When my ex husband first moved out of our house, I was totally and completely helpless. I had never lived alone without another adult around. I had gone straight from my parents' house, to a roommate, to living with him. I didn't know how to take out the trash. I didn't even know what day the trashman came. I suddenly had three kids to raise all on my own, not to mention run my business, and keep this house from physically falling to pieces.
I had a therapist at the time helping me through the transition. I would go to her in anxious panic attacks. "I CANNOT DO IT ALL." I would tearfully exclaim. "The kid's teachers need gifts for the holidays, I have a work projects and emails to return, I have to make a project for one daughter's school and sign her up for ice skating lessons. Soccer practices. Birthday parties. There is a pile of mail on my desk that needs to be sorted, two kids who need help with homework, 4 people's laundry that needs to be washed, groceries that must be bought, dishes that must be washed, a dog with a severe illness that constantly shits and pukes all over the house. How can one person be expected to do all of this??? I've sat down and literally added it up, there are not enough hours in one day if I'm expected to sleep too."
Together we came up with a game plan. Allow others to help where I could, set my priorities, and LET THE REST GO.
So I learned that things were not going to be perfect around here. I was ok with that. And suddenly, it was like my battle cry. Things don't have to be perfect!!! There is no one here to help me yet no one to clean up after either! And no one telling me I can't just do the dishes in the morning when I feel like it! And for that matter I can not fold this towel ever and just use it straight outta the dryer if I want and NO ONE is going to say anything about it! The silver lining became my focus, my mantra.
I found my independence for the FIRST time in my life. I picked out bedding for my bed that was totally and completely me. I *love* that bedding so much. Not just because it is beautiful. But because of what it represented. Me coming into my own and finding myself, not only surviving on my own but thriving. Owning it.
And then I met Mr. Wonderful. And then we fell in love, and he started hanging out over here more and more. And then the marriage talk, and the proposal, and now he practically lives here in what will, in 10 months, also be his home.
And then one night, he makes a comment (while he is cleaning MY kitchen, mind you) about me rinsing out my dishes before leaving them in the sink (so HE CAN WASH THEM FOR ME).
CUE MEGA FREAKOUT.
How DARE you tell me how to run MY HOUSE. How dare you tell me about dishes. I will tell you about dishes. I will tell you about my long days of working and parenting and juggling and how my only consolation at the end of the day is that if I don't wanna clean a dish I don't have to.
And actually while we're on the subject, I never wanted to get married again anyways and THIS is why. You by asking me to rinse out this dish are stealing my freedom and independence and I will absolutely not have that. Because first you are telling me how to do my dishes, next you will be changing my bedding set and then next thing I know I won't even recognize the house I live in and after that I won't even know myself anymore and then I'll be right back where I started in a relationship where I'm meaningless and that probably means you'll be cheating on me or leave me or both.........
All this....from a dish.....
I am very, very lucky that he is so patient with me and doesn't send me to a loony bin when I go through these freakouts. The panic is so irrational when it's happening, but it feels so real and I feel like the walls are all closing in on me and underneath it all, I'm just SO TERRIFIED that I'm about to go through it all over again...and I just want to run. I want to never be with anyone and just not risk it all again. And then the panic wears off and I can't believe I ever thought of moving on without him, I love him SO DAMN MUCH.
I have been scarred so deeply. Post traumatic stress disorder, my therapist said. I have to completely re-learn a whole different way of life and of being treated. The only way to do that is to move through these freakouts, keep moving forward and eventually I will see that he is not going anywhere, that our relationship is COMPLETELY different. That while I may not keep everything in my house, my independence can only be taken away by one person---me.