I had a breakthrough today.
I’ve had it coming for about five years, and today, finally, I had it: I sat in a room with my ex husband and I looked at him without anger.
I saw him without a taste of bitterness in my mouth, without my jaw grimaced, without my arms crossed, and without sharp lines drawn across my brow.
I met him at eye level. Not above.
I saw him.
And for the first time, maybe ever, I felt compassion and peace for him.
We were together for almost fourteen years, bitterly divorced just before my thirtieth birthday. Our marriage was lousy. All of it. We were bad for each other, co-dependent maybe, toxic for certain.
I’d try to control and he’d drink. The more he drank, the more vigilantly I lived. The more I tried to fix him, to save him, to keep our lives appearing “normal,” to be a perfect everything to everyone all the time and in every way, the more we both sank.
I hated who I let myself become in that relationship.
Our divorce was a relief, for both of us.
But it still stung.
And I was angry.
I was angry for what didn’t happen. I was angry for what did happen. I was angry for what would never happen. I was a bundle of negatively charged emotion, ready to catch flame at the slightest whisper of a breeze. Prepared to pass judgement and pounce at the first indication of things not going my way.
Looking. Seeking. Keeping score.
And I held onto it for a long time. I let it fuel me. Anger gave me drive and purpose and a mean determination to prove myself to the world.
See me? I am right. He is not. I am good. He is bad. I am best. He is worst.
I win. He loses.
Eventually I realized, nobody was winning. In fact, the stakes were high, too high, and everyone was losing.
I spent about two years working to come to terms with that. I tried softening. I tried new approaches. I learned to better control my reactions. I poured over books, listened to endless hours of input from speakers and coaches, did exercises, wrote about it, reflected on it, modified my thought patterns, I sincerely put in the time and effort to change my reaction.
But it wasn’t enough.
I was still angry. Still judging. Still skeptical. Still not trusting. Still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting—to get hurt, more, and again.
Carrying anger not just for myself, but on behalf of my children. Holding anger for things that hadn’t even happened yet, assured that it was my duty to bear the burden of their pain and thus prevent it from ever happening.
What a waste of living space.
I knew it. But I still couldn’t let it go.
Because, if I didn’t have that in my hands, then, well, what would I have replace it?
Compassion and understanding? No. Not for him. No way. Better to stay hardened and angry than soft and vulnerable.
And then, last week, I lay alone on my mat in half pigeon. My arms outstretched with palms open, ready to receive, and I felt my arms drop to the floor with a ponderous thud, almost as though someone were pressing my body into the earth.
My hands were heavy.
And I knew. I just knew. I was done. The anger had become too cumbersome for even me, with my very strong arms, to shoulder any longer.
I was ready to sever the anchor chain and move forward unburdened.
And so I did. And so I am. And so I will continue to do.
Anger does not serve me. It offers no function, produces no benefit and prompts no goodness in our lives. It does not have a place at the table in my heart.
The load has been removed from my care; I’m done. Five years later, and I’m ready to lead from a place of love.
Author: Michelle Sweezey
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: admitchell08 at Flickr
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