In my old life I always ate at the restaurants where my ex-husband wanted to eat. If I wanted to eat somewhere different, I went by myself.
In my old life I always drove to my friends' houses. They never came to mine. It was "just easier" because they had kids. In fact, it was also "just easier" for those that didn't have kids.
In my old life I always went wherever my family was celebrating the holidays, regardless of my work schedule and traveling difficulties. I always made it happen even if it meant a 10-hour round trip drive for a quick, less-than-24-hour celebration. I even traveled while giving myself injections during an IVF cycle. (Looking back on it, for me, that's insanity!)
In my old life I watched everyone's lives around me change with every passing season. Their children were growing up and meeting milestones. My friends and family were busy lamenting and celebrating. Their lives were always changing.
In my old life everything stayed the same. I was an infertile housewife whose husband went to the sports bar every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I had moved to the suburbs where I knew no one. I volunteered weekly at the nearby elementary school, spending time with whomever the school counselor thought would benefit from some one-on-one, uninterrupted attention from a safe and caring adult. I brought a crate on wheels filled with books, games, and craft supplies and, for an hour every week, we did whatever the kid wanted to do.
Other than that one hour at the elementary school every week, I was very lonely.
At least I had my dog.
In my old life I accommodated everyone. I did what was easiest for them. I did not value my own unique life and what it looked like and required. I ignored where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. I assumed it was just easier for everyone if we went with their plans, their schedule, their expectations. Ex-husband, friends, and family alike.
I loved my loved ones, but I hated my old life. I needed to get a new one...
To state the obvious, changing myself changed everything.
It started with friends. I just stopped reaching out if the relationship felt unreciprocated. It was a painful transition as I watched the majority of whom I thought I was in relation with just drift away. (With the help of a wonderful counselor, I was able to learn that this is normal in life. But at the time, while still dealing with infertility, it felt so painful and unbearable. Each lost friendship felt like a mini-death.)
It moved to my marriage. My ex-husband knew I wanted to live differently. He promised me we would. As soon as we moved out of the suburbs he said. As soon as we moved out of the city he said. As soon as we moved to a new state he said. Things never changed. In fact, they just got worse.
My family relationships continue to be a dance. My parents and sisters are the relationships I've had all of my life, so those are a little more challenging to change in terms of patterns and habits, especially considering all of the history there. But they've definitely changed! It's an up and down experience, where sometimes my boundaries are respected and other times they are questioned and criticized.
In my old life I did not realize I was putting myself last. I thought I was being giving and loving to everyone. "Hi!!! I'm here!! Let's hang out! What do you want to do? What do you need??" But sidelining your own needs is giving yourself away and giving yourself away is not giving or loving to anyone. It is most certainly not giving and loving to ourselves.
I still struggle with balance, as evidenced by my frequent bouts with feeling depleted, but I am so much better now at striving for balance and being compassionate with myself when I don't achieve it.
(This post was inspired by Anon S's brilliant comment on this Childless By Marriage post.)