I have thought a lot about how we as humans have a tendency to sleepwalk through our lives. Given the events of the past several months, I have been jarred from life as it was into a brand new reality. I think for most people, life is like the movie, Groundhog Day. We get up, go to work, deal with our kids, dinner on the table, speak a few words at our spouse, usually about the house, errands or the kids and then fall into bed, exhausted. The next day, we get up and do it all over again. Our lives settle into dull routine, punctuated once in a while by some one off event or vacation or catastrophe.
After having my life upended the way it has, I have realized that perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. It has taken me a while to get to this point, but here I am. I am 41 years old, soon to be 42, and I am not living a life even remotely close to the one I want to lead. I have felt dissatisfied with my profession for a long time and long to put some business ideas into something tangible. I want to travel more, experience more. I want to write more, create a blog that allows me an outlet for my writings. In other words, I have dreams, large and small. And life has sped by, until I find myself here, at this moment. I am at a crossroads, for lack of a better analogy. I have felt stuck for so long, complaining about how unhappy I am, but doing nothing. Fear, frustration and potential failure has kept me inert, terrified to do what needs to be done to move forward. One benefit of having the rug of your life pulled out from underneath you is realizing that nothing is guaranteed. What you once feared has happened and you are still standing. If that is the case, why fear failure?
I now control the narrative of my story. There is no necessity any more of worrying about making someone else happy, compromising my dreams away. My daughter's health and happiness always comes first, but as my therapist tells me, our kids do as we do, not what we say. If I want her to be her own woman, to forge her own path, I have to show her a woman doing just that. Having the future wide open to you is a scary thing. But terribly exciting at the same time. I wish the separation didn't have to happen for me to realize all this, but it is what it is. I have to stop being afraid of failure and embrace the possibilities. Life is too damn short and I have too much to do, see and be.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
I have been itching to spill the words running around and around in my brain for several months. But it has been hard to actually do the writing. I am not normally a person that talks about their personal life, especially online. But I feel compelled to write something about my life the past several months, just in case it might resonate with someone. I have used blogs and articles to get through the multitude of feelings and crap I have experienced lo these many months. This won’t be as eloquent or beautifully written as most of those, but this is my truth. And maybe, just maybe, I can help someone else feel less alone.
I am now mostly a single mother and I am getting a divorce. Those words are ones that I never imagined in a thousand years I would ever type. My husband and I went on our first date a little over 16 years ago and were together from then on. It was an epic first date and the start of many happy years and adventures together. But something changed for him as our daughter grew, as he worked opposite hours from me with people 10 years his junior. He told me he isn’t meant for this life any more, this life we have spent 16 years building together. He wants out. At first, I was floored, shocked, devastated. I never saw it coming. What happened, I asked, over and over again. No answers were forthcoming and they really haven’t arrived to this day. I have my suspicions, but that isn’t for me to elaborate on. That is his story, not mine.
I went into panic mode, trying to fix it. Marriage therapy, trips, date nights, long, painful talks. But he had checked out a long time ago, wanting a brand new life. There was a final straw for me after desperately trying everything I could think of to fix what was broken. And he moved out of our home.
The time leading up to the move out was the most wrenching, painful, humiliating and soul crushing time of my life. I kept giving him chance after chance, begging him to care, to fight. I literally fell to my knees some nights, racked with sobs, unable to stand from the weight of it. I got to sit down and tell my daughter that her father was leaving and wouldn’t live with us anymore. Talk about a parent failure moment. I was so consumed with pain and grief that I know I didn’t give my daughter everything she needed. And that made me feel even worse.
After the move out, honestly, there was a sense of relief, a decision made. No tension in the house, no arguments. But adjusting to being alone, at first, was painful and lonely. I have had my husband with me for 16 years. Once my daughter was in bed, the nights stretched out before me. But I sadly realized that that has been how I have lived the last three years. Alone and lonely. It almost felt like nothing had changed from how it had been before. But in other ways it had. The ripping apart of a life built together is not easy. There are good days and there are wretched days. Days when the loss and pain overwhelms me still. Other days when I see my daughter and I’s shining futures beckoning us ahead.
We have sold the house we bought together, my daughter and I moving into a new place, a new start. My husband has found a new beginning as well. Life is settling down, little by little. But there are still those days, the days that I can barely function. I have a great therapist that helps tremendously and I have had the support of friends and family near and far. But when the life you had planned is blown up in front of you, the rebuilding is a long and painful process.
I know now that I should have seen this coming, that when you don’t see your spouse except for little snatches of time, there will be problems. When you don’t nurture your relationship, do the work necessary, it will die. That isn’t all of the problems, but it is certainly some of them. I was tired from being a mom to a very active child, working full time at a job that isn’t my passion, maintaining a house and had no time or energy left over. I always thought that we would have time to fix it, that we were strong enough to withstand anything. I was wrong.
My husband, even after all of this, is my best friend. I think I am still his. Ours is not a normal, by the book separation and impending divorce. I guess I am lucky in that sense, especially after hearing about devastating and painful divorces. We talk every day and see each other most days. We even go out on family outings all three of us sometimes. We get mad at each other, say painful and hurtful things, but we have so far managed to make up with each other. My daughter is struggling, extremely clingy and having issues at school. This has shaken her and we are trying to support her and get her through. She needs both her parents and we can’t be at each other’s throats all the time.
I have noticed that some people in the world, ones that are comfy in their “happy” marriages, seem to blame me, blame the wife in the relationship, that it must be my fault. I drove him away, I was hard to live with, I drove him to it. Living with anyone is hard and living with him wasn’t the easiest thing. But it is easy to think that, to treat me as less than because I don’t have a husband any more. To them I say, fuck you. I fought for my marriage, I fought for my family, but it takes two. I failed at keeping my family together and it hurts every day. But you don’t get to judge my effort or what I did or didn’t do to keep it together.
Others seem to think that divorce is a communicable disease, that you can catch it somehow and they stay away, fearful. If you are that scared, then listen to yourself and fix what is broken. But it isn’t anything you can catch. Use my story as an impetus to strengthen it, to work damn hard at keeping it strong. I wish I had, but I can’t go back and do anything over. All I can do is just move forward. I hope to someday take what I have learned and find love again, to have a partner again. The thought of being with someone else, to date, makes me violently ill and I know I am not ready. I may never be ready. And that is okay. My life will not be defined by whether I have a man in my life any more. I have my daughter and I have me. That is enough.
And I am moving forward, slowly, but surely. Every day gets better, easier to deal with everything on my plate. There are set backs and the day I sign my divorce papers, you will find me in a fetal position, sobbing my eyes out. To those of you going through this or to those that are farther down the road than me, I see you. I care about you. The up and down rollercoaster feelings, practically from minute to minute, I have been there. I felt schizophrenic some days, rapidly cycling through emotions. The pain that feels like a rock in your gut, weighing you down? I have been there and still am some days. It does get better, even just a few months down the road. Feel what you feel and do what you have to do to get through. There is no wrong way to grieve, to hurt, to move on. My therapist taught me that. I am in control of my grieving process and how I live my life going forward. If I can give any advice, it is to never apologize or shy away from what you feel because it makes other people upset or uncomfortable. YOU are the one going through it and no matter how helpful people want to be, until they live it, they can’t know what it is like. And my experience will be different from anyone else’s. I can’t pretend to know your life and you can’t know mine. But we share something unspoken that people who haven’t gone through this can’t know.
The last seven months have been the worst, most painful and gut wrenching of my life. But I am determined that this will not define me, that this won’t break me. I have a daughter to demonstrate strength and resilience to. I get to plan out what our life looks like, our family of two. I wish that I could have saved my family. I still do and probably always will in some sense. I see it as the biggest failure of my life. But I have failed before and will again. From the ashes of my former life, I am waiting to be reborn.