Most people look back on their early 20’s with nostalgia.
They refer to those days as “the good days.”
They reminiscence about them.
But, not me.
I look back with my eyes squinting and face shielded, careful to keep the light from blinding me; looking at my past as if it’s a solar eclipse that must be seen through special glasses for fear of causing (more) damage.
But, today I realized that I’ve completely missed a huge milestone in my life.
I’ve arrived to a place that I never thought that I would be at again.
Today, my husband lied to me.
He lied to me, point blank, and my once overactive and paranoid gut, did not whisper a single word to me.
I might as well have been a naive 17-year-old girl again. I had not the slightest idea of what had just happened.
Even when my mind said, “That’s not right.” My heart said, “You must be wrong.”
The result was confusion, because my mind couldn’t even process the possibility that it was a lie — that my husband had just lied to me.
No, it was just confused.
It just skipped right over that possibility and stalled.
I shorted out.
It sounds dramatic, I know. After all, some people are lied to for their entire life and never notice, but that has never been me.
Almost every relationship that I had been in, ended badly.
It ended through being cheated on, lied to, stolen from, tricked, deceived, fooled, abandoned.
One of those relationships was long with sudden betrayal; some of them were short and ended when suspicions were confirmed; and one of them was a toxicity that I had never experienced before.
And all of them were bad.
I became that “damaged” girl that you always hear about, but it wasn’t quite as glamorous as the one’s they show on t.v.
I wasn’t just damaged enough, that I needed that one guy to parade into my life with truth and love and persistence to change me. I wasn’t otherwise beautiful and together. I was not the young girl claiming to be damaged after her one-month, high school relationship ended.
I was legitimately damaged and it was not pretty or movie-worthy or glamorous.
What does being damaged look like if it doesn’t look like Pretty Woman? (You mean, there’s not a Richard Gere out there waiting to rescue us?!)
Real damage looks more like Kathy Bates.
Or Amy Dunne.
It looks like a woman scorned who no longer doubts her intuition, and is convinced that every relationship will have the same result.
It looks like someone who has been told they’re “crazy,” but then they were proven right, and, now, she basks in her rightness for the world to appreciate and acknowledge.
“You once thought that I was crazy, but now you know that I was right and I won’t let that go,” says the damaged woman.
Enduring real damage actually doesn’t look like anything at all, except maybe normal?
Sure, I looked just fine when my ex-boyfriend brought me flowers before telling me that he was working an unexpected night shift.
Yes, I smiled and gave him a kiss and pretended that my gut had not caught on fire and wanted to throw him in its embers.
I didn’t miss a beat when my ex of over a year decided to go out without even asking me to go with him.
I didn’t tell him that I knew that he was lying when he said that he thought that I had to work, when I had never worked on that day of the week before.
No, instead, I kept my cool and tried to smother those thoughts and I plugged my ears to my own intuition.
And when I didn’t heed the warning of my own sixth sense, I was put in the precise situations that the universe was trying to protect me from.
As I was miscarrying at home, my then-boyfriend took my debit card, borrowed my car, and helped himself to what little money that I had.
Later on, when I delivered my beautiful baby girl, it was my best friend who was in the room with me, holding my hand.
And when he asked to terminate his rights, I let him.
Damage isn’t written on someone’s forehead.
Instead, it is quiet and it likes to rear its ugly head when it’s faced with legitimacy, when it’s presented with the truth.
No, damage usually doesn’t punish the deserving — the ones who created it; it punishes the undeserving — the ones who are trying to overcome it.
It punishes the ones who are not lying, who are not deceptive, who are genuine. And it grows like cancer when it’s presence doesn’t send the undeserving away.
“Oh, you’re still here after that stunt? Well, just you wait and see!” says Damage.
Damage looks like someone staring you in your eyes and giving you cold chills because they spoke the truth, which is so unusual for you to hear that you actually have a physical reaction to it.
Damage looks like forcing yourself to resist the urge to pick up his phone, or investigate his search history.
Damage looks like paranoia.
Because, for every time you’ve been told the truth, you’ve been told a lie threefold. For every time that you knocked down that red flag, five more popped up and they were glaring post-breakup.
But, it is possible for the damage to be undone. It won’t be easy; it won’t be quick; it won’t be painless or without friction.
But, it can happen.
Undoing the damage looks like the undeserving telling you that you cannot pack up and leave during every argument.
Undoing the damage looks like the undeserving not dropping any bombs on you for three years and counting.
Today my husband lied to me.
He wasn’t at the gas station that I had just passed, getting gas, like he said he was.
He was actually down the road picking up my Valentine’s Day present from the store, which he covered up.
And when he told me that he wasn’t really at the gas station, I realized, then, that my mind, although it picked up on the fact that I had just looked for him at the gas station, just completely given out from this confusion.
My mind had removed “lying” from the pool of possibilities.
My once damaged, paranoid mind is healthy again.
I look for the good, now.
I don’t expect the worst anymore.
The damage has been undone.