Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Watch me grow

Disclaimer: If you are easily upset by a retelling of my marriage/divorce story, please do not read. And if you have nothing constructive or logical to say, please do not comment. Otherwise, carry on.

I've been wanting to write something along these lines for a while now, but I'm finding it difficult to do in a mature, non-juvenile way that won't get me a ton of hate (or love-in-the-form-of-confrontation) mail from people who disagree with me.

The past year of my life has been one of turning points and learning experiences. It was about a year and a half ago that I became seriously unhappy in my marriage. I read book after book after book, Christian and non-Christian, trying to figure out what was wrong with my marriage and what I could do to fix it. I stayed up late every night, reading, crying, wondering what the problem was, wishing I could be happy again. I can't remember any other time in my life when I have shed so many tears. Eventually, I gave up and fell into a deep depression instead. Nothing made me happy anymore. The things that used to make me happy just made me feel more depressed as I remembered what it was like to be happy.

The depression deepened at about the same rate that my marriage fell apart. I did my best to talk things out, but the words for emotion that raw are hard to come by.

Eventually, a little more than a year ago now, I made a drastic and completely uncharacteristic decision. I chose to tell my husband I was leaving him.

The events that followed this tearful revelation were numerous, emotional and blend themselves into a haze in my mind. They are also unnecessary for this narrative. I don't want to assign blame, condemn others or air dirty laundry. Suffice it to say, that night was only the beginning of a long, stressful span of many months. I began to be much more honest with myself and with my husband. I said things I had never before even imagined I would have to say. I wept uncontrollably over everything, simply because the emotional stress was overwhelming.

I opened myself up as much as I knew how at the time. And almost every time I did, the things I said in truth and honesty were either condemned as lies, or they were thrown back in my face as a weapon. Either way, it didn't really make me feel like telling the truth. The deceit that I had grown accustomed to in my life seemed much easier.

But I had crossed the line. I couldn't remain fake. I had finally discovered a glimpse of who I really was, and I preferred that person over the person I had attempted to be all those years prior.

All the months of trying, all the emotional wear-and-tear, all the drama, all the tears, all the immaturity, all the long, lonely nights finally, gradually, came to an end when I moved out on my own. I was finally able to assert my freedom, my independence, my individuality. And I did.

In the past seven or eight months, I have grown and matured as a person on multiple levels, in ways I would have never dreamed possible. I have had to face the world as an adult, and every day, at the end of the day, I know that I'm a little better off than I was yesterday.

I learned a lot from the experience. I learned that regret is not an option. I don't believe in regret. Everything that has happened in my life has made me the person I am today, and I am grateful for that.

I am deeply sorry for the pain that my dishonesty and immaturity caused to others in my life, but I hope that they have learned and grown as much as I have, despite the pain.

My divorce was officially finalized earlier this month, and I can now officially close that chapter of my life as I move forward.

Growth doesn't just happen with age. Growth happens when we experience things that drive us far away from our comfort zones, when we learn how to deal maturely with circumstances that have never come up before.

Maturity, I think, is a conscious decision. Immaturity is natural. Maturity takes effort and initiative. I catch myself sometimes and say "Is this the mature response?" More often than not, my gut reaction to a situation is immature... but if I can catch myself in time, I can think of the more mature, more logical, more appropriate response and do that instead.

Really, it's about using your brain. It's not just there to fill space. Life isn't rocket science. So much of it is just common sense. But even if it's common... it still has to make sense, people.

My world has been drastically altered by the events of the past few years. In many ways, I'm the same person I've always been, just a lot more honest. But in a lot of ways, I hardly even recognize myself when I think back to who I used to be, or at least how I used to live. The person I was would have never even dreamed that the person I am now could have existed.

And you know what? I like the real me a lot better than the fake me.

And I can't wait to see who I'm going to become this year.

How do you measure your growth as a person? Are you growing? Are you striving to become the best possible version of you? Or are you stagnant and comfortable?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The games we play with our words

Have you ever stopped to think about the mind games people play, and why they play them?

I did. And these are some of my thoughts on the subject.

I think playing mind games is a form of OCD... a compulsive need to control other people. Playing mind games is a manipulation tactic. If Person X chooses to play mind games with someone, it's because she wants to manipulate their responses and their reactions to her. She wants the ball to stay in her court all the time. She wants to make the rules. She wants to ensure that the situation goes according to her plans.

Sometimes this manipulation is conscious, but I think a lot of times it's just a subconscious habit, a way of doing things that we've had ingrained in us from a very young age. We see it everywhere we look. Parents do it to their children, couples do it to each other, the media (in all its various forms) does it to society... we are all guilty of it at some point in our lives... doing or saying something with the express goal of eliciting a certain response.

What I am aiming for in my life right now is the opposite of this manipulation. It's honesty.

See, honesty puts the ball in your court. It lets you as an individual decide how to react to what I lay out as truth or fact. It does so without emotional hang-ups and without any particular desired response. And it is, honestly, a remarkably difficult thing to accomplish.

See, at least for me, whenever I interact with someone, I have an automatic 'desired response.' There is a certain way I want people to react to what I say or do. And it's tough to push that desired response aside and get into the mindset that it doesn't matter what reaction I get, as long as the truth is being told. But sometimes it's hard to be truthful in a society that doesn't really respect the truth.

And truth... one of the words that I will soon have tattooed permanently into my skin... truth, in it's truest form, isn't easy to come by. It tends to be tainted. We're not used to telling it, and so we're not used to hearing it. It's so easy to embellish or sugar-coat the truth... but is it really the truth after all that?

How long are we as a society going to be okay with living in lies?

I tell the people close to me in my life that the best way to hurt me or insult me is to lie to me. If you have something negative to say, it's like ripping off the proverbial band-aid. Say it honestly, brutally honestly, if you must, and let me deal with the pain and get over it. If you just keep covering up everything with band-aids, there are going to be a lot more to pull off eventually, and the pain is going to be prolonged unnecessarily.

Yeah, the truth can hurt. A lot. But if you ask anyone who's been chronically lied to, they'll probably tell you... lies hurt a lot more.

Maybe Mom was right. Maybe honesty really IS the best policy.