What I Learned from the CW

Normally I feel an insane amount of guilt around sitting down to watch TV. As an entrepreneur, I have found that it is hard to switch from “work” mode to “relax” or even just “exist” mode, as there is ALWAYS something that needs to be done, something to improve, someone to connect with, somewhere that I could be giving just a little bit more. If you sit down and read any entrepreneurship blog or get tips for maximizing your time, they will all say pretty much the same thing: you will need to sacrifice the TV!  So I have… for the most part. But since I am still doing some copyediting work for the Hollywood Reporter, I often read reviews and recaps of television shows that pique my interest, so I flip them on in the background while I do my 4-hour editing shifts. One of those shows in particular quite surprised me.

I turned on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend a couple of weeks ago prepared to be entertained by a silly, light-hearted comedy. And I was. But it sparked something else in me, too. With every episode I got more and more uncomfortable, but I just couldn’t peel myself away. It started shifting a boulder that I had very strategically placed inside of me to block out some unpleasant memories that spanned the better portion of my life. The plot dug up those memories and reflected back to me so many things about what I believed about myself, how I related to men and success and finances, and revealed some current blockages in my life… And, trust me, it isn’t pretty.

The show is about a high-powered career woman in New York who bumps into her teenage summer fling on the street one day and moves to California topursue their happily ever after, only to find that he is engaged and not at all as nostalgic about their past as she is. She spends the majority of the 18-episode 1st season plotting and strategizing about how to win him over, while entertaining relationships with his friends on the side to try to distract herself from her pain. She does some pretty outrageous stuff that is born from her obsession with making him love her, and even though it is written to be comedic and charming, it cut into me. I couldn’t figure out why instead of laughing I felt humiliated, ashamed, and heartbroken for her as she jumped through hoops and literally went broke trying to do things to impress him or put herself in the right place at the right time. The way she tossed her money around and tried to buy his affections, the way she leveraged her career to impress him and try to draw him in, the way she sunk into deep holes of depression and then settled for someone else to fill the void and make her feel better… all of it just brought a rush of old feelings back to the surface.

 

I saw myself in all of it. And when I made that realization, it was like the scab was ripped from my old wounds and I was exposed. I realized that I never forgave the people who hurt me. I certainly never forgave myself. And even though I have been working hard to change my belief systems about myself, my value, and my financial situation, there are some lingering beliefs that remain which have been affecting my current relationships with my family, my boyfriend, and my bank account.

Coincidentally, I fled the United States to the Dominican Republic after college because I believed that I was unattractive to men in the United States. I was just a chunky, ordinary, overly emotional girl… I was nothing special and certainly no man had ever treated me like I was. So I went to the DR, where they treated me like a rockstar because I was foreign and different. It pumped up my ego, but it didn’t change what I believed about myself. So my time in the DR was characterized by a series of increasingly toxic relationships spanning nearly a decade. I was often the mistress or other woman. I fell hard and deeply for people and agonized over their every word. I planned weekend trips and nights out and romantic opportunities and footed the bill. I tried desperately to mold myself into the person that I thought they wanted. I gained weight and binged to punish myself for acting “crazy”.  I tried SO HARD to be sexy and exciting and lost myself in the process. When I finally got some distance I didn’t know what I liked, what I was passionate about, what I loved to do, or what my interests or hobbies were.     

 Dancing on a table in some gaudy, flashy outfit. Yea, that's about right.

Dancing on a table in some gaudy, flashy outfit. Yea, that's about right.

My current relationship started in a similar pattern to all the others, but—surprisingly—it actually worked out and turned into something healthy. I didn’t have to buy him anything; we worked together so he wasn’t impressed with my job or any of the “perks” I could get him; I didn’t feel pressured to have a physical relationship just to get him to stay. So when I left my job I swore off the Dominican Republic… the land of the toxic man. The place where I had suffered so much.  I never had to go back there again. I was able to stuff those relationships down and ignore the pain and humiliation. I would never bump into those guys on the street or have to be reminded of the way that I lived with a complete lack of respect for myself and a sense that I had 0 value.

But they crept back into my life in other ways without my even noticing. I put my wall up around new people. I obsess over not having the high-powered career and big, fat paycheck that I thought gave me value before. I completely avoid speaking Spanish or talking about the Dominican Republic— a place that I loved and thought of as a second home for so many years.  And all of those things make life hard when you have a Spanish-speaking, live-in Dominican boyfriend.

So now I am doing the work. Now I am digging in and opening up the box so I can uncover those beliefs that I held about myself and replace them with new ones. I am recognizing my coping mechanisms and leftover behaviors and slowly changing them. I am sending love to the younger, broken version of myself. I am surrendering all of those relationships and all of that hurt and all of the hatred and anger I still harbor to God. I am forgiving myself for behaving in that way and for just not knowing so many truths about life. I am forgiving those people for taking advantage of my vulnerability. I am building a new relationship with myself and my current life and partner that is based on respect and faith and abundance and acceptance.

It isn’t an easy process, but I am putting in the work because I know it will make my life better, and I know that it will allow me to better serve others. And I am sharing that process because this is my real journey. Every week is not a beach and 3 easy steps to a better life. The real life-changing work is hard. It is hard to see and even harder to let go of… but just imagine the possibility that opens up when you do? I am seeing some light at the end of this tunnel… I can breathe deeply and taste the freedom that awaits me on the other side. I have glimpses of it up ahead and I know where I am going. Thank you for sharing the journey with me.

Xx,