I know an amazing man who I look up to. I am not alone in this, as there are literally many in the world who value this man’s opinions and perspective. I could get into an entire post about him, and why, but I won’t. I think, periodically, about the different advice I’ve heard him speak over the years. Most recently I’ve been recalling a talk he once gave about New Years Eve and personal reflection.
Reflection… It’s hard to not reflect on what my life looked like a year ago, in contrast to today. I would imagine the idea behind this reflection exercise is one of encouragement, and probably at any other point in my life, had I done this, I would be feeling some. Today though, right now, I can not.
This time last year I was renovating a house I loved, with my husband (whom I also loved). Our youngest was getting ready to begin her Junior year of high school and our older daughter was a newlywed. Believe me when I say that I have no disillusions of a perfect or filtered life, I know it wasn’t perfect but I also know that I was present and grateful. I loved Saturday brunches, day dates, inside jokes, bantering, having someone who held me at the end of the day, etc. I knew there was a weakening of my husband’s presence in our marriage but, at that time, I still believed his promise of valuing me and loving me before anyone else. Having been abandoned by every significant relationship in my life, he had earned my trust and faith that he would never dispose of me. Though, deep inside, I still felt disposable and ugly, I believed him when he said I was not and that he could never be without me and that he found me beautiful.
I had a mother. Was she perfect? No. The majority of time, in fact, she was incredibly verbally abusive and cruel. I still, however, had a mother. I could still pick up the phone and call my mother to placate the defeaning truth that I was without a family.
I had an exciting vision of what I wanted, as both a writer and in my career. I had direction and drive, though to be honest, I was feeling a little numb due to house repairs, the significant debt that was accruing due to our fixer upper’s unimagined needs, and the impending arrival of my mother to live in our house. I had a husband who, though he was not a reader, was supportive and believed in my writing. We also, together, had a little podcast with a pretty solid little following.
I was straddling the fine line, then, between the benefits of my mother living with us, and the negatives. The benefits? She could live out the rest of her days without the sadness and stress she’d been under; I could eradicate her worries; My daughters could have a more regular presence of extended family thus increasing the quality of their lives as well as my mom’s; we could maybe actually have some chance at having some resemblance of an in person relationship. I tried to see the glass as half full, I guess. The negatives were crowded, but the three largest were her verbal abuse and treatment of me, how she could possibly emotionally wound my daughter and her overwhelming pessimism. I mean, wasn’t it my responsibility to take her in, even if she had never identified with any sense of responsibility around being my mother?
Today? Today things look very different. Predominately, every day I am well aware of the reality that I am disposable to my husband. I am not his choice, nor am I someone he could see himself fighting for. I have no confidence in my dream/passion for being a writer. My youngest was deeply wounded by my mother, and then by us as our marriage failed, and by me as I failed her as a mother. Her life changed exponentially and I am faced, every day, with the effects and consequences of that which have shaped her immeasurably… I have no relationship with my mother, despite the proximity in which we live. (It is the least amount of miles separating us, since I was twelve.) It is a small apartment without any of my belongings in which I live, in a town where I have no friends. And while I still find myself filled with gratitude and awe, I also walk through every day with the weighted burden of the hurt and damage I am responsible for, all that I’ve lost and can not get back, and my own worthlessness in this place.
As a woman and I person I know that I have value and worth. This is the one positive. I did not know this last year, at this time. I could not feel this or identify with its reality. As a mother, daughter or wife, however, I do not. I had wrapped myself up in my wifehood and motherhood before. I existed in them and they were my world. Beyond that, I believed some in myself and the mediocre talent I had for writing. Now? Now I do not really exist within my motherhood or marriage, but I also do not exist outside of it. I have no faith in my writing and I also know, at 40, if it were up to me to support myself, I would starve to death in complete destitute-homelessness…
What has changed between last year’s today and this one? Everything. Everything has changed. I have changed. I once grasped a hope and lighthearted something in conversations about tomorrow or the future that I simply cannot fathom now. As with a child learning about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, I feel deceived about life, love and commitment. I have finally come to realize that I will never be THAT PERSON. Not to anyone. I have really wonderful friends who care about me and have been awesome sources of support, but what I have ached for is more than that. It is that feeling of belonging to someone who will not let you go. I have been let go so often that I’ve finally realized that being held on to is not in my life plan. This is said with so much less woe-is-me and more in the tune of ok then, I get it, so now what?
In so many ways I have lost everything. Not the majority of my friends, but certainly everything I thought I was. I have gained too. My sense of self-worth. My willingness to fight for myself, even if no one else found me worthy. This is a good thing, a beautiful and courageous thing. Unfortunately it doesn’t pay the rent or keep bread on the table. It also does not bridge the gap between my possessions and myself. (Sidenote: anyone have a few grand lying around that they don’t need? Ha…)
Most mornings I wake up, overwhelmed by the heavy awareness that I no longer know how to feel hopeful or navigate a day. I am battle weary and ache from head to toe. Still I move forward. I try. I listen, I am open to learn. That’s the best I’ve got. This time last year, I’m not sure I did those things…