I don’t know specifically what “day” it gets easier. I can’t tell you the moment I knew I was no longer in love with my ex-husband. I’m not sure of the instant when I realized I just didn’t care how he felt about me. And I don’t know the hour when I clearly understood how happy I was to not be married to him any longer. I wish I could pinpoint these rare pieces of time in my brain, in my soul, but I can’t. I can remember asking others in my similar situation when the pain would end. I remember feeling that if I knew the exact date, I could endure the despair more easily. I just urgently wanted to know when I would feel “normal” again. When would I feel like myself again? When would I like myself again? When would I be able to love again? When would I be whole again?
I can’t tell you dates, but I can give you examples of milestones. I am home. I am home for several reasons, but mostly I am home because the time had come when I needed to go through the life I left behind. When I left New York City (three and a half years ago), I boxed up all my belongings and put them on a truck and sent them to Tennessee. They have been in storage ever since. The universe aligned itself so that I would have two weeks off to be home and to go through all of these boxes. The time had come to purge.
When I explained this to people I got the normal “Well honey, if you haven’t needed it in three years, then it’s time to let go.” Yes, I get it. If I haven’t worn it in three years, then give it to Goodwill. But we aren’t talking about just clothes and shoes and scarves (who knew I had so many scarves). These are boxes upon boxes of memories of a life I used to lead. Leftover wedding invitations, engagement photos, anniversary cards, save the dates, etc. I saved it all. On one hand it showed how my precious little heart believed that my marriage could be saved. On the other hand it is a reminder of the biggest failure of my life. Staring up at me…box after box.
I’ve been trying for a few days to put my feelings on this process into words. There is a song in the musical A CHORUS LINE called “Nothing.” And for the most part, that’s how I felt. I felt nothing. I felt nothing as I threw away photos and cards and momentos and leftover wedding crap. I didn’t feel angry (to be fair, I rarely get angry). I didn’t feel regret. I didn’t feel sadness or pain or fear. All of the emotions I learned to live with for so long didn’t come rushing to me. I remember briefly thinking how odd it was that someone I married felt like a stranger. I threw him away easily. As easily as he had thrown me away three years prior. There were no tears. No shortness of breath. No hate filled words. I was a woman on a mission. A woman with a job to do. I unemotionally trashed what was left of my marriage. This is huge because I am truly an incredibly emotional person, so to do anything without emotion is unlike me. I couldn’t work fast enough. What I had planned two weeks to accomplish, I did in 5 days. And just like that, it was over. I did it. No big deal.
I can’t say that all of it was void of emotion. I remember looking at myself in an engagement photo and feeling so sorry for that girl. That girl that I don’t really know anymore. Poor thing. Little did she know what was ahead of her. Somewhere she is still a part of me, but she has changed so much. The important thing to know is that there was NOTHING wrong with that girl. She was lovely. But I am not that girl anymore. This girl that I am, she is ok too. But she is different and she can’t go back to who she was. She can’t unknow what she knows. And that’s life. It’s tragic and beautiful all at the same time.
The other reaction I had to these five days was exhaustion. When I wasn’t purging, all I wanted to do was sleep (and eat). It is exhausting to have your past thrown at you. It is exhausting to realize that your life can fit into boxes. It is exhausting to have to ask yourself, yet again…was it me? To look at yourself that clearly takes a lot out of a gal. At some point I felt a pull at my heart and I desperately wanted to call my friend Galloway and ask “Was I ok then? Am I ok now? You know me. I need you to tell me the truth!” But there comes a time when you have to learn to like yourself and not constantly ask for the approval of others. So, I threw on my big girl bow and dealt with it.
The positive points to those five days are mostly practical. I got rid of a lot of stuff. I feel cleansed. I feel proud. I like being able to realize in any way possible that I am growing as a human. I have less weighing me down. Literally and figuratively. I laughed. I didn’t cry. And my mom had a grand time cutting my ex-husband out of pictures.
This story is a simple example that it will get better. It will. It will take time. But you will heal. And this is just one story. There are others I could tell. When I knew I liked being on my own. When I knew I didn’t need a man. When I first felt proud of myself. When I knew I was ready to date again. When I knew I could love again. When I knew I was in love. And when I realized I didn’t need anyone but myself to make me happy. This doesn’t mean there aren’t bad days. This doesn’t mean I don’t still have divorce PTSD. It doesn’t mean I won’t text Galloway for validation that I’m ok. It just means I won’t text him as much. It means my boyfriend will have to patiently love me through my “crazy” times. It means I will smile more than I will frown. It means my prayers will have more gratitude than requests. It means I will live with the understanding that I am already a whole person. God created me already put together. And no man will tear me apart again.
Psalm 139: 13-14 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”