When my mother was dying she shared the sentiment that “when you’re gone you’re gone. No one misses a beat. Life just moves forward.” Sounds simplistic. Hardly. It was her message to stop living in fear. Seize the day. Most of us live in some type of fear: fear of success, fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of standing out, fear of not being liked, fear of abuse. Fear sucks the life out of you. Fear drove my existence, despite my seemingly perfect life – a good-looking husband, beautiful children, successful business, exotic travels, fancy cars, country club lifestyle. We were often described as the “Perfect Couple” or “ken and Barbie”. I know now that those descriptors were a warning sign, not a compliment.
During the last years of my marriage, I was developing a new independence, new interests, and friendships that were unique to me and not developed through my ex. Life was becoming fuller and my self-confidence was re-emerging. It was a confidence that was not linked to material items or our public accomplishments. The confidence stemmed from me, and what I had to offer the community. My voice was forged through community service.
Initially, my daughters and I joined a mother-daughter philanthropic group. It was socially acceptable and limited to 30 girls in each age group, so while not inclusive somewhat exclusive. The first meeting we attended was introductory. Each daughter and mother introduced themselves. I was surrounded by accomplished young girls who taught cello to underprivileged youth, traveled to D.C to lobby for support for children of the military deployed families, valedictorians, state track stars, honor students to mothers who were doctors, lawyers, attorney general for the state, successful entrepreneurs and then there was me. Hi, I, uh, play tennis, and not very well, and uh, that’s it. I couldn’t think of anything I had done or any success. I was embarrassed and my mother’s words rang in my head, the world doesn’t miss a beat when you are gone.
My daughters and I embraced the qualities of this organization, volunteering many hours in the community and taking on leadership roles. Charitable work had always been a part of my life, however, this was different. For the first, time I felt I was making a difference not just in the community, but in the lives of many of the young women in our organization. Whether self-perceived or not I felt like a role model for many of these young women and even their mothers. I was elected to be president of the group. Never did I envision that I had the leadership qualities or even anything to offer a national organization, to lead impressionable youth, or to lead strong, independent women leaders in our community.
Slowly, I was losing the fear that had identified me. I was stepping into my own sense of self. Yet, I was still trapped. My ex supported me with backhanded compliments and I was too enmeshed and too attracted to the drama I had always known and craved. He claimed that my charity work was taking time away from him. I did not want to give up my new found life and started to live a double life. All of my activities(philanthropic work, meetings, tennis, my friendships) occurred from 9-5 and when he came home I devoted my time to him. I did, however, begin to notice physical changes. When I was leading successful women, and winning awards I walked with confidence, with full strides and head held high, yet when I was engaging with my ex I was actually walking on the balls of my feet. I was tiptoeing through our marriage, just like Barbie who is always on her toes ready to slip into any character dictated to her.
When you live in fear, you can always blame someone else for your own lack of success. Fear is still a part of my life, but a small part. Now I recognize fear, accept that it is there, release it and take bold steps. The world may continue to spin when I am no longer here, but I know that I have made a positive difference. Today I chose to embrace gratitude and the mantra that every day is the first day of a different life, a better and more fulfilling life.
#divorcerecovery #nofear #gratitude #survivingemotionalabuse #firstdayofadifferentlife