August 7, 2010
It has recently occurred to me that I am in a time of major transition in my life, and probably have been for some time. In some ways, this is a comfort to me (I’ll get to that in a minute!) A major transition that is happening now – a normal one but difficult nonetheless – is the empty nest. My little birdies are flying the coop. My oldest daughter moved out last summer, and although I am not thrilled with her living arrangement, I am very proud of her and have been able to see that she is now a responsible adult. Hey, I must have done SOMETHING right! And my youngest, 17, is choosing to finish high school in another state, living with her uncle. There has been some upsetting friend drama in her life, and she is taking the opportunity to make a new start. I applaud this, but I am faced with a big, empty 4-bedroom house and coming home to it alone every day. She’s even taking her dog, who sleeps with me. I will be very much alone.
The other major transition is an ongoing one: recovering from a bad marriage. I hadn’t realized that I was still completing the healing process until very recently, when my relationship of five years ended. I have just finished reading “Getting Naked Again”, by Judith Sills (PhD); a book about dating in ones “later years” after a break up or divorce. In it, I found a tidbit of information about transitional relationships that brought on an “AHA!” moment.
From the book: “The Palate Cleanser: Mr. Antithesis – this transitional relationship is a billboard for some significant element that was missing in the relationship you left behind. …. The transitional man who is the opposite of your last relationship in some crucial way…. Blessedly free of some toxic part of your (husband’s) personality.”
Hmmm…. Let me think for a moment: Hell-Billy (Ex husband) was incredibly irresponsible with money and jobs, racking up thousands in debt and quitting jobs at a moment’s notice; leaving me to scrounge for the mortgage. TF1 was the very model of responsibility, with a good job and a career path that didn’t include self-destruct (or course, it didn’t include me either, but it took years to discover that!) I never felt that Hell-Billy could take care of me, and I always knew TF1 could if he chose to. Hell-Billy was emotionally volatile. TF1, emotionally barren. Complete opposites.
Transitional relationships are, by nature, temporary. And it is true that, as madly in love as I was with TF1, I always felt the temporariness of the situation. For the first few months of our breakup, as I have longed for his voice, and he put me (wisely) on a psychological restraining order – NO CONTACT – I honestly felt like I would die. I dreamed of him every night and woke up crying every morning. I went through withdrawals, bargaining and justifying, and finally, gradually, came a sad realization that it never WAS meant to be more than a palate cleanser. And that in the course of that transitional love affair I have learned how to smile again.
I noticed this for the first time when I looked at the photos we took throughout our two week trip to Spain. I look happy. Deliriously happy; the way one can look when one is completely in love in a romantic place. During my 14 year marriage, I had lost the ability to feel truly happy. You can see it in pictures: the sad resigned look of a trapped animal was always reflected in my eyes. Slowly, surely, the “haunted look” that my ex used to comment on – yes, even he saw it, not knowing he was the cause – disappeared. It was replaced by something remarkably resembling joy.
So now, as I march into more major life transitions, I pause to be grateful for the lessons I have learned, and to bless the teachers. I hold no resentment, no regrets. I hope to someday rediscover the joy of being in love, and this time to find a kindred soul, one whose passions run deep. I also hope this for TF1, that he can find someone who is more aligned to his level of comfort in intimacy and that he can find happiness with that. And of course, I make the grandiose assumption that human beings are destined to “partner up”, and that this is our happiest state. I acknowledge that this is not always true; some people are so self-contained that they need no one (or perhaps have convinced themselves of this.)
As for me, I’ll take love, thank you very much. Great, messy, delirious gobs of it when possible. And all the lessons to be learned along the way!
Yours in the amazing journey of discovery –