Never abandon yourself

Last Friday, I ran 10k. That in itself is worthy of note. I started running {again} in lockdown last year, remembering how much of an impact working out had on my mental health. I completed C25K and kept on running two or three times a week. Never managing more than 6k. Before Christmas, my efforts had waned somewhat. I’d get out every week, but it was forced.

I needed to push myself back into running, so signed up to run 80k in January for Maggie’s Centres. After the first week, when I’d remembered my love for running, I decided to push myself and run further and further – aiming for a 10k in the month.

I managed 7, then 8, then 9k. Then, after a few days waylaid because of snow, I headed out for a 10k. The feeling of elation when I got back home was imense. A fantastic reminder that I can do anything that I put my mind to.

This is relevant because whilst I was running, I was listening to Glennon Doyle’s ‘Untamed’. On long runs, I love listening to an audiobook, it gives me a whole extra hour of reading time I don’t normally get. Anyway, Glennon was talking about her ex-husband’s infidelity, how it made her stop and evaluate her life, how she’d been ‘playing’ at being the perfect wife and mother and had abandoned herself over the years.

It really got me thinking, about myself. Four and a half years ago my world crumbled. MY husband confessed to his infidelity and I broke. Looking back, it wasn’t heartbreak that broke me, but rather anger that I’d been holding things together for so long, that I’d abandoned myself to be the perfect wife and had stayed because that was what ‘good mothers and wifes’ did.

I’d been unhappy for years and years, yet was too afraid to leave. Too scared to be true to myself and walk away. To scared to break up a family in order to save myself.

For over a decade I stayed, being the good wife and mother. Putting myself last, giving up every last drop of myself.

And that’s what broke me.

For years I’d lived a pretend half life. Now I didn’t have to, but I didn’t know how not to.

Suddenly I could see that in staying I had let myself down. In trying to decide what to do, I came to the conclusion that I had to give myself the advice I would give my daughters, should they ever find themselves in such a situation. Would I want them to abandon themselves? To be unhappy? To stay because they ‘should’. To stay to look successful?

Of course not.

So I left. Or rather I told him to leave.

This isn’t a tale of blame. I am not the innocent, hurt party. In ignoring my needs, I let him run wild. I made myself unimportant, not just to me, but to him too. This isn’t a tale of him being wrong. It’s a tale of accountability and how we are responsible for our own lives.

I am as much to blame as he is for our marriage ending.

Yet – I am thankful he did what he did. It opened my eyes. It forced me to stop. It broke me apart, tore away the vestiges of pretence and forced me to be true to myself. He was as unhappy as me, yet neither of us knew how to admit this to ourselves, let alone each other.

It ripped me wide open and made me into the strong woman I am today.

The pain was immense. It was a pain from acknowledging years of ignoring my knowing. Of not being true to myself and of not living life for me.

I will not stay, not ever againβ€”in a room or conversation or relationship or institution that requires me to abandon myself.

Glennon Doyle, ‘Untamed’

Those lessons I learned have stood me in good stead. When I found myself in an abusive relationship, I knew that I could not abandon myself again. It was the hardest thing I’ve done, partly because I had to acknowledge that, for a while, I’d not listened to my knowing and pretended things were as I wanted them to be. Ultimately, I stood true to myself and choose ME.

Last summer I found myself in a long-distance relationship that went sour after our first weekend together. I realised that I wasn’t prepared to take anyone’s bullshit anymore. To apologise when I had done no wrong. To quietly accept someone else’s bad behavior.

Gone is the girl who would rather be with anyone than alone. I value myself ot highly now to take anything other than the best, to be with someone who doesn’t treat me the way I deserve.

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