You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Every time I go to write about “that relationship” or “that man” I ask myself why and nothing gets written. I tell myself that writing about it would just sound like sour grapes. That it’s too soon to convey anything other than bitterness or anger – that there hasn’t been enough time and distance to gain wisdom or neutrality. That’s not to say I don’t write about it at all…I write the shit out of everything that happened in my journal…but that’s my journal. My journal is not fit for public consumption. My journal is a place where I am the center of the universe and nothing matters except what I feel, what I want and what I need. It is not a place where I have to be concerned with things like bias, fairness, neutrality or compassion if I don’t want to be concerned with those things.
But here, I am concerned with all those things. This is a place to reflect the transforming, growing and maturing me. So then, I do have to ask myself why I would want to write about this abusive train wreck of a relationship…and maybe just as importantly, I also have to ask myself why I would want to NOT write about it here. I would be lying to all of us if I didn’t fess up to some amount of motivation via setting the record straight or telling my side of the story. And I wrestle with this. Part of me says it shouldn’t matter and that there is no such thing as setting the record straight…that the “truth” lies somewhere about halfway between my version and his version.
When I ask myself why I have not written more about it, I hear answers like, “if he saw it, it would hurt his feelings” or “that would really violate his privacy” or “people would naturally think poorly of him based on what I have to say”…and those things do cross my mind, but that’s not what it’s really about. It’s mostly about shame. I have a lot of it still. I feel like there was (is) something wrong with me for attracting someone like that into my life, for falling so totally and completely in love with him, for giving him the very best parts of me, for going back to him time and time again, for staying, for trying so hard, for not walking away.
Here’s the thing: I am far from perfect, but I showed up every day for over two years, present and accounted for, in this abusive, toxic relationship – and it was really just the last of many for me. This person never laid a hand on me, but I still managed to come out brutalized mentally and emotionally. He didn’t just lie and cheat and distort reality, he lied about death and illness of close family, he cheated serially, and he took to public forums with horrifically twisted, reality-bending, defamatory character assassination – stuff so alarming to read, that it rocked my entire foundation and briefly threatened everything I knew to be true about myself, the entire universe, and everyone in it.
I suffered so much in that relationship, and maybe even more so after it finally ended because of all the shame. That’s how it works with these things…I know that now. I want to talk about this – it’s important to talk about this. Women don’t have to feel this shame and we don’t have to isolate ourselves from each other. We don’t have to sit quietly or idly and wait for some spark of life to ignite again. We do have some control over our lives and the circumstances in it, even when it doesn’t seem so…I think it’s called “agency” and it’s really, really big.
For anyone else who may be there with me, ready for the next chapter…tell that douche-nozzle (term borrowed from my new friend Sarah. Thank you, Sarah!) to take a long walk off a short pier, grab some girlfriends, set fire to every single thing he ever gave you…gather up all that shame toss it in the fire along with all that other crap that doesn’t matter anymore. Be free, sisters…find the freedom and courage to find the love that you’ve always dreamed of but started to believe wasn’t possible.