Friday, April 23, 2010

What We Know Vs. What We Think We Know

A friend of mine recently left an abusive relationship. She can name it "abusive" now. Now that she can look back and really be honest about what was happening.
At the time, she was telling herself something completely different. That he was jealous because he loved her so much. That he demanded so much of her attention – even away from the children – because she was so incredible he just couldn't get enough. And blah blah blah.
It took her not only leaving him...something she insists she didn't plan so much as simply do...but spending the next six months poring over the relationship to figure out just where it went off the rails. She surprised herself the day she finally walked out the door. Now, a half year later, the only surprise for her is that she didn't leave a whole lot sooner.
It's incredible how large the gap can be between what we truly know and the story we tell ourselves.
It's a gap that might be created when we notice something that strikes us as odd, yet when we mention it to our family, we're told that it's not odd at all. Or we confide something that shames us...and are told we're liars. Or to just keep quiet.
For me, the gap was created when my parents – raging alcoholics when I was a child – would argue into the wee hours. The next day when I would mention it, they would respond blankly. Argue? No, we weren't arguing. I was told I had an "imagination". I was a "storyteller". And they would laugh.
I learned to not trust what I knew. And instead trust I thought I knew. Or what I was told I knew.
It happened again, of course, when I suspected my husband of having an affair. I mentioned it to a friend. "He'd never do that," she assured me.
I mentioned it to my husband, who scoffed at the notion.
Of course, I was crazy. He wouldn't do that. And not with her.
Except that he was. He did.
These days, I refuse to silence my inner wisdom. Instead, I try to shut out that voice that makes excuses. That looks on the bright side. That offers up rationale.
That voice of wisdom doesn't always tell me what I want to hear. Quite the contrary, it often opens my eyes to things I'd rather not see. Like where I'm letting myself down. Where I'm sacrificing myself for the sake of peace.
But it also promises me that I can trust it. And I know, I absolutely know that to be true.

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