My heart stopped cold. I knew instantly who it was. The “she’s just a friend” gal pal from work. Their friendship had been a ticking time bomb of inappropriateness. Two weeks before he walked out, the two of them went to the movies together while I was at home with the baby working on a late night deadline. Apparently, that’s the night their “friendship” elevated to a whole new level. All of this hit me like a freight train as my therapist stared at me silently, pleadingly, waiting for me to connect the dots.
I said “It’s f*cking [her], isn’t it? … Mother f*cker!!” And then, in naming it out loud, my world stopped.
Suddenly everything around me evaporated. My peripheral vision went out. My throat closed up. Everything became this searing, blinding white light. I felt a sharp pain and a rush of heat shoot up the back of my head. And then the air in the room began crashing down on me like a weight. Oceans of pressure smashing me, smashing me, smashing me down into the seat. I couldn’t breathe and my head began pulsing and pounding. And then I heard it: a noise. A loud, sharp, cracking sound … deep down inside me somewhere. I actually heard it! My entire self splitting open.
Revisiting it all again in my mind, seeing the vulnerability and humiliation of that trusting girl I used to be (who to her core believed that “my guy” was not capable of being “that guy”), I realize that a part of me ended in that moment. That’s what the pain and the light and the cracking sound were – an execution.
Looking back on it now feels like watching a dog get shot.
I became a zombie.
We were separated for 6 months. He crashed at his boss’s house. I stayed with our daughter in our apartment and immediately began initiating steps to divorce him. I remember going to the courthouse and waiting in line to pay for the do-it-yourself divorce papers. There was a big line that day and it seemed everyone was there for a marriage license (of course). I felt so ashamed to be there. Like people could see it on me … that girl was betrayed! When it was my turn in line, I said quietly “I need divorce papers, please.” The sturdy woman behind the glass, needing to know which stack of forms to give me, asked, “Are there children involved?” My heart wrenched inside my chest and I squeaked out a very broken, tear-choked, “Yes.” Everyone in line stopped and looked at me. It took every ounce of strength I had not to dissolve into a weeping puddle on the clerk office floor … and everyone knew it.
We moved to Florida to get away from the scene of the crime. Due to some positive realizations that had emerged in therapy, we decided to give things another try after the move “for our daughter’s sake.” We gave it four more years, and every day of it felt like the movie Groundhog Day (only not remotely funny). We removed ourselves from the place everything happened (and the other woman), but the dynamics that caused the affair never changed. I spent every day of the next four years going through the motions with a fake smile plastered on my face. But I was dead behind the eyes. The internal shattering that occurred in the therapist’s office left a void and there was no coming back from it. Not with this man. Not in this life. And my daughter deserves better than a numbed-out mom. So, I finally said the words out loud to him: “I want a divorce.” His reply? Simply, “OK.”
An odd calm settled over us and we were able to really look each other in the eye for the first time in years. We were never really happy together. So, maybe finally letting each other go as husband and wife was the most loving and honest thing we’ve ever done.
I made a vision board and hung it on the wall across from my bed.
It’s the first thing I see when I wake up and the last thing I see before I go to sleep. It’s crafted from a piece of white drugstore poster board that I adorned with images and words cut ceremoniously from magazines and internet photos, each a symbolic representation of some facet of the life I want to manifest for myself as I move forward. Images of my life to come if I get my way. It hangs humble, yet earnest. My future pasted together with a 5-year-old’s glue stick.
In the center are images that represent me: a photo of a spectacularly empty poster bed with tall metal posts sculpted to look like tree branches that reach up and come together in the middle to support a nested bird’s nest. Above the bed is a picture of a statue silhouetted against the sky; a woman’s figure reaching upward with a bird taking flight from her outstretched hand and two more birds lifting off the ground by her feet. This is what I feel like: a spirit rising … a woman preparing to spread her wings and fly. And the bed’s bird’s nest, well, it symbolizes the move to separate and the reality that I’m responsible for making my own nest in the world now. I have to create a safe place of my own where I’ll rest my weary head.
Around the central images of “me” are other photos reflecting my goals: prosperity & abundance, more focused time with my daughter, a blossoming writing career, health, and wellness, learning to be more comfortable in my skin, and having more fun. And a picture of a hot guy, too, for my future. New love. Eventually. A girl can dream, right?