Letting go of the Past

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Probably one of the most difficult things in life is letting go of the past, forgiving and forgetting. I have thought at length about making this entry, and frankly, I am a little shy about going public with personal matters, but once I have begun this business of blogging, then I’d better be able to let go.

I am in the process of packing. Sifting through objects I have accumulated in a house I have lived in for 23 years. My children grew up here, I lived here with my husband, and now the children have flown the nest and the husband works in another town. Since we have no incinerator around, I burn all the paper. I will light my third bonfire this evening. It feel good to see the empty bookshelves and I feel proud of myself for having reduced a huge pile into one little box. I have come across old letters, magazines, pictures, invoices, exercise books belonging to the children, prepared lecture notes, notes written to myself, and general traces of the past left by all the family members.

Yesterday I came across traces of a triangular relationship. For several years my husband was in a relationship with a colleague, a single woman. I knew about it and even on two occasions saw them in the town together. I found a letter the colleague’s son had written, thanking my husband for gifts, and some official letters belonging to the woman. I have been angry. Very angry. My workplace is a relatively small one, and since it is a campus with resident students and lecturers, it feels like living in a small pond. Everyone’s business is known.  I have become aware of the extent to which my private life was the subject of gossip on this campus, and for the most part I did not discuss this particular matter with anyone. I have felt humiliated and small. I did not  speak out until some of my students asked me whether I knew I was in a triangular relationship and my children found out about it.

In this country they say marriage is a long journey. They say a husband’s infidelity is no cause for divorce. I guess I internalized a lot of that discourse even though I am very much a feminist.

It is not easy to live with people who have betrayed your trust. I have discussed the matter with my husband one million times. We have decided to try again, and he has moved away from this little pond. I however, still work here, and although the other woman does not work in my Department, she is close by and our paths cross from time to time. She is now one of the academic leaders on this campus and has the ear of the big boss. She has moved ahead very quickly. I am not concerned about her meteoric rise. I am on my way out and cannot wait to retire and finally move away from this environment in a few months.

What hits me is the fact that such conduct is acceptable. In the workplace it is insignificant and harmless. But then this is a country where polygamy is acceptable. We believe that men are sexually ravenous beings. They cannot control their sexualities or do not need to. They say a husband’s infidelity is no cause for divorce. What about a woman’s infidelity??? A man’s shenanigans are normal. Women should not dare run around. I wonder what would have happened if I had been the one who had the extra-marital affair?. But it is time. Time for change.

I have been angry. Angry at other things such as intimidation and general unpleasantness at the workplace. I expressed  my ideas on all that during my Inaugural Lecture in November 2013 (click on institutional repository at http://ucc.edu.gh/library to read the lecture, titled “Through a Woman’s Eyes: A Version of Events”). But I did not speak directly on this more personal matter. The other day I received a letter from the top. According to the letter, the woman who had been my husband’s mistress will take my place on a certain committee. I have had to stop working on that committee because of my retirement. I got mad. I was furious! Perhaps I am wrong about this, but I thought the Chief Executive and his team were insensitive and that appointing the woman as my successor was distasteful. I did not keep quiet about it but spoke out. I felt relieved after that.

As I burn my papers and prepare to move out of this house, I look forward to new beginnings, to changes in my life. I have a gut feeling that getting out of this campus is one of the best decisions I have taken in my life. I am glad that I can speak up these days. I am on my way. Women need to speak out and find their way. Traditional discourses must make way for more practical ones, and we women must find ways of doing this.

One more thing, I have burnt those letters I found. With that act, I release my anger. I have started the journey of letting go of the past. The future appears more exciting!

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