Finding my words so I could write this has been difficult. It will not be easy for some to read.
So far, this New Year has not been so kind to us. Despite the many blessings we have—my husband has a good job, we have a roof over our heads and food on the table, clothes and shoes—all those things people will include in their platitudes to those who are suffering, we have been in pain.
Okay, so, life is not perfect. You can bet your ass I know that. I’ve lived forty-eight years of knowing it all too well.
However, I have to put this out there: Would it kill people to be nice and kind to each other and stop being vindictive, mean and manipulative? Would it be so hard to live and let live?
Some people would say I’m an idealist. I look for an overly Utopian world where we care for other human beings and treat animals humanely. A world where love is the dominate emotion. I dream of a selfless society of people who are grateful and generous.
Instead, we rise up to a constant assault of hatred, jealousy, resentment, cruelty, greed, anger, selfishness, self-seeking and self-gratification.
For years, I lived in an environment where someone I knew had one goal—to fuck with my life in any way possible. He was controlling and manipulative. He used any means possible to continue his hateful punishment against me for not being willing to put up with his abusive behavior in our marriage when I divorced him. He deceived so many people with his masterful skills of distorting the truth about himself and about me. He used our child to hurt me, and in the end, hurt my relationship with my child. He remained a miserable person and wanted me to stay there with him.
No, I’m not perfect. I had a part in the destruction of the marriage and in my relationship with my kid. The shoe fits so I’ll lace that bitch up and wear it—no problem. I let him get to me. I let him drag me down into his toxic cesspool and nearly drowned in the negativity.
One day, I decided I had to change something or I would lose my sense of self all together and forget that there was ever any light in this world.
I was born a creative, loving, and giving person who wanted to share light, not darkness. So much happened to me along the way, the light was hard to see sometimes, much less share.
I did not want hate be my compass.
I could not change him. That was not in my power. No matter how I tried to “get along” for the sake of my child, he was going to continue his assault on my life and drive a wedge between me and my kid. I could not change the past. It was over and done with. I could not be who he expected me to be—subservient to his abuse and manipulation. I could not make him be who I wanted him to be—someone who put our child’s feelings and needs above his own and acted in a civilized way towards me even when he wasn’t getting his way.
Now, are you ready for this? The only thing I had the power to change was me.
So, I did. I may not have done it the way others expected me to, but I did what I could with what I had at the time, and I made a conscious effort to change some things about myself that were not helping me emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually.
It took a while, but I finally came to a place where I liked myself. It took a lot of hard work to get there. I had to do some “soul archaeology” and dig out all that stuff in me that was toxic and harmful—all the pain from my life, the betrayal, the abuse, the anger, the resentment, the guilt, the mistakes, the failure—and I had to replace the huge gaping hole with love. I had to learn to love myself. I had to stop letting others interfere with that. I had to take responsibility for my own happiness and self-fulfillment. I had to resist the urge to get sucked back into the only thing I had known to do for so long, regardless of how detrimental it was, and blaze a trail into uncharted territory—a place far, far away from anything I had ever known.
I began to write. First, it was mostly purging on paper, exorcising the demons inside me and cleaning house. My writing transformed into a cognitive and cathartic process wherein I was able to not only understand and learn from my life experiences, but I could share them with others. My life began to take on a different shape and meaning. I became more confident in myself and in my ability to tell stories, whether fiction or non-fiction, and to reach out to others with my words.
This was the point in time where I met my husband.
It was no mistake that I met him when I did. Back in Oklahoma, I had a friend who told me I had to stop being an “asshole magnet.” I laughed, but she was serious. She was also right. Up until about two years ago, I had mostly attracted men who were predatory, abusive, controlling or who felt superior to me in some way. I had attracted men who had no respect for me, because I had no respect for myself.
When I came home to the Chattanooga area, I had made a deliberate and conscious effort to make myself happy and unleash all of the creative side of me that had been squelched, smothered, stomped on, derided and ignored. I embraced the probability that I would be alone the rest of my life and it was okay. I became enough for me, instead of seeking to be enough for someone else.
This change of magnetic force, I am convinced, led me to John—or him to me—or however the cosmic forces managed it. I love him and trust him implicitly. I respect him. I see his heart, and it is beautiful.
However, life is not perfect and if we expect perfection we will always be disappointed. There have been challenges, of course. There has been heartache and loss. There has been disappointment. This is a part of life and we face it together.
Still, I have a problem with toxic people. One could probably go as far as to say I have absolutely no tolerance for toxic people or situations and my ability to deal with such individuals is next to zero. And no, I don’t have the ability to just be like a duck and let it roll off my back. I am highly sensitive, and that is okay and when nurtured and loved it is a terrific asset. However, it also leaves me vulnerable to those who would take advantage of it, too.
Unfortunately, there are toxic remnants of the past that I have had to maneuver around and within, both from John’s past and my own.
I have two kids who have cut off all communication with me. It was not the first time they had done this, but it remains painful just the same. Last September, on the eve of my birthday, they both blocked me on Facebook and on their cell phones because I wrote part of my story, My Truth, and they disapproved. They expected me to continue the charade that I was the sole blame for the destruction of our family and to continue to accept the role as scapegoat. When I spoke to the truth—that it was a shared effort on the part of their father and me—they turned their backs on me. They did not want to change their understanding of what happened, or their view of me.
I used to blame this on their dad, but now I hold them entirely responsible. They are adults now. How they choose to treat their mom is up to them, no matter what influences they have had otherwise.
Interestingly enough, change is hard regardless of how positive it is for the person who is executing the change. It is especially hard on people in our lives who expect us to act the same and be the same person, no matter how dehumanizing or destructive that role has been to our own lives, just for the sake of keeping the status quo—for keeping people in our lives from having to step out of their comfort zone.
I’ve heard it said that alcoholics, who took their families to the edge of ruin with their drinking, are usually met with great resistance by their spouse, ex-spouse, kids, family, and sometimes their friends, because when the alcoholic began recovery and changed—all of them had to change, too. As crazy as it sounds, the very same people who wanted the alcoholic to get help wanted things the way they used to be as well.
Sorry, but it is not possible to have it both ways.
When my husband and I met, we both had some things about our past and ourselves that we had wanted to change, that we had worked on before we met, and that we wanted to improve upon for the future.
And we have been met with resistance—from both sides.
Well, I’m not playing that game anymore. Family or not, no one is going to tell me how I should live and whom I shall love. No one is going to be allowed to sabotage our marriage. No one is going to bring toxicity into this house and in our relationship for the sole purpose of destroying us so they can have things back the way they want them.
There are boundaries we are not to cross with others, no matter what.
No one, not even my own children, has the right to tell me what to do, how to do it, what to say and what not to say. My husband and I have come to a mutual understanding of how we want to interact with the world, together and individually, in a way that honors and respects our marriage and one another.
And, for those who may need to be reminded, THAT is not going to change.
February 17, 2015