Trusting the broken instincts.

“For it is only when we see the full extent of the damage that we can go about fixing it. Becoming whole again. Cautiously, optimistically, gloriously whole again.”

In the past four years I have met many new people. Each of them have affected me in different ways and contributed to my growth. I have learned. Good things. Bad things. Things about myself. Things about them. I have been told so many times to ‘trust my instincts’ but I never felt comfortable with that. I question my judgment every day. Every. Single. Day. How can I not? I made a very bad judgment 28 years ago. That bad judgement lasted 24 years. But I learned valuable lessons from it. I had to dig deep for the why of those lessons and still pick away at them. Digging. Making sure I don’t make that same bad judgement again. ‘Trust my instincts’. Where were those instincts then? My instincts lied to me. If a friend lies to you do you trust them again? Or do they need to earn it back? If your instincts lie to you, do they need to earn your trust back as well? Hell yes. My instincts betrayed me and I am angry with them.

I was getting pretty sick of being told to just ‘trust’. I have given that trust away before only to be kicked in the kidneys. So when someone I recently met wisely pointed out to me that my instincts are damaged and that trust needed to be earned back, I felt like a weight of a small world just lifted. The heavens opened up and angels sang! Ok… exaggerating. But seriously. Someone finally made sense. Someone finally understood that for someone like me, trust is an incredibly fragile thing. Even I didn’t realize how fragile.

So. No more jumping in with both feet blindly trusting that stupid instinct. No more getting kicked in the kidneys. Eyes wide open. Still moving along one foot in front of the other. Still being me. Still leading with my heart. But. Be present. Be kind. Be open. Be cautious. People aren’t always what they appear to be. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people. Maybe it just means their instincts are also damaged. Maybe they too are fragile.

Thank you my new friend P.S. for allowing me to see the damage. Really see the damage. To stop denying its existence. For it is only when we see the full extent of the damage that we can go about fixing it. Becoming whole again. Cautiously, optimistically, gloriously whole again.

The instruction follower.

“The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”

Sheryl Sandberg

I have a talent for art. I have always been good at it. It has always come naturally to me. Illustrative mostly. I can look at a picture and draw or paint it quite accurately. However, I did not seriously pursue this talent for most of my life. As a kid, it just never occurred to me that it should be something I should focus on. As a teenager, I transferred that talent into design and pursued graphic design as I thought that was a viable career path.

I met my ex-husband trying to pursue that career path. He hired me as a part time graphic designer. Fitting that our relationship began as he, the employer and me, the employee. He the boss, me the instruction follower. But once his business failed, I needed a job. So. After some exciting career advancing opportunities in telemarketing and retail clothing sales, I became a business administrator.

However, about 15 years into these various administrative jobs, I started to dabble once again with art. I started to do pieces as gifts. And then people started to ask for more. Finally, when he received a job opportunity in a new city, I had to quit my day job. Which incidentally was the first job I had ever had not in administration but in project management. And I LOVED it! It was a turning point in my journey and deserves it own post… later.

Back to this post…

Things were financially comfortable at this point. So I was in a new city with a chance to do something for me. I started to pursue my artwork seriously for the first time in my life. I hit the pavement marketing myself. I met with home designers. I met with art galleries. And I worked at it. Painting almost every day. I was getting good. Really good.

Yet through this all he never once complimented my work. He would tell me if he didn’t like something. Of course. Criticizing seemed to come easy. But not once did he tell me something was good. That I was good. I even showed in a successful art gallery with well known local artists for over a year. And still. Not one word of encouragement.

Eventually the financial comfort was no longer there and I had to go back to work. The art career was over. Yes, I could have still pursued it. But if you are understanding this story, my story, by this point you understand that was not an option. The art took a back seat.

So get to the real point of this post…

Years later, we were hanging out with a neighbor and he told this neighbor a story of how he tried to paint one day when I was at work. He took a small blank canvas and got out my paint and went to work. He confessed to the neighbor that he thought it would be easy. He confessed to the neighbor that it turned out so bad, he buried the canvas in the trash so I wouldn’t see. I never knew because he never told me. And he still didn’t. He told the neighbor. He did not tell me that he could not do what I could do. That I could do something better than him. He could not tell me. But he could tell the neighbor.

What I painfully felt that day is that he would never let me succeed beyond him. It would never be about me. I have done extensive reading into insecure and controlling personalities. Call it self-absorbed. Call it narcissism. Which are not the same by the way. But call it whatever you want. It is not healthy. It is not a partnership. It is lonely and it is heartbreaking. And no matter how much you think you can fix it. You can’t. You will always be the lesser one.

You will always be the instruction follower.

I am an excellent masonry.

“You are confined only by the walls you build yourself”

unknown

I build incredibly strong brick walls. They can keep anything and anyone out. The walls are so solid it would take an army to break them. Luckily I have an army. My corner.

My walls took 24 years to build. Brick by brick. Layer by layer. They became bigger. They became stronger. I have been trying to dismantle those walls for 4 years now. Brick by brick. Layer by layer. As I dismantle, the walls weaken. They are cracking. The foundation is old and ugly and so the walls are cracking. The dismantling is becoming easier.

I did not intend to put the walls up. I didn’t even know I was doing it. But once they were up, I thought they kept me safe. I thought they provided protection from a hurtful life. And they did. They also hid my vulnerability. They made me appear stronger. And they kept people out. All people.

They also kept me in. One of the tools I taught myself in order to cope was to verbally abuse myself before he could. I found that if I beat him to the insult, it took the opportunity away from him. If I called myself stupid, there was no argument to start. So I verbally and emotionally abused myself. Stupid, fat, ugly. I covered them all. I became very good at it. So good at it that the inside of those walls started to become not such a nice safe place anymore. I could walk away from him but walking away from me proved to be far more difficult. What do you do when hate lives on the inside of the wall?

Those walls were the ultimate barrier. Breaking them down is not only letting love into my life, it is allowing me to let go of all the hate that was locked inside. Allowing me to love myself. Because I should. Because I am worthy. We are all worthy.

And so the walls are coming down. It is taking a long time for I am an excellent masonry. But I am also becoming an excellent wrecking ball operator!

The people in my corner.

“You want to come in my life, the door is open.
You want to get out of my life, the door is open.
Just one request: 
Don’t stand in the door, you’re blocking the traffic.”

Unknown

Building relationships. This is a big one. I am not talking about romantic relationships. I am talking about friendships. This is about who we have in our corner. About how we build our corner.

When you have a life altering chapter in your life, your world is forever changed to varying degrees. You may discover that the people in your life will want to be a part of that change… or not. I discovered this. I am discovering this. As I adjust to my new life after my divorce I am becoming aware that not everyone is fitting into this new world. And not because they are bad people. Not at all. I am redefining myself and discovering who I am and who I am meant to be. How I treat people has changed. How I expect to be treated has changed. And not everyone understands that and that is okay. After all, they didn’t change and they didn’t ask me to change. And deep down, I didn’t. Life changed.

When I was married, I was the submissive personality. I felt I had to be to cope. But the side effect of that was becoming the submissive personality in most of my relationships. When I finally sat in the driver seat of my life, that shifted. Not everyone liked my driving. Not everyone wanted to go in the direction I was going in. So they simply got out of the car. Understandable as I can be directionally challenged. My friends who have driven with me will appreciate that I willingly admit to that! 🙂

Meeting new people can be difficult but I think I am slowly figuring it out. Figuring out who does fit. Who wants to be along for my directionally challenged journey. I am so much stronger now but I still need powerful people to challenge me. To test me. To make sure I am going the right direction even if they have to tell me to turn right more than once. And they still need to have the patience to let me drive. Sometimes taking them on the scenic route. Secretly hoping that I will take them on the scenic route. Because oh how fun that scenic route can be.

These are the people I am gathering in my corner. New people. People who have always been with me. People I haven’t even met yet. These are my cheerleaders in my corner and what a great corner I have!

A new best friend.

“Do not touch me and keep your soul out of your fingertips… Die into me or don’t come to me at all.”

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Loneliness is proving to be tougher than I thought. I am surrounded by friends and family. I have a full life and I am happy. Yet there is that hole. Something missing. I spend my days full and loved and still go home alone. And wake up alone. I wish I would be okay with this. I want to be okay with this. I want to fully appreciate all that I have without feeling the presence of this hole. This stupid aching hole.

When I was gathering the courage to leave, I came to terms with the possibility that I would spend the rest of my life without a partner. I was okay with that. Anything had to be better than what I was living. If I had to do it again, I would make the same choice over and over. But I did not expect to feel this ache. This ache angers me as it is an invasion of my happiness. Yet I refuse to settle for something that just exists to fill that hole. That is not my fairy tale and I want the fairy tale.

I want the fairy tale and in that fairy tale I have a new best friend. My old one didn’t work out too well. He made me feel worthless. He made me feel unwanted. This was someone that I thought, I hoped, would be my best friend. I was foolish and naive.

I am still struggling to overcome the damage from my last best friend. Honestly, I am not sure I am ready for a new one yet. But I do know that if and when I am ready for a new best friend that he will be kind. He will be strong. As strong as me and as weak as me. It takes strength to be weak. He will take me to places I need to go when I don’t want to go. And when I stubbornly resist – and I will – he will carry me. And I will carry him when he is tired from carrying me. He will teach me and I will teach him. He will get angry with me and I will get angry with him. And he will kiss me like I am the only other person in the world because he will be the only other person in the world.

My best friend will lift me up and push me forward and make me a better person when I don’t know how to be a good person.

He will be my fairy tale. He will be my best friend. And I will not settle for less.

I have a premonition.

“Do one thing everyday that scares you”

Eleanor Roosevelt

I was going over some of my journal entries from the past 4 years wondering what to write about for my next post.  There is a lot to go over.  I write a lot.  I couldn’t decide what should come next.  And then something happened.

I taught my first group fitness class.  I decided last fall that I wanted to pursue this.  I have become so passionate about physical health as well as mental health and have made such great progress on the physical side that I just wanted to help others reach their goals.  I have been dancing around this decision for about 6 months now.  Even making ‘tentative’ commitments to take on some classes and always finding a reason not too.  I would chicken out.  And then something came up for my trainer and he asked me to help out.  I didn’t have much time to think about it.  I paused for a few minutes.  And then I jumped in.  Now or never.  

I loved it.  I loved every minute of it so much.  So much that I couldn’t sleep that night.  While I was lying awake it dawned on me that there is no way I would have done this 4 years ago. 10 years ago.  I lived my life with a ceiling pressing down on me.  That ceiling was a person.  I remember every time I wanted to do better, be better, I would hit my head on that ceiling.  That ceiling that would tell me why I couldn’t. That my idea was stupid.  Or didn’t even exist.  And I believed it every time.  Dismissing my idea or cutting short a side project to make sure dinner was served.  That was my ceiling.

So after this first class and the sleepless night that followed, I went back and reviewed my writing once again and thought I would share this one written from when I was still so close to the edge of that rabbit hole…

1 Year and 7 months after.  Who Am I now?
I look back on who I was and I don’t recognize myself.  I know that is a good thing but who was that person?  Why did I become that person?  Was I always that person? Is the person that exists now so very new?  I am astonished and ashamed at that sad and withdrawn shell that existed.  That shell that was me.  And yet I am so afraid of that shell that was me.  Someone that was so sad and weak but yet can bring out a cold fear in me.  Fear that she is not gone and that she can swallow me whole again one day.  Something so sad and weak and yet so powerful and hovering.  Always there.  Always hovering.  I want to not be afraid of that powerfully weak hovering shell.  I want take the power away from that shell.  

I read this now and I know that there is no longer any power to that shell.  I do not fear it.  I fear other things.  But I do not fear becoming that person I no longer recognize.  I understand how she got to be and understanding took her power away.  I look at fear in a new way now.   I look at fear and I see a challenge.  I look at fear and I see a fitness trainer.  A business professional.  An artist.  A writer.  

I have a premonition that soars on silver wings,
It is a dream of my accomplishments
Of many wondrous things.
I do not know under which sky,
Or where I will challenge fate.
I only know it will be high.
I only know it will be great”

Thank you Audrey for sharing this with me while I was fighting that shell.  You knew I would win.

Down the rabbit hole.

“Sometimes you just have to shift your focus from how did I get here;
to how do I leave here.”

People often ask me my story. I don’t offer to make it a topic of conversation but I am not afraid to tell you if you ask. It is all just facts to me now. It happened and it is a part of me. I always wonder though how they see me after they know. I wonder how you see me after you read my posts. Has your view of me changed if you know me? How do you see me if you don’t know me? I try to put myself in your shoes but we all see things the way we want to see them. Not necessarily how they are. And how you see things is something I have no control over.

My story is not easy to understand unless you have lived a similar story. Walked a similar path. If my writing can help one person then it is worth putting myself out there on the world wide web for all to see. For all to judge. But if you judge, that’s yours – keep it. It does not affect me.

I was so young when I first met my husband. I was waiting for adventure but had no idea how to look for it. To afraid to look for it. I knew I wanted more from life. I wanted bigger and better. But I was so painfully shy. I was not courageous or confident enough to stand on my own. I lived in an imaginary quiet room with no windows because that was safe. I liked it there because the big bad world couldn’t hurt me. The world couldn’t hurt me because I was prettier than some. Couldn’t think I was a bitch because I didn’t know how to talk to people. Couldn’t laugh at me because I said something silly and not on purpose. I was too sensitive for any of it. So I just sat in my little imaginary room and waited for adventure to come get me. Then it did. I was such an easy target. I was all too willing to ride on the coattails of someone who seemed to know where to find adventure. Someone who could paint the right image, imaginary though it was. I wanted adventure the easy way. So… I fell down the rabbit hole.

I have spent many hours contemplating how I ended up where I did. It didn’t make sense to me. And in order to heal, I needed it to make sense. I had a dream childhood. Great parents, great home, great life. But as I have said before and will say again, we are all accountable for our journey. We make the choices that put us on our path. And we can choose to learn from those choices or we can blame everyone and everything else for our circumstances. I blame no one. In my case, I found someone to lead me. I let that happen. I was not ready and willing to take control of my own failures and successes and I paid for it. That’s okay. I am in a better place because of it.

I am still that sensitive girl that hurts deeply. But I also care deeply. Love deeply. I don’t know any other way to do it. It is who I am but at least now I have courage and strength to keep me out of the rabbit hole.

All aboard the rollercoaster.

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

Marilyn Monroe

I have not changed. I am the same person as I don’t believe people change their true selves.  I believe they hide pieces of themselves.  Either to look better to others or to appear stronger than they are or maybe just to cope.  I believe I have always been this person but have hidden so many important pieces of me because I felt I had no other choice.  I hid them because I was afraid how people would see me.  And then I hid more pieces because I was afraid of… my life.  I am strong but I could not show it as I had to be the weaker one.  I am smart but I could not show it as I had to be the dumber one.  I am beautiful but I could not show it as I had to be the lesser one. 

Now I can be all of those things with no fear.  It is overwhelming.  My life has changed.  The people in my life are changing.  The circumstances in my life are changing. These changes are powerful. So powerful that most days I feel completely out of control.

My first year of breaking away from the fear that consumed me in my marriage was exhilarating.  A year of freedom.  Peace.  Laughter.  I thought that was it.  My life was going forward and I was loving every moment of it.  Then year two came along and I crashed.  The high was over and before I even began to realize what was happening, year two had come and gone and left me with nothing more than ‘WTF was that?’.  In the third year I realized that crash was a result of all the losses that come with a marriage ending. And I was not dealing with my losses. So many wounds to close and so many scars that still needed to form. My emotions overtook me. I was angry. I was overwhelmed. I was frustrated.  I was not on a rollercoaster.  I WAS a frickin’ rollercoaster. 

In the fourth year I finally realized that this is just my life changing and there was and always will be work to do.  Lessons to learn. Now just into my fifth year, I continue to make mistakes. Big mistakes. But I am learning from each one of them and that is what matters. I am still learning how to be me and I will always be learning how to be me.

Maybe this is finally normal? (oh boy)

The art of asking for help.

Don’t be shy about asking for help. It doesn’t mean your weak, it only means you’re wise.”

My siblings and I. Missing in this picture are my mom and dad whose smiles are warmer than the sun and were probably the ones making us laugh 🙂

My family is my world. I grew up with more love than I could have asked for. Their support is and always will be my rock. When I was going through my darkest times I did not tell anyone what I was dealing with, including my family. It was not to exclude them. In part it was my fear that out of their love for me, they would push me to make a change that I was not ready to make. A part of me knew that I had to find the courage to do this on my own and in my own time. The other part of me had simply forgotten how to ask for help.

During my 24 year relationship, I felt like I was being distanced from people that were important to me. As a result of that I learned to deal with everything on my own. Whether it was as complex as my emotions or as simple as needing help with a task at work or home. Asking for help seemed to have consequences. So I did not ask. That still follows me today.

I do not ask anyone to help me fix my doorbell or shovel my driveway or decorate my house at Christmas. I just do it myself. I am not proud of this. It is my ‘bad habit’. I am learning that asking for help is a good thing and I am trying. It builds strong relationships. Healthy relationships. It lets people in. It lets people see that I cannot do everything myself and that I need them. This ‘bad habit’ of mine that has taken 24 years to build does not reverse in 4 years. But I am trying.

And so in summary, I write this post as a message to all of my family and friends who wish so much that they could have been there for me. I write this so that I can assure them that they were there then and they are now. And I write this because I suck at telling them how much that means to me. Something else I am working on.

So if you know someone that you thinks needs your help, no matter how much you think you are in the dark or left out or feeling helpless, you are not. You are THERE. Stay there. Be there. Because when someone doesn’t know how to be helped or ask for help, knowing who is in their corner is everything. Believe me, that helps.

Please note that this is just my experience and in no way do I speak for others out there. Each individual deals with each situation in their own way. If you have real concerns about someone, search for professional resources or help in your area.

And finally, the ankle broke.

“The path is always right beneath your feet.”

Issan Dorsey

You may have read the story about the kitchen garbage bag titled ‘The Beginning’. I chose that title as that day was the beginning of a new life. A free life. But since that post, I have had a few people ask me what happened the night before. I will tell you that the night before was like most other nights. Another fight. Another night of all the things I did wrong and all the ways I fell short. Another sleepless night. Like so many others. But it was my last. I was done.

So what I think you are really asking is ‘what was the end?’. The end happened on December 7, 2014. This was the day he broke his ankle.

This was not a good marriage up to this point to begin with. I think that goes without saying but I will say it anyways. But this particular winter I had a lot to look forward too. We were going to travel to Saskatchewan to visit my family for Christmas which usually happened about once every 7-8 years. I did not get to see my family nearly as often as I would have liked so I was very excited. Shortly after we were to arrive home from Saskatchewan we were going on a vacation to Las Vegas and San Diego, finally using our time share that we had purchased about 7 years back. To top off the exciting adventures, we accepted an invitation to a friends Christmas party. That last one may not seem like much to most people but we did not have much of a social life so it was just the cherry on the top. I planned my outfit two weeks prior. As I said, I didn’t get out much.

The Christmas party was on December 6th. He broke his ankle trying to walk home from the party in the early hours of the next day.

That ended the exciting adventures. Home for Christmas. Vacation. Gone. I had finally had something to look forward to and it was all gone. I walked out of the hospital the day the surgeon told him he didn’t advise traveling and I broke down in the parking lot and I cried. I felt embarrassed. When people walk out of a hospital crying, it is because they have, or are worried of, losing someone they love. I cried my heart out because I lost a Christmas with my family. I felt pathetic. But as dark as this moment felt, this wasn’t the end.

The end was what followed. The recovery time. I have never in my life felt so emotionally abused. So low. So broken down. So alone. Nothing I did was right. Nothing I did was enough. These were the real dark moments. But in those dark moments I realized that this time, he would recover. This time, there would be an end. I realized that if this had been something worse than a broken ankle, something that he would not recover from, that this would be my life. For the rest of my life. And then I realized something else. I realized that no one has to live this way. No one DESERVES to live this way. For better or worse does not cover this. I realized that I deserved better. I realized that I had to leave.

That was the end.

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