I have been going to therapy steadily, with my current therapist, Danny, for 2.5 years. And somehow, it turns out I’d vaguely glossed over my childhood abuse in that time. I think I thought I’d dealt with it, that if I am able to have loving relationships (conditionally, one might argue) with my abusers, that I’d forgiven them.
It wasn’t until I read Byron Katie’s “Loving What Is” that I made the connection. Even if we think we’ve 99% forgiven someone, if we don’t deal with that last 1%, it’s going to keep showing up for us. As a positron, a cheerleader and Hype Girl in Chief, acknowledging that I’m the child of abuse has somehow always felt like engaging with a negative story. I was worried I’d get stuck in the narrative. But in ignoring it, I failed to heal a broken part of my past. I let people mistreat me. I have been unable to ask for what I truly need in life. And what came out in therapy today was that deep down, I don’t believe I’m worthy of better.
If I dig, I can find so many layers to that bruised, rotting onion. You know how sometimes you can peel off the rotting layers, and still chop up the rest of the onion for cooking? And you’re crying, because old onions emit more of the gas that makes you cry, but you’re like, “Meh. I can still make use of this thing.” But sometimes, you start chopping, and while there are so many whole layers looking fine, near-perfect even, the centre of the onion has also started to brown? That. Today I found the brown centre.
For all my cheerleading, I have not been the best leader in my own life. I have settled for less than. I have accepted bad behaviour and tried to make unpleasant things work, I have beaten myself up for wanting more. I have beaten myself up for not being able to ask for what I need. I have finally gotten the courage to ask for it, only to be made to feel like nope, I didn’t deserve it. But what Danny was so good to remind me today was that I have the power to ask, “Wait, does your statement hold true for me? And does it serve me?” And if it doesn’t, if that critique or gaslighting doesn’t lead to a better me, then I DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO IT.
Monsieur Magique got catty when I spoke my truth. He called a week after the text exchange about taking a break and I was elated to hear his voice. I was busy with kids and said I’d call him back. When I called back, no answer. “Did I miss you?” I texted, assuming he’d fallen asleep. “I’m around until mid-day if you want to connect/call back.” By midnight that day, I’d still not heard from him. I had no idea what he was doing, if he had his kids, but assumed he did not since it wasn’t a typical weekend for me to have the kids, and we’re on the same schedule. So then why wasn’t he getting back to me, at least with a short text to say, “Hey, busy day, will call you back tomorrow”? The entire thing makes no sense. Who treats someone like that, when only a month earlier they’d taken that same person on a romantic weekend?
So I called him on it. I said, “I’m so disappointed not to have my call or messages acknowledged, at the very least to set the expectation of when I might hear from you.” Then I took some Brene Brown inspiration and wrote, “I don’t know what stories you are telling yourself, but the one I’m telling myself is that I’ve somehow done something to upset you. That perhaps I experienced that beautiful weekend away completely differently than you did.”
That’s when I got the weirdest reply. “You do not add any stress to my chaotic life, to the contrary, and you did not do anything wrong, but I can’t get emotionally attached, and seriously, you are busy too and I am often caught thinking how something serious between us would work, with the kids. I found how you handled the concert thing weird to be honest and it made me realize that that you did not really mean it maybe, or that you had given up on me, which saddened me a bit. All you had to do is remind me and I would have made plans but you chose otherwise. I do not know, there are a lot of little things and while I realize how patient and understanding you have been, I am not sure what you really miss about me when I am not around. I don’t feel insecure or unsure about you Maria, but I don’t see any passion in you either when we are intimate or sticking to plans meant for us… You stop giving yourself freely because you have been hurt in the past and things seem always calculated to protect yourself. Call me whenever, I am more available than you think you know! 😊Especially when I don’t have the girls… Would be nice to talk to you too…”
HUH? So there we have it: the stories he’s been making up about me. How do you build intimacy and passion with someone you barely see and rarely talk to in between short visits? If you added up the time we’ve spent together in the six months this thing was on, we probably spent three weeks total together at most. Sigh. How does someone say, “You’re not giving yourself freely,” when they barely make the time to get to know you better and earn your trust? We talked that night, and I felt a bit better after being given a chance to explain myself, but the message holds: He’s not ready for serious, and I don’t want to feel like his mistress. Stalemate. (Also, he’s kind of a dick, no?)
And yet here I am, weeks later, secretly hoping he’s suddenly gonna message me to apologize for being wrong. Instead he has fully ghosted. Not a word from him in over two weeks. Boy, bye! Making promises that you might have time for me in the future, when your perfectionist fantasy pans out, never putting me first, not sharing your life, not inviting me to social events, not even after we shared so much…? Why did I accept that for as long as I did? Why did I let a man call me his girlfriend and then treat me like that? Why can’t I just accept that he’s not the right guy for me? Because it ruins the fantasy of the perfect meet-cute? Or because of scarcity mindset (BINGO!). I have a long-held belief that there are not enough good enough guys out there, let alone one that will make me feel awesome most of the time. Boom!
What came out of therapy is that I’ve been taught that you’re lucky enough just to CATCH a man. That if you want to KEEP that catch, you’d better push your needs down deep and accept whatever he has to give. That you’d better accommodate him and his family, because you were lucky enough to get him and that is the only goal: get and keep. If you lose him you were either too much of something, or not enough.
So my homework: I need to work on my self-worth, to truly learn and believe that I am worth more than what I am currently offering myself and allowing myself to accept. I can’t control what people offer me, but I can control my response to their offers. I do not need to accept sloppy seconds or leftover scraps. I’m lucky I’m not so hungry that I should feel grateful for your mouldy bread or your stale crackers. I don’t want your excuses or your dangling carrots. I don’t want your “Well I’ve always said my priorities are work and kids” as if those are not my priorities too. I don’t want your drunk tired sexy time after too many hours of YouTube and Rum ‘n’ Cokes. There’s more to this, so SO much more that has happened to unlock pieces of myself. Major compassionate revelations and face-downs with my dad, for example. But I can’t process and regurgitate it all right now, Maria fans, I’m feeling a bit RAW. I’m like a newborn baby whose defences have been removed. Where’s my womb?! Why do I have to learn life all over again?
But I AM learning. I am building myself back up from the darkest places, from never knowing, from being a child who is loved deeply by the broken people who abused her. If you are out there and you are reading this and seeing yourself and recoiling with fear, telling yourself you’re not brave enough to do this, I’m telling you that looking it in the eyes is so much more freeing than carrying it with you for 30+ years. When you let the past continue to hurt you, YOU BECOME YOUR ABUSER. I encourage you to see a social worker or therapist or your doctor or your preacher or a coach or a homeopath – SOMEONE who knows how to help. Message me dreamingofmariacallas AT gmail DOT com if you need to.