Last week, I began sharing some of the lessons I learned in the last year of life and my failed marriage. Today, I will continue sharing lessons 5-10. All of these takeaways are offered within the context of my marriage and specific life situation but are applicable to life in general, I believe. The learning continues below.
Lesson #5: Trust your instincts, always.
I wish I’d done this in the example on the New York City subway and I wish I’d done this especially where my mental and emotional health were concerned. I was a passive participant in my own care regarding my therapy. I had a gut feeling that something was not quite right about the doctor-patient relationship I was in, yet I did nothing about it. I never made any mention of my discomfort in not knowing what our goals in working together were, or in my lack of knowledge around the methodology and models used in my treatment. My therapist never discussed any of this with me and due to my own lack of experience with therapy, particularly regarding immigration, culture shock, death and depression, I never said a word. In fact, I thought that the problem was me; after all, that’s what I’d been told about everything else that was wrong with my life, so surely a doctor would know what’s best, right? WRONG. Instead of inquiring about different methods of treatment, I asked about seeing my therapist more often because I thought that was what would “fix me”.
The very definition of crazy is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Thinking that more visits for more nonsensical and unproductive conversations would help me was absolutely crazy.
In the end, all that got me was sent back to the U.S. mentally and physically ill, an (initially) unwanted divorce and since I no longer have insurance in the States, a fortune in therapy bills to undo the damage that had been done.
Lesson #6: Be the leading lady (or gentleman) in your own life.
My husband was a great person. Maybe deep down he still is; I don’t know. What I do know is that I put my husband on a pedestal; he was the most intelligent person I’d ever known, particularly emotionally, and I always tried to be better for him- to be his equal. MASSIVE FUCKING MISTAKE.
I needed to be great for me, FULL FUCKING STOP.
Because as soon as I was destabilized by moving country and leaving all the people and places that grounded me and gave me confidence, I no longer had anything within myself to rely on or believe in. My husband had gone back to his natural environment which of course revealed a new side of him that I couldn’t have imagined existed and I struggled to adjust because I was so insecure, feeling like I had nothing of worth to offer anymore. He was now more powerful than ever, commanding the language, culture, finances, etc. and I was just afraid, feeling like a lesser individual.
I knew who I was in New York, my home. I knew how to excel in the U.S. It was easy for me to keep my cool under pressure there because I had already navigated the waters of financial instability and joblessness, heartache and heartbreak. I had my dearest friends all around me and we all had our own struggles, but we were there for each other every single day- literally. However, in Geneva I was alone for a very long time, trying to hold on to anything that would make me feel like my normal, confident self and like I belonged there. Eventually, I was able to begin a few projects including this blog, which gave me a sense of purpose. After beginning the blog, I was able to begin sinking my teeth into other things that gave me a greater sense of purpose and more than that, a deep sense of pride in myself and my efforts.
Lesson #7: Nice and kind – know the difference.
My husband and I can both be was the nicest people in the world. Despite all we’ve been through, I still believe he is.
However, there is a difference between being nice and being kind. Nice is superficial and lacks the depth of care necessary for a successful marriage. Marriage requires kindness. It requires extending the limits of patience, compromise, giving and solidarity. There have been plenty of moments when both of us showed a lack of kindness towards each other. I think that is primarily because empathy is necessary to be kind and neither of us was able to truly empathize with the other’s experiences mainly because we were caught in an infinite cycle of miscommunication that could only have been broken by stopping entirely and building something new; an idea that he couldn’t be bothered to explore or deal with. For him, breaking that cycle never included building anything new with me.
Lesson #8: “Fall down 7 times, get up 8.”
Not just a Denzel Washington quote, this has been the biggest lesson of all- learning how not to give up and exercising resilience. I have always possessed strength and emotional fortitude (certainly in a way that my husband couldn’t understand), but this experience has tested and retested every ounce of my being, especially since October. I am finally in a great place; a place I often wish I had been in while there was still hope for my marriage. I think that’s because my mind and heart are not in the same place. I’m not sure if I will ever stop loving him; my heart doesn’t come with an ON/OFF switch, but I have been able to make peace with the changes. In spite of the timing, I have been able to return to my solid self: Ashleigh: a tough-as-nails woman who is on her grind, works hard and fearlessly loves life and people, rather than what I was reduced to: just being someone’s wife.
Lesson #9: What’s in a name? Everything.
Even if I get remarried, I will never change my name again. It’s a massive pain in my ass and costs a small fortune for me to now have to change my name on every single document and piece of identification that I possess. That means having to order a new passport, new social security card, new driver’s license, credit cards, debit cards, etc. I literally just got all new everything 2 years ago. It cost me a fortune to change them the first time around and now I have to do it again. I can’t even begin to think about the nightmare of having to do it in 2 countries.
A little tip: if you are ever published, do it under your maiden name which will never change because it will cause a nightmare for your Google hits- just trust me on this one. And if you, like me use your name in your email address, forget it. That’s the nightmare that seems neverending.
What I do know is that I won’t be shedding tears anytime soon over no longer being known as Madame “I can barely even pronounce this name”.
Lesson #10: Let go.
This applies to negativity, romantic relationships, friendships, insecurities, anger and more. Just learn to let go of what doesn’t make you feel good. Learn to let go of anger and resentment and allow compassion and forgiveness in. It’s easier said than done, but I’m proof that it is possible. Even with all the bullshit I’ve been through with my husband, I can wholeheartedly say today that I forgive him- and even more myself- for it all. Forgiveness is a gift- one that I am giving myself, so that I can feel good from the inside out and not harbor negativity. Anger and bitterness have been known to eat people alive and I refuse to be the next victim.