This weekend marks a year since I sat my husband down and told him that I thought we should separate for the summer. It was one of the hardest conversations that I have ever had in my life and looking back in that moment, I was terrified. I was terrified that I was making a mistake but I was also terrified that I wasn’t. I didn’t know what the future was going to look like, what I wanted out of my life or where I was heading. I didn’t know if I wanted to stay in my marriage or if I wanted to leave. All I knew was that I was unhappy. I felt like I was drowning, and as hard as that moment was, it also felt like I was coming up for air. For the first time in a long time, I allowed myself to take a breath.
Fast forward a year.. and where am I now? Am I happier? Do I have a better understanding of who I am? Was leaving the right choice? Well, that is the question isn’t it… A year ago I was living in the country, sharing a house with my husband. I lost a husband, a home and a dog. I sound like a bad country song. But I also gained so much.
I gained a place of my own. Moving in with a friend allowed me to transition from my marriage into singlehood. The move into an apartment of my own allowed me to have space that was my own since I was a teenager. It gave me a safe, quiet place to process, to heal and most importantly of all, to grieve. Grieve the life I was living, the life I thought I had and the life that I felt I had lost. A year later, I am still grieving, but finding a space for myself, all my own, is allowing me to continue to do that.
I gained stronger relationships with my friends and family. I stopped lying and hiding and started to tell the truth. The truth of what I had experienced, how it impacted me and what was happening with me now. I regained a support network who loved me so much that it helped me to try and figure out how to love myself again. And that was no easy task. I was fortunate to have those around me hold me up. They saw me grow, and were part of the process of doing so. I will fully admit that I would not have been able to do any of it without them. I am so grateful.
I gained independence. I gained the ability to come and go as I please and not have to worry about being accountable for anyone or anything else. Yes, it was awesome. As someone who had been a caregiver for a very long time, this was one of the best parts of the last year. If I wanted to do something, I could just go do it. If I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t have to. It allowed me the chance to focus on my own needs, instead of only his. I slept when I was tired. I ate when I was hungry. And I cleaned when I damn well felt like it.
I gained a new partner. I know this addition was a hard one for those around me as they were worried I was moving too fast. But I disagree. He brought me love. Love in a way that I didn’t even know I was missing. He showed me the ability to have independence and be in a relationship at the same time. What it means to be a partner, an ally and a friend. He showed me that I was loveable, that I was an asset and that he was lucky to have me in his life. I gained someone who saw me, baggage and all, and loved me anyway. In some ways, because of it. He saw me, and that is the best part of all.
I gained meaningful therapy. I had been going to therapy for a long time by the time I left my husband and uprooted my life, but once I made that choice, it was like the cover came off. All those feelings, all that trauma, all that hurt, stopped having to be hidden. I could show my insecurities, my pain and my heartache. I could talk about it without worrying about hurting someone else feelings or feeling guilty. I could put me first and then I could start to heal. This year, I have done a lot of healing, and will only hope than when I look back another year from now, I will be even further along in that part of my journey.
I gained happiness again. Am I happy every day? No. Do I still struggle with depression, chronic fatigue and other impactful things? Absolutely. But I also gained happiness. I gained the ability to not take things for granted but also surround myself with people who love and support me. I gained the chance to find, and savor, those golden moments and to be okay with feeling sad. I learned how to feel again and as shitty as that is sometimes, it is definitely better than being numb. I learned that happiness is a spectrum and as long as I am spending more time happy then sad, I am winning.
So, although this year anniversary is feeling bittersweet, it is not regretful. I wouldn’t change the choices I made in my life, past and present, as it made me who I am today. As I move into the second year, I will continue to work on me, my needs and the ways in which I can find happiness and become the person who I want to be.
Do I know what that looks like? No. But I know, for this weekend, the next step, is spending a weekend with my mom, sisters, and oldest niece, just being present. The rest I will figure it out as it comes.
“It is never too late to be who you might have been.”-George Eliot
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