One of my many private addictions used to be reading self-help and self-improvement books. I occasionally have a relapse but climb off of that saddle as quickly as possible. I quit reading them on a few general principles. One being that just buying them depressed me because I’ve found yet another outlet or excuse to point at myself and say “Ah, Hah!” How many times I have I told you in the dead of night that you were broken? Now here is the written proof.
Then there are the “how to deal with a person who has <insert problem here> and live to tell about it” type books. At first I’m all excited and insist that everyone I know read the book. They don’t of course, people rarely see themselves as the one who needs such advice. It’s not my place to tell them either but that rarely stops me.
After the initial enthusiasm wears off, I go through a phase of thinking “oh my God…this is me!” I’m the one this book is talking about. Honestly, If you read the symptoms in most of these books and check them off it occurs to you that we’re all loony enough to get carted off in the padded wagon at some point in our lives. I end up feeling like I’ve been walking around with a Technicolor wart on the end my nose and nobody bothered to mention it.
Now a new crop of self-help books have popped up in the last 4 or 5 years. Many of the books are a rehash of the self-help books in the 90’s. My main concern is that a huge portion of the books are now devoted to how to decide that’s it time to leave, and then how to actually perform the leaving.
That doesn’t help me at all. Unless someone has me handcuffed to a pipe in the basement, I can bloody well leave. I’ve left in a calm and peaceful manner with all my belongings, including my children, and I’ve left at 2:00am screaming into the darkness. Never the less I do know how to leave.
The staying is the hard part. And I’m not including those times when leaving is absolutely the only thing to do, such as implied or real threats of physical, financial harm. But for the rest of us who are in a viable relationship or want to be, it’s more helpful to figure out how to stay and live and grow in the process.
My therapy is writing about what bugs me. I can write a scathing retort to a real or imagined hurt so vicious the paper should burst into flames. Thank God, half the time it doesn’t occur to me until well after the fact. But the worst of my rants are for me alone. It’s probably better that way. I’d really rather not find myself on a list of mandatory attendees of an anger management class.
On this journey to reinvent a me that I can live with, I’ve decided to take baby steps. Or maybe treat myself like someone with a catastrophic brain injury who has to learn how to do everything over again. Could I just reformat my brain? Nah, that would wipe out the good along with the not useful knowledge.
This fresh brain theory is as much of a gift as finding yourself suddenly without possessions. This may sound horrible, but hear me out. I’ve ended up with little more than the clothes on my back 4 times in my life. Once was from a natural disaster (flood).
Another time was when I made the mistake of living at what turned out to be a “crime scene.” I came home one day and the police had been there and emptied out my entire apartment. They must have hired some really good movers because there weren’t even scraps of paper left on the floor.
The lowdown on this particular fiasco was – the guy I was dating at the tender age of 18 was a crook. What did I know? Up until that time all the movies I watched were Disney movies. Never saw a movie called “This is What Happens When Unbeknownst to You, Your Boyfriend Turns Out to be a Thief – Surprise.” That’s a long story for another day. I was classified by the powers that be as collateral damage, even though I was exonerated from any knowledge or participation in said nefarious activities. A few months later I went to the property lock up place and they handed over a box with a toothbrush, a couple of paper backs and a pair of jeans. This was all I got back from an entire furnished apartment.
The 3rd possession wipe out happened when I realized that husband #1 was plotting to declare me crazy and commit me to an institution of higher insanity. (We’d been having serious marital discord leading up to this revelation – it wasn’t a shot out of the blue) That’s what his father did to his mother when she didn’t “behave,” so there ya go. I left right in the middle of dinner. My fork was probably still suspended in mid-air when I put peddle to the metal and got the hell out of dodge.
He changed the locks the very next day. I guess he knew that I was lying when I said I was going out for a pack of smokes. My daughter helped me this time. She said “mom, I was always losing my keys. How do you think I got back in the house?” She jimmied a window open and we went in like a ninja stealth team and grabbed anything handy that belonged to me, stuffed it in trash bags and were out in 15 minutes. Breaking in your house and stealing your own stuff is how you experience exhilaration and humiliation in the same day. I don’t recommend it.
The 4th drastic possession reduction happened when I moved back to the mainland from 8 years in Guam. This time it was a planned wipe out because I couldn’t afford to ship all my junk back to the states. I packed a backpack and a suitcase and left my apartment and all the junk collected in 8 years behind. It felt good, really good.
Hmmm, an idea has occurred to me. Am I doing this all backwards? Maybe I should just pack up like I was going on an extended trip and donate the rest the stuff to charity? That might make Mr. Husband a little nervous. But I’m not leaving…forever. Just want to travel, my love. If you think that I would leave you after 10 years of thick and thin, better and worse, love and hate, then you don’t know me at all! Oh no, I love you and yer not getting rid of me that easy.
So anyway, on day 1, I got a 3rd of the way through my massive book collection. Mr. Husband was so gracious about it that I was flabbergasted. He used his manly man muscles, picked up the heavy boxes of books, put them in his truck and dropped them off at the good will collection center. I only asked him once. This is a sign I’m moving in the right direction. It felt so good that I coasted for a day.
And now back to day 2, which did not occur immediately after day 1, but so what? My purchase criteria for clothes used to be “will I be embarrassed to wear that to work?” That’s not valid anymore, but the majority of my clothing is business casual = booooring. So why do I have them now? Am I planning on going back to corporate life? That would be a resounding NO. I paid a lot of money for them, that’s why. Well that money is gone, sunk costs. Ah, deep breaths. Let it go.