This photo was taken exactly 18 years ago today. Little did I know what life had in store for me. How many times she would demand I draw on strength I didn't know I possessed. Faced battles I didn't have a clue how to defend, let alone win. Keep going when all I wanted to do was lay down and stay there. Keep smiling when silently inside I was screaming. Yet here I am, still standing, still strong and still fighting.
That is me, just married, 20 years & 6 months old, 2 months pregnant with my first son. Later that same night while my husband and I stood screaming at each other the thought "this is never going to last 5 years" skittered through my mind... I was right in the end... 2 kids, 5 years of marriage and that young girl was gone forever.
But that isn't just what this post is about.
We change and we grow over time. Not just from bad experiences, the good ones shape us to - we have to have that balance. If I look back on my life I can plot the stages where I've seen growth and change. Where I've come through things which mean I can't turn back and go back to the woman I once was.
All of us up until about the age of 16 are pretty oblvious to the world around us, unless we have been exposed to traumatic events as young children. I was lucky. I had a pretty sheltered protected upbringing. No it wasn't perfect and it had its challenges and there are some issues left over, as we all have. Normal suburban upbringing, mom & dad, older sister. Same primary and high school with the same circle of friends and the odd new one thrown in the mix from time to time. Normal. Or whatever normal is.
After that I can note the changes in 10 year stages. Or I became more aware of them I suppose.
The woman I was between 16 & 26 and then 26 & 36 is so vastly different from the woman I am now at 38.
Sometimes I look back at old photos, especially ones like the one above, where I thought I could conquer the world, change people to fit the mould I wanted them to fit and make everything perfect, and wonder what the hell I as thinking and why I was even thinking that.
However my biggest lesson has been that while we over time stop expecting ourselves to fit into other peoples moulds of us, if we show any sign of stopping to fit into the mould they have of us we risk losing them. Humans are creatures of habit. And creatures of habit don't like change. Hell I don't like change. I detest it. It leaves me anxious and shaky and ready to bail out out the lifeboat! But change is there and somehow in my logic despite really detesting change I've accepted that for whatever reason I 'grow' in 10 year cycle. That change doesn't make me anxious. In fact I seem to thrive on it. I'm accepting of the fact that it is necessary. That I cannot be the young girl of 20 anymore now that I am 38. She exists in my past and is part of my experiences that allows me to make intelligent choices my 38 year old self needs to make for herself.
While some people are accepting of those changes, accepting that certain experiences mean I can't reverse time and go back to who I was, others are not and fight it daily in an effort to change me back. Questioning my need to be the person I am now. Questioning why I have changed and refusing to accept the person I am. And for me it is unbearably sad. It brings to the fore my belief that I am never quite good enough for certain people unless I fit a certain ideal. An ideal I know is unattainable. If you could love me then, why can you not love me now?
I cannot go back. Forces in the universe have created a set of circumstances which have forever changed my view of life. It has changed how I view myself, parenting, children, love, family relationships, money, the need for 'stuff', the need to please others. It has made me question in a bigger way why I was handed the challenges I was. Why me, a relatively quiet, shy and reserved child, who got good grades, did the right thing, never stepped on the wrong side of the law, smoked or took drugs (pretty much a nerd), had a fairly good example of a 'normal' marriage from my parents (yes they had their issues but it was never aired in front of my sister and I and my father was never abusive to my mother), ended up in an abusive marriage, why despite all my best efforts my son is in Boys Town and will be a challenge for the rest of my life, why despite my drive on education neither of my sons seem destined for a formal education or even a need for an education, and some other issues which I am not at liberty to discuss here.
I find it frustrating, upsetting and challenging that some of the people closest to me refuse to accept that these things have changed me. And changed me in a way that I can never return to the woman I was. The last 4 years have seen the biggest changes. And I never will be able to go back. I have accepted that.
I wish other people in my life could.
It would make dealing with some of my challenges so much easier. I wouldn't feel I was fighting for my identity and sanity, and their love, at the same time.
People change. The challenge if you love them is to grow and be accepting of the changes. Yes if they are negative changes that results in any abusive behaviour towards you then you have every right to call them on it and walk away. Do not tolerate any abusive behaviour. Ever.
But if it isn't and that person is sharing their growth and change with you then do what you can to embrace it and grow with them. Acceptance is the greatest gift you can give a person. It is even more than saying I love you. I love you trips off the tongue easily and a lot of times as a 'balm' to ease frayed nerves and just settle the dust. Acceptance is saying I love you no matter what.
And while I will try and gain acceptance for my changes and beliefs I will not beg for it and if I find it becomes a constant source of conflict then as difficult as it is a decision will need to be made on staying or walking away. You cannot sacrifice yourself for others.
So I will continue to grow. Continue to shed old skins which no longer serve and find new paths and discover new ways. Change doesn't change the core person. I've changed but I'm also still the same loving woman I always was. Ready to smile. To help. To be supportive. To try. To not give up. But I won't be a pushover. I won't deny who I am so that anybody finds it more acceptable to them. I have changed. Those who love me, truly love me, will still love me.
The passage of time is the greatest teacher there ever was. Remember where you came from, who you were. Look at who you are now and remember how you got there. Do not let anybody take that away from you. I have fought some long hard battles and I am still standing and will continue to do so. That means I am no longer the shy reserved girl I was in that picture you see in this post, she wouldn't even have know where to start. And I'm proud to say I've moved on from her.
"Everybody has gone through something that has changed them in a way that they
could never go back to the person they once were."