I Think I Graduated
It has been four years now.
That’s how long it took me to graduate from high school. That’s how long it took me to graduate from college.
And while I’m sure I’ll need the occasional continuing education class, I’m pretty sure that I graduated. And I didn’t even know it could happen.
What the heck are you talking about, Elizabeth?
Yesterday was the 4th anniversary of the day I asked my husband to move out.
Even though I was afraid, I knew I couldn’t live like that any longer. When he came home from a business trip, I handed him his suitcases and asked him to leave. My phone was in my pocket so I could call 911 if he became violent.
Fortunately, he didn’t.
Fortunately, he agreed to leave.
I had asked the two tallest children to stay with me. To protect me. He cursed at me and he told the children that I was a terrible mother. But he left. And he never came back.
Some days I think it was a bad choice to have any of the children go through that with me. Other days I think it was my finest parenting day ever. I showed my children that you don’t have to live with verbal and emotional abuse. I showed them that THEY were important, too. They did not have to live with it, either.
So why do you say you’ve graduated, Elizabeth?
Here’s the thing. In the months after he left, I often found myself doing exactly the opposite of what he would have wanted. Sometimes those opposite things were good. Sometimes those opposite things were not-so-good.
My ex-husband really, really wanted the ideal 1950s housewife. He truly expected dinner on the table at exactly 6:00 pm when he walked in the door. He wanted a picture-perfect home with picture-perfect children and a picture-perfect wife/life.
He resented the fact that I stopped cooking breakfast for him after the babies started coming. Yes, I really provided a hot cooked breakfast for him every morning for years, even though I am decidedly NOT a morning person.
He resented the fact that “perfect” children grow up to be imperfect teenagers. (My brother used to call them The Stepford Children because he thought they were a little too perfect. True story.)
When my marriage ended, I quit attempting to have perfect children, a perfect home, and perfect meals.
What the ex would want simply doesn’t matter.
I don’t have to be who he would want, and I don’t have to be the opposite of that to assert my independence.
How do I know I graduated?
For over a year I couldn’t even say or write his first name. I had a list of euphemisms. Now, I can use his name.
For several years I was afraid when I saw a car similar to his. But last week, he was bringing our son home from visitation and I didn’t even recognize the car. I wondered what a stranger was doing in my cul-de-sac.
I’m no longer afraid.