Monday, January 12, 2015, will mark TEN years since the day I left my husband, moved out of the house and started a new life. And when I really stop to visualize ALL that has occurred in the last DECADE…I have to admit…It’s been great.
Sure, the first few months—if not the whole first year-- were rocky and, yes, there were many tears…
But, I liken it to birthing pains, the labor was well worth the payoff.
I’ve been thinking about this post for a few weeks now…honestly asking myself what I’ve learned in the last 10 years! Am I happier? (Yes.) Am I smarter? (Definitely) Was it worth it? (Absolutely)
So here goes…the top 10 things I’ve learned in the last 10 years:
1. Life goes on. No matter what happens in your world—deaths, heartache, sadness, loss of a home--the sun rises, the work continues and the rest of the world has NO IDEA that your life changed at all. In the very early days of 2005, I would find myself being drawn to Target on my most miserable of days (and there were MANY)—just to SEE and FEEL some normal. I’d watch people as they bought toilet paper and socks and magazines and realized early on that life was still going on all around me…nobody stopped because I was sad. I LOVED to see the Holiday and Seasonal decorations and cards and gifts go up and REALIZING that Summer and Halloween and Christmas WOULD come again—as it always did. Perspective can be a slap in the face. In a good way, of course.
2. Travel is the answer to just about any question. You’re alone? Travel. You’re sad? Travel. You’re bored? Travel! You think you don’t have enough? Travel (to Kenya) You don’t have enough money? Pack a lunch and travel to the next town! Go see how much bigger this whole world is! EXPERIENCE! Sip and Savor! Observe! Feel! Smell! TASTE! Your life actually opens up when you realize that MOST people live in a place smaller than yours, MANY pee in a hole in the ground and the vast majority are VERY happy just where they are! You realize that the poorest are the happiest and that a tiny room in a hostel with a shared bathroom in NYC or Paris or Rome or Amsterdam is all you need to change your life. And knowing that you TRULY only need what's in your carry on suitcase to get by, well, it's humbling and enlightening in many ways. If you’re wise, you will, once again, see the perspective of your little bit of sorrow in this great big world.
3. You can do anything you want to do. I learned QUICKLY that I was able to pay my bills, keep my car in good repair, put a leaf in the dining room table, plan a great party, travel overseas, move furniture up stairs, move furniture down stairs, do my taxes, build a tool bench, buy a home, sell a home, buy another home, replace the water filter, put in a new shower head, put boxes up in the rafters, set up internet, help people in Africa, upgrade the cable, pay off debt, keep a steady job, change the light bulb in my headlight, plunge a toilet, purchase a car, get my credit back up, bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan… plan a funeral. I’ll admit I never learned to change a tire, but I DO know that for $16/year you can have AAA roadside service. Done deal! I have learned that there is NOTHING I can’t do or get done!
4. “Not settling” is a really REALLY good idea. After my not so fulfilling 24 years of marriage, I didn’t really see the DRAW of dating and getting into another relationship. I saw ‘marriage’ as someone to cook and clean for. Someone to take care of! I thought (often!) why would I want to have a(nother) person tell me what to do and tell me NOT to buy things and talk cruel to me? Not to say I didn’t go out with a few men. Most of them very kind, but, well, not the one. AND…Not to say that there was not a time (or two) that my heart was broken over the last 10 years (because there was…) but I (gradually) picked up the pieces each time and went back to working on finding MYSELF more than finding ‘someone’ to be with. I always say I went on a total of about 8 dates before I met Dave. I was pretty quick to say, “No thanks” and VERY quick to plan another trip to another country in between. Again, after my marriage experience, I relished my time alone. I read a lot and learned a lot and made the most of my single/alone time. I would say I am most grateful for the men who called it off with ME. They were not the one. I would have been settling (compromising?!) and I’m oh so happy that eight years in, the right one came along.
5. I learned that I am SMART, FUNNY and even a little bit PRETTY. I had been told and made to feel the opposite of all of those for most of my life. I learned that I ALLOWED people to talk down to me and ALLOWED them to make me feel bad. NO MORE of that. If you think I am ANYTHING but smart and funny and pretty—PLEASE move on.
6. I am exactly where I want to be right now. I am exactly where I ALWAYS wanted to be! In a quiet, calm, neat and clean (little) home with no bills and little stress…and with a man who loves me. I often look through my Facebook pictures and iPhoto from the last few years to remind myself that I have an amazing life. And, what you see is what you get. This is me and I like me. I like being able to do what I want, when I want with no one to answer to. I like being able to say “no thank you” to invites and outings and know that it’s ok. HERE is a good place to be.
7. Being alone does not AT ALL mean the same thing as being lonely. I was very lonely when I was married. And never lonely when I was single. Honestly! I remember coming home to a husband who didn’t talk to me or who was angry with me about something (always) and being in a separate room from him almost all of the time. THAT was lonely. Yet I remember DELIGHTING in coming home over the last 10 years, getting my jammies on at 4pm and sitting and reading and writing and watching old movies and LOVING the fact that I was alone! No one to tell me how stupid the movie was or how lazy I was or to tell me that I spent too much money or…well, yeah, you get it. When I was married, the kids and I were not allowed to eat in the car and I had to keep it immaculate! I had to give my husband every receipt—itemized—for what I spent at every store. When I became single one of my FIRST joy-filled moments was going to Target and buying what I wanted…and then coming out to the car with a giant diet coke—, tearing the receipt into a million pieces and throwing it on the floor of the car! AND the time that Sunny and I went to a baseball game and ate the whole bag of peanuts—in the car—on the way! Shells were everywhere. And it was lovely. Experiencing life without the negative opinion of someone else is sheer bliss.
8. Being in a (real, honest, good) relationship is amazing and exactly what it looks like in the movies. Kissing all the time, talking in bed, laughing in the kitchen, smiling at each other, sharing feelings, crying together, looking forward to getting home to each other. Sharing the housework and the shopping and CARING about the other’s feelings—phenomenal! I always had a hard time buying a greeting card for my husband. I never knew that those (what I thought were “sappy”) Hallmark cards carried TRUE feelings in them! Now I buy two or three or four cards for Dave sometimes, because they ALL say what I feel for him! I have found my soul mate. No doubt about it. We are SO sweet to each other…all the time. After two years of living together, I’m a believer in true love.
9. The past really never goes away. I still have flashbacks of getting in trouble for buying the wrong yogurt. I know. Ridiculous. I tiptoe around when Dave is sleeping because I would get yelled at for ‘turning the lights on’ too loudly when I was married. The flashbacks are much fewer and farther between than they were in the early days, but the ‘detoxing’ has lingered a bit longer than I had hoped for. However, gratefully, I am also often reminded of the good times in my marriage through songs and movies and through the places I travel. And now I know it’s ok—good and bad memories remind me of why I stayed and why I left. I have no question about either one any more.
10. Time heals MANY things. The further I am from that fateful day—January 12, 2005—the more I realize that a new ‘normal’ is not only here, but LONG present. Most of the people I work with have NO idea that I was ever married. They are shocked when they find out I have kids. They see me as a strong, confident, ‘older’ woman. They figure Dave and I have always been together. Time healed the heartaches--with a little work--and the sadness--with a lot of talking with friends and international travel--and the wounds are truly just faint scars (along with the tattoo!) 10 years later. Huge thanks to a whole lot of laughter, a heart full of love, a determination to move forward, a little bit of wine (yeah, you’re right, a lot of wine…) and my family and friends who stood by me every inch of the way.
I am ready to start year #11. I am happier and healthier and, yep, a little heavier…
I am also smarter and more successful than I ever thought I’d be.
Through it all, I’ve given birth to a new life.
And it’s been OH SO good to me.