Year 35 has gifted me so much. I know that while knee-deep in the trenches doing my inner work, I would not have described any of the events of 35 as gifts. I would have instead used words like failures, fears, incompetence, and weakness to explain not only myself but what I was experiencing. Even during my darkest period, I knew everything taking place was in line with my highest good. Despite knowing I was being forged for something greater, I still felt deflated and often defeated. I endured every pain and shift, some times with Grace and Mercy, some times with anger and spite. However, in hindsight, it was all worth it. What my hurt, sadness, and grief gifted me with was confidence, a new identity, and a deeper understanding of my strength.
My first gift came packaged in the form of betrayal. This betrayal was double-edged; one committed at the hands of a loved one, the other self-inflicted. The gift I unwrapped from the pain was a level of confidence I had never before owned. For the last four years, I had not felt like myself. I had no idea of who I was after achieving most of the goals I set out to attain. After all of my hard work, I was face to face with my lack of identity. Before, I needed to succeed, to earn, to gain something. There was always a ladder to climb. The thing about self-development is that there is no ladder, it’s just you with you. I was in a constant state of doing, but when all the doing was done, all that was left was a deep internal sense of wanting.
Most of my adult life, I believed the quality of who I served as a direct reflection of how others engaged with me and my achievements in life. I did successful things; therefore, I was a successful person. If others loved me, then I was loveable. If everyone in my life, my husband, my children, and the staff I managed were happy, then I was a good wife, a good mother, and a good supervisor. But what happens when you find out that everything you thought you knew was a lie? How does one cope with the unraveling of years of well-constructed deliberate lies that they created? What does a person do when he or she realizes that continuing to try and feed one’s self the same lies will result in destruction?
What happens, at least in my case, is that I woke up one morning wanting to pack a bag and leave everyone and everything behind. Yep, at 35, I sat on the edge of my bed one morning and thought, “Something needs to change. I need to leave my family and quit my job; otherwise, I am going to go crazy or die.” I was not experiencing a moment of sadness or stress. The thoughts above were an accumulation of years of betraying myself for the sake of others. Better yet, it was the result of me selling my authenticity for perceived comfort. I overused my ability to get shit done, which left depleted and with nothing to give. Of course, I did not just wake up to this realization; it took a deep betrayal for me to come to my senses and do something different.
Let’s be clear the most profound pain was the betrayal I committed against myself. I allowed my value to be linked to how others felt about me and to the things I had or had not gained in life. I brought into the idea that so many of us believe, “If they are happy, if they love me, if I get this one promotion, then….”. For me, it was then I would be enough. I had made all the people in my life critical stakeholders in my worthiness. It was not until the person I loved, the same person I moved mountains for betrayed me that I could even recognize my own deception. My partner and I disagree on how the betrayal came to be, but at this point, I think we can both agree that what happened was outside the explicit limits of our relationship.
I grew up with a mother who made it clear I was not pretty like my sister or any other girl, for the matter. She told me that I was too smart for men to find attractive, and my weight would always be an issue. So, if I wanted to get married, I would have to work harder than other women to both “get” and keep a man. My mother also taught me that it was my job to keep my husband happy, or he would find another woman. So, I made myself small, took on more than my share in our relationship, and tried to be the” dutiful” wife (as much as my pride would let). I neglected all of my wants and needs, suffering in silence. To add injury to insult, I was repeating the say actions at work; living in misery. I felt like I was dying a slow torturous death.
Since I chose to suffer in silence opting to fix things alone, I developed this festering resentment. This anger started to chip away at me day after day, finally wearing me down to the point I was not sure how much more I could take. I felt all of my mental resiliency breaking down. It felt like I was starting to petrify or turn into stone. Hell, by this time, I was already a shell of my self. I was confident that I had nothing more to give.
Overwhelmed and exhausted the second betrayal hit like a riptide. I had given my husband my all. I was angry and hurt, but I also felt relieved. He betrayed my trust; disrespected all of the sacrifices and compromises I had made for him. I had willingly participated in the betrayal of myself for love only to find secrets and deceit. At the same time, I was relieved because I could leave our marriage without ever having to confront all of my closely guarded resentments; I had the perfect out. What I knew almost immediately was if I left, one of two things would happen; I would repeat the same actions just in different relationships (which I had done previously and not only in intimate partnerships but friendships and parenting). Or I could take time and decide if I wanted to stay married. I knew that staying meant committing to disappointing the people in my life.
Forgiveness was a given. I forgive my husband before I forgave myself. I needed to have an ugly truthful conversation with me before forgiveness could happen. This conversation took time because my actions were tied to many different things and not just my relationship with my spouse. At some point, I decided to stay not for him and not for our children but me and only me. I wanted to work through my pain and baggage, and if that meant, we would be married until death did us part then excellent. However, if that meant when it was all said and done, we parted ways via a divorce, then that too would be fine. At the end of the day, I needed to make sure I was my best most authentic self without exception. So, if facing hard truths was the path to the greatest version of my self, then that is what I was going to do. In turn, I would gain so much more.