These past few weeks have been so hard, grueling really. But this past few days, I feel a shift. The slightest opening. More light coming in places it hasn’t been in months.
The kids were with their dad last week because the custody agreement gives us the opportunity to share school breaks 50/50, and I got the February week off with them when we went to Disney World, so he wanted their spring break. I’ve never been away from my kids for 7 solid nights, not once. So it was hard as I knew it would be. But the timing was good at least. I had (and still have) loads of unpacking to do, and I was working given that the university calendar is different than public school’s, so I had plenty of things to busy myself with.
I also have amazing friends who joined me Tuesday night for the distraction of Greek take-out and a bottle of wine and lots of chatter that, as always, extended to weightier topics. Thursday night, I headed out with friends again to catch up over beer and pizza. Then Friday came with a long day at work in the midst of grading pressures and term paper deadlines, and I got home to an empty and quiet house on a Friday afternoon. I turned on Pandora and got to work unpacking books in what will soon be my reading and writing room. It was raining outside as a soundtrack to my own music, and I felt the exhale of a long week with dissolved tensions. Me, alone, in my own home, with my own agenda and my own music. And that content and promising feeling of a Friday evening. It was the simplest of moments but the one I threw in my happiness jar at the end of that day. I’m feeling less and less frightened by the idea of solitude and independence these days. It seems promising instead of scary.
Saturday brought one of my favorite traditions with old friends. I expected the day to be potentially rough seeing a few faces I haven’t seen since life changed for me. But it wasn’t difficult at all. It was another reminder that I’ve had a solid self buried inside all the other titles I’ve worn in the past decade, and those who have known me closest and longest still see me as that same person.
As the days are progressing, the light is leaking through again in the smallest of ways. I’m starting to feel a new normal arrive, and I shed the old skin a bit more everyday. I think this might be happening in bigger ways, too – but I’m not ready to share all the pieces yet until I see how they fit together. For now, I’m watching things happen and seeing what I’m creating in this new life, and it all feels much less strange than it did only weeks ago. It felt itchy and ill-fitting, but it’s starting to feel like it’s simply the skin I was born in, the path I was meant to walk.
There are lots of reasons for this – time helps, friends help, new perspective helps. But as I’ve been thinking about what creates this change of lenses, so to speak, what dissolves the pain and fear, I’m realizing the main difference is that I’m not sorry anymore. Am I still sad this happened? Sure. I probably always will be. But I spent so much of October through February apologizing – often frantically and aloud in those first moments of discovering things I never expected to find. (Embarrassingly, I remember an early and raw moment when I was sobbing I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry on the phone to my former mother-in-law as it all erupted, and she told me to stop apologizing and get angry instead. I was never angry at that time, only sorry.) Then it became apologizing in softer ways or silently to myself or my kids, feeling heavily responsible for mess I was cleaning up.
To be honest, I’ve carried blame for so many aspects of myself – I wasn’t prioritizing him. I wasn’t fun enough. I wasn’t sexy enough or interesting enough. I wasn’t smart enough, or not about the right things anyway. I didn’t make our home easy and comfortable enough when he returned from travel and let the stress of two pre-schoolers and the daily grind infect our weekends. Perhaps I didn’t choose well to begin with when deciding to embark on a life with someone. I didn’t see signs of what was bound to happen. I didn’t fight hard enough for my family to stay intact and listened too loudly to the burn and brokenness that resulted from the transgressions I discovered. … I was just sorry about it. All of it. And I’ve spent months in a perpetual state of apologizing to others and questioning myself.
I’m reading Amy Poehler’s book (like everyone else has recently), and she has a chapter on apology and guilt. She explains at the opening of that chapter that “It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.” And I ran across that line at just the right time in my life. A moment when, finally, the guilt and shame is starting to melt away a bit. I’m realizing that I’m only capable of changing my own reactions to a situation. I’m finally starting to take things a lot less personally. As a friend said to me recently, you have to finally realize that whatever issues someone else has don’t dictate your own self-worth. It’s not all about me, and it’s not certain that – even if perfection was possible and I was a perfect wife 100% of the time – my outcome would be any better.
And the most important part of this equation is that I am not perfect and was not created to be. I was created to be real. To be vulnerable and to talk about my own perspective and my own pain when I feel led to share. To connect with others and to know myself. None of those things align with perfection. I’m not perfect, but I’m realizing I am enough. I want to simply rest in that for a while and climb my way out of the blame pit, so to speak, that I’ve been drowning in for these past few months.
I have to answer to my own calling and my own conscience and my own voice. That’s it. This is who I am at the moment. This is my story as it happened to me, and this is how I’m taking the pen back on that story, so to speak. I’m not apologizing for anything anymore pertaining to my life state. Truthfully, for every word I write here, there are a million other words and a thousand sordid details dancing in my own head and shared among my closest of friends that I don’t write here because my purpose is not to rehash all the pain and embarassment. I simply scribble notes here on my story as I’m living it with a focus on my own piece of the journey and not an explanation for someone else’s actions because, truthfully, I will never understand that explanation. I will never know that piece of the puzzle.
That’s my present calling – to sort out the messy details in my own heart, to share with people who care to read, and to shed light on where I can move forward and illuminate the moments of gratitude that shine through the mud. The act of writing fulfills that purpose – it’s what has helped me move past apologies and wade through the mess and confusion of my own mind as I move forward to where I’m meant to be next.