Well, I’m knee deep in boxes, living out of a suitcase, and preparing to move. (Again.)
It’s almost funny how familiar it feels. At the end of this month, I will have moved four times in a year.
I have been in this house just eight months, and it feels very strange to say goodbye so soon, to something I thought would be so permanent.
I placed a lot of hope in this house. Its four walls represented the entirety of a dream I’d been hungering after for years. Stability, security, a chance for our little family to finally put down roots and grow. But just a few months after we moved in, unbeknownst to me, the slow tearing down of my marriage had begun.
This house wasn’t what I thought it would be. You weren’t who I thought you were.
In some respects it’s incredibly difficult to say goodbye. I poured my heart into this house, and I worked my ass off day and night to make it our home. I spent months priming and painting each and every inch of wood trim after Olive went to sleep each night. I replaced knobs, tore down paneling, painted almost every room. And I hadn’t even scratched the surface, I had so many plans. So much potential went unrealized and so many things remain half-finished. The big living room window is still surrounded in painter’s tape, because I remember standing there after all of this had happened, looking at it and thinking, “What’s the point of doing it now?”
This house isn’t what I thought it would be. And in some respects that bald, blunt fact makes it easy to walk away from. It feels like there is so much pain stuck in these walls. Some of the most heartbreaking, hopeless moments of my life were spent here in the navy bedroom I once loved, quietly falling apart as Olive held my hand and watched movies beside me. Here is where I was mercilessly torn apart. The bad memories at this address far outweigh the good, and it’s a relief to say goodbye. Oh god, it’s such a relief to let go. It feels too heavy, too sad.
It’s not what I thought it was, and I’ve had to reach beyond it and what it represented and become something more. I’ve outgrown it, and it’s time to move on.
I’m trying to let myself fully feel both of these things – the pain of the goodbye, and the relief at the letting go – before I walk into feeling excited about what’s next. But I feel it there, pulling the edges of this ending. Champing at the bit, raring to go.
One thing I know: I can make, and have made, a home anywhere. Home for me means Olive and I, so I am more than capable of moving on to making our next one. And the good part is that it will become just what I want it to be.
My expectations for this next chapter rest solely on my shoulders. I don’t need to cajole and push and ask and ask and ask. I don’t need to feel like I’m single-handedly pushing something uphill. I don’t need to depend on someone else to realize this dream of a life anymore. My successes and failures will be my own, dependent on no one else but me. Isn’t that incredible? And freeing? And a bit terrifying, but in a good way?
An old friend emailed me today and at the end of her message she said, “My god, Maddie, how do you do it?? My heart goes out to you.”
We are so adaptable. Endlessly adaptable. I mean, I do it because I have to, what’s the alternative? I can’t very well absent myself from the situation. Checking out is not an option, especially when you have a child. Having Olive has been my saving grace during this whole thing. Some days simply fulfilling her basic needs felt like running a marathon, and I spent the whole day counting down to her bedtime so I could collapse alone. Some days it still feels like that.
But it meant that every day had some definites. I had to wake up. I had to make breakfast for her, I had to play with her, take her outside. I had to wash her clothes, soothe her tantrums. For her I had to be calm and stable and reliable. It took me outside myself and it was hard and it was necessary and sometimes it felt like drowning but it saved me.
This is what’s happening. Right here. The series of events that brought me here are just facts at this point, I rarely cry anymore when I talk about it.
I’m not a fatalist, I don’t think things happen for a reason, but I do believe you can find reason in the events in your life and use that awareness to guide your path forward. I’ve done that, I’m doing that. I have a very clear direction of where I am going. But the way I view that path has shifted.
For a long time, since I was a teenager probably, life felt like it was a train ride with a very specific destination. For me it was pretty conventional, I just wanted a family of my own. I wanted a home, a husband who loved and supported me, a houseful of kids. For a long time I looked at my life experiences until I got to that point, as stops along the way. Nice little excursions, day trips, but not the destination. The destination was always a little further off.
In late July, I reached that destination. It felt good, so good to arrive. And then it fell apart.
It was – is- tempting to just hop on that train and started doggedly working to get there again. A new home, a new husband, more children. I do want that, and I am confident that I will have that, but it’s no longer the point.
Cliches suddenly carry much more weight, because I’m seeing them through new eyes, and they’re true. Life isn’t a destination, or the completion of a singleminded goal. It’s a collection of experiences. And viewed through that lens, there aren’t any failures, losses, disappointments.
Through this lens, this trauma and the ensuing divorce aren’t setbacks, they’re simply experiences I have collected. I was fortunate enough to have the experience of getting married, of loving and being loved by another family, of being pregnant and having a child. I experienced love, and now I am experiencing loss, and it’s made me whole. I know this sounds somewhat cheesy and/or overly “zen”, but it’s truly what I feel when I look at all of this. Because although it’s been painful to let go of some things – Olive having full siblings, or a conventional family – I now have the chance to reach for others.
I met the man I would marry when I was 18 years old. I never lived on my own, and my entire adult life to date has been spent staked alongside someone else. I only dated a few guys before I met Olive’s dad, so I sort of skipped that whole fun dating phase.
Now I get to have these experiences. For the first time ever, I get to be truly on my own. For the first time, mine is the only name on the lease. And for the first time ever, when I am ready, I can just date men for fun, without feeling like I am interviewing them for a position as husband/father of my children (because a real legit serious relationship is the absolute last thing in the world I want right now).
Here’s another cliche: when life closes a door it opens a window. And for me right now that window is being single in the summer for the first time in twelve years. Unpacking in a home that is mine and mine alone. Making decisions based on my own instinct, rather than complicated negotiations and compromises.
It’s all there. Right in front of me. And all I have to do is say goodbye.
Man I love you Maddie, and your posts over the past few months have had me sad for you, mad for you and now so damn proud of you! You go forward and rock the single girl life and you keep killing it as the amazing mommy you are to Olive. She is so lucky to have you and I have faith that you will one day meet the man you were truly MEANT to spend your life with and will end up with many many more beautiful babies!!
Thanks, Kim. Say hi to your little guys for me 🙂
This makes my heart ache. But I’m so inspired by your strength, too.
thank you so much for writing this, i am going thru the same as you, almost exact timing. A 14 year marriage ending, 2 kids and a life about to massively change, i move next week so this was so timely to see it come up in my newsfeed. The most important thing is to have faith and hope and to see yourself in the future being happy.
I am so, so sorry that you find yourself going through this. Sending you (and me!) thoughts for a simple move! I hope you have lots of support – it’s so essential during something like this.
Hugs to you. And kudos for finding the positives in a very difficult situation. My heart goes out to you. I don’t even know a thing about him but I know you deserve so much better.
Thanks, Elizabeth. I think so, too.
I need to email you sometime but wow have your posts touched my soul. So many times I feel tears well up reading your posts but it’s so incredible to read words from someone else that feel so personal to me as well. As always, you’re my favorite Canadian and you’re amazing.
You’re an amazing mom and you’re doing a great job!
This is beautiful. I wish you good luck for yours and Olive’s future.
You are simply amazing…beautiful inside out, smart, funny, kind and so sooo much more…I have absolutely no doubt that you will do great in whatever you set for yourself. As they say- enjoy the ride, it’s not about the destination anyway. Things they can be replaced with better ones, people they come and go, the most important is your daughter and your health, the rest you will deffinitely fix, you’ve got everything you need for it. Many hugs to you! And hoorayy for a new beginnig!! 🙂 xx
Wishing you luck, happiness and good fortune wherever you and Olive end up.
Such profound words. What an incredible woman you are. Olive is the luckiest girl in the world to have you as her mum, leading her through this in the way that you are, with such dignity and strength.
You’re awesome. Way to take the high road. Enjoy the new chapter in your journey!
Beautifully written. Watching your evolution over the past several months has been inspiring. As a single mom, I can tell you this gig is so hard, so damn hard sometimes. But the bond we have with our littles, when it’s just the 2 of us navigating this journey we call life, is so strong.
sounds like you figured out pretty quick that adam wasn’t really the one for you. i think it’s great you figured that out, even if it was crap the way it all came to pass. i don’t think there’s an easy way for a long relationship to end, though (or dramatically change, whatever the case may be). so it sounds like you’re doing the best you can be doing, knowing you’re on the right path for you, even if there are difficulties along the way. and i think the strong emotion about it will settle down and you’ll look back and realize you wouldn’t have wanted that relationship to last any longer, because there are more relationships in your future that will be more meaningful and important over the long run that this one had to end to clear the way for. and i so wish we could all help you hasten the process, but i guess it doesn’t work that way. the growth happens in the process, and all that pain and whatever helps forge new perspectives and courage and whatnot. but you’ve got this. i can tell. <3
Madeleine, this is so heartbreakingly beautiful. The sadness of the situation is devastating, but the sense of excitement for being on your own for the first time is equally profound. I got married and started my family later in life and I look back fondly (and some days longingly!) on my single days. I am genuinely excited for you and Olive. There are some pretty magical and fun times ahead. You are one tough cookie. Hugs to you both.
What a great post. Beautifully written. Thank you for being so candid and for sharing with us. I am excited for your new journey!
Thank you for sharing your perspective. I’ve had many life challenges in the last couple of years, and hearing how you have dealt with this experience has given me strength. Blessings, as you continue to enjoy singleness as an adult. I also went through that and it is very freeing–although scary as well. God bless you and Olive!
You say things so well. All your emotions, all the hopes and disappointments, all of it born witness to this sad home-that-never-was. I am transfixed by the idea of being whole, as opposed to happy – have been thinking of this ever since you posted that quote a few weeks ago. A total paradigm shift for me. You are so wise to recognize the value of all feelings, including pain. Every time I read one of your posts I feel like I learn something or am inspired. And as far as your future goes, I can’t imagine how your former husband could be so foolish as to lose you, but whatever guy ends up getting your heart in the end is going to feel like he won the lottery. Because he did. Keep it up, girl!
Thank you so much, Meg. The idea of wholeness is so helpful, isn’t it? And more realistic, too. I’m so glad you find value in my words 🙂
One more thing. I find it particularly inspiring that you don’t subscribe to the “Everything happens for a reason” theology. As a history teacher who, among other things, teaches the Holocaust every year, I can’t subscribe to that, or to believing in a God who lets unbelievable horrors transpire every day. The fact that you find strength from inside you, not from some “being” who has a “plan” for you, is testament to your abilities.
Wow! There is some definite similarities in us Maddie … I hag to go about it alone after many years also and moved from place to place and believe me you are going to love living life for you! It’s a transition but it’s a good one! Never to have to ask our answer to anyone is a wonderful thing! Besides you write beautifully also. You are a strong woman and you will always end up on top! Hang in there hun it only gets better. Love ya
Joan Vera Leslie ……. Have met you once but would love to meet you again one day!
Thank you, Joan! We will have to meet again 🙂
I know you a bit, and you know what, you will be fine. More than fine. Life is ever changing, and those who can change with it suffer a lot less. You have so much going for you and Olive is the little star.
I wish that I had your attitude and maturity when my marriage ended. It would have saved me a lot of grief. What I did have, however, was your parents. They made it clear to me that just because I was no longer part of a couple, I was still their friend. Their support helped me to make the transition to the next stage of my life – singlehood.
Good luck and enjoy the journey.
It is really sad that you have to go trough all this! Good luck!
Good luck with getting settled in. I think you deserve more, so just listen to your heart – it’ll show you the way! Just stay positive! Greetings, Man With Van Mayfair Ltd.
Thank you, Abigail .
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