what I wanted. HE was what I wanted.
I soon got over the high school ‘newness’ and drama, and moved on from my drug out-ridiculous-puppy love-relationship with Mr. Football. He was the one that took my ‘V’ card at seventeen, and dammit I should have known better. After almost four years with him, I heard that he decided to cheat. So, I decided to not like him very much after that. What a huge blow to my heart. So instead of figuring out how to love myself again I did what I knew best! I started dating someone else. It wasn’t my Mat, and really it should have been! I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t hunt him down and tell him how I felt. Oh ya, it was probably because he was never on campus. So anyways, the guy I picked out for my next possible “lifer” was a firefighter in training with a strong family background. This gentleman made me feel incredibly special. He’d bring me flowers to my softball games, and we had a really great time together. He showed up to my house in his uniform, and I swear my mom almost fainted. It was intriguing to me that a high school kid could have his shit together so well. I wanted a part of that stability in my life. He just broke it off with a girl (we’ll call her Tiny.) I did have some background on the guy since Mr. Football and I double dated with him and Tiny on occasion. This made the switch easy and awkward at the same time. (Quick note: Tiny and Mr. Football ended up getting married, and have a baby on the way! Best of luck! Ok, let’s keep reading.)
On our graduation day I had to make a really hard decision that involved this new relationship. My dad took a job in Northern California, and they were moving out of my childhood home. I knew nothing about the outside world besides the dry desert I grew up in. I was very sheltered, and climbing trees was the most I ever “branched out”. I even cried when I had to drive the freeways around town! Man, that’s embarrassing to admit. I was an only child scratching my way through relationships, school, and hormones. Home life had it’s own issues, and I kept to myself quite often. That was when I wasn’t with Fireman and his family. I remember one day dreading the conversation about me possibly moving away. I finally got the guts and asked, “What should I do?” Without any hesitation at all he said, “Well, if you leave then we break up. We’re done as a couple.” Well, there was my answer. His career was important enough that any distance or distraction from it wasn’t an option. So I stayed, and lived in a trailer in his parent’s backyard for a few weeks. Yes, a motor home. The thing you ‘trail’ along with you when you go camping. I crammed my clothes in plastic bins, and bought a really nice pillow. Every morning I’d find my pants at the bottom of those awful, plastic smelling, pretend drawers. This girl does not iron very well, so I just started hanging them around the trailer. It was like a fancy pants forest. After a couple months working at the YMCA, I started teaching preschool so I could afford to pay them a small rent. It was enough money and experience for me to get back on my feet. Which, really were kicked out from under me because of my own decisions. The weeks went by, and I finally gained trust from his parents. Moving on up I got to sleep in my own room in their “real house”. YAY! I hated that damn trailer. Getting up to pee in the middle of the night no longer had to be such a challenge.
His family was extremely close to one another. His mother was a sweet woman with the bit of a habit with perfection, which made me walk on eggshells all the time. I was scared to leave a cup of ice out on the table. She was a housewife to a Fireman who doted on her every need. She vacuumed everyday, and the home was spotless and cozy. My hair loss drove her up a wall, and I had to make sure I picked up the strands that jumped ship after every shower. I have to admit I get some of my perfectionist traits from her. I looked up to her, and truly caught the vision of what I thought a wife should be to their husband. I had a hard time socializing with the family, and found it so strange that they ate dinner at 5pm on the dot every single night together. I felt like an outcast among them sometimes. Still trying to fit in somewhere. I wanted to leave, but I didn’t. Mathew was on my mind, and I had lost touch with him. I felt like he was always there with me though. I pretty much at that point found myself growing up quickly and settling. I was living off of someone else’s accomplishments and goals, and hoping he’d take me along for the ride.
I moved around town a few times while I was in between jobs. I lived with family friends, then at my grandpa’s house with his new bride (awkward), and for awhile with two interesting guy roommates. Sharing a bathroom with a dude named “Hoss” is probably exactly how you’re picturing it right now. Still pulling clothes out of those bins. I really needed to learn how to iron. Anyhow, this part we’ll skip real quick. I bugged the living bejesus out of Fireman. I wanted to live in our own house, have kids, let’s do the damn thing! I had a pencil drawing of the ring I wanted on a 3 x 5 card….ha! After much annoyance, he took me to Catalina island and asked me to marry him at the top of the botanical gardens. Oh wow. Excited, but for the wrong reasons. There we were engaged, and I had already started planning. I believe I was only 20 years old at the time. The rules that I was raised up by say that you do not move in with a girlfriend, boyfriend, fiance, until you two are hitched. So, I saw marriage as a new beginning. I wanted to be able to not answer to another person under their roof. I’ve seen many roofs (take that statement as you wish), none of which I could call my own yet. The girly twirly young dream of weddings ended when he broke off the engagement, breaking my heart, and sleeping with a bunch of other girls while he was going to Paramedic school. His reason was, “I’ve fallen out of love with you”. Time to take back the vases, and cancel the dress fittings. I was devastated. Looking back at it now who could really blame him? He wasn’t ready, and I was forcing him to save me from myself.
Time passed and I moved into an apartment. I had established a good job, and was still attending college so I didn’t want to move to Northern California just yet. I had it in my soul tucked away somewhere that Mat would come for me. I still missed him, and enjoyed the one coffee date we had together while he was in town. In the meantime, I was dating a rebound douche who cheated on me. He borrowed my car and took his fling to Disneyland in it. I found emails, printed them out, and took them to his work so he could “read them over”. Before I found out of all those shenanigans though, he was a stand in when I needed it. One night I was driving home from his house and got in a pretty bad accident. I was turning left on a green, and a lifted Ford F-150 barreled through his red light at 45mph. He smashed into my engine block, pushing it up into the windshield. My Honda Civic crunched like a soda can. It spun around, hit the curb and nearby light pole. The airbag burned the skin off my right hand, and it took a minute for me to come to. I remember a lady opening my door and saying, “You ok? You need to get out!”. I thought the car was on fire because of her urgency and airbag powder flying everywhere. I just started screaming. My phone was in the back seat (it had been on my lap prior to turning.) A big man grabbed under my armpits and pulled me out of the car. My ears were ringing and he kept saying, “Who should I call honey? Who can we call for you?”. Oh my God. The first person on my mind was Mathew. Wait, my parents. My parents aren’t here. I really wish Mat was here. I don’t have his number. Call , um, call my dad. They did, and they also called douche since his was the last number on my phone. I went into shock. I remember hearing the ambulance, having a heavy blanket on me, and then being lifted onto a hard plastic stretcher. One of them asked me where I was hurting. I just mumbled through chattering teeth, “Um, everywhere I feel like I’m on fire. Is my hand alright? It’s really cold out here.” Quite the chatterbox huh? In the ambulance the first thing out of my mouth was, “Hey do you guys know (Fireman guy that broke my heart)?” As luck would have it, one of them did know him. Shouldn’t have even asked. WHY did I do that!? Shut up Jess! My dad flew in to take care of me, and like an awful person I decided to stay at douche’s house instead that night. Not a proud moment for me. Shows my selfish nature at the time.
Well since obviously Fireman heard about my crash, he calls me up after almost a year of breaking off the engagement. He wanted me back. I take him back, but with wrong intention and for the wrong reasons. I was cheated on in high school, was planning a wedding that didn’t happen, was told that I was no longer loved, then cheated on again after that. My trust meter was pegged. I literally lost trust in men, period. So, instead of playing the game with someone else again I asked, “Well what are we waiting for?” We got married in Vegas a few months after the phone call. I remember our wedding night we had to meet up with his parents at the hotel before going to our room. Weird? Yes, yes it was. I know it was just to say goodbye, give hugs, drive safe, that kind of stuff. However, it was our wedding night! Sure we were young but there comes a time when you need to cut the cord. I found that I was on the same marry go round that I was on before. I was going to college, but living through his accomplishments. I knew we’d never leave the city because of his career, and I again just threw in the raggedy towel and gave up on myself.
Then what I knew would happen, happened. The spur of the moment nuptials with Fireman lasted 7 months. I was bitter, mad, upset, and angry towards him. I couldn’t be his ‘mother’. I couldn’t be the wife he wanted, and I was constantly disappointing him with a carpet not vacuumed, or a floor not swept. Remember people, I do not iron! I was a disappointment to the man. All excuses for a marriage that could of worked, but I’m not so sure it would have. Those roots were deep. I had some pretty huge problems that I hadn’t even addressed yet (some secrets stay secrets even when blogging.) He didn’t know me, and I hated who I was. I believe that I had a very big part of the undoing of us. His story turned out wonderful though! He has a beautiful wife, and three adorable children.
My heart was tired, and I couldn’t believe he helped me pack my bags. He didn’t fight for me. Maybe his heart was tired too. We were so young. I stuffed my clothes into an overnight bag (I graduated from the plastic bins!) My dad, bless his heart, drove the ten hours with a U-haul trailer to pick me up. Here I come Northern California! You guys ready for the rest of this story? It’s a pattern really, but this is the icing. It’s gonna get real confusing. Right off the bat I started dating (surprised? Ya, I bet.) Met me a nice guy while getting a shot at the doc’s office (we’ll call him Nurse J.) He came to the house to pick me up for a date, and I swear my mom almost fainted. His mother on the other hand, ended up giving me an awesome job where she worked! I was now a marketing specialist for a window and door company. I loved the job, and I loved my bosses! It was a family business, and man they threw awesome parties. This job gave me confidence, and a company email. I had a sense of new found Jess. It was time for me to do what I wanted for a change, and make something of myself! I was thinking about my Mat often. Wondering what he was up to, and really just wanting to talk to my best friend again. I was myself when I was with him. I didn’t have to pretend, or please, it just came naturally. He was always sincere, funny, smart, and I loved the way he’d look at me. His laugh, contagious. I couldn’t help but feel that tug in my heart for him. I needed that man in my life. What was I doing! Like every moment with him though, we always parted ways and kept our distance respectively. Timing was never on our side.
After awhile I started making friends at a church in Northern California, and hanging out with them often. There was this guy at a BBQ I went to with some friends from that church. He was charming, and I found his humor to be gut busting hilarious. He played the guitar for me. I fell for it. While still dating Nurse J, I began a friendship with Charming. I really didn’t want anything more. However, in true Jess fashion, I went along with things. I felt like this was my chance to make better decisions for my life. Charming was a christian, and in my family that’s the thing you look for in a guy. In my mind at the time this made him a “better decision”. Poor nurse J was heartbroken, and I felt horrible for treating him so badly. He didn’t deserve it. We had moved in together , and out of the blue I asked him to move it all back out. Conscious called Christianity I guess. Again, I had some secrets around this time that were gnawing at me. Addiction, depression, and anxiety added to the madness. I had to convince myself that waking up was a good idea. So many regrets were piling up, and I tried much to often to talk myself off the spiral staircase I was running up and down on. I couldn’t just say ‘no’. Charming purposed 3 months into it, and like a dumb ass what do you think I said? So many friends asked if I was sure. I can honestly say with confidence that Mathew was on my mind. NO! I wasn’t sure! I was freaked out, and felt that I had something to prove. I hurt people for this relationship, it had to lead to somewhere. I knew Mat was seeing someone, and so I counted my losses. After all the dating, heartbreak, and confusion I honestly gave up and gave in. Hoping that this would be it.
I vividly remember these next moments. I was getting my invitations ready for this “real wedding” of mine. One name came to mind. I got back in touch with Mat, and asked him to please come to my circus…..I mean wedding. In a strange way, and in intense honesty, I wanted him to save me. I wanted him to tell me right then, “Jess don’t do it. I love you! What are we doing?” He didn’t come. I couldn’t run away again and look bad to everyone. I had to go through with this. When you don’t know yourself, a decision like this becomes a fog. I was just going with the motions wondering where my “stop” button went off to. So I said I do and wished I didn’t. I knew I was in it for the long haul at that point. No excuses and just figure it out. There were moments when ‘like’ turned to ‘love’ and I was actually happy with Charming. We had a lot of laughs and built a relationship based off of sarcasm, wit, and physical attraction. Those things don’t get you very far though. It was very ‘surface-y’. Charming and I were amazing actors. We held the strings that pulled each other very tightly, and could sway them one way or the other. In the first year of marriage we were already in a verbally and emotionally abusive situation. Not to say that I didn’t feed into that at all after awhile because, I did. I started to become angry. My anger fueled the poison coming out of his mouth. Mathew and I had caught up via email at the time, and our friendly chats started to become rant sessions from my home life. I was yelled at in public, and I was embarrassed around my friends. I couldn’t tell anyone that my marriage was scary, because on the outside we looked very content. No one could find out that I was in another failing situation. “Wear the mask Jess. Play the part. You aren’t worth much now! You think you’re valued? You already have one failed marriage on your list! What will people think? Pray about it.” The voices would play over in my head like an old scratchy record. I’d confide in Mat, and his humor and friendship was what kept me sane. I was tired of being told I wasn’t doing things right, or that I wasn’t good enough. I was afraid he’d leave if I gained weight because of some things he’d say to me. I was told that he could find someone at work to mess around with if he wanted to. Things got bad, and my talks with Mathew went from silly ‘hey friend’ nature, to ‘I have always loved you’ type conversations. Mathew never persuaded me to leave…..ever. Let’s make that clear. He was honest and raw with me, but always said that I was the one that needed to figure this out. Were we in love with each other? Yes! It was undeniable since high school, but this decision to take the conversation deeper came from me. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I had to tell them both how I truly felt.
Here’s where the fan flew shit everywhere. Before I could talk to Charming, he found out about me corresponding with Mathew in the worst way possible. Mat’s ex found our conversations on his phone, and also found my number. She emailed my workplace, and threatened to kill me. I just gave her an old address and told her to go ahead. She went onto Myspace and told all of my friends and family that I was an adulterer. Well, this wasn’t how I wanted this situation to go down at all! I slept on the couch for a couple weeks. I took an earful of hurtful words and threats from Charming. He said if it wasn’t for him praying to God he would have punched me in the face. I broke off communication with Mathew. It took every ounce of me to block him from my life, when he was the only good thing in it. I had to write an email to him saying how I never wanted to talk to him again, and include Charming in that email as well. I also had to write a humble message to all my friends and family about the situation which they never should have been a part of. Mathew and I never had sex, nor had we even seen each other in years. However, we did have an “emotional affair” through emails and phone calls. This is what happens when feelings go unexpressed. I knew he was my soul mate, and decided too late to do something about it. I should have left right then and there, but I stayed in my dumb decision dungeon. Divorce wasn’t an option.
We worked hard at it for awhile with therapy. Funny thing about talking to a therapist is, you probably should tell that person the truth! Sitting next to Charming on a couch while divulging my feelings was intimidating to me. I knew that if I said something wrong, the ride home would be brutal, and a couple times it was. Turns out I was the one with all the issues! Ha! I knew it was me! I went to a psychiatrist on my own, and learned a LOT about myself. I learned about my daddy issues, my upbringing, and of course my issues with trust. However, this lady thought I had a healthy and fantastic marriage. It never was discussed in sessions. Because of my ups and downs in emotion, and decision making in some situations, she labeled me as Bipolar with a personality disorder. That’s awesome. I thought I just had a crappy marriage and a bad past but she never knew any of that! I took meds for awhile, and my home life just kept crashing down around me. At least I didn’t want to kill myself every day. Charming was happy that I sought help, and did nothing on his end of the bargain. I had been brainwashed. This downhill spiral was my fault….all of it so they say. I was also working at a brand new school as their secretary at the time. It was the most stressful job I’ve ever had. I was given the position of ten people, and expected to carry out every duty flawlessly. I was told I wasn’t ready for my ‘wings’. I made a lot of mistakes, and instead of helping me they talked about my shortcomings behind my back. Not a good way to learn. All the workload was put on my coworker in the office, and it hurt my heart. I saw her struggling because I couldn’t keep up. The resources given were phones with no voice mails, and one copy machine for the entire staff. If I needed to talk to a teacher in their classroom I had to jog up two flights of stairs. They kept me there because they had to. I was pregnant and didn’t know it when they hired me. After returning from maternity leave, I had been replaced. Nothing mattered anyway when little Chloe Rose was born on February 15, 2010. Happiest day of my life. She changed everything for me. I lost my job and my home life was a wreck, but my sunshine was in that little girl.
Mother’s Day was a day I really looked forward to! I was going to breakfast with my baby girl (she was a year 1/2 at the time), my grandmother, and my mom. I see pictures from that day and it hurts my heart. I have a very tired soul. I was so happy but couldn’t show it. I couldn’t feel anything. Sex with Charming made me cry I couldn’t stand it, and it often was forced upon me. I treated him horribly, and I let my heart fall out of love. I despised him, and made things worse by using my anger and loud voice to show my strength. He made me out to be a weakling, crumbling every time he got mad. The sarcasm started to penetrate too deep, and the words being used were becoming harsh. Something happened that Mother’s Day. Chloe would not stop crying so Charming put her in the crib. Some words were exchanged. A hole was put in her door by a fist. I left.
Living with your parents in your late 20’s is interesting! I’m forever grateful that they gave Chloe and I a place to stay. With divorce paperwork filed, and a clean slate, I found myself needing a job. I started managing a dance studio and loved it. New to the whole, “you have an opinion and it’s ok” mindset, I felt myself falling behind because of my lack of confidence. I was afraid to make a choice and stick to it. I didn’t realize how badly I let myself go under. Working at that school screwed me up for the corporate world. I knew that Charming was already seeing someone, and I figured so. I was also starting to live my dream. I told Mathew I loved him, and that I wouldn’t be with anyone else but him. This man bought a plane ticket, and showed me he was serious about his love for me. We went for a hike/picnic up in the mountains. I of course brought the beer, champagne, cookies, and watermelon! I did forget something very important though….water. We hiked a few miles in 100 degree heat to a small waterfall at Hidden Falls in Auburn. He looked at me and said, “There is no one else I’d rather be with. I loved you then, I love you now, and I will love you forever. Will you marry me?” Rest is history Jack! He got my name tattooed on his ring finger, and holy cow I couldn’t believe this was finally happening. Would I have wanted it a few years ago without all the drama? Yes! However, we wouldn’t have our Chloe. I wouldn’t know what it takes to be brave and confident. I wouldn’t have learned how to break bad patterns and habits, and I wouldn’t have the respect for myself that I do now.
My husband Mathew has taught me so many things about myself, and about life! He’s constantly challenging me and my decisions. He makes me think, and respects my opinions and thoughts. I have seen my old self come out in past arguments with him, and wow is it ever ugly. I am still working on calming down, not getting so defensive, and trying to remember that I don’t have to prove anything to him. I’m learning to take time out if I need to gather my thoughts, and try to not make comments that stir a heated discussion. I’ve seen the bad habits and I will work on them until they’re gone. My marriage with Mathew is far from perfect, but it is a deep connection that I cannot explain. I’m still learning to trust, and am so thankful that my husband is truly my best friend. My daughter teaches me everyday that I am a strong woman. She shows me what love looks like, and is pure joy walking around in cool Nike shoes. Everyday I’m here on earth I’m being refined, and until death I will keep my promise to my Mathew.
The picture you see above is one that took 12 years to get in front of a camera lens. The moment you see there, is still surreal to me. It almost didn’t happen.