‘The great and fierce mystic Willliam Blake said : “There is no greater act than putting another before you.”
This speaks to a selfless giving that seems to be at the base of meaningful love. Yet having struggled for a lifetime with letting the needs of others define me, I’ve come to understand that without the healthiest form of self-love – without honouring the essence of life this thing called ‘self’ carries , the way a pod carries a seed – putting another before you can result in damaging self-sacrifice and endless co-dependence. ‘
From the Book of Awkening Mark Nepo.
Needless to say that when I read this last week it resonated with me – given my belief that ‘if you don’t have yourself, you have nothing.’
I have to say before I write this post that when we were ‘in the thick of it’ (to quote Brenda Russell) I never had any fear about finding myself, not after the initial conversation that I had with myself in the mirror all those years ago. I can remember feeling so alone at that point, even though Danny had come back, because everything that I thought ‘was’, was not. I knew at that point that the only person that I could ever rely on was myself, and I had to find me again to survive.
The reason for me writing this post is because of the interaction that I have with others and I pick up so often how people struggle to find themselves. I have written about how I did it and what I did to find myself, but I understand that for some it can still be so daunting, confusing and also frightening. But I am so passionate in my belief that this is essential for not only survival but for a better relationship that I am going to try and break it down some more:
Firstly I believe that to find yourself you have to acknowledge your fears and face them: One of which may well be that if you find yourself you will not stay. I write about this often, how I thought I feared this most of all, and when I read back through my journals I was shocked to find that even in 2013 I wondered if I had changed so much that Danny and I could not survive. (I know! But there were other things that happened after that led me to understand that we could.) For me the only answer to the fear was that the worst has already happened, how could it get any worse? But then as time wore on I also realised that to stay with someone out of fear of change, fear of being on your own then you are not really finding yourself and you are only living a half life.(Aren’t you?) I have to be honest and say that I feared that most of all: I feared not finding myself more than not being able to stay. Because I knew that I would not be being honest to myself.
As I write this I realise that is why I kept the journal, that is why the journal saved me, and that is why some people struggle to keep a journal: because if you lie in what you write in the journal then the only person you are lying to is you; so people turn away from writing what they feel, they decide that it is better not to know, even though they know anyway! It is called ‘The Road Less Travelled’ for a reason.
So here is what I believe you can do to find yourself (if you want to.)
Start small. I did, the first thing I did was keep the journal. The journal was me, it was about finding me, and it was something that made me face my fears and something that did not include Danny, unless I wanted it to.
Be on your own: I would leave work and park on the seafront and look out to sea for an hour on my own. Looking back perhaps it was my way of showing myself that I was not afraid to be on my own. I did not feel that I had to include Danny in everything or tell him everything I did or the thoughts that I had. They were mine, they were the start of finding me. I went for walks on my own, I watched TV programmes that I wanted to watch when Danny was not there, small, small things but pertinent never the less.
Find some independence. If you are in a place where you cannot just go back to work, or back to work full time like I did, then look at your options. There are always ways around things if you really want them; and having that income that is yours, having part of the day that is yours, about you and what you do, is an amazing thing to build your self esteeem and help you find yourself. It is easy to say I cannot, it is brave to say ‘I will try.’
Reflect on who you are and be honest with yourself (we are back to keeping a journal here. It doesn’t have to be a fancy book, just a notebook, somewhere where you can write down your own thoughts.) But to have the ability to see yourself is essential – warts and all. I had to be prepared to change some of my behaviours to help myself, let alone our relationship. On the day that Danny left, in the throws of my pain, my sister asked me if I was Princess Fucking Tippy Toes ! She was right. Danny had been working so many hours whilst I worked part-time and she made me stop and look at my actions. In fact we only discussed this recently: how her asking me that question had resonated with me and made me look at myself, and change.
Look for the meaning that you want in your life (I would also interpret this as be an individual and don’t follow the crowd, but hey! That’s just me!) When havoc broke out in my life my sense of purpose was not to lose my dignity; to not be dragged into the soap opera that was being created. To rise above it. In fact I was pissed off when I did end up in a fight with ‘her,’ because I had let myself down. I never reported ‘her’ to where she worked, I never stalked ‘her’ on Facebook, and I never have. Because part of finding me was not being sucked into the bitterness and vitriol. That was part of finding myself
Vicktor E Frankle once said: ‘Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.’
Find your meaning: it could be keeping it together for the kids (for now remember they will want their own lives eventually), taking up a hobby, reading philosophy, your career, you part-time job. Find a meaning that is not just the relationship in your life.
I was never a victim. Personally I have never been the type of person to be a victim. I can look back at times in my life when I was, if I really thought about it, but what does dwelling on that achieve? It has never been for me. I don’t dwell on the negative things that happened I consider them, I use them, but I focus on the positives. Look at how many lists I wrote in my journal, and how often I talked about hope.
I didn’t look to Danny to repair me. Yes when he first came back I needed him to put his arms around me, to reassure me. But as the time wore on and I got stronger I realised that he could not repair me; he could take action that would enable me to stay for longer and longer, he could do things that made me fall in love with him again; but he could not repair me. Only I could do that by finding myself.
I set myself goals: where work was concerned, getting fit was concerned, being indpendent of Danny whilst with him was concerned.
I stood my ground: If I didn’t want to do something I said no, and I would not allow myself to be emotionaly blackmailed into doing it. In fact I would actually say ‘you’re trying to manipulate me now’.
But as time wore on I realised that to truly be me, the person who wanted to try and make us work, I had to allow myself to be vulnerable again. And that was one of the most frightening things of all.
So for all of those people who message me and ask how do they find themselves: Go back to the beginning of this post and find something that you can do to start small. Even if it is to change your hair colour to one you have always wanted to try, and sod what anyone else thinks!
Stay strong, find yourself and never let yourself go again.
Making This Better the book is now available including the journal entries for the first 5 years of our recovery & the whole 21 days of ‘The War’. Available internationally in paperback and ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble also available at Xlibris and Apple Books for iPad and Waterstones Bookstores for click & collect
I would love to hear your feedback.
Great advice, as usual. I see that for some partners whose whole existence revolved around their spouse, the task of finding themselves is particularly difficult. No one tells you this when you get married, but you really do need to maintain some kind of life on your own. It’s not the message we get from society, but I believe it’s essential to being healthy for yourself and your relationship. You may have relied heavily on Danny before, but you had your job and your son and other things to (like your strong spirit) as touchstones to help you find yourself again. We all need to figure out what our individual touchstones are and nurture them. ❤️
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