Self Esteem Feels Like….

It wasn’t a new plan; although he thought it was a spur of the moment and irrational decision. Anyone who is a seasoned codependent veteran soldier will tell you to have your exit strategy, hold it close like a precious secret and use it when you have reached your breaking point. I have never had one and flying by the seat of my pants was heightening my anxiety with each relapse. He would literally disappear into thin air and my thoughts would jump from subject to subject, but in the background, there was always that gut wrenching statement- “I am stuck”. Three simple words that turned my stomach and made my heart race. The thing is, I didn’t have an exit strategy because I felt (and still feel somewhat) like I couldn’t go it alone. I felt that I couldn’t support myself, I couldn’t support my kids alone, I would disappoint people, that I would look poorly in the eyes of others and that no one would want me. There it is; my biggest struggle, a self-esteem that wasn’t just in the toilet, it was in the waste water plant 27 miles down the road.

I don’t know exactly when I formulated my plan, but it slowly came together in my head over the course of a few months and the more puzzle pieces that I fit together the stronger I felt. Truth be told, it felt weird to have a sense of empowerment. The beginning of July 2017 I emailed a mortgage broker to schedule an appointment. “Hi, I am in the market for a home for myself and my two children. I am a single mother” I typed. A month before my escape I was already identifying myself as a “single mother” and it felt good. He replied quickly, expressed how he would love to help and added this to the end “P.S. I was raised by a single mother and will do whatever I can to help you!” He will never know how that one sentence lit a spark in my soul.

I had the secret bank account, the appointment with the mortgage broker and I was starting to organize the house so that when the time came I could grab and go. I would make it through the holidays for the kids and start my home search. The little pings of guilt would sting deep in my gut, but this new-found strength would sucker punch it right back down. Confident in my plan, I went about my day to day activities like I had nothing to hide, until Tuesday night happened.

Rushing home that night my head was a sea of thoughts, one in particular floating in and out of my mind several times- “This is not my plan, everything is not in place”. And just like that, the strength I had built, was crumbing. What choice did I have? By the time I reached the stop lights at the intersection for our road, I had my amended plan and I felt like Superwoman. I would stay calm tonight, wake in the morning and bust ass out of that house with my kids. We would stay at my childhood home, go to my mortgage appointment in 2 days and get a house as soon as we are on our feet.

That’s just what I did. It caught him very much so by surprise and the police did need to be called (why the hell did he come home early today of all days???), but I left and I smiled as I exhaled 7 years of a rotten relationship away; the home we shared fading from view.

Thursday morning; I woke up at my mother’s home, in my childhood room with baby blue walls, my sweet redheaded daughter sleeping next to me. I got up, showered and dressed. I gathered my pay stubs, W2’s, 2016 tax return and put the mortgage broker’s office address in my GPS. Great, I was already going to be late. I grabbed my coffee and flew out to my car. “Why am I even going to this meeting?” I said out loud to myself. “I’m a joke, I’m going to be back in that house in a matter of days”. I dialed the mortgage broker’s office number and left a message that I was going to be “13 minutes late per my GPS”.

Pulling into Portsmouth on a bright sunny summer day is nothing short of breath taking. The clean ocean air flooded my car from my open sun roof. I flew past the mortgage broker’s office distracted by the stunning views on the sea ahead. I guess I lied, I was 15 minutes late by the time I walked into his office. I apologized for my lateness and plopped a pile of unorganized papers on his desk.

“Have a seat and let me see what you’ve got here”. I sat down, an empty chair to my right. “That would be my husband’s chair if only I could nail one down”, I thought to myself. I twiddled my thumbs as he riffled through my taxes, paystubs and pulled my credit. “How do you think your credit is?” he asked while plugging my info into the data base. “Terrible, I lived with a drug addict for 7 years. When he was sneaking money to use, I had to choose to feed my kids or pay my car payment” I replied. “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I hope that I can do something to help you” he sincerely said looking away from the computer and into my misty eyes. I choked a sob down, “don’t, you’re going to look like a weak idiot” I said to myself. I sat there quietly feeling ashamed because I was sure I was here wasting this guy’s time. He hit enter on his expensive looking Apple computer and widened his eyes when the screen lit up.

“Oh my God!” he looked over at me with a smile. “Dude, you are fine! So fine! Your credit is perfect and you are good to go. Call a realtor today and get to looking for a home $275,000 and under” he exclaimed to my disbelief. “Really? For real? I could afford a home myself? I don’t have $20,000 to put down or anything” I replied. My hands were now tightly folded on his desk, knuckles white. He put his hand on mine and gently said “You are a single mother of two kids, there are programs to help you out and you more than qualify for 0 down payment with closing costs rolled in. You could buy a home today with only the money needed for inspection”. He typed up a letter to show my preapproval and ushered me out into the bright sun, “Keep in touch!” He waved as my feet hit the hot sidewalk. I stood there in disbelief staring at the waves rolling in until the sun burned my shoulders.

Self-esteem feels like the summer sun beating down on you. It is warm and it is empowering. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I felt powerful. I could take care of myself, I could provide for my children and I did not need to go back to the drug addict to grin and bear a life of worry and uncertainty. My eyes broke away from the sea and up to the sky. I took a deep breath and strutted to my car like a supermodel on the catwalk. This was the day I realized that I was not garbage, that I was not the low man on the totem pole and that I did not need a man by my side in order to take care of business.

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