Hindsight and Gratitude

This post has been a long time coming…be gentle with me.

Over the last few days some things have popped up to remind me of past relationships. When the memories crept back into my conscious mind so did some uncomfortable feelings: shame, humiliation, failure, anger and sadness. Of course, if I dig a little harder I can find joy, happiness and excitement but considering these are past relationships, those feelings are buried a bit deeper. Those uncomfortable ones are close to the top, closer than I’d prefer. There’s still not quite enough distance yet, which is odd because one relationship ended 9 years ago and the other 6. That should be plenty of time, right? Apparently not.

So what are these feelings about? I feel shame and humiliation and failure because many of my peers have been married for over 15 years and if I had stayed in my first marriage (a relationship that ended 14 years ago), I’d be celebrating two-digit anniversaries too. I feel shame and humiliation and failure because none of those relationships stuck. They all ended. They all failed. And those feelings take me straight to – what’s wrong with me? I feel like a failure because I couldn’t make any of them last.

I feel humiliation because obviously I make poor choices. I let one person manipulate himself (and his son) into my life. I let him treat me poorly. I let it get to the point that I had to change the locks on my house for protection. I was so embarrassed.

I feel like a failure because I kept trying to make a relationship work even though I knew deep down it wasn’t meant to be. I made excuses. I let things slide. I want along with what he wanted hoping that someday I would want that too.

I feel shame because I’ve said to myself countless times: I am a failure. Not: I failed. There’s a big difference. Shame means there’s something wrong with me. How long I lived in that place of shame.

+++

On Thursday I had the opportunity to work from home. It was a beautiful day. I did computer work in the morning then spent a majority of the afternoon outside reading Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks by Diana Butler Bass. This was for work – can’t complain about that assignment!

I resonated with much of the book, but one part really stood about to me particularly because of the memories of relationships and feelings this week.

Honest hindsight does not foster nostalgia. It puts us in touch with gratitude. Looking back offers the opportunity to rewrite our own stories in more constructive and positive ways (65).

I want to have a different perspective on my past. I don’t want to look back and be flooded with feelings of shame and humiliation and failure and anger and sadness. I want to rewrite the story.

+++

I got married a few days after I turned 21. During our almost-four-year marriage, I dealt with finishing college, an estranged brother, my dad’s sexuality, my grandmother’s cancer returning, my mother’s cancer diagnosis, my parent’s divorce, my then-husband’s cancer diagnosis, my then-husband being fired from his job (just after we told them he had cancer!), buying a fixer-upper house, my first full-time job… I can’t remember what else. Needless to say, it was a lot for anyone. It was a lot more for a young couple in their early 20s. It was just a lot.

My 20-something self did the best she could with what she was given. In fact, looking back I’m impressed with all she did accomplish in those short years. She graduated summa cum laude, she helped to grow a very successful youth program, she maintained strong friendships, and developed many skills that I carry with me today. She was a strong woman.

Could she have made that marriage last? Probably. Did she? No. Is that okay? 100% yes.

I carry her with me today and I love her.

+++

I met a guy who was fun and exciting. He liked live music and supported my music efforts. He wanted to travel and explore. He introduced me to people I never would have met otherwise. He helped me experience aspects of life most people were doing in their early 20s… when I was planning a wedding and making a home.

We traveled the country in an RV that we bought. We tried living in Austin, TX. And eventually, we settled down and bought a house. We got Denali.

I think I can stop right there. I saw the country because of him. I bought a cute little house in Broad Ripple because of him. But most of all, I have Denali because of him. I wouldn’t trade any of the arguments or tears or misunderstandings in the world because it means that I have this face to look at everyday. She’ll be 10 next month – I’ve had her since she was 9-weeks-old. My baby.

That relationship wasn’t meant to be but because of it I have so many amazing (and crazy!) stories to tell. Without that relationship, that rule following 25-30 year old wouldn’t have nearly as much life experience.

Could she have fought harder to make it work? Maybe. Would it have been worth it? No. Is that okay? 100% yes.

I carry her with me today and I love her.

+++

I was lonely. I wanted to have a family. I was ready to settle down. And, I’m trusting. I believe what people tell me. When it doesn’t make sense, my mind reworks it so that it does make sense. Even if it’s not true.

He was a con artist, a manipulator, a gaslighter. He knew what to say to make me doubt myself. He knew that his young son would be the hook, so he introduced me to him on our third date. Nothing really made sense, but I made it make sense. I wanted it to work so badly.

My intuition knew though. She knew something was wrong. But I pushed her down and far away. When I couldn’t sleep, I got a prescription. When my anxiety ramped up, I got a prescription. When I’d question him or get worked up, he’d say, “Have you taken your medicine today?” He knew what he was doing. He knew how to work the system.

To her I say: It’s not your fault. He fooled a lot of people, not just you. Unfortunately, you were the one who got hit the hardest. He was a felon. He was a bad person. You have a big heart and want to see the best in everyone. It’s okay. You knew when it was time to end it, and you did. That’s huge.

I carry her with me today and I love her.

+++

None of it was perfect. Some of it was wonderful. But they all ended. And for that I’m grateful. I look back and see a woman doing the best she could with what she knew at the time. I see a woman trying to find her way. I see a woman hoping a relationship would solve something in her no relationship could ever solve. I see a woman who cares and loves and trust deeply.

Every single past me makes up who I am today. So, if I wish away anyone of those selves, I wish away who I am right now. And, I love me. I love who I’ve become. I don’t want to change who I am today, which means I need to look back in gratitude for who I was then.

All of those experiences and people led me to the moment where I met this man who patiently waited. I was going through a lot of shit when I met him and he was okay with that. He just waited. He had no idea what was going – are we friends, are we more? And he kept waiting. Until that day I realized, this is my person – the one who accepts me just as I am, the one who knows how to say “I’m sorry”, the one who thinks about me first, the one who is patient. Every single thing I’ve ever done in my entire life led to this day…

How can I not be grateful? We aren’t perfect. But we will last. I know this because there’s no fear or shame or humiliation. Instead there’s honesty, authenticity, love, humor and grace. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a life.

peace.


6 thoughts on “Hindsight and Gratitude

  1. This is such a beautiful and honest post. I can very much relate to your line “I made it make sense” in reference to your first husband’s manipulation. You are a very strong woman and thank you for sharing your experiences here. Wish you all the best – speak766

    Liked by 1 person

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