The last few years, especially the last 18 months, have been about letting go. Letting go of people, freedoms, relationships, finances, work, places, things, notions, concepts and ideas. For someone in a rocky place to begin with, lockdowns and restrictions slammed me hard against the wall. But let’s go back just a little, prior to this.
To get away from a narcissist is no easy feat. It involves a lot of letting go and what feels like a lot of one-sided compromising. I had to be reminded often, and remind myself often, to keep my eye on the prize. To get out of my marriage, I gave a lot to my ex. Financially, he is in a better position than I am. He employed many underhand tactics. The worst ones I fought, but the ones that were less significant, but still gave him the upper hand, I had to let slide, else I would still be fighting him now. I fielded phone calls and messages from his friends telling me that I was doing the wrong thing and just to give him a chance. They had no idea about what went on behind the scenes for the most part. Those that did, turned a blind eye and said that he would change. I was mean and unforgiving to not be prepared to try again. Little did they know that I had been trying to improve things literally since before we got married. But I let go as much as I could to just get out. I did it for the children. I could see how they were being impacted by the relationship, so they were what gave me the final push to leave. If it weren’t for them, I don’t know that I would have left for myself.
So, there I was, financially in a worse off position, friends I had cherished were lost in the divorce battle and the home that I had built up was gone. It was a lot of letting go. I also had to let go of the idea that I could help the children by having them with me more of the time than they were with him. I went to court and lost. It was devastating for me. I was so worried about them as he had never been a hands on father. He had never cooked for them or looked after them on his own. I had to let go of the idea that I could protect them 24/7.
I found that certain friendships grew a lot stronger. I am a person who cherishes friendship. Friends have got me through the worst times in my life. Family has not been my support – I don’t have those kind of parents. I was riddled with stress and anxiety and depression. If it weren’t for my friends, I would not have been able to get out of bed and keep on moving.
Cue the lockdown on 26 March 2020. I tried unsuccessfully to contact my ex the entire day before the lockdown started at midnight. He ignored all my calls and messages and voice notes. He refused to engage with me to make an arrangement around getting the children to me during this period. So I was without them, sick with anxiety and no idea when I would be able to see them. The kids, particularly my eldest, were also distressed. I had to let go of the notion that my ex would try to be fair when it came to the children.
And so began letting go of our freedoms too – being outdoors, being able to come and go as I pleased, being able to shop for clothing, being able to breathe easily without a mask. I had to let go of these concepts. What started out as only 3 weeks of curbed freedom has become 15 months.
Hand in hand with this, came the loss of business. There has been no income since March last year. And there is a possibility that there may be none for the rest of this year. I have had to let go of the fact that there can be a steady income if you work hard enough. The sweat and tears of 12 years of growing a business – I have had to let that go too.
Then there has been the social impact. My experience is that people have become extremely insular. Things started out with support in our communities for one another, but over time, people have withdrawn away from many friendships. They have receded into small family units and very little contact with others. I have come to realise that there are very few friends that I have left that reach out anymore, even to just say hello. If I wish to sustain the relationship, the onus lies squarely with me. There are a handful that are the exception, but I have had to let go of relying on friends for help and support. They are no longer available. I have had to let go of counting on friends to contact me for chats on the phone or to suggest any sort of get-together.
I have let go of my hopes that my family will support me emotionally. I have had to accept that the emotional manipulation and the expectation that I will do whatever they want me to do, to keep the peace, is not going to change. I have had to re-evaluate how I manage these relationships. I don’t wish to eviscerate the family from my life, but they need to be kept at arm’s length.
I am working on letting go of the idea that being loving means that it will be reciprocated. I love the wrong people. And loving also means acceptance in my book – acceptance of the whole being, warts and all. I have to confess that to stop loving someone, for me, means putting a lid on those emotions; remembering why I am not for them helps. After a while, a long while in certain cases, I just don’t feel it anymore. I can turn and walk away, knowing that I tried but failed. For some reason I have a history of relationships where I was not enough. Sometimes it was blatantly told to me and sometimes it was shown to me with certain behaviours – cheating or lying for example.
And there has been letting go of patterns in my life too. Victim behaviour leading to neediness and manipulation. Saying yes when I wanted to say no. Not being courageous enough when needed.
So not all letting go has been a sad experience. But nevertheless, it has been hard and in some areas, it is a work in progress. I hope that this time of release ends sooner than later. I am over it.