When The Light Turned Green

It’s hard for me to believe, that in the short span of time it took for the traffic light to turn green, my whole life was altered.

But that is what happened.

It was the thunder that woke me this morning. And then a memory that resurfaces from time to time.

It was well over three years ago. I was driving my car, sitting on the inside lane going south. Just a block from home. The traffic light was red.

All The Secrets:

And suddenly the many secrets just came spilling out of him.

It wasn’t that he felt guilty. Or felt compelled to come clean. It seemed more like it was gratifying for him to hear the words said out loud. And maybe to see my reaction to them. 

I kept my eye fixed on the red light, trying to get my bearings. Trying to take in all that he was telling me. 

My mind bounced from one thing he said to another. In and out of sequence.

A Distant Memory Surfaces:

It was then that I remembered, not very long ago, a man from out of town had been sitting at this very light. Driving in the opposite direction.

I was told his childhood home had been just a little way down on the other side of the road. Before they tore it down and businesses took over. And then the street became a six-lane highway. 

This faceless man was waiting for the light to turn green that day. Then suddenly a woman high on some kind of drugs came barreling over the hill and hit him from behind. 

That man’s life abruptly ended for no reason at all. Except that someone selfishly chose to get high and drive a car when they shouldn’t have.

When The Light Turned Green:

The light turn green and I put my foot on the gas and accelerated.

Less than a minute later I pushed the mechanism that lifts the garage door. Just like I’d done hundreds of times before. I pulled into one side of the garage and managed by some miracle not to hit the wall. 

I got out and rushed ahead of him to my gardens where I could be alone to think. Because I could not bear to look at him. I don’t think I ever looked straight at him ever again.

For weeks I cried. Sitting out there in my pretty spot under the pavilion while watching the pond water circulate. Just staring at my beautiful gardens. Knowing I would have to leave them. 

After what happened that day, there was no way I could stay. No way at all.

Just an hour before that day at the traffic light, my life had been far from anything resembling happy. But it had not been shattered into a million pieces as it was after that light turned green.

Just An Ordinary Day:

I have always wondered why he chose that moment to tell me his secrets. Just out of the blue after a weekend lunch at a restaurant. On an otherwise ordinary day.

It wasn’t like the fault lines weren’t already apparent and had been for quite some time.

But oftentimes you try to lull yourself into complacency so you can enjoy the small things in life just a little longer. Before you have to make huge decisions that will forever alter it. 

That decision would be that I would have to leave the home and gardens that I loved. Because what he had said meant I could no longer live with him.

Deciding When To Leave:

It didn’t happen overnight, my leaving one life to begin another. I had to absorb it all and figure out what to do next.

You mourn the years you’ve spent together when really it was a lost cause all along.

In the space of time it took for a traffic light to change, I learned that he had had a secret life since the day we got married. The whole damned time.

Maybe the truth had set him free. Or it just felt good to watch me hurting.

You see I had to let the facts fall into place. I had to sit for hours at a time in my gardens and accept that he wasn’t alone those weekends he was away. 

I had to wonder how it was for that innocent man who sat at the same traffic light. If only the light that day had been green instead of red.

In that pause between the red light and the green one, my then-husband basically told me that my life had been a lie.

His Admissions:

We were only a block from home when the words came tumbling out of him. When he admitted about all the women he’d been seeing over the years. The many times he’d lied to me.

I think that hit me the hardest. All the lies. The stupid, futile lies.

The fact that my life could have been different had I not chosen to walk this path with him. I was blinded by love back then, and I was blinded by rage and hurt now.

And soon I would have to pack my things and leave. The life I had there, the friends I’d made, the gorgeous gardens I’d tended so lovingly, would become memories.

I would have to leave it all behind and start over somewhere new.

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91 Comments

  1. Brenda, you are an awesome woman, don't ever waiver from who you are or how you live your life. I believe things happen for a reason, I do believe in "Signs"…..no coincidences', this is the road you were meant to travel, perhaps your writing has changed someone's life……..for the better. Don't think of what you lost because of your ex, I believe in KARMA…….his Red Light will come……..

  2. Brenda, I just posted tonight on another of your posts about "finding you" after you left East Texas. Finding this post and the following one has jogged my memory–I saw that accidental post. I remember. I also remember commenting, because I had been there. Survivors, strong women. Dented, bent, maybe a little tarnished steel, but whole. That's what we are.

  3. Do you think your ex reads your blog? Or the current woman in his life. I sure hope so!!!!! We don't always see that the worse day of our lives can actually be a blessing and with time, we are thankful for that day and how it actually was a green light for us and changed everything for the good. So is this what you wrote and published accidently?

  4. Who the hell wants their ex back?? You people with this phoney crap need to get a real life and then you won't have to make one up..also get a real job so you don't have to try and rip people off online!!! Sorry Brenda but these people tick me off so bad..they prey on people's bad luck and don't care a thing about them..

  5. Brenda, I didn't know you when all that happened, but I'm getting to know you now and I think you're an extraordinary woman. Although you've been treated shamefully, I see that you haven't allowed that to define you. You have moved on and used your life experience(s) to help others. For example, your "Frugal Tips". Also, you are quick to help new bloggers get started, and you're always an encouragement to them. And with this post you've opened the door for other women to share their own hurts and how they came through. More encouragement, and all good stuff. Hugs ~ Nancy

    1. Well, there's far worse things than having to live frugally. There's living in a place where you are miserable and afraid.

  6. I don't know why but I stopped getting your posts this week.
    I so remember when this all happened and things leading up to it. We have discussed how I felt a out how be treated you. I am so glad for where you are now. We can all look up to you for your courage to start a new life. And that hasn't been easy either. So proud of you and so glad I can call you my friend.

  7. Brenda, you have such a way with words, connecting your experience in that intersection with the poor man who was hit from behind. Sadly, so many of us have been through divorce. Unfortunately, my situation is rare in that the last woman my ex-husband cheated on me with was apparently "the one" for him and they are still together nearly 9 years after he left me (not married, but living together). He told our oldest son that he had been obsessed with other woman, that women were "his drug", but when he met the woman he left me for, that all changed. Of course, he lied and betrayed me for years, never admitted to having numerous affairs over our 29 years of marriage. What is so difficult for me now is that she is included in family get-together's (middle son's wedding, grandson's baby shower, was in the waiting room when my grandson was being born, attending my grandson's first birthday party last week, etc). My kids don't like her, but they want a relationship with their father and he has made it clear that she will be included. So there is always this black cloud hanging over all the events in my life that include my kids. He has come out smelling like a rose, will always have more money than me, will not have to grow old alone. I pray for karma, but I don't think it will happen. It hurts so much to see that there have been no consequences for him, that he treats her so much better than he ever treated me and especially that it is constantly thrown in my face.

  8. Brenda I can't imagine what you went through. I was 18 when I met my husband and married at 21. Last April we were together 45 years and this September we will be married 43. We talked about cheating before getting married. I told him if he ever cheated on me, I would cheat on him and then get a rifle and blow something off. He couldn't believe what I said but we have had wonderful, wonderful years together so I think it worked.

  9. Your post was written unbelievably well and it was heart wrenching. And I am astounded reading the comments…so many women that were in similar situations. While I know these men are just crap, I can't help but wonder why these "other women" don't have any brains? Your ex's honey is now living worse off than she probably was before she married him! I have a really good friend at the lake whose husband of 30 years decided to tell her he was leaving her…this occurred on Christmas morning. They had two kids in college. Shortly after the divorce he married his much younger secretary and they went on to have a baby, she insisted. He's now in his late sixties and has a toddler. The part that really gets me? That woman is going to be raising that child alone soon. That's what happens when you marry an older man. And my friend? She was devastated and I guess she will always wonder what she did wrong, where she came up short. But her life? Financially, she did great in the divorce, he gave her everything because he felt like such a lout. She's a great lady, very involved in the community and has tons of friends…she didn't lose them as some do in divorce. She travels still and keeps busy. She does tell me she wishes she had a companion, a man, to do things with, to go to a movie or take a trip with. She hasn't counted them all out and most of her friends are part of "couples". I guess it doesn't really matter if you "get the house" or not, you've been screwed emotionally.

    Jane xx

    1. I don't see where you mention how long you were married. It is my understanding that if you've been married ten years you can collect a part of his social security benefits when you come of retirement age.

    2. I was married 13 years. Yes, if you've been married at least ten years, you can usually collect a part of his social security.

  10. Brenda…what a powerful post. I admire your strength and grace. We are all just a heart beat from our life changing forever….I think we forget that, don't we. Thank you for reminding me. I have to say…..your blog has become my guilty pleasure (yep, I am at work)…. but a visit to your blog is simply a must ….. thank you for your genuine "ness"….I love visiting here. Have a wonderful weekend.

    1. I'm so glad to have you as a reader. Don't get in trouble at work! Yes, we do forget that it can all get snatched away in the space of time a traffic light changes.

  11. Hi Brenda, I was married to an alcoholic narcissist, as well, for sixteen years. He was also verbally and physically abusive. We have three children, who were not yet teenagers, and I found out he cheated the whole time too. I caught him at the beach finally with his secretary whom he also moved in with. Mine was too busy hiding and protecting his money to tell me. I suspected but of course he lied and called me crazy. Five years of battling him in court so that I could take care of the children. He hid all the money, closed his law firm which had been thriving, and sucked all of the equity out of the house which I thought was paid for. When you said she stuck to him in court my hair stood up, so did she. The experts confirmed what I already knew, he was a sociopath. I am so grateful to be away from him. He literally almost killed me while sending me flowers and telling me he loved me. Unfortunately they find woman like us, we are sitting pigeons in that we are trusting and kind. I have since remarried a great guy that treats me with complete respect and is wonderful. Don't say never about remarriage, I did but I'm glad I met my husband everyday and we have been married for eight years. I love your blog and admire your strength! We had all of the material possessions in the world and I was completely miserable. Not so much materialism with my current happy marriage but you know what? All we really need in this world is a lot of love of all kinds, including self, and a cozy little house! Thank you for sharing and I look forward to watching your new life and garden continue to grow.

    1. Then you know. I don't have to tell you anything. Because you've been there. Mine managed to be broke when I divorced him too. And I think he truly was. All he'd collected in his life was debt.

  12. Beautifully written… You are such a good person to share your experience to help others who may be going through something similar. You are certainly an example of how bad things turn into good. I'm glad you have found peace!

  13. I realize this story is of your life…but, you are a writer extraordinaire! You have a way of spinning your words that is remarkable. You've come so far from that time in Texas…and you've got so much ahead of you…I look forward to reading about your journey through your words! 😉

    1. I deleted that comment because I wasn't finished writing it and somehow it published! Anyway, I've always loved words. Sounding them out when I was little. They were so mesmerizing to me. Like little puzzles you put together that ends up a sentence.

  14. I remember all the sad sad posts when this was all going down…I was sad with you, worried for you because you were so depressed, I cried with you…it was a heartbreaking period and we were all with you on that journey. I too think you are a much stronger person for having gone through that. I wish the whole thing with your daughters would have worked out differently but such is life…I have one of those kids too so I feel that pain….I came to a point in my life where I had to brush my hands of it and just say it is what it is and move on. I think your in a truely good place now and working on making it that best it can possibly be! You Go Girl!!
    P.S. I hope this recurring memory fades sooner than later!!

    1. Oh, the memories really don't bother me any more. I've had enough distance from them that they are just something that happened and is no more.

  15. Sixteen years ago my neighbors (Linda) husband of 20 years told her he wanted a divorce. She was blindsided. Unlike you, there was no abuse. They were seemingly happy. At least she was. Everything happened quickly after that. The divorce, as well as his remarriage to a colleague one month after the divorce was final. He told her he was happy to 'have a family' (his new wife had a large one). Her response was 'you have a family. (They had two children).

    Fast forward fifteen years and his wife is diagnosed with cancer. She passed away about six months ago. Two weeks later his best friend died. A few months ago he was diagnosed with prostrate cancer (stage 1 so he will be fine). He asked his first wife to be his medical proxy because his wife's so called large, close family has nothing to do with him anymore. I think she said yes. I'm not sure i could be that altruistic if I were in her shoes.

    Meanwhile Linda hasn't remarried and I doubt she will. I don't think she ever recovered from the blow, but she seems happy and content with her life. Life has a way of working itself out.

    1. Yes, life does have a way of working out. And that's what I always tell myself. That she could say yes to him just shows that she's a better person than he was.

  16. Blindsided. That totally sucks. While I cant relate totally, there has been a similar incident in my past. Finding out feels like a sucker punch to the gut. The way your minds jumps around trying to figure it out and put all the pieces together. The pieces where they should be, not where you had previously thought they were. And it makes sense in retrospect. I remember that certain someone saying to me when I was asking too many questions, "don't stir the water, it is muddy down there." Oh, and it was.

    I could not agree more from one commenter who stated, you are better off. Your day of peace and self love and everything else that is beautiful in your life began that day with a green light. I am sure you knew that truth and honesty were not present from him. It is freeing, albeit devastating to find out. But when you are further down the road (such as now), when you have picked up all the shattered pieces, you can then see it was right and exactly the way it should have gone. Then the gratitude. Fabulous that you have your beautiful place. You deserve every ounce of it and more.

    1. Yes, I'm much better off now. But at the time, thought it was the end of the world as I knew it. You have to go through the dark to get to the light.

    1. That's what he said, in a sarcastic way, like, didn't you get it? He started rolling out the names of women I knew. Of course it's the ones you least suspect.

  17. That sounds like an awful day – an awful way to find out the truth. But think what it would have bene like if nothing had been said and things carried on the same as they'd been. That would have been a worse outcome. You have come far since then. It's far better to live alone than with the wrong man.

  18. This was written so beautifully. I can't imagine what made him feel he had to spill his guts on the way home from lunch. I know you are so much happier now in your adorable place, you have a new found freedom away from him and his craziness. Makes you wonder why people like him have to be so cruel to others and ruin lives? I know Karma is working now in his life and I couldn't be happier for you.

  19. HI Brenda…I believe we all feel pain sometime in our lfe..whether it be from a cheater no count husband or from parents who really do not give a damn..have children but do not ever show them love…just hate and make them feel like they really do not matter…pain comes in all degrees but its how we handle it that counts…You are an amazing woman who has handled hers with grace and determination and I applaud you for that…to hell with that bastard husband you had …he so did not deserve you!!! take care Brenda! xoxo Carol

  20. Yep, I get it…so many of us do! I actually thought I had the perfect marriage until the day I found out he was in love with his 24 year old secretary and had been having affairs the whole 15 years we were married. Then he moved in with her. I was totally like a fish out of water, had never paid a bill, done any car maintenance, traveled alone. I divorced him in 6 months lol he didn't want me to! But here's the good part, I have lived happily ever after, a life fuller than I could have ever dreamed…His life….Not so great. I think it took me about 2 years to get back on my feet…so glad you are at the 3 year mark, I am sure it is getting better for you. I so remember like you, the day my life changed. I actually look back and feel sorry for that person, who I was, not knowing how great things would be……The same is happening for you, it will get better and better!

    Carol

    1. You're right, Carol. I thought it was the end of my world. But it was just the beginning. It was painful, but it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I don't think women become strong without walking through a lot of fires. That is why a woman should never judge another until she has walked in her shoes. I'm sorry for what you went through. My marriage was 13 years. What amazed me most, I suppose, is how he could flawlessly lie all those years. I'm so happy we are through the fire and standing on the other side!

  21. For all those women still trapped, Brenda, you have shown there really is a way to get to a better place. It just takes incredible courage, and sometimes I think life steps in and pushes us off the ledge when we refuse to take the leap ourselves. I really believe you were spiritually so much brighter than him, it was physically impossible for him to remain in your presence. You are by nature a seeker of truth, beauty and light. There is no physical way you could have stayed tied to something that dark. And when I say "thing" to describe him, I mean that quite literally.

    1. You are right. I stayed too long. It was bad and I couldn't figure out how to go. And I was afraid. And I admit, I wanted to keep my garden home, nothing lavish, and my pretty little gardens. But you can't have it all. And I did have to be pushed off the ledge to get moving. You are so right.

  22. So profound. So sorry to hear. I know you probably don't want pity but we can't help feeling sorry for others. I hope you are at peace

    1. I am. And that's why I can write about it. It is just a fact now. I write about it so that others going through something similar know that one day it will stop hurting.

  23. Brenda, I know this is your story. It hurts me to read it. I do know you are way stronger than you ever knew, because you have come a long way. I know your life is very different now. But the things that you can truly count on are not different, friends , family , your doggies. Your new family maybe bloggers, but we care about you. 🙂 Like Mimi said in her comment, God is good. xoxo,Susie

    1. And I love you all for being my support when I so needed it, Susie! I can write about those days because they can't hurt me anymore.

  24. Too bad the Bastard wasnt the one sitting at the light when the nut came barreling over the hill,instead of with you telling his shameful actions .. That's just how I feel about it, so I said it.. Where's karmic justice when ya need it, huh.. You'd still be in your home with your beautiful garden,wonderful neighbors and hopefully his insurance would have paid off the house and covered you for life.. It's ok, you dont have to wish bad on him I'll gladly do it for ya:-) I really do believe in Karma and one of these days he'll run smack into his. I wanna hear about it, in detail, when it happens lol..

  25. To add to the above comment, I have never understood why a woman thinks that if he cheats "with" her he won't cheat "on" her. One day she will probably find out he is doing the same thing to her and she will deserve it. He will also deserve whatever happens to him.

  26. Brenda, what a heartbreaking story. However, look how far you've come in three short years. You no longer have to live in a constant state of fear and anxiety. You certainly seem more fulfilled and happier now. I suppose many life altering incidents have taken place at the "Red Light". I'm not being frivolous when I say your experience sounds like a country song or a good book. In the day to day of his double life, how was he able to come and go with such ease? Where was his inner turmoil? Was he devoid of that emotion? Did the alcohol render him heartless? He might say being a psychiatrist takes it's toll. How does that explain the sheer cruelty? All the while you're at home knowing (but not really). As if a distant bell. Oh well, I hope the new wife sleeps with one eye open and has a secret bank account. You know the old saying "If he does it to her, he'll do it to you" and none of us are getting any younger. Peace and Love…DeLynn in Dallas

    1. He is a true narcissist, and I don't think he knows what guilt is. I don't think he has empathy. I think he truly is devoid of all those things. He used to say he liked to see me cry. Does that sound like a caring person? He was a functioning alcoholic, and I don't drink, so I couldn't tell when he was drunk. It has been his undoing, the alcohol, the women, and the lack of empathy for others. He's about to lose yet another job, so the new wife now knows what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck and move every year or so. Because he can't keep a job, and he can't stop spending money. The man made extremely good money, like $18,000 a month for the state, but at the end of the month, it was gone. He wouldn't let me save, because it threatened him. If I got $20 extra at the grocery store, he wanted to know why.

    2. Grrr….that enrages me! Thank heaven it's a new day and Mister Man will reap what he has sown…ten fold. In the mean-time you continue to bloom where you're planted and hope is alive.

    3. Dealing with a narcissist, you are lucky he found someone else; because if you had tried to leave your very life would have been in danger. No, a narcissist feels no guilt, no empathy, NOTHING except you had better not say anything negative about them. Our family dealt with one for over 20 years, and thankfully, she is a thing of the past. An alcoholic narcissist is the very worst!! They can inflict the most pain and suffering and enjoy every minute of it. Talk about sick!!!

    4. A narcissist with no empathy? How can one have a loving marriage? Respectfully, all I can say is "Good Riddance!".

  27. I remember standing in the garage and jokingly saying to my then husband "What, don't you love me anymore?" . The look on his face could have knocked me out. He responded "I think I may want to move out and consider my options". Options??? It was then that I found out he was involved with a woman 10 years my younger at his job. Shortly after that I told him to just go and he did, and moved in with her. I think I walked around in shock for about a year. I had two small children and a full-time job that I had to maintain. Keeping up the facade was not easy. I would count the minutes when I could go home, put my kids to bed and then sit alone in the dark and wonder what happened. I was alone for many years. But when I look back now 23 years later I know it was meant to be and I am happier now than I ever was and my life is great. You have done the same thing. It is amazing how emotionally strong we can be. You are where you belong now. And yes, the Karma will kick in sooner or later. If he was unfaithful to you, he will be unfaithful to her.

    1. You reminded me of one of my all-time favorite Dr. Phil quotes: "If he'll do it with you, he'll do it to you."

      I am so glad you are happy now, Lana. Thanks so much for sharing your story. 🙂

    2. Yes, that's a good one Dr. Phil came up with. There isn't a man alive that once he starts wandering, will find "the one" and stop. I think it's like an obsession. Which is why I am happy alone and there will not be a man in my future. I don't think you can live a June Cleaver life and be strong. I think you have to experience heartache and pain to become strong.

    3. Hmmm I think there's a lot of truth to your last statement. You've traded stuff for peace. That makes you rich in my book.

  28. Beautiful writing Brenda. I've had those 'kicked in the gut' moments but I've survived and I'm so much stronger now just like you! I no longer pin my happiness on anyone else, I am responsible for myself and I love it that way. Your willingness to share your life with us is inspiring!
    hugs,
    Linda

    1. I know you can't make someone else happy. And if you hook up with them thinking you're the one that's going to change them, you're going to be sadly disappointed.

    1. But not enough catches up to the real monsters, it seems to me. The ones who prey on the vulnerable and children. But that is another topic…

  29. You title was very apt, that green light opened the way to your new future. The road has been long for you, and not without seemingly insurmountable bumps, but that green light has led you to your little cozy home, and the peace and contentment you have found. I admire you and your writing.

  30. The entire time of the marriage. My gosh, you certainly have come out of that a strong woman. It takes courage to leave, no matter the situation. I think leaving a home you have created, nurtured, built is the hardest part of it all. I know. But creating and building a home just for YOU is the best reward. The icing on the cake. A sanctuary of peace. Hugs.

    1. And the day we went to court, she was glued to him. They moved in together that very afternoon to an upscale apartment. He told me the afternoon before, a Sunday, that he was off to the mall to shop for their new home. But karma, it is catching up to him.

  31. I don't know what to say. You took my words. Is I'm sorry enough? I don't think so, but I am. You are now strong and getting stronger. You are finding out who you are. You are learning you can depend on yourself. Those are wonderfully good things, but I am sorry for the pain you felt in order to get here.

  32. Such a powerful story to read this morning! I'm so sorry you have that to remember. But at least now it is just a bad memory and not your life anymore! I can't imagine being told what you were while driving and then seeing someone else get killed all in the same day! That was NOT a good day!

    1. I guess I did not make it clear. The man's accident wasn't that day. His was on a weekday a few months before. Imagine sitting at a light and then hit at a high rate of speed, on an otherwise ordinary day.

  33. Wow. Brenda, I am so sorry that happened to you. It reminds me so much of David Nail's song "Red Light"–what you think is a seemingly innocent moment in your life turns out to be life changing. Your juxtaposition with the other man's story is SO powerful–literally gave me goosebumps.

    My innocent moment came at the doctor's office when I went for my six week postpartum visit after my son was born. I had had a bad pap smear result after my first prenatal visit, and I went nine months thinking I had cancer. Nope. I had something entirely different. 🙁 I just thank God I had delivered a healthy baby. I stayed for 17 years for "the sake of the children." I truly think it took me that long to come out of shock. Life is hard, but God is good.

    1. I'm not familiar with that song. Your innocent moment gave me goose bumps. I can't imagine having that on my mind the whole nine months of growing your child.

  34. Brenda,
    You have come so far and have accomplished so much since that day. I admire your strength and a "never give up" attitude. The old saying "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade", is so true and you are a prime example of that. My first husband was horrible, and that's being nice. By the grace of God we were only together three years and had one precious son. Six years later, I remarried a wonderful, loving, faithful man. We have been together thirty two years and I have never been happier. You have proven to yourself that being alone is not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, you have grown more independent, confident and wise since that terrible day. Or, maybe it wasn't such a terrible day after all. Having a nice big home and lots of pretty things does not constitute happiness. That comes from within.

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