“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.”
― David Richo
I’ve been divorced now for 1 year and 8-ish months. It’s been 2 years and 3 months since I last looked my ex-husband in the eyes or heard his voice in my ears. On that final morning when he said goodbye for the last time, I was bawling into the pillows on our bed, my kitty sleeping quietly next to me. He sat next to me for a few minutes, wiping the tears from my cheeks. I told him I was angry with him. It was all I could say. He stood up after a while, turned back to me and said, “you’re going to be okay.” Then he left for work.
I haven’t seen him since.
In the time since I last saw him, I’ve set several mini-forest fires to my life and watched as different parts of my past reduced themselves to piles of ash.
I moved through every cycle of grief about 5 times.
I’ve been in a committed relationship with 4 different men, for varying lengths of time (1.5 months to 1 year). I’ve casually dated several more in-between.
I’ve gone from working part-time at a local sub shop to working full-time for a local software development company.
I began graduate school to pursue my dream of becoming a mental health counselor.
I quit smoking and drinking.
I created a creative writing meetup group.
I’ve traveled – to Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois.
I totaled a car and bought a new one.
I’ve lived in two different apartments and my dad’s home.
I’ve been to concerts and festivals and dance parties and beer tastings (pre-sobriety, of course).
I’ve lost two grandparents and gained both a sister-in-law and a niece.
My life is so very, very different from what it was before that last morning, when he wiped my cheeks dry and showed his final act of compassion toward me.
Want to know something kind of embarrassing, though? Something that makes me feel a little shameful, that I have a hard time admitting even to myself, because of how petty it seems?
Okay, here it goes:
With every life change I’ve created for myself in the past 2+ years, there’s always a small part of me that wonders what he would think of me now. If only he could see what I’ve become, that weepy, scared woman who he promised would be okay someday. I wonder what he would think to see me now, my hair long again, pursuing the things I only ever talked about with him – often while drinking – making something of myself. I wonder what he would feel if he could catch a glimpse of the potential he didn’t stick around for.
In a weird way, a lot of these life changes have come into existence because I’m fighting against what I believe he thought me to be (at least in the end): complacent, all-talk-no-action, unmotivated. When we first separated and I started going to the gym again, I ran on the treadmill like my life depended upon it, and I ran to try to become the woman he would regret leaving behind. I had angry conversations with him in my head, berating him for how unkind and disrespectful he had been, not only to me but to my entire family. I chatted with friends who couldn’t believe how cold he turned out to be. I ranted with my mother. I screamed in my car. And I got back on the treadmill time and time again, trying to prove myself to that apparition of him that was still floating around in my head. I was trying to prove myself to someone who didn’t care anymore. I ran and ran and ran yet still felt defeated in the end. Even then, I kept going. I knew I wasn’t going to sit by and let this completely ruin my life.
It wasn’t until recently that I really, truly realized that all that running, bargaining, yelling and self-defeat wasn’t for nothing. I realized that I have become who I am today in part because of him, but the person I am today would not exist if he were still in my life. My divorce created some very deep, raw, and painful wounds within me; even more, it exposed wounds that were already there, that I thought I could simply ignore – wounds like my co-dependence problem, my issues with alcohol abuse, my poor self-esteem, body-image issues, social isolation, and my low sense of self-worth. Without that exposure, I may very well have continued on the same trajectory I was on within my marriage: of complacency, of dependence, of substance abuse, of dissatisfaction and a general longing for something bigger, better, more beautiful. I may have spent my life wishing, rather than acting.
Those new and exposed wounds brought my most vulnerable self to the surface. I was face-to-face with a lot of the demons I had worked hard to suppress, demons like my problems with alcohol and the effects of a previous abusive relationship.
My alcohol abuse got worse before I finally came to a place where I could accept and embrace sobriety.
My issues with trust and commitment have been exposed as real and persistent issues that I must continue working on.
My ability to deny my depression has dissolved; now, I have to do something about it, or let it consume me.
My uncertainty about the future is blazingly clear to me, but I no longer feel the need to have it all figured out and under control.
I now know how important it is to me to establish a sense of “home” and stability. To find routine. I don’t currently have these things, and the longer I go without, the more pressing it becomes.
On the positive side of things, as a result of my divorce, I found a new sense of strength within myself that I’ve never had before, both physically and mentally. This strength has allowed me to run races, lift weights, begin saying “no” and understand the right time to say “yes.” I have learned to trust myself and my intuition more. I’m no longer sitting by and wishing I could go after my dreams, like graduate school or a writing group – I’m just fucking doing it. As difficult, time-consuming and anxiety-provoking as it is, I’m just fucking doing it. I have discovered the joy of solitary time and solo vacations. I have climbed literal and figurative mountains. I’ve started writing again, with joy and purpose.
I am here, in this version of this universe, as the person that I am today, because someone broke my heart into five hundred thousand fucking pieces and refused to help me pick any of them up. I am here because in this version of the universe, I chose not to give up. At least not yet. Despite trying to literally drown every ounce of pain with ten ounces of poison, despite every inch of self-doubt that creeps through my body, despite every moment I break down and can’t seem to see where the path is anymore, in this version of the universe, I don’t give up. I put one heavy, sober foot in front of the other and I just keep fucking walking.
I hope you’ll keep walking with me, whatever version of the universe you’re in, whatever version of you you’re trying to create for yourself. We haven’t made it this far to only come this far.
Embrace the wounds you bear.
Treat them with the kind of care needed to create beautiful, inspiring scars, marks of not only where you’ve been, but where you’re headed next.
And just. keep. walking.