Gentle

Be gentle with yourself

Two people in the past few days have told me to be gentle with myself. That is something I am not good at. I expect perfection from myself at all times needless to say, I’m often disappointed. I am very gentle with my students, most of the time. And very gentle with my teachers, again, most of the time. But I’m very hard on myself.

Today was a tough day. Bringing my older son back to college was tough. I adore him and I love having him home with me. So having to leave him at college is heart breaking. This is his second year, so I knew what was going to happen and I knew we would all survive the year. But it was still tough.

In addition to the emotional struggles the day presented, there were also financial stumbling blocks. This past year has been hard, both emotionally and financially. A divorce is not easy, nor is it cheap. And college is definitely not cheap.

But facing the fact that I am still struggling financially makes me feel like a failure. I wish I could take care of my son’s college expenses. I wish he could graduate without debt. I wish finances weren’t an issue. But wishing doesn’t make it so.

So after tears and stress and frustration and kind words from my sister-in-law. I’m going to try to listen to her advice and be gentle with myself. I’m in a better financial place this year than I was one year ago. But it’s going to take some time to really get back on my feet. It’s going to take time, and I have to learn to be patient and gentle with myself.

As my blog title suggest, I’m still a work in progress, and being gentle with myself is something that is still in progress.

Final Ties

Divorce takes a long time. There is no set time frame, but it’s long. I’ve seen some people finish the process in about 6 months (not including the 90 day waiting period).  And I have a friend who, after almost 3 years, is still waiting for her day in court. I fall somewhere in between these two. After just about 15 months I am finally divorced.

Armed with all the paperwork I thought I needed to cut the final ties between my ex- husband and me I went to AAA to change my name on my driver’s license. Much to my surprise I had to provide them with the official copy of the final divorce decree. I hadn’t brought that with me. I had to go home and get it. 35 minutes each way, and they were closing in an hour and 20 minutes. I almost burst into tears at AAA. The kind woman at AAA sensed my frustration and tried to see if she could proceed without it but alas we could not.

Driving home to get it and hoping I would get back in time to get it done that day I did burst into tears. I cried at the frustrating hoops I had to jump through to change my name back to my maiden name. I cried because I hadn’t realized just how important it was for me to cut this final tie between my ex- husband and me. I didn’t want his name. I didn’t want that connection to him. I had never wanted to use my maiden so badly in all my life.

I’m not sure why cutting this final tie was so important to me but it was. I don’t want to have his last name anymore. I want my own. I don’t want any more connections to him. I want to be able to move forward with my own life.

Maybe cutting this tie will help me take back just a little bit of the control that he still has over me. Maybe cutting this tie will make me stronger. Maybe cutting this tie will let me move on. Maybe, just maybe…

 

The Radio

Today’s blog post idea from The Daily Post was to start a post from the first lines of the last song you heard on the radio. For the most part I listen to Boston sports talk radio so while I would enjoy writing a post about the outstanding performance of Tom Brady and Jimmy Garapalo in last nights pre-season game between the New England patriots and the Carolina panthers I don’t think that was the intention of the post. So I decided that I would intentionally put on some music when I got in the car today. I don’t really like a lot of the music on the radio, which is one of the reasons I listen to sports talk radio, and of course because I love football.

I plug my iPhone into the receiver in my car and let it shuffle and pick a song. The first song that comes up is “Show you how to love” performed by Penatonix and amazing acapella group I love. I sigh. Why are all songs on the radio about love? But the idea behind the title “show you how to love” has me intrigued in several different ways.

Having spent the last year of my life struggling through a horrific divorce (is there really such a thing as a good divorce?) I think about needing someone to show me how to love again. I’m jaded right now. I’m hurt. I’m struggling. And I’m in that place where I don’t even want to think about love again. But that’s because what I thought was love wasn’t. So I need someone to show me how to love.

I’m also thinking about the idea of the song being about showing someone how to love me. Showing someone what I need and how to love and take care of me.

It has made me think about love again and what it means to me. Or what I want it to be this time around. At the football game last night I saw on older couple walking out of the stadium holding hands, wearing matching Brady jerseys. I love the idea of companionship and enjoying doing something together. At church I see the older couples helping each other out of the pew at the end of service.

 

For some reason old couples are who I’m looking at now. They are so sweet. Maybe that’s because I think about what it’s going to be like when I’m older and alone. Or maybe it’s because I still can’t think about being in a relationship now because I’m still so hurt and raw.

But I also have friends my age who have been married for over 17 years and are as in love today as they were when they met. I often tell them that they are my hope that there is goodness and love in the world. They ride with each other to a meeting just to spend the time together. They have special things they do for each other just because. They truly love being together. I guess that’s what I want. Someone who loves me enough to want to spend time with me and yet trusts me enough to let me spend time away from him.

I guess I need someone to show me how to love again. And maybe in the process I will be able to teach them how to love me.

What I really deserve

He told me I was lucky he put up with me.

He told me he was going to kill himself.

He told me it was my fault.

He told me I deserved to be hit.

 

And I believed him.

 

No one should feel scared or intimidated by their spouse.

No one should use threats to control others.

No one is responsible for someone else’s actions.

No one deserves to be hit.

 

I don’t want to believe him any more.

 

I tell myself these things over and over again.

I tell myself to believe them.

I tell myself that I am a good person.

I tell myself that I deserve better.

 

I don’t know what that looks like.

 

I want respect and trust.

I want caring and kindness.

I want understanding and forgiveness.

I want safety and security.

 

I deserve better.

Shaking my core

I am a strong confident woman. No one intimidates me. That might sound like a cocky thing to say, but it’s true. Not doctors. Not lawyers. Not professors. Not my supervisors. And not even those whom I supervise (and some of them can be fairly intimidating). I’m a vey intelligent, confident woman and very little intimidates me.

But one thing terrifies me: my ex- husband. I know that intellectually I can out wit him. I know that emotionally I’m a very strong person. I know that my life is better now than it was when we were together. But I also know that just the thought of having to see him or deal with him for anything shakes me to my core like nothing else.  I can’t quite explain it or justify it or even rationalize it. But he terrifies me.

All it takes is for me to see his name pop up on my phone.  Or see him when I drop off my son with him. Or see him in court. Just the thought of having to deal with him for anything, and I feel like I’m about to have an anxiety attack. My hands start shaking. My heart starts to pound. I can’t catch my breath. My stomach churns. Suddenly all of that confidence that I have most days is gone and I feel tiny and fragile and scared.

It disturbs me how much his name, his face, his presence can just shake me so badly. It is terrifying how this one person has so much control over me. I can’t make sense of it, but each day I am trying to move forward and figure out how to deal with this and how to regain my sense of self.

 

No more secrets

In mid-March it happened again. He got mad. Threatened me. Harassed me. Controlled me. But this time a friend noticed that I was upset. He walked into my office and saw me in tears. I couldn’t say anything when he asked what was wrong. I just shook my head. And I lied. I said it was no big deal. I said it was nothing. But he knew it was something. He didn’t push, but later he gently prodded and was there to listen when I was finally ready to talk.  

When I first spoke about the reality of the marriage that I was living in. It became so much more real saying it out loud, so much more obvious how horrible and how wrong it was. But in another way, it was also freeing. I didn’t have to hide it any more. Some one else looked at my situation and justified for me that this relationship was not normal, that I deserved to be treated better.

I clung to that and began to see the destruction. It wasn’t until May that I actually did something about it and it was really just the simplest of things: I stopped.

I stopped covering.

I stopped conceding.

And I stopped hiding.

 

And then I started.

I started talking.

As I talked and as I looked back on the past I realized all of the things that I covered for and all of the things that I denied and all of the things that I justified in order to stay in the marriage. I felt like I deserved it. If only I could have been better, or not upset him or not done something then it wouldn’t happen. I felt like I had done something wrong. I felt like I was a failure because I couldn’t make it work.

But sometimes, it’s not about me. Sometimes it’s just bigger than me. And this time it was about him and his actions, not me at all. I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t control him. And it wasn’t my fault.

There, I said it, I wasn’t my fault. I’m sure I will need to say it over and over again before I really believe it, but it’s true. I couldn’t fix it and I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t change him. But I could change things for myself. I could get myself, and my sons out of this situation.

And that’s what I did; I got out. And every day I reassure myself that I did the right thing, that I’m strong enough to do this, and that it wasn’t my fault.  I know I have a long way to go to heal all of the wounds that I have. But I’m trying my best, everyday, to be strong and move on.