Change is never easy. When you have to change a fundamental aspect of your personality it can set your world askew. A long time ago I decided to live my life on my terms, to stop trying to be someone I was not. I was married very young and tried to be who he wanted me to be. I was still learning about myself and eagerly followed his guidance at first. For him he had this idea of what family would look like, the things you do, the things you say and how you behave. He even had a template for how we spent our daily lives. He like the idea of church without the morality of it. He was more about the traditions than the nuances. For the most part he was a good person, believed as I believed in integrity, trust, honesty and loyalty, but for him there were different rules as to when those things applied. We were young and I think in his own way he was still learning who he was as well.
Fast forward a few years children and baby on the way, house, dog, cat and the careers. Did I say careers? Well here is thing. That wasn’t part of his vision. He liked that I could bring in money, but he didn’t like the look of how I did it or how I didn’t fit the idea of the nuclear family. In his eyes if I had a job it had to be something traditional, or somehow less important than his job. He had to preserve his status in the family as “bread winner.” At first it was ok with me that he felt that way. I tried to conform. I did all the things I knew he expected. Being in the military he was always here and there and busy. Therefore I fell into the task of helping him keep all that on track and of course making him look good. I was the woman by his side that everyone envied because we had the “perfect” life. I roll my eyes on that right about now. It just appeared that way. I was up every morning by 4:00 a.m. or 4:30 making his lunch. Then he’d go to pt, come home, shower and I had breakfast ready for him and whoever he brought home. In the in between throughout the day I cleaned house, ran his errands, made his calls, and still managed to get home, get homework done before he got home and start dinner. That didn’t include a call during the day because he needed me to stop by his work to do this or do that. Then later it would be late nights with spouses of his soldiers helping them through somethings- pfc so and so just got arrested for assaulting is wife…ok no problem, he would handle his soldier and I would handle anything the spouse needed from information to resources and sometimes just a shoulder to lean on. Weekends were reserved for family time, picnics, parks, fishing, camping, or movies. Sometimes it would just be socializing with other military families, cookouts, BN events. All wrapped up by the work I did for his soldiers, his commanders, or for the unit in general…because you see I was the go to girl. I was the wife he was so proud of and could not help but to brag. I did their taxes, handled their books, handled their legal matters and still managed at 9 months pregnant to stand out in the sun running a fund raiser outside their motor pool or at their drop zones. I’d organize, run it, put it together and make it profitable. At the end of the day we would go home, eat dinner, spend time with our children, clean, and prepare for the next day. We had our time together, because that was always important. We set time aside for just us. Every Sunday morning there was church (he was a Catholic who had fallen away from the church.) I brought him back and taught him about his religion. Sunday evenings I washed, pressed and starched all his uniforms for the week as I had been doing for years. I was so glad when I no longer had to do it. I never complained or expected that he’d help with those things. That was my job. He had his. He provided. He served his country and he did it without complaint. We both managed out roles that way, with a sense of duty.
I was never a spouse that expected anyone to treat me any certain way because of who my husband was. I didn’t hold his accomplishments as my own. In the backdrop I was also building my career and my educations. I was living my experiences. Somehow, some way we managed to have it all. If someone had marital problems, they came to us. We were the example, until we weren’t. Fast forward a few more years, still living that life, still doing everything we always did, but more solidified in our roles, more mature and a bigger sense of responsibility and duty. In that time every scattered. I’d get the disbelieving phone calls. Because they just couldn’t believe that we had problems “not us.” It went as far as losing people I thought were close friends as they scrambled to distance as if we had a disease that could spread called “Divorce.” “If it can happen to you and him it can happen to anyone.”
What no one knew, what even he did not know was the unhappiness that had built up inside me over the years. I had done what was expected of me. I had married, had children, been a loyal, faithful and dutiful wife. I had sacrificed for my family. But that other life always pulled at me. I wanted to be free. I wanted to explore and live. This life at home with him. It wasn’t enough for me. It wasn’t my life. It was what I did when I wasn’t living. When it was over, even though it needed to be, it was hard. We had grown up together in a sense. We had built a life, and he was an integral part of mine as I was of his. We had our children and everything we knew, even friendships were tied to who we were as a couple. In that moment I could have chosen to work it out. That’s what he wanted. Instead I let go- a free fall as I closed my eyes and took my dive into something better, into freedom and a new beginning.
I never felt more free than I did when I dropped all the shackles that held me to that life, to that lifestyle. I loved my children. I would not change that. But once I was free, I suddenly felt alive. I had my whole world still ahead, so much to do, no more having to run back because he needed me. I was now fully free to live my life and do all the things I had done but with no pull from home. It was back into the field, full force into my work again. My life was no longer divided. My children they always had a place with me. It wasn’t the same as letting go. It wasn’t them I let go of, it was the life my husband had expected me to lead and the woman he expected me to be. I could not be who I was, because who I was didn’t fit into his idea of what a wife should be or who she should be. My eduction, and career had begun to make him feel insecure and afraid, afraid I would find someone new and better. Suddenly I could be myself without judgements, without anyone to tell me who I was was wrong or bad. After that moment, I have been happy because who I am is who I am.
A long time ago, I found changing for anyone but me would never make me happy. There was another moment in time where I once again am forced to be someone else because someone didn’t approve of who I was. Top that with the chaos of life with him and it was pure misery.
Recently I listened to my friend talk about the struggle to change as he tries to change himself. Change isn’t easy but change is so much harder when you do not want it, when you are forced to change a very integral part of your personality to be someone else for someone else. Sometimes it’s for the better…but like I was once told change because you want to change, not because you think you have to change for someone else, change because you’re ready to change. It’s not instant and can’t happen over night. It happens gradually over time. When you try to do it or force yourself to be something or someone you are not it can be difficult, and painful. There is the good and there is the bad of that. Sometimes when we have lived a life hurting others and we have to change, what do we change? Do we change our actions or do we change who we are? I had to remind my friend that in this time of change you do not get rid of the people who care about you, support you and want to see the best for you. You get rid of the people in your life who only want to hurt you, and take you away from the good things, those who cause you or expect you to do the things in your life that would only hurt you and others. Those that love you will accept who you are trying to be and will still support the person you become. Keep those in your life that will still accept you and be there at the end with this new good person you become.
At the end of the day, whatever changes are made will be because it is who I am meant to be. Whatever comes it is because I am ready to be who I will be. “Life isn’t meant to be forced or manipulated. It’s meant to be lived and appreciated. I’ve always said I like to “go with the flow” how cliché, but for the most part it’s true. I’m a true free spirit. If you can’t see it, it’s because you’re only looking at the surface and not the whole of me… Happiness to me isn’t to be rich or famous, to me it’s only to be…Being with me means seeing that there is beauty in the darkness as well as the light. In the worst times in my life I will turn inward and reflect, even seem to disappear then suddenly find the need to burst outward and feel experience and learn. You can’t force me to be who you first met. I am never the same from one moment to the next. I don’t stay the same. You just must let me be whoever I will be. I will never hide behind my pain. I won’t fall into a bottle. I don’t need anything to dull my senses. I like to feel it all. Don’t ever look down on me because then I will never look up to you. Don’t just tell me to smile, give me a reason. There is more to me than what you think you see “(me, 2011).