Two and a half years ago my marriage imploded. Little by little I move toward a new life, a life which once again fits me and incorporates my dreams.
Two and a half years ago, I had my dream life. I had found a partner who shared some of my most important dreams, and we were building a way to make them real. I had love, a beautiful home, and work that came naturally to me and allowed a lot of time to create the larger life we wanted.
Then one afternoon, after a few months of slowly and quietly escalating strife, my husband said he was not interested in discussing whatever was going on, whatever the uncomfortable undercurrent was. No interest. Period. Done.
I left our house at daylight the next day, and headed to a little seaside cabin—distraught, and sick with fear, heartbreak, and confusion. I hoped to do the romantic thing, stare into the ocean and find magical, healing, balm and solace. In the end, it wasn’t that easy.
The end of my marriage brought the end to so much in my life. I had no husband, no home, no income. I no longer had a vision of my future. I was L O S T, lost. I cried for hours at a time. I raged. I hated. I pounded my head on the pillow, the floor, the wall. I drew deep, hot baths, and sunk into the water until my entire body was below the surface—where the world is very quiet and calm.
And there still was no magic healing.
But there had to be some healing. Life had to get better, or I could not bear it. I soon knew that, in spite of the love and attention of friends and family, the only one who could make a real difference, was, of course, me. I realized that I had to take care of myself, first and foremost. I had to be selfish.
Here’s what I cobbled together on my way to finding a new life.
1. I stopped drinking.
My brother explained to me that to deal with my life now, I would need a very clear head; he strongly suggested that I quit drinking. I had brought a bottle of white wine and a bottle of something bubbly with me to the little cabin beside the sea. After he said this very sensible thing, I dumped out the remainder of the open bottle, and passed along the unopened bottle to some gals in a cabin on down the way. For two and a half years now I have been sober. I don’t regret the sobriety and the clarity.
2. I started attending Al-Anon meetings.
My (now ex) husband is an alcoholic. Now some people say I am not allowed to call him this, that I must say he is a “problem drinker”. But the truth is—so clear in hindsight—in spite of all my wishes otherwise, I married an alcoholic, and I was an enabler. So, to look for answers, I went and hung out with the pros—other men and women whose lives had been affected by alcoholics. I learned lessons I had learned years before, but hadn’t mastered. I learned (again) about the disease of alcohol, how it’s not anything *I* can control. I was repeatedly reminded that I could expedite my healing by keeping my focus upon me and my own issues. These meetings were life-savers (I still attend), and have helped me find an iota of forgiveness for my husband’s actions. More importantly, they keep me accountable for my own actions and choices, which are really the only thing I can directly affect.
3. I made a concerted effort to eat healthful foods.
Too worn and frail-feeling to bear a trek to the grocery store, I ordered tons of groceries online—healthful foods, easy-to-prepare foods, comfort foods. The main point was to keep the pantry and refrigerator stocked, keep eating, and eat reasonably well.
4. I enrolled in Pilates classes, and attended three times a week.
This was uncharacteristic of me, and a milestone. I abhor exercise—I’m an active person, but things such as working out at a gym, to me that just seems wasteful. And, Pilates is expensive! But this was a major step toward caring for myself, and undeniable evidence that I was doing so. I needed such evidence; it was like a marker of success, somehow.
5. I wrote.
I used blank-paged journals and watercolor crayons, and I wrote just about everything. I recorded the day’s weather and the day’s feelings. I made lists of dreams and wishes and fears. I imagined new lives. I sketched the things I saw around me. I kept notes and planned my day. Among other things, the writing served to purge destructive feelings, clear my head, and to give some hope to my heart and soul.
6. I read.
I needed advice, perspective, support, and hope; Writers who addressed abrupt change, alcoholism, and betrayal hit the spot. I don’t recall exactly how I came upon the books I ravished, but there was some very good karma helping me find these titles (you can find the complete list on my “shop” page). I highly recommend the following; they were each keenly appropriate and easy to read, even in my addled, sorry state.
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön
Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal, by Julie Metz
Drinking: A Love Story, by Caroline Knapp, and
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, by don Miguel Ruiz
7. I asked for and accepted help.
I leaned on my friends and family. I did this in ways that fit for me and the time and place I was in. For example, when I moved into my new apartment I knew I wanted an influx of the love from my friends, but I did not feel up to inviting anyone over just yet. So, I invented the Mailbox Housewarming Party, and invited everyone to send me something “warm” in the mail. It was humbling to ask, and felt a little silly and pretentious, but for the next many weeks my mailbox was a very warm and friendly place, with postcards and packages—an array of well-wishes that still, to this day, warm my heart.
8. I sought challenging acts, at which my success was not guaranteed, but was likely.
I knew I had to boost and re-build my confidence and self-esteem, and I knew that I could use both “baby” and “giant” steps to do this. We each have our own struggles and fears, and our success-building challenges will differ. One of mine was just taking care of myself; the Pilates and well-stocked pantry were little successes in that realm.
On a larger scale, I plunged into NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. My goal was to write 50,000 words in thirty days, which works out to be about 1,666 words a day. The daily goals made this foray seem attainable, and, gave me small successes as I kept my word-count steadily growing. The final “win” of 50,000+ words—before the final deadline, mind you—was a ginormous boost to my confidence, and something which I can always look to for hope and faith in myself.
I call the photo above, Reach for the Sky. The tendrils of clouds seem to be reaching, grasping, aiming for something more, something beyond. I like to think that I am reaching for the sky—now from a position of some clarity and strength. I’m not strong every day; hell, I’m weak more often than strong. And I mostly run around still very confused about what I want from life. But.
But I have come nearly 180° from my chaos of two and a half years ago. In incremental bits and pieces, I have been healing from the worst personal devastation I’ve known. Bit by bit, I again want to reach for the sky.