At last, the hot and sour twisting feeling in my stomach subsided. I crossed the threshold into the flagship Louis Vuitton store. Maybe it was in that sliver of time that the pattern finally, finally broke. But I can’t be sure because there was no gleaming ah-ha moment to speak of. There was no slow motion, freeze-frame or epic orchestral music to introduce a new chapter in my life. I just stepped through the door, and that was that.
Such a simple sliver of time—crossing a threshold—with such a gut-wrenching lead up. Maybe the whole moment was anti-climatic, or maybe I was just so exhausted from repeating the same damn pattern over and over that I couldn’t really grasp the magnitude of what was unfolding.
Pattern: enter into a partnership/relationship/business with someone who you desperately want to believe in, want to trust; they promise all good things to you – professionally, materially and emotionally; give your heart & soul; they break promise(s).
How to deeply ingrain this pattern of behavior: repeat pattern over and over, with the same person in varying situations with varying details but with the hope that this time it will be different. Remain ever optimistic that they mean what they say, that their intention is pure, that this time, their word is good. Give them the benefit of the doubt, repeatedly, at your own expense. Give your power away. Allow yourself to be diminished by their aggression and their trick of dangling carrots in front of you like a donkey, only to have them snatched away no matter your performance. Take it personally. Believe you are a bad person, because otherwise, why would they be treating you this way. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
For added efficacy, also include mental and verbal abuse. These techniques will cause deep and painful wounds that will take infinitely longer to heal than any physical wound ever could.
Good Lord! Why are we talking about such heavy stuff in a story that has a lead photo of a Louis Vuitton handbag?
Because the bag represents a triumphant break away from a dangerous, diminishing-to-the-human-spirit pattern.
The Bigger Truth
At a cocktail party I might tell an admirer of my new Louis bag that I received it as a gift for a project well done, a reward for a goal achieved. And that would be a true story. But the bigger story is that the Louis bag, ironically, represents me releasing old emotional baggage in the most liberating and happy way. The Louis bag is my proof positive that abusive/dominance patterns can be broken and that new paths can be forged.
You see, I played the passive, ‘supporting’ role in an unhealthy relationship – for years. I played the part so well that I became it. I didn’t even know I was in the role anymore.
I did everything right – I was passive, enabling, easily diminished, quiet, empathic, strategic, secretly intelligent and outwardly so when it made him look good. Yes, I did it perfectly.
Except one day I started to push back. I don’t know when it was exactly. He always told me he wanted me there to push back (because no one else ever did). He told me he wanted to change and he knew I could help. So I started pushing.
He didn’t like it.
Not Picking Up the Pieces
Eventually I got strong enough to allow the whole thing to explode and fall to pieces without picking them up for the hundredth time.
That was nearly 3 years ago. I walked away. It was ugly and messy and painful.
Somewhere along the journey it seems I decided to only work with integral people. Even if that meant barely working.
And so I worked with a fellow who seemed different than the first man. I took on a project. Then this second business man promised all good things professionally, materially, emotionally. He said “Here’s the deal: we need to win this award,” and I was smug when it was followed by, “what prize do you want if we get it?” I was smug because I knew he was lying. So I joked that I wanted a $2,000 Louis Vuitton bag. Because I knew it would never happen. Besides, it was one casual phone conversation. No contracts signed, no handshakes.
And one more time, I wanted to believe in it all, I wanted to believe in the person making promises, but I knew the old game: promise made, work done, promise broken.
I forgot about the promise. I did the project. We won the award.
Then there I was at the big round table at the awards ceremony. After coming off the stage I was holding the cold, gold statue and feeling so proud and deeply grateful for the recognition. We had done it! Our company had won what was for us, the Oscar award for best picture. And had I not done my part, there would’ve been no chance of this award. I was moved and happy and inspired and grateful. What a feather in the hat!
And then this business man, who had shown me time and again throughout this project that he was different from the first, shocked me one more time. He leaned in across the table and said to me, with happy eyes, “Looks like you’ll be getting that purse!”
My heart skipped a beat. I swallowed hard and searched for air. The purse! The Louis Vuitton bag! Our phone conversation rushed back through my mind and in an instant my whole world shifted. A promise kept!
And not only was the promise kept, but he delivered his statement with such pride and respect for me and the work I had contributed that the handbag became a mute point. It became something small and trivial – a token, really. Truly, it was the thought that counted in that moment.
In that moment, trust was healed. In that moment, hope was restored. In that moment an old painful pattern fell away. In that moment everything in my world was right.
Old Habits Die Hard
But then time marched on. Everyone got busy. A near-fatal medical emergency struck his wife. There were other meetings, contracts, deals… so much business to attend to. And a month went past. Then another month. And another. And a tiny part of me—an old, familiar part—started picking and scratching away at my fragile, newly build bridge of trust.
I tried to quiet her but she was becoming acidic and violent in my stomach, looking for any which way to dissolve my fledgling strands of trust. She came up with every excuse in the book. She invented new ones. She was steadily building her case on how the promise would be broken.
Then the phone rang. It was him, “There’s . . . . something we need to talk about,” and he stopped. The phone was quiet and my whole world caved in on itself (read all about me hanging by a thread here).
“Now, about this fancy purse – we need to…” and he went on about choosing a time to go to Louis Vuitton to get the handbag.
We chose a time. We got in the car. We parked. We walked in the sunshine down the street to the historic and beautiful Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, home of our city’s Louis Vuitton Flagship store.
I crossed the threshold. And with me I brought back a handsome souvenir handbag. It was a hell of a journey.
P. S. My simple and lovely bag is the Louis Vuitton ‘Artsy MM’. Her handcrafted leather handle is a piece of artwork unto itself. She arrived swaddled in her soft yellow dust bag, inside a sturdy LV emblazoned box, nestled in a chocolate-y brown shopping bag of daring proportions. My paper receipt was neatly tucked into an LV pouch with an electronic copy emailed to me on the spot. Such decorum.
Original images © Glamorous Monk
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