It’s been almost a year since I last posted. Life threw quite the curveball at me and as I fought my way through, writing fell away. Lately, the itch to find my voice again has come back. Below I share the journey I went through this last year. I don’t plan to go into any more detail, but I hope it helps shed a light on where I’ve come from and how it may influence where I’m going.
I always assumed nightmares were full of hideous creatures and unwelcome thoughts. They were supposed to be scary and contain visions of your biggest fears. But I recently had a nightmare in which everything in the dream itself was quite lovely. My husband and I had made amends, we were packing our things to move onto the next chapter of our lives, and the last thing I remember thinking before waking up was how lucky I was, how grateful that everything turned out OK. As I woke out of my dream, reality hit me instantly and the wave of tears came suddenly and heavily. My dream was indeed a nightmare, or was my reality the nightmare?
If the latter is true, my nightmare started late last year when I discovered something that shook our marriage to its core. And just when I was coming to grips as to what happened and how we could go about fixing it, he had made the decision to not continue as us. To not try to fix it. The man who could fix anything did not want to fix this.
I remember the moment in which he told me because the words felt violent, even though he said them calmly. My brain and body shook with confusion and devastation. Anger and grief came a few seconds later. I couldn’t think straight because I had so many questions, so many feelings hit me at once that I literally couldn’t process anything. So I cried. No. I wailed. The tissue he offered seemed like the most insignificant gesture as the tears came too quickly that anything short of a towel seemed too small to hold them. I think I may have let them flow all over my clothes. I may have yelled. I’m not sure. That was the closest to shock that I’ve ever been in.
That shock lasted me several months. I dipped often into anger and sadness, but disbelief ruled supreme in the early days. I wasn’t prepared. Not for this. You see, as imperfect as he and I were together and separately, we promised that we’d work through anything in marriage. We had our hard days, but we were both hard workers. Overachievers. There was nothing we couldn’t do. I loved him almost to the point of infatuation at times and naively thought I got my Prince Charming. Yes, he had warts, but none so large that my unconditional love couldn’t embrace.
And then I saw THE wart. The ugliest kind, and I questioned our love. But after a few weeks, I decided to dig deep. Deeper than any kind of love I had ever offered before. And as I dug my heels in and braced for the hard, hard work, he had decided that he didn’t want to work that hard. That THIS work wasn’t for him.
That’s when the second shock set in.
At first, I blamed myself for not being worthy of his love. If I was truly worthy, he would do the work. (Overachievers do the work until there is no more progress to be made.) So why wasn’t our marriage worth the work? Was the outcome – being with me forever – not as appealing anymore? Oh, I clung to that assumption. Obsessed really. I thought about not being enough to the point of waking in the middle of the night, and it being my first thought.
As I tortured myself, he seemed relieved with letting go of us. While he eagerly prepared for life without me, I grasped at my value without him. WE had a future. Without him, what was mine? The hardest part of this time was living together – 6 months after he told me he wanted a divorce. He was moving (WE were supposed to be moving) and preparing that new life, while I grieved and grappled with my next steps. I watched him progress emotionally at the same time that it took all my strength to survive. Shower. Check (sometimes). Feed and walk dogs. Check. Get to work. Check. Eat. Check (sometimes). Just when I’d feel strong, my heart would remind me that I loved him, and I’d go back to survival mode.
As of today, the divorce has progressed enough that I’ve recalculated. I’ve envisioned a short-term life without him. The long-term has yet to take shape. I still have days when I’m sad and grieve what was and what could have been. There are a hundred things that I’d still like to say to him. But if I could only say one, it would be to not offer his love again until he’s ready to give it all – until the work is worth the risk. Not the risk of minute arguments or even the major disagreements, but the kind of love that sees your absolute worst – the worst hurt you can imagine – and then some. A love that sees that kind of bad, takes a deep breathe, and decides to dig deep together. The kind of love that I gave him.