Arthur Miller wrote this more beautifully and succinctly than I ever could. 100% this.
The holidays are quickly approaching and I’m feeling apprehensive. I haven’t spent Thanksgiving with my family in nine years. Family gatherings have been a bit triggering because I feel the absence of X the most at those times. Not that I miss him, but sometimes I do miss that closeness.
I’m also nervous about the memories. Looking back on our awful Thanksgiving from last year, I know now X had already decided to leave me. We went to his friend’s house. I brought a turkey craft I had made at school to give as a gift. When we walked in, I said, “I brought the turkey!” They all just kind of looked at me and then returned to what they were doing. And that was it. I sat on the outside watching strangers make pizza. And when I told X I was ready to go, because I just couldn’t do it any more (I think I put in a good three hours), he said nothing to me the car ride home. He made no gesture of affection. It was a very painful, hurtful night. Just typing this, I had to stop so I could cry.
Then there’s Christmas. X told me he didn’t love me three days before Christmas. He went to stay in a hotel Christmas Eve, because I told him I had been looking so forward to Christmas with him, a day with no other obligations. It was always my favorite day, just him, me and Moose. And I told him if he couldn’t be present with me, then he couldn’t be in the house. So he left. He made the choice not to spend the day with me. I had to survive it. I had to wake up and force myself to make a good breakfast. I had to open presents alone. I had to walk Moose alone. He called me once, as I was beginning my walk with Moose. He told me he told his mother that he wasn’t throwing in the towel. That was also a lie. A lie to make it look like he was trying. A lie so others wouldn’t see the secrets of the other woman. That lie gave me some hope. It was false hope.
I love Christmas. It’s my favorite time of year. I’ve always loved decorating the tree, and having a quiet day with my husband and animals. I don’t know how I will do it this year. I don’t want this event to ruin Christmas for me. I just need to figure out how to get through this first Christmas.
I had been in a real funk for the past month or so. Really, funk is an understatement. I think I was staight-up depressed. I didn’t want to teach. I didn’t want to be alone, and I was miserable because I was always alone.
I’m not totally sure what changed, but I am feeling better this week. The other day I remembered the swings that would happen around months 3, 4, 5 and 6. I’d have a good day, then a horrible day; then a good few days, and a tough couple of days. The stretches got longer but I would still swing up and down. I think this is normal, and I wonder if maybe I’m currently in a swing up.
One thing I know has changed a bit is my mindset. I have been listening to Jo Boaler’s latest book Limitless Mind. I listen every morning on my way to work. I think not listening to politics and the news so much may be helping. But this book is really coming to me at the perfect time. Boaler is a researcher at Stanford and she studies and designs math programs and approaches to teaching that help students learn math. I was privileged to spend a day in a workshop with her in Alaska and love using her work in my own class. In the book, Boaler is sharing the research on how our minds can change. They are plastic and not fixed.
I knew this already. But the research studies are fascinating and are giving me hope! Like one study about how people who just thought they were exercising enough were healthier than the people who didn’t think they were exercising enough, even though they exercised the same amount. I just really feel like the things that have been getting me down, or have honestly been a bit hurtful, I can change my mindset around them. It feels like I have control over my life in a way I haven’t felt before. Like ever! I’ve been thinking about my writing dream and how scared I am that I’m not good enough. But lately I’ve been thinking about how I can learn, and the only way to do that is to dive in, try some things, and see what works for me. I feel like I can stick to my weight loss plan, and plan to live a more active life. I actually believe I can do it. I’m not feeling the doubts I was. I don’t know if this is a manic type episode after a long time in the struggle gutter. But I feel good and I feel like I have some power over my life. My mind is Limitless. I can make it what I want!
I woke up this morning from the craziest dream. I dreamed that I went out to dinner with my parents and aunt and uncle and as we were being seated, I looked down over the balcony and saw X, there with his wife and two other drop dead gorgeous women. Somehow, in true dream fashion that makes no sense, we ended up talking, just the two of us in the restaurant after closing, and I was able to ask him questions. I don’t remember my questions. But I remember him telling me that he knows he handled everything poorly because everyone had to see him go through this (like, it wouldn’t be so bad if no one knew what he did). He also told me he didn’t miss me. He told me all the things that were wrong with me, all the reasons I wasn’t the woman he wanted. My first impression upon waking was, maybe this was a more compassionate way of seeing his story? Then I thought, I’m still the same person not living my life. In the dream, he and his wife were active and had friends and did things with friends, while I was just a sad shell, still, like I was in our marriage.
Seriously, these were my thoughts upon waking. Not, “What a fucking asshole for making me feel this way, for saying and doing things that no kind person would ever say or do! Seriously, my first thoughts were, maybe I can see his side with compassion. I think back on all the times I did this in some way in our relationship, tried to understand his perspective. Dismissed his lack of attention or care or concern as me just over-reacting, or not understanding his side of things. What the actual fuck? That’s not the kind of woman I am at my core. How did it get like this? I felt small in the dream. I think so often he made me feel small in our marriage. My belief that I’m not really good enough is so deep seated it’s even showing up in my dreams.
As I drove to work, I noticed my thoughts had changed. I didn’t feel that churning stomach feeling that usually lingers with dreams like this. I thought, I’m not going to let him make me feel like this is my fault. I seriously think he confused me by gaslighting our relationship and now is he doing it from the relationship grave? Could they really be so much happier? Was I really the problem? How am I so fucked in the head? When I woke up, there was very much a feeling of me being the sad lonely sack left behind and him living this glam life with his beautiful new wife and their beautiful friends. But I shook that feeling pretty quickly, more quickly than in the past. I’m grateful for these small markers of healing.
Tomorrow marks exactly 10 months out from when X told me he didn’t love me. I’ve been through so much in the past ten months that it seems in some ways like a lifetime ago. At the same time, I’m still incredibly raw and, frankly, struggling. I feel lonely in my new home. I’ve been weepy this weekend. And I’m not sure I understand why. I don’t miss him. In fact, in a lot of ways, my thoughts about him specifically have lessened considerably. But I feel so alone here and I think that makes what I’ve lost stand out in contrast.
I’m still trying. This week I made plans with people! Today I went for a walk with a new friend – a teacher from work. On Tuesday I’m meeting up with an old friend from high school who I haven’t been in touch with for years. I’m trying to make plans with other people and actually do things. But when I get home at night, I get mopey and sad.
I still haven’t found a new therapist, so tomorrow I’m going to make phone calls to try to find one. I have a list of possibilities. Hopefully one will be able to take me. I’m hoping that a weekly therapy session will get me back on the road to recovery. I know in theory that there are lots of ups and downs, twists and turns. Healing isn’t linear. But this feels a little more funky than past funks. And I’ll be damned if this asshole is going to continue to have this kind of impact on me.
It’s been a hard couple of weeks. Since my friends from Alaska left, I’ve felt really down and alone. It’s honestly been a bit of a “poor me” spiral. First of all, bleck. Who wants to be around that? Not me. Second of all, I’m not really sure what’s causing it. I’ve been sick, which doesn’t help. I went to the doctor and it’s either strep throat, which we’re currently treating, or lyme disease, because of course it is.
But this funk is not just because I’ve been sick. I feel crazy behind and off my game at work. I have been having more dreams about X again, which makes me so angry. The guy is a fucking asshole. Why can’t I just get him out of my head!? I also have been feeling kind of hopeless. I keep thinking about how I’m so fat and no one will give me a chance or find me attractive while I’m fat so I can’t even begin to think about finding love until I lose weight. Which is that “woe-is-me” thinking and also, I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to lose weight for someone else, especially some fictional person I’ve made up in my head. I don’t actually want to be thinking about finding love at all. Also, I don’t want to be this victim. I want to scream “Fuck this shit” with every action I take. I want to defy the odds and rise up stronger than I’ve ever been. Why am I having such a hard time actually doing it? I mean, seriously, a call from the vet threw me out of sync for days…
So tonight I started the hunt for a new therapist. Clearly I still need help and guidance. I’m not succeeding on my own. And while I’m having a hard time asking for help from my family, I can ask for help from a therapist. That will be my commitment to myself this week. Maybe that’s badass enough for right now. X never got help. He never even thought he had a problem. He just jumped into bed with another woman and smothered any signs that something was wrong with him. But I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to let myself drown in a puddle of self pity. I’m not going to let this situation define me. I’m going to claw my way out of this and be the better for it.
This week I had a training for school in another town. During our lunch break, I was outside, trying to call the doctor because I couldn’t shake this illness I’d had since the week before. As I was about to dial, my phone rang. It was an incoming call from my vet back in Alaska.
When I answered, I expected it to be some kind of clerical thing. But it was a call to confirm the appointment the next day for “our” new dog, Tut. I asked her to verify if this was accurate, and she said yes, for the dog owned by X and myself.
I felt so angry I could barely breath. His new wife’s name is just one letter different from mine, and our full first name is the same. Now that she has his last name, I’m certain that’s how the vet easily made this mistake.
Not only was I angry at the fact that I was still linked to him, but I was so angry and hurt to know he had moved on with another dog.
My instinct was to text him. Let him know that his appointment was tomorrow. That he’d better make sure he had fixed the account. And that I hope he wouldn’t abandon this dog too. I didn’t contact him, but it was hard to hold myself back.
I went back into the training and sat, not listening, trying to hold back tears.
More than anything I want a dog right now. Two, actually, Two Newfoundlands to keep each other company while I’m gone, and to walk with me each day. I want to snuggle and play and brush them. I want the companionship. But with my current job, I just can’t. I am gone too long in the day, and don’t really make enough money to support the feeding of two Newfs. This has been a real disappointment for me, as it was part of my recovery plan but I can’t do it. On top of that, to think that these two horrible people are adopting a dog, that they’re making their “happy” home while I’m still struggling so, it was just too much.
When does this situation become fair? When does he have to pay for what he’s done? Are there really no consequences for him? It’s just me who has to suffer? There is nothing fair or just about this situation. I know it’s just a dog, and it’s not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. But that call was a shock. It stung. It reminded me of my Moose, of X leaving us behind, of the grief Moose went through, and then of the grief of loosing him. I still miss Moose terribly. And it hurts that X and I are still ever so slightly connected.
Last weekend, two of my dear friends from Alaska arrived in NH, after flying across the country, they boarded a bus in Boston, sat in horrible commuter traffic, and finally arrived in NH late at night.
They came for a teaching conference in Maine. But having them visit, in my house, and being able to take them to all the special places I love in my new old home town, was soul filling. I really needed it.
Since I moved into my new home, aside from move-in weekend, I haven’t had many visitors. My parents have come over a couple of times. But mostly it’s just me and Rosie. Having friends in my house made me really happy. A home should have people in it!
We went shopping, we ate lobster, we did teacher conference things, and we went apple picking. We even went swimming! I continue to be so grateful for my friends. I miss them already.
I always hated memes. I thought they were stupid. Then my husband abandoned me with no warning and suddenly every meme I saw was profound and speaking directly to me. I began saving them in a folder titled “Divorce/Recovery.” I’d even go back into this folder from time to time and reread them for inspiration. As you can see, this divorce has really changed me 😉
Lately, this one meme has really stood out to me. It actually says a version of the same thing many of the others have said. But right now, in this moment, when my future stretches before me, unchartered, it feels right. I’ve actually referred back to it quite a bit.
Despite the errors in punctuation (memes always seem to have punctuation or spelling errors), this quote has really helped me when I’m struggling to choose myself. It’s so easy to let myself escape; escaping into television, binge watching old Bones seasons, scrolling endlessly through social media on my phone. But that’s not the life I want to live. I want to be healthy. I want to exercise and eat well. I want to make art and write. I want to canoe. I want a balance between my work and my social life. I want an actual social life!
So lately, whenever I feel the pull of escapism, I pull up this meme. And then I choose the life I want. I choose the healthy breakfast. I choose to sit down and write my book. I choose to go canoeing. I choose, over and over, and very slowly, still with lots of pain and sadness, but also with that weird strength I’ve developed, I am choosing the life I want.
Here’s proof. This evening, I went out for a short paddle. It looked like rain was coming, so I didn’t stay out long, but it felt good being on the water, moving my body, finding balance in the waves, and doing what I love.