Me, Rocky Balboa

“You are worthless and you’ll never amount to anything!”

So said my ex when we were still in the throes of unraveling our marriage. And today I want to officially thank him. Little did he know when he said those hurtful, pain-searing words, that he was doing me a favor.  In his own, offhanded way, he was encouraging me to fly the coop, and be something more—without him.  Turns out, it was just the push I needed.

I would be Rocky Balboa, resolved to win the world championship.

When those words were first flung at me, my initial reaction was to fall apart. My second was to pick up the pieces and gather my resolve. Resolve, to never be that woman who doesn’t amount to anything, who believes what she’s told and wallows in self-pity and low self esteem.  Instead, I would be Rocky Balboa, resolved to win the world heavyweight championship. Meryl Streep, determined to win my first Oscar. I’d be the little engine that could, and I’d be Dumbo, about to take my first flight over the Big Top.

According to my ex, the odds were not in my favor. Yet I wasn’t going to be the one to take it on the chin. So overnight my mantra became,  “I will prove him wrong, I will prove him wrong.” I had some big hurdles to overcome, though. Besides, the marriage coming apart, I was pounding the pavement in search of a job. Any job. I was also coming to terms with my mother’s increasing dementia, Alzheimer’s, which made it impossible to confide in her, and to seek her advice and comfort when I needed it most.

“I will prove him wrong,” I kept telling myself, and in my own way, I did. Though it took time, and during that time it became more about doing it for me rather than for the sake of proving him wrong. It was a long tough road, with hurdles every step of the way, but I kept at it. The Rocky Balboa drive was in me, the need to prove I could do it. Then one day I realized I’d had.  I’d found myself, my voice.

It took two years but I finally got the job I wanted, working for a place that thrives on creativity and people who are passionate about their work. Three years after that, I was able to buy my own home and turn it into a place that is uniquely mine, filled with beauty, art and yes, even kitsch. I also raised two children to be thoughtful, caring adults and found time along the way to spend with the people who mean so much to me. Indeed, like Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I’d found that the best reward of all is the love of family and friends.  That, and finding your bliss.

So if I ever do win the heavyweight championship or an Oscar, I’ll be sure to express my gratitude to all the people along the way who were there for me. And I’ll be sure to thank my ex, too. For I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know how his words helped shape who I am today. Oh, and how I became Rocky Balboa. Yeah, that’s me. Rocky.

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20 thoughts on “Me, Rocky Balboa

  1. Pingback: And I Quote « Monica's Tangled Web

  2. Droppping by from the Lady Bloggers Tea….it is amazing what we can do when we are pushed. And I am not sure if it was the same for you, but to be looking from the other side back, one can be very thankful and appreciative of the here and now. May you continue to grow and blossom!

  3. Monica, this post totally resonated with me. I too have gone down the Rocky Balboa path and had to overcome hurdles and obstacles because a former significant other told me something similar. In my case it was, “You’re worthless and you’ll never be anyone without me.” Excuse me? I don’t think so! Always having considered myself a fighter, I took this very personally and worked arduously, in the beginning, to prove him wrong. However, after only a short while I realized I wasn’t doing it for him, I was doing it for me. I needed to prove to myself that I could make it on my own; to raise my children with or without him. Fast forward I’ve lost count of how many years, and I too want to thank him; for challenging me to find what I had in me all along. I so enjoyed reading this post! Your writing is fantastic!

    • I am convinced that some people, in order to feel better about themselves, have to put you down. Perhaps it helps them justify why they’re leaving. What they don’t realize is that they’re doing us a favor. We are the ones who are better off for it. It’s nice to know we’re not alone and it is our shared common experiences that make us stronger.

      I’m so glad you’re checking out my blog. I’m enjoying yours, too. 🙂

  4. Yo, Adrienne! You started off as Adrienne and you became a Rocky Balboa? See, you were probably a fighter all along, and just didn’t know it. Mean guys make me angry, so I’m very glad you triumphed- I’m inspired, Monica ! And what a privilege to get to know you this way. Good post- I wanted C to read it today :p

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  6. Wow, Monica. Really powerful post! And boy did you prove him wrong? But I love that you did it for you, not him. You are truly a wonderful person, a cherished friend, and an exceptional mother. I’d say you did good, kid!

  7. Wonderful.

    Oh, the things that leaving men – particularly if they have a narcissistic streak, or have an Other Woman waiting in the sidelines – say. Searingly painful at the time, and often quite unbelievable too, since all too often these are men who showed respect and love for many years. But the long-term usually puts perspective on their words. A group of friends and I once made a list of the hurtful things our leaving husbands had said. We started off crying, and ended up crying with LAUGHTER, holding our bellies with tears rolling down our cheeks. The idiocy of them. How wrong they’ve all been proven.

    Time isn’t good to men who leave so unkindly. Call it karma, call it the underlying psychological state that made them act like this in the first place, but time usually shows the women they’ve left – the ones willing to work their butts off, that is, like you – to be triumphant, while they just look pathetic in comparison. My husband included, who these days acts like, and says things like, I was the one who left him. Oy vay.

  8. Now I’m even more excited to watch Jimmy Stewart’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”!

    And just know, some of the very realizations you’ve made here, are why I look up to you so much!

  9. Dear Rocky:

    😉

    It absolutely astounds me how similar so many of our stories are; those of us who have been devastated by divorce have such a common ground. That is the foundation for my blog — the shared experience, the ability to learn and grow from others — and I love that you’re choosing to share some of your profound (though painful, yucky and clearly gut-wrenching) past as well. That’s a brave move, and you should be proud!

    I love your inspiration in the form of Rocky Balboa. For me (and I’m writing about this in a future post), I was watching an Oscar special with Vanessa Williams right after my husband left, and she was talking about the aftermath of her failed marriage. She said, “To me, success was the sweetest revenge,” so she threw herself into becoming the woman she always wanted to be. I’m now at the point of doing that myself, and it feels damn good!

    Congrats again. I love the post! 🙂

    • You are so right. One of these days I’m going to go on the divorce circuit tour in the hopes of helping others know they are not alone. I have such horror stories from those days, but my goal is to focus on the good. I’ve always been a big fan of Vanessa Williams (she was the end all in “Ugly Betty”) and am now all the more! I love her comment and I totally agree! 🙂

  10. What a wonderful, triumphant post! I love it, and want to high five you for what you’ve done for YOU! How inspiring. I hope it makes you feel good – it certainly should.
    Sunshine

    • Thank you! It’s amazing what stays with you, and what can motivate you. Today, I’m a happy individual and you’re right, it was all me. But I do want to add, in coming this far, my ex and I have been able to develop a cordial relationship. It’s possible to move on and move up!

  11. I get it, and I’m now THANKFUL for my ex for being such a low-life ass who chose to leave us and take a step down with his new wife and new life. If not for him I wouldn’t have realized what an awesome mom, person and now new wife I could be. Kudos!!!

    • You rock, Kim! We need to take these negatives and turn them into positives. Thank you for seeing that and for not letting your ex defeat you by his poor decisions. You’re all the better for it!

  12. MONICA: you are more of a person than your ex could ever be. I almost feel sorry for him; that he failed to see the smart, witty, wonderful woman you were back then, because BOY has he missed out! You are absolutely right to celebrate yourself and who you’ve become. But don’t give him too much credit; that should go solely to you. I loved this post, and I’m inspired how you are using this blog to celebrate your unique self; regardless of how you got there. GO GIRL!

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