Tabatha Wharton


{musings of an aging millennial trope}

Another Word for 2016.

{this post originally appeared on Tabatha, Etc}

"You won't have a problem at all."

This is what I remember my hair stylist (and friend) saying to me with a pointed look, pausing to look me dead in the eye. She repeated herself, the sharp glint of her scissors punctuating her sentence mid-air.

I blushed, then. We were discussing my impending separation in the hushed tones learned of people who have been previously burned by living a life too open, too public. Say it in person to keep it safe; whisper it so only the intended ears will hear it. I don't think I'd yet mentioned my anxiety at being without a partner in life -- save for a spattering of months here or there, I hadn't been outside of a long-term relationship since I was 15 years old.

Half of my life. A third of it spent with one partner, in particular.

Yet she was quick to bluntly reassure me that I was too many things to be left alone -- too young, too smart, too attractive -- in a way that held nearly a tinge of bitterness I didn't truly understand, yet a sharpness that marked her statements as irrefutable. I sat across from my reflection still not yet able to see what or how others viewed me on my own. I had little measure of my own worth or value and was still so highly critical of every perceived fault and flaw.

I didn't yet know my own strength, or power. I had no idea what I was capable of.

In that moment, instead of arguing my own self-deprecation with her I divulged, for the first time aloud, that I wasn't technically alone. There was someone, a secret someone, hidden away for reasons beyond my obvious situation.  

As I poured out my heart in the corner of the hair salon, I felt my confidant's words wash over me like a validation.

You're right, it wasn't a problem at all.

That is, until it was.

It has yet not to be.


It began as a joke with a dear friend, a brother-in-arms in the nastiness that is divorce with minor children. We have seen each other through the darker, more harrowing times of this undoing of our respective legal bondages we ourselves forged in our pasts. We discuss our children, our to-be-former-spouses, our plans, our other ... interests and prospects ... all with the a strict confidentiality and mutual trust to keep the other safe at all costs. We are platonic divorce life mates, each the other's unwavering Last Call before making life-altering choices.

He was proud of me, for declaring my word for the year. And I snarkily threw it out into the conversation that I had another word for the year, in the wake of my never-ending divorce layered with the excruciating loss of my other person, my first post-marriage relationship.


He laughed, yet quickly agreed that it was probably the best idea I'd had yet. I hadn't expected him to accept this self-inflicted fate for myself so wholeheartedly, so completely -- it rolled over me in high-frequency waves that left my ears ringing and my stomach lurching.

Take some time for yourself. Heal. Build your foundation back up.

The lens through which I view my life narrowed, a shadowy vignette filter fading out to black as it closed in tighter, tinging everything in my mind's eye a shade darker.

But it wasn't supposed to be a problem for me at all.

And yet, it was. It is.


Each trusted person I have passed this tentative plan -- to refrain from actively pursuing a romantic and/or sexual relationship for the span of 2016 -- by has quickly and unflinchingly agreed that it is worth pursuing. Most are aware of the person who followed my soon-to-be-ex-husband and are, to varying degrees, also aware of the extent of the damage left in the wake of that situation's demise. And maybe this is just good advice for anyone suffering a deep heartbreak alongside crippling trust issues and battered self-worth and I'm taking the apparent excitement at this -- can you call it a lifestyle choice? Is this a lifestyle choice? -- incredibly too personally, as another hit to my pride.

Though, in my own defense (and despite what a "tangential acquaintance" on a blogger hate site has claimed) I am a chronic and serial monogamist and have known that about myself for years before I even met my soon-to-be-ex. I am painfully self-aware that my own layers of experiences and upbringing and emotional needs leave me longing for acceptance and stability without reservation or indebtedness. And sure, some of this is compounded by being a single mother, but I'd venture that a great deal more has to do with feeling accepted and feeling like I have a dedicated place I belong in the world, with people who also belong -- and want to be in -- that same place.

I want desperately, from my inner-most child-self, to be loved. Unconditionally. Wholly. Singularly. I want to be chosen above all others, and to be worth choosing time and time and time again, without reservation or doubt.

Which has led me to a lifetime of selling myself short to whomever seemed up for the task while simultaneously being completely blind to my own worth outside of a (seemingly) committed relationship, thereby taking mere scraps and doggedly attempting to build anything at all from it and calling it enough. 

I still struggle with that first part, if I'm being completely honest. It is so very hard to see myself not through the eyes of another, as I relate to them. It is incredibly hard to stand in my own value without a physical person backing it up just by their very presence.

It is hard to believe that you are worthy of love, capable of being loved, without someone there validating those points for both you and the rest of the world to see. Especially when that's the only measure you've had to hold your experiences against.

I know that all of this is just proving my point. I am obviously broken, due in no small part to every hand that has ever laid upon me, possibly irreparably.

Only time will tell.

Nothing is ever as easy as it may seem.