“If you are going through hell, keep going.” ― Winston S. Churchill It hurts. It gets old. It’s a dull pain one day and a sharp pain the next. Getting through the bad times wears you down and shapes you at the same time. You can’t see your way out and you’re convinced they will […]
Over these past few months, my counselor and I have discussed the choices I made in the past. He assures me I made the best choices for survival at the time. While that may be true, I have wondered what was behind the choices I made beside just surviving. And I had a personal revelation. Most, if not all, of my poor choices were driven out of a fear of rejection.
My life, prior to now, was not a journey driven by a confident woman. The driving force of my life was the fear of rejection and humiliation. My life was in a constant state of unbalance. Every time the person I was trying to please changed his/her mind, I had to rush to make sure my decision still made them happy. If it didn’t, then I needed to quickly make a change. By allowing my fear to drive my choices, I never built a strong sense of who I am and what makes me happy. I didn’t speak up. I kept my hurt feelings to myself out of fear of upsetting the other person. I pretended their words didn’t hurt my feelings. I raced around like mad when relatives were coming to visit and the stayed in a state of apprehension and fear. Why? Because I was eaten up with worry, I would be a disappointment. The ironic thing is I always felt as though I was a disappointment. Even if everything went smoothly and everyone was happy, I still felt like a failure because I always believed I could have done better or it was just a matter of time people would see the “real” me, the failure.
It is not always easy to be honest. It is not always easy to make a decision which goes against the tide (or family or friends or children). A person needs inner strength not to waver when a decision is questioned. So much of my life would be different if I had not been driven by the fear of rejection. I battle the fear of rejection and being alone every day. I take on the role of scapegoat. Pointing the finger of blame at myself calms my fear of someone else doing it and humiliating me. It gives me a sense of control when I assume everything is my fault. Sadly it doesn’t provide much opportunity for joy and peace in my life.
Change isn’t easy but it is worth the effort. Change has been a bumpy road. Change has challenged in ways I never anticipated. Change is scary. It is the scariest thing I’ve ever faced. There is a reason “misery loves company” is universally understood. While I might be miserable, it is what I know and having you join me in what I know is less frightening than me leaving my miserable comfort zone.
I watched a story this morning about the enduring friendship of five men. They have been friends for 50 years and will have attended all 50 Super Bowl games. Without going into detail, at times they have had to help each other through difficult times in order to make it happen.
I wonder where friends like that exist? In our world of texting and no real face to face time will friendships like continue to be developed? There is so much communication that takes places in the tone and intonation of our voice and body language which can never be translated to characters in a text.
I often wonder how I misread the women I believed to be my friends. Fully expecting their emotional support during and after my divorce, it was as though they had never truly been my real friends. Even after 20 plus years they turned their backs on me. My real friends didn’t abandon me even during my most difficult time. Unfortunately none of them live by me, so when I’ve been in need of a warm hug, handholding and just the company of a friend they sadly aren’t available.
So I bought You can’t lie to me by Janine Driver, lie detection expert for the FBI, CIA and ATF. They must have given me clues that their friendship wasn’t what I believed it to be. And clearly my ex-husband was lying all the time about what he was doing and I either ignored the signs or didn’t recognize them. I will do everything in my power never to be duped again by anyone.
We read stories everyday of women that have been abused by a man. And sadly these women tend to repeat bad choices and go from one bad relationship to another. For anyone with a solid self-esteem and self-worth, it is incredulous that any woman would stay in such a damaging relationship. Here is something that so many people fail to understand; the abuser rarely walks in and begins the abuse immediately. There is physical abuse and emotional abuse. They go hand in hand but emotional abuse can happen without physical abuse. That is my story.
Why didn’t I share? I was embarrassed and ashamed. Slowly over time my sense of independence was destroyed. Over time the belief I was lovable was destroyed. Day by day comments, looks, turning things around so I would begin to question myself believing somehow I caused him to cheat and having my concerns being dismissed and ignored regularly created a complete sense of instability. If my ex-husband was home I was always tied up in knots because I was worried I wasn’t making him happy. When he was out-of-town I was tied up in knots because I worried about what he was doing. Should I have left years ago? Of course, but he didn’t reveal his true-self all at once. He did it slowly over time. Think of a bucket being filled by one drop of water at a time. It takes a long time before the bucket overflows. So don’t judge your friend who finds herself in my position. Listen to her. Don’t rebuke her for not leaving sooner. Hug her. Offer support anyway you can. Don’t exclude her because she is no longer a couple. And certainly do NOT remain friends with her abusive ex-husband.
If I could give advice to any woman who is living with a narcissist, it would be to read as much as you can about narcissism and how narcissists manipulate their victims. I would encourage her to find someone to share any secrets i.e. his cheating, his addictions, his crimes. Had I come forward the first time I found out what he was doing, I might have received support from my friends. However the shame he created in me, kept me silent. Silence is a killer. It kills your spirit. So speak up. Leaving is scary. I am facing homelessness at 56 because I was a stay-at-home mom and with no full-time work experience since 1984, I can’t get any business to take a chance on me.
Why do I write about this again? I write about this again because I can’t just dump the over-flowing bucket of abuse. It leaves as slowly as it came. Now I have a small hole in the bottom of the bucket and daily a little more of it drains out. It is just going to take time, a lot of time. Sadly I don’t have time when it comes to a job. While my ex enjoys a life in the lap of luxury, ignores his children and pretends he never destroyed lives, I work to survive and they learn to accept life as fatherless children.
I never thought we would be apart for so many years. It seems like only yesterday we were young mothers raising our children. Struggling to make ends meet. Somehow we always managed to find the fun and humor in every day. But where have the years gone? When I look at you I see the same, sparkling young woman I met almost 30 years ago. You have the same spirit, creativity and joy for life. Now you are securely planted with a family of one husband, five children, four in-laws, nine grandchildren, a variety of pets and two spectacular homes. There is no one I’ve ever met that deserves happiness more than you do.
Me you ask? My life took an entirely different path than your own. I do have two lovely children and one son-in-law but I’ve lost everything else. My husband left me. I lost my home. I lost my friends. I lost my community. I lost all security. I even lost my faith for awhile. I lost my desire to see another day.
Why didn’t you know? Because you never asked. I don’t blame you. When a life is as full and rich as your’s is, time goes by quickly, like a flash of lightening. When life is broken and empty as mine is, time feels like a loud ticking clock. With each movement of the hand, it reminds you life is passing by and you don’t get a second chance. I don’t know if I don’t reach in for life enough or if when I do life spits me out. Honestly it feels like the second one.
I hope dear friend that we don’t go years without talking or seeing each other. I love you and always will.
A hand gripped her heart, squeezing, refusing to let go. Her only choice was to grab the bottle of Xanax. It would be the only way she would be able to get through this evening. An evening surround by her old life, her old friends with the reminder this would never be hers again.
The bride a woman who was taking a step down that unknown path of marriage. All this woman could see is the red headed baby girl she helped welcome into the world. Escorted down the aisle by her parents, the parents who were friends but had abandon this lonely guest when the divorce happened.
The reception. The unexpected on slaught of faces which she doesn’t remember. Wondering how after all this time they could remember her, her name but their faces, their names held no place in her memory. Having to explain that no she was no longer married and seeing faces full of pity and shock when she said her ex was an alcoholic and sexual predator, which left her with no option but divorce. Explaining homelessness was just months away.
Left alone at the table as happy couples dance, a stabbing reminder she is on the outside. An untouchable now, no longer part of any plans for the future. No happiness or joy in her future.
The wine, followed by more wine mingling with the Xanax to create a sense of who gives a damn, certainly not this unloved woman. Faces across the room she longed to see, to speak to but knew the importance of remaining in her seat. They had the need to shield themselves from the truth of her pain and their failure to be there when she needed them.
The casual promises to stay in touch, knowing they were empty words. Feeling the emptiness in a room full of people, full of love and full of life. How can someone be so alone when surrounded by so many? A mirage, nothing but the timeless illusion couples go through only to find life isn’t a happily ever after tale. It’s a path full of road blocks, potholes, turns and yes sometimes unexpected joy or unexpected heart break.
The wedding. The people. The love. The emptiness. The mirage. Life.
I have started so many blogs and inevitably let them fall to the wayside. I shouldn’t do that. At one time I had acquired over 1,000 followers. Now I realize it’s not 50,000 or enough to sell advertising on my blog, but to think 1,000 people might be interested in what I have to say shocked me. Then one day my depression took over and I stopped writing. I am going to expand on one of my favorite posts.
Have you made a new friend lately? There is so much attention being given to our need for a good solid support system of people whether they be family or friends. Over and over it is being emphasized that we live longer and happier lives when we have those people in our lives. But what happens if your support system falls apart. Maybe you got divorced. Maybe you moved to a new city. Maybe you go a new job. Maybe you left for school. Maybe your financial situation or health situation changed and you could no longer join in all the same things you used to do. We are a transient society. Three-fourths of all American move on average of every five years. I am sure some of those moves don’t completely turn your life upside down but my guess it most of them do.
Since to my divorce I have been forced to face a hard reality and the worst part is I already knew this truth because I moved a total of 4 times in 6 years. That meant 8 schools in those 6 years. So I had just forgotten how difficult it is to make a friend. People don’t seek out new friends. Most of us make friends through reoccurring meetings of either work, school, church etc but we don’t actively seek to make friends.
Initially that seems okay and in general it is unless you are the new person or the person with a life altering transition which removes you from your comfort zone. It is then you realize how much on the outside you are. What do I mean? While there are a few super friendly types, most of us wait for the other person to ask us to join them. We don’t try to include ourselves for fear of being pushy or not being wanted or not fitting in.
The people who are already in a circle friendship are unaware that they are excluding anyone because they are preoccupied with their own sense of comfort and staying in that comfort zone. They have forgotten what it’s like to be new or facing a new life challenge.
It’s difficult making friends. I am not sure it’s easy for anyone and it’s certainly not easy for someone who is shy or insecure or hurting. As the world hustles along and people are busy interacting, they fail to recognize those around them in need of friendship.
Many of you will be thinking, these people should just come along or ask to join in but when you are on the outside looking in, it’s not easy. You fear being rejected and not wanted, so it’s easier just to stay alone.
How simple it would be if each of us just tried to make one new friend. To speak to one new person a day and ask one new person to join us for lunch or a drink each week. The best friend you might ever have could be out there and because we tend to look only forward with blinders on, we miss so many people who could add dimension and meaning and joy to our lives.
If we were walking in the garden, I would tell you how good it feels to have company, to not be alone for another 24 hours.
If we were walking in the garden, I would bring you up-to-date on my job search. You would learn I received another rejection with the same lame excuse. We have decided to move forward with another candidate. When I ask for specific suggestions, they give no feedback. I listened to NPR the other day and the entire broadcast on my way home was about the fact age discrimination is real and active in the job market. So where does that leave me at almost 56?
If we were walking in the garden, I would ask for a hug because now that I no longer live with my daughter or near my other daughter, I am completely hug deprived. I always told my girls you needed 10 hugs a day to be happy and healthy,
If we were walking in the garden, I would thank you for taking some of your day to spend with me because we know we make time for what we feel is important. If your friends aren’t spending time with you, contacting you or remembering you even in a small way, you know your friendship is not important to them.
If we were walking in the garden, I would ask would you like to take a walk again on another day>