"The pain that you create now is always some form of non-acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. Is suffering really necessary? Yes and no. If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being, no humility, no compassion. You would not be reading this now." ~ Eckhart Tolle
Abandonment is the worst sort of betrayal to recover from because as with the death of a suicide or murderer, the perpetrators are permanently absent from the healing process. Thus, the victims are forced into the unenviable position of trying to answer the unanswerable and suffer through the litany of unvoiced recriminations that can take root and blossom into bitterness.
Like many people, I have suffered great and small tragedies throughout my life, but have come to place in my journey as a writer where I can share my experiences openly without shame. When my husband abandoned me when I was eight months pregnant with our son, it took several years of mourning, spiritual awakening and cognitive therapy to reach a diagnosis of Bipolar II and to finally realize that the power to change my existence lay firmly in my grasp.
As an equestrian, who practices the discipline of dressage, and as an avid horse lover; the imagery evoked by the phrase 'back in the saddle' is rich and picturesque. Literally, it can imply one who has been thrown by a horse, and who must immediately get back up on the horse or risk becoming paralyzed by fear and thus unable to ride again; or one who has encountered some great personal tragedy in life, but must find away to move beyond this event and re-engage with life.
Dressage is a sophisticated and skilled discipline that requires a relaxed rider with a lightness of touch that will enable the rider to subtly ask the horse to perform lateral and other beautifully graceful movements. Much like chess, one must both map out one's strategy to achieve the purposed result, and plan sequences for the horse that allow it to feel as if it is a co-equal in the process of winning. Of course, a horse does not have this level of cognitive awareness, however, they are by nature herd animals, and are willing to subjugate their will to one who has gained their respect and mastery.
Life also requires a level of mastery, for it is a long road fraught with perils. In fact, it is as I am fond of quoting, "a journey from which no one emerges unscathed." If we are not branded by personal tragedy, we all experience death; whether our own or that of our family members, companions, or friends. The five stages of grief are well documented: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Though being thrown by a horse usually elicits only two or three of these emotions, being thrown in life usually requires us to process all five of these emotions.
I have been thrown by a horse. The feeling of an animal as large and powerful as an equine, running away with me because I lost my seat and posture provoked sheer terror. When I leaned forward, and allowed the horse to smell my fear, and sensed my lack of control, this resulted in both his panic and mine. This palpable energy caused the horse to pick up his pace as if fleeing a predator, and resulted in my increased leg tension which led to the contraction of my calves, the lifting of my heels, and squeezing of my thighs tighter into his girth.
Together, this cacophony of signals communicated to him a greater urgency for speed until finally, we encountered a fence, and I, not a skilled hunter jumper, pulled back on the reins, causing the horse to abruptly halt. The forward momentum carried me up and over his head, over the fence, to land, tumble, roll and hit my head. Without my helmet, I may have been severely injured, but for sure that day my ego and confidence were damaged.
A few minutes after this tumble, and at the urging of my instructor, I put on another helmet, remounted this horse, which having lost all respect for my mastery, determined he was going to go in whatever direction his minuscule brain, by comparison to the size of his body, directed him. It was a battle of wills, both against an animal and my own beast, fear. That day I gained a healthy respect for horses and I conquered my fear of riding.
I believe all humans live with a certain level of fear, but those whose lives are more civilized, suburbanized, and organized, rarely have the opportunities to experience fear at a visceral, instinctual level, unless confronted by something such as an impeding car crash, a violent crime or a crushing medical report. For the most part, fear is a vague phantom that inhabits the corners of our minds, peeking through from time to time, as it feeds upon the irrationalities bred by human insecurities and foibles.
However, in October 2001, fear became my constant companion. More my partner and husband, than any man; more my confidant than any girlfriend; more my parent than any mother or father. I was not aware of this duplicity until both my friend and my mother recently pointed out how surprised they were to discover that fear lay beneath my veneer of confidence, sincere courage under fire, and tenacity in the face of adversity. I never recognized nor consciously acknowledged the truth of their observations until that very moment.
It was fear that prevented me from even entertaining a relationship for the past seven years. People, my friends and acquaintances, were often incredulous at my assertion that I had not dated in nearly eight years, my son will be eight in December; and though for the first few years of his life I was fiercely protective, and would not have tolerated any man around my son, simultaneously I could not understand why no one would ask me out. I knew that I was and continue to be an attractive, vivacious, intelligent woman, and previous to 2001, never had a problem with dating. It seemed that during this seven-year hiatus, I had hidden myself both from the world as well as myself.
Thus, began the investigation into how a person of such valor and resiliency could successfully hide in plain sight. I began by asking my closest friends and family members who had observed me intimately during this time. I spoke about it ad nauseam in my weekly therapy sessions, and I slowly began to recognize that though I myself appeared open, everything about me shouted stay away. I was spiritually and emotionally prickly, and no one dared approach me.
How did I get to that place? I fell off the horse and didn't get right back up. In 2001, two months before my son was born. The day my world came crashing down was the day my husband declared that he needed to return to Berlin, Germany to see his dying mother. We met a year earlier when he came into the office space that I shared with my business partners. My partners specialized in the import and sell of exotic, high-end cars, and I had a small import/export business for the design, manufacture and sell of unique leisure products. At the time I didn't know that our partnership was based upon their need for legitimacy. Because I was so desperate for investors, my due diligence was lackadaisical at best.
I remember the day my future husband walked through the doors of our building. The sun was shinning, and I could see the small tidy lot through the double glass doors of the lobby. Inside the electronic fenced compound, fifteen vehicles, Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes and Bentley were carefully displayed. The sun was bright, and shinning down as only Florida summer days can, and the palms abutting the custom wrought iron gates separating the lot from Federal Highway, swayed softly in the afternoon trade winds.
stepped out of my office to grab a cup of coffee, when suddenly a blue 911 pulled up, and a young, tall, dark-haired and moustached man alighted from the vehicle. He was absolutely beautiful, and I had to catch myself to prevent an obvious display of interest and attraction. He was dressed in a polo shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes, as if he had just come from the beach. He was tall at 6 feet 2 inches, and his skin was tanned to perfection. He had the most perfect smile and white teeth so straight, they appeared capped.
As he opened the front door, I retreated to my office and listened as he climbed the stairs to the upper floors where my partner's offices were located. After waiting a few moments to give the appearance of modesty, I casually sauntered over to the receptionist desk and asked some inane questions. I eventually navigated the conversation to my future husband, Hans Peter. I learned that he had purchased several cars from my business partners, that he was unmarried and owned several hotels along A1A in Fort Lauderdale, and preferred to be addressed by his middle name only.
I wasn't sure if he would be interested in me, but I was certainly smitten with him. Over the next few weeks, when he came to visit my partners, I found opportunities to engage him whenever possible. I remember his striking blue eyes, which were accentuated by the his jet black mustache and hair, and though his expressions were sometimes intractable and hard, I found reasons to disregard my unease.
He was intriguing and mysterious, characteristics that appealed to my risk taking nature, and the language barrier further deepened my attraction. We were able to communicate, however, we never achieved the intimacy usually fostered through shared cultural nuances, colloquialisms and vocabulary.
Though he claimed he had immigrated to States several years earlier on an H1B visa, he primarily spoke German, and only spoke English when necessary. Whereas, I have always had a facility for languages, I was never able to master German; the compounded words and hard syllables ran contrary to the linguistics fluidity of the romance languages of which I was fond. Plus, he refused to practice speaking with me, and seemed to prefer the freedom of conversing openly in a language that he was certain I didn't comprehend.
When he finally asked me out, I was so happy. I remember our first date he came to pick me up on his Ninja motorcycle, and we rode along A1A from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. We stopped at a beach front restaurant for dinner and drinks as the sun was setting, and I thought life couldn't be more perfect. That night I knew I would marry him. For the first time, I was head over heels in love, and allowed myself to be vulnerable and transparent, something which I had never experienced before.
I had been in love before, but I always had an agenda, so it was difficult for me to discern if my feelings of love were motivated by the person or my goals. With Peter it was different. I loved him and I wanted to have his child, and the feeling was so powerful, so primal and irrational, that it was only in retrospect that I see what an easy target I had become.
During our brief but intense courtship, I began to see that the relationship between Peter and my partners was far more substantial than I initially suspected. However, I chose to ignore the inconsistency in Peter's explanations of the nature of their partnership, because I liked the life he was providing for us. Plus, with my recent divestment, I was not concerned about the possibility of being implicated in any investigation into their business irregularities, because my operation had not been a direct subsidiary.
Later, when I was six months pregnant, Peter advised me to sell my remaining shares back to the partnership, thus severing all business ties with them. I was very uncomfortable with this proposition since it meant that I would be totally financially dependent upon him, but his recommendation came on the heels of a raid of the offices by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Although, I was questioned during this raid because I arrived at the office right as these officials began to search the facility; the agent who interviewed me took a brief statement, but was most interested in the vehicle that I was driving. One of the perks of the partnership, was access to any unsold car from the lot for personal use.
That day I happened to be driving a 750iL BMW, which after thoroughly searching the car and recording the VIN number, I was allowed to drive home. I was subsequently instructed by the agent who searched the vehicle I drove that I was not the subject of the investigation, but to make sure that I remained in town. After conferring with other agents, he informed me that I could return to the premises the next day at which point that portion of the investigation was schedule to be completed.
After that, I followed Peter's advice and sold my shares to my former partners, who nonetheless continued their business venture. I had always owned and operated small businesses since my first and only job, which I got right after graduating from a small New England college. I worked there for three years, and when the company relocated out West, I decided to take the severance package, and vowed never to work for someone other than myself.
From that point forward, I worked hard and tried to achieve the American dream of wealth and independence through a succession of small business ventures. I was not used to being dependent on anyone's largess for my livelihood; so when Peter told me that I had to trust him, and that he would always be there for me and our baby, I uncharacteristically decided to take the risk. I wanted to change myself to become the woman I always imagined I could be. Less hard, less calculating, more loving, soft and trusting. I wanted to open my heart and myself, and take a risk on true happiness and love. That more than anything, is the reason it took seven years for me recover from this massive betrayal.
When I was eight months pregnant, with no chance of accompanying him due to my advanced state; I drove Peter to Miami International Airport, kissed him deeply and passionately on the lips, then dropped him off. He said he would be back in two weeks, well before the birth of our son who was due in mid-December. However, as he walked into cool, muted interior of the airport, something in me knew that it would be the last time that we would be physically together.
Call it female intuition, or fear of abandonment; in either case, my worst fears were realized that day. That day my life came crashing down, just as a few weeks earlier, I watched with horror as the World Trade Center buildings imploded and collapsed on television following the plane attacks.
Right before he left, Peter told me that he was in the process of purchasing another property on the beach and that he had spoken to Pedro about the opportunity and he seemed interested. He had pitched the idea to Pedro because it was a great investment, and one Peter could not afford alone. When I asked why he wanted to open a hotel with Pedro, his response to me was, "we can pool our money and buy something much more substantial than we otherwise could separately. Then I will sell my smaller less profitable properties."
The plan was for each of them to invest $500,000 which would be held in escrow until the sale was finalized. When I asked him if he would be back to close this deal, he said that the only thing that remained was for him to sign the papers upon his return from Germany. I couldn't imagine him walking away from half a million dollars, so, I hoped my intuition was wrong.
I remembered clearly the day I met Pedro. He was Brazilian Italian, short, swarthy, and dangerous looking man. Compact and squat, every sinew of his body coiled tightly, and bespoke of carefully controlled violence. I don't know how Peter met him, however, he introduced me to him one afternoon when we were "touring" the beach checking on his properties.
Peter pulled into a private parking space in front of a quaint, charming bed and breakfast, nestled between the Atlantic and the Inter-coastal. Partially hidden by lush, tropical landscape, the two-story white and ocher trim building adorned with canvas awnings, and Spanish tile roof, was a perfectly delightful property. Pedro had recently completed the renovations, and as we walked into the courtyard, I noticed workers completing the inset of outdoor lights around the infinity pool and dock. He invited us up to his private quarters which he shared with his longtime companion and paramour. He offered us Scotch, but when he noticed that I was pregnant, promptly switched to wine. He responded to my declination with, "in my country a little bit of wine during pregnancy is a good thing. It is also bad manners for a guest to refuse their host."
We talked about a wide variety of topics, mostly centered around our international travels; while Peter tried to direct the conversation toward the establishment of a partnership for the purchase of the large aforementioned property. Pedro graciously avoided Peter's entreaties and segued into an offer to provide me with a tour of the property. He shared with us that he had purchased this property as an investment for his fiancée, Emelda, who had supported her mother for the past few years, and planned to relocate her to the States.
Subsequently, we began to spend a lot of time with Pedro and Emelda. I suppose Pedro was trying to get a feel for Peter, while he completed his due diligence, and Emelda liked having someone to nurture and mother. The only time that I became aware of the tension between Peter and Pedro, was shortly before our wedding when Peter asked Pedro to deposit his share of the money in the escrow account. I remember clearly how angry Peter was when Pedro refused, telling him that he should focus on his new life, new wife and new baby, and not worry about the business transaction until after our wedding. When Pedro admonished Peter, it was one of the few times that I saw a crack in his facade; but later that evening when I asked if anything was wrong, Peter feigned insouciance.
Pedro hosted our engagement party at his property, and we lived a beautiful life, entertaining, eating out, traveling, and planning our wedding. We had a lavish $50,000 wedding at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. My uncle, Adeola Molajo, gave me away, but Pedro walked me down the aisle, since my father lives in Zimbabwe, and would not have condoned my marriage to a white European.
Thus, it was against this backdrop that the magnitude of my husband's betrayal of me, Pedro, and from what I could glean from the detectives who subsequently interviewed me, countless others whom he had defrauded. It was only after his departure that I learned he had embezzled Pedro's $500,000 earnest money. For me, it was the shame of having to face so many people and business associates in our community, while simultaneously dealing with the grief of loss, the confusion of betrayal and abandonment, all while I prepared for the birth of our child.
Pedro's shame, and thus his desire for revenge ran deeper. Peter had not only stolen half a million dollars from him, he had embarrassed him and conned him. Pedro was probably just as angry at himself as I was with myself for ignoring the warning signals that presented themselves prior to this tragic outcome. Additionally, the money that he had put in escrow was not his, but the life saving's of his fiancée's mother. I, on the other hand, was left to face alone the people who had been such an integral part of our lives together, and who had participate in our marriage celebration, and who were understandably suspicious of me. They believed that I was somehow complicit in Peter's disappearance and malfeasance and they were not interested in any defense I offered on my behalf.
It wasn't until five days after Peter's disappearance that I learned what he had done to Pedro and Emelda. Pedro came to our condo and started to bang on the door. There I stood, eight months pregnant with a short, dark, weathered, sun dyed skin, Brazilian Italian man, whose vibrant green eyes looked deeply into mine as he promised me in the calmest, quietest, bone chilling tone, "you two don't know who you are messing with. You think Peter and his little German Mafia are a match for my connections in Italy and Brazil?" he seethed.
"You better pray that I never find your husband, but in any case it is too late for him. There are some people you don't steal money from, EVER! I don't care where he runs in the world, our arms are broad and my memory is long. When I find him, I am going to kill him. If I find out that you knew anything about this, I am going to come back here and kill you and your bastard child!"
Truly, if it hadn't happened to me, I really would have thought I was watching a Lifetime Network movie. But, tragically, it was not a movie, but the culmination of a lifetime of choices that led inexorably to that moment.
That was just the first shock. Next, came the Fort Lauderdale Police Detectives who knocked at the door first with a card, then with a warrant. They were looking for my husband but wouldn't tell me what he was wanted for. They wanted to interview me, but I was so distraught, I couldn't face them because at that time I still harbored hope that Peter would return and explain everything. So, I avoided scheduling the requested interview with the detectives, and eventually I stopped answering my door and phone.
After several days of isolation, utter desolation and heart-break, I finally placed a call to my former business partners to see if they had heard from my husband. They informed that they had not, but they offered to "hide" my 2000 Blue 911 Porsche Carrera and our SL600 Mercedes of the same year and color at their Intercoastal home. Unknown to me at the time, the cars had been illegally imported to the States with contraband hidden in their interiors, and subsequently sold without the proper emissions retrofit. So, when the federal agents came to interview me, I was lucky that these vehicles were no longer in my possession; though at the time, it was yet another crushing blow in string of losses and betrayals that were quickly compiling.
I even had to vacate my home, a condo with its expanse tiled in the finest Italian marble, that towered sixteen floors above the placid, clear, aquamarine of the Atlantic shoreline. The owner served me with eviction papers just two weeks after Peter left, because he had only rented the premises, though he told me he had purchased property, and the rent was at that time several months in arrears. This experience is one that I will expound upon in greater detail in my memoir, however, for the purposes of this post, it was the seminal moment when I fell from the horse and picked up my constant companion fear.
The necessities of life and caring for my son did not allow me more than a brief period of moving through the five stages of grief. Two weeks after my son was born, I moved from Florida back to Washington, DC, upon the advice of the Fort Lauderdale police detective who interviewed me for several hours; and though it became apparent that I was completely ignorant of the criminal activities of my husband and my business partners, many women have ended up in the penal system for less.
Thus, a few months later, I went back into the work force and got a job as a secretary to support my son and myself. I rebuilt my career and my life, but I was operating in a somnambulist, perfunctory state. A modus operandi honed during my turbulent and sometimes violent childhood. I continued to operate in this fugue state, though I regularly saw my therapist, and made great strides in self-discovery and in uncovering unconscious paradigms and drivers that had ruled my life up until that point; yet I still hadn't embraced the idea of climbing back into the saddle.
That was until my recent surgery which brought me to a place of introspection and reflection. Though my third major surgery, the prior two times I was not a mother so my considerations were less circumspect. Thank G-d I made it through and Bizrat Hashem was able to return to my writing and to the loyal audience who has supported this blog. With my second Myomectomy during which seven large tumors were removed, I realized that I was not only jettisoning parts of my body that impinged upon my total well-being, I simultaneously vanquished my propensity toward a long suicide.
There can be no summation, for the end is not upon us. If you are yet reading and I am yet writing, we are together still creating; and life is still the great adventure to be explored together in unison. I thank all of my readers for continuing to support this blog.