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I have seen you struggle from afar for a long time. I know you are sad, with the kind of sadness that eats into your psyche and erodes it, that the rust of what was falls away from you in fine, brittle pieces. I know what it is, that sadness.

So because of this, I wanted to offer you a thought for this new year.

Your soul is yours to safeguard. It does not belong to anyone else on this earth. Take it back from him, take it back from what you have heard for so long — that a woman is not fit for shepherding souls, or for learning the great mysteries behind her own skin.

Nobody can take your power from you. You and you alone can stand bare before the mirror and stare hard enough to see the beauty and the real flaws — hard enough to see the real flaws, soft enough that you know you can rise above them, work with them, overcome them. You and you alone can come to the place where you no longer see his words, their words, when you look at yourself in the mirror. When the sight of you doesn’t remind you of all the ways he said you failed, but instead reminds you of what is, apart from him, after him.

Be kind to yourself. It is not easy. You have heard it so often, so loudly, for so long: you are less than. Less than, always, no matter what you did. His glances outward, his emotional distance, his physical absence all screamed it even when he didn’t say it. He wanted you to take responsibility for his failings, to bear their burden, because he was not strong enough. He was weaker than you, much, much, weaker than you.

You are re-learning now that you are lovely, that you are intelligent on many levels, that you work hard and that this dark time will pass. You are re-learning that it is not failure to ask for help, that people are willing to help, that people love you even when you do fail. Your values were strong, though perhaps misplaced. Do not discount how tenacious and passionate you were to live by them. They speak to your strength, not just to what might have been, if only you had known.

Live your life, as it was, as it is. Be here, where it counts, and always hold your well-learned mistrust with an open hand, where someone can snatch it away from you easily.

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