I was going through old blog entries today, visiting myself like I often do, trying to figure out who this woman was who started writing here five years ago, when I ran into this. Most days my previous marriage no longer crosses my mind. Sometimes I actually forget it ever happened. At best it feels like a movie I watched a long time ago, not something that definitely happened to me.
Despite doing my best to block out an entire decade of my life, I still deal with the secondary effects of my experiences, which are delightful: I’m afraid of loss and abandonment. I have a hard time with trust and letting others in. And I still struggle with my self image and self esteem, especially when faced with the disappointment or disapproval of those I care about. But other than these leftover gems, I’d consider myself over it.
This entry was never published. I remember sobbing when I wrote it, and I still vividly remember the day this happened. I remember leaving the entry unfinished. I think I may have shared a version of it with a friend or two. Today I’m sharing it here.
I have flashbacks sometimes. These flashbacks are like reoccurring dreams that take place when I’m wide awake and they’re rarely pleasant. I discovered over the course of my marriage that if someone tells you something about yourself enough times, you begin to believe it. It begins to become a part of who you are somehow, even if you are the only one who can see it. You begin to doubt your own sanity.
In one such flashback, I am taken back to an argument. I wanted out of the marriage. I was standing in my living room. Tan carpet under my feet, sliding glass door at my back, entertainment center to my left, green sofa to my right, and ahead the view of my dining room.
“Look at you, who is going to want you?” Those words stung. They hit me like a punch to the gut. Who would want me?
“No one is going to accept you with a kid.” True, no one will want to take on the burden of raising another man’s child.
“No one will love you.” Am I even worthy of being loved? Look at me.
A lump forms at the back of my throat as I choke back the familiar burn of tears trying to escape my eyes.
“Alabama Man,” he says as he tries to stick out his gut and talk with a terrible Southern accent, spit flying, words slurring. He’s always convincing me that the only man who will want me would be someone who has no other options and isn’t an option for anyone else. The unwanted accept the unwanted.
For the longest time I believed with my entire self that there was no man who would ever find me worthy enough of his sincere love. I had been made to believe that my idea of a loving, committed, gentle partner was a fantasy and that no such thing actually existed. And definitely not for someone like me. Men to me were users and I was meant to be used. My options were to stick it out with my husband or settle for Alabama Man, the lazy, welfare dependent, abusive mystery man that had been crazily concocted and presented to me to remind me of my worthlessness.
I believed it so deeply that it knocked me down to my rock bottom, onto the kitchen floor, studying the blade of the knife in my hand, trying to determine how much pressure to apply and which direction to go and how much it would hurt. It knocked me down so far that the only direction that I could look was up.
Whew. Those were hard years. I’m doing much better now. Those days of believing terrible things about myself are long gone now. I now recognize those terrible things I once believed as lies. It took me a long time to get here, but I now know that I am worthy of love, and I even know how to receive it and accept it. And I can now recognize that the person who said and did these things to me was himself lacking in love. Hurt people hurt people.
Looking back at this helps me come to terms with the fact that the healing from my previous marriage is ongoing, even if it usually goes unnoticed by me. There’s still a quiet voice inside of me that is shocked that she is loved and cared for. She still gets nervous that maybe it’s all just a dream. She still questions the universe about what she might have done to deserve another chance at love and happiness. And this is exactly why, from time to time, I like to come back here and remind myself of what I’ve been through and how it’s shaped me. Perspective is a priceless companion on the journey to self improvement.