“You’ve taken away everything that makes me, me,” I said once. At the time it seemed true. And it couldn’t be denied that so much of what I was had been lost, cast aside, or damped down. But I realized something the other day. It wasn’t taken. I gave it.
It all started with a stag at a petting zoo. He was old, and sick, but he was beautiful. Giant, with a head as long as my youngests’ arm. Magestic with his shaggy fur. Enormous, liquid eyes. The kids were delighted. They pet it. They talked about how pretty he was even though, quarantined, he was also abviously old and ill. “Daddy would like this a lot,” one of them said. “He sure would; you’ll have to tell him all about it,” I replied. And that was it. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. One of my friends was with me, and gave me the raised eyebrow of “what’s up?” “I’m just so glad to miss the 15 minutes of the importance of the stag to our family,” I replied. And I was. God, I was. But I thought about it, later.
I never minded the stag being part of our lives. Or the tartan. Or the ivy. Or the family saying. I was once incredibly proud to wear the brooch. I embroidered the family crest on our ring bearer’s pillow. I took my ex-husband’s name gladly and am keeping it, if only for the sake of the kids. I gave up my name and my heritage and took on his not just willingly but proudly, gladly. So when did that pride turn to an inward groan? When did that stag talk start to make me feel small? I guess when I realized that when I was taking that on I had given up my importance. When I was upset because I wasn’t allowed a voice in naming our youngest. When I was told that he “had a plan to honor their blood.” “My blood is there, too,” I said. “I let you name one after your family already, we aren’t doing more,” he replied. And I was hurt. But I gave that power away. I guess it changed when I would try to interject our family stories and histories and traditions and they were brushed aside. The kids were Huntleys, not Rotaches after all. But, I went along with it. I gave it, even though I didn’t’ know what I was giving.
My kids are being baptized in a couple of weeks. I want to do it. I want to be the one who is there in the pool with them. But the thought gives me an anxiety attack. Because, you see, I’ve been told that women shouldn’t do such things. It was inappropriate. But I remember when I started looking to him as a spiritual mentor. You see, when we met I was not Christian. But he was, and he answered all of my questions more thoroughly than anyone ever had, and eventually I came around. So, in that process, when he mentioned that I couldn’t practice my faith it was done in such a way that it made sense. He was so smart and made so much sense that I took everything he said as canon. So when only men in the family were asked to join us on stage for a dedication, I was mad, but I didn’t question the heart behind it. When I was told I couldn’t be the one to baptize the kids, I took that as truth. So I believed I was less than due to my gender. I gave that power and control.
I’m discovering again that it’s okay to have emotions. Big ones. I snuggle and give giant hugs and laugh way too loud. I have days when I am angry at everyone and moments when I am angry at just one person. I am scared. A lot. All of the time. Sometimes it motivates me and sometimes it paralyzes me. I love hard and a lot. I laugh. These things are okay. Which seems simple, but you see for a long time they weren’t. Okay, that is. And it started with the best of intentions. You see, he told me that my big emotions were bad for me, and it was true. At that time, I didn’t know how to moderate. I coudlnt’ tell a 3 on the scale of relevance from a 10. So everything was huge. And so when I told me I needed to take things down a notch or 12, I believed him. But things kinda escalated from there. When I was excited it was bad because it would lead to bad ideas. I hugged too hard. When I was angry I was unreasonable. When I was happy, another shoe would fall and my down would be harder. So it’s best to stay neutral. So I did. And was miserable. But that control wasn’t taken, I gave it, even if I didn’t know what I was giving at the time.
So, I’m finding myself again. I’m discovering my flaws, which are Legion, and my strengths, which are pretty great too. I’m finding out what is important to me. I’m discovering that I have bad habits that I will have regardless of my surroundings or influences until I choose to break them.
And I’m in a relationship again and it’s a pretty big deal.
I mean, he’s a really great guy, and wouldn’t ever intentionally hurt me, but still I’m terrified.
Because I can’t ever again not know what can happen. I can’t ever not know that a love that is giant and huge and amazing can turn to apathy or fear or pain. Or all three. I can’t ever again be certain of a happily ever after. And I can’t ever forget that, while a lot was taken from me, my power wasn’t. Because I gave it. I gave it once and I could do it again.
Compromise is important. Learning is important. Choosing a leader is important. Growing is important. Making concessions is important.
But complete abdication of power? If the person is human, and therefore fallible, that’s dangerous. Being made to feel small is dangerous. Following someone who is not following a higher purpose, calling, or power is dangerous.I did it once, and I must guard against doing it again. Because it wasn’t taken, I gave it.