The 180 Degree Turn

Writing Prompt
December 23, 2016
Capturing a Moment in Time
May 16, 2017

 

She was married to him for three years, knew him for twenty-five. Matt, the neighborhood kid was her best friend long before they married. Something changed when they finally tied the knot. Stephanie lost something, lost herself as she dropped her maiden name, had two babies almost immediately and left her job to raise them. Resentment bred. Stephanie was stuck at home, unable to celebrate traditional holidays, as Matt’s schedule as a restaurant manager was out of sync with most of the world. His job was from 2 pm to midnight. Date night, an evening spent with friends, lazy weekends, belonged to a different realm.

A crack spread through the foundation of their relationship. Matt started opening up to a young woman named Jessica who worked under him. They clicked immediately. It was an affair of words and emotions, born from a shaky marriage.

Matt told Stephanie. They divorced. Stephanie felt betrayed, alone, lost, having to face the community that knew them, that raised them both. Mutual friends were divided. She lost the friendly relationship with her in-laws. And when Jessica and Matt openly dated immediately after the divorce, she took it as a slap in the face.

Jessica wished she could sit down with Stephanie, have a heart to heart. Explain that the affair was never physical, explain that she never ever wanted to hurt her. But their one attempt at meeting in a coffee house dissolved into hurtful words. Stephanie was angry–she thought of Jessica as the woman who’d ruined her life. It was the last time they really talked.

Over the next few years, Jessica often stepped in to aid communication between Matt and Stephanie. They often fought, and Jessica tried to find the words to dissolve the tension. Despite that, they co-parented well, sharing the children equally, showing up together for school events.

“I never saw myself becoming a stepmom,” Jessica said. “I didn’t even plan to get married or have kids of my own. Suddenly, I found myself married and co-parenting a two-year-old and a one-year old.”

She started blogging about her experiences as a stepmom, raising kids that weren’t her own, navigating the minefield of interactions, trying not to step on toes while finding her place.

Meanwhile, Stephanie started blogging as well, using it as a forum to share her thoughts with the world.

She got remarried to Paul, and started healing. Therapy helped her grow and shed the scar tissue of the past.  “I realized that Matt wasn’t the person I was supposed to spend my life with. I’d blamed him and Jess for so long. It took time to realize that Jess is perfect for him and Paul is perfect for me. We needed our short marriage to have our kids. We were supposed to learn from each other.”

Still, despite her growth, the relationships were still strained.

Jess was blogging for two months when she found out that Stephanie also blogged. She was gripped with fear. What if Stephanie found her blog and recognized herself? Jess didn’t use names or pictures, but she might put the details together…

So she posted a new blog post titled I Blog for Me. She was candid and open about her fears of Stephanie finding her blog.

I’ve had so much anxiety about this lately. There are events in the kids lives I want to write about but can’t, because what if she puts two and two together. What happens when she reads about other experiences in my life, ones that aren’t so pretty? What if she uses that against me in a fight, or when she’s angry? This is what my daily thought is every time I go to start a post.

Reading through the many comments to her post, she was warmed when she read this comment.

I write about my ex, his wife and our kids. I write about my current husband, our current life and my step children. I own everything that I write. I don’t write anything to hurt anyone, I write my truth. If anyone ever saw my blog, I would hope that they would be adult enough to realize that. I wouldn’t mind at all if my kids step mom blogged about them. What it is like to be a stepmom or anything else. That is her truth. Keep writing and stop worrying!

Clicking on the avatar next to the name, she enlarged the picture out of curiosity… It was Stephanie! Oh my, she thought. She’s reading my posts! Reading the posts that were often not flattering, posts where she talked about killing her stepkids bio mom with kindness.

She went back to other posts, realizing Stephanie had been following her for a long time, liking and commenting on posts, nominating her for awards. She suddenly saw a different Stephanie than she’d known for six years. Still, she kept the news to herself, continuing to blog.

Then last April, Stephanie read a new blog post from Jess’s blog. There were no names or dates, but Jess included a detail that Stephanie immediately recognized. She turned to her husband.

“Paul, it’s Jess writing this. I just know it.” For three hours, Stephanie read through all the posts, recognizing herself in many of them. It was eye opening. “ For three months I followed her. I liked what she wrote, connected to her struggles as a stepmom because I’m a stepmom as well. I identified with her and respected her. Now I discovered her identity and everything changed.”

Stephanie woke up early after a sleepless night and put up a post titled I Know and Thank You. She wrote how she was pretty sure she’d discovered the blogger’s identity. She apologized for her behavior in the past. And she wrote:

Thank you for showing me how you see me.  I will continue to work harder to be better, nicer and more respectful.  That way you may not feel like you have to take the high road so often, it will just be the road that we are naturally walking down.

At nine am, the blogger she suspected was Jess, liked her post.

She sent Jess a text. “Was I right? Is it you?”

An instant later. “It’s me.”

Jess admitted being scared at first, waking up to a blog post ferreting out her identity and a text message from Stephanie. “I went into a panic. I thought the world was going to end, worried endlessly about dynamics. And I worried that now she’d be able to dig into my soul through my posts. I cried for days when I realized how accepting she was now.”

The texts didn’t stop. An entire day of communication back and forth, making up for six years of miscommunication, apologies shared and accepted, deep meaningful conversations.

“My biggest worry about blogging was that she would discover it, and get upset. It was the opposite! Stephanie understood my side, suddenly, realizing I’d always had the best of intentions,” Jess said.

“Being able to read and write so many things honestly before we knew that each other were paying attention, helped us gain an understanding where we both were coming from,” Stephanie said. “Instead of being stepmom and ex-wife, we were just Stephanie and Jess.”

 

Stephanie and Jess started texting and talking every day. They never saw it coming, this miraculous turn around where today they are the best of friends. Both husbands are still in shock.

And of course, the practical day to day of co-parenting got so much easier for them and the kids.

 

Then Stephanie gave Jess a gift. She sat her kids down and asked them if they wanted to start calling Jess mom. Jess had always been careful. “I’m Jess,” she’d tell them. “You have one mom and dad. I’m here to love and support you.”

Stephanie asked them if they wanted to call her mom. They answered carefully, afraid of hurting her feelings. “Well, she is like a mom,” they said. “She does mom things. Makes us lunch, takes care of us when we’re sick, brings us to school.”

“So call her mom,” Stephanie said.

They were shocked and happy. Now they could equally show their love to their two moms. Jess was driving through the Taco Bell drive-through when they told her the story. “I cried,” she said. “It was a real eye opener. It meant what was happening was real. She’d done something huge. Really huge.”

 

The relationship took off. “We have an amazing bond,” Stephanie said. “She’s one of my people. I call her when I’m scared, happy or have exciting news. We buy each other gifts for Christmas and Mother’s Day. We write notes to each other signed love you.”

Stephanie marvels over the positive that has come out of this. “I stopped going to therapy,” she said. “So much old baggage just dropped away. My communication with my ex is so much better, causing less stress and pressure.”

Jess agrees. “It’s been a big change for me emotionally,” she said. “It’s done wonders, being able to feel at ease with her, and have a closure of the anger and hurt we caused each other over the years.”

A lot of people don’t understand this new relationship. They see them together, going out for drinks, sitting as one happy blended family together at dance recitals and baseball games and can’t wrap their minds around it. They almost don’t believe it when they find out Jessica will be watching the son Stephanie had with Paul, her stepkids half-brother when they go on vacation.

“All the negative feelings of the past are gone,” Stephanie said. “ I’m usually really good at holding onto things–just ask my husband! But the complete goneness of the negativity really surprises me…

There was this person that I couldn’t despise more, I had no respect or understanding for, no compassion. Then somehow, something so simple as reading a blog post turns everything I’ve known on its head. We have this deep conversation, the door opens, floodgates burst and we talk and cry, and talk some more. Either we can hold onto the last six years or we could do a 180-degree turn and be something different.”

Jessica and Stephanie chose to let go and move on. And their lives will never the same.

 

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