March 24, 2017
It’s gotten so weird that we started recording our conversations with him.
I think of the stories I’ve read about people trapped in relationships or situations like this — maybe with a spouse, or parent, or close friend, or boss — and I try to imagine how anyone could ever find their way out alone.
We are two of us: two adults, fully functioning, somewhat intelligent, I think. But even with two of us comparing notes, two of us confirming the story, even so: we still feel like we’re the crazy ones, the ones to blame, the ones who don’t remember, the ones who get it wrong.
So we started recording the conversations. Not all of them. Only some, when we can, when it’s possible.
We go over the conversations, Joe and I. Before we listen to the recording, we try to remember. On our own. We’re testing our own memory. No. We’re testing our own sanity.
We ask each other: what do you remember? Did you say that? Did I say this? Did he say that? Or did you? What do you remember? What do I remember?
We make notes. Then we listen and see if we remembered correctly.
Mostly, we do. That’s both validating and terrifying. Because if we are remembering correctly, then it means we are in deep, deep shit. I mean, we know we’re in deep shit. But there are different kinds of deep shit. And what we’re confirming is what feels like the worst kind. Not just disaster, but betrayal.
Yeah, we got ourselves into this mess. Why is getting in so much easier than getting out?
I kept a very neat journal in those last few months. Mostly, I made lists.
Here are some of the lists I made:
- Gluten-free meal ideas
- Weekly cleaning rotation
- Monthly and quarterly tasks
- Writing prompts
And I made notes. Notes about marketing and content, about business strategy, notes from meetings and projects, timelines, website updates, ideas. And recipes.
It’s weird how when your life is falling apart you might feel the urge to record that curry sauce. You still have to eat, I guess.
April 04, 2017
Last night I had a strange, upsetting dream. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I got up. 4:30 in the morning. Dark and quiet. I walked around the house in a t-shirt and looked out the windows and tried to breathe slowly and see something clearly.
The dream: I was captured, with many others. It was some sort of human trafficking ring, obviously a big operation. All of the people guarding us were huge, muscular, identical. Impervious to pain. I kept trying to escape and failing. The last scene — the one that woke me up — I found a board, a big thick board, and I tried to knock out two of the guards. I hit them both on the head and they didn’t even wince. So I hit them over and over with the board, on the head, and they didn’t care. Finally I gave up, jumped out of the truck as it was moving, even though I knew it was impossible to get away. They let me go for a while. By this point, it seemed like they actually sympathized with me, but they couldn’t let me go. We were all trapped in our roles, but I kept trying, I wouldn’t stop trying, and I ran and ran and ran. Through field after field, through the mud and ditches and fences, and there was no end, there was no way out, and they just drove slowly on the roads, watching me, letting me run, knowing that I couldn’t get away.
March 25, 2017
Here are some of the things we recorded.
These conversations were mostly in the last month, which means it’s been a little over a year since we invested our savings, a little less than a year since we moved here to work these jobs, and almost six months since we started living on savings and then credit cards, since neither one of us was getting paid anymore.
Here are some things he said:
- “You’re interpreting this as my fault.”
- “You’ve been acting like a kid.”
- “That’s not how it works.”
- “You’re making me the bad guy.”
- “I was counting on you.”
- “When you get tired or frustrated I can’t depend on you.”
- “Welcome to reality.”
- “You have a double set of standards.”
- “People are complicated. It’s not always about lying.”
- “You live only off your feelings.”
- “You’re viewing it as black and white.”
- “That’s not the issue.”
- “Emotionally you’re all over the place.”
- “You’re exhausted and in your exhaustion you are attacking the guy who’s trying to help you.”
- “You have years of training ahead before you can understand.”
- “I need to know that you’re going to quit with bullshit you’re doing.”
- “We’ll get through it.”
- “You’ve been doing the best with what you’ve got and the fact that you haven’t delivered? I’m not beating you up over that.”
- “I had less [to work with] than that.”
- “If you can’t stay up and work all night then fuck you, you don’t really care.”
- “This is what it takes.”
- “I don’t disagree but it’s going to have to wait.”
- “I was an adult but you weren’t.”
- “More is required of me than anyone else.”
- “Listen to the list of things I have to do.”
- “It’s not a lack of leadership. It’s that people have to step up and be mature, be self-sufficient.” (This was after the dev team hadn’t been paid in weeks, but had continued to work full-time.)
- “I’m the one protecting you.”
- “There’s a difference between lying and perceiving that you’re lying.”
“This is normal.”
Here are the themes that emerged over and over again:
- Nobody takes as much risk as me in this situation.
- Nobody is working as hard or suffering as much as me.
- Nobody understands me, all I do, all I give.
- “This is normal.” In this situation/scenario, what we’re experiencing is normal, so quit complaining and quit asking how to fix it.
- The bad stuff isn’t my fault. There are outside forces, there are malevolent people, it’s not unusual for bad things to happen or deals to fall through, other people are unreliable, it’s not my fault.
I have pages of notes about dealing with post-partum abdominal fat, and diastasis recti, because at that point I didn’t realize that the protruding prega-belly I couldn’t get rid of was, in fact, a large and growing ovarian cyst. I just thought I must be doing some things fundamentally wrong, and once I figured out what I was doing wrong, I would be able to fix my fucked-up body.
I made lists of how much money we owed various people.
These lists were alarming. They were intermingled with “best core exercises for abs” and lists of the jobs I’d applied for and writing gig deadlines and my daily task lists and article outlines and quotes from the books I was reading.
One day I made a list called “The situation”:
- Out of money — no paychecks
- Have debt and bills
- Need also living expenses (food, gas, etc.)
- [Company] has no solid series B investors
- Only money promised is from [Investor] with bad history of promising and not delivering
- Other interested investors are maybes, at best
- Maybes can take months to close
- [Company] is out of money and behind on payments right now
- Our personal financial situation is bad
- We don’t have any other significant immediate sources of income
Toward the end of one journal, there are two pages with NO at the top of one and YES at the top of the other.
There’s nothing written underneath.
I guess I was still unsure. Of everything.
It can take time to remember who you are. It can take time to start believing yourself again.