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.