Sleeping Solo: One Woman's Journey into Life after Marriage (4 page)

BOOK: Sleeping Solo: One Woman's Journey into Life after Marriage
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It felt an awful lot like someone had handed me a leather
miniskirt and four-inch heels and told me to go for a little stroll.
Kind of giddy, way unbalanced, miles
outside my usual comfort zone, and pretty sure to attract notice.

Fortunately for me, the ones who noticed first were my
A mom with
more patience, more silliness, and a sudden affection for midwinter full-moon
walks and talking to rocks?
Both my kids gravitated to that like moths to flame.

It was a good place to begin to learn where to walk with all
this jazzy new power.

I love my kids so very much.
I would die for them, crawl through
burning coals for them.
As it turns
out, neither of those things came up.
My newly loud insides made that clear.
As I listened with my ears and my energy
and my heart, I could see what resonated best for these two little people I
cherish, and it changed my job description so fast that I am still catching

Because that is truly the learning that
landed in my lap.
To walk
with my new compass and reshape every part of my life while listening, very
carefully, to what I already know, but haven’t always given air.

And it was right and good to begin with my walk as a
I’d been so terrified for my
kids, trying to figure out how to shield them, how to control the world and
keep it gentle for them, furious at the man who had made sure I would

The warrior mama in my heart knew to let all of that go.

My job isn’t to get between my children and the world.
It’s to walk at their side, be the wind
at their back and the soft place to land and the presence that will honor who
they are whenever they need to be loved and seen.
My job is to be resilient and happy and silly
and steady and awesome, to be sad and bounce back, to side-eye change and then
embrace it anyhow.

I am the witness to their journey, a mentor, and a fellow
traveler on the road.

heels would have been way easier.
And I probably would have failed miserably in this particular shift, because
it was scary as hell to walk those two steps from the front of my children to
their sides.
Except for one thing.

They both bloomed like magic, rainbow flowers as soon as I
did it.
I won’t go into the
details, because even the children of authors deserve a little privacy.
But trust me, it would have been
impossible to miss the neon flashing signs of rightness.

It was the middle of winter, there was nuclear meltdown in
our midst—and my children were blooming.

Even I am not dumb enough or stubborn enough to walk away
from the waterfall that brought me that.

There were still plenty
of things to trip over.
Blooming kids were one thing.
A car with a very dead battery just seemed like an unfair karmic kick I
shouldn’t have to deal with.

And yet, hiding under the cruel injustice, the same lesson
poked out.

Most of this journey, in fact, hasn’t involved the big,
red-letter stuff.
There have been
lots of little things—and oddly, those took longer and tripped me up more
often than getting the really big things right.

But these little rocks mattered, too.
They were the stumbles that dumped me
off balance and left me feeling like an awkward tourist in my new life, instead
of a native.
I was married for
twelve years.
So very many parts of
how I did everyday things were shaped around that one simple truth.

And then suddenly, a whole bunch of those defaults
I don’t have a default
listener anymore, or a default source of egg-drop soup when I’m sick or hugs
when I’m sad.
There isn’t a
plug-and-play couch buddy on movie night or an obvious person to call when
fourteen warning lights bling into life on my car dashboard—and then all
go out.

The car thing jarred me particularly hard because this is
one of those jobs I defaulted to the man in my life with joy and gladness.
I am a car moron, and I was very happy
to ditch any responsibility other than knowing where my keys lived.
The afternoon of the suddenly very dead
battery dropped the rest of car reality back in my life with a big, ugly
I spent
hour cursing at the universe in general and
several people specifically and contemplating life with a bus pass instead of a
temperamental, middle-aged car.

And then I tottered in my stupid new shoes over to the
website of the BC Automobile Association and discovered they rescue damsels in
car distress and like doing it.

It wasn’t particularly graceful—but I felt pretty good
knowing that the next time my car crapped out on me, my new life had a

Over time, I came up with an inelegant, but effective system
to deal with these details—if they made me trip, I gave them some
There are probably
smarter ways to have gone about deciding my priorities, but sometimes diligent
earns you more points than smart.
I’ve set up a calendar reminder to take out the garbage, found a car
mechanic who doesn’t treat me like an idiot and doesn’t expect me to understand
a word he says, enlisted friends who were willing to be the emergency contacts
for field trips and a woman at the hardware store who knows everything I need
to fix any plumbing problem in the known universe.

I don’t have to do it all myself—I just can’t
outsource it all to the same place anymore.

And occasionally, one of those annoying pebbles turns into
something quite different.
At one
point, somewhere in the middle of winter, my toilet developed a wobble.
It had always wobbled a little, but
suddenly it was like trying to pee on the Titanic.
Google had dire warnings about all the
disasters that could befall homeowners who left such heinous problems

I owned none of the tools necessary to properly investigate
toilet wobble, and none of the money necessary to page a plumber, especially
late on a Saturday night.

So I found a post online by some guy who sounded fairly wobble-experienced.
I carefully read his top seven reasons
toilets don’t stay put like they’re meant to, and eliminated the three I didn’t
And then I raided my
kitchen for things that looked sort of like the tools in question and got to

I got lucky.
turns out that the
that go on the bolt
things were on in the wrong order, and a little bit of jimmying things around
with a knife, a fork, and a pair of pliers got things fixed up just fine.

Since then, I’ve tackled a dripping shower, a
light fixture, and learned the many and varied uses
of a stud finder.
(If you’re
laughing, it’s
not what you

All part of finding new defaults and new
ways to walk.
It was
uncomfortable as hell sometimes, and it poked a finger into the belly buttons
of a lot of my insecurities.

But making choices is power, whether it’s being an awesome
parent or attacking a wobbly toilet with a fork.
And the more of them I make for myself,
the less dusty this road has begun to feel.

Sometimes, a choice is
a single word.
When my
car died, I dealt with it, right there and then, even if there was a wee temper
tantrum involved.
I wasn’t always
that smart.
I tripped over one word
in particular way too many times before I turned to face it


Legally, we’re in marriage limbo.
Separated, which I used in public once
or twice and then squirmed in embarrassed silence as the person I was talking
to expressed hope that we could work things out.
I wish all kinds of power to separated
people everywhere who are trying to do exactly that, but it’s just not in my
My marriage coded out, and
we don’t have the ingredients necessary to resurrect it.

It was easier when it came up in reference to my kids.
Then he’s just their dad.
But even there, I was conscious of the
distance those words imply, and I wondered how it sounded to my girl, if she
understood the magnitude of the shift that had happened to turn “my husband”
into “her dad.”

It might seem strange, this focus on language instead of
worrying about misbehaving cars and missed garbage pickups and how the hell to
parent in the middle of nuclear fallout.

But for me, words shape my truth.
If I called myself the “lazy mom,”
something in that choice would seep into my soul—or ooze out of it.
And stumbling across the empty sentence
space where “husband” used to live totally sucked.

When I was a teenager, I went to school in Italy for two
I arrived not speaking a
word of the language, and I don’t think my head stopped hurting for three
I stumbled, ran into
conversational walls, and generally made a mess of relating to the world.
And then one day some magical switch
flipped and I was able to function.
I wasn’t fluent—heck, I wasn’t even close.
But I no longer tripped over my own two
feet trying to navigate through my day.

I needed a word for the guy I had once married if I wanted
to be functionally fluent in the language of my new world.

I’ve settled on calling him my ex-husband.
It resonates for me, even if it isn’t
legally true just yet.
He was my husband
he’s not anymore
There is no limbo in my heart on that
subject, and words have power.
needed to speak of finality, and of acceptance.

So much is still in flux, but this isn’t.

Keeping the baby,
throwing out the bathwater.
I have always been slightly envious of my youngest sister.
She married her high school sweetheart,
a guy she’s known since first grade.
They’re good together, but the thing I envy them, even now, isn’t
It’s their history.
So many years of
knowing each other.
remembers the dress she wore to her ninth-grade formal dance and the years when
his mother packed an extra sandwich so that my sister didn’t have to eat health
food for lunch.
They went off to
college together and figured out the grown-up deal walking at each other’s
Four kids, several careers,
and houses in two countries later, they have this richly woven fabric of more
than thirty years of knowing each other.

I was on my way to that.
To someone I could look at and
“hey, remember when?” and it would call us both to a
decades of them.

Instead, I live in a new town, with no family nearby, and my
twelve years of marriage just got reset to zero.
It’s tempting to kind of let go of all
the history and pretend my life started eight months ago, hatched out of an
adult egg by a magician with a very warped sense of humor.

But I can’t do that.

Or I can, but it would be a really bad idea.

I see it in my daughter’s eyes, when she asks me to tell her
a story about when she was a baby.
To remember a time when we were a family, whole and intact.
She needs to know we were—and that
it was good.
That she has more than
the current cracked concrete as her history and her foundation.

I need those memories too.
Just like the wrinkles that decorate my
face more and more these days, these bits of history are my travel record.
I didn’t expect my marriage to break,
but it did.
That doesn’t mean I
need to be ashamed of the years that came before.
They were strong years, and years that

I’m not going to throw a third of my life into the void
because the ending kind of sucked.

So I’m making an effort lately to reclaim the orphan
To let them ramble
through my inner landscape, and to feel the bittersweet tugs and the quiet
longing and the gratitude for what once was.
I’m mostly past the anger now, but if
that travels through, I let it come too.

A lot of learning on this road has been about letting
But sometimes, it’s about
dusting off something that’s precious and holding on.

Sweating the big stuff.
I’m pretty good buddies with
frustration—we’ve hung out a lot together over the years.
I’ve sat with my newly potty-trained
two-year-old in the twenty-third restroom on our fourteen-hour drive and
managed not to strangle anyone when she cheerfully announced that she’d changed
her mind.
I’ve listened to my son’s
building nasal congestion as February arrived, every sneeze and sniffle a nail
in the coffin of staying in the pollen-drowned town we loved.
I’ve walked a room full of accountants
through a snazzy new web design, and a room full of web designers through
e-commerce metrics.

BOOK: Sleeping Solo: One Woman's Journey into Life after Marriage
13.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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