The Day I Went Home
“Life always changes. Things don’t stay bad forever.” – My mom.
When it comes to remembering dates--be it birthdays, anniversaries, special events--I’m the go-to gal. I’ve always had this knack for keeping a calendar stored in my head, but there are two dates that stand out above all the rest.
June 17, 2006. The day God, with a little help from my OB/GYN, brought Rebecca Anna into the world and into my oh so exhausted arms. The most special day of my life, and by far, the happiest.
Let’s press the fast forward button to two years and one month later. July 13, 2008, to be exact. A knot tangled itself in the pit of my stomach. A lump burned in my throat. My heart dropped as if it were on an elevator that had just plummeted 13 stories. We have all felt those things at one point or another and that is exactly what I felt at the sound of my now ex-husband’s voice telling me he no longer wanted to be with me. On the outside, I was a boulder, strong and solid, incapable of breaking. Beneath the surface, I was crumbling. I did not contest. I did not beg to try again. I don’t even think I cried. Instead, I simply agreed that we should go our separate ways, in the back of my mind believing that we might actually rectify our problems and find our way back to each other one day, as we so often did in the past.
So we packed our belongings and ended our Ocean City, Maryland vacation one day early. That ride was without a doubt the longest ride of my life. I felt like a prisoner being transported from one facility to another, but I knew that in a few hours, the gates would open and I would get to go home; to the home that took such good care of me for 27 years.
Fears, uncertainties, and questions wrapped around my brain like rampantly growing vines. Has he stopped loving me? Will I ever get passed this? What do I do next? How can I support myself and my daughter on a part-time salary? What about health insurance? The list is infinite. This was the day I realized, after years of being told and made to feel like I couldn’t, that I had to make it on my own; that I could make it on my own. The day I began my journey toward creating my own happiness.
July 13, 2008. 13 – unlucky in some cultures, the opposite in others. I guess I never really thought one way or another. It was just a number, just a date.
When I arrived at my parents’ house for the fourth and final time during my five year marriage, I was anxious to move forward and get settled into my new, ahem, old home. I spent the first few days unpacking, folding, categorizing, sorting, filing, labeling, and following the “if you haven’t worn it in a year, throw it out” rule to a tee. Some organized person somewhere out there was a victim of identity theft that day. I continued into the early hours of the next morning on my first day back, breaking often to stress eat and give into the nostalgia as I reminisced over old junk that I stumbled upon. I came across some funny stuff, including a contract my friend Ann Marie and I made on loose leaf paper during an unsuccessful study session during college. She promised to lose weight and I was to gain confidence in myself.
What intrigued me most of my miscellaneous discoveries, was a yellowing piece of spiral fringed paper. On the lines of that paper scribbled a list I made for an ex- boyfriend. A list of romantic, okay, I admit, maybe even corny, things to do. Swing dance lessons, watching the sunrise, long walks on the beach – just to name a few. I laughed at it at first, especially the swing dance lessons, but then that laughter turned into sadness at the realization that he and I never completed one activity on that list. I am not talking about my ex-boyfriend, but my husband.
In the years we spent together, I relied on him in every way, not only financially, but emotionally, as well. And although I was often treated poorly and belittled, hearing things like, “Respect is earned,” I just never had the strength to say “I have had enough.” My happiness so often revolved around how he made me feel and not how I felt about myself. So much of my life with him was spent feeling like I was hanging by a rope worn to the core, just waiting for it to sever. The anxiety of him not wanting to be with me and of the marriage failing tagged along with me every place I went. With every horrible fight, with every near break up, I remember feeling weak in my bones. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. The nervousness rippled throughout my entire body. It was like a rug burn on the inside of my skin that wouldn’t go away. So much of my energy was spent fretting and worrying about losing him, that when it actually did happen, I thought, “Whew. It’s over and I survived. Not only did I survive, but I am okay.” I think I even sighed a sigh of relief knowing that I did not have to worry about all that anymore.
I had set new goals for my new life, although no self-made contracts were needed. Sometimes people are just not meant to be; they just aren’t the right fit for one another. It’s sort of like going into a store and finding a beautiful dress. You love it, it’s on sale, and it seems perfect. You try it on, and it’s just a few sizes too small.
It is now almost four years later. I harbor no hatred or ill feelings toward him – okay, well maybe a little. Since then I have gone on to obtain a Master’s Degree, become a teacher, and pursue one of my greatest passions – writing. I am still waiting for the person who will help me cross off those items on my list. I’d like to think I’ve paid my dues when it comes to heartbreak, and that I have earned someone good, and I believe he is out there somewhere. Perhaps he is on his way. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, as they say, and maybe my ex-husband was right when he said, “Respect is earned.” It may have taken me a while, but I now finally know that I am worthy – worthy of someone’s respect and love.
Shame on that girl in college who needed to sign a silly, bogus contract to try and believe she was worthy. July 13th - the day the rope broke, but I did not fall. I guess 13 might be pretty lucky after all.