Shadow of Myself

2014-07-05 20.06.59

Recently, several people have asked what happened in my marriage, why I got divorced. People ask me this like they’re asking me why I chose that particular Keurig model or why I no longer use Milton as my hairstylist. There is no easy, pat answer to this, and it never occurred to me to create an elevator pitch to this question. Because there are so many nuances and reasons why and how, that some moments I’m not entirely sure after all these years if I know all the reasons. The answer shifts through time and reflection and understanding and compassion and growth.

I understand people ask the question hoping for a quick answer that assigns blame. It’s more convenient to wrap your understanding around a bad guy. I think some people also want to know concrete reasons why, so that they can avoid making those mistakes themselves. But relationships are messy, even on good days. It stands to reason then that uncoupling is just a veritable shit show.

The short story is that we’re both flawed human beings, we did the best we knew how at the time, and it didn’t work out. Very generic, very non-blaming, yet very true. If you were my therapist at the time, you would have so many more details to flesh out this story. As it takes two to couple, it takes two to uncouple–we were both to blame. The nitty gritty details you need not know–the hostility behind cold stony silences, the fear behind passive-aggressive decisions, the disagreements of just about everything. But the general contributing factors are ones that most people share:

How I had internalized society’s pressures to be coupled without even knowing it. How I was replicating generations of dysfunctional family dynamics. How my communication and coping skills could have been improved as well as his. How his failings and his flaws and how he coped with them had turned my love for him into resentment and anger. How in the end, no matter what we did, this was never meant to last–it was ultimately not a good fit.

So much so that I was dying in that relationship. I had, through the years, made decisions to remain in the relationship; and those decisions faded me like the sun fades upholstery. Through time I had become a faded shell of who I once was. I was but a mere shadow of myself. Survival mode eventually kicked in, and I had to save myself. I had to save my children; I could not be an effective parent when I could not be an effective human being. I could not continue to drown under the weight of being someone I no longer recognized nor loved.

So I learned to swim out of the rip current that had taken me away from shore. It took years of reclaiming who I was, and then trying things on to see what sticks and what doesn’t. It took years of creating who I want to be. How I want to navigate the world. How I want to love. It took years to define the parameters of who I am, instead of being defined by society or a relationship.

At times it was exhilarating and fun, but most times it was terrifying and overwhelming. I learned how to interact with myself and others differently. I learned to change my expectations of myself and others. I learned that what people do to you is oftentimes what you’ve asked them to do.

And I will never forget once, my therapist told me that one day, I would no longer feel such anger towards my ex-husband, even after he had conducted himself poorly or did something not in the best interest of the children. I rolled my eyes at her. I understand now that our enemies keep us imprisoned in the past if we feed them anger and resentment and bitterness. I’ve learned that to act in the best interest of my children, and myself, I needed to authentically accept and actively give compassion to my ex-husband.

As with everything in life, some days are better than others. I have come to appreciate (most days…ok, some days) the continuous opportunity he provides as practice for me to be compassionate and empathic and kind. Even on the days I don’t see any logical reason why I ought to. But between you and I, that inability to do so contributed to the unraveling of our marriage. It’s easy to be compassionate and kind to nice people, agreeable people, even strangers. But it is the hard work of being truly compassionate to those you are not naturally inclined to feel favorably towards. It is the hard work of remembering I am not to judge who is worthy or deserving of compassion and redemption. It is in these hard places where Truth resides.

So today my shadow stands tall and strong. I am no longer a mere shadow of myself. I stand tall in my unconditional love and kindness to cast my shadow in this world. I don’t think you can summarize that in an elevator pitch. And I sure as hell can’t be contained in an elevator.

This entry was posted in Empowerment, Mindfulness, Relationships and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Shadow of Myself

  1. Nora Jessome says:

    I liken this to forgiveness, both for the person who harmed me and for myself for however I contributed to the situation. Sunday Morning this past week repeated an episode that really spoke to me on this issue – always good to receive a reminder on these important things. It was entitled ‘Unbroken’ and was the story of Louis Zamperini; Olympian, WWII POW and a man who knows the power of forgiveness.


  2. Beautifully honest and wise. Life and relationships are messy. I’m still learning to find what works and fits me too; to stand taller in my authentic self. And though I’ve never been married, life still brings plenty of opportunities for learning, compassion and growth. blessings, Brad


  3. aveline07 says:

    Great post and reflections on where you are in life now. I remember my own counsellor saying the same…eventually you will get to a point where all the “stuff” won’t affect me as much…and that will be the “emotional divorce” that is so key to moving forward.


    • Thank you! Ah yes, the emotional divorce. I was reminded by a therapist friend that I would revisit this milestone through the years as I continue to grow and develop, and my understanding of it all will change through time. Indeed, it has. Thank you always for your support!


  4. Lori Cassel says:

    For all the roads you have been on and continue to walk on, you are one strong lady!! A lot of this resonates with me very strongly. Thanks for putting the words out here for my heart to grab hold of! I knew this friendship would be good for me! 🙂


  5. ♡eM says:

    Perhaps, for some, the messy unraveling that reveals the choice to uncouple is as simple as brewing a cup of coffee or getting a new haircut. For others, it’s not.

    When the time arrives, when it’s right, we might just realize that a path along which we’re trudging won’t lead us to a space in which we can be who we are. We make a change.

    Change happens anyway. It’s the constant in life, right? But our choices can create the changes we want and need. I’m beginning to view the “path of least resistance” favorably.


    • Thank you for that reminder–that we each view uncoupling in different ways. I’ve sat with that thought for while now. I like that reminder and perspective, thank you.
      And yes, I agree in all the paths we take in different realms of our lives, in all our life roles, sometimes it’s no longer the path that resonates, and you need another view or direction. And yes, you rightly point out nothing stays the same. I too am practicing just being with this all. This impermanence of things and life, and being grateful for it all. And not forcing things…the path of least resistance.

      Thank you always for deepening my understanding of life.


      • ♡eM says:

        Your posts are such a pleasure to read. I find myself simply mirroring what you’ve written about through the lens of my experiences. Your writings resonate with my own thoughts about life.


  6. Hariod Brawn says:

    ‘I had, through the years, made decisions to remain in the relationship; and those decisions faded me like the sun fades upholstery.’

    Beautifully expressed, and doubtless an analogy that chimes with so many of us. ❤


  7. Pingback: How I Became a Shadow of Myself | Suddenly Slimmer

  8. K. says:

    Thank you. Wow, thank you so much for writing out so much of what I am feeling inside. That dreaded question and even more often, the obligatory response. And thank you again for giving me a glimpse into what will hopefully be my future – filled with forgiveness and compassion, void of my own shadow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to ready my essay and sharing with me. I’m so glad it resonated with you. And truly, continue doing the next right thing, and soon it will be wonderful. It’s not easy, but do these hard things to become the person you want to be. Wishing you all the best in your journey!


  9. Sarah H. says:

    Thank you, thank you, a million times thank you :-). You have verbalized everything I have felt and thought over the past two years. I hated it when people asked why I was divorcing. How could I possibly describe what happened over 13 years??? But this does it. I hated the person I was becoming because of anger, resentment and disappointment. I wish I could’ve dispelled it all somehow but I couldn’t. It was affecting my parenting and my job. It had just as much to do with him as it did me (although he says it was all me *eye roll*). Despite all the hardships of the past two years, I’m a happier, better person and parent and finally pursuing my dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so very much for sharing your story with me. I’m sorry to hear you too had a similar journey, and your resilience and health shows with your insight and acknowledgement that there are two to engage in a dynamic. I’m so glad to hear your world and your self are becoming who you want to be. Keep staying strong, keep doing the next right thing, and I assure you, it only gets better 🙂 Wishing you all the best in your journey!


  10. adventuresofamiddleagedmom says:

    I just read your post in the Huffington Post. As a divorced single-mother, I could relate to much of what you wrote. Why a person chooses to divorce cannot be summed up in an elevator (love that!). The reasons are often too numerous and too complex. Thank you for this post. You are also a fantastic writer!

    Liked by 1 person

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