The past four years of my life have been partially defined by SEPARATENESS. Some phases more strongly than others, but separateness all the same.
In 2013, I had the worst conversation I’ve ever had. When I looked into the bloodshot eyes of a man whom I loved very much… and whom I had very much grown to resent and nearly hate. When I finally spoke a truth that we both had suppressed for longer than either of us even now care to admit, you could almost hear the crack. My breaking heart. His breaking heart. Every thread of our intertwined lives were not patiently untangled, they all were simultaneously and viciously snapped apart. Acknowledging that our marriage was not working and our perfunctory attempts to fix it were insufficient, we came to a conclusion. We were just broken enough that it couldn’t be salvaged. Or maybe we were just both too selfish or too stubborn or too young to enact the enormous changes that would have been able to reconnect the severed pieces. Regardless, we decided to end a marriage to spare the love that still remained. To not devolve into hate the way so many incompatible couples do. To call it a draw and exit kindly, with compassion and care.
I have the best divorce of anyone I know of. But the hurt still managed to undo me. Had I the option, I would have sacrificed a lung to be rid of it.
After that conversation, I found myself estranged from my Person and shortly thereafter we became permanently SEPARATED one week after our fifth anniversary.
Only those who have had to deconstruct the promises, hope, and safety of a long term relationship can understand. That isn’t to say short relationships or breakups from someone you’ve dated doesn’t pack a punch. Those cause permanent and depleting emotional injury and aren’t to be undermined. But similar to how the first weeks of marriage are inexplicably different than being engaged, divorce has it’s own unique set of debilitating heartbreak.
Because I felt so entirely shattered, I developed a strong and deep desire to reunite myself with, well, myself. To take a hard look at why my marriage failed and how I contributed to its demise. And how to never, ever experience such pain again. At first, being alone was easy because I felt so incapable of loving and being loved. I exercised fanatically, went to the movies three times a week, and survived on a diet of red wine and caprese salad. As the shock wore off and I began to feel at ease in my new apartment and routine, I devoured self-help books, sought out a therapist, and carefully unpacked the bitterness and error from my baggage.
It took me nearly a year to start dating again. And three to actually label a man as my boyfriend. But throughout the bad dates and budding relationships (which I fled at the slightest glimmer of attachment or vulnerability), I continued to pursue myself. I discovered not only what really mattered to me in a relationship, but what I wanted out of life. What I expected out of me.What skills I had neglected after years of focusing entirely outward. What terrible habits I had fed after years trying to silence what was inward.
My divorce ended up fostering a reunion with myself.
I recall one weeknight in 2015 as I folded laundry in my bedroom, listening to Spotify and getting tipsy off Knob Creek. I was hit with this overwhelming sense of being exactly where I was meant to be. I was *finally* on the right path and the universe gave me a small nod and said see? this is YOU and she’s pretty damn good. I was very much single and leading a relatively tame existence. Work, friends, exercise, food, booze, sleep. The change was that for the first time, I felt deeply and truly content without requiring another person to complete the picture. I was enough.
I mention all of this because I’m at the end of my SEPARATION phase. After nearly nine months, and for the second time in my life, a man will be moving into my apartment and I’ll be cohabiting the same bed with another person. Shared meals, shared chores, shared remote, shared expenses, shared future. I couldn’t be more thrilled because Josh is 100 percent absolutely worth the endeavor. Worth the risk of possible heartbreak again. Worth soldering my life to.
And as beautiful and exciting as the next chapter is, I want to pay respect to everything I gained from this past one. Where I became me. Where I learned the necessary lessons and took the necessary precautions to prevent what I was most afraid of in a relationship.
So while making space for the few possessions Josh will be transplanting, I’ve watched all the embarrassing TV I love. Ate my favorite foods. Peed with the door open. Worked late nights and stayed in bed a little too long. Left my apartment a mess with dirty underwear and discarded outfits on the floor. Sleeping in the middle of the bed and stretching my appendages to each corner. Making space and breathing appreciation for those tiny, random benefits you get only when you live alone. Seeing them for the gifts they are and acknowledging what they’ve made me.
This Wednesday I will come home with my journal, some Knob Creek, and a big heart. Honoring with ritual the gratitude of my undoing so that I could become whole with the greatest love of my life. Not writing off the chapter with desperation and dismissal; rather, sending it off with gratitude and love.
THIS UPCOMING WEEK may take us all be SURPRISE…
Lin’s VOW mantra: Enjoy the stillness and honor the end of this phase.
Lin’s Song of the Week: These Eyes by The Guess Who
Don’t forget to check Steph’s post on #VOWseparate