Independence can be a terrifying thing.
When, after twenty-four years together, your sweetheart of a husband announces that he feels absolutely nothing for you. When youíve devoted your entire adult life to being a good wife and the neighborhood Kool-Aid Mom and suddenly, the kids are grown and on their own and the love of your life has decided to take a sudden, one-way trip to mid-life crisis land. When you have basically done nothing in decades for your own benefit. When youíve been treated with indifference and ignored for years by the person that you considered your entire world. When all your efforts to turn things around resulted in nothing more than mental exhaustion, mild depression, and inner panic. When youíve somehow become an unattractive, overweight lump of insecurity curled up in tears, feeling like pure shit, wondering how you got there and what the hell to do now.
So, what do you do? Oh, there are countless options available. Hmmm, letís see now. First decision, live or not. Ok, that oneís easy enough for me. I may feel like dying but Iíll be damned if Iíll let the S.O.B. actually do me in! That decided, I review other options which include self-torture by blaming myself for all that I did or didnít do, self-medication with a wide variety of choices including food (my personal all-time favorite), alcohol or prescription drugs, or, I could simply sit back and play hostess to the biggest, longest lasting, pity party to ever be held in the history of human kind. Wow! A regular cornucopia of delightful choices!
As tempting as they all sound, I decide instead to label the entire affair a huge quantity of bullshit and just get good, old-fashioned pissed. Instead of living on a combination of antidepressants and Hershey bars, I think Iíd prefer to use determination, strength and defiance to attempt to heal myself. My problem, where do I find such weapons? I have no idea how to begin. What do I do with all this pain, anger and low self-esteem, which seem to combine to total the sum of what Iíve become? I know logically that I need to unload it but I have no clue what to do with it all. I decide to begin by very simply, writing it all down.
Five days after that wonderful man of mine runs for his sorry little, menopausal life, I drag my bathrobe wearing, swollen eyed, exhausted body and soul to the computer and start unloading. And once I started, I didnít even want to stop to pee. (However, when youíre well over forty, you stop anyway.) Every thought, every feeling that I put on paper, led to other thoughts and feelings. Some of them I didnít even realize were buried there. I wrote like a mad woman. Staying up till all hours every night. What the hell, no way I could sleep anyway. Our bed held far too many memories. Among those that stood out the most? Letís see, there was the way he loved to blast the volume of the bedroom TV watching Rambo for the hundred and fiftieth time as I attempted sleep. To be totally fair, he really had no choice. If the volume had not been on max, he would have never heard the gunfire over the noise he created while eating his 32ounce bag of potato chips. Ah yes, those haunting memories. How would I ever manage to go on?
The little writing project became my outlet, my focus, and most importantly, my mirror. As I wrote, I discovered parts of myself that had long been discarded and forgotten. The more I wrote, the better I felt and the parts of me that didnít feel better right away, gained enough strength and momentum to fake it enough to at least be functional while waiting for the real thing to kick in. I outlined all that I felt and summarized plans of action to battle the negatives that had been building for years. The process also forced me take a good look at myself and come to terms with the fact, that many of those negatives, I had no choice but take full responsibility for. I had allowed myself to become this way. I had lost my sense of self and for that I could blame no one but me. On the other hand, directing some of my pain and anger at the very deserving Mr. Wonderful did have its own therapeutic value. Iíd be lying if I said it didnít feel good to call him every selfish, self-serving bastard in the book. After all, he had worked very hard for a long time to earn his many descriptive titles. I certainly had no right to cause him any deprivation.
Amazingly, and very slowly, I began to recover. Did I have difficult days, agonizing nights, and periods of depression? Absolutely. Was I forced to go through the many stages of grieving regardless of my determination to avoid all that painful, mushy crap? Without a doubt. Did thoughts like ďhow could he do thisĒ and ďmy life is overĒ haunt me at times? Youíd better believe it. But guess what? Not only did I survive, in the end I found myself grateful for the entire experience. By the time the journey was over, I had managed to lose a substantial amount of weight, realize my own worth and appreciate it, find the confidence that I had lost long before, see my former husband as he had evolved instead of how I had wanted him to be, and eventually, even love again. For the first time in my entire life, it was very good to be me. I was happy. And until that really hit home, I hadnít realized exactly how unhappy I had been, nor for how long.
My writing project had been an invaluable tool to help me through it all. And once the healing began to be measurable, I considered that the writing itself might not be half bad. I decided to share it with a few women that I was very close to. The feedback was positive which gave me incentive to share with more people. My personal journal was becoming more than a healing tool. I continued writing through months of transitions concerning the separation, a health scare and the wonderfully pleasant and inevitable experience of learning of the other woman. And when the time came to think about the possibility of other men, I kept right on writing. I wrote about everything from my lack of flirting skills to the ďblind date from hellĒ. I covered my fear of eye contact with strangers right down to sex that had absolutely nothing at all to do with someone doing me a favor (yes my beloved, soon-to-be ex, hard to imagine yet somehow true). I spilled it all. From everything I honestly felt to everything I honestly faked. Apparently, most women could relate on some level to my experiences and I began to get a lot of encouragement to seek publication when the writing was complete.
While contemplating the possibility of publication, there were many things to consider. One that I couldnít ignore was how it might effect the man I had been married to for so long. I seriously reviewed the possibilities. Could it have a negative affect on him? Would it embarrass him? Would he feel angry, violated, hurt, exposed, vulnerable, used or inconsidered? None of that would be my intention. And God knows, I certainly canít relate to any of those emotions. But, if it should cause any of those feelings to surface, all I can say to Mr. ďI Feel Nothing For YouĒ is.... ďhey buddy, did you feel that? And if you did, Iím afraid youíre just going to have to get over it.Ē
Regardless of how, if at all, a published book might affect him, I hope someone will gently explain to him that this is not about him. I realize that this is something he will have a very difficult time understanding. How can anything in the universe not be all about him? Well, here you go. This is not about what he did or didnít do. This is about what I did and didnít do in spite of it all. This is about what kind of person I am. This is, well, all about me.
Actually, after careful consideration, Iíve decided to go for it. I have nothing to lose. The very worst that can happen is facing possible rejection. Hell, thatís no big deal. Iím the freaking ĎQueen of Rejectioní. Iíve mastered that skill and know full well that it passes easy enough if you donít cling to it. If the book gets to press, great. If it doesnít, who cares? It has still served me well and Iíll have no regrets caused by not making the attempt. The past ten months have taken me from feeling hopeless, ugly and worthless, to the total opposite. Never before have I possessed the calm, content, confidence that I feel blessed with now and Iíve gotta tell ya, Iím loving the ride. I hate to break it to the poor guy I once lived and breathed for, but I think Iím enjoying his mid-life crisis more than he is.
I have learned countless lessons throughout this transition. First and foremost, I am much stronger than I ever dreamed of giving myself credit for. Not only did it get me through this recent, life-changing event but, the knowledge that I have such a strength, makes the future a much less frightening place. It changes my entire attitude on taking chances. Knowing that whatever may or may not happen from this point on, I can handle. And hopefully, handle well. Iíve come from a place where I wanted to hide in my bedroom with a bag over my head and a dresser pushed in front of the door, to a place where I look forward to whatever each day may bring. I started out as a sniffling, desperate, dependent, mouse of a person and have managed to transform myself into a woman who can look in the mirror, think back and wonder out loud, ďwhat the hell was I thinking?Ē Iíve become well aware of my own worth and am unwilling to ever jeopardize it again. Iíve come to realize that there is nothing that I canít accomplish if I remember not to impose limits on myself. I know now that no one else on earth has that power and Iíve decided that I sure as hell wonít do it to myself again.
Now that the anger has subsided and the pain has faded into nonexistence, I can reflect and see clearly that the problem wasnít recent. It began years before while in my twenties. When I subconsciously and unnecessarily gave up myself for a man simply because I loved him. It all started when I became unimportant. First to myself and eventually to my former husband. I had failed to make myself a priority and then had the nerve to be shocked when I had to face that I was no longer a priority for him. When I think about it, it was the natural direction for that relationship to take. I know now what I didnít have a clue about then. I donít have to sacrifice myself and all thatís important to me for the sake of anyone elseís love, approval or affection. I can have it all if I make the right choices for myself. I also know that when the choices arenít the right ones, which will inevitably happen occasionally throughout a lifetime, that the side effects include valuable lessons that help shape us into who we will eventually become. Some of the mistakes Iíve made have well, for lack of a better term, really sucked. But, on the positive side, Iím definitely beginning to like who Iíve become so far and Iím nowhere near finished yet. And by the way, one other thing Iíve concluded is that when itís all said and done, independence can actually be a wonderful thing.