Friday, September 19, 2014

Why I Stayed: The Story Behind My Smile

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      Yesterday, I was riding the train home. My feet hurt and my belly was empty. It was a long day to say the least. When the train came to the end of the line I got up and prepared to depart the train like everyone else. Suddenly, an older man walks up to me and says, "You're beautiful." I smile politely and reply with "Thank you." I keep walking and continue on about my day. But, I remember feeling a hint of glee and a mixture of shock deep down in my stomach. It wasn't the first time I'd received a compliment from a stranger. The compliment caught me off guard. Two things ran through my mind after I walked away : I'm getting better at this and what does he want from me. When I say "I'm getting better at this" means I'm learning to accept who I am and it's starting to come outwardly without much effort. My inner confidence is growing steadily as time progresses and I like it. No. I love it. When I walk into a room I don't bury my head into my chest or stare at the floor. I walk with my back straight and head held high. There's a pep in my step and a womanly essence in my stride. Heads turn, male and female, and I don't look away. I don't run and hide. I'm just being me. I don't wear a lot make up. My body parts are not being advertised. My hair is natural and the only hint of make up on my face is my lipstick. In most cases, when I'm out an about and alone, my guard is up. It has to be nowadays. I have to be aware of what's going on around me and who enters my personal space.

         "What does he want from me" is because most, not all men can be very possessive in there approach to women. It makes a little nervous. Because as women we are more vulnerable when we are alone. Sometimes if you are a little distant and cold the wrong person could take that to mean you are being a bitch. Then they will proceed to disrespect you publicly. Or I've seen it go the opposite way whereas a guy may be persistent in trying to get to know you. Although you may not be interested. It's a very thin line that you can't cross with people nowadays. So, I don't think all men are bad or predatory assholes. But, as young attractive woman I have to proceed with both eyes open and ears open. I'm cautious by nature. Although I am polite to many I proceed any type of interaction with someone new caution. Why? For many years I was involved in an abusive relationship. Sometimes it was physical, but mostly verbal.  When people look at me today they see my inner strength coming to the surface. They see a beautiful young woman working hard and carrying herself differently from the rest. I used to be hard as a rock on the inside and soft as a marshmallow on the outside. I took everything personally that people said to me. People called me mean and too sensitive. I didn't know how to handle the curve balls life through at me. My relationship was the catalyst of how I saw myself in the world and so much more. I was so broken on the inside from the abuse of my relationship that I hid inside myself vowing never to come out. I was supposed to happy being married with kids and a nice house. I was supposed to be happy because so many other people around me didn't have what I had. So, I learned to pretend. To muffle the cries for help deep inside my spirit and keep going. After all, once you get married you stay married...right? Good or bad. You work it out and you push through it. 

        I used to cry on the train ride to work because of something my husband said or did. I wasn't perfect and I'm sure he could attest to a few headaches I gave him. Sometimes I wanted to look past his mistakes and my own because we were married with kids. In my mind I had begun to rationalize that each time things got worse some how it would eventually get better. He didn't mean to slap me that hard. If I would have told him then maybe he wouldn't get so angry at me. Maybe if he's really sorry this time, he'll do better the next time. The next time always came around. An opportunity to make things better always presented itself. But, somehow things always would go left. Before I knew it my life had become a constant systematic system of compromising and bartering. I compromised my happiness and passion for his. Next year would be better. When we get our income tax we can finally put some things in motion. I realized I was functioning in a dysfunctional environment.

        We'd talk for hours about how to repair the relationship. We'd go to this therapist, read this book, or try this technique. Those things lasted for maybe a week or a few days. Sooner than later things were back to normal. Back to walking on egg shells and hoping that tomorrow would be better. In the back of my mind I always thought I was a little different from those women whose husband's beat on them everyday. I didn't have bruises or scars on my body. But, the emotional and spiritual damage was being done on the inside.

        I'd like to tell you that this story has an ideal happy ending . That one day I just got up and walked away and never looked back. Things are never that simple or easy. Sometimes you have to lose it all in order to win. Last year I lost everything, my house and my job of three years. I moved inside my sister two bedroom apartment. It was time to start over and reevaluate my life. I won't lie I was resistant because change is never easy, but it's necessary. There were some challenges and some pitfalls. But , with the help of my family I was able to restart on the right path. 

        Why did I stay for so long in my relationship/marriage? I didn't know my value or my worth. I looked for my husband to validate my existence. I wanted to just be married. But, I didn't understand the value of being happy. I was broken on the inside like a shattered piece of glass. I didn't get a chance to have a relationship with my father before he died when I was ten. I only learned about love through the relationships that I saw around me. The women in my family are not married. They are all in dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships. I desperately wanted to be different. I got married and I hoped the residue from my past wouldn't effect my future. It did. I didn't understand marriage. Nor did I know how to love. No one ever taught me how to love me. The only thing I knew growing up was that you're supposed to get married and fall in love. But, what happens after? 

     Today I can smile because I've learned to cultivate a relationship with God. I'm taking time out to do the things that I enjoy. I don't want to play the victim all of my life. I have the power and drive to change the way my story ends and I want to do it my way, on my terms. I can smile boldly, walk with confidence, and push myself towards my goals because I know that my past doesn't define me. My past has made me stronger and more resilient. So, the next time love enters my life I'll be ready to welcome it with a genuine smile and heart. 

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