The 2nd

July 2nd marked one year since I returned to my home state, and what would have been my ten year anniversary if things had been different.

I’ve found myself feeling kind of solemn these last few days. I want to be alone (which I am, thanks to this pandemic). I feel a bit disappointed in myself, that I’m not living this vibrant, happy, active life I imagined for myself. I am doing things, and I am working to be more active, but it isn’t a lifestyle. I haven’t “arrived” at the vision I had for myself this far out.

Instead, I’m still working through understanding my marriage. This past week, in therapy, we talked a lot about gaslighting. I shared stories of the ways X made me feel bad about myself, and then my therapist walked me through the gaslighting and misdirection he engaged in to get me there. Over and over, I have to walk through these things because still, in my mind, it all feels foggy. I know you might think, why keep dwelling on it? Why not just move on? This is me moving on. I still feel like I’m wading chest deep through murky water, tangled in cat-nine tails and swamp grass. How exactly does one just move on? I still feel such hurt from the whole thing. So I’m trying to give myself some grace, recognize the small ways I keep moving forward, and then keep taking the next step.

One success in all of this was that, on the morning of the 2nd, I thought a lot about what the day meant for me, how I was feeling. And I realized that I couldn’t imagine the “if only we…” version of the story. There was no alternative ending. It seems inevitable that our marriage would end. And the big reason for this is he would never do the emotional heavy lifting needed. Shit, he couldn’t even pick up the 3-pounders and give it a try. It’s heartbreaking to me that he is so broken. But more, I’m heartbroken that I gave so much of myself to a person who could give nothing back. So much time wasted.

I know this seems sad, but I think it’s a good thing. I’m not longing for something that might have been, or over-emphasizing the small things I miss about being married. I think I’m seeing things more clearly than before. With every step. Maybe this means I can really turn and face myself, focus on me in a real, deep way.

My therapist brought up forgiveness during our last session. I shared that I don’t want to forgive him, and I don’t believe I need to. In my mind’s eye, I want to shed the skin of this hurt and walk forward, leaving all that pain and grief in a pile on the ground, giving him not an ounce more of my energy.

Avoid the Tender Love Scenes

They get me every time. The long looks, the silly moments interspersed. The real tenderness and affection. I can’t help but cry.

It’s hard to explain how I can not miss X and yet long for those moments. I remember being looked at that way, touched with tenderness, laughing together. It was really wonderful being loved.

The strange thing is, I absolutely do not want to date right now. I can’t even imagine being with another person. Even as I don’t miss him, I don’t want someone else. I did, for a moment, but it was all wrong. I have so much work to do on myself before I can open up and even begin to trust someone else again. I want to do that, theoretically. But not now. I don’t have enough of me to give.

So in the meantime. I’ll keep working on me. And I’ll avoid the tender love scenes.

Socially Distant

I’ve been pretty isolated since mid-march and it’s really starting to wear me down. While I’ve had slightly more relaxed interactions with my parents (I go into their house and they come into mine) that’s really been the extent. I haven’t arranged distant visits with friends. The best social interactions I have had were going into school to clean and pack up, the parade through town with my co-teacher in the car with me, and a visit from a dear friend and her boyfriend who came up on his motorcycle. We visited in the yard, distant, for an hour or so.

In addition to feeling isolated from people, I have this dog now. She’s really a very sweet, snuggly and silly girl. But she also bites like crazy, can get really rough with it, and barks wildly when she wants something. If I tell her no, she actively looks for ways to do the thing I said no too. She has only slept through the night twice (which I guess is really good, considering she’s just 12 weeks old.). She’s still not potty trained so, if I’m not on top of it, she has accidents. But, I’m doing this alone too, and I have to always be “on.” I’m exhausted, and isolated, and just really struggling.

It’s officially been a year since my divorce. I keep thinking I should be better now. I had imagined I’d be at a different place – healthy, fit, social, maybe even dating. None of those things are true and it’s really got me down.

I’m trying to fight through this. I’m writing. I’m looking hard for the positives. (Willa really has made huge gains. She’s calming down more easily, biting me a lot less, and is able to stop when I redirect her. She likes to play and snuggle, which is just so sweet. We play training games together that are fun. We’re getting there. ) I’m doing little things around the house while Willa naps. I’m slowly tackling the disaster of a yard the previous owners left.

But I’m really done with being socially distant. Before X left, I really thought I didn’t like being social. (I think that was part of his manipulation.) I now know I NEED to be social. And I know being alone is really slowing my healing progress.

A New Therapist

After a long hunt, I finally found a new therapist. We meet once a week. We meet through a secure video chat during this COVID crisis. She’s very results-oriented, compared to my previous therapist in Alaska, who really was more focused on listening, holding space for my pain and validating my worthiness, which really, was exactly what I needed.

Now, we’re focused on moving past the trauma from X. We set goals. She gives me stuff to read. I wasn’t ready for this before. I am now.

Last week she gave me an article to read about the stages a relationship with a narcissist goes through. While not exact, they can be some-what predictable. I’ve wondered about whether or not X was a narcissist. I’ve struggled with this label. My previous therapist said, while she couldn’t give him that label, there is a spectrum of narcissistic behavior and he definitely fell on it. Still, I resisted. A childhood friend shared that she thought he fell in that category. Still, I resisted. But I read this article. It basically told the story of our marriage. And while the stages at the end happened in slightly different order for me, they all happened.

It says, “Once the relationship has ended, the narcissist will move on as if nothing happened. They won’t even remember what it was like to experience the love and care of [their partner].” I’ve known this to be true from the beginning. Even when well meaning friends and family would say, “He’ll realize what he lost, ” I knew he wouldn’t.

Then the article says, “The narcissist will move on and find another victim to fill their needs.” And just like that, a massive weight was lifted.

I don’t know why, this time around, it makes complete sense to me. Perhaps this is the shedding of lies and the confusion of subtle manipulations finally dissipating. But I feel free. I truly feel in my gut that this wasn’t about me. I truly see that he is just very, very broken. I finally feel separate from it all.

I’ve had so many revelations repeat themselves throughout this healing process, I know it’s possible that this might not be “the end.” But I have never felt such a strong shift, a shift that has lasted at least a week! I really do feel detached. It’s so good.

I’ll keep working with my therapist. We’re going to look for the red flags that I missed, so I can be aware moving forward. We’re going to spend a lot of time on building me. I’m ready to move on with my life.

Therapy is good. If you’re stuck, be brave. Reach out and get help. It helps.

Walk to the Lake

This quarantine thing has really put a lot of stress on me, both emotionally and physically. Last week I started to realize that my body was starting to hurt from such little movement. So I charged up my FitBit and I told my co-teacher that every day after our afternoon Zoom meeting, we needed to end by going to get our sneakers on, and not signing off until we knew the other was ready to walk out the door. She charged up her FitBit too, and we started daily step challenges. It has made a huge difference in how I feel. And on days when I skip my walk, boy do I feel the difference!

Today I decided to walk in the morning. The sun was shining, I had the time, and my body felt like it needed to go! It was windy and chilly and I was glad I bundled up. The lake was choppy and deep blue where the shallows dropped off. In the distance I could see the Sandwich mountains with a dusting of snow on them from yesterday. I sat for a bit on the end of the dock, like I usually do, and tried to quiet my mind, relax my shoulders, release the tension in my chest, and just listen to the sound of the waves. I had a memory, then, of laying on the dock up at camp when I was younger, and just listening to the water move underneath and slosh against the pillars and the shore.

These walks are a real blessing. They are healing, and beautiful, and I’m grateful to myself for taking that time for me.

I hope you are taking care of yourself during this time by getting out and walking, even for short jaunts. The movement makes a difference. Take care of yourself.

Good News

After a very long time searching for a dog, and many rejections because I live alone, I finally am getting a puppy!

Meet Willameena – Willa for short.

She’s a lab who was born on March 31st. She’s three weeks old in these pictures. Isn’t she just the sweetest?

I’m so incredibly excited to get her. Because she needs to be with her mom for 8 weeks before being adopted, I won’t be able to take her home until the end of May. While it’s hard to wait, I think it’s good too. The timing is good, because I’ll be wrapping up the last couple of weeks of school. It also gives me time to get puppy supplies that I need and it also gives me time to read about and watch videos about puppy training. I’m going to have to take her out every hour until her bladder gets stronger and to teach her that going to the bathroom outside is so exciting! I was worried about how I am going to sleep, and at first I will definitely have interrupted sleep, but I can put down puppy pads for her at night so I can get a bit more sleep. If I had a partner, we could tag team it. But I’m doing it alone.

I have to admit, that earlier this week I had a moment of fear that I wouldn’t be able to do this alone; that it would be too much and I’d be doing a disservice to my puppy. It’s a big responsibility to take on, but the truth is, I can do this. I think I’ll be able to give her a good life and so much love. I think she’ll be so good for me, keeping me grounded, getting me outside, helping me focus on something positive. A puppy is joy, and I need that right now.

Just this morning, when I was walking to the lake, I was thinking about taking her out in my canoe every weekend, how I would condition her to being around and in the canoe, and around and in the water. That I’d need to condition her to a PFD, and get her to love being in the canoe with me!

There’s so much to teach her and so much to explore with her. I can’t wait! It feels hopeful and really, it’s going to be a lot of work, but so much fun!

Easter

Today is Easter and I am alone because of this pandemic. It’s a beautiful, early spring day outside. Partly cloudy, quiet with a slight breeze. I’ve got Bill Withers playing as I move through the day trying to do “normal” things.

I put a spiral ham in the oven, and I’m going to put scalloped potatoes and brussel sprouts in when the ham comes out. I might make a soup also, as I need to use up this bread for croutons.

I made my bed and am cleaning up my bedroom. And then I plan to go out to the porch and tidy it up for spring.

The isolation is getting to me though. Last night I had a strange dream about X leaving me, again. This time the women in his life were telling me they thought he was having an affair. And that I needed to work out more. So obviously I’m still working through some deep hurt.

This morning, as I was tidying up, I was thinking about how I really want to plant herbs. And this made a memory flood into my mind, of the first Easter X and I spent together. It was just the two of us, in the house I rented a room in. We had the whole house to ourselves. I made an Easter scavenger hunt for him. He made me enchiladas. We went to the nursery and got some herbs to pot. We napped together. It was a partly cloudy, quiet early spring day. I remember feeling so content.

So my heart is sad today. I’m not sure I understand this whole healing process, and the longing I have for a person that just isn’t that person. There’s no alternative ending here, and when I think about what could have been, it doesn’t feel like it ever could have been that way. But there were moments I was genuinely happy. And today I’m longing for that.

But I’m also trying to think of today as what it is – a symbol of rebirth, of starting new. While I don’t believe there will be an exact moment of starting new, I do work to move forward into my new life and today is no different. So that’s what I’m doing. I’ll go for a walk, and rake the leaves, and maybe do some laundry. I’ll cook for me, because I deserve that. I’ll reach out to friends and family because they need it just as much as I do. And I’ll honor this quiet, partly cloudy, early spring day for what it is.

Writing Class

I just had my first zoom “writing in the time of pandemic” class this evening. My incredible writing teacher decided to offer an online writing class to people she knew who were isolating alone as a way to connect.

I have to admit, I was feeling a bit of dread before logging on. I have been so tired from everything and was feeling particularly tired tonight. I think I was also feeling unsure about myself as a writer (a writer who isn’t actually writing these days).

But I did log in and as always when it comes to writing, I’m so glad I showed up to the class and to the page.

I don’t tend to warm to strangers but this group of people is really incredible. The diversity of their stories, the depth of their thoughts and goals of their writing, were so engaging and inspiring. I really felt connected in such an invigorating way.

My writing teacher always says, “Just write forward.” It’s such good writing advice. Show up on the page. Write. Figure the rest out later.

It’s such good writing advice. It’s also such good life advice. Show up. Figure the rest out later.

Repeating Revelations

Being alone 24/7 due to social distancing has given me a lot of time with my thoughts. In the past two weeks, I’ve had a few really important revelations that I’m pretty sure I’ve had before.

Last week, I was engaged in an imaginary conversation with X (while I still do this, it’s much less frequent that when he first left). I was talking with him about being alone in the middle of this crisis and not having him here, and I said to him, “The truth is, I’m glad I’m not going through this with you. If we were stuck in a house together, you’d be on your computer all the time. You’d be freaking out, going to the worst case scenario, and withdrawing into yourself. And I’d have to be the problem solver, trying to hold us both up.” And man was this a revelation. I’m better off without him. At least now, I can hold myself up, and can be a problem solver with work and my personal space and needs. And I have the space to have grace with myself. I’m so much better off.

This week, I was listening to a podcast and the host and her guest were talking about being seen by your partner. They were sharing that, while it’s so scary and vulnerable to be seen by someone as you truly are, it’s also incredibly amazing. I cried as I remembered my conversations with my therapist about how painful it was that X didn’t see me, both in my marriage and in his leaving. I remembered that, while there were nice moments, and I think even genuine gestures of affection, he just didn’t see me. It was so very hurtful and I don’t deserve that in my life. I deserve to be seen.

These are not new revelations. I’ve had them before, multiple times. It’s so interesting to me how in the moment of having them, they feel, well, revelatory. I think this process of healing, of overcoming, of struggle and growth – it’s not a to-do list and once you realize something you can cross it off the list and move on. I have to keep realizing it, over and over, until I understand it in my core.

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