Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, everything seems to speak to me of my passion, everything invites me to cherish it.
~ Anne De Lenclos
Last week’s post was a cathartic experience for me. For too long, I had an inner itch that I could not scratch. I welcome the relief! What is truly amazing, however, is the positive results-both outward and inward-that my reflection brought to me. Carol Burnett says: “Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.” I am hopeful, of course, that my words will help others who struggle with self- identity and loving themselves first.
In the short term, my life has taken on yet another layer of lightness. As we journey down life’s path, I believe it is important to peel back and let go of anything or anyone that has a negative affect on you. Say what you need to say, do what you need to do and keep on moving!
This week, two colleagues of mine shared some observations with me. One said, “I want you to take out some photos of yourself from years past up to the present so that you can see your transformation.” She went on to say: “You have changed on a molecular level.” WHOA!! I guess I hadn’t noticed! Still another said, “What is it that you are doing? You have a gleam and glow about you!” I attributed the latter compliment to my diet and exercise regimen and the fact that I am in a healthy relationship. I also love my job, my sons and all other aspects of my life-both big and small. But the former compliment comes from someplace else.
So I guess this is why writing last week’s post was so relevant. By writing about the person who is a link to my past, I have been able to come a little more forward about the trauma of the emotional and verbal abuse that was at the root of my marriage. I am not ready to actually share all of the details about it; although many of my friends and family have known those bits for a long time. It actually took until my marriage was over to fully admit what had happened. Still worse, the boys have shared what they remember about their father- what he said to me and about me and how he treated me.
I had a bit of an epiphany earlier this week. It came as a result of some issues between my youngest son and his girlfriend. Luckily, they both deeply care about one another-enough to work through some problems together and seek my advice as well. Unfortunately, some of the problems that both my sons have had with their father come into play in their relationships at times. They deal with it as best they can while at the same time fear becoming like him. A tough place to be for sure!
But the situation between my son and his girlfriend got me thinking about the repetitive pattern that abuse can sometimes take if it is not squelched from the beginning. And for me, this goes back to my experiences during my marriage. At its deepest level, abuse comes from a sense of abandonment. At some point in a potential abuser’s life, they have been left either physically and/ or emotionally bereft by a significant relationship. Over time, this can lead to a lack of trust in all relationships, but most especially when there is a significant other involved. Those who feel abandoned carry the pain of those past (and sometimes present) hurts with them. Often, it can also be a form of grief over a broken relationship. If not addressed, the pain can and will manifest itself in anger-almost always towards the one or ones you love but never at the person or people who hurt you in the first place. Worst still, the anger can lead to abuse-always towards the ones closest to you. If the abuse continues and professional help is not sought, the abuser becomes a permanently broken and damaged person.
And this is what almost happened to me. I was abused by my husband slowly and insidiously over the course of the marriage. Over time, I become an increasingly angry person who took out some of her pain on her children. I was an anxious and panic ridden woman who was nearly broken by my abuser. Thankfully, I got help before it was too late. As I began to stand up for myself and not project my hurt onto my sons any longer, I began to advocate more for my own needs (and those of the boys). But the abuse got worse. He became increasingly silent, secretive and neglectful. As the three of us drew closer together, he grew further away from us. He was absent a lot-especially on weekends. And when he was home, he was never “present” and was very often angry upon his return from his weekend excursions.
So he decided to leave. The next 14 months were horrendous but I was stronger than I thought I was. I continued to get help as did my sons. Their dad continued to devolve and make poor decisions. My youngest son moved in with him. He needed to be with his father-in his mind if he lived with him he would not be left again. Over time, he got to know his father on his own terms. My oldest, on the other hand, tells me he figured out his father when he was fourteen- two years before he left! And now my youngest is back with me after enduring the same abusive situation as I once did.
And here is where we’ve landed. My youngest is struggling with the pain of a broken and hurtful relationship with his dad. He doesn’t like how he feels and wants to be better. So, he is getting help-Hooray! His girlfriend is wonderful; she wants to go with him if he needs her. He knows that he is not a bad or even a broken person. He knows that he has a big heart and wants more than anything to become a whole man.
You may ask yourself, “What is this layer of lightness that she is speaking of?” Well, because of today’s blizzard, I was able to enjoy some very lovely extended time with my Starbucks friends. Per usual, the link to my past appeared ( she is my ex-husband’s current girlfriend) but I was not at all bothered. Shortly thereafter, I noticed that she was speaking to a man-nothing unusual- and this man was with a young girl. It looked like they had come in from the bagel shop next door. Their conversation continued until they departed, passing my group as they exited. Then it occurred to me-this man was my ex-husband! I had not recognized him at all!
I had just experienced a fantastic breakthrough. A feeling of complete emotional disconnect. Never in my life would I have ever thought that I would not recognize the father of my children-a person that I had been with for 22 years. It was wonderfully uplifting, joyful and empowering. It means that I have come to a peaceful place with the pain of my abusive marriage. ( I want the same for my youngest son and hope that someday he can forgive his father).
The person I was when I was with him no longer exists. She is just somebody that I used to know.
* With thanks to Gotye!