I am writing you this note of encouragement as I hear you asking this question, “How could this happen to me?” I have been where you are, shocked into bewilderment by your situation and finding comfort in your suffering. But empowerment comes from taking ownership of your circumstances.
I spent the first few months after filing for divorce reeling in my counselor’s office. I analyzed and agonized over all the ways I thought The Former had wronged me. Then one day my counselor, one of my Guides, said, “That’s all well and good, but just what do you plan to do about all of his issues?”
That was a revelation. His actions and issues were no longer any of my damn business, and I had no more control over him than I ever did. It was time to turn around and look at the enormous mess on my side of the street. Every time I started focusing back on The Former, my counselor would redirect my lens toward my part in the outcomes. I was not a victim; regardless of how blameless it made me feel, I had been an active participant in the creation and destruction of this relationship.
I met The Former in college, and a close friendship turned into a dating relationship. During my senior year, he was conflicted about the intensity of the relationship, but I clamped down, insisting that we play house in my cute new apartment. This part of me conflicted with my professional dreams, but having a boyfriend made me feel tethered to something.
I followed through with my career ambitions and moved to New York City. I adored my job and the thrill that the fashion industry gave me; but within a week, I realized that I did not feel at home in such a chaotic environment and began planning my escape. I made the conscious decision to move back to Nashville and just marry The Former. I would put all of that drive and ambition into making him the star, and I would play the role of happy homemaker. It never occurred to me that he wouldn’t be on board with this plan.
As I’m writing this, I can’t help but reflect on the boldness of my youth: the middle-school girl who jetted off to Paris for a summer arts program all on her own; the high schooler who pursued an internship at a university drama department to learn garment construction; the college sophomore who practically harassed the HR department at a fashion house for a coveted internship position and won it on persistence; and the young woman whose internship turned into the job of her dreams in a city in which she had longed to live.
How had this boldness failed me? Why, when my expectations of life met emotional challenges, did I feel the urge to abandon myself and run? It failed me because my own perceived worth and value did not match the boldness of my true being. I got tripped up on the shameful voice that said I didn’t belong, in spite of all of the achievements I was making along the way. I felt like a total fraud, and so I became one, diminishing myself so that I could manipulate The Former and deflect my light to shine through him.
I began the Practice of Curiosity the moment I was willing to retrace my steps and examine all the factors that had woven together to create this intricate mess. In unpacking all of my emotional baggage and accepting the truths that I was discovering about myself and what had shaped the insecurities and fears that had driven me to make so many fateful and destructive decisions, I was able to begin healing the parts of me that had been hurting for a lifetime.
In her book The Drama of the Gifted Child, Alice Miller writes, “In order to become whole we must try, in a long process, to discover our own personal truth, a truth that may cause pain before giving us a new sphere of freedom. If we choose instead to content ourselves with intellectual ‘wisdom,’ we will remain in the sphere of illusion and self-deception.” This journey to personal truth did take time for me, and it did involve pain, but slowly, the compulsion to keep my focus on The Former began to fade away, and I was able to release myself from the emotional ties that had kept me tethered to him for so long. It was a long process of self-examination and evaluation, but the release of so much pain was allowing me to become wholly new.
You will begin the Practice of Curiosity when you are willing to sit and wonder: How did I find myself here? The work begins when you bravely confront your own contribution to the mess you find around you. Resist the need to deflect shame and blame onto your perceived perpetrators and unpack all the pain that you have buried within the decisions that led to this moment.
You are loved,