I left my marriage a year ago this month. I thought I ‘d have everything figured out by now. Yet here I am, having to discard what I thought I knew about myself.
It is funny who notices what a year can do. For example, my 10-year-old son made a comment in the car on the way to school.
“You know,” he said, “You are more mature now than you were when we lived in that other house.”
The house he is speaking of is the 2200 square foot home in an opulent part of town where I lived until a few months ago, taking care of my Ex’s step-kids, among other things. “What makes you say that?” I asked.
“Well, now you go to work and stuff,” he replied.
True. I didn’t “work” before. I did not work at all during my marriage, the full eleven years of it, because I moved overseas and back twice while raising a collection of five-step kids and my own son. I also spent a few years being a diplomat’s wife, hosting parliamentarians and ambassadors in my 8000 square foot Middle Eastern home.
The last four years of the relationship, I did not seek employment because I single-parented several step-kids back in the United States while the Ex remained overseas. In America, I did not have the live-in maid and armed guard like we had in the Arabian Gulf. There was a period of time I had all six kids — four in high school –and I was the only person who had a driving license.
With this information in hand, it is interesting that a year out of my marriage, my son decides that I’m more mature now as a single mother working a 40 –hour a week low wage job than I was in a global marriage, single-parenting six kids.
But, all things aside, I think I know what he is trying to say.
This was a year of profound uncertainty and extreme emotional vulnerability. I left a decent man because I couldn’t be who I needed to be in the relationship. My life jump was about personal authenticity. The decision to leave was that simple, and that complicated.
It was the year I became brave. The leaving required me to face my archived insecurities: my fear about being alone, body image issues, the momentous challenges of entering the work force after a 12 year absence, the realization I left the relationship with no assets. On paper, I had all the odds stacked against me. I spent a month on Food Stamps. And yet, I remained brave.
I will tell you how I spent many nights during the first part of this past year. I spent them capitulated by fear. But in that darkness, I told myself I just had to make it to morning, and then everything would be OK. I literally took this one day, and many very long nights, at a time.
As Muslims, we say Subhaan’ Allah! Glorious is God for the strength bestowed upon me. I say this every day. Every single day.
A year later; twelve months of being brave and doing what people do in the year after they leave a marriage, and here I am, more “mature” by my own son’s observations.
A year later, I thought I’d have everything figured out. But on a recent cold November evening, I tried to accept that I was wrong about everything I thought I knew about myself. I cannot tell you what I expected to find twelve months out. I suppose I had hoped to morph into this glorious, super powered woman; the kind who purred like an albino tigress and who could bend the atoms in the air when she walked through a room. I was hoping that this little life jump would, at least, have me grow little tiny wings.
I wanted to find myself powerful and super fueled by this November.
But this is the reality: I am a woman who spent October screwing up personal relationships and acting in ways that did not reflect my core values. I became a woman who forgot how hard she struggled to embody compassion during the past year, and who acted most dispassionately towards those she hurt. I became a woman who pushed people out far when she just wanted them close.
So a year later, all I know is this: I have survived.
I cornered a friend recently. This isn’t just any friend, by the way. This person is someone who showed up for me right after I left the marriage. He taught me bodhicitta, and no one has ever materialized to teach me such valuable, obvious lessons at such imperative moments.
Subhaan Allah for the people that come into our path, for this person was truly a gift from the Universe.
But speaking of the Universe, I told him that everything I thought I knew about the way the Universe worked was wrong. Just like the things I thought I knew about myself turned out to be, well, wrong.
“But…” he said, “that is good!“
I looked at him, completely depleted. “How is this good? I’ve hurt people this past month. I’ve acted out. I’ve done stupid things. Nothing about this is good. I am not where I’d thought I’d be a year later. Nothing works like I thought.”
Bodhicitta Boy said, “Well, now you have a chance to discover new ways things work.”
This was not what I wanted to hear. I exclaimed, “Ugh! You’ve got to be kidding me! Really? I have to start this shit process again? A year of facing my fears and here I am, not even sure if I’ve budged an inch.”
“Oh, you’ve budged,” He suggested. “Stand in front of the mirror. You don’t even reflect light the same you did a year ago.”
“But… I don’t want to talk about mirrors and reflections,” I whaled. “I want be so powerful inside that I bend atoms when I walk through space.”
He put his arm around me and softly explained, “You aren’t on the same journey as you were before, Deonna. You act like you are walking the same path. You aren’t. You’ve moved to a new part of the journey, a new road, a new abyss to jump over. You’ve come so far that you are now at this new place and a new self.”
You’ve done more than be brave, he said as he turned to say good-bye. You screwed up this month, almost a year out, because you are learning to fly with those awesome wings you’ve sprouted. The take off may be messy, but I am sure that you are going to land just fine once you learn to soar with those atom-splitting motherfuckers.