Once upon a time there was a happy girl, one who had the whole world ahead of her. She met a happy boy, who said he loved her and asked her to marry him. She ignored the warnings she felt as he said some hurtful things, as she met some of his family, as she sacrificed her career to follow him. She smiled as he took her to a big city and left her there, arguing that just being there was a honeymoon, not realizing that the honeymoon part was to be the time they were to spend together, loving each other. He couldn’t do that. He’d already taken too much time off work.
She gave birth to their firstborn, a daughter, after a long day of labour. The child was huge, and she needed an operation to get her out. He came to see her when he could get some time off work. The child screamed a lot. He brought her home and went back to work, came back for lunch that first day and found her crying. He never came home for lunch after that. He was too busy.
They moved, lots of times, and he would look after himself. She looked after the family, sorted out doctors, dealt with their health crises, smoothed over their hurts, sorted out their schooling, found herself a job.
She worked, too, knowing they needed the extra money. She would come home and find that all the children were still up, the house was a mess. He would be working.
Her parents died, long, suffering deaths. He came to the funerals. He didn’t understand how fundamentally her life had changed. He never asked.
He forgot her birthday. He didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day – “after all, you’re not my mother!”. He waited for her to remind him to call his own parents. He lengthened his overseas tours without asking her. He worked late, late, without telling her where he was. She’d waken at two AM, wondering if he’d been in a crash somewhere, call his office, and there he’d be. Working.
She tried to be like him, to find a parallel, working hard, taking a graduate degree at home, being busy, hoping they could find their way back to each other. He’d schedule work trips without telling her, so her plans would be destroyed.
She couldn’t leave the kids so much, and stopped her degree. She got mad and stopped supporting him so much. She grew to hate his work.
After 23 years of being told she and the children were less important than the endless work that filled his days, she left. It wasn’t unexpected. They’d talked about it years before. She’d told him she was tired of living alone, with laundry. She told him she had been diagnosed as being clinically depressed. She tried to tell him the children needed him.
Still he expressed surprise, shock even. He struggled to survive without her at first, because she’d done so much, and like many, he hadn’t noticed. She was kind when she left – leaving him with the home, the appliances, and more, all in the hope that it would disturb him the least, that it wouldn’t affect his work. They split their debt 50/50, though his salary was much more than hers. She rented an apartment nearby, so that the kids could see her. She felt awful messing up their lives, but she realized she had to save what was left of herself.
She tried to forget all the reasons she’d left, tried not to mention it to the kids, since she knew she’d said too much before, and she knew that was wrong.
He told them she was trying to steal his money.
Still, she tried to stay friends, for the kids’ sake. And for theirs. She did miss what few times they’d shared. Some of them were good. She didn’t ask for support, she let the child support payments lapse. She had her own money, she reasoned. There was no need to push him.
She started building her career, climbed quickly, and was suddenly felled by illness, and could not work anymore. She went off on disability and lived on low-income for 3 months while she waited for the payments to come in. She raced through her savings, paying off bills, settling debts, some of which were from their time together.
After a few years like this, she realized she needed help. She needed that spousal support that was rightly hers when she had left. So she asked for it.
She vowed that when she got it, she would only ask for the little bit she needed to keep the wolves from the door. She didn’t want to hurt him or take from him. She just needed a little help, in exchange for all those years she’d helped him.
He ignored her. He refused to give any information; he delayed. He treated her with disrespect. He lied to her.
The months went by. She asked, politely, again and again for him to at least complete one form. He told her he was busy looking after his new wife, and couldn’t find the time. He was working too hard, he said. There were important deadlines to meet. Hers was not one of them.
She was initially surprised, though why, she couldn’t understand.
And, finally, her heart broke.
However, she had good Irish blood in her. A few tears later, it was stirred up. Now she was mad. And her friendship with this man was irretrievably over.
Julia Cameron says:
“Anger is a call to action. It is challenging and important to let our light shine. It is important to name ourselves rather than wait for someone else to do it, or pretend that we can continue to bear it when we can’t. When we complain that others do not take ourselves and our values seriously, we are actually saying that we don’t. If our aesthetics matter so much to us, we must act on them in a concrete and specific form.”