Letter to Myself.

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So, I was digging around in my desk to find a clean writing tablet, and came across an older one. I started flipping through it and found this letter I wrote myself a couple of years ago. Here it is, word for word:

 

Me,

The first time you wrote yourself was last year when you were trying to figure out your life.  In that letter, I told you to be strong…be happy…be true to yourself.  I told you deserved so much more than you had gotten (from ex-partner).  Than what was done to you.  And I thought you were listening and believed that all to be true.  But were you?

I thought you were going to die last summer.  I was so scared for you.  You were nothing…a shell…a body with only emptiness inside.  When you’d get up every morning, you cried…knowing it was another day to get through.  And the question was always there: would you survive it?  Or was this the day you decided to end your pain?

J did so much mental manipulation on you…messing with your mind.  But, you made the choice to stay.  To keep letting it happen.  You’ve been teaching your classes for years about abuse and you’ve always said emotional abuse is the worse kind of abuse out there.  Physical injuries heal.  Psychological ones leave scars that never fill in.

Is that why you took J back time and time again?  Because you knew that he’d been abused and you were sacrificing yourself for a chance to fix him?  It’s like being a mom…we don’t mind going hungry as long as our kid is fed.  So, as long as you were helping J, it was OK you were being hurt?

Just this week you learned that J had been talking to that other woman for months.  All of the months you were taking his abuse, making excuses for him, and trying to love him out of his moods.  Instead, they were still in a relationship.  His cheating wasn’t a lapse in judgement or a momentary lack of control…it was a calculated, planned continuation of what they had started years before.  It wasn’t about you.  It was about them.  There was nothing you could have done to stop it.  Nothing.  Would you have tried so hard had you known that?

How do you get over months of deception?  Months of lies?  Months of giving all you have to someone who is giving their all to someone else?

You’ve always felt like less than, but until now, you never felt like nothing.  Think about it…none of your love, devotion, help, etc. was returned.  You were used, wrung out, and left…just like that.  One day he was with you, and the next he was telling someone he loved them.  He was sharing experiences with her he wouldn’t share with you.  He let his kids be with her, and you were planning on being a family.  All the while, he ignored you…rejected you…because you were nothing to him.  She was everything.

Deep down…in a place you didn’t want to acknowledge, I knew he didn’t love you.  You don’t hurt what you love.  You protect it.  You nurture it.

I’m starting to think you’re unlovable.  Really.  No man has ever fought for you.  Has ever done for you what you have done for them.  Why aren’t you worthy?  Are you going to die…never knowing what true love is?  I’m really afraid that might happen to you.

Kristi…I’m going to tell you some truths you need to hear.

  1. You can’t make anyone love you.  Period.  They either do or they don’t.  You can’t force it.
  2. You can’t make anyone give you more than what they choose to give.
  3. You can’t fix anyone…can’t undo all of the bad someone has suffered.  As much as you want to make up for things in peoples’ lives, they are going to have to come to terms with it themselves and decide to forgive or live with the anger and bitterness.
  4. It’s OK to struggle with trust and respect even after you forgive.
  5. You need to ask yourself if you want a man who can’t hold you when you need it the most.  Who fights to win at all costs.  Who puts himself above you every time.  Is this what you truly want?  I hope not.
  6. The most important thing is this:  no matter what happens to you, you have so many gifts you can give someone who might be able to reciprocate themselves.  And if you don’t find that person, you are going to be OK with you.  Just you.  Period.

Kristi

Wow. So there it is. I’ts hard to remember feeling so empty. I’m not ‘full’ yet, but I am so so much better! I can laugh and smile and have fun! I’ve decided that I am lovable, and have also come to the realization that I’m OK being alone. I like me, and I think I’m really close to saying I love me! When I see where I was, and where I am now, I’m proud of myself. I see growth. I see change. I see possibility.

You know, some people say you should just forget the past and move on. I happen to disagree. I think it’s healthy to remember the past (to a degree…not ruminate on) because it’s the history of you: your lessons, experiences, mistakes, and triumphs. And we need those to remind us where we’ve been, and what road we should now take in our own personal journeys forward.

Kristi xoxo

Breathing Lessons.

I absolutely adore Anne Tyler.  She is my favorite author ever and if I could only read 1 author for the rest of my life, it would be her. 

For some reason, 1 of her books really resounds with me and as I listened to the audio this last week over vacation (for the umpteenth time) I started making notes on my phone as I walked to it.  I realized that so much of what I was hearing was ‘me’; that it expressed things I maybe didn’t see, or couldn’t put into words. 

In “Breathing Lessons” a man and his wife, Ira and Maggie, take a day trip to go to a funeral.  As the day progresses, you get a glimpse into their lives and histories, and meet others along the way.  The entire book takes place in a 10 hour period, and the insights that are revealed about this couples’ lives are so impactful.

Maggie reminds me of myself.  Awkward.  Wanting to always please.  Wanting to hold onto things that may need to be let go of.  Worried about her looks.  Not always confident in her worth. 

One of the biggest struggles Maggie has is saying goodbye to her daughter who will be leaving for college the next day (her son already lives on his own), and wanting to reconnect with her 7 year old granddaughter who she hasn’t seen for years.  She wants to start over; be needed by a child again.  Have the family she reveled in.  Not hear the silence when she walks in her door.  I feel for her.  I know how difficult it can be to want to take steps backwards and not forwards.  To be back in that time when Ollie was young and I was the most important thing on the earth to him.  I remember subbing in his Kindergarten classroom, and he couldn’t stop holding my hand throughout the afternoon and calling me “MOM” in a voice that told every other kid in there, that I was HIS mom and only their sub!  There was another time when he went to a sleep-away church camp (at which I cussed when I found out he forgot his Bible, then cussed again after I cussed…it was obvious the leaders felt Ollie really needed them, growing up with a mom like me!) to spend 4 nights.  This seemed like forever to me but like every mom, decided that having those days to myself would be heaven.  I got a call the morning after his first night…it was Ollie telling me he threw up and I needed to get him.  I raced to the camp with a bucket in tow, and he was really quiet during our drive home.  I plopped him in bed and told him I’d fix some Jello and check on him while he was napping.  About an hour later, he came into the kitchen, with tears streaming down his face.  He said “Mom…I LIED TO YOU!!!  I wasn’t sick!!!  I just wanted to be with you!!!”  I laughed and said he never had to lie about wanting to be home!  And we went to the pool and had a great day!

Ollie lives with me now after being on his own for 6 years, and we have fun together, but he’s not my boy anymore.  He’s his own person with so many centers in his world now.  And that’s the way it should be!  Of course!  But like Maggie, I wish I could rewind and do it all over again, and savor those moments even more.  Why does growing up happen so fast? 

In another part of the book, Maggie is trying desperately to get her son and his ex-wife back together so she can be with her grandchild.  The problem is, their relationship was horrible from the start, although Maggie can’t seem to accept that.  Or even see it.   Her son was just too immature and self-centered to be a good husband, and her daughter-in-law was too demanding and childish.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is Ira talking about Maggie to their son: 

“She believes it’s all right to alter peoples lives.  She thinks the people she loves are better than they really are, and so then she starts changing things around to suit her view of them”.  ~ Anne Tyler
I had to listen, and then finally read, that quote so many times because it resonated in me.  Is that what I do?  Particularly in relationships?  I’m thinking yes.  
I had my weekly counseling appointment today and I love my counselor.  She is someone I really click with and I’m surprised by how much I’m able to share and how vulnerable I allow myself to be with her.  We were talking about my last relationship, and I told her I was still reaching out to him because I wanted to save him.  From himself.  He’s the one with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) who really hurt me so many times during our 3 years together.  He told me how he had given up on things; how he is just going to be alone and miserable for the rest of his life.  And I tell him how wasteful that would be.  You see, he’s living DOWN to his diagnosis of BPD, as if having this is a death sentence.  A slow death sentence.  I told him how a diagnosis needs to be used for understanding, and how you learn to recognize what the disorder or a mental illness is doing, and find constructive ways to cope.  It’s not a death sentence.  The diagnosis should be a map.  
My counselor asked me why I had such a need to show this to him, particularly since he really doesn’t listen to what I’m saying.  I told her because I felt guilty.  Ashamed.  Like I didn’t do enough to help him during our years together.  Didn’t have the right words to say.  Wasn’t enough for him to want to work on his issues.  Like I was to blame for when he lashed out, because I was the one that triggered it.  She looked at me and said this:  “But Kristi, he has Borderline.  That’s what they do when they don’t get help or try to learn how to cope.  That’s who they allow themselves to become.”  
I don’t know what it was, but I felt a relief after those words were spoken.  A weight dropped.  It wasn’t my fault that he kept abandoning me.  That he put his hands on me.  That he cheated on me.  That he told me he left this last time because of what I said.  It was the disorder.  The fucking disorder.  I tried for so long to not see him as having these issues…I wanted him to always be the great guy who put me on a pedestal and made me feel I was the center of his world.  But I wasn’t.  As much as I want to rearrange things and make them right…good…to suit how I want them to be…who I want him to be, I can’t.  And he didn’t do these things out of maliciousness.  Or because of something I did.  It was because of an un-diagnosed disorder.  I still want to help him .  But NOT out of guilt now.  But out of compassion and love.  My counselor said the words I guess I needed to hear about a lot of things:  “It’s not your fault.”
This is my favorite scene in Good Will Hunting.  
I think a lot of us need to hear the words: “It’s Not Your Fault”.  
And I think Robin Williams does it better than anyone.
And I realized something else.  I don’t need to be the center of someone’s life to be important.  Needed.  Worthy.  I’m a center already.  My center.  My Florida trip showed me this.  That I can be enough for me.  That I can have a life with me.  I don’t need to rearrange people to make them something they aren’t just to have them.  I don’t need to pretend they, or me, are something we’re not. 
It was a pretty cool thing to discover all of this.  That I’m not always to blame for things.  That I can’t make people take my help unless they want too.  That I don’t have to be driven by guilt anymore.  That I can make mistakes and I’m still a pretty OK person.  That I don’t have to have everyone’s acceptance.  That I can give myself the validation I need.  That I don’t need to take steps backwards; because moving forward is journey enough.
I’d say, all in all, that Florida was really good for me.  
Even despite being burnt. 😉
Kristi xoxo