Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Balancing Beliefs, a Birthday, and Big Little Wolf

It was X's bday. He's over half a century old, and he spent his birthday behind bars. Riley asked me to confirm, but other than that, it didn't really affect her. Sylvia and I haven't spoken about it. What is there to say? This was just another of many birthdays of incarceration for him.

I really can't remember if he spent last year's in jail, but I'm pretty sure he did. Is it bad that I'm not sure? Since it doesn't impact our daily lives, it's hard to keep track. I focus on the more immediate needs and events of today.

Big Little Wolf (a common source of inspiration, admiration, and aspiration for me) wrote When Beliefs Are Broken. She has been a single mom for many years now, and is going through some life changes: an empty nest now, a new relationship, and she questions whether or not her messy divorce from so many years ago will still impact her relationship today, as she can't quite picture getting married again. 

My responses to her questions were far too long and involved to put in a comment. She asked:

Have you had your trust broken? Obviously, yes. There are some TV shows (reality-based and not) that are difficult to watch because they mirror too closely those years of my relationship with X. I see young women (and some not so young) struggle to reconcile who they were with what their life is with this wrong guy. I know that struggle. I had no idea who I was, and that loss of me was why I stayed as long as I did.

Have you been able to put the pieces back together? Yes, and it's a work in progress. The first year was devoted to starting over our lives. The second and third years were spent processing. The fourth and fifth years were a constant back and forth, trying to get over. I think around the 6th year was when I figured out that it's about getting through, and when I went from surviving to thriving.

If you give up certain foundational beliefs, with what do you replace them?
  Well, first of all, I learned that some beliefs weren't as fundamental as I'd once thought. I realized I'd been conditioned to believe that we all want to find "the one" when really, I'm single at heart.  I also found that my real foundations were things I'd lost when I was married, and have regained since. I spent most of my 20s in relationships. My 30s have been about figuring out what's changed about me through compromises because of relationships, and what's changed because I (supposedly) grew up.

Where is the line between self-protection and self-limitation
? I don't think we really know the answer to this until we've crossed that line. And very few of us are that good at admitting we're wrong until it's glaringly obvious. I'm not in the chosen few. One of the chapters of Situations Matter talks about this in detail; no one can really know themselves completely. Each situation, each choice continues to shape us.

While I maintain that the divorce itself was not my fault, the confluence of external situations and internal struggles created the perfect conditions for me to enter an imperfect union of marriage. X alone didn't cause me to not believe in myself, but he expertly exploited my inner doubts for his self-interest.

It felt appropriate to answer these questions on the anniversary of X's birth, because no doubt, his life changed mine forever and made these questions applicable to me. But one thing I know for sure? If he hadn't, someone(s) would have. I don't think I could have figured out my real foundation without having stretched it beyond my limitations.


BigLittleWolf said...

April, I learn so much from you, and you are always gracious in your remarks.

I will continue to recommend that people read your post on "getting through" rather than getting over - a semantic difference to some but a substantive one for many of us in which there is no "over" only a constant process of through. And that's really okay, when we reposition our expectations accordingly.

As to this post (and your taking the time to answer these questions), I love that you did this. In reading your responses I feel less a strange bird, but also, my understanding of my own situation deepens when I read this:

"... the confluence of external situations and internal struggles created the perfect conditions for me to enter an imperfect union of marriage."

I see that in my own marital history (and thus, am fully willing to share the responsibility for what went wrong even early on).

I thank you for such a close and caring reading of my post yesterday, and for this very thoughtful post of your own. I believe that by sharing our stories, we continue to learn and grow and as a result, make our way with greater ease and compassion.

jenn said...

"X alone didn't cause me to not believe in myself, but he expertly exploited my inner doubts for his self-interest."

I could say the exact same thing. I totally understand where you're coming from here. I also really like your last line. I think I needed to be stretched beyond my limits as well.