This photograph popped up on my Facebook memories the other day. It was taken at the St. Elmo Ghost Town in Colorado, in August 2015. It was one of the last trips my ex-husband and I took before we separated about 6 months later.
That was not a good trip. I mean, the trip itself was good, as I love traveling and seeing new places, and that vacation had a lot of new places to see! But that trip was the end of my marriage. I suppose anyone whose marriage has ended can probably point to the month, the day, or even the moment when they were done. It might not mean that they marched down to the courthouse that afternoon, or even a month later, but in looking back, they knew.
My moment happened on the first day of that trip – at lunch at a Boulder brewery shortly after we flew into Denver that morning. It was a big thing, one that I could never let go of, even after the initial incident settled down. I told myself that I would see how things went for a little while, and see if I was satisfied with the response. See if he followed through on the promises he made. I’m sure you can guess that the response wasn’t good enough. The trust was gone and with that, the marriage.
I don’t think I’m different than anyone else. I never thought I was someone who would get divorced. I probably stayed too long. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt; wanted to believe that things would change. I weighed the pros and cons of upsetting the balance of my life. I went through the self-doubt and the wondering if I would ever find anyone who loved me or even cared. Maybe my marriage was enough. Maybe you never got the fairy tale, and something less was enough.
I am no different than anybody else in that I sometimes don’t feel confident about who I am, what I have achieved, and where I’m going. I know in reality that it is nonsense, but it’s tough not to compare yourself to others, to not assume that everybody else somehow has it all together so much more than you do, and to not be your own worst critic. I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve to be happy, I don’t deserve the good fortune I have had. I ruminate more when I’m tired and stressed, and I’m trying to break myself of this insidious habit.
I had a beloved boss and mentor who used to say, “you work someplace as long as it works for you.” I have always remembered that, and I use it myself now too. It applies to work and career, but it also applies to our personal lives. Dr. Phil is known for asking guests, “how’s that working for you?” It is kind of the same question. If you are still doing the same thing, and it isn’t making you happy, don’t you owe it to yourself to try something different?
They say that sometimes you have to lose what you thought you wanted in order to make room for something better. That one door has to close before another will open. And that you have to sit with yourself, and learn that you are enough, before you can see that someone else is not. I see a lot of people get stuck in life, and we all do, but you have a choice of how you will deal with it. Will you maintain the status quo, and keep making the same choices that aren’t serving you, or will you make a change?
I have never been someone who just goes rushing into things. It isn’t my nature. I’m not particularly adventurous, even though some people might think otherwise. After all, I did decide to pack up my car and head off on a several month road trip, with no real plan and only a very loose itinerary. But I don’t see myself that way. The irony of this is that my cautious nature used to annoy my ex-husband to no end. But he would circle round a topic in an endless loop, unhappy with the status quo, complaining, and yet unwilling to ever do anything to change it. I’m sure he’s still circling round his endless loop. It might take me a while to make up my mind, evaluating all my choices and the consequences, but once I do, I set the plan in motion and go for it.
I have known that I am happier without him, but it is hard to define why. Our marriage wasn’t awful on a day to day basis. It was just… Stagnant. Lifeless. Unfulfilling. I see this picture now and I can see exactly why, in a way that I didn’t understand then. The body language of the man in that photo says it all. He didn’t love me. He didn’t want to be with me. Posing for that photo with me was a chore. I get that some people just don’t like being in photos, but the body language in that photo was the way it had become for him with me. He looked this way with me, whether it was recorded or not. He was already done, before I ever got to that point.
I have had a lot of ups and downs since this photo was taken. My divorce was ugly and messy. My former job was ugly and messy. Closing those doors meant that I could let those things go and allow the light to come back in through another door. I didn’t want to be a victim, but sometimes I have felt like one. However, there is no future in that – being the victim. All that holds is blame and more stagnation. I was able to learn to shine again, and find that inner strength – the strength that had been there all along, but is sometimes hard to see when you are weighed down by other people’s shit.
Is my new life perfect? Nope – not on your life. But it is a lot more even-keeled. I’m content. Comfortable in my own skin. And happy.