It’s like ripping off an old bandage. One of those that’s been stuck on the back of your ankle for so long you forgot about it. It managed to hang on through showers until it became sticky and covered with dirt around the edges. It peels off in a sludge, leaving remnants of glue and residue. And no matter how hard you scrub, or rub it with alcohol, the residue stubbornly resists—dead set on just slowly fading away on its own.
Or maybe it’s more like a death. Not some sudden car-crash disaster. No, it’s a slow death from a terminal disease. You expect it, you know it’s coming, so you start playing out the stages of grief in your head, thinking that this will make things easier. It’s not until you’re sitting on a bed in the middle of a room surrounded by everything you own in boxes that you realize what’s happened. No matter how much it NEEDED to happen, no matter how much the suffering needed to end, you’ve lost what you oriented your life around. It’s funny, in its own sick way, that a bad marriage ending in divorce could be so rightly described as death from a terminal illness. When someone dies in those instances people like to say things like “at least she’s no longer suffering,” or “she’s in a better place now.” The problem is, that no matter how awful the marriage was, there is always suffering in the healing process, there is always a period of mourning, no matter how brief, that shocks us as we search and wait for that “better place.”
I didn’t expect it, that’s for damn sure. I didn’t expect to cry over what I had wanted for so long. Now, of course, I had (and still have) unyielding guilt about the dissolution of my family, and the “broken home” that my children will now call their own. But, along with all that messy, messy guilt also comes the knowledge that I did that right thing for them, as well as myself, and probably their father.
I had spent the past few years in a constant state of limbo, trying simultaneously to break free and to save the marriage. I knew I was unhappy, I knew that there were problems I couldn’t solve, and I knew I had to think about the safety and happiness of my children. At the same time, I longed for a change. I wanted him to want me, I wanted him to find me attractive, to want to be near me, to care about my friends, my likes, my interests….anything. But I couldn’t lose the baby weight, I couldn’t change my beliefs, and I couldn’t bleach my hair enough to fix us, because our problems were never that superficial.
There was a very definite period of “where do I go from here?” I had formed an identity that was so involved with anything and everything I had to do to maintain some type of peace in my marriage and for my family, the answers to questions about myself, from the mundane to the deep, intrinsic stuff, were a mystery to me. How could I separate the wife & mother version of myself, from the independent version of myself?
I had to go a little off the deep end—and that’s okay. I needed to get out, I needed to be wild. Hell, I even needed to shirk a little bit of responsibility. Along the way, I discovered what I loved about myself, and what I hated. What could stay, and what had to go. What needed tamed and refined.
This isn’t going to be one of those “I’m never changing who I am” empowerment posts. Because that shit isn’t empowering. Change is good, change is growth. Change is fucking inevitable. The only things certain in life are not just death and taxes, change is certain. It’s like that Woody Allen quote about a shark, but removing the mush. A relationship is not like a shark, life is like a shark—and if it doesn’t keep moving forward it dies.
I’ve said it before, and I really do mean it, even in the midst of the chaos that is my senior year, and grad school application time, and “do all the projects” time….there is a settling in my life now. I’m slowly making changes that will separate me from the woman I thought I was supposed to be. I’m refocused on my future. I’m making new traditions with my children and my friends. I’m finally understanding what this newfound freedom is and how to use it.
I’ve jumped from relationship to relationship since I was fourteen, continually dedicating my energy towards one person or another, always thinking that an “other” was so imperative to my survival. So, I have ever-so-selfishly centered myself in my own universe. There is no answering to anyone but myself and my children. I’m free to enjoy life with no-strings and no ties that bind. And for the first time ever, I can see the miracle in that.