You’ve Come a Long Way Baby!

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!

By Christy Lee

Copyright 2001-09

I am forty-three,” I was thinking back in 1994 as I turned the cold key in the ignition. It wasn’t an earth-shattering statement, after-all. The engine had sputtered, choked, then coughed to a dead silence. I remembered the cigarette commercial that bragged, “You’ve come a long way, baby!”

I could hear the heater fan whirring inside the cracked dash as the fan motor tried in vain to blow the cold air into the car. I sat quietly for a moment, contemplating the path that had lead me to this point. I certainly didn’t feel, at that moment, like I had come such a long way.

As I turned the key again I felt the car shudder. It was the same involuntary reaction I had experienced just moments before as I had stepped out into the pre-dawn air, a moment in time that marked the first day of the rest of my life.

My eighteen-year-old son must have worried over these same decisions just months before as he was looking into the future after graduation. What did I want to be when I grew up? It is such a difficult decision. For the first time I could empathize with his struggle.

My breath hung heavily in the frigid January darkness. I ran my fingers gently over the smooth glass of the frostless windows. The car, sitting snug and protected within the aging garage, still groaned in protest as I held the ignition key in place and pumped the gas pedal. I remember worrying that the car would not start and I would miss out on something–but I didn’t know what that something was at the time. I just knew that I must get to the tech school no matter what.

I had made my decision, the only one I could make at forty-three. I was going back to school to become employable. It was a daunting task for me. I had spent most of my married life at home, raising children and taking care of a household. I was ill prepared to go out into the world alone. I was unskilled to perform more than menial tasks. I knew that I could handle the grill at a fast food restaurant or a steam press at a dry cleaning establishment, but the business world was something foreign and frightening. I had held my foot lightly on the pedal as a precaution. The engine began to voice a hesitant whine. “School waits for no woman,” I had laughed silently.

Only a few car lights dotted the roadway at this early hour. I turned onto the main road that snaked its way to the technical college. Amber lights, blinking a warning as I passed under them, seemed to fade in the odd mist that rose from the asphalt. Houses lined the streets. Here and there a warm window light seeped through the curtain of mist and darkness. Heavy dew-touched smoke clouds hovered eerily above the chimney tops, hinting at the fires that flamed cozily within the darkened homes. I resented the warmth and security that the lighted windows evoked. I didn’t feel safe or secure. I looked at my watch. It was 7:15 a.m. I laughed nervously.

It was that nervous laugh I hated so much. It was my mother’s laugh that always seemed to apologize for being alive. I hated that laugh. I had not even realized that I too used that laugh during therapy sessions. I too used it to defuse feelings of incompetence and fear of being rejected. It was there to tell everyone that what I was about to say would probably be stupid or silly and that they could not object to what I was about to share because I was stupid or silly. I hated that laugh, but it was there, just the same. After that revelation I had promised myself that I would not do that again to myself. But, programming is difficult to eliminate entirely. It was one of the many battles I have fought since that moment of awareness.

I remember thinking that in a few moments I would be putting my escape plan into action. I would walk into a classroom that would provide me with the education and training necessary to walk away from my twenty-two-year mistake.

It was sad that after twenty-two years there was nothing left of the two people who had expressed such high hopes and vibrant dreams for the future. Now, there was nothing but an empty shell of a marriage that contained two strangers who seldom talked to each other and who were on the verge of destroying the bonds they had once sworn to maintain…”until death do we part”. Isn’t the death of an emotional bond still a death?

Perhaps I had misinterpreted this particular part of my marriage vows. I had thought that it meant the physical death of my partner. However, I failed to consider the emotional death that occurs when a relationship suffers from lack of nurturing and broken trust.

The parkway twisted and turned. I could feel the steady drum of the tires as they skimmed the icy surface of the road. My fingers twitched and danced on the frozen steering wheel. I had forgotten to put a piece of cardboard in front of the radiator. Without it, the tiny heater would not be able to heat the interior of the car. It was one draw back of owning an old Chevette.

Most of my life I had been told to not want more than my station would allow. I was from a blue-collar family, destined to do no more than work for a living at some blue-collar job. My escape plan was designed to change that. I wanted more from my life. I had settled far too long and now I was not willing to be placated by the status quo. There had to be something more out there. I was driven to find out.

There were only a few cars parked at this early morning hour. I guided the “Gray Goat” as I called my 1978 Chevette, into a parking space on the south end of the lot. The car slid to a stop with a jerk as the tires hit the curb with a thud.

I remember closing my eyes, breathing deeply in the warming air as the heater fan groaned and worked to push the chilled air out through the heat ducts. The small motor churned away, a fruitless attempt on this winter morning, But I had made it, after all.

I remembered focusing on my breathing. I visualized pushing an imaginary golden cord into the earth from my first Chakra point. Meditation had gotten me through some pretty tough spots in the last year and I needed to center myself before walking into the classroom. Fear was creeping into my thoughts, threatening to create a panic attack. It would prevent me from accomplishing my escape plan. The panic attacks had kept me shackled in a loveless marriage. I would not allow them to stop me now.

I then focused only on the life-giving strength that flowed through the cord, clearing the seven Chakra points throughout my body. I pushed all the stress and fear down the chord and into the earth as I had learned from my meditation coach.

It was amazing that self-doubt had been at the route of my panic attacks, and my fears in general. As I gained emotional strength through meditation and through facing my fears head on, I found them diminishing. The isolation that had become my life only fostered more self-doubt and fears, which aggravated the panic attacks. It had become a viscous cycle.

When my ritual was complete and my breathing was calm and steady, I opened my eyes. The classroom was in the building directly to my west. Tall, silver poles, like the Pillars of Hercules, marked the entrance to the mechanical building with flags that flapped loudly and cracked in the wind. I watched, mesmerized by the twisting and gyrating as they whipped the curtain of air from their lofty perches. It had seemed at the moment that all my senses had become hyper-vigilant. Sounds seemed louder. Smells were more acrid. Tastes were more pronounced. It was amazing what the mind could do.

I walked towards the flags. “Not bad,” I had thought, “for a person who had once suffered from agoraphobia.” As I watched the steady trail of students filtering into the steel doors at the entrance to the building, I knew…”I’m not like my mother at all!”

She would have never risked my father’s anger. She would have avoided anything that might have triggered his violence. She would not have ventured outside the walls of the illusion she had created in order to survive. She would never have risked his hurtful and humiliating insults that would drag her back into the role he had chosen for her. She would have, instead, existed in a safe fantasy world of her own making.

That had once been me. I had almost succumbed to the panic attacks that had kept me a prisoner in my own home. I had learned my lessons well–learning that life was a frightening proposition. I had been taught to fear men and to sacrifice my true self to them, accepting my lot in life with a smile and a hidden tear. It was the payment for being taken care of–for being “safe”.

I had learned to not rise above my financially imposed status–to accept without question and be grateful for what I had. After all, I was a woman, and women had to be taken care of. We were inferior to men. We were property.

And, it almost worked. I almost believed it. Luckily, there was a small voice deep inside that refused to be silenced. It had nagged me, berated me, and demanded that I listen. When I finally opened my mind and my heart to the voice I found that it was my soul crying out for freedom. That was the beginning of this miraculous journey to freedom.

I am free now. I am involved in a journey that will push me to the limits of my abilities. I will be called upon to risk, to prove myself, and to do…and I will make it! I have broken out of a self-imposed shell of fear to become the person I was destined to become. When I think of where it all started, I can honestly say, “You have come a long way, baby!”

That was 1994 and as a result of my personal journey I now can give back and share with you the things you will need to make your escape… or, if you have already escaped, I can help you learn to, not just survive, but to  thrive.  Welcome Home!!!!!!

Chris

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~ by womenstudycenter on December 6, 2009.

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