If you think that I’ve been quiet because I’ve fallen into a peacefully settled sort of happiness, you would be wrong.
There is happiness, to be sure, and love and light, but peace and any sense of settling continue to elude me.
In the 4 am hours when I spontaneously wake up each night, I wonder at this. I turn my life around and upside down over and over again. It’s been seven months. I should be in a much better place, shouldn’t I?
Here’s a snippet of the inside of my head these days:
I contemplate the constant hustle to pay the bills, never making enough to pay down debt and save a penny.
Living close to my kids’ other home and their schools seemed so essential post break up. There were no suitable roommates here, who could offer an appropriate home environment for my son. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough. Maybe I wasn’t thinking straight. How could I be?
I love my apartment. I love my community here. I love being minutes away from my children. But there’s so much more to consider.
When my relationship ended, I had a burgeoning online business that adequately contributed to our household expenses, split between three adults. I made some extra money on the weekends performing wedding ceremonies. It’s not enough to get by on, and I don’t have the time and space I need to grow either business because I’m working side jobs to pay the bills.
Do I look for a full-time job? Will anyone even interview me without a degree? Could I earn more this way? Feel a greater sense of accomplishment?
Do I walk away from this lovely apartment and move back home with my parents? Should I do that and go back to school? Realize my dream job of becoming a relationship and sex therapist? What am I doing with my life?
How can I save money for my son’s future?
What will I live on when I retire?
What if I get sick and can’t work? Or need major dental work? Or my car breaks down?
How did my life change so much, so fast?
How can I live with this pain? Why does it still hurt like this?
How dare I try to love anyone, other than myself and my children, at a time like this?
Why do my kids need me if they already have two parents?
I should be so much further ahead in life. What do I have to show for my time on this earth?
Maybe it’s the moon, or my hormones, or the thick blanket of sorrow I get wrapped in every November, but this noise is deafening even in the light of day.
I’ve started making gratitude lists and watching what I put in my body. I’m doing yoga again and trying to get outside. I’m talking to friends and trying to be social. Some of these things work for a few short minutes, and then it’s back to the cacophony.
This morning I realized that this current brain space exists because there are so many things I have forgotten. So many lessons I need to take another look at. Here are just a few:
1. There is no timeline for grief. Pain and loss and sorrow don’t expire at the six month mark, or the seven month mark, or the five year mark. They exist forever, until the space is shared with other emotions/memories/experiences that dull their sharp edges. Ironically, only the passage of time allows for this space. It cannot be controlled.
2. These changes were not your choice, and so moving into them cannot possibly be easy.
3. When day-to-day life is full of triggers, this will open old wounds until time serves to scab them over. (See lesson 1)
4. When the darkness is overwhelming, the search for light must become an active practice. You won’t find it if you don’t look.
5. No single person can make your individual pain go away. It is yours alone to bear, to examine, to process. If you think for a second that someone else has healed you, you’ve handed them the tools to take you down at the knees, even if that was never their intention. If you can love someone while still doing your own work, do it. If that love is distracting you from your work, it’s doomed. If you think that other person has done the work for you, there’s certain heartbreak in your future.
6. It is completely okay to make mistakes when you’re in the midst of a gigantic life overhaul. Seeing the ‘bigger picture’ is impossible when you’re performing emotional triage. Surviving is the most important thing. You can worry about thriving later.
7. Starting from scratch is a road that is paved with sacrifice and possibility. You will have to look within and decide which sacrifices are worth a peaceful and prosperous bigger picture.
8. The decisions that will affect your future, and the future of your children, are yours alone to make. This is a powerful, and absolutely daunting truth. You do not have to rush these decisions. You deserve to take the time to weigh them carefully and reflect on how each possibility makes you feel.
9. You loved deeply. You were as committed as you knew how to be. You chose to make a child. Seven months is nothing in the face of the time you were prepared to invest in that relationship, so it’s not reasonable that you should feel any differently than you do now.
10. November is brutal. Don’t expect anything to be different about this month, no matter how you decide to feel about it.
11. If you aren’t actively practicing self-care and mindfulness every single day, you will drown.
12. One of the biggest commitments you made to yourself when this relationship ended was financial health. You cannot ignore any opportunities to realize this. Your future, and your son’s future depend on you empowering yourself in this way. This could look like living with your parents for a few years, or this could look like going back to school to invest in a new career, or this could look like trying to find more secure work, or this could look like some combination of these ideas. It absolutely means staying put and being frugal until you know for sure what you’d like to do.
So I’m treading water right now. Sometimes I’m sinking, the cold black water of the unknown like vicious hands around my ankles. Sometimes it feels like floating. Sometimes I’d give anything to see the shore, but I suppose I should be glad to be adrift in the ocean of possibility.