Running for my Life

woman_running_awayIt’s been many months since I wrote. The diet I began which inspired the blog went off the rails and I spent the summer in my usual fashion: working way too much, drinking and eating too much, and throwing myself deeper into meditation and practice. The year has flown by and I am contemplating why I stopped writing.

I think I felt guilty for taking the time to blog about my personal life. I felt that if I had an hour to write, I had an hour to meditate, or clean the house, or spend time with my husband. And again the year slipped by while I tried to ignore the painful fact that my weight is higher than it’s ever been and I just seem to be spinning my wheels and falling apart. Are these two things related? Which came first, the weight gain or the falling apart? Is it the dharma practice that is ripping the rug out from under my feet? It is too early to say, but I keep looking back to see my steps, see where I came from and to where I am headed, and how I laid the bricks of my own house with karma.

In 1992, I had moved to San Diego from Reno, NV with my parents who had relocated there for work. Having been in a pretty bad relationship in Reno with someone we’ll call Frank for now, I was ready to make a fresh start. Unfortunately the bad relationship followed me there and there it stayed for about 8 more months until I met someone new . . . a prerequisite for a damaged person before feeling comfortable moving on. It’s amazing how someone can hold something together, even when it’s not what one wants, for fear of starting over, being alone, or dealing with the inevitable bullshit of separating debt, splitting assets, or finding a new place to live. I had to declare bankruptcy to get out of that relationship. I stayed with someone for four years whom I did not love, who did not love me, out of a feeling of obligation. Who would take care of him? How would he live? I was just the mother figure to his broken child. Years later when I saw him he admitted to me that he’d never really been attracted to me. I was just a good friend to him.

The new man was not much different than the old man, also an indication that I was replaying old tapes, looking for love in all the wrong places, and grasping at someone outside of myself to heal me or bring me the purpose for which I longed. He was a salesman and from a very male dominant culture. For his sake, I’ll change his name here to Steve. Steve was handsome, mysterious, and his business was successful. He was a client at the bank at which I worked. Every day he would come in, make his bank deposits which were sometimes quite large and full of cash and checks, and he’d flirt shamelessly with me. I was a nervous, sexually repressed 23 year old woman stumbling her way through her days, eating nothing but white rice and wheatgrass shots for lunch while chugging 40oz Coors Lights over ice every night for dinner before or after the occasional fat-free frozen yogurt. He’d make jokes, I’d laugh, and he’d leave me with the feeling that I was beautiful and special. I found out later that he did that with all the girls.

One Friday night around closing time, he had already come and gone for his daily visit. I knew that his office was very close to the branch and I got up the nerve to go check out his signature card in the file cabinet in the bank. I quickly jotted down his office phone number. Taking a 15 minute break, I went to the back room, dialed the phone. He answered. His exotic accent and voice on the line made me shiver, “This is Steve.” “Hi,” I said, “It’s Debbie from the bank?” “Oh, hello miss Debbie from the bank. How are you sweetheart? Anything wrong with my account?” I stuttered, coughed, and said, “Oh, no, I just, well, you always come in and I never get a chance to chat with you.” He chuckled, knowing from his months of seeing my blushed face when he’d wait in line and pass up the teller next to me to wait for me that I had a crush on him. I was being pretty obvious. He replied, “Yes, well, I should take you to dinner tomorrow night and we can chat more then.” I was surprised and a flood of excitement rushed through my channels. “Oh well, sure! That would be wonderful” I replied. I told him I was living with my parents, even though I was actually still living with the guy from Reno. I knew that my boyfriend worked nights as a bartender and if I told him I was going out with the girls for karoke and beers, he’d believe it and I’d be able to sneak out with this new crush and see how I liked him. Bad girl. Sad girl.

I gave Steve my address, a creepy little apartment across from a gorgeous golf course near San Diego Hotel Circle. My mom and dad lived right across the street overlooking the course though, and knowing they were so close was a relief to me in those strange years. Steve showed up right on time. I was dressed to the nines: black cocktail dress, hose, 3-in heels, big 90’s hair-sprayed do, clutch purse, bangles, lipstick, the works. In those days, though I was 150lbs, I was curvy, with a JLo butt and long arms and legs. I felt pretty sexy.

He picked me up at 8pm in a gold jaguar. He was wearing a black suit and tie. His hair was slicked back with gel and his swarthy mustache was freshly trimmed. As the sun was setting in the west, the city was alive with lights and traffic. The ocean glowed and sparkled as we made our way to La Jolla Cove’s beach town to a restaurant called Avantine. It was a cute little dinner house and bar which seemed to be quite popular with the international types. He opened doors, pulled my chair out for me, took my hand to help me sit down and look me deeply in the eyes all night long. I was love struck before the appetizer was served.

Forgetting for a night about my pitiful boyfriend working away at his job while I flirted with the mystery man, I danced to exotic music, drank expensive wine, and was kissed by the most beautiful lips I had ever felt. Waves of passion surged through me all night. I was entranced. All eyes in the place seemed to be on us. We looked like a poor man’s Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger and when I’d catch a glimpse of us together in the mirror, I’d be stunned by the combination of our appearances.

Knowing that my boyfriend, Frank would be home at midnight, I urged Steve to take me home. We pulled up the drive way of the apartment complex just 20 feet from my door. There were bushes that obscured the car from the entrance, but just as I was about to get out of the car, I saw Frank peek his head out as he smoked a cigarette still wearing his wife beater undershirt which he wore under his black and white waiter garb. He shivered from the damp March night air and puffed furiously on his ciggy to finish it quickly. I slid down in the seat a bit and told Steve to stay put. It was only at that moment that Steve realized I was living with someone else. Bad girl. Sad girl. Steve kissed me passionately nonetheless and asked me if he could pick me up in the morning and drive me to Mexico for the day. I accepted and told him I’d be ready at 9am. My boyfriend would already be at work by that time and I knew I could get away for the day.

The next day, Sunday morning, I saw Frank off to work, rushing him out the door so I could get made up for the day’s outing with the prospect. At 9am, I sat on the couch, ready and waiting for Steve to show up. I waited and waited and waited. By 11am, I was furious and dejected. Was he standing me up? Did I misunderstand? I called his house. He answered. I asked him where he was. He replied that he had gone back to the club and spent the evening dancing with another woman and got home so late that he was too tired to go to Mexico that day. I was appalled. As I sat there listening to him, I had the sensation that there was a woman lying next to him in the bed. I asked him.”Did you go back to the club and take another woman home with you?” He chuckled, “Of course, honey, you didn’t think I had planned to go home alone, did you? I mean, you went home to your boyfriend, right?” Though I felt disappointed, something about his twisted, manipulative logic made sense to me and I felt ashamed for stepping out on my boyfriend and totally forgave Steve for standing me up.

That very day, I packed my belongings intending to move out that night. When the boyfriend came home, I was waiting for him with bags packed and stashed in the closet, sitting there quietly. I fed him dinner, let him smoke a joint, and then I broke it to him that I was leaving him. He cried, he pleaded, he begged me to stay. He yelled, he screamed, and I just said goodbye and walked out. I left my car, all my furniture, all my housewares, and moved into my parent’s living room with a handful of clothes and keepsakes. Later that night he called me and asked if he could come over to mom and dad’s condo. It was 1am. He literally got on his hands and knees and told me he’d change, he’d work on his temper and his lack of discipline, and his childish outbursts. I said, “You can change all you want, but I’ve already changed and I’m in love with someone else.” He left and though we stayed in contact, leaving Frank was one of the best decisions I ever made.

On Monday morning at the bank when he came in for his usual deposit, I told Steve that I’d moved out of my apartment and into my parent’s place until I could find my own apartment. He was happily surprised and told me he’d like to take me to the movies on Tuesday night. I’m not sure what we saw because all I can remember is that he spent the entire night trying to get into my blouse. I kept fending him off, pushing his hands away which grasped at my bra and wriggled to try to cop a feel. I was disgusted by it. We left the theatre and I was relived to be going home. Wait . . . where was he driving? He missed the turn. This started to creep me out. I felt a bit afraid. He pulled into his garage and said, “Come on in and see my house. Then, I’ll take you home.” I was suspicious, but I went in against my better judgement. I walked in, looked around at his nice little track house in little La Jolla, folded my arms and said, “There. I’ve seen it. Now take me home.” He was settling in on the couch, turning on the TV, and looking like he was a cat ready to pounce on a mouse. I remained by the entryway. “Take me home” I said again. This time, he got up and sighed and we left. It was quiet while we drove to my folks’ place. He walked me to the garage elevator and said, “Well, I hate to see it end this way, but you take care.” I was blushing with simultaneous relief and embarrassment that I might have blown it with him by overreacting, but felt safe to be home.

I do not know what possessed me to continue to pursue him after that, but the following weekend we went out on another date and the relationship started to form. One the surface, Steve seemed normal. But underneath lay a cold, heartless misogynist who had a habit of having more than one woman at a time. Turns out he was a classic gas-lighter, a manipulator, a control freak with sexual hangups and secrets. One of the first weeks we were dating, he sent me flowers at the bank. When I thanked him for them later, he told me he had to stop at the flower stand because a beautiful girl was working there. How could I take one more step into this relationship you might ask? I was damaged goods looking for the “man who could give me the worst possible time, and that’s when I made my move.” (Jessica Lange, Tootsie). I loaded all my things into his home just a few weeks after we began dating.

During the course of the relationship, I experienced a tearing down of my self-esteem that I had never experienced before then. He would bring me diamonds and take me in limos to dinner, then stay out all night at the strip club with his buddies. If I dared to complain he’d say, “Be quiet. I came home to you, didn’t I?” He threaten me then take me to Cancun. There was so many tears, sleepless nights, fights, and make ups. I developed an eating disorder because if I gained a pound, he would chastise me, even in front of his family. I began purposely throwing up almost everything I ate and taking phen-phen diet pills by prescription to lose weight. I was pale, sad, and had nightmares almost every time I slept. I’d even wake up screaming. He thought I was nuts. And I began to feel like I was. His lying was so easy to see. I saw answering machine messages from other women, phone numbers in his wallet, lipstick on his collar, and white crusty stains on his pants after his late nights with the boys when he said he was out bowling. HA! I was the classic cuckold. Every time I start to get up the guts to leave him, he’d do something wonderful….a surprise birthday dinner, an engagement ring, a promise of a fresh start. I fell for it every time. To my credit, I did move out and back in again several times over the course of the relationship, but like the mafia, he’d always pull me back in.

When I met the next door neighbors, three gorgeous middle eastern sisters, a shiver went up my spine. I knew it was only a matter of time before one of them would seduce him. After all, he was an easy target. We’d have dinner with them, play board games with friends at their home, and I could see that one of them was eyeing him on the sly when I’d look away. One week in November 1996, her phone number began showing up on the answering machine with no messages left. I think I had prayed a hundred times for him to have an affair so that I could have the strength to leave him. This was my chance.I knew the was happening, but could not prove it. I pried when we were alone, trying catch him in a lie. I knew he was already sleeping with her but I needed proof.

One night, I was leaving a bit late for a gig at La Costa Resort and he was still at work or bowling. I opened the door to see a vase with dead flowers on the step and a card written in Farsi. I knew it was from the neighbor. I went to her home and knocked on the door. She reluctantly came out huddled in a blanket. She had obviously been crying. She told me he had been having an affair with her for a month but that he was cutting it off now. She told me he was cunning, sly, and dishonest. She deflected any culpability for the affair. I listened quite compassionately for a while until I finally lost my temper, called her a whore, and stamped back to the house. I dialed my best friend’s number and she came right over to help me get drunk. I called in sick to the gig, something I had never done before, and I packed all of my things in less than an hour. My parents came and helped me move out. Steve came home as we were finishing the move out and looked somewhat embarrassed. As he turned to drive away, I lunged at the car. “Is that it? That’s all you have to say? Go away then you fucking coward!”

Though I never moved back in with him after that, he continued to toy with me for another 7 months. All in all, the relationship with Steve lasted for fours years. That love affair nearly killed me. Now that I look back, I should have realized that it ended in the way it began…with lying and cheating. Bad Girl. Sad Girl.