Every year in January, folks set out to enact resolutions for the new year and that’s cool. I used to do that. I stopped, though, many years ago. Here’s why.
In my mind, starting anew can happen any old day of the week. It doesn’t have to be the first of the year, the first of the month, or the first of the week. Wednesday is just as good a day as any. Thursday or Friday can be your new start date, too. It’s all about starting the thing — the day you start is irrelevant.
I have so many things in the works. My entrepreneurial ventures are going to explode this year. There’s a portion of Proverbs 31 that screams at me to get off my duff and use my skills, talents, and desires to flourish in order to prosper. I have all I need to succeed, so put simply, that’s what I’m going to do.
Don’t wait. Get hustlin’! I promise the day of week is not relevant — it’s all about the hustle.
Here we are at the start of a brand new year. We’re on the first page of the first chapter of a brand new book. For the most part, this day represents a new beginning. The slate is clean. It’s January 1st. We’re far into the 2000s, but we’re on the first day of 2018. Not that we needed to wait until today to start anew, but it just feels more empowering starting out with a host of ones: day one, chapter one, page one, month one, etc. This is for the ones of you who have forgotten that you are the one.
I spent a ridiculous number of years sucked under by self-doubt, no self-esteem, no self-confidence, the fear of stepping out on my own terms, and a deep belief that I was just worthless. That’s what can happen after years of mental and emotional abuse. That’s what happened to me.
All the things that make me the woman I am today — my ability to write, my ability to lead, my ability to empower, my sense of self — were all there, they are just buried. Every time one of those traits would try to surface, my ex was there to smack it right back down to where he wanted it to be. Mental and emotional abuse is real, folks. I didn’t start out as some little shrinking violet. It took a long time for me to fall flat on my back, but once I was there, I laid there for years. I was able to look up, but I wasn’t able to get up.
One day, though, I decided that I would no longer be defined by the words in his dictionary. I decided I would use the ones in my dictionary and if they weren’t there, I’d create them. I decided that I would use all the things inside me to pull up and out. I decided that I would not only survive, I would thrive. I decided to sail through this life on my own steam. Have I accomplished everything I set out to do? Nope, but you better believe a large part of my goals will be satisfied before the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2018. It’s my time. It’s your’s, too. Let’s get on it! Strike the match that’ll ignite the inferno of your greatness.
What Not to Do
Stop letting folks decide who you are. Stop letting folks shape your opinion of you. Stop letting those who can’t tell you that you can’t! Stop holding on to people who couldn’t possibly care less if you’re in their lives or not. Ladies, stop holding on to men who are holding on to someone else. Men, stop stopping in your tracks for women who are only out to use you. Stop trusting folks with your heart when they’ve proven over and over again that they have no intention of ever doing right by you, your feelings, or anything else about you. You’re better than that. You deserve better. Get after it.
One of the most important lessons I learned after my divorce was the importance of dying to my old self. I had to kill her. I had to bury her 10-feet under — not six but TEN! There was no way I could have continued life and prospered in any manner had I continued to be the battered shell that had been left to rot.
By the time I made it back to Louisiana permanently in late August 2013, I was living life in a parallel universe. I was watching myself from a distance. Eventually, I was shaken back into reality and couldn’t believe what I was viewing. I was damaged in every imaginable way and I looked it. I mean I was a mess from my hair to my clothes. I just didn’t care.
That version of me didn’t just appear overnight. That woman had been dragged, half-way rebuilt, dragged again, and then just left to mold. She’d been left to die by someone who didn’t care about the destruction that had been left. The only time my appearance was mentioned was when my ex said, “You look pretty good when you comb your hair.” That came after he pleaded with me to have sex with his friend so he could watch. That night, my sense of self-worth tanked and it would take nearly five years for me to pull my head out of the sand.
The inside of my head and mind had been damaged by a battering ram of mental and emotional abuse. It had been bludgeoned nearly to death.
Once I woke up, though, I knew I had to finish off the old Trease. She would have killed me if I hadn’t.
One day, I woke up and remembered that I’m smart. I’m not only speaking of my bachelor’s degree or my paralegal certificate. I’m talking about being wise to life. Some folks even refer to me as a smart-ass and that’s true, but I’m smart nonetheless.
I realized that I have amazing worth. My friends and family love me. I love me!
I realized that I’m pretty. Nah, I’m beautiful. Don’t take that as conceit because if there’s one thing I despise, it’s deceit, but I know I’m easy on the eyes. Gray hair and all, I’m okay.
Most importantly, I realized that I have so much to offer the world. The old Trease had to die in order for the new one to surface. The two of them couldn’t co-exist. One had to go and I chose to release the one who was no good to herself or anyone else.
I woke up and got a good whiff of the smell of life.
I still have a way to go in some areas of my life, but for the most part, I’m good. I know I deserve unconditional love from a man. I know that I will give unconditional love to the next man. I won’t let the past dictate my future.
I keep myself up even though I could stand to lose a few pounds. I’m working on that, but my love of cheese and cake are undermining my best efforts.
Do what you have to do to be who you want to be. There is life after abuse. There is indeed life after abuse.
The circumstances leading up to the dissolution of marriage vary from couple to couple, but as I’ve stressed before, not every divorce calls for sympathy. Some are cause for celebration. Either way, though, folks are left to pick up the pieces.
Even though it was surely time for me to be free from the abusive hell I had been caught up in, I was left in such a confused state that I didn’t even know where I was going to live after June 2013. The divorce was final in April of that year, but I quickly discovered that it would be impossible for me to stay in Dallas. I had been a SAHM mom for a lot of years and had lost my place in corporate America. More importantly, I had lost my self-worth, my self-confidence, and my sense of identity.
I didn’t want to leave Dallas. I had wanted to live there since I was a little girl and I was extremely angry because the choice of living there had more or less been taken away from me as the result of the divorce. I will never, ever regret staying at home with Will because I think he’s a better guy for the fact that I was there every evening when he got home, but I regretted the fact that I had trusted my livelihood to someone who shouldn’t have been trusted with the pen he used to sign our marriage license with. Anyway, life as I knew it would never be the same and that, my friends, was the best thing that could have happened to and for me.
My then-boyfriend often reminded me once when I was complaining back in 2014 that I had been brought back to Louisiana for more than regrouping, resetting, and recharging. He reminded me that I had been brought back here to help with my elderly mom whose health was extremely poor. I couldn’t see that for the longest time because I was blinded by the anger brought on by the divorce. Eventually, I realized he was right. I also realized that I had been brought back here to pick up the pieces.
My credit had been left in shambles. I had been without a “job” since 2005. I had let my weight get out of control. I had no real pride in my appearance except when I knew I would see my guy. There were broken pieces of me everywhere.
Today, I’m proud to say my credit has improved by miles and is on its way back to that 800 mark. Even though I didn’t work a corporate job during the years following my divorce, I did a lot of freelance work, but it was not as fulfilling as I wanted it to be. Thank God, on May 1, I started a paralegal job and am working in family law. And guess who’s back? Yep, prissy Trē! I love dabbling in makeup, I think one of the best things about a woman can be a sweet, sweet smell, and I love making my hair BIG! I also make my way to the gym as often as possible, but that committment is going to be just that — a real committment because my health is worth more than gold.
I still have a ways to go to get everything to a place where I’m completely happy, but the most important thing I’ve discovered is a new sense of self-love. I not only like myself, I love myself. That’s a far cry from a time when I hated looking in the mirror. The pieces may still be out of place, but at least they’re all in one place now.
It’s hard to rebuild. It can be exciting because there is an element of newness involved in starting things over, but for the most part, rebuilding is hard. It’s been hard for me. I realize everybody’s story is different, but my story of rebuilding is not a particularly pretty one.
Since my divorce, I’ve been on a rollercoaster of an emotional ride. I started out with a plan to be alone for the first five years after I left the social status of being a wife, but that plan was blown to pieces when my ex-boyfriend, who had been an ex-boyfriend twice before we reconnected in 2013, re-captured my heart and we began an extremely intimate relationship. It was exhilarating, but there was enough baggage carried into that thing to fill an entire carousel in an airport. We needed some time apart. Anyway…
I’m finally back in paralegal work and I can’t begin to explain how much I love my job. A long time ago, I vowed that I would never be a family law paralegal, but here I am. It’s the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had. I’m also getting back on track with my book. I’m a stickler for scheduling so the fact that I haven’t had any real structure in my life the past few months has taken its toll on me. I’m on it so things are back under control. There are some other things in the works that I can’t talk about publically, but things are going to be pretty amazing very soon.
For a while there, there was nothing left but scraps. There was nothing left but the shell of a woman who had been everything to everybody except herself. The one thing that the two men who have had hold of my heart the past 30 years will tell you is that I love hard. They both received some of the best treatment a man could possibly want. One had it but threw it all away. Welp, too bad for him. The other one didn’t let me love him with my full heart and I really do feel sorry for him because true love is a treasure, and to have someone willing to give it to you unconditionally is a blessing from God.
If he is not willing to accept all that I am, there is a man out there who will. I believe that. I’m well on the road to becoming an even stronger woman than I was before so for the right man, I’m going to be irreplaceable. I’m nearly 50 so I’m not in this thing for games, indecision, shenanigans, or anything else but commitment. I’m an old-fashioned, country girl so I believe in letting love find me. I’m not going out looking for a man, but I believe, with all my heart, that the man I’m meant to spend the rest of my life with is very, very close and that we’ll cross paths at just the right moment.
I’m rebuilding from the scraps left over from years of damage, but the package is coming together nicely.
There has seldom been a time when I haven’t heard the words, “I’m sorry” when I tell people that I’m divorced. I’ve received the most sincere condolences (for lack of a better word) from people who knew how long I had been married. I also get the question, “Are you okay?” more times than you can imagine. The true heartfelt sympathy that’s extended in those words is genuinely felt in the core of my heart. I appreciated everyone who has said them to me. Here’s the thing, though: my divorce was an occasion to celebrate.
What many people don’t know when they are extending their condolences for the death of my marriage is that I had been abused so deeply, mentally and emotionally, that I almost died. Those who do know about the years of hell I lived through, congratulated me. My ex-husband didn’t bother to tell his older children that we had gotten divorced so when I did, my step-son simply said, “I’m so happy for you, Trease. You deserve better.” The friends who knew enough of the details sent messages telling me that they were thrilled that I was finally free.
I had been left with a high school senior who needed a positive male role model more in the days right before he left for college than he ever had. My son had become a father at 17. I believe one of the strongest influences in a child’s life is the same-sex parent. My child had seen the absolute worst example of what a man should be and how he should treat his mate. What I wish people would understand is that it’s better for a child to be completely removed from the presence of a rogue parent than it is for them to be exposed to that person’s shenanigans. I am blessed in that my son chooses to do things the exact opposite of the way he saw his dad do them. That includes everything from the way he treats his girlfriend to the way he makes sure his daughter knows she is what he lives and breathes for. He’s not verbally abusive to his child the way his father was to him. For that I am grateful.
Did getting divorced hurt me? Yes. I went through the cycle of wondering what I could have done to make that thing work even though it had been in a coma for at least 10 years and actually needed the plug to be pulled. I had tried. I had hung on with both hands for years and ultimately, the man who should have held me closer and tighter than any other person in the world was the one who pried my fingers off the ledge so that I fell.
What people need to understand is that I’m perfectly content with my life. Does that mean that I’m settled where I am? Nope. I want better. I have to do better. I’m ready to have my new home built. I’m ready for my book to reach the public. I ready for my blog to reach more women. I’m ready to graduate with my MFA so that I begin work on my doctorate degree. There are a million and half things to do in order for me to accomplish those goals, but I cannot express enough that the journey is just as exciting as the destination. Don’t be sorry for me. Don’t worry about me. Celebrate!
Who wants to be hurt on purpose? No one does. Who wants to be hurt period? No one does. Who wants to feel their heart break into a million and a half pieces? No one does.
Live long enough, though, and you’re bound to experience some kind of pain. That pain may be the result of the betrayal of a lifelong friend. It may be the result of a cheating partner. It may be the result of a relationship that you thought would last forever, falling apart for no clear reason.
Be open enough and you just may find your heart battered. Be trusting enough and there will always be the chance that someone who doesn’t have your best interest at heart will come along and do and/or say things that are so horrible, your view of humanity will be shaken.
Pain can destroy you. It can taint your view of people. While it never destroyed my overall view of mankind, it sure did destroy me as a person. Eventually, the fact that I had learned to block out any emotion caused me to hurt some other people. One was another man’s wife. There’ll be plenty of detail in the book because I will not tell the story without telling all of it. True enough, I was the victim of domestic abuse, but I also had my shortcomings. My story is not about bashing the perpetrators. It’s about revealing everything so that the next person can benefit from someone else’s journey and mistakes.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. I believe that just as pain can destroy you, it can also build you into an amazingly strong source of knowledge and comfort for another person who is going through what you’ve been through.
Just as is always the case, the drives that I take to and from Dallas to get my granddaughter always turn into deep, deep thought sessions. Sometimes I reminisce on the things that brought me to this point in my life. I think about the brain hemorrhage. I think about the explosive anger I felt when Will’s dad came in and told me that he wanted a divorce after all those years of abuse he had subjected me to. I think about the fact that he eventually told me that he had moved us to Dallas with the intention of divorcing me.
All but the last of those things I just mentioned caused me to stew in my own “mad” juices. I became very bitter and since I had not started to open up about the abuse, all that stuff was internalized and it festered just like a boil. I had an extremely bad temper and that thing could flair at anything. To make matters worse, I have incredible aim so when I would send things flying across the room, I rarely missed. By the time he told me he wanted the divorce, there was no emotion left. There was no flying objects. I just wanted him to give me the papers so I could sign them. My soul had died.
After a while, I settled myself enough to realize that every moment of pain that I had experienced and lived through was meant to be shared. It was meant to be a lesson for the next woman or man. It is meant to be a bridge for the person who is standing on the side of pain wanting to cross over, but is too afraid.
It is my privilege to share my journey so that the next person will understand that survival is possible. I want people to understand that life in the aftermath of pain and suffering can be blissful. If the storms I lived through can somehow shine a little light on someone else’s darkness, who am I to keep the details to myself? Some of the things that happened to me are so incredibly embarrassing, but the fact that there is a young woman cowering in a closet like I did so many times when I heard that key in the door is enough to make me tell it all.