It is my pleasure and delight to introduce to you Jeri Walker, from Word Bank, who has written a wonderful piece about some of the complications in life which have reflected in her journey and my own, in the last year.
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Divorce happens. But yes, there is life after divorce. Sometimes the writing is on the wall, and at other times the break comes hard and fast. My marriage ended at roughly the same time last year as Lizzi’s. Her willingness to share the arc of that huge life event brought me solace in a dark time. Here was this brave creature on the other side of the ocean publicly coming to terms with starting life over again. The only sharing I could muster were cryptic Facebook posts of quotes focusing on heartbreak and strength, not to mention status updates related to cleaning out my closets. When your spouse leaves the country twice, you sell his shit like hotcakes.
Being abandoned is an epic way for a marriage to come to an end. Sometimes husbands get into taxicabs and never come back. He made his message clear by leaving his wedding ring behind on a living room side table. The day I finally pawned it evoked a bittersweet moment when I became a country-song tableau of a woman wronged in the worst of ways. Don’t mind me, I thought as I stood at the counter. Certainly I wasn’t the first jilted woman to bring such business their way.
Just over a year later, the details are still too fresh to share in much depth. Needless to say, the whole experience left me entertaining that timeless question: Who the fuck am I?
In the adventuresome days of youth, I swore never to lose myself to a life of quiet desperation. Yet, that is exactly what happened over the course of my relationship. We met at nineteen while working a summer in Yellowstone National Park. Love came hard and fast. A few years later, after three summer seasons in Yellowstone and two winter seasons in the Everglades, we tied the knot in Las Vegas and honeymooned in a tent on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Life’s infinite possibilities abounded.
I’ve always felt I knew myself fairly well, but I now know it’s possible to grow by leaps and bounds in one area of life and remain completely blind in others. From the beginning, it was a given neither of us wanted children. Rather, we devoted ourselves to three demanding pets. We cultivated a love of food and travel as well as the arts. Anyone on the outside looking in would readily note how close and cultured we seemed. Quite unintentionally, I made the mistake of defining myself via a relationship rather than as an individual. In the process of becoming we, I forgot about me.
In retrospect and tons of therapy sessions later, it’s gradually became clear how growing up with a severely bipolar mother conditioned me to think detachment in those closest to me was normal. I spent the first nineteen years of life trying to connect with a mother who barely acknowledged me, only to devote the next nineteen years attempting to solve the puzzle that would shed light on my husband’s aloofness. The man I loved was just never fully present.
My resilient nature is both a blessing and a curse. This existence of mine has hinged upon the ability to be self-reliant. Because I hungered for the security I never had as a child, I ended up marrying someone I essentially ended up parenting. In the end, he said one of the things he always admired most about me was that I always made the right decisions. Always. How could I have known the internal struggles he faced? Though I sensed something was amiss for years, I have come to terms that it’s easy to overlook warning signs when everything coasts along well enough at the surface.
I tried to keep my sense of humor throughout. I would joke and tell people my life had become a mix between a Lifetime movie and the Jerry Springer show with a dash of Dr. Phil thrown in. Thank goodness for family and friends who were there to listen to my woes. Admittedly, the best revenge came in the form of how I wasted no time getting back in the dating saddle. Though loyal until the end, once betrayed, I owed him nothing. I owed it to myself to not sit around on my ass.
At the time the worst events were taking place, I was copyediting Mandi Castle’s novel Dear Stephanie. She casually mentioned it would be okay if I needed more time. Relief crashed down, and I noted the irony of how my ex was the male version of her protagonist Paige in many ways. In my pain, such an admission to a client probably wasn’t the most professional thing to do, but that’s a hard line to walk when the clientele I work with knows the power to be had by sharing personal stories.
Fear makes us behave in such illogical ways, and yet I hung onto my marriage for dear life for way too long. All I ever wanted was a safe and secure life. Even false security is better than no sense of stability at all until life comes crashing down. So many frustrated years I spent wondering why he wouldn’t open up, why he wouldn’t talk to me, why he just wouldn’t let me in even though he was clearly my best friend.
My mantra over the years became what’s wrong with me? Turns out my issues paled in comparison to his. We all weave a narrative of the person we are and dwell in that invented past. In truth, all we have is the present. We can choose how we remember things. We can invent our past as well as our future.
By and large, I lost myself in the maze of trying to connect with two people who will most likely never find themselves. The past really is the past. Rather than dwell, my reaction was to heed the call of my old self. I didn’t crawl into a hole and think the sky was falling. I got on with life.
I may have missed out on not cultivating enough of my own interests, but I have no real regrets. My cage had to be broken open in the worst of ways in order for me to finally strike out on my own and start becoming the version of me I could have become so long ago. I may still be scared shitless every damn day, but fear no longer has a chokehold on me. I’ve got a lot of living left to do.
How have you dealt with life after divorce? Or perhaps you would like to share a memorable jilted woman story.
Truth really is stranger than fiction, and it’s a long damn story. The psychological and romantic overtones of Jeri Walker’s contemporary fiction stem from growing up in the eccentric North Idaho mining town of Wallace and then later falling in love while working in Yellowstone and Everglades National Parks. The influence of a bipolar mother and Jekyll and Hyde ex populate her literary landscape.
She and her demanding pets call the Pacific Northwest home. In the continual pursuit of finding herself, she plans to someday live in an RV or a tiny house. She dwells online at Word Bank Writing & Editing, eternally grateful to be charting a course as a freelancer. Connect with her at JeriWB.com.
Blog: Make Every Word Count http://jeriwb.com/
Amazon Author Central: http://smile.amazon.com/Jeri-Walker/e/B006UHV4CA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1445866970&sr=1-2-ent