The heart wants what it wants. Ha. I googled it – Emily Dickinson. That’s something that no one tells you. That it can happen. That you can be perfectly content or distractedly content, or in some sinister state of utter denial – too busy, or dishonest or scared to stop and clean off the lens so you have an accurate picture of where you are. And then something will happen.
You will be standing in the shower and realize that you’re about to initiate a conversation that you’ve had before but it feels different, truer somehow. You’ll send another email, you’ll both agree that while you’re happy that things are not perfect, and actually they’re far from ideal. And you’ll agree that you both want things to change and that the impasse is because you’re both stumped about what to do, which feels true when you say it, but another part of you that is sort of slowly waking up … is calling bullshit on that. That’s only part of the truth. The other part of the truth is that there is a solution but it’s utter destruction. A truth that’s existed far longer than it’s been acknowledged as viable. Ofcourse that’s always an option. Start over. But you can maintain what you have, and part of you really wants to sustain that, solve it, refine it and continue to believe that it’s something that can survive. You built your life entirely around one other person. They’re your family and interwoven through every element of your life. Why would you change that? Deliberately inflict so much pain, invite chaos, alienate yourself, leave yourself without the family you chose, quite possibly end up alone. Who does that?
You do. That’s you. You took the lid off this Pandora’s box and it was this uncontrollable unraveling. Could not un-do it. You wanted to lie. To yourself, to him, to everyone. Because it would have protected you and meant you weren’t walking away from the life you’d built to completely start over. You knew you would do it. You just had to slowly turn around and face it.
It’s been like tearing apart the worst onion. Ripping off layers. Yes, your marriage is over. And when you’ve been with someone for nine years you’re breaking up with everything. Your spouse, your life, your routines and comforts. Ripping off an endless series of bandaids. Tell your family, tell your friends, wait to be judged, hated, pitied. Relieved because work is new enough that you can hide there, smile, try to just enjoy being in a good spot with smart and interesting people. The previously perceived source of stress (new title, new responsibilities, surrounded by brilliance and intensity, trying not to fail) is usurped by the utter insanity of the complete unfamiliarity of the rest of your life. There is nothing to prepare you for waking up every day and feeling this crushing sadness, panic, resignation.
You go home and realize that no one is coming back. You don’t own a hair dryer any more. You gave up your car. You really need to remember not to take the trash into the alleyway at 11 p.m. because there’s no one there to look for you if you get jumped and you’ve been gone for 30 minutes. You stop wearing your wedding rings. You realize you have a fridge full of groceries for two people and a life that no longer exists. For awhile every day you have these moments of abject terror. It’s been weeks since you’ve been able to eat normally, waiting until you’re starving to even try because you’re not sure you can choke anything down. You’re already full… of this pulsing sense of anxiety. What the fuck are you doing and each day that passes you realize that it’s harder and harder to go back, to undo the path you’ve put yourself on. Until you realize that your worst fears, that you got it wrong, that any smug sense of success you felt about how you’d “won” your life was delusional. That the thing you thought was the worst possible thing, your permanent partnership ending, was already happening, and you weren’t so broken that you couldn’t continue. You realize that you knew that there was no permanence to anything, that you, like everyone else were measuring something with a set of rules that made no sense at all. Success was not, IS NOT, finding a single person and making it work forever. The cultural and social forces that sold the entire western world on that notion are assholes.You feel vaguely foolish for ever thinking you got anything right.
But you feel guilt for feeling brave. It’s not really confidence if you truly feel that you have no option save for starting over. That’s where the reality lives. You can want, to want something, but there is no bridging the gap to make that true if your heart has already decided it’s not about the work. It’s not that you wouldn’t work, if there was something to work for but it’s like a fire that’s already gone out, you can’t bury it in more fuel if there’s nothing left that will ignite. You have the memory of the warmth and the feelings of all of the experience that existed before it went out, you remember that it had kept you warm but not anymore. Not because someone stamped it out, or dumped water on it. It burned up what was there and turned it to ash and before you knew it that blaze you already carried around was chewing through fuel you didn’t realize you were feeding it but it was a completely different fire.