“So, you’re on the struggle bus huh?”
“OMG Seth, you don’t even know. I left my support system! My friends! I couldn’t wait to move here, and now I’m wondering what the hell I’ve done.”
“It was a big move.”
“I know…but I had to get away from him…(inaudible words)…he betrayed me! On every single level!”
“Yes, he did.”
“I just can’t be okay with any of that! I keep trying to reconcile it, and I just can’t! And then…then there’s the other him (inaudible words, snot flying). I could so easily grow old with him (more tears). But I can’t give him anything (insert sobs here) because the other one…he…he took it all!”
“Maybe you really don’t have anything to give him. Maybe you don’t have anything to give anybody right now. And that’s ok. You know why?”
“Because you’re in a period of reclaiming.”
Seth is my nurse practitioner and this conversation ensued after I reached out to him when I was having one of those woe-is-me-down-in-the-dumps-days. It’s been no secret that the last couple of years have been painful for me. I’ve needed a lot of propping up, and for the first time in a long time, medical intervention. Most people would be afraid to admit that, but I’m not because it was a necessary, unavoidable thing and I dare say where I would be otherwise. Life, ya know, just life. And heartache. Together. Egads.
Reclaiming. I like the word and have come to embrace it, even if I admittedly do it kicking and screaming.
The truth is, I haven’t had a voice in a long time, and those who are closest to me know the reasons why. When you’ve lost your voice, been knocked down, and have a heart that is splintered, it takes a lot of courage to get back up, so believe me when I tell you that I’m metaphorically on my knees as I write this.
I’ve thought a lot about what it means to reclaim, but that requires intentionally looking at what I’ve lost. Long ago, during childhood, innocence was the first thing; other things followed: the deaths of my parents, the end of my marriage, losing my sense of worth, having three friends die unexpectedly in a 9.5 month period, and saying goodbye the man that I loved more than I’ve ever loved anyone. He’s been my biggest loss, my biggest heartbreak, my biggest betrayer, my biggest love—and all those ‘bigs’ have led to my brokenness over the last 10 years. Since then, I’ve been working hard to put the pieces of me back together again and I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that sometimes, I really just want to give up.
So, what does ‘reclaim’ even mean?
Here’s how the Cambridge Dictionary defines it: “to take back something that was yours”. Wouldn’t it be awesome if taking something back that once belonged to you was that simple?! It’s fairly easy when you’re 5 years old to take back the toy that was snatched from you in the sandbox—those kinds of things are tangible. But how do you reclaim the things that you’ve lost emotionally? See? Not as black-and-white—not by a long shot. If only…
…childhood innocence was easily restored
…broken hearts were able to be super glued back together again
…trust was easily re-earned
…new love was freely given, without all the baggage that’s left from someone else
I’ve been fairly transparent about my years in therapy; for me, it’s one of my saving graces.
I’m one of those women who can get immobilized by trying to fix things and therapy has allowed me the opportunity to take a step back so I can look at the big picture. I may not be able to see the how’s-and-why’s, but Sybil, my therapist, can listen to me ramble for hours on end and offer a different perspective on finding a solution.
For example, I was late for an appointment that I had with her recently, so I called to talk to her en route. She always starts a session with asking how I am, and on that particular day, I was so anxious about things that I verbally vomited all over her, much like I did with Seth when we spoke by phone. Honestly, I don’t even think I took a breath in between all the words I strung together. When I finally finished, she said, “Well, I think that timing is in your favor because this is the perfect opportunity to make some decisions.”
Decisions??? “Sybil. Are you sniffing glue this afternoon, because I think that’s a terrible idea! I shouldn’t make any decisions when I’m all over the place emotionally!” She then did that ninja-therapist-thing she does where she swooped in and took the blinders off my eyes:
“Over the last several years, I’ve watched you spiral in doubt at different points of your life. And every single time it’s happened, you’ve hit this very same point of frustration. When you find yourself so fed up that in the midst of chaos, you start looking hard at what’s working and what isn’t, and then boom! Resolution. You come up with the answers and take action without any help from me.”
I wanted to prove Syb wrong, so I thought hard about that for a couple of days. January 2013 came to mind.
I was married at the time, and unbeknownst to our families, my husband and I had been living in separate parts of our home for 8 months. I had been thinking about moving out, but simply hadn’t done it yet because fear had me stuck in the “what if” zone. One afternoon, I casually pulled up the rental listings on Craigslist and found one for a sweet little guest house in Jonesborough that became known as The Magic Cottage over the two year period that I lived there. My plan was to give it 3 months, and then go back home to work on my marriage, but I never did because that one decision—moving out—was the beginning of reclaiming who I was as a woman without the connotation of being someone’s wife.
Since I was a housewife for 17 years, and divorce looming, I wasn’t sure what things would look like financially, so I got a job and ended up being promoted to management in less than six months’ time. Working gave me the confidence I had been lacking, but I had always wanted to finish my education too, so I enrolled in college out of nowhere and painstakingly started classes—all in the same month.
Reclaiming, I was reclaiming. I just didn’t know it.
I had been talking to Sybil for months prior to that about moving out. And I kept coming up with every excuse in the book as to why I shouldn’t. I took a short break from therapy because I was feeling so overwhelmed; but since everything happened at once, I decided I needed to call her for an appointment and the conversation went something like this:
“So I know I said I was taking a break, but I need an appointment like yesterday because, in the last three weeks, I’ve moved out, gotten a job, and started classes.”
“What?! Well, look at you! When you decide to make changes, you make changes! And you don’t mess around!” (no, no I don’t and it probably would be a really good idea not to make that many life-changing decisions in such a short amount of time, so do as I say, not as I do).
That period of reclaiming was as big and scary as this present one is, but when I reflect on it, I don’t remember the scary parts at all.
I only remember the feeling of freedom and the anticipation of the adventure that was to come. I’m not going to tell you that this particular phase of reclaiming is easy because it isn’t—it’s lonely and incredibly scary. Most of the time, I feel like I don’t belong anywhere, not even on this little island I live on. I’m finding my niche, and I’m rediscovering who I am without the man who undeservedly had my heart for so long.
I have a hunch that years from now when I find myself in yet another reclaiming period, I’ll only remember the good things rather than the chaos of the storm that I’m presently in. Oftentimes, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that I’m not tattered baggage and that every painful experience I’ve ever navigated through has always been a tremendous opportunity for growth. Not only that, I’ve somehow managed to always come out on the other side of those stormy times a much stronger, more well-rounded, emotionally healthy woman. So if you’re on the struggle bus like I am, keep in mind that even the worst of storms eventually pass.
Keep swimming, even if you can only tread water.
Keep moving forward, even if you’re crawling.
And keep reclaiming who you are, no matter what it takes to make that happen.
Til next time, stay sassy…
Wanna share your own reclaiming experience?
I’d love to hear your story. Feel free to comment below.