On Monday I was released, officially, of my marriage. I am divorced. I have prepared myself emotionally and mentally to say that, so I do so with some sense of acceptance and peace. I was allowed, by the judge, to return to being me (my maiden name). The irony of that is not lost on me. I lost myself in my marriage and subsequent illnesses and pain. Now, with permission, I can return to being me.
In June, less than two weeks after my 34th birthday, my world was turned upside down when my husband said he was leaving me. We had had fights before and threatened separation and divorce, but never followed through on what always seemed like idle threats. This time, however, we knew it was over. That morning we woke up, he put his arms around me and we both lay silently in bed before the arguments started back up. It was in that moment that I knew that this was the end. Looking back on it, the end came long before that summer day. Marriages don’t end because of one fight and they are usually over long before someone actually leaves.
If you ask his side of the story he will tell you the love simply died. I have a very different view of the situation, one that includes dishonesty, but what good does it do to point fingers? It will not change the outcome. I take responsibility for my part. I was not a perfect wife. Do I blame the chronic pain and back surgeries for my divorce? In part, yes. I think a marriage can withstand any number of catastrophic events, even very early on, but only a STRONG one.
I learned a lot from getting married and divorced. I learned that not everyone marries for the right reasons. I learned that love is not all you need, despite The Beatles’ claims. I learned that you cannot give of yourself until there is no more because if you do, you will have nothing left when it ends. The day he left, I had nothing left.
But, in going through the divorce I also learned that I was still me. It was buried under 5 years of unhappiness and the constant fight to survive a disability, but, deep down, I was still there. I learned that despite having been taken care of for two years I was still capable of taking care of myself and doing everything that needed to be done, alone. I learned to forgive myself. I even learned how to almost forgive him. Some things are unforgivable and may well remain so for a long time, but I learned to forgive enough to have peace. I learned not to hate, even when the inclination was to do so.
Most of all, I learned to follow my dreams. I wanted to act since I was a child but never had the courage. This summer, literally weeks after he left, I was called and given the opportunity to train for an improv group. Since I was already studying at the school to pursue acting, I could not possibly pass up the opportunity. Fast forward five months and I am now a member of the improv group, completed one play with the largest part I had been given at the time and am currently in rehearsal for another production with one of the lead ensemble roles. No, it is not professional acting…yet. But, this experience has given me the courage to pursue my dream of one day acting professionally.
I look at it like this: two years ago I was in a wheelchair, 300 pounds, barely able to walk, with a husband who had to walk me to the bathroom and on more pills than I could count to manage the pain. I was miserable. I had no self-confidence and, it seemed, no future. I was ready to throw in the towel, and almost did on more than one occasion. But, I did not. I fought my way back. I got stronger than I ever thought possible, lost 153 pounds so far (more than 50% of my weight), found my hobbies, cut back to as few medications as possible and the self-confidence is coming back.
Although I do not have much respect for my ex-husband due to the circumstances of our divorce, I can say that I would not have gotten through the last couple of years without him and for that I will be ever grateful. It may have ended the marriage, but his emotional support (in the beginning) as well as his financial support and health insurance made it possible for me to recover, go to physical therapy and start my weight loss journey.
The bottom line is that we all make mistakes. I truly believed I was marrying the love of my life, my soul mate. I realized too late that he was not right for me. When I think about soul mates I am reminded of a quote from a movie that got me through the past several months, Eat, Pray, Love:
“He probably was [your soul mate]. Your problem is you don’t understand what that word means. People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it. Your problem is, you just can’t let this one go. It’s over, Groceries. [His] purpose was to shake you up, drive you out of your marriage that you needed to leave, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light could get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you had to transform your life.”
This quote was comforting to me because it meant I no longer had to feel guilty for choosing the wrong man. I did have a soul mate that did help me in the end, even if it broke my heart. He broke down my walls and made me desperate to change my life, so desperate that rather than talk about the things I wanted to do I finally went out and did them, all of them. Not just acting, but all sorts of things that I have wanted to do that I hadn’t done before! I am unrecognizable from the person I was 5 years ago, 2 years ago or 8 months ago. I have accepted that this was simply not meant to last.
In the end, Alfred Lord Tennyson put it best when he said “‘tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” But, a funny T-shirt I saw on the boardwalk also summed it up nicely: “Tis better to have loved and lost than to be stuck with a ___”