In my defense, I suffer from a dollop of anxiety mixed with a titch of OCD and a hair of self-diagnosed ADHD. Therefore, I really struggle with good ol' Elsa's adage, "Let it go."
The past 4 months had been going swimmingly! Eric, the girls and I were getting along impeccably, Pops was at the cabin until winter and I was back to traveling to far off places for my day job. Aside from the one minor hiccup with Biomom a week prior, life on the home front had been pretty spectacular!
I was headed to Tel Aviv for a work trip, and I would be gone for about 5 days. It was our week with the girls, but duty called and I had to go. I gave each of the girls a hug goodbye, told them I would miss them and that I hoped they have a great weekend with Daddy.
That was Thursday.
Friday, I set foot in the country of Israel for the very first time, and I was mesmerized. I grew up in a beach town, so being anywhere near the sea immediately gives me the feeling of coming home (even if I'm 7,000 miles away). Though it was Shabbat that evening, the city of Tel Aviv never really shut down. The music was lively, people were dancing in the street and playing beach volleyball until the wee hours of the morning. Everyone I met had a charming openness about them that permitted me to inquire about their culture and history without hesitation or fear. The sand- oh the sand- was pure powder. I had found paradise, and all of my mental idiosyncrasies drifted far-far away with the crystal clear waves of the Mediterranean.
The time change was an odd one. I was 7 hours ahead, and so coordinating phone calls and texts with Eric and the girls would prove to be quite challenging. However, by Saturday I had finally found the sweet spot of time blocks, and was able to touch base with the fam outside of sleeping hours. Around 5pm Eric, the girls and I were texting back and forth about our plans for the evening. I was about to head out on a sailboat, and they were about to head to Krista's soccer practice which would be followed by a sleepover at our house with Kylie's friend. They sent me some goofy pics, and I melted from a severe case of FOMO, even if I was onboard a pictureesque sunset cruise. In that moment, I would have traded all the beauty of a foreign land to be at home with Eric, Keeks and Kyz.
We docked back into Tel Aviv port around 7:30pm, and my colleagues and I decided to grab some grub at a fabulous Greek joint called Greco. When the food arrived, I sent Eric some pictures of my instagram-worthy gyro and grape leaves... and then a another of my walk home...and then a follow up text... but no matter how many times I checked my phone, I wasn't getting a response.
That's odd. Do I have service?
I sent a test shout out to a friend to see if my texts were going through. They were.
This is where my irrational quirks took the first ferry back to my body from wherever they had disappeared to. When I describe my anxiety as something that literally can eat at me until I am a total freak show, I am not exaggerating. I had a gut feeling something was amiss that I couldn't shake, and not for lack of trying- I was in a beautiful exotic land, after all.
I stirred with that ugly sinking feeling for a bit, but eventually my worrisome brain gave me no choice but to pull a 'Detective Ashley 101'... aka I checked the girls location on 'Find my Friends.' Low and behold, they were not at home, but instead they were at Biomom's house. I immediately checked my shared calendar with Eric and reread the texts we had exchanged earlier.
No, they are supposed to be with us this weekend. Somethings up.
I texted Eric again. No response.
Okay, let it go, Ash. Let it go.
My pep talk to myself worked for a few hours, but by 2am, still no word from Eric or the girls, and I was getting panicky.
I should preface my worry by explaining that about a year and a half ago there was a medical scare with Eric where he almost died. Ever since then, I am a hover girlfriend. I can't help it. I am so afraid of losing him unexpectadly, that sometimes I get a little paranoid. It also doesn't help when I am helplessly halfway around the globe.
I decided to throw out a text to Kylie. I knew that she wasn't at our house based on her phone's location, but I figured maybe she could give me a little insight as to what the heck was going on.
"Hey Kylie. What time is your friend coming over for the sleepover? What are you guys going to do? Are you super excited or what?!"
Her response, "We aren't having the sleepover anymore."
"Oh no. What happened?'
"It didn't work out."
Hmm. That girl can be so vague sometimes. Best not to pester her. Let it go for now. Go to sleep. Eric probably fell asleep on the couch watching Dateline or something anyway. Go to sleep, Ashley. Let it go.
By 4am I was still wide awake, and frankly, I COULD NOT LET IT GO.
This is when 'Psycho Ashley' makes her appearance... She leads with her really nonchalant 100 phone calls in a row, intertwined with the same three to five word texts sent over and over and over again, and even throwing in a delightfully angry/worried/nutty voicemail every so often.
Didn't someone wise once say "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different result?" Well, 'Psycho Ashley' never got that memo.
I don't know what time it was when I finally did fall asleep, but it was short-lived. I awoke around 7:30am just in time for the Sunday breakfast buffet. The buffet in Tel Aviv is literally what my food coma dreams are made of. I live for breakfast salad, and this is the one place I have found that actually offers it alongside the generic meat and eggs, with vegetables in every color of the rainbow.
I couldn't eat.
Something was wrong. I just knew it. I could feel it.
It wasn't until after noon when I finally received a message from Eric. He wasn't cold, but he also wasn't as jovial as he was the day prior. He simply told me that he had fallen asleep and that he was alive.
9pm Sunday, and that was the last I had heard from Eric. The girls were still showing at their mom's house, so I knew that he was withholding something, but I had no clue what it could possibly be. By this point, a whole day had passed. I decided to just cut to the chase, "What is going on? Why are the girls at Biomom's house?"
Of course that opened up the can of worms that I had been secretly stalking Krista and Kylie's location on 'Find my Friends', but, at this point, I didn't really care. I just wanted to know what the fuck was going on.
"I'll talk to you when you get home. I don't want to talk about it right now."
For most people that boundary would have been abided by, but, as I mentioned earlier, I have a really difficult time letting things go. I also have terrible 'waiting-game patience.' Naturally, I pestered Eric until he finally told me the Reader's Digest version of what had happened, though he wasn't too pleased with me for nagging it out of him.
"The girls are at their moms house. We went to Krista's soccer practice. Afterward, Biomom pulled the girls aside and talked to them for a bit. Then they asked me to come over for a discussion. Biomom suggested the girls spend less time at the house when you are there because the girls don't feel comfortable around you. After Biomom spoke I asked the girls if that was true. They both looked at Biomom and then said, 'ya.' So they went home with Biomom. I just don't want to talk about it right now. I would rather talk in person. Just let it go for now, please."
"But wait, that doesn't even make sense. I am not even there. I haven't been home hardly at all the past few months. How could this conversation all of a sudden come up when I haven't even been there? We all just spent a weekend at the cabin and got along wonderfully. This doesn't make sense, Eric."
"Ashley. I will talk to you when I get home. I don't want to discuss this over the phone right now. Just let it go."
I could sense by the stern yet feeble tone of his voice that he was mentally spent and emotionally exhausted. I don't usually hear him like that.
It broke my heart.
So, for the next 24 hours I would give my best attempt at letting it go.
To be continued...
~names have been changed to protect the innocent~