After the struggle of making the decision to break up with my girlfriend, issues would continue for several months afterwards. Looking back on the story, while helpful, is hard at times.
What follows seems more like a story of redemption or even justice. And perhaps at the time of its writing, my mind was filled with the anger and frustration of the situation. It's hard to tell yourself you've been called to a religious life with an itinerant order while you force someone out of your own house.
If there is only one other great reflection that I have from rehashing these events, it is the constant presence of music in my life. Like with any significant time in our lives, we have songs that remind us - bringing back feelings of joy or pain. They remind us of good times, bad times, or maybe times when that can only be described as "becoming free."
I would recommend that anyone, either going through good times or bad, to find the music that speaks to you and your experience. Sometimes it is the best way to celebrate, mourn, or cope.
"Everything you own in a box to the left." -Beyonce
Sunday was a wonderful day. Bright and sunny, with a nice breeze. I had a meeting with the vocations director of the diocese, and then a 100 mile drive to visit my grandmother for Mother's Day. But before the meeting, I stood on my balcony, looking out at the grassy field and enjoying the cool breeze on the sunny day.
It was almost perfect...except for the overwhelming stench of dog feces that came from inside the apartment.
Yesterday was the first day I'd returned to my old apartment since January. The place smelled like a zoo. Words cannot express how horrendous this apartment looked and smelled. Everything had been cleared out, save a few boxes of my old junk, some hangers, and a half-eaten bag of lettuce in the refrigerator. Everywhere you could see piles of dog poop, and the once beige carpet was a disgusting mix of yellows, reds, browns, and orange.
Don't worry, I won't share the pictures.
In the bedroom were even more piles of trash/dogshit, mixed with torn pictures and broken items that had once belonged to me. Here lie a broken picture frame that held an autograph picture of me with the guys from Blessed Union of Souls. Over there lie a box I was given at age 8. I was on the phone with a friend as I walked through the apartment, yet the total destruction of the place left me speechless.
But even as I stared down at a torn picture of me at my first communion (a picture of me when I was 8), I knew that everything was finally over. Despite the TV, bedroom set, XBox, and all the other things of mine she either took or threw away...
The whole ordeal was finally at it's end.
When I initially left the apartment in January, I was still feeling some of that guilt and shame. I agreed to give her some money to either catch up on bills or make arrangements to move closer to her family (either in Iowa or Tennessee.) My friends and coworkers were adamant that she was simply using me for my money, and she would use me as long as possible. Despite their arguments, guilt is a powerful motivator, and I had arranged to give her a lot of money.
In the first few days, my ex-girlfriend decided to use her daughter as the "mediator," and every call I got was in regards to money. "Mom wants money." "Mom wants to know when you'll bring the money." "Can you pay the money in cash?" "Can you drop it off instead of sending the money?"
The first time I gave any money was a week after leaving. I had a kitten that was given to me by a friend before my ex moved in, and she wanted me to get rid of the kitten. She also wanted "her money." While never being married or fathered a child, I was accused by my friends of paying alimony for my guilt.
Whether it be dumb luck or divine intervention, her daughter called me before going over to the apartment, asking if I was still going to show. I said I would and I had her money on a prepaid credit card. She asked that I get $275 in cash; her mom was buying a toy poodle.
That's when my guilt finally broke.
I realized that regardless of what happened, we were two adults that made a really bad decision, and this was the result. But because I felt so much guilt, I would have paid her rent/bills/food for as long as I could be strung me along. And even though I'd started dealing cards as a way to help pay for her bills AND help my mom at home, I was paying for her to by a toy poodle from a breeder.
When I went over to the apartment in January, I took two police officers with me. I was done being yelled at like a child. I was done taking sole responsibility for a common mistake. I was done being used. I decided I was going to make a stand.
Unfortunately, it took a while to build up that courage. By the end of January, I'd given my ex around $1400, on top of her own money. Despite all the money, the electricity to the apartment was cut off, the rent was not paid in February, and her internet bill was still coming out of my bank account. Even with this happening, it was still hard to see the reality of the situation through all the guilt.
Finally, in a phone call from the daughter, I was asked to come over to the apartment yet again. When I mentioned that I'd already given her some money, I was told that her mom "wanted to talk." I said I was here and on the phone..."Let's talk." I think she was surprised at my answer because the line was dead for about a minute.
Whether it be out of hate, ignorance, or lack of experience, I didn't recognize that this call was a form of reconciliation. The following conversation went as such (to the best of my ability to remember):
her: "I want you come over after work so we can talk."
me: "I'm here and don't have any customers...what do you want to talk about?"
her (sounding frustrated): "I think there are some things we should talk about face-to-face."
me: "There's no reason for me to go over there."
There was a slight pause, and then she asked for more money...just as I'd expected.
(Note: Looking back, I can see the difference in personalities, especially in relationshihps. I don't like it when people yell, nor do I like it when a person makes hateful or hurtful statements when angry. Perhaps she was thinking I would forgive forgive her for the comments and she'd said to me. Having never experienced that until our relationship, I was unwilling to forgive, nor did I ever recognize her statements as a reaction or defense mechanism. -V)
Despite the money, I found out she wanted help with paying the bills. She wanted me to help her find another apartment or help her move out of state. She said she no longer wanted to live there, and therefore I should move her out.
In an uncontrollable rage I yelled back for the first time. I told her how she was a lazy bitch. I told her she's lousy with money. I told her if she wanted to buy a specialty-breed dog and spend hundreds of dollars at Blockbuster (debit card statements of her use we still coming to me via eBilling), then she can do it with her own money. I told her that if she really "Doesn't need a man" than she no longer needed my money. I told her all of that with a hefty amount of F-Bombs and shouting.
And when I was done, I realized she'd hung up on me.
After that, my ex became an annoying itch in my life. When I was thinking about other things or out with other people, I'd get a call that something wasn't paid, or a message from her asking if I could please send some money. When I went to St. Louis, she called me. When I was talking with the Pastor that bought a car...she called me.
Finally in April, I got another notice from the apartment complex: the rent had not been paid. Previously I'd covered for her. My name was still on the lease, and because I could not get it removed, her eviction would hurt both of us. But this time around, I refused to pay it. I called the apartment, and no one answered. No one called me for money anymore.
Near the end of the month, I got a call from my ex's sister. She said she was coming to get her at the end of May, and help her move out. I said "Great, but the rent hasn't been paid, and she might get evicted before that. I told her about the situation, I told her if she takes her name off the lease and leaves, everything will be OK for her."
Still no action from the apartment, and eventually I had my day in court.
The judge sympathized with me, however he affirmed that I could not be separated or removed from the current lease. If there is an eviction, it will affect her as well as me. A judgement was rendered, and if the total amount is not paid by the 18th, there would be an eviction.
On one hand, I did not want to pay for her to live, but on the other I did not want an eviction on my credit report. Torn on what to do, and struggling to find a way to do it, I took a stab in the dark and did what all great poker players do:
Yes, I lied my ass off. And interestingly enough, it was all done through the magic of myspace.com.
First, I paid the $900ish dollars to the company so there would be no eviction.
Second, I sent a message to her sister via myspace, saying that the judge was evicting her, and if she wasn't out of the apartment by Monday (today) that the sheriff's dept. would come and through them out.
Third, I made sure there would be some reaction...so I sent a similar message to my ex's daughter's myspace account as well.
And as I sit here in my epty and dirty house, preparing to spend the week installing new locks, cleaning, and painting, I wonder what role God played in this whole situation. Part of me thinks that God wanted me to realize what it was like to live in sin, so I might be able to tell this story to someone else in a similar situation. Part of me thinks that I needed a devastating event in order to let go of a lot of things in my life, thereby removing "noise" for God's plan to simply reveal itself. Part of me still thinks that God saw fit to tap me on the shoulder and say "Hey, just a reminder that you're not following the rules." (Note: This story is one I've discussed in prison ministry. It's not an attempt to bash women, rather I use it as an example of how wrong life can go when we focus on the wrong things or get into relationships for the wrong reasons. -V)
Even now, my spiritual director asks if I'm pursuing a vocation because I want to serve or because it was a way for me to get out of that relationship. And that's why this entire event has been such a huge part of my discernment. Was my ex-girlfriend right? Was this whole "I wanna be a priest thing" just an elaborate way for me to get out of the relationship?
Even at this very moment, I'm not 100% sure. And while that scares me, the fact that I can be honest with myself is an improvement on how I used to be. But now that the whole ordeal is over, I think I'll be better prepared to answer that question.
And despite everything, I still can't find room to hate. She and her daughter are no different than many of the people I hope to work with. Instead I feel disappointment that I confused love for charity, thereby basing a year long relationship on the ideals that if I simply give them a better life, I will be loved without condition.
I ask any and all people who read to keep these two people in your prayers, as well as other families like them. I don't feel proud for the events that have transpired, and I hold plenty of guilt for the repercussions that have occurred as I try to follow this new journey I am on. However if I am to ever have peace and make an honest decision about the course of my life, at some point I have to find God's purpose in all of this.