Finding Power in Forgiveness
I sat down to write this, to share my story and the first question that came into my head was “Who am I”. I chuckled feeling like Brian in the Breakfast Club after Bender assigned the infamous essay in 1985. He directed them to write an essay on “who you think you are”.
Sure, that made me chuckle, but honestly, I felt a bit overwhelmed.
I have been through hell. How in the world can I put all of that into words?
So, I just started writing. What I came up with was more poetry than essay. I would like to share that with you today, but first, a bit of a backstory.
I was an extremely responsible kid growing up. I took school seriously. I had close friends. I had a savings account. Heading into adulthood I had the same job I started when I was just fourteen years old where I went from cashier to Store Manager. I married, divorced, then married my soulmate. Or so I thought.
Together my husband and I returned from our amazing wedding in Bermuda and started our lives together. We bought a home and looked forward to starting a family. But it was tough at first. I couldn’t get pregnant and if you have experienced this and gone through IVF; you know what an emotional toll that can take on a person and on a couple. But we were blessed, and I gave birth to our first daughter. A beautiful baby and an even more beautiful young lady now, she brought such joy into our lives. Our second baby came shortly after without the need for IVF and we were…ecstatic. I never thought anyone could be as beautiful as our daughter, but here was our second child and she just added to the beauty and love we had in our home and in our family. We had our jobs, our home, and now, most importantly, our family.
Until the day he walked out.
When our second baby was still in infancy, I learned of my husband’s affair through his devolving behavior and not-so-secret-anymore-text messages. Days later, my “soulmate” left me for a much older woman who had been flirting with him at work. And not just any woman. A woman who wanted to take my place in my life as I would find out much later.
I was alone. With two babies, a job, and a house to take care of. I had a supportive family and good friends to help me, but if you’ve been in a similar position, you know how that horrible feeling of loneliness settles in, grabs you by the throat and just won’t let you go.
I couldn’t breathe. My life was torn apart. And that was only the beginning.
Somehow, my now ex-husband began to find ways to shift the blame from his cheating, his dishonestly and his infidelity on me. But back then, I didn’t understand narcissism as I do now.
It is unfortunate yet it did comfort me a bit when over the years I learned many women experience similar situations. They are living their lives, going to work, planning family dinners, going for family walks in the park, and cuddling up with their partner to watch a movie on the couch….and suddenly, the husband walks out or does something terribly harmful to the family.
As if it wasn’t bad enough, some of them don’t stop there. To attempt not looking like the failure, abuser, and duplicitous manipulator, they try to find ways to turn it around on you. And in the weakened state they leave us in, we’re left to ruminate about what we could have done differently to save our marriage.
When you’re being gaslighted, you are made to feel you are the crazy one. You are made to feel it is your fault other people are making bad decisions. You are purposely made to feel you are the problem. When in all reality, the person who made the problems is the person blaming you so they can, I don’t know, live a life without a conscience, I guess.
But it never was our fault at all. Sure, every marriage is a partnership which means it takes two, but when one doesn’t want to work as two a marriage (or any relationship) cannot survive.
I didn’t know he didn’t want to be a part of our lives. All I knew is the day he left our family photo was still hanging over the mantle; our smiling hopeful faces with our beautiful babies all holding one another, together.
Though I couldn’t put a label on the behavior, I can now. And now, I see it everywhere. Now that my eyes have been opened to it, and though it is quite sneaky, I can recognize it.
But at that time, all I knew is I was left alone, confused, and broken. Only to later deal with constant emotional torture which turned into self-destructive behaviors and abandonment issues.
I almost lost everything, including myself at the hands of another just because he didn’t want me in his life anymore. And the more he tried to get me out, the tougher it got. The tougher it got, the worse I felt. He, and his new wife, were winning.
And though their behavior may have pushed me so far to have lost myself for a moment in time, I knew my daughters needed me. I knew no matter what my ex-husband and his deceitful partner did, I would find a way to work myself out of it; because though our two daughters may not have the life I had designed and planned for them, they need their mother and as much as my ex-husband and his new family try, they can never change the fact that I am their mother.
But there was damage to repair. I lost my job. I lost or severely damaged relationships. I almost completely lost myself.
Yet, I climbed my way out. I left the self-destructive world and tossed the continued (attempted) abuse by these two people where it belongs. Behind me.
I clawed, kicked, screamed, and fought with all I had to regain my strength and build the beautiful life I have now. But I had work to do.
I had to ask for forgiveness from those I hurt along my spiral downward. But, most importantly I had to forgive myself. Forgiveness is a much better path for me to walk along and it has absolutely contributed to my success of becoming a different person than I was that day when he walked out. I'm a different person than the one sitting, bawling, on that red couch, with my infant daughter in my lap and my oldest in her playpen. A different person than the one who did all she could to fight the demons that grew and grew with every trick my ex-husband and his wife tried to play to make themselves feel better for tearing apart our family and putting my children through an unnecessary hell.
Though I may not be ready to say I forgive them for doing what they have done, I am proud to know I am a much different person than I was years ago. I wish this had never happened to me and my daughters, of course, but I am at a place now where I know these challenges, these terrible acts of another, tore me down but also gave me the chance to be who I am today.
So, when I sat down to write this, with the Breakfast Club in mind, I came up with this.
Who am I? (And who I am not)
My name is Nicole.
Today I am powerful and fully connected to my surroundings.
Today I am proud, I am worthy, and I love who I have evolved to be.
Today I am thankful for each undeniably difficult journey that caused intense pain, loss, emotional torture, abandonment, illness, and defeat.
Today I accept each challenge as a blessing that has brought me to understanding my grand purpose.
Today I have surpassed the devastation of living in pain and the harsh reality of writing a story that surrounded broken dreams, shattered memories, regret, loneliness, and loss of the perfect reality I thought I was living.
Today I am astounded by my strength and determination to forgive, release blame, and save my soul from the dark tunnel it lived in far too long.
Today I am not defined as a broken and lost woman with two babies abandoned by her spouse eleven years ago. I am not defined as a mother in court fighting an abusive narcissist co-parent or a woman that allowed defeat and despair take the wheel. I am not defined by depression and anxiety. I am not defined by the loss of my career. I am not defined by the indescribable loss felt while watching the world I built disappear day by day.
I am not defined by my choice to blame, hide, and ignore ownership in my experiences.
I am not defined by my life path in learning how to piece myself back together.
My name is Nicole, I am a forty-five-year-old woman. My life road has been beautiful, meaningful, and fulfilling. For every challenge I have faced, there has been an opportunity to learn and understand my purpose. And that will continue throughout all the challenges I may face for the rest of my life.
My name is Nicole, I am a forty-five-year-old woman with a super chaotic, slightly hysterical, stressful entertaining life with three beautiful daughters, two crazy dogs, a great man by my side, and a supportive, loving, fun, and amazing family.
My name is Nicole, I am a forty-five-year-old woman free of regret, free of shame and free of pain.
I am a forty-five-year-old woman who is fearless and ready to embrace the next challenge.
I believe in forgiveness we find power, in power lies truth, in truth we experience pain, in pain we reach peace, and in peace we find who we are.
My name is Nicole, and I am who I am. And I’m totally cool with that.
If you are in a mental health emergency, please call 911. For mental health resources click here.