Things look so different from a distance
Updated: Feb 8
Something interesting happened today. My son was telling me how back home he awkwardly ran into his father and his new wife as they exited a cannabis shop. It was interesting for me, because the description of this event emphasized for me how different my life has become from that of my former husband. It reminded me of him referring casually to his then girlfriend's dealer (so strange for me to hear him talk like that, a dealer? definitely not my world) Listening to my son describe his encounter, I realized, who my former husband is now, the lifestyle he is living, is always who he has been. It's no wonder he was frustrated and angry when he was living with me. He was living a lie, and pretending to be someone he wasn't. Now he is completely free to live that lifestyle. And for him, that's a fit. The man I thought I knew was just a very thin veneer. In of our time together, he never moved forward. He never grew or evolved. While I was with him I did evolve, slowly with difficulty and a lot of frustration, and that was the problem for him. He needed me to stay small, controllable. And now on my own, that evolution has accelerated. I think moments like my son telling me about his encounter are forever going to be a yard stick to measure how far I have come, how much has changed. I can't even imagine being married to that man now. How did I ever do it? Insane.
The fact is, he has an issue with drugs, he always has. He spent years hiding that part of himself. I am sure the resentment toward me grew with each passing day. I remember seeing him stoned once, his eyes bloodshot, he was all paranoid and there was a haze of smoke all around his head right up to the ceiling. He was strange, awkward, it was a very off putting sight. I remember telling him that was not what I wanted in my life, that we could have fun while I was around but I would be moving on. (Oh god, I wish I would have stuck with that) But he told me he would quit, and he seemed to turn into exactly what I was looking for. But the truth was, he was not that middle class soccer dad he pretended to be. He was only masquerading as a family man in the burbs. I remember how awkward and stressed he would get anytime he was out of his comfort zone. Where he was not in control, for example when we traveled. He has his little domain now he can rule it, without the pressure of me growing making him uncomfortable. I always wanted to go do things, travel explore. He would do everything in his power to turn off that desire. He has that now in his new wife. She inhabits a similar world. It's a much better match. I also remember him freaking out any time I went near his car. He would never let me touch anything, I know now it is because that is where he kept his stash. But at the time it left me bewildered, hurt and confused, he would attack me like me going near his car was some horrendous sin that I, ever the idiot had committed. Of course he turned his rage of almost being caught on me, my fault. At the end, I saw increasing signs of his agitation, he would fidget, always be angry, explosive temper, and of course the never ending stream of disappearing money.
The truth was, he was an addict, it had nothing to do with me, our lifestyles and our personalities polar opposites. Even if he wasn't actively using at times, it still was baked into his personality. He knew if I figured him out, I would be gone. Previous to me, he lived a life much like he is living now, its interesting how history repeats. I do believe that he did quit drugs for a while, but once he reconnected to that world, the itch was just to strong.
Naturally during our relationship he resented me, because in his mind I was keeping him from what he really wanted. He is where is belongs now, and this was what was meant to be. The two of us never fit. He kept me from achieving my goals, I told him once he was a anvil around my neck, and that is absolutely true. I also kept him from the life he was comfortable living. Neither of us was getting what we wanted.
It was funny, when I met my ex, I thought he was higher class than me. He came from what looked like a good upstanding family. But that really is not who he is, I deceived myself. The reality is, his world a world of financial hardship, drugs, drug dealers and living in a shitty little house putting up a front for the neighbours. Everything substandard. Its pretty interesting to see him now, and see how his future is set. I think the only thing left for him is for him to actually move into a trailer park, an old truck seat on the porch to serve as a couch. He is trapped in it now. I saw a picture of him and his new wife recently, and I must admit, I laughed. In the picture its obvious, he looks weak, oddly posing showing off non existent biceps grasping at a youth now long faded, at one time he was an exceptionally good looking man, now I cannot see any trace of that man I knew. I know today, I would be swiping left for sure. He hasn't changed. He never will.
As I reflected on this I realized calm has settled over me, it's not my problem. It has nothing to do with me, and has no impact on me and I have no investment there. His destructive tendencies no longer pull me under. I am no longer under his control. Its a bitter pill to swallow when you realize you spent so many years on the wrong path. This is the grief I deal with now, the grief of wasted years.
I think in many ways, he is who I thought I was. That is part of what kept me there. I did grow up in that world, my upbringing would be described pretty safely as white trash. But I am realizing now, I never fit that mold. I remember the awkwardness I used to feel around many of my relatives and community members. I had different dreams, different standards. As a child I took a lot of flack for that, "who do you think you are? Do you really think YOU will ever make 50 grand a year? Your going to be a street hooker" Then they would laugh and admonish my ambition. Like my dad always said, its like crabs in a bucket, you don't need a lid, they will pull each other down.
I think deep down part of me believed the message, who did I think I was? That's what made me controllable to someone like my ex. He seemed to come from a different world, his family was really well off, they were pillars of the community. But is was all just a façade. I bought it, I think in my mind I believed he was going to elevate me. I was looking for the easy route. It wasn't the easy route at all, it was a very detrimental detour. I handed over my power, I believed he knew better. I could not trust myself to determine my own destiny. A prime victim for someone looking to dominate. I didn't realize, I was fully capable of elevating myself. I am not that person that my family and my ex accused me of being. It served them to undermine me and my sense of self. If I realized my value, they would not be able to continue to dominate and take advantage of me, use my skills to further their ends. My success was obviously a real threat to him, and the higher I climbed the more vicious he became in his attacks.
I would describe the emotional journey of the past few years as being much like someone who got pulled from the water while drowning. When your in the water, your in a panic, you don't know which way is up, you might give up stop fighting, freeze just sink to the bottom accepting your fate. At the first sense of rescue you desperately claw for safety grabbing on to who ever is near, a danger to yourself and others, you could drag them down with you. When you first surface, your sputtering and flailing, gasping for breath, still flailing not sure if your are alive or dead, everything is on hyper drive. Then as slowly you settle, calm down, breathing relaxes and the shock and disbelief sets in "what just happened?" you need to process. As you recover you take stock, you begin to tentative go in the water again, but you still get moments of panic. There is a lot of back and forth, comfort doesn't return overnight. Then over time slowly, very slowly it fades and your sense of equilibrium returns. Once more you swim, and perhaps for the first time explore, and in my case, it's with confidence.
Finally, I feel in a position where internally I am calm, my head is clear and my heart light. Things have really settled over the last few months. My life is beginning to fall into place. Having a home that is in full working order really helps too. I love my new neighborhood, and I am really enjoying everything this city has to offer. Change has been good.
As the dust has settled, and the emotional fog has cleared away my energy and drive is returning. I have room to think. And with that, the recognition of what I want. It is time to start building the blocks that will be the foundation for my future. I can finally really know what I truly want. This was tough at first, because I tended to be easily swayed by the wants of others. Identifying what was important to me was a challenge.
I have four major life goals, to have solid financial stability, to be healthy and fit, travel regularly and to have a warm and inviting home where I can comfortably hosts guests at any time.
I am going to start with financial stability. I think of all my goals this is one that is closest to my heart. Financial stability provides calm and assurance, it also enables you to pursue other goals like travel, being able to provide for my children and to be able to have flexibility in my choices.
Fear have poverty has been used to control me. I have always been terrified of being poor. I was always certain starvation and death were right at the edge of my existence. Somehow I equated a world without my ex-husband as homelessness, failure, destitution. I really believed I needed him. He leveraged that belief to keep me in line. That is actually really distorted thinking. In fact, he was bringing me closer to financial ruin than I would ever be on my own. I have become fully aware I was in extremely low danger of ever ending up homeless. Of course, it could happen to anyone, but now looking back I realize when you have the level of focus and intent like I had, success is pretty much inevitable. But I didn't know that then. Little did I know the world was my oyster. The beauty is, it still can be. It's time to reframe, and start over. My life, my way.
I have been very fortunate, I have a very good job, with a good stable income. But I do not just want to be ok financially. I have so very specific goals in mind, and I have been formulating some specific steps to get there.
I want to be completely debt free, that means no mortgage, no payments of any kind.
I want to be able to leave a large inheritance to my children.
I want to be able to travel freely.
I want to increase my investments.
I want to make my money work for me, not the other way around.
I want to feel in control financially
I want to spend the next couple years making memories with my children before they go off to adulthood, I am hoping one of these things will be a family trip to Europe.
I want to be able to donate to charities I care about, I would love to be able to make significant donations to animal welfare groups, mental health charities, and to help support children in less privileged communities.
So, in order to achieve these goals, I have to take a look at my current situation and face some truths. One is, I waste a lot. I waste food, clothes, items and money. I throw a lot out, mostly because its easier, than selling it or repairing. I have a fully stocked mini grocery store in my home at all times. I always liked to be able to have whatever ingredients available to me so I could cook any meal I feel like cooking on a given night. And often, because I don't plan, I order out.
So, this is something I have decided I am going to stop. I have decided to start meal planning before I go to the store so I only buy what I need. I started doing this a couple weeks ago, and I find it helps on a couple fronts. My meals are better because my ingredients are fresher. There is less stress, because I know what I am making ahead of time. There is more room in my kitchen because its not stuffed to the ceiling with supplies. And it gives me a very good sense of satisfaction.
The next decision I made for myself is to stop buying so much junk. I have started thinking in terms of needs and wants. I have been one to just give in to my wants when ever I felt like it. Its time to pare down. As I have unpacked boxes I realized I have so much stuff that I really don't need. I remember when I bought a lot of it, that hand steamer was going to be life changing, I could iron out wrinkles easily. Now its sitting there all dusty, I have used it maybe once. Slowly over time I have been working to get rid of the lot of excess I have been storing in my home. Paring down, keeping only what I really need and love. I have decided the next year is going to be a year of minimal spending. (that does not mean abstaining from things that bring me joy, but these decisions will be deliberately made)
It makes me wonder, was that desire to consume and accumulate things a method of comforting myself and camouflage my unhappiness? I think that might be the case. Don't feel good? Buy something. Looking for that magic salve that will soothe the pain, fill the hole deep inside. Somehow you could buy the life you want to live. I think there might have been something to this in my case. But throwing money at something is not going to fill the void.
The next thing I want to do, is to develop a solid budget and stick to it. Buy everything with cash, save up for things, do not use credit. Currently I am credit card debt free. I will stay that way. There is a budget app named YOU NEED A BUDGET, or YNAB. I have used it for a few years off and on, and I find it really useful. The principals are very helpful, and its all about setting your priorities for your money and your life.
The last goal I am going to talk about tonight is organization. I want to be able to find everything when its time to use it. All the tax documents in the right file when its filing time. Everything in its place, where it is kept in its optimum condition. (Garlic, onions and potatoes kept in a cool dark place). Fruit, plentiful fresh and on tantalizing display to tempt visitors to eat on my island. Making optimum use of what you have. It's an interesting thing, as your mind clears, so does your home and environment. Each day, I have been tackling a job of to clear excess clutter or objects. Keeping only what I love or need. One of the things I have not been able to get rid of but I probably should, is a candle in a jar my Grandmother gave me probably 25 years ago now. It doesn't smell to good anymore and has turned a gross purple colour, it kind of looks like congealed ancient dried blood in jar. A couple times I have held it over the garbage, but I have not been able to let go yet.
Right there, I think it is the key. That process of letting go. Emotionally, physically and spiritually. Slowly I have been letting go, letting go of who I thought I was, who I thought my husband was, what thought my life would be. I always had a deep seated believe I had no choices, to accept what I was given and just deal with it. Now I am getting comfortable with my own wants, and needs. It's time to learn to make methodical decisions about what I want in my life. My fingers finally relaxing their desperate grip on what I thought was my life saver. Stop looking to others to solve my pain. Learning, I don't have to be on high alert, I can relax and it will be alright. I can handle what ever might come. Learning I was and I am capable, leaving my self open for that new day.
Personally, I find myself in a wonderful new world. Opening up to new challenges, knowing I truly can do anything that I set in my mind. The limits of the past were psychological, nothing but beliefs, and that can be overcome. The weight that I used to carry on my chest in gone. I can breathe, I can think. And I think as time goes on, I will continue to become more and more firm in my stance and confident in my own identity. Every day is one step closer to me. I do not have to know the future, or plan it all out. Joy can be found right here, right now, what's down the line can remain a mystery. When you wander, you find new mysteries. Right now, all I have to do is set the stones in place in line with who I am today, and the future is will come.