I'm convinced that recovery from dumpster marriages is such a long term proposition. It's disentangling yourself from years and years of habits, mingled energies, and it's the beginning of an unlikely rediscovery of self. But to rediscover yourself and come out better on the other side I think takes a bit of time to examine your life as a whole and figure out the magic phrase...
"What do I want?"
To get to that moment when you find out what you really want out of life, you have to look at the past and how it's shaped you and your habits, even down to the weird quirks. My weird quirk? Cussing in French. I try not to do it anymore because that was the ex's language, not mine. That's him cussing, not me.
We had always agreed that there were 3 entities living in our house...Him, Me, and Us. That we would see things together and do things for the "us" part but there were still two individuals that made up the "us" and they were special too. A lot of people lose their identities when they get married, but it was my hope that I could keep mine perfectly intact because I had never really been an individual of my own or had a taste of freedom.
I remember when I was about to be married. My family and I had taken a trip to Missouri for my nephews 16th birthday. My nephew is such a sweetie...I love him so much. But, the catch of it all was that my birthday just happens to be 10 days after my nephews, so my mom and sister, in their wisdom, decided that since I was living in Canada and wasn't likely to get a bridal shower before the wedding, that they would come up with an impromptu shower and hook my birthday right into it while we were all together in Missouri.
My birthday cake that year was a wedding cake topper. I looked at the cake and realized that my identity, as far as my family was concerned, was inextricably tied to my fiancee, that yes, it was my birthday, but it was more important to them that I was getting married. His identity had become mine in their eyes, whether I liked it or not. I sat looking at that hideous, off-the-grocery-store-shelf cake, filled with disgusting blue candy flowers and white, pasty icing, and realized to them, I had no identity, that I was really just a by-product of life to be shoved, told to get out of the way and for the most part, treated as if I were invisible. He was more important to them than I was and that hurt me deeply. We were supposedly equals at our house and I go alone on the trip to Missouri without him and who do they celebrate? Him.
I looked at the cake and my face betrayed what was going on in my head. I was angry, but when asked what was the matter, I thought of the effort they had made to at least recognize the events in my life and thought better than to speak ill of their efforts. On one hand I was grateful to be remembered, but on the other hand, I was pissed. I think I had every right to be. A birthday is a celebration of a life, so to have my birthday shoved aside and mixed with my wedding was just in bad taste. I was really insulted. But, just to add the cherry to that cake, my birthday present was a blender. Ok, let's just be clear, the only time I've ever used a blender is to make milkshakes for my dad or to make health shakes for my ex. I had and still have no earthly use for a blender, but there in the bag was a brand new blender. I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw the whole table over and just walk away, destroying that abomination of a birthday cake.
To be honest, I'd rather forget that day. I would have much rather that they just left my birthday the hell alone and just let me enjoy the time around my nephew. I'm sure they didn't mean to be insulting, but it's the forethought of how people react to what you do and say is where the juice really is. That's where you are aware enough to realize that a human being isn't just an inconvenience, it's not something you put an act or a show for, it's where you embrace them for who they are, not who they are married to, not what they can do for you, no...it's a moment where you recognize all of their special gifts, that they are special as an individual, that even if they were standing in the middle of nowhere, buck naked, they'd still be special.
It's 10 years ago today that I met my ex. He wasn't the brightest bulb in the box back then either, a workaholic to the last. But I resonated with him for ONE really good reason, he saw me for ME. He told me that it was ok to be rebellious but there were cool ways to do it, that I should always make my words kind, gentle and tasteful, that pain is only temporary and that no matter how old you are, you can always learn something new. That's what I got out of my time with my ex and they were all done within the first two years we were together. The rest? Well, it was a pack of lies. It was reverse engineering all of the great things I had discovered about myself in those first two years. The remaining five years we were married were an exercise in lying to the public, me being intolerably lonely, forced to live in his shadow, putting on happy faces in front of people, then when we got home, he went to his end of the house while I went into the home office. It was really sad.
But, I look at the volume of things over the last ten years. One thing I discovered about myself just recently is that I'm still cool. I'm also still beautiful...as said by a pack of young men in a truck as I was filling up my gas tank..."Hot babe in a Prius!" I laughed. I'm approaching 39, and I can say that yeah, I'm still hot, I look nowhere near my age. A little too fluffy maybe...I'm 20 pounds away from my ideal weight, but still, to look at me, it's not that bad. But, looks are really just that, an appearance. It's purely external, it says nothing for what lives and breathes on the inside.
I'm still battling with demons from my marriage. I'm still lethargic. I still stay up all night on the computer when any reasonable person would be in bed. But these are habits that were reinforced for ten years. Not easy to break habits like that. But, things are changing day by day. There are things that I'm noticing that I've been nodding my head and going "yeah" as I finish the entirety of my laundry, that the kitchen is staying clean, that my bathrooms are clean, the floor is uncluttered, the garbage has been taken out, everything is dusted...and I look around and realize that while it did take me a while to really feel the momentum, well, it's happening and I'm changing.
I still get angry about my ex. I still find stupid things that he's done. I don't like to dwell on it and to be honest, I don't even like thinking about him, much less writing my umpteenth blog entry on him, but there is something therapeutic about realizing the only reason I still do that is because I have nothing else to distract my attention from it in my every day life. When I sit down to play WoW with my friends, well, all that goes away and I don't think about him and how I've wasted the first 37 years of my life. No, it becomes ultimately more simple. It's something to be accomplished and I go in and get it done. It's like school. When I'm in school and have papers to write and things to do, his little idiocies go away. I'm focused on me.
Now I know that sounds selfish to focus on yourself, but really, if you're not happy, how are you going to make someone else that way? Will all of yours or my future relationships have to pay the price for a dumpster marriage or relationships gone sour? They shouldn't. The future shouldn't have to pay the piper for all of the ill mistakes we've made in the past. A lot of it is building the bridge and getting over the sour to enjoy the sweet.
I do need to get out more. I just don't have anywhere to go right now. I wish my phone would ring off the hook with job offers or something, but it doesn't. I'm still disconnected and I'm still afraid of making those same mistakes. But, slowly but surely, like the apartment, things will change.
It's like a song I heard, "The old paint is peeling, this is that fresh feeling." And it's breathing in and out, and doing things in my own way and realizing, I'm ok, that I still need to face the demons of the past, grabbing each emotion and memory, wringing it out, learning from the mistakes, letting the past be the past and take a step into a new day and new emotions.
I think sometimes you have to stumble around in the dark, especially after long relationships have ended. It gives you time to reflect, to heal and to realize that you are special. It shouldn't take a birthday cake or a present or anything else to realize that, you should just know it in your heart. So when that hideous birthday cake does land in your lap, well, it's ok because those are things that we can shrug off, then look in the mirror and know that all the disgusting blue candy flowers in the world can't come close to damaging the fun and happy daisy that lies within.
It's funny, while I was stumbling in the dark, I bumped into myself...and it's nice to meet me again.
Well, it's a new day, time to get on to new things.
For your enjoyment, the song that inspired the post..."Fresh Feeling" by the Eels.