Have you ever been profoundly disappointed? Not the I didn’t get the Christmas present I wanted kind of disappointment or the person I wanted to date is already dating someone else kind of disappointment or even the I lost my job kind of disappointment but the who. you. are. in my life. has. significantly. changed. kind of disappointment. Or, the I’m not. who I thought. I would be. kind of disappointment.
How do you cope?
How do you keep moving forward?
When I believed my marriage was over I’d hit a place of sadness I can only describe as profound grief. It was more intense than the grief I felt when my grandmother died, and she was the single most respected and influential person in my life up to that point. I believed getting to the place of “I have nothing else to give” impacted me like grief because mixed with a sincere sense of loss were feelings of regret, failure, and shame. When I finally admitted defeat to myself I felt hopeless and irreparably damaged. Something was so deeply wrong with me that I could not love this person enough to make our marriage work. The only feeling left when I though about my marriage was sadness.
Before anyone misunderstands please note–my husband did not intentionally hurt me. He did not calculate ways to make me feel small or worthless any more than I had done the same to him. He did not physically force me to do anything I did not choose to do. Nor was he consciously aware of the multiple ways I felt manipulated or even coerced by his criticism, anger, or attitudes about leadership within a family. I rarely, if ever, shared my real thoughts and feelings with him because I also allowed myself to be manipulated by a lie perpetrated by the conservative, evangelical thread of the Christian Church. The lie was that a wife’s job was to submit to her husband in silence, never be critical of him in any public forum, and trust the Spirit to direct his behavior and thinking. (It goes hand in hand with the lies concerning church leadership and the idea that to question the “man of God” in the house is tantamount to questioning God–but that topic is for another post). With regard to my marriage, my silence and submission allowed my husband to be a passive oppressor. Additionally, the “divorce is not an option” mindset of Christian counseling held me captive in that destructive relationship. My husband’s insecurities and dysfunctional thinking produced in him oppressive and manipulative behavior which my insecurities and dysfunctional thinking allowed. It was the perfect storm.
The biggest tragedy with regard to my marriage is that if we had sought secular counseling when we originally sought Christian counseling we might have been able to spare our family 25 years of damage and dysfunction. We could possibly have given our children 25 years of a healthier marital example. And, I would probably have learned some auto mechanics by now. (FYI: Car repair is a metaphor for all the gender related duties connected to a traditional family role model).
When given the opportunity, my husband chose to take a hard look at himself and change. I, too, have needed to change. Exposing the lies woven into our marriage was only the first step toward healing our relationship. We also needed to establish different ways of communication and new methods of engaging the daily tasks of living. It has taken diligent effort from both of us. When we’re at our most vulnerable it can sometimes feel like too little too late. But I believe we are healthier than we have ever been and connected in more meaningful activities than when we first were married.
Still, today as I stare at myself in a mirror I see a hell of a lot of regret, guilt, and disappointment. In college I was two classes and a semester in Washington D.C. away from a Political Science degree and a probable shot at law school. But, a sexist remark from my adviser sent me scurrying to the nearest exit. I left one school after four and a half years, went home and graduated from the university in my home town with a degree in English Education. I taught just one semester. A few days ago I found a journal I’d started when I decided to study midwifery and birth education about eight years into our marriage. I sent in my final exam, passed, and dropped the ball. I never taught a class. A year and a half ago I was accepted into the BFA program in the School of Art. Since then, I delayed graduation a year, flunked one studio class, and should have flunked another. I’ve successfully finished only one major project since I qualified for the BFA and it doesn’t fit the thesis for my show.
I am not who I thought I would be.
Regret, guilt, and disappointment are like quicksand; the more you flounder around in them, the more likely you are to drown. I could easily get stuck in my regrets. I could allow them to stunt my growth from here on out like living the lies stunted my marriage. But the truth is I cannot live the past 25 years over no matter how much I want to or how hard I try. Those years have already been lived. I can, if I breath long enough, live the next 25. Looking back to learn from my past can be a healthy process. The regret, guilt, and disappointment can produce good compost, if only fodder for art, but only if I take what I’ve learned and turn it into something new. The ship has sailed on the things I didn’t do–in my marriage and with the other aspects of my life. Nothing I do will get those days back and nothing I do will stop time from marching forward between now and the end of the coming semester. Four months from now I will be finished with school. How I finish is yet to be determined. Here’s hoping it’s with passion. Here’s hoping I can learn what I need to from my past and move on.
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Here is a list of links to the Synchroblog. I think this post mostly fits their topic and theses are others who have addressed the idea of New Beginnings.
Jen Bradbury - Enough
Abbie Watters - New Beginnings
Cara Strickland - Bursting
Carol Kuniholm - Acorns, King, Beloved Community
Done With Religion – A New Year, A New Beginning
Kelly Stanley - A Blank Canvas
Glenn Hager - Overcoming The Biggest Obstacle To Reaching Your Goals
Dave Criddle - Get Some New Thinking
David Derbyshire - Changed Priorities Ahead
J A Carter - The Year of Reading Scripture for the First Time
Jeffrey Kranz - Where To Start Reading The Bible
Joanna990 - On survival – my one word for 2014
K W Leslie - Atonement
Happy - my One Word 365 surprise
Michelle Moseley - Ends and Beginnings
Matthew Bryant - A New Creation
Edwin Pastor Fedex Aldrich - Foreclosed: The beginning of a new dream
Jennifer Clark Tinker - Starting a New Year Presently
Loveday Anyim - New Year New Resolutions
Loveday Anyim - New Year Resolution Dreamers
Loveday Anyim - New Year Resolution Specialists
Jeremy Myers - Publish Your Book with Redeeming Press
Amy Hetland - New Beginnings