When Parts of You Go Missing
I never imagined a life where I don’t write.
And yet, my last Medium article was published on March 24th — 6 weeks ago.
It’s not just that I haven’t been writing on Medium. I haven’t been writing. I’ve been saying that I “can’t” — that there aren’t enough hours in the day — that I am struggling for inspiration.
But that’s all contrived bullshit.
The truth is that I got disenchanted. Disgusted. I know some things about myself and one of them is that I walk around with an overdeveloped sense of justice and too often choose being right over being successful. Sometimes I wonder if it’s my supposedly “autistic” brain. Other people see nuance where I cannot.
I don’t know why I do that, or why it feels so fucking good to stew in my (self)righteous indignation, but I do know the accusations we are most offended by — the ones we are most sensitive to — are the usually the ones that are the most legitimate.
I’m working on figuring it out, but my feelings in this case — and in most others — don’t really matter when it comes to elucidating the truth.
And the truth is this: I don’t control other people.
People will let you down and fuck you up. They will say one thing and do another. They will swing their arms with zero regard for where their fist ends and your face begins. And there’s not a goddamn thing you can do about it.
The only thing you can do — the only thing I can do — is take responsibility for my myself, my choices, and my reaction.
The first time someone asked me to take responsibility when I felt betrayed, I was pissed. Like crazy pissed.
It was almost 3 years ago and I had filed for divorce from my ex-husband. Victimhood leeched from my pores — and for good reason. 16 years in to my marriage, I found out he was cheating on me. With prostitutes. He was hiding money and sneaking around, essentially living a double life…and he had been doing so for years. And when I kicked him out and wouldn’t take him back, he criticized me for “giving up” and consistently withheld support payments, refusing visitation with our four daughters in an attempt to leverage control over me by rendering me a penniless, exhausted single mother. He waged a smear campaign against me with my former family. He threatened and cajoled. He tried to strip me of any resources that would allow me to even reach the threshold of “okay”.
He tried to take everything from me so that I couldn’t live without him.
And I was indeed divorcing a real piece of shit. That was never in question. But my struggle wasn’t about him.
“You want me to what??? Take responsibility??? Are you fucking serious???
“How dare anyone blame me for his bullshit??? I was a model wife and mother. I sacrificed everything for my husband and children. I set the best, most powerful thing about me — my brain — to ‘hibernate’ in order to be a maid, chauffeur, cook, zookeeper, admin assistant, bookkeeper, and sex worker — among other things. And I did it all for him so that he could take his Associates Degree, that took him 7 years and $30,000 of debt to obtain, and accept a job — that I handed to him — for which he he is underqualified and overpaid, making well into the six figures. All while I sat at home with my 156 IQ scrubbing toilets and changing diapers so that he wouldn’t have to. And I’m supposed to take responsibility for this shit show????
“He was lucky to have me. Hear that??? Lucky.
“Fuck you, telling me to take responsibility. Fuck … you.”
*Said my internal monologue.*
And then, in a torturous, blood red, claustrophobic moment when I couldn’t see through my tears and my heart was asphyxiating in my chest, and I was selling furniture to feed my kids and I was more scared, confused, betrayed, bewildered, angry, frustrated, and broken than I’d ever felt in my life, my friend had the nerve to say,
“How’s that victim mindset working out for you?”
A scream of “FUCK YOU!!!!!!” caught in my throat. I choked on it.
I couldn’t get it out.
I managed a barely audible, “It’s not.”
And then there was quiet.
And the tiniest taste of peace.
And I realized that there was no relief to be found in blame.
I dipped my toe in the waters of accountability with one, “What if …”
What if I was somehow responsible? What would that mean? What could I have done differently?
I could’ve left a long time ago, for one. Pretending like his cheating was the first sign of unacceptable behavior and that I was blind-sided by it — like in the story I told — was a lie. What other lies might I be telling myself?
At what point did his behavior truly become unacceptable and what did I get out of staying?
My choice to take responsibility for my life being thrown into a dumpster and set on fire had zero to do with him. It didn’t affect his past or future choices. I didn’t excuse his behavior. It wasn’t about getting him to do or not do anything.
It was about Me.
It was about being honest with myself and admitting what I got out of my long-suffering marriage. It was about being honest about the reasons I let his bullshit continue for so long — and, honestly, it wasn’t because I was such a loving and devoted wife.
It was for my convenience and to get my own needs met. His touch made my skin crawl, but I wanted a lovely home to raise my four daughters in. I didn’t want the burden of having to do it on my own so I gave him every incentive to not leave me.
And I weaponized our marriage vows and positioned myself so that when the plane finally crashed, his body would be the one buckled into the pilot’s seat.
When I was able to take responsibility for my participation in the shitshow and the deception that I carried out — irrespective of his choices — the indignance let out of me like a deflating mylar balloon.
There is so much fucking peace in this place. No anger. No resentment. There’s quiet in the corner of my mind that used to host a cacophony of angry voices.
Because I can’t change him.
But I can change myself.
No one on this earth can take away from me the drive to support my girls. I will not depend on their other parent to do it. I will struggle and fight and be brave and work hard. Those are things he can’t take from me.
No one of this earth can steal my voice. Sometimes it’s shaky and weak and struggles to be heard but the more I repeat myself, the stronger it gets. People may not like what I say, but no one will keep me from speaking up.
And no one on this earth can take away from me the impulse to pour my liquid heart and viscous soul onto paper. I take responsibility for my writing and my healing. There is not a single person in this world who has anything else to do with it.
I will not give a fuck what other people are doing. I will not give a fuck what they are saying.
I will have the courage to be different and exist in the margins because the margin people are my people.
I have no business in the fat part of the bell curve.
Where there are fewer resources, there is more community. There is more sharing and growth. There is genuine connection.
There is resonance.
And that’s what I write — and live — for.
Thank you for reading my words.
Here are a couple of my least-read, least-viewed, uncurated pieces. They are the ones I am the proudest of. They are the best of me.
“You Can’t Do It For Me”
A letter from a coach to his star athlete, after kicking her off the team.