If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last year, it’s that in most situations, you’ll stumble upon your biggest breakthroughs just beyond what you think you can stand. Endurance is a magnificent thing. If we choose to actively pursue it, our capacity to bounce back stronger after emotional trauma is a nod to how remarkable the human spirit is. I think we assume we can’t do something simply because it looks scary, because it hurts, or because it seems difficult. To gain access to that type of endurance, you have to surrender to the growth it lends itself to. That type of growth takes hard work and heart work, and there are no shortcuts.
Which leads me to the piece you’re now reading.
Publishing this is well-beyond the edge of my comfort zone. I’m taking a big mothertruckin’ step here. I’ve avoided for this piece for an entire week. I could sit here and say I don’t know why, but I do. Because, hello! It’s scary. It hurts. It’s difficult. It doesn’t mean I haven’t moved on, it just means I’m human. Publishing this piece required me to reach deep into the pockets of discomfort. It also required me to reach out to the other party for their green light. Normally, I’m not one to wait for green lights when it comes to owning my story. That’s sort of the whole point of this blog. Still, somehow after the chaos, we maintain unwavering mutual respect and camaraderie. It is questionable at worst and admirable at best. But, like I said, human.
Rehashing old wounds feels like a step backward, so I’ll try to make this less about rehashing and more about reassembling.
Last weekend would have been the one-year…anniversary? Or another word we use as a yearly reminder of something we’d prefer to forget. A one-year “observance” of a morning I’ve relived hundreds of times since it happened, only it hit me harder last weekend than I expected it to. Perhaps, someday, I’ll stop remembering the date. The events that took place will soon become a mere chapter in my overall life story. Regardless of when I start forgetting, I spent all day last Friday remembering. I also spent it sleeping, watching Friends reruns, texting my friends that I love them, and MAYBE eating nachos in bed.
The aftermath of betrayal is dark and lonely. When somebody you trust lies to you, everything gets called into question. Everything. It’s a slippery slope when you start doubting your own competence. One minute you’re questioning an entire relationship and the next minute you’re questioning your intelligence. This was never about you. Your memory. This was NEVER about you. Your self-worth. THIS WAS NEVER ABOUT YOU. It will stay like that until you accept the reality of your circumstance. Even then, when somebody continuously breaks you down like a cardboard box, the decision to reassemble is last on your list of to-dos, especially when you’d love nothing more than to disappear with the morning recycling
Over the course of a year I disappeared almost completely. The funny thing about disappearing is everyone sees it but you. In the midst of losing your sense of self, you will also lose more obvious things. Weight. Sleep. The wheel. You will become a mere outline of yourself until you wake up one night in the dark and realize you’ve erased too much. You should know by now that you cannot erase yourself to help others define themselves. That realization will be your first step of many. Each step you take thereafter, no matter how small, will be further along than the day before. One year later it will no longer be, “Look how far I have to go.” It will be, “Look how far I’ve come.”
Please note: Some days you’ll take no steps at all. Instead, you will sleep, watch Netflix, text your friends, and MAYBE eat nachos in bed. Be gentle with yourself on those days.
Betrayal forces your hand. You either have to gamble or fold. We did both, gambling for eight more months and eventually folding. Only then was I able to see the third, hidden option. Reassembling. Because here’s the deal. (Ha, see what I did there?) You can fall apart and stay apart, or you can slowly put yourself back together. Whether it’s betrayal, heartbreak, uncertainty, insecurity, fear, grief, (or the general ambiguity of our current political landscape—wink) you CAN choose to open up your heart, clear out the dust, and let the light in. Let it make you awesome. It will certainly mean enduring a whole lot of pain first. You have to assess the damage before you gain access to it. From there, all you can do is refuse to let the hard things make you hard.
I’ve accepted that I am not who I was before. That version of myself is gone. But you know what? I like the person I am today, somehow even more. I am bolder. I am stronger. I am more self-aware. I am kinder. I am more understanding. I am better assembled. Before the breakdown, I existed based only on the information I had at hand. After the breakthrough, I have learnings, and I’m using them. The beauty of reassembling is you get to put yourself back together however you’d like. I decided I didn’t want to be a cardboard box ever again. Cardboard boxes can be broken down. They are dark inside. They are empty. I wanted to be an open room, and I wanted to be filled with light.
Because watching yourself disappear for a year is the darkest magic there is.