Saturday, 31 May 2014

So She Ran Away

If you asked my ex husband why I left the marriage, he is likely to tell you either that I was depressed or that I had some notion of going off to find myself.  I thought that the woman running off to find herself thing had gone with the seventies and haven't really heard it mentioned since Kramer vs Kramer, but apparently it still gets resurrected to explain the unpredictability and capricious whims of women such as myself.  Although my ex and I are amicable, and maintain a small degree of social connection as well as a joint role as parents, and although we were together for 25 years, married for nearly 23 by the time I left, he doesn't really understand me at all.  There was a time when that really hurt.  It no longer matters so it no longer hurts but it does leave me thinking about this concept of finding myself.


I didn't leave the marriage in order to find myself in any self conscious way, but after I left that is precisely what happened.  I think a better term is that I reclaimed myself.   I reclaimed independence and self confidence, peace of mind and freedom.  If the marriage had been a good one those things should not have gotten lost, but they did and for many years I did not even know they were lost because I was too busy with the efforts of coping without them.  I was not thinking about finding myself when I left, I was thinking only of escaping out from under an enormous weight,  the weight of an unhealthy relationship that looked healthy to everyone viewing it from the outside.  And thus it seemed I was suddenly and irrationally walking away from everything.  What else could the reason be other than mental illness or that flaky desire to find myself?

For the first few years of my unmarried life, my focus was primarily on trying to regain some sort of recovery of my own health, remaining an active parent in support of guiding a 16 year old son through the bumpy patches of youth, and figuring out how I was going to support myself when I was struggling to work, and how I would cope with the significant loss of identity if I gave up teaching.  I had no time for caring about my clothes and little love for the body I had to dress.  In my struggle with food, which I have mentioned in another post, I was suffering from gluten intolerance and I was accumulating unwanted extra weight from a high carbohydrate vegan diet.  This was not a blissful adventure in finding myself though it was not all misery either.

I had more time and opportunity to paint and draw and write.  As I figured out how to eat properly for my own body and health, the weight came off and I found myself 30 lbs lighter than I had been in over a decade.  In order to dress a body that was shedding a dress size every couple of months, I embraced shopping for clothes in thrift shops more than I ever had before.   There was still much to get through,  many hurdles and obstacles and challenges to cope with and such is the way of life that really there always are.  But I was happy.  I felt more joy than I had known in a long time.  I was in control of myself again despite the fact that I live with an incurable chronic illness which can and will flare up regularly beyond my control.

I do not think that clothes are the most important thing in my life, they are not my greatest source of joy nor my passion, but they do bring me a certain degree of pleasure and dressing myself is now enjoyable whereas it used to be a chore.  Sure I could select clothing I liked but I never particularly liked it once it was on me.  I didn't like what I saw in the mirror or in photos because she didn't look like me.  She wasn't the woman I was inside.  I now have the freedom to buy what I like, to budget according to my own choices and not feel guilty about buying clothes or art supplies or books.  With this freedom comes the ability to express myself and to feel truly like I am the real me.  There is no doubt this is something I enjoy because I belong to a more privileged class of people in this world.  That is easily the subject of a whole book, and not something I can adequately address here.

But in the world in which I live and function and contribute, I am making my way, attempting to make it a better place, attempting to spread a little happiness.  In order to do that I have to be comfortable in my own skin and in the skin I put on every day, my clothes.  I don't need a lot of clothes, but I am someone who finds pleasure in the self expression they contribute to, in the colours and textures and patterns which must necessarily come with clothing.  I have embarked on an experiment, to find the items which suit me enough to make me happy wearing them but also to be able to forget that I am wearing them.  There is pleasure in something new but I do not need to go on accumulating at the rate in which I have over the past year.  I had a closet to fill.  I was making a fresh start and I finally feel as though I have gotten to where I was going.  Four years ago today,  I left what everyone believed was my home.   In my heart I knew it wasn't.  I am finally home now, and I cannot deny that clothing has helped me to get there.

27 comments:

  1. I found myself with a husband that doen´t quite know himself,s. Still in my case I can carry him along because I canot imagen life without him. This is the big question. When you close you eyes and a person doesn´t add is time to let them go.
    You are fantastic
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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    1. Thank you Sacramento. Nobody is perfect and spouses are not either, but muddling along together or taking turns carrying each other is fine. My marriage wasn't working that way. I'm glad you have a wonderful husband you are happy with. That's a special thing!
      xoxoxox

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  2. What an eloquent post. Thanks for sharing, Shawna. Clothing and style is all about self-discovery for those of us going on a style journey. I haven't reached my destination yet as a new Mom, but the evolution can be the most interesting (and also frustrating) part. I didn't comment on earlier posts but I love your new do. Xo

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    1. It's nice to hear from you sometimes just to know you are still doing okay! This is a very busy time, having a small child. That's the main thing I was doing in the nineties and thus was rather oblivious to what was in style! Thanks for loving my new do!

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  3. Whatever you prefer to call it, Shawna, congratulations on taking this very important step and building the life YOU really want for yourself! I think it's the most wonderful thing in life, to be truly honest with yourself and go for your dreams. Beautiful watercolor! Hugses!

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  4. Thank you Natalia. It goes further than building my own life, and involves getting away from emotional abuse, but I didn't feel the need to write about that here. I cannot go for all of my dreams as many of them are out of reach given the M.E., but I am looking after myself and making the best life I can for myself.
    xoxo

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    1. Been there, done that, got the tee shirt... really, I have, Shawna. Too many things I don't care to discuss in the blog format - it's not why I am here... :)

      Sacramento is right in that people who don't get us - they just haven't met themselves yet. It doesn't make them bad people, just not awakened and not especially aware yet. We all have our own timeline... It's not the reason to stick with them when the relationship is abusive. And for that, I admire what you have done. Yes, I totally get it - it was not brave for you, it was just the only thing you knew needed to be done. It's that moment of clearness when everything comes into focus and you know what to do. Still, so many people stay in such relationship, especially after 20+ years of marriage. Because it seems easier to them than change.

      12 years of constant change. That's my life. Never stop changing. Change is what life is all about. Becoming more and more true to yourself. One step at a time. Not accepting limitations. One step at a time.

      Much love xxx

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    2. Clearly you do understand. I did not mean to imply that you didn't but I am a bit sensitive after taking the high road for so long and saying very little, flinging no mud, and then finding that people didn't understand I had good reason to leave. When I was contemplating leaving and sought some advice a few people told me ton consider staying for the sake of companionship, so as not to be alone. I guess that works for some, but only if there aren't any other problems.
      Change is inevitable. One may as well accept that and work with it, not fight it. Not all circumstances that lead to change are pleasant but I will always do my best to arrive at a pleasant place and to be happy there.
      Thank you for your sweet words. You are always so kind, encouraging and supportive. I read your comments to other people and I think that you go about the blogsphere spreading sunshine.
      Much love right back to you.
      xoxoxo

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  5. It's great to recognise these anniversaries and have a look back to see how far you've come. It helps to put the present into perspective. I hope that when another anniversary rolls around you will be even more satisfied :-) I'm glad you started your blogging, style journey because you started mine! We are interlinked in this blogging world, and I'm so glad to know you.

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    1. The past four years have been a bit head spinning! I didn't really consciously think about beginning a style journey, I just wanted to write and to hang out in a community of great women. I think you and I started around the same time, and I'm glad you started too because you are very special and unique and it is a real pleasure getting to know you!
      xo

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  6. Forgot to say, love the painting!

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  7. It was very brave of you to step out on your own. So many people "sit" in an uncomfortable situation because it is too challenging to go it on their own.

    If we kept a photo journal of every day of our lives I'm sure that looking back we would only need to look at the clothes we were wearing at the time to know what state of mind we were in.

    Great reflective post!

    bisous
    Suzanne

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    1. Thanks, Suzanne. I often get the comment that it was brave but it didn't feel brave, it just felt necessary. Someone once said that strong women often stay too long in a bad relationship because they are hell bent on making it work/fixing it. I may have been subconsciously doing that but eventually I had to turn that strength towards saving myself.
      I am rather glad I do not have a photo journal of everything I've worn every day of my life! LOL
      xo

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  8. That painting is lovely, and the perfect starting point for your post. I haven't been through a difficult relationship, but I spent a lot of time on my own and I liked it. Now that I'm married I sometimes find it hard to not have much time alone. I'm actually jealous of you with your freedom to do what you want and decorate your house the way you want. Sounds like you deserve it, and you've really grown into yourself. Thanks for sharing that with us!

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    1. Lovely might be pushing it but thanks. :-) I am enjoying the freedom but it comes at a cost as freedom often does. I don't have the income I would have if I worked nor the energy and ability to do many things I would like to but I'm lucky to have some relatively sedentary and stay home sorts of hobbies. I have no objections to sharing my life with the right person, but I have never felt that I needed to go looking for someone. I will definitely have to love him an awful lot to let him mess with my home decor and add man things to it! ;-)
      xoxo

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  9. oh wow!
    i was always sure that to get dressed is a ritual for the soul - if it´s done right. and always i wanted to make clothes for that....
    interesting what reasons men will find when their women leave them. my first love told all the friends that i had an other man - which was not true. but admitting that his behavior was the case i was "running away" was not possible - is not even after 20 years...
    the way you are going and the way you handle your health and follow your creative passions is the reason i read your blog! your are brave and gorgeous! thank you for sharing!
    xxxx

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    1. I think getting dressed is a ritual for the soul if your soul is ready be dressed. Does that make any sense? I do not like to write in too much detail about some of the trials of my life because I wish to protect the privacy of my family. I don't think my own trials are special or more challenging than those others face, but there has been much that was more important than really taking care of myself. I had to put that on hold until it was no long possible to do otherwise. Better late than never. For most of my life I have used clothes to express myself in some way and perhaps even then they were expressing something. They were expressing that I had too many battles and my clothing needed to be armour. It was there to protect me but not to put me in the spotlight. Not that I wasn't capable of getting dressed up nicely if I needed to, but overall, I did not like what I saw in the mirror most of the time. I just did the best I could with what I had to work with.
      My ex is also not capable of recognising his own behaviour, but then blaming me for everything was part of the big picture. ;-)
      I am so glad you read my blog, because I am so glad to have met you. You are sweet and talented and strong. I very much admire that combination.
      xoxoxo

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  10. I do think our outfits can represent our state of mind, the more oppressed we are, clothing almost takes second place as we try and preserve our sanity - and I do think walking away from a relationship that isn't working is a bloody difficult and liberating act, difficult to make the decision, liberating once you have walked away. I'm chuffed you made a decision that was right for you and you are free (free to do what you want) sometimes and rarely I look behind to see how far I've come too, it makes me quite proud x x x

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    1. Yes, they can, I think so too! And even when clothing is taking second place it is announcing that. What was difficult to walk away from was the security, the comfortable lifestyle, a gorgeous semi-custom home and my beloved garden. The relationship itself, I came to realise, was not what I wanted, needed or what it should be, so I was not losing anything by walking away. People tried to talk me into staying, but I knew that was not what was right. I had already stayed too long.
      I don't spend a lot of time looking back, but sometimes it is useful to see how far one has come!
      xoxoxoxo

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  11. I would use the word lovely for your painting too and it goes very well with your open, reflective post. Hugs xx

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    1. Well Jayne, you are very sweet and I thank you for using the world lovely. Hugs for you too!
      xoxo

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  12. When I don't know what to write, is a sign that what has been spoken or written, does not need my input. I will simply say this...
    Your openness is refreshing.

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    1. That's very pithy, Glenda! Thank you for your comment, and for reading and taking the time to say something. My openness may be deceptive. I reveal a lot but I keep a lot private too. However, I think there is value in sharing our experiences and what we have learned with others. I can only hope that I might offer some support to someone in a situation similar to mine.
      xoxoxo

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  13. This is a great post and should give hope and inspiration to anyone facing the huge and seemingly overwhelming decision to leave behind a life that is no longer working. I'm so glad it has all worked out so well for you ... being happy is the most important thing of all ... after all we only get one go at this strange thing called life.
    xx

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    1. Thanks Jo, that is essentially what I would hope for it to do. I think that happiness is important because if we cannot create it for ourselves we cannot be very useful to others. I am fortunately a naturally happy person, but I am also some quite willing to put others ahead of myself and I must sometimes pause to examine that and decide if it is actually best.
      xoxoxo

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  14. Hi Shawna, I just read this post of yours. What I am going to say sounds weird even in my head but here goes ... You were very brave to walk away after being in a relationship for so long however ... I would certainly not stay in a relationship for the "companionship" ... I think that being in a relationship that does not fulfill you is soul destroying!!! I also think staying in a relationship "for the children" is highly detrimental to those poor children ~ my parents got divorced after 13 years and 4 children and I am eternally thankful that they did!

    I applaud the new life you are building for yourself and discovering who you are.

    The painting is amazing!!!!

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