I have been through some intense changes to my life the last six months – I separated from my husband, graduated from a Master’s program, and just recently filed for divorce. I have had many friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances reach out to me to provide comfort, encouragement, and support. Their words inspire me and often give me the confidence that I need to keep moving forward. Some days it might not even be moving forward, but moving period. At times, for women, it is easier to tear each other down than for us to support one another and give each other strength.
My decision to leave my marriage was not one taken lightly, but I’ve received nothing but respect from my peers. I hear comments like, “You are so strong”, “I am so proud of you”, “You are brave for going after what you want” and, “I admire you.” These are certainly not words that I would use to describe myself. I do not feel strong, there are days that it takes every fiber of my being to get out of bed, to plaster a smile on my face and not feel like hiding in my bed all day.
When I first moved out, I did nothing most days. If I didn’t have the kids, it was very difficult to do much of anything. Strong was definitely not me. I also thought there was nothing to be proud of. I was failing at keeping my marriage and family in one piece. I was not proud of wanting to break the vows that I had taken in front of our family and friends—”Till death do us part.”
I was far from feeling brave—more like broke, sad, and angry, with a tinge of happiness. Brave is not leaving my bed for a whole weekend because I miss my kids so much. Brave is not wiping out my entire savings account so I can make ends meet and make sure that my kids think that we are OK. I am not brave, I am scared shitless every day. I am scared I am making the wrong decision.
I have two kids, I am worried I am fucking them up beyond repair, so not one time have I felt brave. Another thing people say is, “I admire you,” though I don’t know why anyone would admire me. I am just two seconds away from this shitshow having a nervous breakdown.
There is nothing to admire about moving from a four-bedroom, fully-remodeled farmhouse to a two-bedroom low-income apartment. No need to admire that my kids and I eat SpaghettiOs on a regular basis because they are cheap and my anxiety is so bad that I can’t eat anything else anyway. Or the fact that I take showers when my kids are there, so they can’t hear me crying or puking. Real admirable behavior there, folks.
The other day at work, a co-worker was telling me that a guy we work with was checking me out. I laughed and said it was probably because I had crumbs on my shirt or something like that. She is always giving me compliments— “Your skin looks so great” , “I like your new shirt,” blah, blah.
I can’t ever just take the compliment and move on. I don’t see myself like that, I never have been able to and I just don’t think I ever will be able to do that. There are a lot of people in the world who can be cruel and unkind, but I don’t know if those people could hold a candle to the things I tell myself on a daily basis. For example, I just graduated from a Master’s of Organizational Leadership program. It is a five-semester program, which I crammed into four so I could graduate early, while working full-time and managing my family – only to be disappointed in myself that I graduated with a 3.89 and not a 4.0 GPA. What in the world is wrong with me, lol?
When I am close to breaking point, I will get a compliment from someone or a card in the mail. Women, I plead with you. Reach out to the person in your life you know is struggling, or even better, someone who isn’t—just because!
If you see a mom in the store on the verge of tears, give her a quick smile and an ‘I have been there’ look. You may be the one who helps her to make it through the tantrum in the store and make it home without bursting into tears. If you see a woman with a pretty shirt on, tell her! You have no idea the impact you may make on her.
We need more love and encouragement, as we have no idea what someone may be going through. I know for me, it is the love of those women who are keeping me going. Just hearing someone tell me that I am not alone or they are with me, can mean more than you would think.
by Missy Latwesen