Real Talk | Worth Waiting For

Sometimes it was me vs. Atlanta

Sometimes it was me vs. Atlanta

I had specific post planned for today, but something happened while we were out at lunch today, and I'm going to try to weave it all together in this post. I hope it makes sense. 

So as I explained on this week's podcast, it's been about three months since I've been able to regularly post on the blog, and it's not like anything has happened to cause this, it's just that I have been cognizant that I had to start doing things differently in my life to makes some lasting changes and have my life be one I plan and participate in instead of being one I simply react to all of the time. 

I shared with you guys last December, that I had a very frank and deep conversation with one of my closest friends as I lay in bed painfully hungover the day after Christmas, wallowing in the smoking embers of what my life had become as I was curating a totally false narrative, "I'm fine! Fine! Nothing to see here AT ALL!" as it careened all of the way off the cliff once what was left of my emergency brake snapped off. 

"Nothing is going to change until you make a plan for yourself. You. Not about or around anyone else, but for you and you alone." 

So I made a plan that night, got started on it, and then plan presented itself along the way. 

By March, my life had completely changed. As I kept my head down and chugged along, things started to work themselves out and also bubble up to the surface. I started therapy, and decided that as life got busy, I was going to not thrive on chaos as I've been conditioned to do my whole life, but streamline it and get very simple in order to take care of myself. I had some big personal and professional wins along the way. I wound up growing my business, writing two screenplays for Amazon Studios, and finding a partner who celebrates who I actually am, and cares about being my friend first instead of shaming me for falling short of what I can never be. 

I'm so used to apologizing for being what I've always been told is neurotic, difficult, and terrible, and he simply shrugs, smiles and says, "You're actually not that bad." 

Since my birthday in late June with the help of therapy, did I say therapy? Yes. THERAPY... I have been reflecting a lot on the last year and what has shaped me as a person leading up to that. I'm coming up on almost a year since the full implosion, closer to a year of this great recovery, and six months of this relationship. 

I've learned that the process is a lot like grieving and letting go. You go through certain stages over time, and there's no quick path around any of it. You have to go through. You simply have to secure whatever you can and wait out the storm. What ever the wind carries away was meant to leave you anyway. 

That's really hard for a control freak like me who wants to find a solution to every problem. But in truth, that way of thinking really only ever had me in a perpetual state of crisis mode.

I also had to let this idea of perfection go. It took me 38 years to get this way. It's not going to be unraveled in six months or even in six years. The cliche of one step forward and two back exists for a reason, but as long as you're making forward progress of some kind, you're gonna be okay. 

I'm going to share two stories of what putting myself back together after all of this trauma looks like. One is a tailspin and one a breakthrough. 

The tailspin happened two Fridays ago. I had a lovely day with my partner (I call him my partner because we are together in all aspects of life... work, life, goals, etc.) he shared with me some things he's planning for the future, and it was all of the things that added up to that newfound fuzzy feeling I get these days that I am valued and loved enough to invest in on a years long plan, and I am an active participant in that plan. It sounds lame, but every relationship I've ever had was a whirlwind that was made permanent after a few months of intense physical attraction. Never in my life have I had someone pump the brakes and say, "No. We are not doing that. We are friends and partners first, and I love you too much for that. This is worth doing the right way, and that takes a couple of years." 

Early in the game, I would rage and rebel against this. I wanted the end game and result NOW. How dare you make me wait! If it's good now, it'll be good forever. 

Lol, no... shut up, stupid. You married someone terrible for you and you him after less than six months and look how that turned out. Then you went out and got engaged to something even worse after dating for the same amount of time. And THEN you went out and rebounded with someone who made your chaos look like a mundane existence. Maybe you don't know everything. Maybe you're doing what your mother did. That didn't work out so well either. 

He was patient with me, and put up with some serious garbage on my part, and my therapist and I unraveled how my past was shaping this behavior and learning to let it all go and be my own person. I went home Friday night happy, fulfilled, and feeling good about my life. 

Then it happened. It all unraveled with one text. 

My son's birthday was that Saturday, and I couldn't get a hold of the kids to see if his gift had arrived and if everything was okay with it, so I texted my ex. We had a pleasant exchange until he asked me a question and my reply was a benign, "none of your business." Part of what I am working on is distancing myself from the conditioning that he is still my husband and I owe him explanations for what I do with my life outside the care of our children. 

That statement turned a civil conversation into a complete dressing down from him, and ended with him texting me, "You are your mother's daughter." 

Every good feeling I went to bed with that night completely evaporated. With that one text, I would unravel and self-destruct for an entire week. I knew it was irrational, I knew he was full of shit, but I am not 'cured' yet. He hit the right button at exactly the right time, and it will work until it doesn't. That's just reality. 

Typically, my flight instinct kicks in and I want to run and change everything. I want to set fire to my life, watch it burn, and live on the chaos that ensues. It's what I know, and therefore what I do. I started projecting everywhere with a huge sense of entitlement. I am my mother's daughter, I believe him on some level, so let's just go do that then, starting with my partner. He has to be the first to go. 

But something stopped me from completely unloading on him in a stream of consciousness that would make him have to soothe me and reassure me in some way. I simply texted him that we needed to talk the next day. Highly unusual for me. Rational and patient are not my best qualities.

The next morning, I was ready to tell him that it was over. I had a laundry list of every reason why. He dutifully called at the time I asked him to, and I totally choked on the phone. I really wanted to tell him off and fire off the first chaos cannon, but I said something about being in a hurry for a meeting, and we'd just have to talk later, you know, when I had the courage. 

I honestly did have a meeting, and I was practicing my break up speech in the car. I had texted a couple of friends with some of my complaints about him and they were like, "Yes gurl! Yes! Get what you deserve!" because that's what friends do. Rarely do they tell you that you're actually being a self-destructive asshole. 

However, as I was driving home from that meeting, a gut-check happened. This wave of panic came over me, and I can't explain it besides this wave of, "OMG NO. STOP!" and everything about us flashed before my eyes. I was making something meaningful disposable because I believed I wasn't worthy of it. Why? My ex-husband said so. My mother said so before him. And I still believe it. They live the same existence. I had come too far to head down that path with them. 

I texted him to just table the conversation I wanted to have entirely. It could wait. In that moment, I decided I wasn't going to test him anymore. I wasn't going to see how much he would take or how far I could push this. I wasn't going to cut and run anymore. He's investing in me and I need to have faith and invest in him. THAT is a partnership. He didn't send me that shitty text. He checked in on me, gave me space when I needed it, and has yet to run. He knows everything about me, and has yet to run. He celebrates the things about me I was conditioned to be ashamed of. He's worth waiting for. 

The next day, I told him about my week long spin out, and everything going on in my head, including wanting to run away from all of this and him. The shame, guilt, and unworthiness I still carry around, and how I still believe I deserve the abuse I get whether it's rational or not. He totally understood, told me he could see it coming, and we started again talking about the plan I have made for myself, the plan he has made for himself, and how that comes together to be the plan we make for ourselves. 

So that's where today's post was going to end, but then something happened at lunch today that surprised me. We were goofing off and eating tacos when the conversation turned to something that then turned into something and then there I was going through the demise of 2016 that began this time last year. I told him everything, beginning to end. Like, the super horrible shit I can't really ever tell you guys. Not in a war story kind of way, but in a 'here's why I kept you at a distance for so long and I freak out about weird shit and act like a lunatic.' 

"I totally get it now. That's a hard thing to get over. And you're not that bad." 

I'm not that bad. 

Being vulnerable and telling him the whole story today, was that moment the wind blew the shutter off that house of my life and I was able to let it all go. That chapter is closed. I have taken what I need from it, and I let it go today. That thing that made me test this guy and hold him at arm's length, and let my insecurities from that time in my life sabotage this time in my life, evaporated. It no longer dictates my present or future. 

It's easy to measure your success by exactly that. Success. We want it fixed tomorrow and perfection from that point forward. Every mistake after that point is a huge failure and why the hell did you even try anyway? Might as well give up. 

But in reality, healing yourself is a careful dance of success, failure, time, patience, and a willingness to keep moving as the band plays on. Bad people come and experiences come and go, and you should let them go, because the good ones dance with you and they're worth waiting for. 

Jennifer Gulbrandsen