Conflicted

Women can break up a spat with children while talking on the phone and flipping pancakes. Maybe iron a husband’s shirt at the same time.

But when it comes to relationships, we come to realize that they can’t be patched together when only one side is doing the mending.

The surface of things can be smooth and glassy as a calm ocean. Until they aren’t.

Then there are the first stirrings of “I need to leave.”

Things will seem okay for awhile and we’ll tell ourselves it was just a blip. Things are fine. Everything will be fine. Of course they will. As though by sheer will we think, hope, that we can make it so.

But then those four little words come rebounding back with more frequency. I need to leave.

“And I realized that there’s a big difference between deciding to leave and knowing where to go.” ― Robyn Schneider, The Beginning of Everything

You can’t find yourself anymore. It’s like searching for something in a room that you’re certain is there. But just where you placed yourself eludes you. How was it there one day and gone the next?

Did you tuck yourself inside a book to hold your place?

The little voice inside of you grows louder. You know what you need to do. But you’re so conflicted. Things were good once, weren’t they? Couldn’t they be good again? Maybe you just need to be more positive.

But you lose yourself a little more each day.

The little voice is sometimes just a whisper. But it is still there, clamoring for your attention. Prodding you when you flail about, worrying, wondering what to do.

“The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving. I didn’t want to destroy anything or anybody. I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

You play around with ideas of simply disappearing. That happens, right? Someone goes to the store for milk and never comes home. There is worry for a time, but then time passes and with it the budding certainty that the person simply isn’t coming back. People move on.

Which means they stop looking, right? You play around with this idea but can’t figure out quite how you’d work it out. All the little threads would need to be properly sewn and tucked into place. Every decision would have to be well thought out.

Women tend to wait until they’ve almost completely lost sight of themselves before total panic sets in. Their image in the mirror fades a little more as each day passes. And with that comes a sense of urgency.

Why do you feel so conflicted, you sometimes ask yourself? But then you look around at the home you’ve created. The flowers you’ve coaxed into blooming. The cozy rooms you’ve spent years defining.

“Do not hold your breath for anyone. Do not wish your lungs to be still. It may delay the cracks from spreading. But eventually they will. Sometimes to keep yourself together. You must allow yourself to leave. Even if breaking your own heart. Is what it takes to let you breathe.” ― Erin Hanson

How will you do it? Where will the money come from to start over? Where will you live? And you’d need to take the pets with you of course. So that’s another thing that would need to be worked out.

Now every morning you wake up with questions haunting you, poking at you when for a time you forget. How exactly would you manage it? And every night you go to sleep trying to work the logistics out in your mind.

But then you drift off to sleep and come morning your plans seem flawed and insufficient.

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.” ― Beryl Markham, West with the Night

So much time passes and you’ve spent much of that time dilly-dallying back and forth. Unable to make a decision because nothing you come up with seems quite right.

The little voice grows louder, more insistent.

You need to leave. No doubt about it now, you just need to leave.

One day you wake up and remember where that book is. The one you might have tucked yourself in to hold your place. You open the book and there you are.

Just waiting for you to pick it up again and get to the end of the story. And then to move on to the next one.

“I’m guilty of giving people more chances than they deserve but when I’m done, I’m done.” ― Turcois Ominek

20 Comments

  1. So beautifully said. I really need to absorb this, so I will come back and re-read, and then come back again. Thankyou.

  2. Dear Brenda, Thank you for writing my heart, circa my New Year’s Eve ‘Revolution’, 2002. And thank you ever so much for the share button!!!!

  3. I have been divorced from my first husband for over 30 years. I didn’t make a plan to leave. I kind of stumble-bumbled out of the marriage in a disorganized way. My husband was verbally and emotionally abusive, but I didn’t really realize it. I just knew I was miserable. The thing was, he behaved in a similar way to me as my parents always had. I didn’t even realize at that time that they were verbally and emotionally abusive. It’s just how it had always been. didn’t know what was wrong. Going to therapy eventually did provide me with a clue about what was wrong — I would start to talk about something regarding my first husband, and then would find myself talking about what my parents had to say about it, and then I would go off on a rant about my parents. I eventually realized that the way I had been conditioned in childhood to try to please angry people, find my worth in hoping for their approval, was something I took into my other relationships, including into my marriage. I just did not have the insights to understand it during my first marriage. My dad died before I had made much improvement, but my relationship with my mom is better because of insights I have gained over the years from talking to people and reading and going to therapy. I don’t interact much with my ex husband, but, I have come to terms somewhat with how things went between us, and a couple of years ago I made a point to apologize to him for my part of our failed marriage. (I didn’t get a return apology. Oh well! I can say this, he keeps a steady course!) Personally, I don’t think it is ever too long past an old, hurtful relationship to talk about it with a friend, write a post about it, or to go to a therapist and talk about it in order to get some insight and healing.

  4. I agree many people will benefit from your words. However, you are you and no matter how much this eats at you you have done the right thing. Brenda, I think u are a beautiful human being.

  5. I feel so sad that the relationship that should be the best, often ends up being the worst and most painful. Although by and large this affects women, at times women inflict this on a good man too…both kinds in our kin actually. So sad that there is so much mental illness…no one in their right mind would do what these kind of people do!!

  6. Great post! I am sure most women have had feelings of leaving a husband, friend or child, I know I have. Thinking about relationships, which isn’t always easy, we find ways to smooth the waters and just get along. No one should allow another to verbally abuse, or physically abuse us. Removing ourselves by mind or body helps. The thoughts that linger can hurt. Women aren’t the only ones that get mistreated. I think of men and do they ever have the same feelings as women.? Do they get verbal abuse and physical abuse? Of course they do! So glad that women can go out and get work and the doors have been open for them. No one should be a victim or feel like one so that they can move on in life.

    1. Me too. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it so clearly and beautifully expressed. Brenda is many things but perhaps, first and foremost, a wonderfully expressive writer.

  7. I see myself in this post. In my head I had many scenarios. I realized that I must have a concrete plan and then work the plan. I told my daughter’s my plan and promised that I would work it so that they could be with me. We planned together. It took a couple of months to work it out but when I did I had a family meeting that included my husband and laid out my plan and announced that when I left any of my children who chose to could come and live with me. My oldest son was in the military by then so it was just the girls and my youngest son living at home. He was due to graduate high school in the spring so he didn’t make any choices right then. The girls made no reply but looked appropriately stunned. I had a place to stay by that time so I left then. They all knew where I moved to and that was that. The begging and the promises started after that but I was firm in my intent. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t scared of him harming me bodily in some way and or failing in my decision, but in the end it was the right thing to do. I have never regretted it and now 25 years later, I’m content and he’s dead.

    1. It’s fifteen years later for me and my ex just died on Halloween. In a way I’m glad that our adult children are choosing to focus on what was good. On the other hand, you can’t erase history. B

  8. Love this post, it really hit home for me. I put up with verbal abuse and controlling for 47 yrs. I thought of leaving but then I would have to sell the house because how could I afford the mortgage. I had two young children to think of, how would their lives be affected by not having their father around. He came from another state and I knew he would go back to his family, and being the narcissist that he was, he probably wouldn’t have come back to see the children. I thought it best to just stick it out until the kids were older,then he became ill and I had to care for him. The verbal abuse never stopped and I just kept telling myself it will be over soon! Finally after 47 yrs I was free and could find out who I was. I thank God for giving me a good life now!

  9. I never thought that way. I was always hoping, hoping, putting up with the verbal abuse and then it became physical and even then, I needed a push into clarity from my frantic son, daughter and siblings. Once I was able to see over the other side, I moved forward, but it’s six months since the divorce and 2 1/2 years since the “incident” and I still have dips and slides backwards, small ones, then I grab back onto my sanity. Having the support of my children has been the greatest and the best incentive to keep moving forward. 2021 will be better than before. Don’t look back.

  10. As I get older (looking 61 in the eye), I completely understand the concept of a woman who runs to the store and never returns (slightly embarrassed to think how many times I’ve dreamt of doing just that). Now that our children are grown, I have to be honest and say it becomes more enticing all the time. I’ve read your blog for years, and to me, this is one of the best posts you’ve ever written! This quote you shared literally stopped me in my tracks: “And I realized that there’s a big difference between deciding to leave and knowing where to go.” ― Robyn Schneider, The Beginning of Everything

  11. I think Women are just by nature nurturers. We put everyone before ourselves so when we do get into situations that we should leave to be healthy is is so hard. Great post today. Hope if someone reads your post they will see they are not alone and that what they are thinking or feeling is something shared by many women. Going into the new year lets hope for strength, more love and getting rid of this virus so all our lives can find a happy normal again. Happy New Year.

  12. Brenda, this is a post that so many women need to read, not just about leaving a relationship/situation that is bad but also “leaving” a situation, a job or a friendship that causes them to feel less than the person that they are or could be. Women are forever putting themselves LAST, even if they do not have kids, they feel as if their role in life is to nurture. They nurture EVERYONE ELSE IN THEIR LIVES, to include parents, siblings, friends, work, etc and often times loose themselves and slowly they disappear. Thank you for sharing.

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