Saturday, May 03, 2008

To Leave or Stay? That was the Question.

"The Direction Of Happiness ~Leaving A Relationship~

One of the hardest decisions we ever make in life is leaving a long-term relationship that just isn’t working. When attempts at repairing and working out issues aren’t working, it may be time to examine moving on. We are emotional creatures, and when our heartstrings are tied to those of another, separating from that person can feel like an act of courage. It is not something most of us will take lightly, and many of us will struggle with our desire to stay in a relationship that is unfulfilling simply in order to avoid that pain. We may question whether the happiness we seek even exists, and we may wonder if we might be wiser to simply settle where we are, making the best of what we have..."

A friend sent this Daily OM to me, I had read it before, but didn't remember I had until after she pointed out to me that I had. I remember it striking a chord within me on that first read too. But it wasn't until I read it connected with the message from my friend that it sunk it deep, kinda bopped me on the head and said..."This is something you need to remember for the rest of your life."

* * * * * * *

One year ago, on the first Sunday of May 2007, I physically left my marriage (emotionally I had left long before then), I can honestly say, I have never in my life felt so emotionally unstable, so frightened as I did that day. Once I had made my decision, and told my husband the day was at hand, I thought I would feel elation, strength, courage, and be energized

Instead, I let fear be in charge, no matter how hard I tried to bury it, push it away, I couldn't. I was utterly consumed by fear. I felt as if I were drowning in an undertow of fear. I wasn't sure enough of myself, nor did I trust myself enough, to know if I could fight the inertia fear was filling me with. Saying I was overwrought, is an understatement. There was only one course of action for me to take. I did something I had rarely done before, I asked for emotional reinforcement of the deepest kind. Seeking that level of support from another person has always been difficult for me, my very life experiences from childhood on taught me it would rarely be available when I needed it. In my marriage the lesson was reinforced. I learned over the years that the one person I wanted/needed/expected support from was most often unwilling, or unable to give it. So, I eventually stopped seeking it. It is not to say he did not provide the support I needed on occasion, but there were also times when I had the sense I was supposed to give him support, that my own needs were silly, and unimportant, or maybe, he was simply emotionally incapable of it. Because of his inability to give me emotional support, I was often left feeling emotionally weak and needy. I detest both of those feelings, thus I had to be my own source of strength, I knew I could rely on no one else.

* * * * * * *

Unable to truly face the depth of my fear that week prior to my move, I wrote this.

In fact, I was very unwilling to face a lot of my deepest feelings that week, in an entry written the day before I moved, I glossed them over, while still trying to forgive myself for leaving. I wished/still do, to be fair to him, even today, I often dislike myself when I say or write negative things about him.

* * * * * * *

On that weekend, one year ago, fear was winning, I couldn't allow that. I called my sister. The moment she answered the phone, all the emotions I had desperately tried to keep at bay, overwhelmed me. The enormous level of fear, the sense of failure, utter despair and desperation, self-loathing and guilt. I could barely speak through the lump in my throat. But I knew, if she were with me the next day, I could do it, I would have the strength I needed to battle the fear, I would have the strength to pack up what few possessions my guilt allowed me to take, and do it. I simply needed her presence, nothing more, through my tears, I asked, "Be here for me please, I'm afraid, I am so afraid I won't do it if it's just me. Please, please come, just be here." She didn't even hesitate, she just told me she would be there the following morning, unless I needed her that night.

That Sunday was insanity in the making. At times my anxiety level rose so high, I would lose myself in the panic. The last few boxes I packed were not even organized, I just threw items in, items I had not really planned on taking. And, left items behind that I should have taken. Even in the midst of all my fear and anxiety, the little bit of the rational me that was allowed out, would question my level of fear. Yes, my husband's behavior could be unpredictable at times, he often seemed to have unknown levels of anger seething below the surface. But, he had never ever physically harmed me. So, I questioned my fear.

Last year I didn't understand, last year I wasn't completely capable of allowing myself to see the true source of my fear.

I wasn't just afraid of his anger, or what his ultimate long-term reactions would be. I was afraid of me, and the punishments I would enact upon myself. Guilt, and self-loathing were my constant companions that day, (and off and on for many months to come), I was still sending myself the message, "If only I had tried harder, if only I could have been the woman he needed instead of me, maybe if I had loved better, if only, if only..."

But with the help of my dear baby sister, the move was accomplished.

When we had moved what little there was to be moved, and unpacked the few things I had brought with me, we took a few moments to sit down and talk. I then suffered another minor emotional meltdown, wondering what I had done to my children, how badly I had harmed them in breaking up their family, hating myself for causing the three people who had been the center of my life for over 26 years so much pain. But my dear sister wouldn't let me sit there and punish myself unnecessarily. She wiped my tears, held my hand, and pushed me to the next necessity of the day, she rode with me to the supermarket to buy food to fill the cabinets of my new home.

When we returned and
as I looked around at the dinginess of the mobile home, at the sparseness of the furnishings, looked at the fact that my neither my daughter, nor I, had furniture in our bedrooms, except a mattress on the floor, a small desk, and boxes to use as nightstands. I once again allowed my guilt to take over, hysterically saying, "This is not the way my 17 year old daughter is supposed to be living!"

But my loving sister wouldn't allow that either, she grabbed my shoulders, forced me to look in her the eyes, and said, "It's Ok, she's not upset about it, she's happier than I've seen her in months. Yes, you were totally crazy to not take any furniture from the house, but for some bizarre reason its the only way you could do it. As time passes, it will get better. You know why? Because you'll finally feel free. Sunny, you've spent a lifetime thinking you had to be his idea of the perfect wife or you weren't good enough, that he wouldn't love you. You've spent years trying to control every aspect of your lives so he wouldn't be disappointed in you or the kids. Years, and years of hiding you. You don't have to be in control of everything anymore. Just be."

What I heard was the word control. It was an epiphany of thought. I was shocked. I had never thought of it in that way before. But that had been my life for so long. All the years flashed through my mind, all the years of trying to be a different woman when in my husbands presence. All the years of trying in a loving way to keep our children in control when he was home, so they wouldn't feel his wrath and disappointment. All the years of receiving the message I had to put him first over everyone in my life, including my children, and failing miserably. I had lived two lives for so long, the more spontaneous free spirited me when he wasn't around, and the controlled me when he was.

It took me months to let it go, to realize that my every move wasn't judged by him anymore, to realize I didn't have to attempt a level of control that is the antithesis of who I am. It took me months, and months to learn to let some of that go. I still haven't been able to let it all go, that will take years, hopefully not as many years as it took me to learn it. But I am getting there. My own self-judgment is not as harsh as it used to be. When I feel as if I failed myself, or my children, I am eventually able to let the feeling of failure go, and move on. I am a much more serene individual because of it.

I still find it very difficult to ask for emotional support, or reassurance when I am feeling vulnerable. It takes a very high level of emotional angst to be filling me before I do ask. My sister pointed this out to me recently. In what I considered a moment of extreme weakness, I spilled my guts to her. She listened, she heard me, she acknowledged my feelings, which was all I needed. Then she told me how happy she was that I had done so. Wow, another epiphany for me. She was pleased I had turned to her, pleased she was able to return in kind what I have given her for so many years. In my turning to her in my need, our former closeness has returned. Our hearts are once again fully open to each other. Just because I allowed myself to express my emotional pain fully. She accepted it almost as if it were a gift.

As I have contemplated this, I realized it does feel like a gift to me, when a friend or loved one turns to me in their time of need. When they just need someone to listen, someone to give them a hug, someone to give them the reassurance they are loved, or they aren't insane. When they turn to me for that, they are giving me the ultimate gift. They are trusting me with a most intimate part of themselves. It is a gift.

* * * * * * *
Four days after my move I wrote this .

My life has changed so much in the past year.

I still have my moments of serenity, when I will revel in the feeling of just being me. I allow dreams and hopes to fill me, but then I will back away from them, as I am not quite ready to believe in my possibilities yet. For several months I experienced a deep depression as I began to allow myself to grieve. I felt the effects of depression darkening every aspect of my life, so I turned to medication, it helped, I was able to regain some focus and get on with life in a bit more efficient manner. But once I reached that juncture, I also realized the medication was no longer necessary, it served its purpose. But it was also affecting me in other ways. It was dulling me. I am not fully capable yet of expressing it, but it was as if the medication placed a dull filter on my personality. I wasn't experiencing the little joys as fully as I used to, my spark, the light of me was filtered out. So a little over 2 months ago, I stopped taking it. I have sensed no detrimental effects of no longer taking it.The timing was perfect as spring is here, thus the very aliveness, the deep rich colors of spring, the ever increasing lushness of new growth fill me with pure pleasure. And,even though I have allowed my excellent ability to procrastinate full reign, I am not in panic mode over all that I have to accomplish in a little under 16 days. I am feeling a light level of stress, but I recognize it, it is the level that gets me moving, accomplishing, succeeding.

I am sure I will experience more deep, dark emotional lows. I still have fears, money or the lack of is ever constant, fear of soon-to-be-ex's anger has diminished somewhat, but it is still there as well. Fear that I will not make the attempt to follow some of the paths my many dreams are opening up to me in the future. If I look for them, there are many negatives in my life right now, but there are also so very many positives. The scales of my life are off balance, life is heaviest on the content and happy side. That's a good thing.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I met you through blogging, I'm only sorry we didn't get to meet face to face last summer. Another time perhaps.

I can't believe it's been a year already since you left your husband. You sound content. I'm glad.

Anonymous said...

Hello again. I left a comment on the prior post and I'd say more but I'm exhausted and already up later than desired due to being enchanted with this place, your words, you.

I'm coming back here. I appreciate your depth. Really appreciate your depth. Such a gift to receive. Thank you.

Sunny Delight said...

Me too, oh me too! I think we just have that meeting someday, I have lots of trips with worldwide destinations in mind...your neck of the woods could well be one of them!

I am more content, when I think I have made no progress, it helps sometimes to review where I have been.

Oh my! Thank you for your very kind words...if you do return, you will find I am just another middle-aged crazy, seeking growth and serenity of self.

As to Common Ties, I find it fascinating on many levels, as are you.

freebird said...

Wow, Sunny!
Such a lot in this post and in the linked ones, and you've really touched my heart and soul (as you so often do). I hardly know where to begin to comment, so perhaps I'll just congratulate you on getting here through such a daunting journey. You're an inspiration!

Mary said...

Medication is a double edged sword. I need it too. But it takes away some of the best parts of people.