Never Believe Your Ex

My heart is caught in the complication of identity. Just lately, all the old lies my ex told me about myself are resurfacing.

It’s like the dead floating to the surface of the swift brown river. Sooner or later, they will all arise, these narratives, and confront me.

Yesterday my current partner told me excitedly she is planning a party for my 4oth, in about a month. I am terrified, instantly, a wash of cold horror tips over me. I blurt out the truth and say, “I don’t think anyone likes me enough to come to that.”

She is hurt, of course. She is trying to do something lovely, to express her love. It is rare that my deep insecurities are brought into day so swiftly, with such terrible clarity.

This honest gut feeling comes from so many narratives I have told myself about my own self worth. Unhappily, my previous partner also knew me best. In moments of loving me she would reassure me and act as a rock for my fears. I would cling to that.

“You are beautiful,” she would say. “You are so clever. You are a good friend to so many people. No wonder you are so loved.”

And then, in neat circles, the anger would rise. Every few months, her rage would build. Her disappointment, her disgust. And then a few weeks of personal feedback which undid every kind word.

Over breakfast, “I hate the way you are so fake with people. Don’t you think they can tell? They despise you for it.”

“This is why you don’t have friends.”

“I hate the way you are always performing with people.”

“You don’t really know how to dress, do you. Can you even see what you’re wearing?”

It was a campaign of sorts, to erode me. I succumbed of course because, that’s what we do, when someone echoes our deepest fears. We say yes, you must be right. I stayed in this for thirteen years.

It still baffles me that people enjoy my company. It unnerves me when people reach to me and wish to know how I am, or tell me they care. In response I have two options. One: to build better walls and become reclusive.

Or the other choice: to let love in.

The problem with my ex was that I let her love in. And then periodically, she would remove it. She would withdraw, become silent, and then hostile. Undoing all the good we ever had. Reminding me that whatever she said in times of gentleness was never true.

But now. Now. I am free of that person. And I don’t have to believe anything she ever said about me. I can understand with totality that I am worthy of love, and that I am the only authority on my identity.

This is a powerful place to come to. I hope I can hold my nerve and let this happen. After all, I’m forty years old, and in a loving relationship which is kind and good. It’s time.

So my first test. The birthday.