I didn’t forget about Blogger Idol this week. I’m still happily playing along with the home link-ups. This week, Blogger Idol presented us with the following challenge: “Every decision we make changes the outcome of our life. This week's assignment theme is ‘There once was a chance I didn't take.’ You have to write about a chance that you regret not taking, or a chance that you had, that you didn't take, that may have turned your life in a totally different direction.”
“You need to leave him,” my mother matter-of-factly stated on the other end of the telephone line.
“But mom, he needs me,” I replied. I believed this with every inch of my being. He needed me at his side. I couldn’t leave him alone in such a state – so physically and mentally weak and exhausted.
“You need to make yourself the priority,” she returned. “He took advantage of you.”
“I know he did. I know,” while I acknowledged this truth, I continued on, “but he’s clearly ill. I don’t think he meant to hurt me. I think he must be sorry for what he did, or he wouldn’t have gone to such extremes. I married him. Marriage means something to me. It’s a commitment, and I can’t just walk away.”
“You can walk away,” she countered, “and you need to. You can’t justify staying based on the sanctity of marriage. Your marriage is a lie, Angela.”
Damn. There it was. She didn’t dance around it; she pummeled me in the face with this brutal reality like she was throwing an upper right cut.
It was a lie. I didn’t know the man I married. I don’t think anyone really knew him, his own self included. He was confused and mentally ill and his life was so out of control that while I had this discussion with my mother, he was lying on a hospital bed in the intensive care unit after a serious suicide attempt.
It was only a few months into my marriage when I discovered much of what had been hidden from me. The lying, cheating, and stealing were all spelled out in what he had intended to be his final farewell, a letter that was handed to me by one of the emergency responders on the scene.
The man I married didn’t exist. He was a kind, considerate, honest man. The man who I was committed to now was deceitful and selfish. I could have chosen an annulment, and I should have chosen an annulment. I had been wronged, but I did what I believed to be right at the time.
I didn’t listen to my mother. Rather, I took the advice of country crooner Tammy Wynette and I stood by my man. I gave him my all, through more lies, fights, personal struggles with depression, and his abuse. In giving him my all, I lost myself. I’m sorry I lost myself.
If I had listened to my mother, I could have truly lived. I could have enjoyed my friends and my family, instead he did his damndest to isolate and alienate me from the folks I loved, leaving me feeling alone and dependent upon him. I could have enjoyed ages twenty-two and twenty-three, living young, wild and free. I could have known my worth and continued to love myself.
If I had walked away sooner, I wouldn’t have had to fight so damn hard to regain my identity and accept myself again. I could have avoided the battle to rebuild a strong self-concept. But, I punched, I kicked, I built mental muscle until I got her back – I got me back. I am stronger now. I am better. I am resilient.
Regardless, these were gifts I gave to myself – they didn’t simply come from the struggle of an abusive marriage. When I look in the rearview mirror, those years were just a detour and I’m still right where I belong now.
I could say I should have listened to my mother. I could say Tammy Wynette was wrong, and I wish I had never heard that song. However, it’s my own voice I needed to hear. I will never let anyone hush her ever again.