Months ago, when the separation from my husband was still fresh and raw, I joined an online dating website.
I know. I know.
I was adamant that I wasn’t looking for anything. I was still married, for one thing, and at that point in my life, I was still hoping like hell that my husband was going to change his mind. Every night, I rocked our daughter to sleep and prayed for God to “bring Daddy back to us”. Looking back, I know now that I was no longer in love with my husband, but I was absolutely petrified of the future. Change has never been my favorite and in those months where the shock had worn off, but the fear was still strong, I clung desperately to the idea that everything would eventually go back to normal.
So no one was more surprised than me as I took a selfie and uploaded it to a dating site.
I can remember sitting at my desk, the sound of my daughter’s sound machine echoing from her bedroom where she slept, staring at that big white box labeled My Self-Summary.
I thought of every cliche in the world. “I never know what to write in these things” or “I’m really terrible at talking about myself”, but the statement that would’ve made more sense certainly wasn’t going to win me any dates. I wanted to write, “I was married and now I’m not. My whole identity was wrapped up in being his wife, their stepmom, her mama. I have no idea who the fuck I am.”
Because looking at our marriage with fresh, hurt eyes put a million things into perspective for me. While I still think my husband could’ve tried harder to save our marriage (And I think he would agree), I also know that I lost myself. The woman he fell in love with was not the woman he left in the end. She had disappeared a long time ago, somewhere between obsessing about children and living for dreams instead of reality. I don’t blame myself for my marriage’s demise, but I know that I was not a good wife in that sense. I could cook, I could do laundry, I could take care of the children, but when was the last time I did something just for myself? When was the last time I picked a movie to watch or planned a date night? When was the last time I thought of myself as Samantha, lover of stupid Will Ferrel movies, sushi and riding with the windows down?
I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I wasn’t going on this website to seriously meet anybody. I wanted to maybe make a new friend, talk to someone without any pressure and, if I’m honest, get an ego boost. Who cares what you write, I thought. You’re not trying to meet a husband, just go for it.
So I started writing.
My little girl is everything I dreamed of and more. Jesus, Braves games, dresses, books, fresh notebooks, Jim Carrey movies, my church and speaking in movie quotes are my favorites. My idea of a “perfect date” changes a lot, but right now? I want hot wings, beer and a Braves game (preferably a Friday night for the fireworks). I love to bake, spend time with my family, drive with the windows down and make people laugh. I like big dogs, kicking ass in bowling, pretending to kick ass in cornhole, coffee, board games, Christmas lights, blue jeans, country music and road trips. I am pretty much always barefoot.
I stared at the white box for a long time again.
Because I couldn’t believe that girl I was describing was me. She sounded cool, fun and someone I would enjoy meeting. I liked that she wasn’t trying too hard, that she had interests all over the place and that she didn’t take herself too seriously. She sounded happy. I really liked that part.
A couple of months after we separated, my husband sent me pictures of myself from the year we first started dating. Granted, I was a much thinner version of myself, but I also noticed the light in my eyes. I was literally glowing in every stupid, arm out-stretched, sweaty after dancing all night for my birthday picture. I liked what I saw. I couldn’t believe that girl was me. She looked happy.
But both of those girls are me. I am them. We are us. If being married and then separated and then in the middle of a divorce has taught me anything, it’s taught me that I am too big to fit into any role, situation or white self-summary box. Walt Whitman once wrote, “I am large. I contain multitudes.” It’s my new favorite quote. It took a long time for me to realize that I wasn’t just Samantha, wife, stepmom and mom. It took me less time to realize that I didn’t have to be Samantha, divorced wife and depressed mom.
It took me no time to realize that I am me. And I am happy.