Sunday, December 4, 2011

Part Three: Refusing to settle

And so she left. My first born, my baby girl was gone. New address: FiancĂ©’s house.

As predicted, I headed straight for her room. I sat on her bed, surrounded by the emptiness of the space, and cried.

Minutes earlier she had confessed to me that she didn’t love him, but felt she had gone too far to turn back. She said she’d rather go through with it than have “that” discussion. She added, “I don’t want to have to deal with him.” 

It turns out he was good at manipulating her. For the first time, she told me she’d tried to break it off a number of times but that he’d “guilt trip” her and talk her out of it. He’d tease about not being able to “cut the strings.” He said much worse, but let’s just leave it at that, shall we.

That night, I wrote these words in my journal:

Why is my daughter settling? Because she learned this from me…

Then the guilt set in. And it was painful.  Then the memories came rolling in. And that was even more painful. Like an old home movie playing in my head, the memories clearly showed the many times I had settled during my marriage. How I succumbed to the manipulation, how I took the verbal abuse and how I allowed myself to be bullied. And she was a witness to it all.

Later that night, I sent her a text message.

Remember that I’ll always be here for you. Love, Mom…

She replied with a simple, “Thanks.” I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the one word reply set me over the edge.

I cried myself to sleep.

The next morning, I did my best to be productive. I made coffee, got the little one ready for school and planted myself in my home office.

By late morning, she called to say she was stopping by the house before running a few errands. I took this as a sympathy drive-by, a pity stop. I could hear her voice in my head, “OK, I’ll stop by and see mom, make her feel good.”

She stuck her head in my office. I waved her in and she took a seat. Before I could make some small talk she said…

“Mom, can I move back in?”

My immediate response was, “Yes, of course!” followed by a quick, “What happened?”

“I can’t do it,” she explained. “It only took one night. I was nauseous all night.”

She said she realized that she couldn’t settle. She refused to settle!

She said for the first time, she realized she had picked someone who was so much like her dad, it was frightening. That when it came time to go to bed, which meant lying next to him, she was shaking and she knew she had to get out.

She said she finally saw things clearly: The manipulation, the guilt trips, the condescending remarks. Now the daddy issues she’d refused to deal with were suddenly choking her, she couldn’t breathe.

Later that day, she headed back to her fiancĂ©’s house and packed her things for the second time in less than 24 hours.

My daughter was coming home. More importantly, my daughter was refusing to settle. I have never been more proud of her.

But it also got me thinking…

How many of us have settled?

Yes, my daughter found the courage to get out, but how many of us stay? 

When all signs say get out, how many of us stay? I know I did. 

Why do we settle? 

One day my daughter will move out to be with someone who I hope treats her with respect and truly loves her. Or, she’ll move out to be on her own, independent of mom.

For now, she’s home and it’s time to heal.