On Monday I had lunch with a friend from my past. In our early twenties we worked together. Just the two of us at first in an office that eventually grew to +20 people. For my friend, Leslie* and for me, this was an exciting, and a stressful time.
We both grew up in similar circumstances where alcohol played an enormous role in our formative years. We both had older siblings and we both had dreams we were too afraid to speak. My friend Leslie was the first woman I knew who married an abuser. I remember at the time I didn’t go to her wedding because I could not in good conscience wish her well — I knew the things he did to her before they married. Why would she marry him, I wondered?
Aahhh, the things time teaches us!
When we met on Monday we spoke of those years when between us we did some pretty stupid things that we are amazed we survived — but are grateful we did.
I mentioned to Leslie that having come through the sociopath experience, I felt grateful for the gifts I had received. As I thought about that statement this morning I realized how far I’ve come from those first frightening, but heady, days of freedom.
Time heals and lightens the load
On May 21 it will be four years since he was arrested. What once felt like a burden too heavy to carry. What once felt as though it would bury me beneath its weight of sorrow and shame and guilt no longer weighs me down.
The lightening up of the load has been a gradual yet steady progress. It has been a step by step journey into the light of knowing, without doubt, that I am a magnificent human being on the journey of my lifetime. I am confident in my truth that what happened to me yesterday is nothing compared to what I am capable of doing today. I’m okay.
Freedom is an awesome place to be
When I first got my life back I knew where I wanted to go — away from the pain and sorrow and abuse of loving a sociopath. Away from feeling less than, other than, not enough, not worthy. I knew that peace of mind was where I wanted to live — I just wasn’t sure how to get there.
But, like any good journey, with a destination in mind, I started to take steps towards my target — a joy-filled life.
AFTER the abuse. Five steps to healing
Accept. Forgive. Treat yourself with tender loving care. Exercise. Rejoice.
Accept that what I had done hurt those I love, including myself. Accept that while he was/is accountable for his actions, I too am accountable for mine. Rather than make excuses for myself, I accepted that I had hurt people and worked on how I could make amends.
In acceptance, I asked for forgiveness. From those I love, and from myself. The details, circumstances, litany of my sins or others sins against me were not the issue, embracing my forgiving state of mind was my goal.
With forgiveness, I was able to step into treating myself with tender loving care. I had been abused. I did not need to continue to abuse myself by dragging myself through the past. I needed to step into the moment, embrace my wounded heart and soul and mind, and treat myself tenderly. Treating myself with tender loving care meant honouring my journey, honouring myself and protecting myself from harm — both within my mind and the outside world.
I also needed to exercise the muscles of my mind so that I did not trap myself in repeating, again and again, the litany of ‘what he did’. I had to exercise my mind to embrace the truth of my life away from him. His abuse was over — it was my duty, my responsibility, my right to treat myself with respect, and care, so that I could end the abuse in my life — with and without him.
I do not buy-into the concept that I need to write a list of all the things he did wrong that hurt me. I knew what he’d done to hurt me. I was living the pain every day. To heal, I embraced what I wanted more of in my life, and let go of what I didn’t — his abuse. We have a natural human tendency to repeat the ‘story’ of how we were wronged. For me, repeating the story of what he did, kept me focused on him. Finding my story without him meant giving up his role in my life, and claiming centre stage of my own life. To do that I had to keep exercising, body, mind and spirit. I had to move away from the story of him, into the story of ME.
In that process, I recognized, especially in those first months away from his abuse, that talking of him was dangerous for me. I was not strong enough at first to face some of the truths of that relationship. That’s why it was so important to me that I move into forgiveness. In forgiveness I continually embraced what I’d done, what had happened to me with a loving heart, not an angry mind. I had to wait to let my anger surface because I was afraid of anger — and I was not strong enough initially to face my anger alone. It took until I began to write “The Dandelion Spirit. A true life fairytale of love, lies and letting go” (www.dandelionspirit.com) before I could look at the specific ‘events’ of that relationship without fearing pulling myself down or backwards into despair.
Finally, to claim my beautiful life, I had to rejoice in my freedom — and continue to focus, everyday on what was right with my life in that moment, not what was wrong. My humanness often meant I slipped into thinking about the hugeness of the problems before me. Whenever I did that, I would feel depressed, dispirited, overwhelmed. So I stopped doing it. I chose instead to ask God to carry the burden so that I could focus on what I could do in the moment that added value, that created another step in my journey forward. I focused my thinking on what I could do for myself in that moment to heal, and quit focusing on what I could do to ‘fix my life’.
There is no magic wand
Fixing my life thinking had kept me stuck in believing there was a magic wand that would miraculously change my life while I was with him. There was no magic wand. In fact, with or without him, there will never will be a magic wand that will fix my life.
Life is a moment by moment process. It’s up to me to create the life of my dreams by living each moment with grace, ease and dignity.
When I am living with grace, I am living from my true self. In grace I move with ease and dignity through the moments of my life without fear that I am ‘not enough’. Not tall enough, short enough, thin enough, smart enough, good enough. When I live in grace, there is no other ‘enough’. My best is acceptable. I am enough.
Seeing the past in a better light
Leslie and I spent an hour and a half talking on Monday about where we’d been and where we are today. In that conversation, I was reminded that where I was is nothing compared to where I am today. Yet, where I was forms the foundation of where I’m at because I have moved from being that wounded, frightened, worried little girl who believed she was not worthy. When Leslie and I were experimenting with life, pretending we were in control, having the time of our life and terrified of the consequences, we were living a lie.
Today, we both live our truth. Somedays more gracefully than others! But it is our truth. We are miraculous, magnificent human beings on the journey of a lifetime.
Today, I give up all hope that I can have a better past. Today, I embrace the truth that I am all that I am meant to be when I accept I am enough. Just the way I am. And how I am is a reflection of my inner state of being. It is a reflection of my truth: I am worthy.
Today, I see the past in a better light than yesterday. Today, I see that the past is simply the journey I took to get to where I’m at. The past is not the map for my future. It has receded into the light of knowing it was just a thousand and one points in time that lead me to today.
May you journey through your day knowing your past is nothing compared to what today may bring. May you accept yourself with a forgiving and a loving heart, treat yourself with tender loving care and exercise your mind through rejoicing in the wonder, the beauty and the magnificence of you. You are awesome.
*not her real name.