Someone once told me that when the pain of staying the same is finally worse than the pain of changing, you’ll change. I know this to be true.
When I finally left my marriage it wasn’t because he hurt me so much I couldn’t take it anymore, it was because I hurt so much that I died. It felt like there weren’t any pieces of my heart left to rip out and tear up. I was contorting my spirit and my personality into knots to try to please him. Of course that didn’t work, in trying to please him I changed, and the person he had fallen in love with was no longer the person I was. Perhaps he fell in love with an idea of me instead of the real me, but that is hardly his fault. I didn’t even know who the real me was at that point in time. Not in the beginning, and not in the end.
I say all of that to say this: that when I was ready, I changed.
I had an idea of what I wanted it to be (my relationship), or what I thought it could be, but I held on long past reason or logic could justify it. Countless times I looked at my life wondering why in the hell I was willfully participating in all the things that were destroying us, but instead of letting go I held on tighter. Everyone told me to move on, to let go, to change, to do this or that, or say this or that. It didn’t matter what they told me or how long or often they said it. I’m sure the people who loved me through those years wanted to slap some sense into me. The truth is that I had that sense in me all along I just ignored it. I cannot adequately explain why, but if you’ve ever been there then you know what I mean.
I finally listened to them when I was ready. I had to want to change. I had to need it like air because anything less wasn’t enough to persuade me I really needed it. Sometimes the tougher and stronger you are, the harder you have to break. The more I realized that I was the perpetrator of the crimes against myself, the more inflexible I became towards changing. An insane part of me thought that since I made such awful choices, I deserved all the heartache, and by golly nobody was going to say that I messed up and then got off easy. (As if anyone would ever really say, “Oh look, she made a bad decision and didn’t pay for it enough, back to the abusive relationship with her!” Except that is really how it played out in my head, true story.) It is ridiculous to say out loud, but I had to make myself “pay” to assuage my guilt for being human, for making mistakes.
If it weren’t for my son, I have no idea how much longer I would have taken the price for my fallibility out of my own skin and spirit. God knew what He was doing and trusted me (to be a mom) even though I was in the very depths of despair and stupidity. That little boy and the unconditional love he represents saved me from myself. My heart is so full of love for him! Once I became responsible for his innocent little life I knew I couldn’t punish myself any longer because I would no longer be paying the price, he would be paying it. I caused unimaginable pain and damage to myself and to my ex-husband for so many foolish reasons. I still grieve over that but I don’t stay there in that grief. I have to choose to forgive myself daily and to forgive him too, we both made mistakes. I don’t always succeed in that endeavor but I’ve learned that I cannot stand in judgement and condemnation towards myself every day. When I fail I do not have the right to kick myself to the curb and stay there.
Every day is a new day. I love the whole intoxicating, chaotic pulchritude of it. I love who I am and where I am going and what I am learning and how I am growing. I also love, love, love this text by Khalil Gibran, which you can find here. The depths of my sadness will one day define the zenith of my joy.
On Joy and Sorrow
Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the reassure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.