Many of the constants that were present in my life at the beginning of this year are no longer. I have lost my husband, my house, my car, my masters swim group, my routine, and I think before the end of the year, my oldest and most beloved cat will also be gone. If you had told me at the beginning of the year that I would experience so many changes I never would have believed it.
I say “lost” but I don’t think that’s quite the right word. “Lost” implies that I was impacted by a natural disaster, or that I’m sad about the change. In some ways that’s true: the changes I’ve experienced so far this year have felt like they’ve been outside my control, and I have experienced profound grief. In many other ways it’s not true – I’ve been able to make choices that no disaster survivor would ever get an opportunity to make, and I’ve come out the other side way happier.
As it’s been put to me, in a divorce you get to pick what you want keep before the tornado rips through your house.
In the end, none of these things define me. The things that matter have not changed: I have family and friends who love me. I have my children, and they are surrounded with people who love them. I’m still me.
For the record:
* It doesn’t matter who left who. I totally get that. I know we were both unhappy, and I will take credit for speaking up first and saying this was fucking with my joy. He gets credit for saying goodbye first. The unwinding took place over a very long period. I can look back now and say it was a risk I’m glad I took.
* It has always been my intent to have relationships with integrity. I’ll always have a relationship with my children’s father, I’m very clear on this. The ending of our married relationship and the transition into our parallel parenting relationship has so far been conducted with integrity, and I’m happy about that. We’re not throwing dishes. We’re on reasonably friendly terms. We don’t hate each other. Our kids come first, we care about them the most, we take care of them first.
* I’m pragmatic about the concept of marriage. When I began this relationship, I had no set path and no agenda. I just wanted to see where it went. And now that it’s over, I can look back without regret and acknowledge what I’ve learned (good and bad). I did everything in this with my best intention.
* To look back with regret would be disrespectful to myself, to my children. I like to say it’s OK to look back, but it’s not polite to stare. My history is part of who I am, it’s made me the person I am today. It’s hammered out the kinks and made me malleable. I can look back over the past years and acknowledge many things that didn’t sit well with me, and I can identify moments that made me profoundly happy. I can also say with hand on heart that I woke up every day and made a conscious decision to stay, I wanted to be there. I decided to be happy, no matter what.
* The pursuit of my triathlon/multisport/endurance hobby did not end my marriage. I struggled with this for a long time because I felt like my pursuit of goals was such an individual, selfish thing. If anything, my hobby is what’s kept me sane and has preserved my own love for myself – if anything, it gave me reasons to feel good about myself when I otherwise did not.
* There’s no such thing as “success” or “failure” where relationships are concerned, there is relating and not relating. It’s not a race. It’s not a contest. There’s no winner, there’s no loser. It works or it doesn’t work, and that’s it. Once I eliminated success and failure from my paradigm it got much easier to forgive myself, and him, and move on to what makes me happy.
* I’m happier now than I was at the beginning of the year.
I’m a planner – a preparation animal. Not having a path is new and different. The path that I had walked for so many years is now gone. In some ways it’s a relief to be in the uncharted waters, and in other ways it’s not. I had long-standing stability, the lack of which I find a little disconcerting from time to time. I didn’t realize how much of a role security played in my life, and how much of my sense of security was tied into my relationship with the spouse (and in the end, I never realized how little security and stability I had anyway). I sometimes find myself craving answers — I sometimes wish my story were already written down somewhere so I could study it, know what’s coming, and feel ready.
Lest I start to sound like I’m all philosophical and perfect and shit, rest assured this is not the case. The floor completely disappeared from my life earlier this year, and it was not a comfortable experience — it hurt. I’ve had plenty of tantrums and crying jags. I’ve had undignified moments where I did not want change, not one little bit. I had an entire month at work where I sobbed at my desk (which was hard to explain to the co-workers). I have had moments where I’d have been happy to see the spouse staked over an anthill. I still have moments where I will cry for no obvious reason other than my grief is just choosing that moment to escape. The emotional roller coaster ride may continue for a little while longer, and I’ll ride it.
Does it sound like I’ve had a lot of therapy? Yes, I’ve had a lot of therapy.
There’s lots of silver lining in this cloud, with the big changes have come new discoveries:
* Change is change: it’s neither good nor bad. It just is…Except when it’s good, in which case, change is awesome.
* There is no timeline on grief, on processing, on recovery. Sure there are plenty of people out there with prescriptive approaches to making life transitions, and none of them are one-size-fits-all. There is no single right way to live a happy life, there is no Life Manual. Dammit.
* Equally, there is no timeline on opportunity. Opportunities come up now, later, etc. They’re everywhere. As it’s been put to me, there are plenty of opportunities for acceptance. This whole process, in fact, has been one giant Opportunity For Acceptance.
* I used to think of myself as one of those people who is fluid and irrepressible, who has strength of character, who eats change for breakfast. I lost track of her, and I think I found her again.
* I’ve rediscovered music. I’ve rediscovered love. I feel like I have the kind of intimacy and connection I have always wanted in my life. I’m finding my joy. Things make sense to me now that haven’t made sense in years, and maybe never made sense before. The happy times I have now are happier than I can ever remember.
* I have experienced unconditional support from my close friends, and deafening silence from others (and outright judgement from a few). I get the impression that my transition has made some people uneasy – I interpret this to mean that I’m making choices that make other people nervous. So what if other people think I’m making a mistake? They don’t have to live with him. Or me. And also, I’m not you!
* I’m happier now than I was at the beginning of the year.
Let’s face it – my crystal ball is broken. If I were any good at seeing the future, I might have avoided some of the pain I have so keenly felt this year. I’ve rediscovered that I’m one of those “Live fully, love completely” types. Right now, I’m doing what makes me happy, and what makes the most sense for me and my peeps – and they’re happy too.
With respect to my multisport hobby, I’m planting flags on various dates where I feel I can. Being a single mom has added a new dimension to my training. It’s not impossible, it’s not even more difficult, it’s just different. I’ve always been flexible about my training times, and now I’m being flexed even more than usual. I’m putting my longest-term goals on hold until I feel like I’m ready to push myself, and putting some smaller short-term goals on the horizon.
And I’m sure I’ll write more about everything as I become more convinced that it’s OK to express myself unedited.
So. What’s next?