What kind of person do I want to be. It's a big realization when it finally becomes clear that you have a choice. I no longer have to go with the flow of the definitions that had be imposed upon me. I cannot remember a time when I was not being told how horrible, lazy, obnoxious and unworthy I was as a human being. That messaging started long before my marriage.
A woman I know sent me a survey to fill out for a course she is taking about the divorce experience. It listed the stages, and one of them was discovering your self-identity. Throughout my life, I have been burdened by the weight of opinions. I think that is why it is important for giving yourself space from those toxic influences. You need to be away from those negative voices, and have the chance for the real you to emerge. In the beginning, you will still be constrained by that negative programming. It does not disappear over-night. At the start, you will keep doing the things that got you through in the past. You live in survival mode, and you may not even see the limitations that you have been conditioned to accept. It's through slow small steps that you begin to break down the old patterns and begin to forge your own path and identity.
In this survey it asked what actions you took to redefine the relationship with your former partner. For me, I had to close the door to personal communications. I asked him to stay away and to not contact me for awhile. I remember a specific moment when he called to tell me about his step-fathers sister being diagnosed with cancer. I stopped the conversation, and I told him that was not my role any more, and I did not want to hear about his personal life. This may sound cruel, but I had to draw a line. This was key to breaking the bonds and moving away from that relationship. I was not the person with whom he should be discussing his inner feelings or his family gossip. It was time for both of us to move along. It wasn't that I was angry, or had ill will towards him, but I needed space so that I could do my own thinking.
The first step at that point was the outpouring and sorting out of all the internal confusion I had experienced. It was maddening. When you start to wake up to what really happened, and how ridiculously bad it really was. There were a lot of WTF moments, and with that would come extreme anger and frustration.
The next step was beginning to take the small steps of developing your own sense of competence. You can do things. I recently saw a post on Facebook where the poster asked "What were the things you were not allowed to do?" Everyone had something to add to that, we all had stories. I was not allowed to do anything in terms of repair, or basically do anything that did not have his permission. I have talked about that quite frequently in this blog. Learning you can do things, what ever you want to do, and it ok if you mess it up, was a big part of the road to me developing a new sense of self.
Often I would not attempt to do things myself due to fear of failure and the subsequent verbal assault. The first few tentative attempts has resulted in my realization, that wasn't that hard. You do not have to be dependent. That dependence is one of the tools of an abuser in order to keep you under control. Keep you helpless. There is a learning curve but you can do it. We have been conditioned by the fear of reprisal for mistakes, which has made us afraid to do anything. It takes time to break this down.
Recently, I obtained some equipment so I would be able to clean the storm debris that has be lying all over my yard since May of this year. I am not sure what finally caused me to take the step of actually getting a small backhoe for the job. I could have done it at any time, I had large chunks of barn roof all over my yard all summer. We couldn't mow the grass because of it. Yet, immobilized we just lived with it. It didn't feel good, it was embarrassing and I was feeling like one of those old ladies who cannot maintain their property and it all turns into a junk yard. For what ever reason, I suddenly acted and a couple weekends ago the backhoe was in my yard, and I went at it. I was perfectly capable of getting it done. It was an extremely empowering experience. Sometimes, it's not your fault you cannot do something, its a matter of getting the right tool. The idea of actually just reaching out for what you need doesn't cross your mind, at least it didn't with me. I didn't even investigate until now. When you have the right tool you can do anything. To get the right tool, you might have to step outside of your comfort zone a bit.
While I was working on my yard, once of my worst fears came true. I got impossibly stuck in the mud. There was no way I was getting out, there was no hope. With this, I learned another lesson, sometimes you have to get help. But that is not a failure. Asking for help from anyone other than my ex-husband was a big no-no in my marriage. I was not to call mechanics, carpenters, anyone! The only person I was supposed to depend upon was him. If he couldn't do it, it wasn't done. I learned this weekend, that getting in a little over your head, is not the end of the world. There are remedies. In this case, it was call a tow truck to pull me out. Took a little time, cost me a little money, but really it was no big deal. The heavens did not open up raining brimstone upon me. The best part, no one was screaming at me because of it, no one told me that I was an idiot for even trying. I was just told, the usual approach is to call a tow truck. So I did. After an hour or so, I was right back on the machine, and I got a lot of stuff that had been driving me crazy done. My yard looks amazing now, and a whole new world has just opened up to me.
The next big thing I have learned this weekend, is sometimes to fix things, you need to mess shit up. The pieces of barn roof all over my yard were massive, one chuck was at least 20 feet by 15. They were made up of big beams, and a lot of nails. They were shoved into trees, and were massive piles of mess. The pieces were all too big to handle, even with the backhoe. There was only one solution. I picked the pieces up and slammed them down repeatedly until they broke into manageable chucks. The power I felt. It didnt work right away, you have to keep working it, pounding away. Every now and again I would get off the backhoe and pull away the parts I could manage. Sometimes it was just some of the tin, or maybe a beam. Each time, there was less and less, until finally I was left with just small pieces and it became easily manageable. What started as an apparently insurmountable was done. Bit by bit. I was able to pull the scrap tin out, salvage a nice pile of barn board, and a nice pile of old tree trunks (that had been beams for the roof) for firewood. The other thing was, I have never liked all the weeds in my yard, I have never had nice grass, so the back yard portion, I scaped all the weeds up. I am going to get some fill and make it a beautiful space for my family. All hat is left is to burn the junk wood that could not be saved. Key Takeaway- Sometimes things have to get a lot messier before they get better, but in the end it's better than it ever was.
Though out all this, comes an emerging sense that I can choose what ever I want. I just have to be willing to seek the right tools and make the effort. It doesn't have to be done all at once, just attack the part you can manage. And finally mistakes are not failure, it's ok to fuck up, it doesn't mean you are unworthy and shouldn't have tried. That's the old programming at work.
In the end, I was sitting there this afternoon, looking at my yard, I have scrapped everything back and cleared it all out. I realized I can put what ever I want there, I just have to be willing to make the investment and effort.
I can also do this for myself. Over the past three years I have been clearing out the psychological debris, and and clearing out the junk that has been cluttering my mind and emotions. I can replace that with what ever I want. Now is the time, just sit and ponder, take a little time before I decide what I want to build. There is no limit, and there is no rush.