Day 542

One week after Thanksgiving I was still trying to process the snap decision I had made. I was leaving my husband…but where was I going to go? When did I plan on leaving? In what world could I possibly make it on my own? I knew I needed a game plan, but with Christmas around the corner, I didn’t have the time or the energy to sit down and carefully think about the next steps I should be taking. There would be time for decision making later. It’s not like anything was changing at home, might as well get through the holidays and focus on my new life choices in the new year. 

The first weekend of December brought one of my absolute favorite events of the year. My dear friend, Tiffany, was (and still is) a theatre teacher. Every December her school threw a Gala where the students and faculty performed. There was a silent auction, buffet, open bar; plus the opportunity to look spiffy in a fancy cocktail dress and support my brilliant friend. On this particularly cold evening I met up with my friends Brittany and Paul, then we boarded a bus headed towards the Bronx and Tiffany’s Gala! During the ride uptown I gave a monologue telling the story of our Thanksgiving weekend and my sudden (and yet not so sudden) decision to move out. I’m sure by this point anyone with half a brain knew that my moving out was bound to happen. My dear friends sat there and once again had to hear yet ANOTHER story about my marriage. What good sports they were. Obviously, they weren’t surprised by my news. We spent the rest of our traveling time brainstorming different options for where I would live. I assured them this would only be a temporary situation…but they knew better. 

I loved being at this little Gala. The children’s parents were so proud. Everyone was dressed in their very best. You could feel the excitement of the holiday season in the air. We bid on hockey tickets during the silent auction and won! Did we know anything about hockey? Nope…but the tickets were for the same date at Tiffany’s birthday and we figured that would be another fun adventure for us. I lived for moments like this. Moments when life seemed normal. Evenings that could be celebrated. Days when it wasn’t difficult to smile or laugh. The reminder that I was still a human living a life. My life. The perfect ease of happiness overwhelmed my senses. That was the feeling my friends so graciously gave me. When I look back at this difficult time in my life, I remember these glorious occasions. They were my life line for so long. How do you properly show gratitude for such a gift? I’ll never be able to fully repay the favor. But being the selfless souls they are, they don’t expect a return on their investment. 

For months I had been so focused on my failed investments. What I wasn’t getting out of my marriage, my in-laws, my dreams, my life, my future. In one evening, God was able to turn the tables and make me take a good, long, hard look at my reality. Through a brief moment of clarity, I was able to see how much others were still investing in me. I had been dropping the ball in more ways than one. There was more to who I was as a human than just the label of “wife.” I was a woman. A daughter, sister, co-worker, artist, Christian, and a friend. People were still investing in me. No one had given up. 

My friends are a beautiful reminder that while God was working in me, he was also working in them. He gave them the tools they needed to help me along the way. He gifted them with pure hearts, words of wisdom, and more patience than Job. Having others continue to invest in me, helped me continue to invest in my relationship with Jesus Christ. And, in the end, walking closer with our Lord is the most solid investment you could ever make. 

Matthew 6:20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” 

Day 533

When a relationship ends, women everywhere can’t stop talking about the fact that they want closure. They need closure. They would feel so much better if only he had given them closure. It’s an anthem sung over and over again until eventually time takes over, the hurt ebbs, and closure becomes a thought of the past. A topic of conversation on those drunken nights with girlfriends. The one last tie they have to a man who decided life would be better or easier or happier without them. I’ve seen this desire for closure turn a joyful heart into a bitter heart. I’ve seen it steal moments in life that should be happy. I’ve seen it turn beautiful memories into nightmares. The lust for closure is a disease that has ruined days, weeks, even months of many sane and intelligent women.

I’m about to get real honest, ladies (and gentlemen). You don’t need closure. You don’t even want closure. Do you think that if your ex sat you down and told you calmly every reason why he thought your relationship with him was a mistake you would actually feel better? You wouldn’t. The reality is that you wanted the relationship to continue and he didn’t and you are hoping that a rational explanation would in some way make your feelings change on the matter. Your feelings won’t change. You were in love. That doesn’t change overnight. It takes time. You aren’t searching for closure. You want to change his mind. You won’t change his mind. Move on. Realize that what you truly need, what you should want for yourself isn’t closure…it’s peace.

In any break-up or divorce or separation, there is a power exchange. The one who loves, oddly enough, has no power; while the one who wants to leave suddenly owns all the power. Love will make you stay. It will make you put up with actions from your partner you never thought in a million years you would stand for. Allowing yourself to love means you can get hurt. So, basically, all of a sudden you find yourself still desperately in love with someone who doesn’t love you back and has stolen your power. And now you’re mad and hurt and you want closure. This is the way it has gone for generations. Now, sit down and think about it…what happens if you get closure? Will you also get love? Power? Healing? No. Just an explanation that justifies what you don’t want to hear.

About a month ago, my beautiful Aunt asked me if I was ok with the fact that I never got any closure for my divorce. I surprised even myself with my answer. The lack of closure doesn’t own me. It’s not something I ever thought about for any length of time. I don’t know what drove my ex-husband to fall out of love with me, disrespect me, or cheat on me. But it truly doesn’t matter. The victory of healing doesn’t come with the knowledge of understanding his faults, it comes with finding a peace within myself. I may not have closure, but I have peace. Closure is something you have to be given from someone else. Peace is personally attainable. Peace can lead to healing. Peace will move you forward. 

If you stubbornly choose to only search for closure, you aren’t punishing anyone but yourself. He’s gone. You’re still here. Every day when you wake up, you have to live with yourself…so you might as well start learning how to love yourself. Wrapping yourself in the certain peace that you are awesome, a beautiful child of God; and giving gratitude for the life you’ve been given will bring you more happiness that a hundred conversations with someone who never realized what a gem you were in the first place. Go find your peace…take back your power.

Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hears, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

Day 526

We took the bus to his family home the day after Thanksgiving. I was still hurting from the previous evening. Thinking about my little Charlie Brown Christmas tree and the tragedy that had become our marriage. He was excited to be headed home. Who could blame him? No one nagged him at home. No one questioned his whereabouts. No one held him accountable for his actions against his wife. Home was a safety zone. Fair enough. 

We didn’t speak much on the bus ride. In happier times, we would have shared earbuds and listened to music. He would have fallen asleep and snored. I would have snuggled into him to keep warm on the drafty bus. We had taken this trip together so often in the course of our relationship. This would be the last time.

When the Greyhound pulled into the station, we disembarked and took the all too familiar escalator to a wall of windows. We stayed inside to keep warm, like we had so many times before, while we waited for his parents to pick us up. Suddenly, I turned to him and said, “I’m leaving you.” I hadn’t really thought it through. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know why, at that particular moment, I had decided to declare my exit from our home. The reality of my situation became clear to me. I knew I couldn’t live like this any longer. 

I could tell this piece of news surprised him. Frankly, I surprised myself. I wasn’t trying to be dramatic. It was as if an articulate robot had taken over my words. I told him I would tell his family this weekend. They deserved to hear it from me in person. After all, I considered them my family too. They had known me for more than seven years. I told my husband I didn’t want a divorce, we just needed to separate for awhile. I told him I loved him and wanted out marriage to work, but he caused me to live in pain and fear every day. I was slowly dying inside and I couldn’t go on like that any longer. Then, my in-laws showed up and we headed to their home. 

The weekend was sad. I was sad. Broken hearted. I kept thinking about all our previous Thanksgivings together in this home. Somehow, I knew it would be my last. We had our Thanksgiving dinner with his family on Friday. We all went to the movies on Saturday. Everyone pretended we were one big happy family. Maybe they all wanted it as bad as I did. Maybe they were fooling themselves into thinking everything would be ok in the end. Maybe that’s why they never asked how I was coping. Maybe that’s why we never had the difficult conversations. Maybe that’s why we were all together, but I still felt alone.

Sunday morning I woke up and shuffled into the kitchen to find my in-laws. I remember my pajamas. I remember the knot in my stomach. I remember my pathetic little prayer to God before I approached them. I sat them down. I tried to convey how much I loved their son. I wanted to be clear about my feelings. I told them we were separating. My decision. Whether they wanted to believe it or not, he wasn’t getting any better. My life was a nightmare. He found his actions acceptable and no one was telling him otherwise. Of course, all along, I had been hoping they would step in and demand responsibility from their son. Or maybe, at least, show compassion for my suffering. She cried. He told me he understood my decision. And just like that, they let me go.

A few hours later we were back on the bus headed home. A home that wouldn’t be mine for much longer. I still didn’t have it all figured out, but I knew I had to leave him to save myself. I had to leave him and hope he could find his way back to me. Back in our apartment, I stood staring at the tiny Christmas tree I had put up only three days earlier and prayed for the faith needed to save this marriage.

Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Day 517

I love the 4th of July. I love America. I love that for at least one day out of the year, we can set aside our political differences and come together with pride to celebrate our country. Our heritage. Being an American, to me, is more than just where I was born. It’s an ownership in the life I lead. A time of gratitude and reflection. Fellowship. Finding a way to observe this holiday is important to me. In general, I love a good theme and any excuse to wear a red, white, and blue bow…but it’s more than that. On Independence Day I want to stop time, take a long hard look at my surroundings and the people who are placed on this earth with me, and ask the hard question. What have I done to make my country a better place to live? 

I know we’re not perfect, and I’m certainly not smart enough to try and write a political post, but this is where we are. This is where I live. This is the country, state, city, community, that runs through me. When I was growing up, I didn’t understand. It made me uncomfortable that everyone seemed to know my name, whose child I was, the complete history of my family tree. It made me feel vulnerable, like I was constantly trying to catch up to a certain ideal image of myself that was completely unattainable. I knew early on that as soon as I could leave I would get as far away as possible. I wanted some anonymity. I wanted to redefine myself on my terms. I wanted different. 

And so I flew out of the nest at a break neck speed. College in St. Louis and then straight on to New York City. I spent a semester during college studying abroad in Europe. I traveled as much as possible. I accepted acting contracts from Arizona to Florida and anywhere in between that would take me. I worked hard to forge my own little life, trying to make it work as best I could. Meeting friends that would become my family. Learning more about myself every day. Finding pride in my personal independence. 

I’m not sure what I wanted independence from. Not my family. I love being a part of our family team. Not my home. Not my little county. Maybe I just needed to feel like just me, alone, was enough. There’s a certain sense of pride that comes with that knowledge, and to be blunt, I think most people are afraid to find out if they are enough for themselves. A lot of humans go through life without pushing themselves to discover what they are truly capable of. They wander around following the easy path set before them without getting to know who they are, what they stand for, where their passions lie. Even thinking about that possibility now, I know that kind of life would have meant a swift and certain death for my soul. 

Being able to come to the realization that I was an independent woman also brought the realization that I am so proud of who I come from. During a particularly dark time I remember thinking about the sacrifices made before me. The sacrifices made before anyone ever knew there was ever going to be a me. The sacrifices my great grandparents made to give their family a better life. The sacrifices my grandparents made for their children, which helped shape my parents. The sacrifices my parents made so my sisters and I could go out into the world and live our dreams. Everyone worked too damn hard for me to ever quit on myself. That’s not who I am. That’s not a part of our legacy. 

Finding joy deep down in your core, which keeps you rooted to all the elements that make up the different parts of you is just one reason to celebrate the 4th of July. Feeling a sense of honor to those who have gone before you and paved a way for you is another. Taking pride in your personal independence, but giving gratitude to the country that helped make those freedoms possible brings a sense of humility to the celebration. Knowing that if you feel lost, you can return to those who understand who you are because it is who they are adds a sense of peace to this beautiful holiday…and suddenly you are where your heart was born… you are home.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”