It’s been five months since my husband moved out, eight months since we knew we were getting a divorce, and some of the reality is only just starting to hit me. No partner is coming home at the end of the day, and no one is waiting for me to come home. No one is going to tag team with me for baths and bed, or watch the baby while I take a nap. I haven’t worn my wedding ring since December, but only recently have I felt the ghost of the diamond band lingering around my finger.
I know without a doubt that this divorce is the right step, the only way forward, but that doesn’t make it easy. My middle daughter breaks into tears at random moments sometimes, filled with sadness that her dad and I are not getting back together. I drop off my kids every other week and don’t see them for five days. It seems unnatural for children and parents to go so long without seeing each other, almost as unnatural as putting them to bed or taking them on vacation by myself.
And then, of course, there’s money. I won’t be able to keep the house my children have grown up in, the house whose walls I painted warm yellow last year. When the final papers are signed, my bank account balance may look a lot like the one I had in my early 20s.
For a long time, I thought I knew how things were supposed to be. I was raised by a single mother, but I was never going to be one myself. I’d gone to college, chosen a flexible career, picked a good man. I was going to make sure my kids had the best upbringing possible. My family was going to be solid and stable, with plenty of date nights and cheerful family dinners. Unlike other couples, whose marriages fell apart, I was going to do everything right to ensure my husband and I stayed together forever.
But I’ve learned in life that there is no “supposed to be.” There are too many things beyond my control, events and twists and turns I’m not capable of knowing.
The loss of a marriage, my couples counselor said, is enormous. And he’s right. But I’ve also been mindful throughout this whole process of how much I’ve gained, how much I’m still gaining. My home is peaceful, free from fighting or tension, even during moments of sadness. I have my confidence, and friendships that continue to grow richer with passing months. I am a beginner again, able to discover new parts of myself. I know now that change is constant, that there are no absolutes, and my own contentment relies on accepting the cycles of life rather than resisting them.
No day is guaranteed to any of us. No marriage is perfect. We all do the best we can, and eventually are forced to make decisions of how best to save ourselves.
This summer, I took my three kids to Los Angeles to visit my father. What I looked forward to most was a chance to run on the rolling hills a block away from his house in a local park called Victory Trailhead. On the day I arrived, I changed clothes, tied my sneakers, and walked toward the trail just as the sun began to shimmer behind an overcast sky. It wasn’t until I ran through the entrance of the trail and neared the top of the first hill that I remembered the last time I’d been there. It was three years ago, when I thought my marriage was steady, when I was on the cusp of a new job I hoped would bring financial stability, when both of my older kids were still in preschool. I had casually walked toward the trail early one morning, amazed by its beauty, but scared to venture too far. I was alone, all was quiet around me, and I was worried about getting lost on the path, or what I might find. I was a panicked and fearful person, unsure of whether I could trust myself. So instead of continuing, I closed my eyes and tried to freeze the image of the hills in my mind before I turned back.
This time, though, I ran quickly up the trail, not knowing my way but confident I’d find it. I fell down once and got back up. I lost my way and journeyed far and after a long time intuited my way back to where I came from.
And at some point, I looked up at the scattered clouds and the trees that seemed like they had always lived, listened to the worn dirt scrape beneath my feet, and felt full of the knowledge that I could not possibly fall. There are too many people in my life holding me up. I have my healthy body, the brilliant blue sky, soft earth, beauty everywhere. I have my spirit, intact and stronger than ever before. I know now — after all of this — who I truly am.
It was in that moment, and many moments since, that I felt like I have everything.
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