For 25 years I lived in fear.
Fear of my now ex-husband leaving me; fear of being wrong; fear of being judged and looked at and shamed.
For all of those years, I was judged. And shamed. And yelled at. And ridiculed. For being who I am, at my core. The dismantling of my confidence and my ability to stand up for myself happened slowly. A death by a thousand cuts, they say. But I’m not dead. I’m still here. Breathing. Living. Working. Mothering. And facing my fears.
Today, I am sitting in the office of the job I am leaving. I loved this job, but it is, admittedly, too much for me. It requires a devotion to just do the job that I cannot physically or mentally do right now. I’m not sure I ever could. I almost ran away. I almost bailed completely, again, leaving them to figure it out. And I would have. And wanted to. Except. Except. Except I knew it was the wrong thing to do. I knew in my old life if I was told to quit a job it was meant to do it right then. That day. And I would. Because my ultimate authority was never my boss. It was my husband.
Yes. After 26 years of constant reminding that you are not in charge, ever, really, you just sort of default to that condition. So I would bail. And I learned ways to bail without leaving jobs in bad places. I would set them up before I quit. Because I knew when my ex said it was go time, I had to go.
In my new life, I have a husband now who loves me. Actually loves me (and I can’t explain this any better except to say that I can tell. The difference is obviously felt if not easily explained). It’s been shocking the heck out of me. He loves me the way I love my kids. He’s supportive. He has my back. And I know this not because he tells me he does but because he shows it. The way I want my kids to know that their home is always a safe place for them to come and hide from the world or bring it home with them is how my husband loves me.
So I am here. In this tiny little office today, making sure that these lovely people are all set for when I leave, facing my fears of what they must think of me. That they probably hate me (I don’t know that they do but it’s what I envision about everyone who encounters me) and that they are likely glad I’m leaving.
But knowing that there is one place where I can go and I am accepted and my decisions are okay is everything.
I have never lived without fear before.
And I’m still fearful. But it isn’t a part of my every emotion anymore. It isn’t a part of my every decision. Fear will make you do cowardly things—like stay in a destructive relationship for entirely too long or stay in a job that is making you ill for entirely too long, or say mean things, or even do mean things.
Learning to be less afraid, embracing my fears and just kind of getting along with them, recognizing them when they come up and hugging them to myself while also letting them go a bit at a time has been hard. There is safety in fear. Too much safety, though, can be a prison. Confusing the two can be a terrible, long, and tedious way to live.
After years of fearing the worst, or what I thought was the worst, my ex did leave us. A couple weeks before Christmas, with nothing. I was terrified. Every emotion came to a head and I felt almost paralyzed by the fear.
But I wasn’t. I wasn’t paralyzed. I moved on. I worked. I mothered. And I felt free. Finally free. I wasn’t, maybe at my safest place or feeling at all secure. But I was free and all of the judgement in the world can’t take that amazing feeling away.