I feel like I’ve been staring at this computer, the cursor’s blink the only thing decorating the blank screen, for what seems like days trying to write this post. It’s funny, you’d think the one announcing my divorce would have been harder to pen, but it’s this story that’s proving far more difficult. I think it’s because the last post was filled with definitives. It was a factual representation of my life these past 7 months. To me, it read more like an informative news story and less like an emotional feature.
That story had an ending. This one? I actually have no clue how this narrative, or really my future, is going to end.
I find myself with my feet firmly planted facing a fork in the road. However, unlike Robert Frost, I’m not welcomed with a path that offers least resistance. Both of the trails I’m faced with come with their own set of obstacles. There’s not one that’s easier to traverse. One comes equipped with tangled tree branches thick with thorns, rocky boulders, staggering mountains and verdant bushes coated in poison ivy. The other? It’s home to slippery mud paths that plunge into rushing rapids and dark caves that offer no visible respite from the stifling darkness. No matter which way I go, I’m going to get my ass kicked in the process of trying to find my way out.
I almost wish I could give that answer when people ask me the careless question, “Now what? What’s the plan for your life?” The question is innocent enough, and I know people don’t ask it with malice intent. But I can’t help but wish they’d refrain, ask me anything else. It’s not just a loaded question, it’s a painful one – one that brings tear-inducing memories of a life I no longer have claim to, a future I willingly gave up.
When I was married, that question was easy. “Oh, we’re moving to Charleston! Or, we’re saving to buy a house on James Island! Yes, kids are in the picture.” The answers flew off the tongue because, in all honesty, I believed them for quite a bit of our 5 year marriage. It wasn’t until the last year that I started to feel this nauseating dread whenever someone asked us over stuffed turkey or Christmas presents, “So, when are you going to have kids!” Once again, a question innocent enough when the rest of your family is pregnant or expecting, but one that comes with a different kind of sadness because deep down, you know you’re not going to have kids together because you’re probably not going to stay together. For the first time in our 9 year courtship, I saw the end of our marriage when I closed my eyes and thought of the future, not a suburban home filled with the sound of kids.
Fast forward to this past October, and the crushing reality of our finalized divorce was raw. Even though we both knew it was for the best, it didn’t make the insufferable loneliness that followed any easier to bare. Saying goodbye to the relationship was hard, but saying goodbye to the future we planned was inevitably harder. I no longer had something substantial to plan for. I found myself alone, living with my parents and with absolutely no clue where I was going to be in the next month, better yet next year.
And that’s where I find myself still, more than 7 months later. Despite a brief, yet meaningful, foray into dating, I don’t find myself any closer to finding love. In fact, I think I’m maybe even further away. And the reason for that is simple – I had my heart broken. But the thing that’s the most surprising is this break hurt (and still hurts) more than my divorce did. Looking back on our time together and how our relationship began, I’m not surprised by how it ended. Before we can get to that story, though, you need to understand the first couple chapters of my post marriage dissolution dip into dating.
When I first found myself ready to get out there, I knew almost immediately I couldn’t stomach something serious. Which is why I entered into every chat, every first date, every kiss and romp in the hay with the same perception – you’re only here to fill a void. And, for the most part, it worked. I was selfish, carefree and completely ridiculous. And I’d be lying if I said every moment wasn’t fun. I’d wake up with a huge smile on my face, the taste of their kiss still on my lips, feeling more empowered, more sexually confidant and stronger than I had in years. I’d walk down the street and people would see me. They’d smile, they’d do a double take, they’d stare from a distance. I felt alive, insatiable, irresistible and beautiful. It wasn’t until the holidays rolled around that those feelings started to fade and I found myself face to the face with loneliness – that haunting feeling I thought I left behind.
The holidays are tough on anyone, but they’re even worse when you’re recently single after being a “we” for the better part of 9 years. Despite my best attempts at putting on the “happiest” face, I found moments when I was so utterly alone I couldn’t breathe. That’s the thing about loneliness that people don’t realize – it isn’t just a feeling or a thought you can push away, it’s physical, visceral, all-encompassing. It can debilitate you in a way you only thought a broken leg or a throbbing migraine could. And I was feeling every single one of those this past December. There were days I’d cry uncontrollably, where I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating a peanut, better yet a healthy meal. There were countless nights I’d spend wide awake, forcing my poor dog to cuddle with me so I didn’t feel so hopelessly alone. It’s easy to see why, then, that I threw everything I had into the relationship that quickly began around New Years.
And like the glisten of an ornament against a pine tree or the sparkle of a string of lights against a frosty window, my days finally had a touch of brightness.
The moment he came into my life, everything changed. As fast as loneliness crept into my days, it dissipated with every conversation he and I had. I didn’t mean for things to happen as fast as they did, but with him, it just felt so natural, which is why I threw my entire self into that relationship. Instead of entering with cautious trepidation, I put my heart on my sleeve and trusted him with an almost blind optimism. We went from flirty chats to texts to hours long phone and Facetime conversations. I told him things I never told anyone before, and he the same. It was one of those storybook romances that you don’t think exist, and when they happen to you, you feel a mix of both gratitude and crippling fear. Of course, as quickly as it began, it ended, and it’s not hard to see why. When things start so passionately, your judgement gets clouded. It’s not until those moments you’re alone together that you realize you didn’t really have that much in common and you’re both going in directions that couldn’t ever possibly align into a realistic future.
At least that’s what happened with us. We both realized that, despite how much we cared about each other and how passionately we felt, a feasible and happy future was never in our cards. It was a hard, gut-wrenching decision – one that brought tears that still pour down my face, but it was the right one. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. See, I’m a hopeless romantic, I’d rather face an uncertain future with someone I could really love than a miserable one without them.
But that’s not the point of this post. The sadness that breakup caused me only solidified one thing for me – I had no idea what a future as a single, successful woman looked like, and I still don’t. I have a job I love (that people envy), a family that supports me and a body I’ve worked my ass off to achieve. On paper, I have it all together. We all know, though, that life is never black and white and, despite these realizations, I’m still more clouded, confused and – if I’m being 100% honest – alone than ever.
When I close my eyes and think of where my life will be 6 months down the line, the visions that appear always have another person in them. Even when I try my best to imagine a life without someone else, a life that’s completely my own, a secondary figure always appears, one that pulls me close and holds my hand when we walk down the street. I don’t know what a life, or a future, without someone to share it with looks or feels like. And until I can, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to answer people definitively when they ask me “Now, what?”
Unlike my other posts or stories, I don’t have an answer at the end of this one, because I don’t know how to authentically respond to that question. I want to believe that the mismatched puzzle pieces that make up my life will eventually form to create a beautiful picture, but I have no idea. All I can do is continue to try my best to be the strongest ME I can be, and in return, hope I find the closure I need from these heartbreaks to move on, and the strength I so desperately desire to build a future that’s just my own.
Until then, my life is shrouded in “now, whats” and my future is as foggy as a San Francisco morning. And for now, that’s just going to have to do.
Tags:dating, divorce, finding happiness, how to deal with divorce, moving on, real life