I want to talk about the women who have “long been in my corner”. Women who have always been a phone call or one hug away. These women gave me the strength to continue to the next breath.
One of them reached out to me this morning and shared how hurt she was that I made it sound like I didn’t have anyone in my corner. I felt awful. I had typed out this post prior to hearing from her because I wanted to address the very complicated subject of what NO ONE and NOTHING feels like when you are in the kind of relationship I was in and why, despite the wonderful women in my life, it doesn’t lessen that feeling.
Feeling alone is all about perspective. And Monday was a day in which I felt there was no way forward, no way out, and that I was powerless against a fate that I had been told would be mine for a long time.
Last week, I started to miss HIM and I felt deeply ashamed. This was not something I would share with my friends. This feeling of panic, that I had gone too far, and that his threats about what was going to happen once I wasn’t in control anymore rang ominous bells and made my stomach ache.
He had been calm for a few days, HIS voice even and amiable, and we had a few conversations that felt real. As if he was contemplating the things that had gone wrong as was taking responsibility. These have always been bread crumbs for me and I have always followed onto the same old path, where sooner than later, the same landmarks led me back to the very same cage. The cage that I would voluntarily walk into and turn the lock myself. I felt this pull as strongly as the tides adhere to the moon and the Earth gravitates around the Sun.
For many years I called no one because there was no one to call. For many more years I would call no one because I didn’t want anyone to know. But then, about 6 years ago, I allowed myself to become close to a woman who, despite all my attempts to avoid an honest relationship, was insistent that we should be friends. She wooed me with her smile, her willingness to use the F word as a noun and a verb all in the same sentence, and I started to trust her. Enough that I knew I could call her when things got really bad. She was always there when I called. She responded with humor and undying love. Her willingness to listen and then give me sage advice. She didn’t use empty platitudes and always kept it real. She was confident enough to tell me what I didn’t want to hear and she gave the kind advice that takes guts to share. Because it was real and honest.
Not that I took it. I would let her strength and brashness soothe me and then I would get off the phone, emboldened for a little while and then the fear would seep back in and I would do whatever it took to get things back to our really fucked up kind of normal.
Then I wouldn’t call her for a while. I didn’t want her to know that I wasn’t as brave or strong or smart as she was and most certainly couldn’t live up to what she thought I could be. I could never lie to her so my silence did the work for me.
Soon, I met another close friend of hers and that close friend became a close friend of mine. We shared a very memorable time in Pittsburgh and that cemented the friendship. It also gave birth to our Bad Ass Bitches Text Thread, The BABTT Line for short. A funny and salty text thread that has endured to this day.
I used it to get away from what was happening to me but often I didn’t share the full reality. A text here, a text there and they would say wonderful things that I can’t disclose here—irreverent, every single word.
So, I bet you’re wondering why on earth I am so lonely and sad. With these powerful women in my corner how could I possibly need to reach out to strangers?
I wish I could give you a simple answer but nothing about living through what I have lived through is simple. Just as missing the person that treated me so bad is crazy. It is also possible to feel regularly that I didn’t deserve these women. That what they said, in their strong and thoughtful way, wasn’t true about me and I didn’t have the heart to break it to them. How they would despise my weakest moments. How they would cringe if they knew how I begged, borrowed, and stole to keep HIM. Their anger if they found out just how much of myself, I sacrificed to try to make HIM happy.
No one knew about the early mornings when I was sobbed on the kitchen floor, avocado from the spinach wraps smeared on my hands, my back against my worn-out cupboards, as I tried to process the crushing things HE would say right before he left for work. The sound of his car would wake the kids and I’d get up, wash my hands, and finish their healthy lunches. I’d slip into the groove, my smile in place as I drove them to school, counting the minutes under my breath. One more mile. One more drop- off. Then I could shut all the curtains and get back in bed. I would lay there hiding and crying all day. Until it was time to get up, brush my hair, and paint on the fake smile. I would pick up the kids and help with homework, the routine smoothing the edges until it was easy to believe that all I needed was to get a little bit more “thick skinned”. Learn to keep my mouth shut. Then everything would be okay.
Making things even worse was my belief that I would never measure up to their success and contentment. Because, let me tell you, the women that I chose to confide in are really fucking awesome. I lack in a lot of areas but my taste in friends in not one of them. The few that I let into my inner circle are strong and smart. Which made it all the harder to really be open with them. Because, I knew that I wasn’t, and that his predictions would come true and I would disappoint them and that if they only knew what HE knew, they wouldn’t like me.
But, their influence. Their persistence seeped in passed all the bullshit and I started to make some serious headway. I started to believe that maybe I could make some plans. I kept a lot of secrets but with each passing year, I kept less from them. When I started a new career path, they were the first people I called. When I needed advice, I went to the BABTT Line. Slowly but surely their love hacked into HIS program and there were glitches. Promotions. Awards. Diplomas.
I don’t want to forget to mention the fact that there is another wise woman in my life. She has been through so much in her own life. She watched from afar. She saw him pack his garbage bags in his car when he would leave and saw him when he would unpack them when he would come back and not once did, she condemn me. She just said I love you. That’s it. AND she can always be depended upon for a cup of mayo or a surprise plate of cookies. She is simply the best. Really.
There are other women in my life who have never been given the chance to be there for me because I have a hard time trusting people. Though, they are no less amazing. Like I said before, I always choose woman I can look up to so my life is surrounded by some real kick ass, ball busters.
I was not alone on that Friday morning when I stood in the bathroom, the shards of glass from the mirror HE smashed, reflecting a million of me. I watched ME tell HIM to go but really it was all the women who stood by me that gave power to my words. It was their unwavering belief in me, all their answered phone calls, thoughtful guidance, and the fact that they lived their lives with such courage that gave me mine.
After he left, I confided in another friend. It took so much courage to tell her what had been happening to me. After that she texted me every single morning asking if I was okay and if there was anything she could do to help me that day. Each time I told her that being my friend was the most wonderful gift of all.
It is hard to break habits. It is even harder to see things for what they are because it is so much easier to see them for what you want them to be. I believed that I was alone because my reality didn’t look like what I thought it was supposed to look like. I had dreamed of someday for so long, that I had stopped seeing today.
The day I wrote on Jennifer Garner’s post about my desolation and then got that response was the epiphany I needed but not the one I was expecting.
You see, when Jennifer Garner gave her advice and all those women shared their heartbreaking stories. Their success stories. I suddenly realized that many women had experienced what I had.
I also realized that the reason I felt like I had no one and nothing is because I was looking at my life through HIS eyes. I was looking at the way he had defined me.
What I realized is that though my friends aren’t my family, that though I do not have parents or a place to run to where I feel safe– have something far greater than that.
I have powerful women in my corner.
How sad is that it took me so long to realize this?
As soon as I finished my thank you to all the wonderful people who reached out to me, I knew what I needed to do next.
Thank you BABTT for being my ride or die bitches.
Thank you, Sister Friend.
Thank you, Writer Friend.
Thank you to all the friends who smiled when they saw my tears and I didn’t explain. Thank you to all the friends that continued to be my friend no matter all the last-minute canceled plans.
Thank you for always being there for me even when I wasn’t there for you. Most especially, when I wasn’t there for myself.
Thank you, Jennifer Garner. AGAIN. For helping me to see what was right in front of my face.
Unfortunately, I didn’t post this as soon as I should have because I had one more thing to do…
I went to each of my children’s rooms. I stroked their hair and smoothed their sweaty foreheads as I whispered my Thank You in their ears.