Reflections on the trials of 2017 and the rebirth of a boss ass bitch.
2017 came rolling in fast and hard, and like a double black diamond course with one bent ski, I went barreling down. It seems that you have to fall pretty hard in order to understand who will be there at the bottom to pick you back up. And, more often, it seems that it has to be yourself that does the rescuing.
2017 was the year my marriage fell to pieces, a divorce took me to the brink of my emotional stability, and through introspection, the support of a select few, and a reaffirmed belief in myself- 2017 also became the year I re-emerged as a new version of me. Better.
You are going to have to save yourself.
I am not generally a person who see’s signs, at least- not right away. I can usually look back on an occurrence in my life and say- ‘the writing was on the wall, I just never looked up.’
It was last March, the reality of my struggling marriage had begun to set in as the acceptance of my unbridled unhappiness festered under my skin, and I needed some space. I took a trip to Louisville, KY with some buds to see plays at the Humana New Play Festival. While I was there, immersed in my element and reeling from the freedom at which moving as a solo person gives you, I went to brunch with one of my oldest friends.
After catching up over mimosas and heaping plates of vulnerability –discussing our lives, partners and careers, we went for a walk. We wandered into an art exhibit that happened to be attached to the restaurant I had randomly picked that morning on Yelp!. As we walked around the interactive displays, we came upon a small white shelf unit with white rubber bracelets laying out in prayer votive fashion. There was a box with a lock on it and a small slit. It was, as the sign read; ‘an exercise in morality, feel free to take one- but what will you leave in return?’
We each dropped a dollar in the slit and took a bracelet.
Etched into the rubber it read : You Are Going To Have To Save Yourself
I am not a person who see’s signs... except for that day. That day I knew I had to make waves to get myself out of the bottom of the black pit of complacency and monotony that I had fallen in. I knew that it was me who would have to do the work, to make the changes to fix my marriage, to seek the help I needed to heal my broken self-love. I would have to reach deep down into my soul to find the courage to be better.
I knew my marriage was not sustainable. Perhaps I knew it longer than I will ever allow myself to admit; but I wouldn’t go down without a fight. I wanted to be absolutely certain that if it came to dissolution, that I had done everything in my power to attempt rectifying it. I wanted to be sure that however it turned out, I would not have to feel guilty about the result.
It turns out that talk therapy is a cruel beast for the emotionally repressed man and the overly articulate woman. After a couple futile attempts at communicating our feelings and problems, and numerous failed endeavors at fair discussions of how we had each let the other down, I feared that there would never be a level of intimacy suitable to a lifetime of mutual love and respect.
Perhaps a trip to the beach might re-ignite a desire to fight for each other?
But Florida came and went and more fights, than laughs, were had.
While in Florida, my husband was invited by his friend and his wife to Guatemala later in the summer and I encouraged him to go. I honestly believed that a free place to stay for 7 days in Guatemala was well worth it and he should jump at the chance. I thought it was extremely strange, however, that there was never any conversation about my joining him on that trip.
Later, in a fight, I would learn that he felt entitled to go alone because I had booked a solo trip to NYC for a long weekend to see friends. I was also informed, when I counter-argued that he had gone on a solo trip earlier that year, that his 8 day quest with his guy friends to raft down the Colorado river in the Grand Canyon did not, in fact, count as 8 days. ’Only 4…because the rest of that time was traveling time.’
He went to Guatemala, I packed some things and moved them to a friend’s basement. I went to NYC and, upon my return, left him.
Upon my leaving, we had been married exactly 1 year and 8 months. In the grand scheme of things, that is a drop in the bucket. However, while you’re enduring the separation of two intermingled lives, it feels like a fucking eternity. I am now quite certain that an amicable divorce is basically a unicorn.
I moved into my grandmother’s spare bed room, a posh condo in the Central West End, I practically had a wing to myself. She was generous, kind and patient; a grace I will never be able to articulate the value of. For weeks on end it felt like a new wave of big “D” bull shit would slap me in the face if I wasn’t too careful. One day it’s a counter offer to our original agreement, the next its subpoenas to rack up legal fees. A real highlight was signing a court order for the exact items I would be removing from my FRONT PORCH. (It took pot, Ativan and a bloody mary at 9am to keep me calm enough to navigate that experience.)
A job opportunity in New York City had poked its head into my life and I considered the move, a complete life change. I deliberated about what I would be leaving behind, or transversely, what I could look forward to in a total life re-set... Ultimately, I chose to stay and ground myself- a decision I will never regret. But as these swirls of decisions and homeless uncertainty whirled around, I found myself feeling only angry. I was angry at my ex for gaslighting me into believing it was my fault that he couldn’t connect. I was angry at myself for having married him, knowing full well that there was no real emotional intimacy there. Mostly though, I was angry that I had let myself get so far away from the strong, independent, confident and fierce woman I had been. In the dizzy madness of divorce, I was desperate to find my footing again. Desperate to arise like the Phoenix from the ashes of a failed marriage and show the world I was whole again. I wanted, more than anything, to be on the other side of it as soon as humanly possible.
Maybe the anger also came from needing to have patience, knowing that I needed to bolster up some universal trust and allow the chips to fall where they may.
It is the fall, after all, that gives you something to climb back up.
People do what they can for you.
Perhaps the most important lesson from my 2017 is that people will do what they can for you. Some people will surprise you with their strength, and still others will shock you with their fragility. A part of my anger was frustration with my friends and family at large. It felt like reaching out to my tribe was like screaming into a vacuum, like no one wanted to participate in the struggle, but would be more than willing sit atop the mountain and congratulate me upon my return. That being said, all bitterness aside, there were quite a few people in my life who really did step up, lean in, and participate. For them- I am eternally grateful.
What I realized is that each person has a different capacity for handling stress and a varying set of priorities for how they chose to nurture their friendships. I turned what I had experienced into an understanding that some friends just couldn’t be counted upon to be emotionally supportive, and still others couldn’t be counted on to be present and helpful in times I needed physical assistance. People just do… what they can, and there must be a different definition of that for each person.
I, on the one hand, am the friend who does things for people- so, when Danny called in October, I went.
“Your darkest hour is but 60 minutes” the saying goes. I think it’s more like “Your darkest hour is merely dusk compared to someone else’s struggle.” Danny had lost both of his parents within a calendar year-Christ, within nearly 6 months of each other. While juggling his big job and life in NYC, the legalities of estates, the emotional pain of losing your parents, and the house his father left to him- Danny asked for help, a help I could give. I flew out to Chicago to assist in cleaning out his father’s house.
I left for the trip anxious to see how Danny would be and nervous that I would talk about my recent struggles too much. Struggles that seemed trivial, given his circumstances.
Those four days in Chicago were the four most healing days of my entire year. By doing for Danny what I had needed from others, I paid forward the love and devotion I knew he needed. And Danny, through his pain, reminded me-always- to laugh. (at myself...and others)
We drank rose from water bottles in an Uber.
We ripped up carpet and drank cheap beer.
We memorized a storage locker number.
We spent $38 at Burger King (in one trip).
We laughed. We cried,
We helped each other.
I came home from Chicago transformed, a return to a more lighthearted and self-accepting version of myself. The darkness had finally begun to recede, the future began to feel bright. I rented a flat of my own and spent all sorts of money on everything from a couch to a new bed, right on down to the scotch tape and sharpies. I started over, on myself. I died my hair pink and leaned in to my “all black clothes, all the time” uniform without second guessing myself. I made plans with friends and filled my life with everything I loved, with everything I had put on the back burner during my turn as a wife. I got cast in a show as well as cast the first show I will be professionally directing. I started the website I had held the domain to for the past 2 years. I invested in self-love and acceptance. I embraced my flaws and promised myself to never let the veracious, capable person inside of me be sequestered for any reason, ever again.
This year ends where it began, in NYC- with some of my favorite people. The first of my three trips this year, I realized the rock I was under. The second trip in the summer gave me the strength to boldly go forward. The third trip will be ringing in the New Year a new way, it is a celebration of having chosen the hard path, and emerging victorious. Victorious because I am certain that I made the right choice in leaving my marriage, the right choice in staying in St. Louis, and the right choice, always, in trusting my gut.
2017, I did TheBessICould... but I am not sorry to see you go.