I came across this Anne Taintor artwork on Pinterest recently and it really made me chuckle; totally hit me in the historical feels it did. Let me explain, because this may resonate with you too.
In the early days of summer 2009, having now had our two children, it seemed like a good idea (to Steve) for us to get a Renault Scenic to facilitate our camping holidays and what not.
Now, those of you who have already read #TooRelievedToGrieve will be fully versed on my thoughts about luxury caravanning (spoiler alert: hate it), so can you imagine my thoughts about sleep-on-the-ground-and-wake-up-damp camping?
Anyhoo, we needed a Scenic to lug all the camping kit around, which made sense on the face of it I suppose. However, we only went camping twice and took a ferry to Ireland once. At all other times it was just me driving around in a sodding Kiddie Bus. Having come from a motorsport and team building background, where I enjoyed driving an exhilarating assortment of vehicles (e.g.: dune buggies, quad bikes, hovercrafts, amphibious vehicles, Legends and high performance road cars) — a Kiddie Bus just wasn’t doing it for me.
Of course the children needed to travel in a safe, comfortable and reliable car, but did it really need to be a Kiddie Bus? Even when I went out alone I was still driving a wardrobe on wheels which cornered like a bowl of soup — and all so we could go sodding camping… twice.
I know this sounds dangerously close to Chandler Bing's mock-complaint that his wallet is too small for his 50s and his diamond shoes are too tight, but there was actually something else in play at the time. You see, everything had to be all about Steve all of the time, otherwise he'd brood, and over the years I'd been conditioned into avoiding that brooding at all costs. It was easier in the long run just to give him what he wanted (tent, Scenic, caravan, subsequent Jeep, showroom etc) than it was to put up with his infernal brooding. The man I had met and fallen in love with in 1989 was long gone, but I had vowed to love him in sickness and in health, so here I was honouring those vows. Or so I told myself at the time, because it spared me having to do anything about it. Better the Devil you know and all that. Plus the children adored their daddy and I would never impinge on that.
The thing is I knew full well, following a long history of experience, that any shiny new thing (tent, Scenic, caravan, Jeep and showroom) would only keep him happy for so long, and then another new shiny thing would need to replace it, to further ensure his mental and emotional buoyancy. It was endless and it was exhausting. He always needed a shiny new thing to make him 'happy', seemingly because he had an external locus of control.
"A locus of control orientation is a belief about whether the outcomes of our actions are contingent on what we do (internal control orientation) or on events outside our personal control (external control orientation)," - psychologist Philip Zimbardo from his book Psychology and Life.
Evidently, Steve believed happiness was something he could buy over the counter, when actually he needed to look and work inwardly, rather than simply amass a collection of stuff. To me, he always appeared to be trying to fill the inner void that a number of childhood issues had hollowed him out with, which was further exacerbated by the death of his beloved father in 2001. Fast forward to 2013, and life still wasn't working for Steve in the way he'd envisaged, and so he leapt to another shiny new thing, abandoning his young children and I, to go and behave in the bastardised manner outlined in Too Relieved.
My point, should any of this be resonating with you now is this, you must be true to yourself at all costs. Why? Because if you enable their insidious methods of controlling you to get what they want at all times, then all you're buying is a temporary reprieve at the costly expense of your true self, inner peace and contentment. If Shiny New Thing #1 didn't make them happy, and Shiny New Thing #2 didn't keep them happy, what makes you think Shiny New Thing #3 is going to be any more successful? Insanity is defined as doing the same things over and over again whilst continuing to expect a different outcome. So let me ask you, what are you doing? And why are you doing it?
Genuine happiness actually comes from a calm and centred balance within, serviced by an internal locus of control. Genuine, deep-seated happiness can never be bought over the counter, as Steve apparently has yet to find out. But that's not my water to carry for him any longer as he has a new caretaker and I wish her luck and every ounce of strength she can muster, because he sure is a heavy lift and carry.
Relationships are all about forgiveness and compromise, where each person compliments the other; a symbiosis if you will. It is far better to bend a little in compromise than to break apart, isn't it? But what to do if the other party cannot or will not compromise? What if you find yourself - like I did - putting up with e.g.: a 'make do marriage' for peace without brooding (or worse)? Evaluate your options. Go deep and be fearless. Dare to game out the situation fully in all directions, but in all respects, put your happiness front and centre, because keeping the peace doesn't guarantee they won't leave you, so please, no fear-based decisions.
I told myself I was honouring my vows, but I wasn't, and I can only see that now in 20/20 hindsight. I have never been a deeply devout person, so why was I hobbling myself with this rather convenient vows limiting belief? Because I allowed myself to be cowed by fear-based thinking. To have ended the marriage because I was no longer happy with him would have caused inordinate pain, and so I shrank back into the known safety of my comfort zone. The alternative would have been to dare step into the unknown, and I wasn't ready for that.
I wasn't ready for when Steve took the reigns and thrust us all into the unknown either, but (a) that's his karma to answer for, not mine and (b) when given the bleak option to either sink or swim, I swam. Now I feel that I not only swam for survival's sake, but I continued swimming because I was good at it, enjoyed it, and now feel like I've won Olympic gold (to completely beat this metaphor to death). The thing is, pre-2013, I didn't have enough trust or belief in myself when I chose to shun the opportunities to review my marital options. At the time, I didn't think I could have made it in the world without Steve, when actually I could (and subsequently have), and so I chose to remain small and safe rather than dare to expand into my full, true powerful self.
By leaving me and abandoning his kids however, Steve forced me to expand into my full, true powerful self, because I had no other choice but to grow and evolve in order to survive and rebuild our emotionally assaulted young children. Readers of Too Relieved know only too well how excruciating this process was for us, but my god I'm so thankful it happened, because the children and I have not only been forced, but more importantly, forged into our full, true powerful selves. This is why I am too relieved to grieve.
The children and I would not be who we are now without the consequences of Steve's historic hurts, insidious controlling behaviour and suspected midlife crisis, but I should not have tolerated his behaviour for as long as I did. Whilst it's true that what's meant to happen always does, if you're not happy with your life, career, relationship or anything else, don't shrink from the challenges of improving your lot. You don't necessarily have to quit, resign, divorce or leave in a flurry of unmitigated pain and suffering, but you do need to stop enabling any insidious methods of control in your life. You just do.