And then there was one

Here I sit, two weeks post-divorce, wondering what the hell happened. There were so many people that told me it was a time for celebration, but it didn’t feel like that for me. I felt the sting of the loss of the hopes and dreams I had had for this relationship. I felt the weight of the guilt that maybe I should have tried harder. I worried that maybe I had got it all wrong and that I would be caught out as a bald-faced liar. I thought through the possibility of one or more of my children telling me that I would have made their life better if I had just stayed. It leaves me wading through all this and working on what is reasonable, what is misplaced and what should not be there at all. And it feels lonely, for most people that know me are celebrating, but I am not quite there and may never be. I don’t regret doing this though, please don’t misunderstand. There was no way back.

The divorce day was hellish for me. I got notice the day before from the advocate that I would have to stand up in court and say that I was abused, amongst other things. This is something that I struggle to accept a lot of the time. I don’ t want to be that abused person. Ever. And now to say it in public? I got into a flat spin. I could not breathe and panicked that if I said the wrong thing about how it had affected the children, that I would jeopardise my chances of ever being able to change the parenting plan. That in fact, the children may be stopped from seeing me altogether. To add to it all, my ex arrived with his sister in tow at the court proceedings. When my case was called, I felt the deepest urge to run, out of fear. I stood in the box and swallowed bile. I was feeling so sick. I knew he would be furious with what I said and sure enough, he was. He didn’t broach it with me, as I was flanked by the advocate, attorney and a friend. But he attacked over email a colleague of mine and also put up a pity play on FB. He has also started manoeuvering to not pay for things to which he agreed. I can see from the way he interacts with me at drop-off that he is pissed.

To this end, I have spent  time trying to work through where I am and what steps I need to take. The path is not clear and there have been some startling realisations on the way. Today’s being that I have picked up at least one, perhaps more (too scared to check), of the narcissists’ habits from the years of exposure. It is something that both my mother and my ex did and I realise that I do it too. It is all about eliciting control. At times, when I am not getting what I want, I tend to shut people out for a while. I think it is perhaps the ego that comes into play. It says that the person who is not conforming deserves to be punished by receiving the cold shoulder. They should be ostracised for a while, so that they can “learn” the lesson of what happens when you do not conform to my wishes. They learn what it is like to live without me and my friendship.

This is devastating to see in my own behaviour. I know that the first step to working on something is to see it, acknowledge it and own it. I also know that when I identify a behaviour, it is easier for me to notice when it is happening again. Don’t misinterpret this as easier to stop the behaviour, but definitely enough to make me stop and think. To sigh and rethink my reaction. To fight off the urge to think that I am a loser and how could I have let this insidious behaviour into my life. To fight off the “not good enough” and “you are a bad person” thoughts. All that stuff that got told to me for years by the narcissists in my life. All that stuff that I think, even as I try to remember that I am no longer a little girl and no longer married. That I need to nurture those parts of myself and love them through this process. A Herculean task for me. I am adept at self-loathing.

I see how this control process plays out in my life – with friends, with my children and with employees. I don’t know how I thought that this was okay for more than 40 years. Maybe I was just not ready to see it before now. I don’t know. It makes me question the kind of friend that I am; the kind of mother and sister that I am. I have not had a close relationship with my mother, so it makes that part of my life a little easier to deal with than the rest.

It makes me wonder about where I fit in. I think of myself as an extroverted introvert. I need to have people around me to bounce ideas off and to help me keep a handle on day-to-day life, as well as laugh with and go out with and more, but I desperately need to have time where I don’t speak to people and can ignore all technology. That is the time where I find my peace and recharge. Fortunately, with working from home, I got more alone time than most people realise. Enough that I get wholly sick of my own company and head out to connect again with others. So where do I fit in?

I listen to friends who have gone through this splitting up journey and survived the divorce trials and tribulations. Without fail, they talk about their support network – family and friends and the community at large. I moved to Cape Town not knowing a soul except my ex. The community that I was involved with were his community. The family I had here were his family. And a lot of my friends at the beginning, were his friends. And in unison, almost all have turned their backs on me. The ones from the last 15 years. So I am again trying to build up friendships and a new community. It is not easy. Most of the people that I know now have a long history here and have their friends from school days and varsity days and their first jobs and their old neighbourhoods in their arsenal.

I have friends – dear friends – but a lot of them are not here. They are out in the wider diaspora. And we do stay in touch thanks to phoning, video calls and voice notes and messages, but it is not the same as having a friend on the ground. Which I do have, but they too have lives that are busy, busy, busy, so it is not always easy to get together. I am profoundly grateful that I have the friends that I do, both near and far. I remember well my community though and miss having that physically here. So I wonder, where do I fit in? I am no longer a part of a couple, I am the odd number at the dinner table. I am no longer a “unit” of two people to manage the children and life, not matter how badly it was done before – there were still two of us tackling it at times. I run the risk of boring people with my problems and issues, where they are too polite to say so, whilst looking for direction or help. I am forced to lean on myself when my inherent belief is that people have a network so that they don’t have to rely on themselves 24/7. But at the moment, I don’t know where I fit into my own life, let alone anyone else’s and it is confusing and bewildering and leaves me thinking, and then there was one.

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