This was one of the first posts I wrote on the blog. I wrote the long saga of how the blog became a book over the past few days (under To Publication under pages, not that I expect anyone to read all the way through it but some people interested in publishing and others interested in how the blog became a book have been asking…) and to refresh my recollection of which blogs were written first, I was reading the through the first few blog posts and thought this would be a good one to run. This is one that is partially in the book. Unedited from the original December 2006.
“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” -Joseph Campbell
When I first left my marriage, I was convinced it was the right thing for about 24 hours. Then I felt plunged into a darkness I had never known before or since. I woke up on day 2 feeling as if I was unraveling. I couldn’t understand it, but I had next to no ability to even begin to understand anything, let alone this HUGE emotional upheaval I seemed to be having. After that first day, I was plagued by anxiety attacks, acute depression and waves of indecision. For weeks, I walked the floors at night and had no energy during the day. I was in so much emotional pain that I had moments of feeling that I was unable to breathe. For a while I was convinced that if I was dying, that would be a good thing.
When I went to my counselor, my goal became to put my marriage back together and go on, somehow, as if nothing had happened.
What I was not understanding was that all of the grief I was feeling was not just the end of my marriage…it was the grief of every loss I had ever had and not reckoned with.
What I failed to understand was that for months before the split I had been moving toward this time.
There was an episode the summer before where my husband’s best friend had locked us out of the house. I was out walking the dog, the kids were playing next door, my husband’s brother, cousins and grandmother were in and out of my house, everyone was in and out on that warm summer’s day. We left the side door open with the screen door closed. To close the side door was to lock it shut behind you. None of us closed it in the summer.
My husband’s friend, on his way out of the house, pulled the side door behind him and we were all locked out. Everyone had keys to the house, my husband, his grandmother, his brother, his cousins and his friend but no one had the keys with them, they all had left them in the house.
I was oblivious to what just happened until I saw my husband coming down the block. I stopped walking the dog and walked back toward him. When we met up, he asked me for a key. Like everyone else, I didn’t have one with me.
This enraged him. He started screaming at me in the middle of the street and calling me all kinds of names. People poured out of their houses to see what the ruckus was. People stared at him and at me. I just stood there, transfixed and embarrassed but something clicked in me about this scene. Something that I would not be able to shake for months.
He had always been critical and always had blamed everything that went wrong on me.
But at that moment. on that street, on that day, I knew it wasn’t me. Few incidents had been this clear that it wasn’t me. Few incidents came with such a scrolling banner that said, “This is not your fault. Everyone had keys. How are you the only one who was supposed to have them on you?”
For the next several months I watched and waited and observed how our relationship was so screwed up and how quickly he pounced on me for every little thing. I was able to stand back, for the first time, and see, REALLY SEE, the way he was treating me. I knew he was finding interest in other things, other women. He was verbally and physically abusive. And he continued to blame everything on me.
Still, once I left, despite all those months of moving away, mentally and emotionally, I was still so bereft I couldn’t speak.
What hit me at that time was a lifetime of not dealing and not coping and not working through. It was not the loss of this one crappy relationship. Yes, I had to grieve the hopes and dreams and having my three children grow up in a house with a mom and a dad. Yes, I had to give up the dream of him finally seeing how good I was and treating me like he loved me. Yes, I had to give up my house and my dreams. I had to break it all apart and that was hard.
But the grief and the emotional reaction was so much more. I had to look at my life, my entire life, and see ALL of the abuse and ALL of the abandonment and ALL of the blame by others.
I had to go down into the abyss.
It was hard. It was horrible. And it hurt a lot. Whenever I thought of most of my childhood, it was like putting my hand on a hot stove. Deal with all that pain plus the end of my marriage and my dreams??? And what would take its place?
I had no idea what to do with all that I was uncovering AND the uncertainty of the future. What would become of me? Of my kids? For so many years, I was told how I couldn’t do anything right. Now it was time for me do something alone. Would I screw it up? How could I not?
With all the sorrow of the past and present and a future so unclear, no wonder I felt crazy all the time.
I did feel crazy and upset for what seemed a very long time. But I did the work. I pushed through it. I journaled, I cried, I went to support groups. Eventually I found a new life that was mine, that was a treasure. Eventually I found a life that was second to none, full of love and loving people. Eventually I plowed through all the bad stuff to make room for the good stuff…and the good stuff came flooding in…
It wasn’t easy but nothing that is easy is a treasure. Treasures are hard won.
When you come face to face with your inner pain, do not retreat.
Go down into the abyss and bring up the treasure that is your new life.
It hurts and it feels like hell but there is much goodness waiting for you.
Clear the wreckage of the past and find it.
Susan J. Elliott 12/19/06
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