“Sometimes you have to break down someone’s walls and take off their mask to see who they truly are.”
By Cortland Pfeffer
I’ve created a website and blog which all stems from the notion of removing our psychological masks. It is time to lead by example and remove my mask.
This information has never been shared before publicly or privately; hence, I have been wearing a mask for protection. I preach about inner peace, tranquility, and serenity is the direct result of “taking the mask off,” so that is what I am going to do.
I left my ex-wife. We have 2 little children. I have left her twice.
There you go, I said it. That is all the information you need to make a decision about my character and place me in the category of “good” or “bad.” It really is that black and white. I am the bad guy and she is the victim. This is how our society works; we create a villain, and then demonize him/her, which allows for justifying complete blame.
This starts from the time we are children: Batman is the “good guy” and the Joker is the “bad guy.” We categorize everything and everyone into two black-and-white categories of “good” vs. “bad.” While this is entertaining in movies, television shows, and stories, it is highly detrimental when we place all of life into absolute categories.
In elementary school when they try to teach us about American history and we seem to skip over essential parts of modern history such as the Korean War and Vietnam War. When asked about it, we like to describe it as the communists are “bad” and we are “good.” We had to invade others homeland to stop evil from spreading in the Pacific. If you tell any story from the perspective of the villain, you will almost certainly understand the reason behind the actions.
So, let me go along with this mask that society has placed on me as the villain in this scenario. This alleviates blame off of everyone else which makes the mask so appealing for everyone else.
As I remove this mask, let me start by apologizing to everyone that I have let down by my horrendous actions:
First off, I need to apologize to my ex-wife for the pain that I have caused. On the days that I left, she was so devastated that it put her body into shock. The mental anguish created physical debilitation to the point she was hospitalized and had intent to end her own life. She did not deserve that kind of pain, nobody does. She grew up always doing the right thing, went to school, got good grades, on the honor roll, graduated from college, and then helped me raise my daughter. We started our own family and everything in her life was going as planned, as it should when you always do the right thing. She had always been in control of her emotions, but hearing these words literally took the life out of her as she could not breathe, talk, or walk because the emotional pain was overwhelming. This turned her mad, angry, and untrusting of the world. I am responsible for this and I am sorry. I will never forgive myself and I am sorry for the tremendous pain that I have caused.
Then to my children, who now live separate lives. Their entire world is now shook up as they will have had to adjust to living in different homes, with different rules, and making difficult decisions. Children do not deserve this type of cruelty. They will have to hear about how their father destroyed the once-happy family from their mother and vice versa from their father, creating dissention and confusion. I did this and I am responsible for this pain. To even think about how lives have been changed hurts me so deep that it brings about physical pain in which I can never fully recover.
To her family that took me in, accepted me, befriended me, and tried their best to include me – I am sorry for letting you down. They saw me as different and I did not fit into their culture, yet they accepted me as one of their own as a part of the family. Then, I broke their daughter’s heart and left her devastated. They needed to stop their lives to pick her back up, get her on her feet, and begin her new life. As I watched this play out like a scene from a movie that is too difficult to watch that you need to look away, but I couldn’t look away. Because I created it and I had to watch it play out with remorse, shame, and regret.
Then there is my family. After years of failures, letting them down, and hurting them, I finally had stability in my life. I had struggled my entire life to rebuild this trust with my own family, only for them to watch it all implode once again. They had to watch this horror scene unfold and couldn’t believe that they had been so foolish to trust me with their hearts, knowing that this is how it would always end. They were forced to pick sides between me and my ex-wife, and they were able to empathize with her as they have been on the receiving end from my hurtful actions in the past.
I am also sorry that it took me so long to speak and I am sorry that I have been wearing this mask for so long. Life really is more beautiful when we take off our mask, we get to see the world as it is. When we expose our flaws, our shortcomings, and our weaknesses, only then can we grow and evolve.
Now that you have seen behind my mask, let me see behind yours.
To my ex-wife, I am sorry that the pressure of being “normal” became too intense for you to bear and you rushed into a marriage with someone you truly did not share a spiritual connection. Because of this, there was resentment because the man you married does not fit the mold of “manly.” I am sorry that I am not into hunting, fishing, fixing cars, yard work, and repairing things around the home. I apologize that because of this, resentment grew to the point that communication was cut off with your husband for not being someone he never was. You did exactly as you were told and were sold the concept of the “American Dream” and would do anything to achieve it. I am sorry that your desire for “normalcy” grasped you like a drug-addiction to the point you sacrificed lifelong morals and values in an effort to inflate your image. You moved in too soon with a man you barely knew with his teenage daughter without developing any type of true relationship for society’s acceptance, and I am sorry the world pushed this on you.
I also feel the need to apologize that society lied to you about how life was supposed to be and that you believed in this illusion of the American Dream. Sometimes you do everything you are supposed to do and things still go astray. We all have a script of how we feel life is supposed to go and sometimes those scripts do not match up. I am sorry that this was your first encounter with this reality and I’m sorry that I didn’t fit your knight in shiny armor.
Later, you were told you were not able have your own children which altered your life plan to the point of having a mental break down along with verbally attacking the person closest to you – your husband. I am sorry you felt these verbal assaults on others were your way of coping with life’s adversity that we all face. And I am sorry that once your world started to fall apart, that you chose me as the scapegoat for all life’s problems. And I am sorry I accepted this role.
I am also sorry that you believed if you changed enough externally, it would fix things internally. Big house, fancy cars, and material possessions will always fade away and will only create temporary happiness; whereas, true joy can only come from within. You were led to believe that having a baby or two was the missing link to your lack of joy. I’m sorry that after paying for in vitro and having two children still did not change anything. And I am sorry I could no longer wear my mask at your family functions and pretend everything was OK.
I am sorry that our kids saw us fighting, screaming. I am sorry that the kids started going into the corner and screaming and fighting as well. I am sorry the kids looked scared all the time.
So yes, I am sorry that I left you. I am the villain.
I am sorry my actions shook up everything in your world, your fairy tale world in which the beauty trains the beast to be civilized and they live happily ever after. I’m sorry for destroying your mask and deciding I was no longer going to participate in this phony play you were showcasing to the world.
I let you see behind my mask and I wanted to see behind yours. I was the Phantom and you were Christine. I showed you the deformities behind my mask and my need to be loved, my need to be real, and my need to be myself. I need my kids to see real love and genuineness, rather than build them a mask of their own.
But, this is not just the Phantom of the Opera; this is the Phantom of Society – it seems real, but it really doesn’t exist.
To my children, you will not have a life like that of your friends. You will get to see a mother and father that are happy; you will get to see love. You will not have to see me repressed, unloved, or unhappy. You will not have to see a marriage which is silent, bitterness, or anger. You will not see a fake life and then try to imitate it when you are adults. You will never hear a bad word about your mother from me and you will never see us fight ever again.
As my role as the villain, living with a mask under the stage, I would like to apologize for my actions. I knew something was wrong and I could not do it anymore, I need to be loved. But I am the villain, and I am sorry for playing this role.
And to my ex-wife’s family, I am incredibly sorry that you taught her that her self-worth is based on being married and having children. That your traditional beliefs were so engrained in her head that she never got to express herself and develop a true identity. She has the intelligence and work-ethic to be many things, but she only found her worth in being a housewife. She wanted to be a doctor and had the ability, but was pressured into social work. I am very sorry that she had to see this fake life while growing up and then mimicked all she knew to be true. She was domesticated to the values of getting together and hugging one another, then leaving events and not speaking for one year. You created a robot to take center stage and I apologize for spoiling it to her that it is just an act and everything you taught her was a lie.
Now, everyone in your small community knows. You have a divorced child, and in your inverted values, feel that you have failed as parents. I am sorry for the anger you have towards me and that you had to see you daughter suffering. And I am sorry for exposing her to the truth and destroying your play.
She is now going to nursing school and following her dreams – not the ones you built for her. But, I the villain, am sorry for allowing her to be herself.
And to my family, I am sorry that the dysfunction led to us developing unhealthy roles and that I was chosen as the scapegoat. This allowed for you to focus on someone, rather than looking in the mirror, which prevented you from ever experiencing growth for yourselves. It gave you relief when I made mistakes, as it allows for these roles to fulfill. I am sorry that by acting out in dysfunction that it eased your stress and enabled you to point fingers and blame. I am also sorry that because of all the finger-pointing, it forced me to seek help and treatment and better myself while you continue to stay stuck without ever being able to look in the mirror after all these years. I am sorry that because of taking the role of scapegoat, it has prevented you from addressing your own issues.
While you are living the “American Dream,” you are depressed on the inside. As Kanye West once said in his lyrics, “We’re told we’re living the American Dream; but the people highest up have the lowest self-esteems; the prettiest people do the ugliest things.”
I apologize that I am no longer living that dream, but that is what happens when you wake up. You stop dreaming. In which, I am happy to understand it was all an illusion. But, I am sorry for being the villain in your play.
I am sorry that we live in a society that as soon as we are born, we are told about the
“American Dream.” That we grow up, go to school, learn what the teachers ask us to remember, get a job, pay bills, get married, and have children. I am sorry that those that tell us this are making money off of the tuition, weddings, mortgages, vacations, and even the toys for the kids. The American Dream is a marketing scheme and it always has been.
I am sorry that we are taught we can only love one person, even when it goes against everything that is in our hearts. Then we are told if we break that vow, we are set to spend eternity in a fire pit. We get pressured into getting married at a young age and having children, then told we are evil if we realize that the marriage was not meant to be. So, in my first thirty years, I am supposed to find my soul mate that just happens to live in the same geographic area that I was born?
I am sorry that people still think in black and white, that if someone leaves, that they are a bad person. I am sorry people cannot look beyond that, and see the whole picture. It is acting out of dysfunction. Life is not about who is right and wrong. It is about love. When love is missing, things go terribly wrong.
I am sorry that love is not ever really missing, but people are afraid to show it, from shame, pain, and hurt. It all forces us to put masks on and when that happens, love gets withheld. I am sorry that people do not see that love is all that matters, it is all we have. We are here for only a short time, and most of us are living a fake life.
I am sorry people think there is only one way to raise happy, healthy kids, and that is by living this lie.
The current divorce rate is 50-percent, and those still married, but unhappy, is about 35-percent. If you have that deep emotional connection, marriage can work and can be good. But we are all so busy just trying to be “normal” that we end up depressed. Then we wonder what happened.
I am sorry that I ever believed in the “American Dream.” I am sorry for you if you still do not realize that it is a lie. I am sorry to everyone that cannot see the truth.
I am the villain, the bad guy, and I am