Seeing the Mermaid

Posted on | October 9, 2011 | 17 Comments

When someone cheats on you, all the books, all your friends, and all the experts whisper that it is not your fault.  They tell you that it is more about the cheater than the person they cheated on.  They tell you the cheating stems from insecurity or inadequacy or some problem within the cheater.

But when someone cheats on you, it FEELS an awful lot like it’s about you.

Maybe the experts are right, but what it feels like is that someone who swore to love you forever decided that they made a mistake.  It feels like someone who you gave your heart and body and soul to decided that you were not all that great after all.  It feels an awful lot like you are the inadequate one, no matter what anyone else says.

When someone cheats on you, it becomes hard to see yourself as anything other than a sea cow; a manatee.  A lumpish bore of a being with what seems to be no real redeeming factors.  You look at your body and see only the bumps and bruises.  You delve into your soul and find yourself sorely lacking.  You wonder why or how anyone will ever find you lovely again.

I look in the mirror these days, and I see a mask of imperfections.  I stare at errant eyebrow hairs, poorly placed moles, dark circles under my eyes and the natural, too-thin, turn down of my lips.  I get wrapped up in the number on the scale, the number on my pants tag, the number on my bra strap, and the number on my calorie counter.  I can’t seem to see my way past the manatee of me.

In my head, I know it is about him.  I know that he chose this path because of something inside of him… not because of me.  But in my heart, I feel broken by the weight of all my insecurities crashing down around me.  In my head I am strong.  On paper, I try to be strong.  But in my heart? In my heart I am curled beneath the spray of hot water, keening into the smooth pink tiles of my bathroom walls and wondering when I will ever have the strength to love anyone, ever again… even myself.

So the legend of the mermaid hits home for me these days. The thought that someone somewhere looked out into the water and saw a manatee and believed it to be a beautiful mermaid? Well, that gives me hope.  Because honestly, even on the worst days, even when I’m choking on the taste of just being awake…  maybe I can stop and squint.  Maybe I can be that starved sailor, peering out across the water of my life.  Maybe, if I take a step off the scale and away from the close up mirror, I will almost see something else.  Maybe I will see the dark gray of my eyes and the curve of my cheek.  Maybe I will focus on the soft red of my hair and the rise and fall of my chest.  Maybe I will see the strong legs, strong arms, and strong body that carried and birthed a strong and healthy son.  Maybe I will see the mermaid I can be, the mermaid I should be, and maybe, just maybe, the mermaid I am.

Deep down, I think we all really feel like manatees.  We are all looking at ourselves as a torn and tattered map of our imperfections: bloated, scarred, and perpetually unworthy.  But if anyone, and I mean anyone, is going to see a mermaid, shouldn’t it be us?  Shouldn’t we be the ones that look most favorably upon ourselves? Shouldn’t our voices be the softest, our words the kindest, and our eyes the most forgiving?

So when I pull myself out of bed in the morning and start to see the wrinkled gray skin of my outer manatee, I will try to stop and remember that I might just be the reason mermaids exist.  I will try to stop and remember that to someone, somewhere, I am beautiful.

I will try to remember that I should always be beautiful to myself.

Even on the days when the weight of divorce sits heavy on my shoulders and the thought of being anything, even a manatee, seems too much to bear.  Even on those days, I can still be my own mermaid… if I squint hard enough.


17 Responses to “Seeing the Mermaid”

  1. EJ Phillips
    October 9th, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

    The only thing is that your beauty is not a myth.

  2. Anonymous
    October 9th, 2011 @ 8:48 pm

    You are, as always, gracious and too kind. Must be the debutante in you… 😉

  3. EJ Phillips
    October 10th, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

    Must be. Graciousness and debutante ways are kinda what I’m known for. No…wait. That’s bitchiness and farting.

  4. CoreysGal
    October 9th, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

    I know he lied about seeing other people and that it seems too unlikely that someone would be telling him they loved him only a month or so into a relationship – but it is possible, right?

  5. Anonymous
    October 9th, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

    It’s possible, but we were still married. So it’s sort of a moot point.

  6. Tara
    October 9th, 2011 @ 10:30 pm

    I hate this for you. I’ve been sitting here trying to decide if there’s anyway that it’s better that you found this out now, when you’re feeling stronger, than all those months ago, when you were still functioning minute-by-minute.

  7. Anonymous
    October 10th, 2011 @ 9:34 am

    I think it IS better now. I don’t think my heart could have taken this four months ago. It hurts now, but I’m stronger now than I was.

  8. Guest
    October 9th, 2011 @ 10:38 pm

    Well in every picture I’ve seen of you, you are super pretty, as far as other people’s perceptions you are golden, that I am sure of… When those voices in your head whisper about your faults, they are lies… and they are swallow anti-feminist poopyheads so tell them to shut up because you don’t have time for that lame crap

  9. Anonymous
    October 10th, 2011 @ 9:33 am

    Aww, thanks. And stupid anti-feminist poopyheads! They’re always after me lucky charms!

  10. Guest
    October 9th, 2011 @ 10:42 pm
  11. Anonymous
    October 10th, 2011 @ 7:06 am

    I did not see that but I LOVE IT!!!!!! Thanks for sharing!

  12. elizabeth
    October 10th, 2011 @ 9:29 am

    Wow this really hit home. To my knowledge, there was no infidelities involved in my split, but my newly found insecurities still seem to choke me at times. He promised forever – and then left. So… what happened? He got to know the real me & hated what he found? Should I have taken better care of myself? Was I too critical of him? Was I not pretty enough? stylish enough?

    So now, every time those thoughts swarm around my head, i’ll think of you and the mermaid story. And I’ll hold my head up a little higher 🙂 Even when i feel like a manatee.

    Thank you.

  13. Anonymous
    October 10th, 2011 @ 9:32 am

    Oh my gosh, I know those words and that feeling. Like somehow you were the unworthy one. Like somehow he got to know you and decided you were not awesome at all. Because he loved you when he proposed and he loved you when he married you… so OBVIOUSLY something about the “real” you became too annoying or overbearing.

    But no, that’s not it at all. You are wonderful just as you are… the truth of the matter is? He was too blind to see it.

    Hang in there, mermaid!

  14. elizabeth
    October 10th, 2011 @ 10:51 am

    So, so true. Ha- you should see the title of the books on my night stand: “The Search for Significance,” “Captivating,” “Change from the Inside Out.” I’m a walking insecurity.

    Sometimes I want him back, just so I can take everything I’ve learned and do it all differently. Treat him better. Prove to him I’m worth it. And isn’t that terrible? We should never have to prove ourselves, never feel like we have to measure up to someone else. We should be enough as we are. But it’s SO hard to remember that when the damn tears just. will. not. stop. and the voices inside your head keep tearing you down.

  15. MaconMom
    October 10th, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

    You guys are TOO awesome for them. That’s the problem.
    You are so enough and so much more than that.
    They weren’t enough for you.
    Keep on smiling (even if it’s through the tears…fake it till you make it because you really will!)

  16. Kristinayellow
    October 10th, 2011 @ 9:41 am

    I love this. I never thought about how that story really does mirror life. Everyone always seems prettier, more confident, richer, happier, etc than me. It’s easy to forget that other people probably feel exactly the same way and I just saw them in a good moment or didn’t see what the truth was. I saw “airbrushing”. Now I’m going to remind myself that I could be that someone to someone else…and I’m going to rock that attitude! 🙂 You are beautiful and funny and sweet and thoughtful–trust me, you are a mermaid in my eyes and I’m totally NOT squinting. Besides, to J you are the most beautiful mermaid in the world and isn’t that most important anyway? 🙂

  17. Guest
    October 11th, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

    Something very similar happened to me. You are better off knowing. It’s so hurtful, but all the things that didn’t make sense to you in the past few months will start shift into focus. Stay strong.

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