Dear Younger Me. You Are Free.
If only she'd known.
So, I’ve been watching “Emily in Paris,” and last night I watched the season 1 finale where Emily is in like with one man but seeing another, and in the 40-minute episode she kissed one man and slept with the other.
And something interesting happened inside me as I watched. I felt on edge, like she was doing something wrong.
Except, was she? Because she belonged to no one but herself. She was only in the dating phase with one of these men, and in the interest phase with the other. But there were no ties.
And it brought me back to a time when I was 17 and also belonged to no one but me. I was seeing some guy who was all wrong for me, but was older and that made him exciting. But we were not in a relationship when I met someone new and felt an instant connection. This was over Valentine’s Day, and this new guy brought me a flower and hung out with me. He asked what I was doing that night, and I said I already had plans.
I had plans with the first guy.
Long story short, the second guy found out about my plans and he went ballistic. I was in trouble with him, and I spent days apologizing to him, trying to make amends, finally promising my allegiance to him.
Oh, the things I wish I could have told my younger self. Things about self worth, and autonomy, and how no man—whether he’s interested in you or married to you—OWNS you, because we belong to ourselves.
I would have saved myself a lot of heartache and suffering had I told that second guy to get lost for even thinking he has any say over where my attention should be when we were not even in a relationship.
But then I wouldn’t have married him and had his kids before finally seeing the light and leaving.
I am 28 years away from that day, and 20 years from my divorce, which makes it so interesting that things still pop up now and then. A forgotten trauma. An icky feeling. A fleeting sense of fear. It’s all lessened with time, but it’s always there, waiting for a trigger to rear its ugly head. Every day I drive to work, I pass the house we lived in where I finally learned about fear. Every day I drive home, I drive past a house he once lived when I had to call the cops so I could get my kids… I’m brought back to a different time every day I drive these roads. Most days, it’s merely interesting to see how time has changed these places etched in my memories. But some days, all I see are the memories.
Things are different now, thank God. My life is so far removed from that life. I no longer live in fear. I don’t have to explain myself. I’m trusted. I’m safe.
And I wouldn’t change the way anything happened, because it led me to where I am now. But I also am sad at all the time and energy I wasted on someone who never valued my worth more than his belonging. I’m sad that I couldn’t recognize my own worth as a woman who does not need anyone’s permission to live her life.
At any rate, I just thought that little trigger was interesting.
This week has been one for the record books. For anyone who’s keeping track, I skipped sending a letter this past Sunday because I have been so inundated with responsibilities, I could not see straight. These are duties outside my job, ones I do as a volunteer of my writing club, and the shit has hit the fan. I have officially taken on more than I can handle, and it was never more apparent than on Saturday morning, when I stood in my husband’s office, hands shaking, telling him I could not do it anymore.
I could not do it anymore. I mean, I had a list a mile long, and I couldn’t even think of what I should do first. I mean, IT ALL NEEDED TO BE DONE. And I could not do any of it because my hands would not stop shaking.
Shawn took one look at me, stopped everything he was doing, and told me to shut my computer. I protested, but eventually succumbed as we went downstairs, got me something to eat, and then worked together to figure out a plan.
Have I ever told you that my husband is amazing? That is too little of a word.
Shawn worked with me to create a spreadsheet of all the things I needed to do, organize it by deadline, then figure out the dates I had to do them. Through this process, I discovered I only had three big things to do over the next two days, not twenty, and there was time to get everything done. I still spent the whole entire weekend chained to my computer. But by Sunday night, I had some pretty big items crossed off my to-do list, and a feeling of accomplishment.
I also have a paper planner, because keeping all this stuff in my head was killing me.
That’s a very long way to say that I just didn’t have time to write my weekly letter, which I know is not an obligation, but it is something I like to do because it has become a connection of sorts to you.
Today is Tuesday, and I am sending this letter to you now.
I hope all is well in your world, that you are safe and cherished, and that your to-do list isn’t taking over your life.
P.S. I have no extra shares, but at this exact moment I am listening to “Northern Sky” by Nick Drake while it’s raining outside, and it’s all kinds of perfect.
P.P.S. I lied. I have once more share. I just finished reading Book of Night, by Holly Black (who you all know is one of my author obsessions), and I loved this book as much as I hated it. It had too many characters, too many things happening, and it ended on a frustrating cliffhanger that made me want to throw the book across the room. And more than a day later, I still can’t stop thinking of it. UGGGGGGGH. This is why we love reading, right?
Darling, I love it when you share a piece of your heart and soul with others, with me, with yourself. Each reflection or epiphany you recognize then share through stories have the capacity to be a looking glass for others. I am so grateful you found what you needed to regain a sense of control over the business of life.
More than that though I am always grateful when you are vulnerable enough to let me or others know when you’re hurting, or overwhelmed, or can’t handle anymore and then be willing to sometimes ask for and/or accept help. We made it through. You made it through. Together is better forever and always.
I love you!
Ugh. If only I had known too. Soooo many years letting men (boys really) treat me with next to no respect. I am also sad to look back and see the me so desperate for love. So willing to give everything. I know it’s led to the stronger, more confident me I am today, but just thinking about how desperate I was makes me feel so sad. So, I’m totally with you in that feeling. Also… Shawn rocks. I’m so glad you have such a good man now!