I have been thinking a lot about sacrifice recently. It’s Easter, so it’s timely, but in my own personal life it seems that I have reached the point where costs have to be counted in all senses.
Those of you who read my blog will know some of my journey here to a house in a small market town near the Severn estuary and looking out over to the Forest and Beacons in the misty blue distance. A long view has always helped me to generate a sense of a bigger perspective, the literal and physical informing the emotional and psychological and creating a sense of history in which to lodge present difficulties and so calm my anxieties around loss and mortality.
Things are changing for me. I have a new job in my former career and am already bumping shoulders with those who knew me in a former life. I find myself well able to manage this comfortably these days. The sense of shame and guilt has shifted and I can once more hold my head up in commercial circles and even feel some pride at having come through the shitstorm that was the ending of the business, intact.
My house is finally up for sale and has had an offer accepted on it. This means my two sons and my soon to be ex husband all have to find somewhere else to live. I left the home in December 2014 after a DV incident in December 2013 and subsequent awfulness including online stalking and hacking into my email accounts, and then blackmailing me with the evidence to tell the kids his behaviour was justified by my infidelity. He also left me to run the business for 6 months on my own. He was the MD and chief technician.
I left the business first. I simply could not hack it any longer. The previous 9 months had shattered me and I was no longer able to manage it properly. I left the house when it was realised that the business was failing and there was no more money coming in. This was so that a room could be let out and the house kept on for the boys. When I first moved out I had no where to go so I stayed in a friend’s flat for 3 weeks. Then I moved to my mum and dad’s which nearly killed all three of us. I was trying to work freelance and it wasn’t easy. Nowhere to work, nowhere to rest, no privacy, no contact with my old life.
I was cut adrift.
I had already sacrificed a relationship with my eldest daughter for this man. They didn’t get on, she was (remains I think) a difficult person to get on with but she was my daughter and I love her. I had let her go because they literally couldn’t be in the same room as each other, at the same time I also let go of my only grandchildren.
I didn’t see this as sacrifice, it all just seemed the stuff of life, the things you just get on with and that actually I felt that I had little choice about at the time. but now, as the house is sold and my home dispersed, it is time to count the cost and I struggle to do that.
It has been pointed out to me that I am still trying to sacrifice myself in order to save my sons from the inevitable pain of growing up. I agree with this analysis but I suppose what I recognise in this is an acknowledgement of how central and vital my role as a mother has been in my own life. It was, for many years, the ONE GOOD THING I had done. I could see that my style was not the same as others. I didn’t police homework, or insist on chores but I did work to get them into good schools, take them to museums and art galleries and for picnics and to hear live music. We had a family culture; books, good food around that table and a shared love of a takeaway and Top Gear. I was proud of it, proud of us, proud of me for making it so and to bear the responsibility for pulling it apart is still a source of pain to me.
It is a kind of exquisite self torture. In order to grow it had to change, it could not sustain change without falling apart, the centre could not hold, things fall apart.
I live alone now. I don’t see my daughter or grandkids at all at the moment and my adult children are busy pulling themselves back together again and facing adult life. That part is as it should be but I have been challenged to think about what I want family to be and to mean now. It won’t be centred around visits back home because there isn’t one and I am conflicted about whether it is still necessary for me to provide somewhere for them to stay if they need to. After all I needed it in my 50s and hard as it was to live with mum and dad I am grateful to them for that generosity in my hour of desperation. However there is the counting costs side of this to consider and that means regardless of what I wish I may not be able to provide for them any longer. I may just have to focus on myself for the first time in my life.
When I consider that point I also recognise that for most of my life I got what I wanted by providing for others or encouraging others to provide for me. A kind of manipulation I now am ashamed of but in my defence I learned to do this at home. My mother had little (and still doesn’t have) autonomy and only when my dad’s attention was elsewhere. In all other myriad and small cutting ways he seeks to control, ostensibly for her/their own good, but the effect is to demoralise her and undermine her confidence except when driven to act by extreme frustration and defiance. This is my history. It is why I accepted the same model for so long as an example of how a relationship should be. A kind of natural order if you like. Intellectually I knew I was my husband’s equal and in fact was often put on a pedestal as clever and better (as in kinder, nicer) than him. But emotionally and psychologically I was always in a a subservient mode, attentive to his every mode and whim, and it made me feel real.
Until it didn’t.
My relationship with my boys is strained. They visited me in October to ask questions of me – “How many men mum?”, “An affair is more than once, was it more than once?” They cut me to the quick. Another small death at the hands of a knife put into their hands by their dad. How can I talk to them about BDSM, the mutual exploration of our sexuality their dad and I engaged in, how it contributed to my realisation that our relationship wasn’t healthy because it was not founded on the concept of consent? Why would I tell them of their dad’s own interest in cross-dressing except to offer a tit-for-tat that has the potential to hurt their relationship with him? Except that yet again I sacrifice myself for them.
Today of all days I realise that what I hope for, what I long for, is redemption. The narrative around forgiveness of sins is ripe and redolent for me today and I seek to rise above what has been said and done and to leave it behind in the tomb of my marriage along with the shroud. I seek to forgive myself for desiring myself more than them. I seek their forgiveness for being a person as well as their mother. I seek redemption and a rise into wholeness.
And I will rise and say to them ‘Who you look for is no longer there, come and let’s find joy.”