All of her beliefs about herself had centered around being the strong one. She was this in spite of a hostile environment that promised to ravage her. She felt like she had worked her way through that environment into a more friendly and genteel place. This was an enormous accomplishment: to leave the world of the single divorced mother struggling with a son with addiction problems. Her world had become so small as to include only this one son and nothing else, of course, he was the one who ravaged her checkbook.
She left that world to become a married woman and importantly, to leave behind those intense economic struggles that left her without enough resources to make it through to the next paycheck. Of course, there is nothing wrong with eating peanut butter and jelly for dinner…
She had to make a commitment that the kids who had left childhood many, many years ago, did not need her, nor her pitiful economic sacrifice. They were fully adults who actually did much better on their own. It was a strange commitment because, once again, it was her identity that she was losing, her life’s work, her purpose. She was making the necessary adjustments for healthy living for everyone, but it wasn’t making her happy. For a few years, she felt afloat. It was her husband who anchored her life and her feelings now. This was a new phenomenon for her. Her husband was one person, and yet, he fascinated her, took all of her attention and even made her efforts worthwhile. Once again, it was meaningful to cook, to do laundry, to nurture and nourish another person besides herself. Thus fulfilled, she flourished.
Many years ago she had accepted the fact that she was a bit different. For the most part, she felt that this centered around IQ. Sometimes, her being different had caused discord in her life. She always felt smug about these encounters and moved on from them. She was always the boss or the boss’s wife and could move through any self doubts quite easily. There is so much in life and in popular culture that attacks a person’s individuality that she could look beyond it all and point to her happiness. That historic happiness had always centered around her children.
She was never someone who could transition from one mode of life to another with any degree of ease. Life brings transitions a plenty and they just keep coming whether we want them or not. This latest transition from “mommy” to “not-mommy” seemed to be the harshest life transition of all.
She had successfully navigated that transition and in her new life she no longer had the coping mechanism of happiness with her kids. She was forced to find her own happiness in other places. Loving her husband was very fulfilling, but seemed like a guilty pleasure rather than a purposeful activity and she suffered some guilt in exchange for her happiness.
So now loomed those discordant differences in her personality: with no backdrop of purposive happiness. She had to question why people did not like her. For the most part, she didn’t care, not everyone has to like you for you to have happiness. She dismissed those that she labeled Philistines and those who would never impact her life, and still, still there were those who are close who did not care for her.
In a hostile world, one does one’s best to keep self intact without pain or injury. The problem being that a caring person, (she thought) could get her feelings hurt with this dislike and discord. She had some defense mechanisms, she kept her husband’s love close to her chest and when she needed strength, she would wear a piece of jewelry that he had purchased for her, or perhaps stare at her wedding rings…
There are times, when perhaps, it is all just too much. The world snarls at you one too many times, your close person dislikes you and wants to be sure that you know that you are disliked. It is at those moments when it falls down, when personal difficulty is bountiful and it is finally possible to cry.