Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dear John

Note to my readers: I was looking for a document in one of my computer files and stumbled across this letter I'd written to my ex husband almost six years ago. I post it here (a bit edited) because I thought it was thought-provoking for several reasons. One, it shows that, despite a marriage gone bad, two people can still communicate (to some degree, it's not like I'm in contact with him now) maturely and reflect on their time together. Also, despite the fact that he was, at times, a real jerk, he didn't manage to completely screw me up; I maintained the best part of me.
Two, it's amazing to me how much of where I was (and how I got there) impacted what I ultimately did one year later (leave my job, go to Italy, move to Durham, meet Mr. B, etc.)
And, finally, how could I have ever know when I wrote that letter that the thing I wanted the most, but thought was completely impossible, would come to pass? I'm glad I'm such a pack-rat with my documents! Hey, I might find some more that will make some interesting posts!
Mrs. B

September 2002

Dear John:
If I’ve learned anything in the past year, it is to write when the mood is upon me because I never know when it will strike again and to write is something I dearly love, as well you know.

First of all, rest assured that I am not upset by the words you wrote; how could I be when there was so much truth in them.

I’ve told you about my journey of self-discovery these past months; why it began doesn’t matter at this point but suffice it to say that about ten months ago I found myself at an awful point. Maybe you’ve been at this place, too, or at least heard of others who have been there; the moment in time when one finds oneself looking in the mirror and not knowing the person that looked back at them. I was at a point of such incredible unhappiness, such despair, that I’d reached a dangerous place; one of not really caring what happened to me. You know me well enough to know that I’d never consider overtly harming myself but I was definitely doing myself a world of hurt by having a complete disregard for myself; a reckless abandon; all covered nicely by the outward appearance of having such a perfect life. Underneath all of the so-called wonderful things; a successful career, a beautiful home, a fabulous car; being relatively attractive, independent, scores of friends and a dedicated and loving family; underneath all of that was this person who found life to be nothing more than a series of stresses and irritants; an annoying mess that, despite all I did to try and control it, got more and more unbearable.

This person looking back at me, when I finally forced myself to really take a long hard look, was not a pleasant looking person; this person had a drawn, tired face, eyes that had no life in them and a perpetual frown on her face. This literal look in the mirror, along with a few hard knocks that came right before it, shook me. At that point, instead of continuing to give up, I made the decision to change myself; to stop trying to change everyone and everything around me and to focus on the only thing I really could control; me.

I’ve also realized that certain environments aren’t the best for me any longer; namely, to be in a fast-paced corporate environment where constant demands are upon me to do more and more, faster and faster, better and better; have contributed greatly to tearing down what’s good and decent in me and replacing it with a controlling, manipulative, mean-spirited, ungrateful little wretch. But of course I cannot just up and quit my job (or at least that wouldn’t be the most prudent thing because I could if I really thought I should) so while I work to discover what I should do next, I’ve taken my newly discovered (or re-discovered) self and tried to apply the attitude to the time I’m at work.

Maybe I’m not so unusual in that I’ve gotten to where I’m going to get with no desire to go further; in fact, although it might be puzzling to some, success is not something I crave, rather, success is something I’ve overcome.

Of course my real dream would be to be able to not work and have a simple life with some opportunities to teach others and be creative. And, because one cannot always rid themselves of all their weaknesses, I would, of course, need to find time to indulge my vanity by maintaining my figure and good health.

The very best thing would be to find someone that would be indulgent of what I want to do but not expect me to be a second class citizen (you know I could never tolerate that; and, in my journey of self-discovery, I’ve become quite clear on what I will and will not put up with in a relationship). Chances of finding this benevolent Sugar Daddy are not likely, though, so I imagine the reality will end up falling somewhere in the middle.

As for our relationship, today, as I was getting my nails done, my nail lady was telling me about her daughter’s impending marriage. Her daughter is about 23 or 24, her fiance about the same age. It sounds as if they fight quite a bit; and my nail lady was sharing some of the contents of their fights with me. Such ugly words, like: “I never should have asked you to marry me” or “I can’t stand you, here, take your stupid ring back”. Well, they are young and I guess young people say things that they don’t really mean but the problem is they can hang in the air between people and never quite go away.

I know you, like me, probably recognize two other young people in that story; I found myself thinking about all of the many hurtful things we said to each other over the years but in particular when we were in our twenties. These are things that should never be said to someone you love, even if they are said only due to immaturity. I know that you, like me, would never say things like that to anyone ever again because we’ve had the opportunity to learn from them and to see what unfortunate groundwork they can lay.

In our marriage, I started putting up walls and attempted be in such complete control. Maybe that was a way to avoid being hurt; instead of playing hard to get, I was playing hard to hurt. I wonder did we ever meet someone in the middle? Was there a time when we were both on the same page at the same time? There might have been moments; those were the good times we had.

Of course I have to wonder if you’d have the patience with me now if I were to revert back to that silly girl that couldn’t boil water without scorching a pot or who was so irresponsible she let her car engine seize up not once, but twice, due to neglect? Or how about the impractical girl who wore uncomfortable shoes to Magic Mountain and we had to run around trying to find me something comfortable to wear and we ended up with these hideous straw thongs? You sure were angry with me when I was so addle-brained; or, maybe not angry but merely frustrated and annoyed. Remember how I never saved money and ran up credit card debt like there was no tomorrow? Remember when you used to do all of the cooking because I didn’t know how because I never bothered to stick with it long enough to learn? What was better? That, or the person that ran around with a broom and dust pan in her hand constantly sweeping the floor or who got upset if she didn’t get everything on her “To Do” list done before company arrived and who spent the entire time in the kitchen trying to make everything perfect rather than spending the time with family and friends who were really only there to be with us and to enjoy our company in the first place?

I suppose the way of it is that the best person for me to be is somewhere in between the two extremes. Not rocket science but it sure took me long enough to figure it out.

I am glad you sent me such a thoughtful email and, as I started out saying, I’m not upset or angry by your words. I thank you for providing me such a great opportunity to think about it and put it into words.

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