This week I’m back staying in a house I lived in for over ten years and it’s like going through a time warp. It’s only 3 years ago that I walked away from this house but it feels as if it’s been far longer. I am lightyears away from the person I was back then. I find myself wondering how I stood it so long.
I should explain that I’m here to take care of my adult son with Down Syndrome while his dad (my ex) is out of town. Several things come up as I cope with my son’s behavior that mirror’s his father’s behavior and I am reminded of some things I’d like to share with you because they are important.
1) Guilt. I can’t help feeling guilty that my son lives with my ex even though I know that all things considered, it’s what’s best for him. Part of that guilt isn’t based on the actual circumstances—it’s rooted instead in the messages I grew up hearing about what a GOOD MOTHER had to do and be. And I need to remind myself that I can challenge those assumptions.
2) My son has extreme behavior issues but now that I trust myself, I’m having better luck dealing with him and helping him adjust at least a few of those behaviors.
3) Dealing with my ex, I am reminded of a book called Controlling People by Patricia Evans. It explains the otherwise inexplicable—the person who could pass a lie detector about how wonderful and loving they are even as they do things that are hurtful to the person they claim to love. It’s the concept of people who live in a bubble and nothing will shake their bubble of belief about who they are. The more someone tries to shake the bubble (or if they refuse to support it) the angrier and worse the person will behave. And often no one is really real to these people except themselves. The good news is that if you recognize the bubble and work with rather than against it, it’s possible to deal with these people in a way you otherwise couldn’t.
4) We really can change and grow. I’m not the person who used to live in this house and stayed in this marriage for so long. I’m able to be happy now, I can believe in myself and I’m creating the life I want to have instead of letting someone else tell me what it ought to be.
I share all of this because sometimes, in the midst of chaos, it’s hard to realize or believe that things can change.
I share the information about Patricia Evans’ book because it used to make me feel crazy that what he did didn’t match what he said or so clearly believed about himself.
I share about my son because I think too many of us get so caught up in guilt or self-doubt we follow paths that aren’t helpful or good for ourselves or others. It’s important to know that we don’t have to accept the messages others give us or necessarily do the things they think we should do. And if we live with a controlling person, it’s helpful to know that maybe we really do know better than they do about certain things even if that other person refuses to believe it.
Going back, this week, hasn’t been easy. So many memories, so many emotions stirred up. On the other hand, it’s good to know that I can go back (briefly!) without being sucked in or pulled back to who I was when I lived here before. It’s good to have a reminder, sometimes, of how far we’ve come.
Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),