Sunday, January 1, 2017

To See the Future, You Have to Deal with the Past That Scares You

Planet Earth is slowing down
Overseas, underground
Wherever you look around
Lord, take me by the hand
Lead me through these desert sands
To the shores of a promised land

Well, it is now officially 2017. I am truly looking forward to the next 365 days, even if - as I said on Facebook - I know there's a lot of fear going around due to the new presidency, among other things. There is very little that I can do for the world as a whole, but as The The says, "If you can't change the world, change yourself."

Three actually introduced me to that song, so hearing it now brings a lot of bittersweet emotions to the surface, but for me, that's what makes it so important. I can't listen to it without remembering where I've gone since I first heard it. We had been married for a few months at that point, and things were still in that honeymoon phase; it was inspirational then because it meant so much to him, because he said it represented how he viewed the world. But now, I've taken it and made it my own mantra. Well, my main one is still, "Do what you're here to do and don't be an asshole," but it's my second mantra.

You make me start
When you look into my heart
And see me for who I really am

As I said in my last post, we are getting divorced this year. That is putting a lot of the past six years into perspective. The de-evolution of my personality, my goals, my loves, is coming into sharp focus, and I realize how far I've deviated from what I'm here to do. I have a much clearer view on who and what I am: I'm a writer, an artist, an optimist, a pacifist, a pansexual, a free spirit. But I am also damaged. I used to think it was irreparable, but as time has passed, I've realized that, while my scars will never go away, they'll just be reminders. I may still doubt myself and others, but I won't let them discourage me.

I didn't care if the sun didn't shine
And the rain didn't fall from the sky
I just cared about myself
From this world to the next
And from the next back to this
By our actions, we are bound
We're running out of love
Running out of hate
Running out of space
For the human race
Planet Earth is slowing down

Part of living with a narcissist is that you become kind of narcissistic yourself, especially when you are separated from others. My experience was coupled with verbal and emotional abuse, so the narcissism is a form of protection. I would say and do things that would keep myself free from being yelled at or accused of nefarious deeds like having emotions or opinions or desires that make the other person feel bad. I spent a lot of time questioning my motives for nearly every aspect of wanting to be alive, which is a very weird place to be. It wasn't until Three had his mental breakdown in October 2015 that I finally started to realize things.

It took a while. It's like having blinders taken off; you know they're gone, but you've spent so much time with them on that it's difficult having that expanded vision. So I didn't get the idea to leave the situation until several months later in February 2016. I remembered it was a Thursday, and Three and I had just had a major explosive fight. We're talking him slamming the front door hard and storming down the road with no destination and me sobbing, curled up in a ball on the floor. When he came back, he apologized, like he always did, and we began to actually talk. However, his defenses came up again, and he uttered the words that, to this day, still ring in my ears: "Every time we've ever taken your lead, you've ruined my life."

My first reaction was to begin crying and defend myself. He began yelling again, and suddenly, something snapped. No. We had never taken my lead throughout my entire marriage. He had made decisions, and I had just followed him, like a dutiful wife. The last move we'd just made - from Louisville, where I'd begun to build a life, to Columbia, where I knew no one and had no job prospects - was one that I'd had no part in choosing. He came home from work one day and said, "Hey, we're moving to South Carolina."

So I laid it out for him: I had given him a blank slate when he revealed to me that he had been lying to me about everything for five years, and he was required to give me the same. I had made mistakes in our marriage, and I was done apologizing for them time and time again, only to have them thrown back in my face months, even years, later. I was also done paying for the way his previous partners had treated him; I wasn't Julie or Elizabeth, or even his father, so he needed to stop treating me like I was. He agreed that I did deserve at least that much, and I thought that we were on the right path.

The next day, however, he came home from work, a look on his face that made me wonder if he'd been thinking and wanted to yell at me more. I was prepared for another verbal fisticuffs, only I wasn't afraid any longer. But instead, I saw tears in his eyes, and he told me he couldn't give me the slate I needed. It wasn't that he didn't want to; it's just that his brain was wired so he wouldn't be able to, that the past would always be at the front of his memory. I told him then that I was leaving, and the next day at work, I called my district manager and asked for a transfer to Louisville.

I'm in love with the planet that I'm standing on
I can't stop
I can't stop thinking of
All the people I've ever loved
All the people I have lost
All the people I'll never know
All the feeling I've never shown

My DM let me know the following week that the transfer was in the works, and by the end of March, it was approved. Three spent a lot of his time alone, occasionally throwing shade my way, and honestly, we were looking at it as a trial separation. Divorce wasn't even my vocabulary at the time, although the truth is, I knew we were headed in that direction. Hindsight really is 20/20. I bought a car - Athena, the 2012 Chevy Cruze - and packed it full of whatever I could carry on April 27th. My friends came down with me a few months later to pick up more, and that was the last time I saw Three in person. For months, I missed him, cried myself to sleep, and didn't allow myself to accurately look at our relationship, even if all I could remember was the bad.

Eventually, I knew I wanted a divorce*, which sent me into meltdown mode, but I didn't want to look inside. It was too frightening, painful. You can only blame someone else for so long.

The world's too big
And life's too short
To be alone
To be alone

I started dating again once I'd decided that it was over. It was way too soon, and honestly, I wish I hadn't. There wasn't any way that I was ready. I had so much baggage and so many phobias and too little understanding of where they came from that all that could really come of it was hurt. But I hated being alone. I craved someone who understood me and what I went through, someone that would let me cry on their shoulder and tell me I was still worthy of love.

Ultimately, this is what led me to therapy. It's a long story, one that I may or may not tell here**, but suffice to say, I sabotaged a fledgling relationship because I felt like he was behaving like Three. He wasn't - not really - but my brain wasn't listening to anything other than former patterns. And if that doesn't sound like something you read above, you're not paying attention. I hurt my friend badly because I couldn't leave the past behind; I was making him pay for the way Three had treated me.

I texted my friend that I didn't want to be alive any longer. I called my sister and mother, bawling uncontrollably, looking for some type of solace from the deep pain that was living in my veins, and the next day, I called the suicide hotline while I was at work. I even considered checking myself into some mental hospital. Despite me living in a town where I had a great group of friends, I felt completely alone like I did when Three suffered his mental break. Maybe it's because it was my actions that had caused my own fall? Or maybe because I realized how far I'd let Three's manipulation go? Maybe I felt like I wasn't worthy of the love I sought? I still can't really explain it.

My mother drove up from Nashville to stay with me for a few days, for which I am eternally grateful, and I started to feel emotions other than total despair again. I actually laughed a few times, especially when Mom purposefully pissed me off so I'd show some emotion. My sister and friends checked on me daily, and I realized that, despite what my mind was telling me, I was cherished.

That is what started my healing process.

If you can't change the world, change yourself.
If you can't change the world, change yourself. 

I started therapy shortly afterward, and I cannot express how much that has helped. Just having someone to talk to is such an amazing thing, but when it comes in a package that doesn't judge you and doesn't let you be too hard on yourself? It's perfect. I still have a very long way to go before I'm well, and like I said above, there are scars that aren't going to fade. I've accepted that to some degree, but that just means I have more to work on. And that's a very exciting prospect.

And if you can't change yourself, change your world.

Lyrics to "Lonely Planet" by The The


* I am still very upset about what caused me to come to this conclusion, and that will definitely be the subject of a future post.
** This is probably going to be a storyline for my web series. What? Writing is how I process things.
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