Sleeping Solo: One Woman's Journey into Life after Marriage

BOOK: Sleeping Solo: One Woman's Journey into Life after Marriage
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Sleeping Solo

One Woman’s Journey into
Life After Marriage


Audrey Faye





This is a very personal essay, and
unlike most of my writing, it’s not fiction.
It is my opinions, my recollections,
interpretations of some of the events of my life.
It’s not intended to be definitive,
factual, or to speak for anyone other than me.



To Maia, to Casey, and to

You know why.

(If you don’t, keep reading!)



An introduction of sorts.
On December 2, 2013, my marriage of
twelve years exploded.
It left little
bits of brain and heart matter all over the walls, and the certain, irrevocable
knowledge that my life had just radically changed shape forever.

So I did what all courageous, independent, strong women do
when such things happen—I curled up into a tiny ball in a corner of my
couch and wished piteously for it to all go away.

It didn’t, and eight months later, I don’t assume the fetal
position all that much anymore.
I’ve made peace with some of what happened and kicked some of it to the
I’ve figured out how to step
around and over marital debris without tripping every time, and learned some
new definitions for what it means to be strong and courageous.

And because I am a writer, I feel a need to commit this
journey to the black-and-white page.

I could have waited until I arrived at some kind of
destination to begin the writing, and I’m sure the neat-and-tidy part of my
soul would have preferred that.
that’s not the message that the words knocking at my door are delivering.
They’re telling me that the power lies
in speaking now, in writing now while all of this feels very immediate and real
and the frothing waters of this particular river are still flowing around my

I can do that because this isn’t advice.
I’m not trying to tell anyone else how
to move on after their marriage ends, gracefully or otherwise.
I’m offering up the very personal
brushstrokes of my own experience while the painting is still underway.
Partly because the words are gushing from
my fingertips, insisting on being heard.
Partly because it is exactly these intimate bits from
other travelers on the road that I most appreciate reading right now.

And partly because what I’ve found in this stream is too
good to keep to myself.

On the 2nd of December, I knew only that I’d been
unceremoniously dumped out onto the road of a new journey.
I expected it to be dusty and hard and
short on food and water, a gut-wrenching endurance test that would take a long
time to wind its way to ease and peace and a modicum of happiness.

That’s not what happened at all.

Even as I write that sentence, I am so damn grateful.

That’s not what
happened at all.

There have been hard days and dusty ones, and I’ll do my
best, in this missive from the road, to speak the truth of those moments
But the words clamoring at my
door aren’t the dusty ones—they’re the ones full of surprised pride in
the journey that has actually happened instead.
The ones full of abundance and purpose
and happiness and the wild, bubbling need to dance.

Not what I
expected from my post-marriage apocalypse either.

This isn’t one of those organized tales with a purpose and a
coherent message with lots of supporting facts.
Which is ironic, because I’m actually
pretty good at writing those.

This is a trail of little jewels hidden in the grass.
Or chocolate bread crumbs.
The nuggets that smile
at me and ask to be written, and the less polite ones that wake me up at night
and insist at their turn on the page.
Some of them are about my bed and my
kids and some are about the importance of the right word and at least one is
apparently going to be about my sex life.

All of them are honest, and all of them say something that
seems to matter to me as I stand here in this particular part of this
particular stream.

There are so many of us on variations of this journey,
picking ourselves and our various battered pieces up after a crash and taking
the steps that walk us to the rest of our lives.

And I bet I’m not the only one who is really surprised by
where those steps have gone.

So have fun meandering through my breadcrumbs.
See if anything in the dusty bits or the
dancing ones speaks to your heart, or simply walk with me a while and enjoy the
glimpse of someone else’s road.

Ground zero.
I know, I know.
I just enticed you in the door with
promises of happy dancing in the streets and shiny, pretty things in the grass.
we’ll get there.
But first I have
to take you back to the 2nd of December and the bomb blast that took out everything
good in my marriage and set a whole lot of other things on fire too.

I’m not going to get into the specifics of what went
Baring my soul is one thing,
but I don’t intend to strip several other people naked too.
What matters is that the blast was big
and ugly and very, very permanent.
There would be no gluing the shrapnel of my marriage back together, no
repairing the shreds of the intimate connection I had belonged to for more than
twelve years.

If I could have run for the hills at that point, I would
I’d have gotten as far away
as I could from the damage, built a really
brick wall up to the sky, and started a new life.
Everything in me screamed for distance
and safety.

But I couldn’t do that.

I have two kids—and the guy who had just detonated the
explosion is their dad.
We were a
family of four who had just been blown to smithereens.
Which meant I had responsibilities, and
my heart, killer bruises and
knew it.
I had to stay at ground zero and keep
the promises I’d made, twice, on the glorious, crazy, life-changing days when
each of my children were born.

I’m good in a crisis, the kind of person you want in charge
of triage and handing out the bandages and setting up search parties to find
traces of life under the rubble.
I started taking action.
lawyers, house hunting—applying bandages to the worst of the bleeding and
desperately trying to figure out how to keep as little of this from landing on
my kids as humanly possible.

I also had a book to release.
Oh, and Christmas.
Of all the pure, clear instincts that
rose up right after the explosion, one of the fiercest was that I would not let
my kids’ world fall apart during the holiday they and I love so very much.

So most people, watching from the outside, saw a flurry of
And rightly so, I
think—my house was on fire.

Here’s what people didn’t see so much in those early days.

I was cold.
Deep-freeze winter-tundra cold in every cell of my body.
I’ve never been so cold in my entire
life, and that’s saying something when you grew up in the Canadian
hypothermia—my body’s way of responding to the blast that had just hit.

I might have managed to ignore the chattering cold, even as
I layered on sweaters and socks and huddled under piles of blankets, trying
desperately to shelter my inner fires.
But the cold came with a friend—I also wasn’t eating.

You have to understand—I can always eat, and when
things get tough, I comfort eat.
Food is one of my constants, and if you’d asked me how I expected to
respond in the days following nuclear meltdown, I would have sighed and started
inventorying my chocolate stash.

So when all I could manage to get down for days at a time
were small bowls of yogurt and a little fruit, it made a very big
I lost weight,
fast—not something that had ever happened in my world.
And all this on the heels of a doctor’s
visit in November where it was clear I was borderline anemic and fighting
adrenal fatigue.

My body was teetering on the brink of something dark and

Which was a huge gift—I just didn’t know it then.
Because it’s pretty much impossible to
body turning into an ice cube.

The monsters under the bed.
I’m one of those people who
a lot of time wandering my inner landscapes.
Even as my teeth chattered, I knew I was
scared, and I knew quite a bit of why.

The dangers stalking my kids were the most obvious of the

My son is severely autistic.
He’s a gorgeous little guy with brown
curls and big eyes that study the world and a laugh that gurgles from his
He loves to be
outside—I think the drumbeat that he follows is easier to hear out
He doesn’t speak, and his
brain doesn’t make much sense of the words we say to him, either.
He communicates through touch and love
and sound and the persistent patience of a child who has never known anything

I love him with a fierceness that flattens me sometimes, but
I was not ready for what faced me in the aftermath of December 2nd.
Our boy had always had two parents in
the house—literally.
We both
worked from home since before he was born, and that shaped every aspect of how
we parented.
There was always
backup, always a second pair of hands to call on, even if those hands were
technically busy writing a book or shipping a package or attempting to eke out
five minutes of peace.

The idea of parenting my son without that backup was
And my fears for his
future, never entirely quiescent, were breeding horrible monster babies in the

My daughter doesn’t have the obvious life challenges her
brother faces.
She’s my sensitive,
musical, imaginative child—what you might get if you crossed a dragon and
a fairy.
A girl who feels
everything deeply, standing on the cusp of where childhood ends and the wild
teenage lands beyond begin.
loves so very much, and change always shakes her hard.

Of all of us, I expected her to feel the cracks in the
foundation of our family most deeply, and I felt entirely helpless to protect
I also had no idea how to
juggle her needs while taking care of her brother.
Two parents and two kids had always been
our family math.
Two kids and one
mama felt like a one-way trip to parenting on fumes.
Or worse.

Somewhere, buried beyond the fears for my kids, was a
horrible grief for the man I had married, and utter confusion about what my
promises to him meant in all of this.

And the last person I was so very scared for was
I’d been
handed something I wasn’t at all sure I could handle—and I was going to
have to handle it alone.


Two syllables quietly causing devastating tremors in the
cracks of my heart.

I’d been alone, you see.
I’d had an important relationship crash
once before, and I knew what it was to walk bravely through my days and work on
healing and deliver on my responsibilities and gamely seek out the things that
would make me a fulfilled human being.
I’d done it.
And while that
was a time long before kids and marriage and the life I had now, I remembered
two things very clearly.

It had been very hard work.
And at the bottom of it all, I hadn’t
been very happy.
I’d yearned for
many of the things that come only with a partner.
Shared roots, love,
ineffable sense of belonging.

I’d survived alone, but I hadn’t thrived there.
I’d passed the endurance
test, that
was all.

And now it was back—and I was exhausted, heart sick,
living in a new town hundreds of miles from my old home, and responsible to two
kids and my own frozen self.

Words weren’t going to
fix this.
About three
days after nuclear meltdown, I sat down in a counselor’s office.
I’d been through a relationship crash
once before, and therapy was hugely helpful in getting me back on my feet.
So being the responsible medic that I
was, I triaged the mess and decided that getting me some help was a pretty big

This psychologist was a lovely lady, full of empathy and
smart questions.
She’d clearly
dealt with frozen bodies and shell-shocked hearts before, and we spent an hour
together, exploring how she might help me find my feet.

I left knowing that therapy wouldn’t be the path for
Not this time.
I could feel the truth of it clamoring
in my ribs—the ribs that belonged to the body that wasn’t eating or
sleeping or keeping itself warm.

I’m a writer, and a talker—someone who has always done
some of my best thinking out loud.
I’ve got good intuition, I love to wrap my head around ideas, and I have
the courage to hold up a mirror and take a look.
I trust the realm between my ears to
help me make things better.

BOOK: Sleeping Solo: One Woman's Journey into Life after Marriage
5.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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