“Mommy, can I hug you?”
“Of course, sweetie. You know I love your hugs!”
“Can I go play with them?” he whispered in my ear, holding me tight.
“I think they’d like that,” I said, looking at the kids playing on a rug a few feet away.
My son pulled away. I wasn’t ready to let him go, but he was ready to go. He was ready, so I released him.
Three years earlier, I dropped him off at day care for the very first time. I held him on my lap in the backseat of my car, gazing at his tiny, perfect face and wondering how I could possibly hand him over to someone else. How I could abandon him for ten hours at a time, having never before been away from him for more than two or three anxiety-riddled hours. Read more…
Christine (The Dash Between) is a daily inspiration to me over at her Facebook page, but our paths first crossed in the blogosphere. Our conversations now flow between Facebook, our blogs and email, covering everything under the sun, but it was our first conversation about family that really helped me see Christine’s brilliance.
Her words expressed heartache, but even more deeply, a fierce, loving determination not to let her future be defined by the past or “The Family.” Every day I know her, I’m more inspired by her, and I’m delighted that you’ll soon see for yourself exactly why that is.
Recommended post: A letter to my Daughter: I know what it’s like
Thanks for the Pain
When Deb asked me if I would write a FTIAT entry, I was honored and thrilled! I have so much to be thankful for, I figured it would be a piece of cake to write. Was I ever wrong about that. The doubts started coming, and hard. I wasn’t good enough to be included with the many amazing writers The Monster In Your Closet has featured. I don’t write well enough. What I had to say was boring by comparison to other stories. Then I realized that I don’t have to be a fantastic writer. That comparing myself to others was ridiculous, given that we all have our own history. So, I have sucked in a deep breath and started to write.
A little over two and a half years ago, my life started to drastically change. I had been told by my then-husband that a relationship with me was too much work, and too hard for him to try. I realized that I had been a “mother” type figure in a one-sided relationship for far too long. I was home-schooling, and the kids and I were in a small town and stuck in the house 24/7. I was severely depressed, and often thought of driving into the nearest highway overpass support. Or downing an entire bottle (or two) of alcohol.
My parents had come for a visit, and I remember pouring out my heart to my mother about my marriage. I confided many humiliating things, and let her know that there was a very good chance my marriage would be ending soon. As she was getting ready to leave for home, I asked her if she was mad at me and if she still loved me. I’ll never forget the feel of her cool hands stroking the sides of my face, while she told me that she was not mad, and that of course she loved me. I felt such relief. And I felt that my foundation was rock solid.
When my husband and I finally separated, there was an uproar within The Family. These things do NOT happen in this family. The pressure was incredibly intense. I also told The Family I was no longer going to go to their type of church. The Family and Church are so tightly interwoven, that this decision was completely unacceptable to them. And the pressure increased exponentially. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I remembered trying to reach out, to have someone HEAR me… But no one seemed capable of that.
My mother seemed to have forgotten our discussion. My sister was constantly on me to do “the right thing.” Every discussion was such a struggle. I discovered my sister had been having private discussions with my husband on how to get me to stop “this behavior.” I was asked if I had started taking medication. I was told that I wasn’t explaining myself well enough for The Family to approve of my actions.
I decided to spend a weekend away, planning on locking myself in a hotel room with several bottles of booze and never to leaving the room again. I’ve never had such an internal fight as I did that weekend. I felt the simplest solution for everyone would be for me to no longer exist. This struggle to live my life, just wasn’t worth it anymore. If I couldn’t live it their way, I shouldn’t live it at all. As I wandered that weekend, lost, feeling hopeless, yet trying to search my soul for another solution, I happened to walk into a gift store and see a plaque that changed my world.
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…”
When I saw that, I felt all the despair lift away. I realized this was MY life. My family wouldn’t approve of my decisions, and that was okay. I was 34 years old, I didn’t need permission from them to do what I knew was right for me. I left that store filled with hope, and determination.
During that same weekend, my husband had gone to my mother and reiterated all of the things that had happened in our marriage. The things I had told her when she had come to visit. I received an email from her shortly thereafter in an attempt for us to start honest communication. The one thing that I remember most from that email was her telling me that she just hadn’t believed me when she and I had our discussion, but she realized what I said was true when my husband confirmed it. While that hurt me more deeply than I can say, I decided to overlook it since I wanted to focus on the fact that we were having communication during this very difficult time.
I moved to another state and started life over. I started to fall in love with someone who had been a very good friend to me. However, the tension in my family was high. I knew they weren’t happy with my decision to move. Strike that. They weren’t happy with the way I was living my life, period. That was made clear when I visited them for a weekend nearly a month after my move. I remember my Mom hardly looking at me. Whenever people would ask about the area I lived, or job interviews, she just scowled. The day I was to return home was on a Sunday. The depth of her anger at me became apparent to me that morning. Mom was harrumphing her way around the house, hardly looking at me, hardly saying a word before leaving for church. When it was time for her to go, I got up from the couch to say my goodbyes. She walked right past me. I grabbed her, gave her a hug, and told her I loved her. I got a quick hug as she mumbled “I love you” back. That was the last time I saw my mother before our estrangement began.
Two days later I told my parents that I was starting a new relationship. That phone call reminds me of the saying, “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” My entire body was shaking. During this call my mother told me that she would not approve of my relationship. For the first time in my life I stood up for myself, and told her that I was not asking for her approval. I was simply informing her of what was happening in my life. She went to hang up, and I remembered rushing to tell her that I loved her before she ended the call. I got a terse “love you” in return, and those were our last spoken words.
I have been estranged from my family for two years and three months. My mother did not like my decisions, and encouraged my ex to take custody of the kids, since I had been “taken over by satan.” Finding her emails to him, and being served papers by him to take the kids away were so stunning that I literally couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move, I hurt all over… inside and out. The pain was unlike any I had ever felt before, and that’s when I realized that my foundation I had been so assured of months before had vanished. I felt utterly alone, completely rejected, and betrayed by the one person I should have been able to trust.
I wrote a blog not long ago to my daughter about some of my darkest times. This was
one of those times I referred to. I got myself up, and put one foot in front of the other. I didn’t know what would happen, but I knew that I just had to breathe to get to the next minute, the next hour, the next day, the next week. And I did. I truly started life over that day, and I survived.
I started blogging to focus on living life. I blogged to remind myself to appreciate
everything, and everyone, in my life. I needed to focus on being grateful and thankful. But, I refused to write about this stuff. I didn’t want to go back through it, and remember the hurts, or feel the pain again. However, once Deb asked me to write about being thankful, I think I knew deep down that I was going to have to delve into this painful time in my life. I needed to remember that these are the things that have made me who I am today. And I like that person.
So, what am I thankful for? I am thankful for being hurt, rejected, and betrayed. I am
thankful for pain that cut me so deeply I thought I’d never recover. These things have
changed who I am. They have shown me that I am capable, I am strong, I am brave, and I can survive. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
last: My Blog Saved Our Family | The Strongest Woman I Know (3/30/12) : next