It struck me this weekend that since I have left, I have not looked back. I realized that in the two-plus months that I have not lived in the beautiful, 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath colonial home we so lovingly selected and purchased together, I have not let the emotions of loss or grief, or perhaps even reality, fully sink in. Instead, I have kept busy, hardly finding time to sleep or keep my up my new apartment. Not when I was living out of my car and sleeping on various couches before my apartment was ready. Not when I packed up the U-Haul and removed all signs of my existence from the house. Not even when I met with my soon-to-be-ex to discuss division of assets. Somehow this has all been done on auto-pilot, with minimal emotion and reality lurking only in the background.
This weekend it hit me. Like a Mac Truck.
I realize that with any loss in life-whether it be a physical death or the death of a relationship-the various stages of grief come at their own time and move in their own way. However, I don’t really know if I have yet to face any stages. Even the stage of denial seems to have yet to pop up (unless I am in denial about denial, ha!). I have felt sad, yes, but only insofar as empathy for others. It is as if I have nothing, myself, to grieve, or perhaps more accurately, don’t feel like I have the right to grieve since this was, after all, my decision to walk away. I have only really felt sad when I see can see the pain in the eyes of those left in the wake of the divorce storm. This is particularly poignant with my ex, himself, as I can read the pain and the hurt in his eyes as clear and unavoidable. Family members have also reacted with much sorrow, which, in turn, makes me feel sorrow. But for them, not for me and the life I have walked away from.
It must be this avoidance of my own authentic sorrow that left me in the fetal position on my bed at 7pm this past Friday night.
This weekend, I finally came upon a night where I wasn’t either busy or so exhausted I was collapsing early in bed, and instead I was faced with the unwelcome alone time that comes with being single and on your own. When I made the decision to leave, I had the notion that I needed to face life head-on and learn to be alone with out being lonely. I saw that I was strong enough to stand on my own, but I needed to experience it, since I had yet to be on my own and not in a relationship for more than two weeks since I was 16 years-old. I thought I was doing well with this…until this Friday, when I wanted to go out and do something but had no one to do it with.
I realized that in the ‘old days’ I always had a fall-back plan (which was more welcome and positive than it sounds), of hanging around with my husband, and usually, his best friend (whom I also considered a best friend). On those nights, we would watch trashy TV, play cards and otherwise bullshit while consuming specialty cocktails or wine. I no longer had this fall-back plan. I no longer even had my two best friends. I no longer had my comfy couch, in my cozy house, with someone always around to keep me company. Granted, at times this lack of alone time was a chief complaint of mine. But in the twilight of this particular Friday night, as I took my dogs on an extensive walk around the city and I saw the rosy glow of lights set against the impending darkness from the insides of brownstone apartments. I saw homes with friends and families sitting down to dinner or heading out for Friday night festivities, and I felt impossibly alone in the world at large.
As I headed up my steps with the pooches to my own building, I caught a glance of my neighbors entertaining friends in their living room, complete with wine in hand, and I was reminded of a game my Grandmother used to play with me. To keep me distracted in the back seat of the car on longer rides, she would often tell whisper in my ear “home” or “not home” based on if the lights were on in a house as we passed by. The lull of her rhythmic whisper would calm my nerves, and put me in the most restful sleep. But before I drifted off, I would study these homes and think how cozy the insides looked; I imagined how happy and content the people were in that warm light. I was awestruck at how I still felt this way, all these years later, observing my own neighborhood in that moment.
I realized that this is what I have been striving for my whole life. That sense of ‘home’ and belonging. I have wanted to reach out and grab the warmth and contentment I felt coming from the lit up windows and doorways. That’s why I married someone who was safe and secure but did not hold my heart. I felt that if I could create one these perfect homes like those I observed from the backseat of my parents VW Jetta, everything else in life would automatically become perfect too.
At first, this train of thought left me longing for my house again and my old, simple life. But then, I began to reconsider. Maybe it’s this image that is my problem. This image of ‘perfect’ which has been inanely constructed so many years ago, is actually quite sophomoric and impractical. When I think of the reality of the situation, I can guarantee that all of those glowing homes hold some degree of dynamics and relationships that all carry their own emotional baggage and tangled mess of issues. After all, just a short time ago, I was one of these homes where from the outside, everything seemed perfect.
It was then that I recognized the truth: it’s not the light from within these houses, or the furniture and decor, or even the activities bustling within them, that makes a home feel so warm; it’s the souls dwelling within it. The hearts and emotions of the people who love each other, care about each other, and love living life together. It’s a concept that seems so elementary, and yet, I clearly had not understood this until that exact moment. That’s what I want. I want to exist with other souls who make my heart smile and my head feel light.
I may not have this warm and happy life in the exact capacity that I want at this exact moment, but as I clicked off my living room lights and shuffled sleepily into my dimly lit bedroom to find both of my pooches waiting for me with eager eyes, curled up together next to my pillow, I felt my heart skip a beat with love. I knew then that the simple fact that I had love in my life meant I was on the right path and not all hope has been lost. Kissing them both on their soft little noses, I had a momentary feeling of contentment for the first time since I had left.