It’s been a year. March 8, 2016 was both an end and a beginning for me. And it’s been a ride. Not only have I survived, but I’m pretty sure I’ve come out on top.
When I realized that my 23 year marriage was over, I was devastated. A blubbering mess. I cried. Oh, I cried. I wailed, I screamed, I swore. I stopped eating and sleeping. I was a ghost.
For a while there I lost myself. I lost my joy. I was struggling—confused, betrayed, desperately wishing for what I had. For a time there I didn’t like myself much. It was as if I was standing on a ledge looking down on the shadow of a woman I used to know.
But I persevered. I put one foot in front of the other and got through the days. 365 of them, in fact.
And here I am. Would I wish my journey on anyone? No, not a chance. Would I change anything? I don’t think so. It’s been bit of a wild ride. Here’s how I got to the other side.
By being open to feeling the feelings. First I cried. The tears, they came like a tsunami. Then I talked it all out. And talked and talked. And I tried to rationalize someone else’s decisions and someone else’s behaviour. I got angry. And I got numb. Then one day I was standing in my kitchen and I felt peace. I realized that I was happier now than I was before. Recognizing that I could be happy again was my first step to healing.
By realizing what I’d really lost. My mother pointed out that what I was missing was the idea of my fairy tale, not the reality. Divorce wasn’t on my radar. I’d survived a tumultuous childhood that was lacking in security and stability, and all I wanted was the perfect home and family I’d lacked as a child. I may have convinced myself that I was living the dream, but I was not. I stayed in a marriage that didn’t really serve my needs for far too long. I was bemoaning the loss of my marriage, not the loss of the man I was married to.
By embracing fear and instability. I was afraid of being a divorcee. I was afraid of living without my ex-husband who I’ve been with my entire adult life. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid people wouldn’t like me or that I would be a bother or burden. I was afraid to go after what I want or to speak my mind. I was afraid of living by myself, which I’ve never done. I was afraid to get my heart broken again. I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough money. I was afraid to make more mistakes. Fear is a part of my life, but it’s causing me to live with courage.
By not closing off my heart. I think the easiest thing to do when you’ve been hurt is to lock your heart up so it doesn’t happen again. But I didn’t. Against all advice, two months in, I met a man and I fell. Hard. He was everything I was missing in my life. I was desperately lost and needed to be found. He made me feel important and interesting and desired and sexy and like a woman worth knowing. The way he looked at me, the way he touched me… ahhh… it filled all the holes my unfulfilling marriage had dug. But I wasn’t ready for it. I was too damaged. I used our life together to escape the broken one that had been handed to me. Unfairly, I made him the well of my happiness. I knew it was too much, too fast, but like a boulder rolling down a hill, I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t step away to breathe and the more he pulled away, the more I pushed for validation. The sad thing is, I didn’t recognize myself in that relationship. I hated the odd, needy, overly agreeable, boring stepford-esque person I’d become, but I wasn’t in a place to be anyone else.
And so it goes and my heart was broken for the second time in less than a year. But then I healed it. All by myself. I made myself whole. And I came out happier, more confident, independent, and secure. More importantly, I learned what the joy of a good, loving, affectionate relationship could feel like. He showed me what I deserve. And for that—the one that got away—well, he will always have a piece of my heart.
By being stronger than I thought I was. I never saw myself as a capable, independent woman. I just went along with it all, and I relied on my ex-husband to make all the big decisions and to support me when I was down. Anything else unpleasant? I just pulled an ostrich and stuck my head in the sand. Thing is, when push came to shove, I found a hidden reservoir of strength. My son said to me, one day when I was falling apart yet again, “Mom, you may bend in the wind but you will not break.” He was right. So I got the tattoo.
By understanding that divorce is not a failure. I was married for a long time and I did my best. Yes, I made mistakes, but don’t we all? I tried to be a good wife and a good friend. The thing is, no matter how hard you try, sometimes it’s just not meant to be.
By knowing that happiness lives inside of me. I’ve been doing a lot of yoga so excuse the buddhist philosophy, but the only person who can make me happy—or unhappy—is me. I’m literally a cornucopia of abundant happiness. I own my joy. I’m content with my lot.
Realizing that family is where the love is. At no time have I felt like I’ve taken our family away from my children. I guess it’s because I’m a child of divorce, but I already knew that two homes are just as good as one. I’ve always said that all children need in life is to know that they’re loved and respected. Now I know that they also deserve to see their parents happy.
By knowing what I need. At the beginning I railed against all the help and advice I was given. “You’re lucky to have a fresh start.” “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to you.” “You’ll love being single.” “You’ll learn to love—maybe even crave— being alone.” “This is the beginning of the rest of your life.” (Wait. Isn’t every day?).
Fact is, I’m so grateful to my friends, family and community. My children took care of me in a way that children should never have to take care of their mother. My friends stood by my side and listened to my endless nonsense and my mother and I found a new closeness that I treasure. Even so, sometimes it was too much. So I’ve become my own master. I ask for what I need, heed the advice that resonates, eat thai food in my bed when I want to, and tell people to go away when I don’t want them.
By knowing my end game. I get lonely, and that’s ok. However, being single is not what I want for myself in the long-term. I’m overflowing with love and I want to share it with someone else. Yes, I relish being in control of my own time, but I’m not so jaded that I want to be alone forever. But I’m not settling for less than.
By giving up my need for control. I’ve learned that I cannot control situations, other people, actions or outcomes. I can only make things happen that I am in charge of. All I can do is be direct and be honest about my own needs and then it’s out of my hands. The tides will roll in and out according to the laws of gravity and there’s nothing that I can do about it.
My final words to you if you’re in the thick of it all? The process is a living thing so let it do it’s thing. Try to love the person you’re becoming. Live with reckless abandon. Go after what you want. Embrace the small moments. Have fun. Learn from the past, live in the present, and plan for the future.
Babe, you cannot go home again, but why would you want to?