Last weekend was my ex-Narcissist’s birthday and I’m the one that ended up with the present. Let me preface this by saying I have no interest in what my ex is doing. I don’t care where he is. I don’t follow him on social media. I have no clue what he’s up to and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have made it very clear to friends that I don’t want to hear about his endeavors and they have all respected my wishes, except for last weekend.

I got an email that said, “You’re welcome,” and it had 3 attachments. I opened the pictures and was staring at an old, haggard, woman, who looked slightly familiar. It took me a moment to realize I was looking at my ex’s wife. It was her new work picture. She was wearing a peach colored blazer, a black and white floral shirt and black pants. I could instantly hear my gay friend Phil screeching, “Oh honey who dressed you, Stevie Wonder?” But it was the rest of her that had me so dumfounded. Her jet black hair was now completely and I mean completely gray. She had huge bags under her eyes and she had put on at least 50 lbs. She was my age and she looked 20 years older.

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I laughed, then winced, when I realized who it was and my first thought was something like, “The years have not been kind. Karma has been served.” At that moment I felt vindicated and a little smug. This all from looking at her haggard appearance.

I’m usually the first in a room to jump up and interject that a woman is not her appearance, but hers really spoke to me. I could see myself in her. I knew the sorrowful, empty look in her eyes. I knew the tiredness and the stress, in the dark bags, from carrying the entire load all by herself. Her appearance screamed, “Nothing is ever about me. I don’t take care of myself, because no one cares, not even me. I don’t know who I am. I’m lost.”

I stopped feeling smug then and felt a little sad – well as sad as I could for the woman who thought it was okay to cheat on her spouse and steal mine, because it was, you know, true love. I got a little philosophical and I realized how very, very lucky I was. I had been given a gift. I had been to hell and back and along the way I figured out the answer to the riddle. Whereas she looked like she didn’t even know the question. I was so far ahead of her on the path to understanding and healing and she was still caught in the trap.

There are so many people that will go through the rest of their lives thinking this is how it’s supposed to be and they just accept the way things are. They live out the rest of their days in the fog of misery and despair never knowing that there was another way. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that the universe decided to intervene and shove me out of that life and shove it did because I had no intention of ever going on my own.

If you are reading this, you are one of the lucky ones. It doesn’t matter what stage you’re in, whether you’re still in it and looking for a way out, or you’ve been out for years, know that you were chosen for something better. This is one of the biggest life lessons you are ever going to be dealt and you got it. You figured it out.

For me it was like a rebirth. It was the start of a new chapter, where I was fully in control, fully independent and fully free. This was my time to figure out who I was. I spent the early part of my life trying to please my parents and be who my mother wanted me to be. I spent my teenage years aching for someone to love me and I tried to be whoever boys wanted me to be. In my twenties and early 30’s I was with my Narcissist and I had to shut down my personality. I had to give up who I was and what my dreams were, because I needed to take care of him. i needed to fix him because he was broken. I mistakenly believed I was whole and up to the challenge, but I wasn’t. I was broken too. The relationship drained the life out of me. It’s like I was being kept in a deep freeze – never growing or expanding, just staying still, so he could be free to move.

During a Wellness retreat a few years back, a very devout friend of mine said, “You know yourself very well,” and it almost brought me to tears. I had done so much self-work and spent so much time thinking and reading and traveling and searching, all in the name of figuring out who I was. It was a nice feeling that other people could recognize the achievement and its importance. It seems so silly doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we know who we are?

“It may have been his birthday, but I got the best present of all – I got me.”

For a Codependent it’s a really tough question. It’s tough because we’ve been taught that the us that we know, is so flawed and broken and we must be shameful of ourselves and hide our flaws away from the rest of the world. So we spend a good chunk of our lives, maybe even all our lives, if we haven’t woken up, pretending to be what we’re not and afraid to show our true selves. We end up being people pleasers and never knowing who we authentically are.

I spent a lot of time, early in my healing, with flamboyant gay men. I had become great friends with Phil during our University days. He was the editor of the university newspaper where I honed my writing skills. I didn’t want to be alone and I had few friends left, so I hung out with Phil a lot. It was interesting and funny to watch how a once repressed culture conducted itself. The “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it,” mantra is very empowering and it helped me to own who I was unabashedly. What it meant for me was, “Here I am – this is me and if you don’t like it, that’s your problem.”

These men shoved who they were down your throat. It might be too much for some people but for me, a student of human behavior, it was fascinating and hilarious. I truly believe that it helped me to just own my identity and that if I was different that was okay. I was allowed to be different. The differences made me – me. I also got a lot of, “Girl, look at you. You are fabulous. Don’t you forget that. If you were any sweeter you’d give me diabetes. Okaaaay.”

So who are you? What parts of you have you been taught to be ashamed of? Isn’t it time that you owned who you truly are? When you know who you are, you can’t be used against you. Be fiercely you. Be unapologetically, lemmie stick my flaws right in your face – you. Be – not gonna be afraid to show all of me – you. Start cultivating the mindset of, ‘this is me and if you don’t like it, don’t let the door hit you.’ Let’s all repeat our new mantra:

I’m me

I’m free

Get used to it

Or maybe

I’m in this place

I’m me, all up in your face

Get used to it

Somebody stop me quick!!!!!!!

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