You mean it is NOT everyone else’s fault?

For me, putting myself first was unimaginable. My inner voice, in the shrill sounds of catholic school nuns, encouraged me to sacrifice. “True sacrifice equals love.” And if I loved my family as much as I say, I would sacrifice. I didn’t dare think my wants, needs or desires should come ahead or compete with those of my children or my spouse. My mother-in-law, the reigning queen of self sacrifice and martyrdom set an example that I was expected to follow. My needs became my husband’s needs and my children’s needs. If I happened to derive pleasure from their activities and need, that was a bonus, and many times I did. But to do something just for me, something for which no other person other than me would derive benefit – well that was heresy. Dare I even consider going to a Yoga class when dinner is scheduled? Pass on the invite to the niece’s birthday because I was tired from a grueling work and travel schedule?  No way! What kind of selfish bitch would I be? What would people think? My identity was shaped on how good of a mom I was: Did I get everyone’s homework corrected so that we got A’s? Did I get each kid to each activity in time? Did I encourage them enough? Do I dare skip out on watching my kids’ ball practice because that is when the Vinyassa class is scheduled?  Also, my spouse was a priority: Are we doing the activity he wants to do this weekend? Are his favorite foods on the menu this week? I push aside that I hate his mom’s meatloaf that I now obliging cook with a a smile on my face. To acknowledge that I don’t like what my spouse likes or not feel up to sitting at a ball practice makes me feel inferior. Not good enough. Like I will not get my “Mom of the Millennium” or “Spouse of the Century” merit badge. And, I am pretty sure these things exist. If you believe in heaven, I think all the moms are lined up in the order of best performer to worst performer and I wanted to be up near the front of the line. I didn’t just want a certificate of completion, I wanted an award.

I thought I was doing it all right. The sacrifice. The constant acquiescing to my husband’s desires. The endless accommodating of my mother in law’s whims. But there was a little voice, a whisper that was starting to whimper. It was me. It was me saying, “I am tired.” If i listened, the voice told me more of what I didn’t want to hear: my marriage was in trouble and no matter how many meat loafs I made or how many times I gave of myself to my husband, children or family, I still wouldn’t have the life I wanted. I wanted to fix it but didn’t know how.

It is ironic that the fix came from the destruction of the marriage, home, business, and family. My husband’s infidelity, years of random anonymous affairs with gay men from the internet is what broke my life and ironically fixed it.

My marriage was not the problem. My ability to manage and prioritize me and my needs in consideration others was my problem. I gave them the power to make me feel inferior and believed that the answer was to give more of me than I had.  Sadly the lessons I have learned on how to be a good spouse, good mom, and business partner will never be skills I can use to repair my broken marriage. But now I feel more prepared to start the next chapter where I am responsible.

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You Love so You must Stay

what makes you so special he asked. you are no better than anyone else. in fact, he went, you are worse. you are worse than most people because you think that you are better.

Not better, she thought but she was too scared to talk back. i am not better. just different and yes, special. but she was beginning to doubt that too. truthfully she had not felt special in a long time, but she remembered the feeling and held on to the memory. but so much time had passed that as she wasn’t sure if it was even her memory or just an imagination of a feeling she wanted to have.

she was afraid of being seen as upity. a new word he taught her. Still, she felt that she was destined for something better. greater. she felt, at one point, a long time ago, that she mattered. her thoughts, her ideas, her perceptions were relevant. No, not special in any way that was detracting from someone else’s potential. He said you always want more, you will never be happy. Untrue she protested. I don’t want more, I still want what I have always wanted, I just feel like I am going in the opposite direction and that I can’t get to where I want to be. Just be happy with where you are he said. but she got off track and was not on course to her dream any more. you had no dream he said. you will do no better than me and where you are is better than you were.  She wanted more but not because she thought she was better but because she thought she was capable. but lately even capable wasn’t something she felt.

So she is not special. But she is able. Able and willing. that should count for something. she always thought that if you could do, you should. if you can earn you should. but now, she wasn’t sure if she was even capable anymore.

Stupid and careless. that is what he called her. for a while she protested out loud, but it got to difficult to argue. after all, he was right. not at first. at first she didn’t think he saw her. that somehow he made a mistake. but soon she saw it to be true. careful and thoughtful wives are different than you he said. But she loves being a mom. the kids need me.  Sure you love them he said, but you are not needed. they don’t need you. why are you still here he asked. she said the kids. he said he doubted it. it was the free rent. he though so little of her as a person. as a mother. she though at one point he loved her and she wanted to get back to that love, yet the reality is that the love was an illusion and never really existed.

You and your whole family he said. You all think you should get something for nothing. Not nothing she thought. she thought that the hard work in school and paying dues at various jobs. doing favors. being pragmatic and respected was what mattered. it validated her and made her feel like she deserved what she had. it wasn’t given to her. she was grateful for the opportunities she had. she thought she had been respected. but maybe not. maybe she hadn’t actually contributed and participated in what she perceived to be her success. he reminded her often that she wasn’t liked. she didn’t have friends. real friends anyway. Even though she thought her friends were real and the relationships she had were meaningful. he made her see that they were not. after all, he said, no one comes to visit you. He was right. aside from her sister, no one had come. he called her a whore and reminded her that she was hated by her own mother.

what is all for she thought. wanting more and hoping for more is useless. futile. there is no more. her kids will be fine and will forget her, she will be a distant memory. the void will be filled; the stories of her inadequacy and ineptness will be the memories that are created for them. They will rejoice in her absence and not fully knowing her. It will bring them peace to have her gone. the conflict she created by wanting more.

she grabbed the razor and sliced her skin. and sliced again this time deeper, much deeper. again and again ripping open the shell that contained her sadness. she watched the skin separate and the blood flow. and finally felt the weight lift. The pain it was finally concentrated in one place. and she watched the pulsation of the blood leaking and pooling on her skin. she exhaled and closed her eyes. She heard the voice of GI Joe telling her that she was worth it.  stop he said. your kids need you.

As she drifted she heard the echoes of her life. images flashed like a slide show.  she could hear her daughter saying mommy you are my favorite everything. remembering the day she discovered she was pregnant with her son. the fear it was all consuming. the moment at the clinic where she saw a blob of pulsating cells on the ultrasound. the gas station where she tore the note from his mother. the moment she decided she could be a single mom. the confidence she once felt or thought she felt. she suddenly remembered it was real. but the conversations and his words played loudly in her memory. floating into darkness and stillness and knowing no one would miss her because she wasn’t really that special.

softly, she heard his voice. she saw is green eyes pleading. he held her hand. she remembered his call from the desert, across the world. he loved her. he loved that she loved her children. she could not go to the emptiness and leave them all behind.

I love you and must leave, she thought. you love so must stay he said.

so she did.

it was because of him

for her children

his voice, in her head. in her heart.

he knew her strength when she didn’t.

she put the razor down and fell asleep.

she dreamed of the day he came to her dads house, when she was 15 and he was 17 wearing a letter jacket. He was with her boyfriend who would someday die and bring them face to face again. But it would be in her mind he saved her.