Every Woman that Figured Out Her Worth …

Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change. ~ Shannon L. Alder

The other day I was visiting an older couple my daughter had met at work. They were adorable, and sweet, and mentioned they’d been married for 50 years.

When I got home, and had some quiet time to myself, I realized: I’ll never have a 50th wedding anniversary. Even if I met someone tomorrow and remarried right away, I doubt I’ll live to be 106. Maybe so, but not likely. And I felt so sad, and demoralized.

Part of me deeply grieves my divorce. Sometimes it almost seems like childbirth – we forget the messy, painful bits after it’s over. Looking back, I remember the good parts, and have to remind myself that yes, there were valid reasons why I left. And those reasons are still valid.

Still. Never to have a 50th wedding anniversary. It pinches the heart.

Then again, I never had the relationship that would make it to 50 years the way this lovely couple does. Sometimes I wonder – should I have tried harder? Should I have done something differently? Yes, of course. There are lots of things I could have done differently, but deep in my heart I really do believe that nothing would have been good enough to change the trajectory of our relationship. We were broken, together.

I’ve realized knowing that still doesn’t mean there’s no grieving. The rational part of my mind that gives me all the reasons why, and tells me it was the right thing to do, doesn’t silence the irrational, emotional side that grieves the loss of the dream we had on our wedding day. I grieve for our failed relationship. I grieve for my kids, that they no longer have one home with both parents in it. I grieve for the future, when there won’t be Christmas mornings with everyone in the house, meeting in the living room at 7 am for presents and breakfast. I grieve for the things I could have done differently, but didn’t in the depths of despair over a relationship that made both of us miserable, no matter how many times we went to counseling or tried to fix it on our own. I grieve for the life that should have been.

I grieve for myself, on my own again, alone.

Just because a marriage was bad, doesn’t mean we won’t grieve its ending, and all the things that now will never be.

I know this is all part of the process of moving on. I sit here in this in between phase, grieving the past and what wasn’t, and not knowing the future and what could be. It’s hard, and scary, and sad.

It’s also essential. I have to deal with this emotional crap if I’m to move past it. So there’s no telling myself not to feel it, not to grieve, not to wish things could have turned out differently. It’s essential to feel it all, to own it.

I’m working on that – feeling it, owning it, free from blame and guilt. It’s a process, and part of the process is forgiving myself for what I view as my mistakes that led to where we now are. Maybe once I do, I’ll be able to move on, not with grief but with hope. And embrace the unknown, the insecure, not with fear but with elation.

Friends tell me everything will be okay; I’ll be fine. I need to believe it.

You cannot swim for new horizons …

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. ~ William Faulkner

Well, this journey certainly continues to be a rollercoaster.

Yesterday marked the end of my first week alone in this new place. All week I had actually been doing pretty well – staying busy unpacking and organizing, keeping in touch with friends and family via text, phone, and FaceTime, entertaining myself in the evenings streaming silly TV shows, feeling the companionship of a very goofy and energetic puppy.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I decided to make popcorn. And promptly, and quite unexpectedly I might add, found myself sideswiped by the depths of despair.

It’s strange how innocuous, even mundane things can bring a flood of memories. Like making popcorn. As I stood at the stove melting butter, pulled out a paper grocery bag and the salt, I was assailed with memories of making popcorn with my daughter. She was always the bag-shaker as I poured the butter and salt onto the popcorn. The same as I was for my father in our family popcorn-making ritual.

Then we’d all sit down to watch a movie.

I felt so very alone trying to shake that silly bag of popcorn and add the butter and salt by myself. The loneliness, distance, and disconnection nearly doubled me over.

There are times when being alone brings peace, tranquility, space to breathe and be, and even clarity. There are others when it’s just lonely. The latter times really suck, and for now, I feel stuck in that place of missing my kids so badly it physically hurts.

Rationally, I know even if I was back home, it wouldn’t be like it was. They’re both away at college, and the days of having them home, making popcorn and hanging out on any given night, are past us. I guess I’m mourning both the current distance, and the passage of time. Knowing my kids are not mine anymore, but belong to the world and are off creating their own place in it. It’s equal parts wonderful and inexorably painful.

Being a mom is a fabulous gift. To bring two separate and distinct beings into the world, raise them into a good, caring, conscientious, smart adults, and then let them go is huge. I already went through the process of leaving them at school, mourning my empty and too-quiet house, missing their footsteps on the stairs and their voices coming in the front door. Right now, I feel like I’m going through that process all over again, and the joy of being a mom moves from a gift to a curse when it’s time to let go. Again. Is it a constant state of letting go, or does it ever get easier, become the new norm?

It’s what we as parents have to do, of course, if we’ve been good parents. Our kids are not supposed to stay with us forever, and we’d be doing them a huge disservice to raise them that way, or to expect that.

Still, having to let go, again, and do it from such a distance is infinitely harder than I envisioned. That the simple act of making popcorn made me realize this is kind of ridiculous.

Unexpected Emotional Cesspool

Wow, it’s been quite an unanticipated emotional roller coaster since I moved out of my house on January 6. I’ve been sharing bits of my journey on my social media platforms, and my most recent post talked about this and my upcoming cross-country move  a little bit (basically as a reason for why my accounts have gone silent). I said something along the lines of calling this time I’m in my emotional cesspool because it’s been a quagmire of excitement and anxiety, exhilaration and fear, and unexpected mourning and grief.

I realized I have to embrace and really feel all of these emotions, no matter how uncomfortable or exhausting, in order to fully move forward. It’s not fun, but it is necessary. And I also realized that the definition of cesspool – an underground reservoir for liquid waste (such as household sewage) – really fits. I know I’m not alone in this, as one of my SM followers posted a comment that resonated with me on several levels. It was:

“You’ll never know how many women who read your posts are in painful , scary, confusing, and even dangerous situations. None of us has known how we would EVER get through it. But, we do, scars, lessons, strengthening and all. We need each other in those times to see glimpses of another’s courage, hopefulness, and success. So thank you on behalf of all of us who are on our own journeys, for your generosity and courage in sharing yours.”

Wow. It brought tears to my eyes to read this, and reading it again now, I’m tearing up yet again. (This is likely due in part to the fact that being in the place where I am, it doesn’t take much to make me cry. My emotions are like raw, exposed nerves and it doesn’t take much to set them off. But, to be honest, I’m a sensitive and emotional person in general. I cry at sappy movies. Heck, I cry at stupid TV commercials. It gives my kids no end of entertainment to look over at me to see if I’ve teared up over something.)

I started this blog as a way to work through my own sh*t, and for whatever reason it felt more “real” to be writing it in a public space. I’m writing it anonymously because I wanted the opportunity to be completely honest about my life and changes, but I don’t want anything I’ve written to hurt people, even my ex.

But, her comment is the other main reason I started this blog – to perhaps show others that we are never alone, or even all that unique, in what life throws at us. That it IS possible to make changes, no matter how scary change may be. For so many years I felt afraid and just stuck, and I felt all alone in this. I only talked to a few close friends about the details of my marriage. I felt like I was stuck. Rationally I *knew* I wasn’t the only one in an unhappy marriage, but I felt very alone.

I was afraid to be on my own, supporting myself, after so many years of not being the primary breadwinner. I was afraid of damaging my kids by splitting up their home. I was afraid my ex would make my life hell – he said he would many years ago, in a fit of anger, when I said I wasn’t happy and didn’t want to be married to him anymore. At that time, it scared the hell out of me because my kids were very little and I could not imagine putting them in such a situation, or splitting custody and not being there. So I backed down and soldiered on.

This time around, my kids are grown and off to college. I finally realized I had two choices – to stay where I was, content sometimes, miserable other times, probably more financially secure because we had two incomes. I could see my life stretch out before me – kids gone (because, of course, that’s what we do as parents, prepare our kids to leave us), just the two of us at home, the inevitable arguments, and the constant undercurrent of anxiety about when the next blow up would be. I could no longer do it, and the alternative of being on my own, wholly supporting myself (I’m a self-employed artist), splitting up our home, was terrifying, but I knew it was the direction I had to take.

Change is f*cking scary. But what lies on the other side of the fear of change and the unknown? We’ll never know until we confront it the fear, and walk through it.

I’m doing it. Some days kicking and screaming, others weeping and afraid, still others completely bogged down in grief. But yes, some days are with excitement and anticipation. Time will tell what’s on the other side for me, and for any of us finding that where we are doesn’t work, and has to change.