A reader made this. I feel silly about how much it means to me.
But there you go.
I realized yesterday that I have become a parody; an actual walking, talking movie character. “The New Divorcee In The Cul-de-Sac.”
I am Cher in Mermaids, dancing with my kids in the kitchen while the rice burns on the stove. I scrape off the black parts, and we sit down on the floor in the living room and eat with plastic forks. I am grateful they can’t hear my heart pounding.
Last night, a new neighbor of mine came over with a basket of pumpkin muffins; I was on the phone with a client when the doorbell rang, and while I ushered her in with one hand, the other clapped over the mouthpiece – sorry, sorry, no no it’s fine, come in! – I could see myself as she saw me: disheveled in my boxer shorts and t-shirt, with no bra and a messy bun, cats twining around my legs and kids wanting another Fruit Roll-Up yelling from the kitchen. She mentioned that the pumpkin muffins were made with applesauce instead of oil, in case I was a calorie-counter or healthy eater or some such. No no, I said, I’m currently on the Divorce Diet of Diet Coke and sadness. I could use some muffins.
I know how to play this role.
We sat down and chatted for a bit; she already knew the broad strokes of my situation, having apparently run into my father while he was staying here for a few days. We talked about schools. I overshared, because that’s what this character does. I told her about one of the preschools I’d looked at for my daughter, and we bemoaned the prices of preschools these days. I told her how I’d asked for financial aid. I told her that the director of the school had offered me some used uniforms so I wouldn’t have to buy them new, and that I’d accepted the offer.
I told my new neighbor all this within five minutes of meeting her, sitting there at my kitchen table, and I tried not to cry about the “secondhand uniform” comment. It’s such a weird, small, silly thing to get upset about.
But still. This is all pretty fucking humbling, and the uniforms make for a neat metaphor.
I’ve been okay these past few days. I spent the weekend in the woods with a group of women, and ended up on a meditation hike with one who’d gone through a divorce herself. She said I should probably expect to fall apart a few months from now. It’s only when everything finally calms down, she said, that your brain and body can finally process all that’s happened. She warned me that the depression might come at me like a freight train, and told me about this thing she does – it’s such a hippie thing, she said, so bear with me:
She pictures herself during a earlier time in her life when she really, really needed support, and didn’t have anyone there to hold her. And then, in her mind, she goes back, and she holds herself. She lets her future self be the person that her former self needed.
Walking in those woods, I swear to god, I felt my future self there. Holding me.
I do not know how to be alone. I’ve jumped from relationship to relationship my entire adult life (with a year-long, horrifying ill-advised foray into Singlehood in my mid-twenties that I somehow survived, but probably shouldn’t have). I want someone – anyone – to help me through this, because I’m not sure I know how to make myself feel better all on my own. I’ve never really had to do it.
I told Francesca this last night, after the kids went to bed and the house went quiet and the sadness came in and smacked me in the face. I said I was furious with myself for feeling so stupid-lonely. For wallowing in self-pity, when really: shouldn’t I be Cher, dancing in the kitchen?
You know what Francesca said?
She said that the journey I’m on isn’t about “making a new life,” or “finding happiness again.” It is both those things to some extent, but really: it’s about figuring out how to love myself. By myself.
I don’t think I do; at least not yet. I’m angry with myself a lot of the time, and can’t stop questioning every little choice I make. Who the hell am I?, et cetera. But I also think that maybe the simple fact that I made a decision that was very literally impossible, and upended everything in my life with no greater hope than the hope that there might be something much bigger than I’ve ever imagined out there waiting for me – something, maybe, that’s already inside me – it’s actually kind of…amazing.
This morning, a friend texted me this quote from a Brene Brown book:
As you think about your own path to daring leadership, remember Joseph Campbell’s wisdom: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Own the fear, find the cave, and write a new ending for yourself. Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armor. And choose the great adventure of being brave and afraid. At the exact same time.
So yeah, I feel humbled. Sad. A little embarrassed by the parody I’ve become. I want someone else to take the reins for a moment, so I can rest. I don’t feel certain that I can love myself.
Brave and afraid, though? That I can do.
It’s a start.