When I think back on my marriage of 16 years to X there is an image that so often comes to mind. Countless meals sitting across the table from him. I’d be there, ready and present, sharing the joys and pains and challenges of my life. Yet somehow, especially in the last few years we were together, he just simply wasn’t there. He was checked out and who knows where. Somehow, and sadly, I became his blindspot. Somehow, I became invisible to him.
X and I didn’t really fight a lot. But when we did, they were the same three arguments. The chief among them being this fight to be seen. To be heard. To be valued. To feel that what I had to say was important and meant something to him. I fought long and hard in this place. I stayed in this fight because I felt that the extent to which I was invisible to him, I wasn’t fully alive. I felt like I was literally fighting for my life. All those years, all I really wanted from X was to look up from whatever it was that had his attention. To look up from across the table and really see me.
Just yesterday I sent a text to a most dear and remarkable lover. Parting words as we drift away from one another:
You deserve it.
And the extent to which you do is all you really have to offer of any meaning.
What I was addressing in this text was what I perceived to be his inability to fully value is own worthiness. Finding various reasons to numb out to his own tremendous potential. Together we had this practice. To include the excluded. To question the many ways we box ourselves in and challenge the worthiness of these boundaries.
What occurred to me at the time I sent this text was how often in this quest to include the excluded, we can overlook to include ourselves. I was at a yoga training this morning and each student was to blindly choose an inspirational saying from several that our teacher had placed in an envelope. The saying I chose was so perfect for me and pointed to so much of what matters to me these days.
A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
After coming through the fucking shit storm I just came through, I can tell you with great certainty what true bravery means to me. So much of what I’ve gone through has taken immense bravery. The night X left me, after 16 years of marriage, blindsiding me after dinner (ironically enough while sitting at our dining table across from me), abandoning me with a 6 month old baby. What it took to get through that first night. Or the day I found out he had been unfaithful to me. The countless days of having to solider forward as a single mom, reclaiming my life. All these things have tested my sense of courage and bravery. But what I want to tell you is that despite all this, what I’ve come to believe is that the greatest act of bravery is to be present and honest and real with ourselves. And braver yet, to stay present, honest and real despite the fact that the person across the table doesn’t see you.
What I have come to believe is that this ability to hold, value and love ourselves is everything. That the quality of our ability to step outwards in this world is a direct reflection of the quality to which we are able to step inwards. That the strength to which we are able to step out with is only as strong as the strength to which we are able to step in. That our ability to be real and present with others is only as strong as our willingness to be real and present with ourselves. That we can’t truly love another until we’re willing to lay it on the line for ourselves.
For me it hasn’t been easy to get out of my own blindspot. Being so undervalued in my marriage to X took a beating on my own sense of worth. Marriage is funny that way. The opinions and beliefs of our spouse become a reference point of truth and reality for us. When our spouses turn on us it’s very disorienting. Consciousness of this pattern helps. Finding the people that see and and value us helps a great deal. Probably the thing that helped the very most was a simple commitment to stay in love with myself despite all the despites. And time. Lots and lots of time.
Sure, there are times when we all fall out of love with ourselves, when we become our own blindspot. But the question then becomes, can we keep falling back in love with ourselves. Can we stay alive and devoted? Patient and compassionate? Can we keep singing our song regardless of whether or not anyone else is listening? Can we be brave enough to include ourselves?
As I sit here alone at my dining room table, across from the empty chair that X used to sit in, I think well of my journey this last year. This is MY voice. This is MY story. It is dear. It is precious. And it is worth telling.