Who ARE You?!


Another blogger and a friend of a friend, Mudd Lavoie, posted a wonderful Comment Graphic this morning on her blog:

Graphic designed by Mudd Lavoie

Graphic designed by Mudd Lavoie

At one point not too long ago I had to say to myself: “Who ARE you???!!!” I was so very lost. I had no idea who I was anymore.

Over four years ago I realized that I could no longer live within my marriage relationship. I could not function and it was not healthy to continue to do so. It was not only unhealthy for me, it was unhealthy for my children. Our family had become so dysfunctional that it was frightening. No one was happy. No one!

One day there was an argument, a heated argument between me and my husband. He walked out. It was devastating to me because of issues with my father walking out on my mother when I was a child (and walking out on us). It was horribly traumatic to me. I reacted deeply. Then I realized that I didn’t want him back. Not like he was. Not like we were. I didn’t want things to continue the way they were. After almost a year of separation and as much marriage counseling we agreed that he should return. It was awful. It became obvious that there was no love or even respect for me or our marriage. It didn’t last a year before I asked him to leave. He refused. I then kicked him out. It took me a long time to feel okay about this. I knew it was the right thing to do for me and the kids but I felt guilty. I was grieving. I was alone!

Not only had I decided I was no longer going to put up with the abuse and controlling behavior (though he said he would do that for me — what a champ!), but I left our dysfunctional church and put my foot down in other areas as well. It was not a happy time. I needed to purge my life of all of the ugly, dysfunctional aspects. Then began the purging of myself. I had to purge out all of the wrong thinking (a lifelong endeavor, by the way), the years of allowing myself to be controlled, the years of allowing myself to embrace a lifestyle that wasn’t ME. Lots and lots of changes needed to occur. But through all of this I was grieving and chronically ill. Yes, there was that Lyme disease thing going on as well. Oh my!

I languished for a long, long time. I didn’t move forward. I put my foot down and then dug myself in. This is something I do when I know things aren’t right but I’m not sure what to do about it. I dig myself in. Protective mechanism though it was, there was no forward movement for a long time. I was depressed, felt horrible emotionally and physically (these are connected a lot), and didn’t see how I could ever live a different life. I hoped I could but every time I tried to do something about it I hit a brick wall. I tried to get help to file for divorce but Legal Aid wouldn’t help me. I called attorney after attorney and only one even called me back and then asked me if I could borrow $5,000 from family so she could represent me. Really? I went down to the courthouse and got some forms and information on how to file my own divorce. Since one of my worst symptoms is cognitive difficulties this was out of the question for me. Although I really need court-ordered support this has still not been accomplished. It will soon.


As time went by I developed a support system of caring people from my past who re-entered my life at just the right times. They were all cheering me on, encouraging me, helping me find my way. Somehow I found the strength to once again attempt to start taking classes at the community college. Last time I tried, in 2007, I had a horrible flare-up that left me unable to continue. This time I immediately applied for financial aid, got my transcripts ordered again, my immunization information from the doctor (had titers done in 2007 that were accepted in 2012), and then was waiting to hear on the outcome of my financial aid application. The holidays hit. I received an email that the school needed me to come in and fill out some forms but Christmas was upon me and I had family coming in from out of town. I wasn’t able to get back to the Financial Aid office until after January 1st. Forms filled out now the application needed review by the school. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

I called back a week later and they wouldn’t tell me if I qualified for anything over the phone. I barely had any gas but I drove the 20 miles to the campus and walked into the Financial Aid office. It was less than a week before classes started and I still hadn’t registered. I gave the clerk my name and student ID number. She said I was all set. I said, “Set for what? Did I qualify for financial aid?” She said yes. I was fighting back tears. It was so emotional for me. Something I had attempted worked out. She told me exactly how much I qualified for and it was more than enough for tuition and books. Oh my!

I rushed back to registration and she said my original classes were full except for Psychology. I would need to talk to an advisor again to see if they could find me any other classes. I was so nervous, afraid that there would be no slots for me. So I walked to advisory and was ushered in to an advisor immediately (she had a few minutes before an appointment). It took her a few minutes but she found one slot each in both of my classes on different days, in the afternoon. I had wanted all morning classes but I was content to know that I could register. I was so happy that I told the advisor that I was starting school after 25 years in an abusive marriage and she just witnessed the beginning of my new life. She smiled and we almost hugged. But this is Connecticut and people don’t do that here (not strangers, at least). She told me, “Good luck!” and I rushed back to registration. Deep breath. It took less than 3 minutes to register for all of my classes, print out my schedule and then send me on my way. I couldn’t believe it. I was registered for three classes that started the next week. I was really doing this!

I walked straight to the bookstore. Not open yet. Had to wait. I sat down in the cafeteria and posted my new status on Facebook sharing that I was so happy I was trying real hard not to break down and cry. I had to wait. Couldn’t let loose yet. I needed to get my books. I just couldn’t sit still. Bookstore finally opened, I had my books in my hands, but the financial aid hadn’t been posted for access by the bookstore yet. I had to wait another 1-1/2 hours. This was excruciating. I was so close! I decided to head outdoors and take some photos since I had my camera with me. It was 16 degrees F but I did it anyway. I got some lovely shots, some pictures of Middletown from the top of the hill where the campus resides.

I visited the library and looked around. Then I saw a sign for Student Orientation. There was one in a few minutes. Upstairs I go with hopes that it was okay for me to attend even if I hadn’t registered. Of course it was okay says the young student volunteer! They were all so young. I wasn’t. That’s okay. I pick up some freebies including a planner and highlighter and find a table with two other women, one very young and one a little younger than me. I said, “Hello.” I barely got a response. The orientation was great. I was able to observe some very interesting personality stuff. The middle-aged woman had two degrees and was here to sit under the tutelage of the graphic media guru on campus. During the orientation she also interrupted the English professor to share her background and wondered if this campus was a good fit for someone with her educational background. The room became very quiet. The English professors got very quiet and I must say the one who answered was so gracious. I immediately decided I liked this professor a lot!

I laughed to myself thinking about this degreed woman attending a community college. Apparently it was a very difficult thing for her to do. I grew up in a modest home with parents of modest backgrounds. We didn’t have a lot. And I knew that any kind of college education was a privilege, even at a community college. I was very happy about where I was attending school, just thrilled to be there. I was registered to start classes and was so close to getting my books! I could do this.

At the break I left the orientation and headed back to the bookstore. They had to pull my books again but there they were. My books. After figuring out the least expensive options for each of the books it was done. I had my books. I was a college student. I walked to my car, got in, and cried. I was so blinkin’ happy that I cried. All of the stress, the weeks of waiting, the insecurities and fears that I would be turned down for financial aid, it was all over. It was finished. Something I attempted had finally worked out. You have no idea how important this was for me. This was the beginning of a very new life journey for me.

Bridge to New Life

Bridge to New Life

I had broken free and I could say, “I am a person, my own person. Yes, I am a mother and grandmother, but I am a person first and foremost!” I was on my way to knowing who I was. And I decided that day that I was going to enjoy every second of the journey. Classes started almost three weeks ago and I can say that I have relished every moment of every class, every bit of homework, and knowing that I have embarked on a journey of my own choosing. I am on my way to knowing who I am.

Thanks Mudd Lavoie for posting your thought-provoking graphic today. It was just what I needed.


4 responses »

  1. this is so inspirational to me, you have no idea. thank you for writing the story of the end of your marriage and your path afterwards (the college part I already knew, and still shout hallelujah for you!). i’m copying much of this and keeping it in a text file so i can re-read it when i’m feeling lost and low. xoxo


  2. BRAVO!!!

    What a lesson in courage and perseverance — love it! It took me a while before I could come back to continue reading your story. These days, I tend to wait for my energy to be *up* before filling my mind (and heart) with other people’s journeys. So today, I was ready to welcome you, sweet Michele… you and your beautiful rise to Self-hood! It was exciting to follow you, step by step, as you “broke free” from being the caregiver to all but to yourself. You’re a modern day hero… you must celebrate that fact each and every day — oh yeah, baby!

    And just so you know, we can change who we are… or better yet, become who we were always meant to be… at any age. I’m 62, and I’m finally breaking out of my shell. Loving myself. Letting go. What a blast!!!

    Happy trails, Michele 🙂



    • I have avoided sharing too much about this part of my life because a lot of it is still unsettled but it was so damn freeing to put into words what I have been through the past few years. I love that we can change who we are, take back ourselves from those who attempted to steal our souls. I am sorry that we both had to endure so much suffering (as have so many of my friends) but I am happily, slowly becoming someone that I can actually like. Celebrating today with you, Mudd!


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