Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"To Thy Own Self Be True"

A scene from one of my favorite movies comes to mind when I think about this famous quote from Shakespeare's play Hamlet.  In Runaway Bride, the main character, Maggie, just cannot make it to the altar though she tries many times with different fiances.  As the daughter of an alcoholic father, Maggie has learned the art of disconnecting from her needs and desires in order to become what significant people in her life want her to be.  Each fiance likes his eggs prepared a different way so in complete conformity, Maggie orders her eggs prepared in the same fashion.  She has lost that essential part of herself, which is why she can never commit to another.

The process of discovering or rediscovering one's true self--not the self defined by relationships, prescribed roles or occupations--is the core of recovery and healing.  It is finding the answers to questions such as "Who am I?" "How do I want to be in this world?" and "What do I really want to do with this life I have been given?"  Answering these questions is not as easy as one would think--it can be pain-staking and grueling but the answers are found only by being completely honest and authentic.

To live a fully authentic life means that we demonstrate both an outer and an inner authenticity.  Outer authenticity requires a congruency between what we say and do with what is really going on inside of us.  Our words and behavior line up with our true self.  Inner authenticity involves knowing ourselves and maintaining an awareness of our inner states--our values, beliefs, emotions, thoughts dreams and fears.

I am discovering that it is one thing to live a fully authentic life while a single woman and another entirely as a married individual.  I've lived my entire life trying to measure up to the standards and value system of others and trying to conform and contort myself into shapes that fit the expectations of significant people in my life.  Capitulating to the belief or value system of another is as familiar to me as the back of my hand--it is my default setting.  I value my relationship with my spouse and want to please him so it is incredibly easy for me to abandon myself in favor of whatever idea or notion he espouses.  Not that he requires or even asks this of me--this is something entirely within me that still needs healing and transformation.

I'm impressed by some of the words that Steve Jobs shared with graduates at Stanford University six years before his death:
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.  Don't be trapped by dogma--which is living with the results of other people's thinking.  Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become.  Everything else is secondary."  Steve Jobs

I have known the enslavement of living with dogma and the opinions' of others.  Recovery of my true self has involved a lot of emotional sifting, sorting and discarding.  Living out of my true authentic self means that I no longer espouse beliefs that I was told I had to embrace, nor do I conform to roles prescribed for me or affirm values that do not reflect my most cherished beliefs.  I am learning how to be me, an original work of art created by an Artist who specializes in capturing the true essence of an individual.  And like Maggie, it began with something as simple as deciding how I like my eggs.  I have learned that you need to know yourself in order to be true to yourself and that once you discover your true self you have to guard against abandoning or compromising that truest you.  And everything else is simply secondary.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Kicked Out of My Life

Among the items on my bedside table are two framed photographs of my only daughter--one taken when she was a curly-headed three year old and another when she graduated from high school.  As I glanced at them this morning while making the bed, my heart broke yet again.  For a number of reasons, I am in yet another cycle of grief--it rolls in unexpectedly and while it is not as intense or all-consuming as it once was, it still requires processing through the pain that betrayal and loss have brought into my life.  This morning as I held the picture of my curly-headed toddler, I grieved for the life that I've lost.

I resonate with the feelings of another betrayed wife who bravely pulled the curtain back on what infidelity and sex addiction really look like within the privacy of a marriage.  She writes, "Sometimes I feel like I am sleepwalking.  I don't recognize my life now.  I feel like it must surely belong to someone else.  It is a good life in many, many ways, but it does not feel comfortable in that I don't feel like it belongs to me.  It's like wearing someone else's clothes--the feel, the smell, the look is all wrong.  I don't know how to explain it."

Life post-betrayal is full of paradox.  While I am grateful to be living in truth and authenticity, free of pedophilia, and am deliriously happy with my new marriage, I am homesick.  I'm homesick for the familiar life that I no longer have.  My ex-husband's arrest on child pornography charges brought a tidal wave of change into my life, all at once.  I was anticipating some changes because six weeks prior to his arrest we had decided to divorce.  But his arrest dramatically changed those plans.  I did not know it then, but I was entering a period of imposed change.

According to Dr. Patricia Wiklund, imposed change results from a life-changing event that you couldn't predict, didn't cause, don't want and can't avoid (Wiklund, Patricia, Lesson One of e-course for women of child molesters).  Change that we anticipate and plan for is exciting but all change carries with it stress and loss.  Imposed change, on the other hand, is not planned for and does not result from a personal choice--another or circumstances beyond our control imposes it upon us.  Here is some of what I recorded in my journal five months after my life exploded:

"I guess I'm also realizing how much of my old life was cut off and thrown away.  I smashed a 25th wedding anniversary photo of us, threw away my wedding bouquet and our anniversary album.  These parts of my life have been consigned to the trash heap--so many years.  So many years.  So much of who I am and what I have lived for is now in the trash.  Where do I go from here?  How do I redeem this?"
"Life as I knew it ended five months ago.  Life as I anticipated it ended.  My budding career--my hopes and dreams--all died five months ago.  I don't know what or who I am or should or will be.  I am in a place I never wanted to be in--literally and figuratively.  A dusty, congested, barren place that I now call "home."  Maybe I enjoy seeing the barren hillsides surrounding this new home because they symbolize my internal world--barren, without life, future or hope.  I don't know--just know that I am waiting.  Waiting to see who I will become when I grow up--hoping I get to grow up before life's hourglass runs out of sand."

There were many layers to the grief I experienced when I wrote those entries and even today as I
write these words.  Loss has marched through my life in so many different forms during the past few years but of all the varied types of loss, that of imposed change is the hardest to contend with.  No one asked me if I wanted my door broken down or if I wanted my life displayed on the evening news for all to see.  I wasn't consulted about any of these changes; they just came.

So today, I honor the grief that has come yet again.  I allow it to wash over me and acknowledge that I feel like an alien in my own life--an undocumented, non-resident in a world that is no longer familiar to me.  And I vow to take this grief and make meaning of it by sharing the journey with others who similarly grieve.  It is time to tell the truth about pedophilia, sex addiction, infidelity and betrayal.  It is time to reclaim that which we have lost as a consequence of imposed change--ourselves.  It is time to own our story and to tell it with vulnerability, courage, and determination.

It is only when we dare to show up and allow our stories to be heard and ourselves to be seen that real societal change begins because it begins in us.  This is how we change a climate that sanitizes and minimizes the pain of sexual betrayal and loss.  We stand up and say "ENOUGH ALREADY!"