Thursday, January 12, 2012

Heavy and Light

So, something really really big is happening for me tomorrow.  It's entirely positive, but I've had a much stronger emotional reaction than I anticipated.  To explain it, I need to explain some history.  When I was in college a million years ago, I had my first Real Love.  I moved 3,000 miles to live with him. It wasn't the healthiest of relationships, and ended badly.  I moved to Somerville, MA, got a cat and felt rejected and unlovable.  I was drinking too much and *deep* in throes of my eating disorder.  Living alone wasn't really all that great for me.  During this time, I met a guy.  A record store guy.  A guy who was so different from me, and who ended up hating me for everything I was, everything he felt he wasn't. A guy with a big fat monkey on his back, and that monkey's name was heroin. What should have been a 2-week fling ended up being 4 years, much of it as bad as you can imagine.  He was mean to me. He insulted me, humiliated me, lied to me, stole from me, left me with thousands of dollars of debt.  Last of all, he beat me up.  To take the rent money, to go buy drugs.  Because, I - LIKE AN IDIOT - gave him my PIN.  He'd hit me before, more than once, but this was a beating.  This later stuff all happened when I was, ironically enough, in my first year of Ph.D. program...IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY.  I know, it's crazy to me.  I was a feminist!  I volunteered for a rape and domestic violence crisis line!  I was going to be a therapist!  And yet, there I was, drowing in in someone else's addiction, and a victim to his rage.  There are many, many reasons as to how I ended up there.  While he bears the lion's share of the responsibility, I do take my own.  It's not just that I stayed - I went back to him.  More than once.  But, when it finally came down to that last cataclismic fight, I had what may have been the greatest epiphany of my adult life.

You get what you settle for.

I finally understood that this was never, ever going to change for the better.  It was only going to get worse, until he finally really really hurt me, or (more likely) died from an OD.  And I had that moment of absolute clarity that I can only believe came from source outside of me, that voice in my head so clear that said "GET OUT."  I felt so entangled, so responsible, so guilty.  I thought he might kill himself.  I realized I could live with that.  I called his mother, I got him out.  I had support and help, of course, but in that crucial moment, I was completely alone, and I dug deep and found what I needed to change my life.

As part of the aftermath of that experience, I had literally thousands of dollars of debt.  So I took a big extra student loan, and paid off the credit card debt.  That loan has been hanging over me since then.  As a stay at home mom for the last 10 years, and now earning, well, not much, it's been my husband's money that's been paying those loans.  My amazing, supportive, kind, generous, gentle husband - for whose presense I give thanks every single day.  It's not just payment for my mistakes - I did earn that Ph.D. too! - but that's a huge part of what those loans represent to me.  Every time I saw the note for the payment in our bank account, I cringed, and felt that remembered shame of what I let that man do to me.  I remember what it felt like to be sobbing on the phone in the Harvard Square T stop, calling my dad because I couldn't pay my rent.  Hiding my bruises.  Lying.  Covering. Apologizing.  I don't think I'll ever forget.

Because of an amazing piece of good fortune, yesterday, I scheduled the payment to pay off the rest of the loan.  I panicked before I hit send, and made my husband come over.  "You do it!" I said.  "Do you want me to?" he asked.  I thought for a moment.  "No. I want to do it." And I did. I hit send.  That payment will clear tomorrow, and it feels like it clears the last piece of that old relationship from this amazing life that I have today.  My sweetie's out of town, so (barring getting the horrible barfing flu that's been sweeping my town) tomorrow night I'm taking the kids out to dinner and then we're coming home for a family movie night. And I'm going to marvel in the basic joy my life holds.

There's something so powerful about remembering that moment in that little apartment where the guy and I lived, standing at the crossroads, making a choice without fully knowing what I was doing, but only knowing that I could not survive the way I was.  I had no idea the joy, the love, the awesomeness that was in store for me.  I feel like a weight has lifted.  You get what you settle for, so why settle for anything less than amazing?


kristy said...


toysmith said...


That is so awesome, that after all of your work and keeping one foot in front of the other, you finally get to cast this albatross from around your neck. You're an inspiration!

Congratulation on finally closing this chapter of your life!


Knitting Nix said...

Brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy that you have closure on this chapter.

Pam Asberry said...

This post REALLY resonated with me. It has taken me two years to get over my broken engagement, and during the few months he and his children lived with my family I too racked up thousands of dollars of debt. I am years away from paying it off, but at least I had the good sense to get out of the bad situation I was in. And as I move forward, I intend to keep your very wise words in mind: YOU GET WHAT YOU SETTLE FOR. Hope you have a wonderful 2012!