Guys, you can change your own life with blinding speed.
Two weeks ago I was married. Now I've been separated for a week and a half. I've been working with the artist formerly known as my husband to draft a separation agreement, to work out finances, to make this as easy on both of us as we can.
I've been treading so carefully and at the same time blazing through new trails like the fearless explorer I like to pretend to be. Fear always lurks beneath what sometimes feels like a tightrope walk of trust and love. Trust that he'll do what he says he'll do, trust that we both want the best for each other, trust that I will not starve or get stuck in a minimum-wage job, unable to escape.
The reasons for our split are so overwhelmingly complicated, and so many things that are personal between two people. From my perspective, suffice it to say that after two days of talking I realized that he needed me to be a different person than I am becoming. I really love the person I'm becoming, and I don't want to be with someone who can't enjoy that person. I really needed him to be different than he is, and I didn't want him to have to labour under that weight. After ten years of being married, our marriage is the hardest thing either of us has ever done. We were in the grocery store the other day and said that many people are surprised that we hope to remain friends, or that we're even talking to one another. As we strolled through the organic section we both agreed that separating and organizing a divorce is not the hardest thing we've done together. We've had good times and we've had bad times, but there have been a lot of bad times. Our marriage has never been what we hoped it would be, and after a decade of growth and change and constant effort we're ready to let it rest. We love each other, we want the best for one another, and yet we have never been able to have the relationship we've wanted for ourselves or one another. We don't want to continue struggling for something that never turns out. And I fear that as the years continue we hurt each other more and benefit each other less.
It was such a terrifying edge to peer over. We've been married my entire adult life. It's been the thing through which everything else in my life, my friends, my career goals, my personal growth, has filtered. The trellis on which all the vines of my life have grown. Who am I unmarried? My life is completely different. It's so frightening.
This is how I know it's the right thing: it feels like rest, it feels like peace, it feels like waking to a bright future, it feels like putting down your work after a long day, it feels like allowing something to go to sleep that has been exhausted, finally throwing away that comforting blanket you've had from childhood that is now a pile of germ-ridden rags.
I am not nearly as sad as I thought I would be. Don't get me wrong, the first night was terrible. I honestly thought I would die of the sadness and agony. It felt like what I imagine sawing off your own arm feels like. But since then, acceptance, peace, happiness, and -dare I say it- excitement? Sometimes anger, sometimes sadness, but mostly those other things.
Maybe the sadness will return later. Sometimes when I think that in five quick months I may never again see the person I thought I would spend the rest of my life with, the person who I woke up next to almost every day for the last ten years, I feel my heart clench. When we're texting and I want to call him a pet name or say that I love him and I have to stop myself because it's not what we are now. He knows I still love him, as I know he loves me, but it's a little too soon to say that in casual conversation. Those things are sad and beautiful.
My entire future has changed in the course of two days. And, oddly, I feel it opening up before me like a beautiful sunset in a wide sky. Instead of moving to a nearby city, finishing my doctorate, luxuriating in my doctor-husband's salary, and then going to do a master's degree in therapy, I'm moving in with my parents, trying to find a day job and take music students, trying to make a life on my own, saving money for that master's degree, finishing my doctorate long distance, opening my own credit card, making my own budget spreadsheet. Eventually I may have to figure out dating apps. Guys, when I got married dating someone you met on the internet was still considered a risky and unusual thing to do. Smart phones had barely gotten off the ground. I'm bisexual, I may date girls. I may date someone who is neither a boy nor a girl. I may live the rest of my life in blissful solitude, connected to my loving community. I may have to overcome some of the deep wounds this marriage has left. It's so terrifying, but so exhilarating, and I feel ready for the adventure of a new, different life. I reach out to God, trusting that the vine will continue to nourish me, a little branch.
When I finished my comprehensive exams I had a mala custom made for me. I wanted to celebrate being halfway done my doctorate and honour that accomplishment and all the growth I'd experienced along the way. I grew a lot in those first two years, and sometimes I felt as though the person I was becoming came on a bit strong sometimes, maybe was a bit too much or a bit overwhelming. During the consultation I said I wanted the mala to remind me to embrace myself fully as I am, and to accept myself and recognize that I am capable. I wear malas to remind me of something, an intention, if you will. Every time I put them on I think about the intention I have for them. With malas, you keep them until they break, at which point you are considered to have fulfilled the intention you set (which is why generally you don't get them repaired). A few days after we agreed to separate, my custom-made mala broke. And I felt affirmed in our decision. That this marriage had to end so I could embrace myself fully, and recognize that I am capable of so much that I've hoisted onto Zach for many years.
Sometimes I wonder if I'll regret everything I said and did in those two days. But you know, I don't think I will. No matter what happens, I know we were both able to tell the truth about ourselves and the nature of our relationship. We both spoke from a place of wanting the best for one another and ourselves. We spoke from a place where we recognized how we each want to live, what we will accept in a marriage relationship, and the things we don't want and won't accept. Even now, though it is often difficult, we know it was the right choice. I don't think people feel so much peace, happiness, and excitement for the future when they're making the biggest mistake of their lives. Maybe separating will turn out to be a huge mistake. But maybe staying together would have turned out to be a huge mistake. We took a big risk in getting married. I remember spending most of our engagement panicking about potentially making the biggest mistake of my life. And you know, I don't regret it. I don't regret getting married, or being married for all those years. It's all made me the person I am today, a person I love more and more. I had the chance to love and be loved. It didn't work out, but I don't regret walking down that aisle and am thankful that I had the chance to try to make it work with someone who tried so hard to make it work, too. But I'm tired, I don't think it's always supposed to be like this, and I'm ready to say goodbye to this iteration of our relationship and be open to new things.
A friend of mine gave me the most wonderful advice: after a bad breakup, her mother advised her that although we often consider our significant others to be "home", others are not our home. We are our own home. We invite others in to live there, but it is our home. We can never be homeless because our home is us. And I resonated so deeply with that. I've often said that Zach feels like home. That when I am near him I feel home. But I am ready to be my own home, my own person, and to bring my home into neighbourness with another instead of moving out of myself and into whatever they want me to be.
So I'm ready to see what's next for me, and what neighbourhood this home will move to next.
PS - I know how to make malas now, so I'm going to use the beads from the old one to create a new mala for someone else.
PPS - My maiden name is Turpin.