The Million Dollar Question

Here it is folks, first and foremost:

Why am I so awful to myself?

I had a moment that brought me here to open myself up today. I guess, actually, this all started last summer. 

Early last year, after I left my husband, I found myself in a relationship with a man who has now become nothing more than a great friend. We were an awful couple. We were both just getting out of serious relationships and we treated each other with no kindness, respect, honesty, or love. We were just place-fillers for the ghosts of our own wayward relationships. After a brutal and unexpected dumping (truly, my blinders at that point were astounding), I took to the rebound like I had never done before.

Which brings us to Robert.

Robert was a casual friend who was deeply involved with several women. We were open about this, and despite it, a flirtatious relationship erupted. Maybe because of it. It was a dark time in my life where my choices were almost intentionally damaging, in hindsight. We came to an agreement, which (because my self worth was lower than I’d ever thought imaginable) yielded no pleasure for me, but plenty for him, behind the backs of his current women. The only pleasure I was to receive was the honor of being involved with him. 

I went along with it twice. It had is trashy thrills, and the black eyeliner-clad hooker deep inside of me was elated. For a while. Until the feeling of being used set in too deeply. But at that point, in my emotionally barren state, it wasn’t clear that these choices were harmful. 

Anyhow. After two late night filthy rendezvous, he and I called things off. We’ve remained very good friends, and we don’t talk about our trysts too often.

Last night, in a voicemail, he called to ask how I felt about all of it now. Seemingly out of the blue. He asked me to pull no punches. To speak my truth to him. And I did as he asked. I told him how used I felt. I told him how I would never have done it without being in an emotionally low place. I told him I didn’t regret a moment of it, because it brought us together as better friends. I told him, with all of the honesty in my heart, that I hated myself then, and did it because I felt unworthy of him, or anyone. I felt unworthy to be anyone’s girlfriend, and so secret occasional cocksucker was just the right level I felt I deserved. 

I couldn’t have imagined his response to my return voicemail.

I received the most heartfelt, beautiful message I’ve received in a long time. Maybe ever. The kind that makes you laugh and cry and breathe raggedly and cry some more. And we’re talking ugly slobbery sobs. 

It was an apology. The deepest apology I’ve ever heard. The most gut-wrenchingly honest apology, perhaps ever spoken. 

He told me he’d never have done that if he knew.
He told me I was worth so much more than all of that.
He told me how sorry he was for being so blind, and being an instrument in my self-destruction, instead of a tool in my self-improvement.
He said so much more.

And it felt as though every horrible, low-down, shitty guy I’ve ever been with got together and collectively apologized for years of making me feel unworthy and unpretty. 

That guy I banged twice even though he bought me a kids meal and kept the toy for his son? I forgive him.
The guy who asked me out six weeks into our relationship because he was stoned and forgot I was his girlfriend? I forgive him.
The guy who cheated on me in our apartment by hiding my things in a closet while he fucked someone in our room? Forgiven.
The guy who fucked my best friend on my birthday in my bed and asked me to sleep on the couch? Forgiven.

I realize this sounds crazy. None of these horrible guys deserve my forgiveness. But it’s imperative. Because here’s the answer to the million dollar question. 

In holding my grudges against these men, these stupid boys, these errors of judgement, I realized the key to it all.

I don’t need to forgive them.

I need to forgive myself.

I’m so awful to myself because I am (as we all are) the product of my experiences. I’ve lived, loved and embraced the good ones. But years and years of never letting go of the bad ones, in the form of retaining my hurt, is like a closet full of a dead relative’s belongings. They were important and beautiful in their own time, and now they hurt too deeply to look at, so the closet door gets shut and they silently linger. 

Tonight, because of Robert, because of all of this piecing together, I got vicarious closure for every bad relationship I’ve ever invested my heart in. And now, hopefully, I can begin to clear out my closet and forgive myself, inch by inch.

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The Beautiful Letdown

This Thursday, my divorce will be final.

I’ve been working and waiting and pushing for this day for a year and a half. And strangely, though I’ve been mostly calm and collected with the occasional burst of frustration, I find myself looking for just the right emotional reaction for the conclusion. I’ve been weeping over this all week, although I know I don’t want to remain in this marriage. There’s such a sense of loss; a finality in all of this that causes me to simultaneously grieve deeply and gasp for air as though I’ve been suffocating for months. I find myself grasping to find other people who can reassure me that these feelings are normal. Thanks to the world wide web, I’ve found several commentaries to ease my troubled heart.

The closer I get to it, the more I realize that the loss I feel is more selfish than I initially thought. I am find I’m so disappointed in myself, my awful choices, the weak girl inside of me who stayed, the sad woman who agreed to a marriage in the first place, already knowing it was abusive. In all 7 of the years we were together, I occasionally saw or heard stories of women being emotionally abused by their husbands, and every time I felt bewildered. Why don’t you just stand up for the beautiful person you are and leave that asshole? How could you let him make you feel that way? Didn’t you notice you were working 60 hours a week and looking for another job while he stays home and plays video games? Didn’t it ever occur to you how empty it felt when he didn’t want to talk to you, know about your life, or support your future? How could you let him make you feel like the only way you were ever pretty enough to have sex with was with the lights off, from behind, silently? How could you ever let that sick son of a bitch convince you that it was okay for him to sleep with other men outside your marriage, because you didn’t have all of the parts to satisfy him?

Oh.

It becomes so easy to justify when you’re there.

You don’t think your marriage is falling apart.
You think you have a few things to work though.
You have some communication issues.
You couldn’t possibly be wrong for each other, you have so much in common.
You both like Thai food and sucking cock. Bonding activities.

And yet, in the midst of the anger, the hurt, the uncomfortably “oh yeah, it just didn’t work out”‘s I invariably have to explain to everyone I know, I’m human. Human and compassionate and plucky and sentimental. I replay moment of our marriage in my mind every day. I remember so many of our memories as some of the best times of my life. And that’s the messy truth of it all. I will always love that memory of him and me, the good times, like a fairy tale out of a book I’ve shelved and misplaced. Over the years new memories will come and fill new pages in my mind, and I know I’ll think of him less and less. But the best memories he and I shared really aren’t romantic, in the end. Our shining moments were the few moments we spent truly connecting over a shared interest. Mostly, the interest boiled down to “doing something out of the norm.” 

I always had this theory that he was an escapist. He never fully understood or functioned in real life. It was hard, and so any “real world” things fell on me. Bills, apartment renting, doctor’s appointments, finding work, social “obligations”, taking care of pets, etc. If it wasn’t in a book or on a screen, it would never be worth the effort, ultimately. And for me, I think I spent so much time caught up in how much I hated being the mother, father, husband and wife to one human being, that any time I could sneak in a vacation, it was so needed. So, we bonded in the moments we ran away together. Road trips. New restaurants. Museums. Anything that let us momentarily forget the life we were failing at building as a team. But I don’t for a second look down to the beauty of the adventures we shared. I understand now that in a strange way, that was the only time I was ever really allowed into his world.

So here I am. 3 days to divorced. Worried like crazy that my maybe-gay, man-child, soon-to-be-ex-husband hasn’t finished signing his paperwork, or hasn’t switched his bank accounts, or won’t show up in court. And ultimately I know I have to breathe and take the opportunity to “let go and let God.” I can’t help him. Lord knows I tried. 

I’ve been trying all week to figure out how to commemorate this day. For some, the over the top “divorce party” is a great thing. For me, I think it’s just as much a day to grieve as it is to celebrate. I contemplated a tattoo, but let’s be honest: I cry when I stub my toe. A good bottle of wine, a walk on the beach, a new haircut? I’m not sure. Re-purpose my wedding and engagement ring? Maybe eventually. 

Switchfoot’s “The Beautiful Letdown” comes to mind these days. Redemption for the foolish, if only they come forward and ask? Sounds like something I can use a dose of. 

And a new beginning. I’ll take a big helping of that too, please.

 

A fitting daily prompt:
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/prompt-remind-me/

An Open Letter to Grace

Dearest Grace,

First let me say, before I go any further, that I’m deeply sorry for the anguish I’ve caused your family. To this day I feel the reverberations of those circumstances. Your grandson and I had an infinitely complicated relationship. We got married young and starry-eyed when neither of us knew what commitment, love, respect, faith or hardship truly were. I will always have a place in my heart for him and the marriage we shared.

That said, we spent several of the later years of our relationship staring at each other silently over diner tables, scrambling desperately to find something to connect on. We were both emotionally unavailable to one another, and no amount of communication about it seemed to help. We ultimately had bigger and better things in store for our lives than sharing an apartment with a stranger.

I know at the time I left, he didn’t feel that. Your whole family felt the anger and the void of me giving up on him, giving up on all of you, and most importantly giving up on the promises I’d made in front of God and my loved ones to love him through all strife. I will never be able to fully explain the circumstances to your family. All I can say is that my gut and my faith in God told me that moving on was the only way we’d survive. And I’m sorry. I know I’ve left a hole in the history of your beautiful family. You all have stories of unending love that spans all difficulties and beats all odds. Love rooted deeply in faith and respect. Love that never fails. But we did fail.

More than anything, I know your grandson. I still love and respect him. Not in the way you love a life partner, but I will always hold on to the memories of the years we spent and the adventures we had. I will always care about his well-being. And that leads me to say I know he’ll be fine. One day. I’m not sure when, or what will get him there. He may even be fine now. But he is a strong, brilliant man, and he will bounce back with a fire unlike any other.

And now, this gets dicey.

You see, when you divorce someone, you don’t just divorce them. You divorce the bonds with their families and their friends. All of a sudden the lines of right, wrong, good and bad start to blur, and you find yourself walking on eggshells to make sure you’re doing the right thing. You lose mutual friends. You find yourself dodging conversations socially, only to avoid explaining yourself again. It’s an ultimate loss, and that makes this kind of letter walk the line between right and wrong. But I needed to tell you, more than anything, how you’ve changed me.

I lost my grandparents young. To all sorts of ailments and ills, I found myself without the love of a grand-generation by the age of 12. You were, in every way, the grandmother I would have always hoped for. Even more than that, the more I got to know you, you proved to be the most beautiful soul I’ve ever known. Your unwavering kindness, your sassy sense of humor, your giving spirit, your deeply pure Christian faith; They showed me a different kind of woman I had no idea I could be. I have spent years in absolute awe of the love, support and beauty that out-pours from you so naturally.

Your very presence in my life has changed me so much, and I will never have the means to repay those gifts. I know if you were here and we were talking, all you would tell me is to “pay it forward – love others in the same way.” And in my life, I try to do that. I will spend every day until my last trying to be a manifestation of the love you give this world.

I know that because of the circumstances, saying any of this to you has never been an option. But today, of all days, I know you will read this letter. This world lost one of its most beautiful treasures last night, but I know you’re in heaven, finally with the opportunity to be the guardian angel to everyone you love.

I am forever grateful for the gifts you’ve bestowed upon me. And although I’m never sure what I’m allowed to feel, I know truly that I love you, and this world already grieves such an unbearable loss. Beautiful Grace, may you rest forever in peace, and continue to impart your eternal wisdom and love on us from above.

Thank you for everything.