A few years ago I seemingly sat powerless and watched as life as I knew it simply dismantled itself. It felt as though everything I cared for and loved was stripped away; those things that I cherished best most in the world, the things that helped provide a firm foundation on which I could stand, those things I could count on and had counted on for over a decade just vaporized before my very eyes.
It was all so surreal. I felt as though I was free falling through space with no home base in which to tether myself to. I was bereft, nearly inconsolable, desolate and angry-so angry. I had become a tearful, frightened mess of a woman unable to find firm ground on which to stand. My mind screamed with a million questions: Why was this happening? Why now? How could this happen? What had I done to deserve this? How would I live now? What would happen to me now without someone to love and someone to love me? What the hell would I do now? What was the universe trying to teach me?
And all I could do is cry and scream. The anger. The rage, the indignation, the powerlessness threatened to swallow me up and leave me a brittle, dried up husk. And the crying? That seemed like the final insult. I, who took most things in stride and when life was falling apart around me, taking the bull by the horns and moved briskly forward toward a solution, could do nothing but cry and rage. The sobs and the tears would come upon me with torrential suddness. I felt stuck, my feet sunk firmly in muck, unable to move let alone think clearly. I wanted to shut down, lie down and shrink away until I just disappeared- a fading apparition, an empty blip left in the world. I’ve learned though that to succumb to that kind of pain, to wrap it around oneself like a shawl and make it a friend is a dangerous business.
In those first days, when I was consumed by the deepest, saddest, most bone chilling emptiness I think I’ve ever felt in my life, I decided I had to end this chapter of my life differently than I had ended the other significant chapters in my life. I had no idea how I was going to do it but I was going to do it.
I’ve always been the strong one, the one who people come to, the one on whom you can lean. I’ve prided myself for years on my emotional strength and perseverance but this, this made me feel weak and needy, broken and incapable and most of all confused and unclear. I had lived so long with a man who didn’t love me as I needed to be loved, as I wanted to be loved, I had misplaced my voice and quashed those things which made my spirit feel alive without being aware of it.
And I allowed it.
As much as I wanted to close up and shut everyone out, become untouchable by walling off my heart to everyone, I knew I could not sit with this toxic anger and profound sadness- live with this engulfing pain alone and survive whole. Living as I had with my ex, I had become accustomed to bootstrapping my distress and my unhappiness. So I did something I rarely ever did.
I swallowed my pride and reached out to those closest to me and asked for help but, perhaps more importantly, I let them help. I allowed them to see me vulnerable and trusted them with my ransacked heart and spirit. I blubbered out all of the overwhelming sadness, grief, fear and most of all anger. I trusted their clarity and insight because I had none. I allowed it to guide me. I placed myself in their hands and trusted they would not drop me or lead me astray. Most them did not let me down.
I was so angry. Angry that a man who claimed to love me and said he was in it for the long haul could end our relationship with no discussion a week after our 15th anniversary. The man who smirked as I sobbed and pleaded for explanation, as he smashed what I thought we had built together as easily as he could a dry clod of dirt in his hand. And then adding insult to injury, he expected we would be friends- sort of roommates. Once I was done being upset, I would see things his way and be his friend again. We did after all, have a 15 year history, he said. It wasn’t entirely his fault he thought that way. I had often caved and redrew the boundary lines in our relationship to reduce friction and discomfort during the course of our relationship.
I told him there would be no friendship. There would be no anything, ever again. He attempted to wait me out patiently, expecting I’d come to my senses and realize I could not live without him. But I didn’t. When it became clear to him I would continue to hold his feet to the fire and hold him accountable for his choices it was then that he decided it was I that had betrayed him and he became the victim.
But this post is less about him and more about me.
There came a time, and I can’t say precisely when it happened, when in order for me to continue moving forward, I needed to forgive.
People often have a misguided, myopic view of forgiveness. We think we need forgive them to heal and in some ways we do, I guess, but we often leave ourselves off that list. We forgive for ourselves first, and for me, the first and most important person I needed to forgive was myself. I needed to forgive myself for not being as honest with myself as I am with others. I had to cut myself some slack for not seeing the red flags and caution signs that showed me I was settling for less than I deserved- that somehow along the way, I had settled for a one-sided relationship and was willing to forfeit the rest my of life for it.
Forgiveness is a funny thing. As with most things in life, it begins with you. There is less room for toxic rage and sorry-for-myself tears when you begin to forgive. I am gifted with the insight, clarity and serenity that seemed to have left me. As I move forward, making my life what I want it to be and I work at forgiving myself, acceptance comes more naturally and gratitude is easier.
Once I began forgiving myself for the transgressions I committed against myself, extending the same grace to my ex became easier. It no longer matters so much what he did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say- what he took from me. He only took what I allowed him to have.
And I allow him nothing now.