“Times like these, so sad but so true. Thinking’s the last thing that you wanna do.” – The Wood Brothers, The Muse
I have not spent much time alone in the last few weeks. This is for a couple of reasons – I have tremendous friends who want to make sure I’m doing okay, and I have been hyperaware of filling up my days and nights. While I think it’s probably wise to surround myself with people who love me, and bring me happiness, I am also aware that part of deciding to leave your husband involves accepting that you’ll need to get used to spending time alone.
Historically, I overthink things. I get lost inside my head frequently. This is an alright thing to have happen when your life is going marginally well. When you have your shit relatively together, it’s okay to get stuck in your head. There’s not a ton of harm that can be done, particularly when you will discount or explain away anything that you don’t want to accept anyway.
Conversely, when you make a really scary decision to admit that you do not have your shit together at all, and have actually made some fairly terrible life choices, and that you’d like to now reverse those choices, you’re basically signing up for some nights alone, spent thinking about a lot of things. If I had to rank all the stuff I’d least prefer to do in my life, sitting alone and thinking at this current juncture would rank very highly on that list.
I don’t do well with absorbing and processing sadness. I am best at joke-cracking and acknowledging sadness only at its most basic level – my previous M.O. was somewhere along the lines of: Hmm, I am feeling a little sad right now, and I’d like to not feel sad anymore, so I will just ignore this feeling until it goes away, okay? This is clearly not a real healthy way to live, but is a highly effective way to avoid making tough choices. Self-preservation at its very finest.
Oddly, in the midst of a complete life overhaul there is sort of a lot of sadness. It is a prerequisite to getting past this that I feel all of the sadness very deeply. And that makes me really, super-duper angry. And I think that’s ok; I’ll just need to feel that anger too.
I told one of my friends recently that it seemed categorically unfair that I had to keep dealing with all of this stuff for an indeterminate amount of time. This friend looked at me and said, very kindly, that I was a little broken right now, and that it was okay that I felt a little broken right now. In my perfect world, I’d feel really terrible for a little bit, and hate my life, and then I’d move on. This is evidently not how it works. I’m paraphrasing here, but Elizabeth Gilbert compares divorce to getting in a car accident every single day for (a longer period than I want to admit). You’ll feel alright for a day, and even for some of the night, then suddenly you’ll realize something that five minutes ago would have seemed completely insignificant but now seems insurmountable in its importance. It feels a little bit like someone walked up to you, looked you square in the face, and then punched you in the stomach as hard as possible. It sucks. Sucks so very much.
It’s a bit alarming to me the tricks my brain can play on me. I can go from absolute confidence that I’m making the correct decision, and that things are going to be significantly better once I get through this season, to thinking that I’ve made a terrible mistake and that I need to go back to my old life immediately, as quickly as possible, RIGHT THIS SECOND, oh my God. This train of thought typically follows one of the aforementioned moments of panic. My brain is capable of *almost* convincing me that I can go back and that no one will even notice. And things will be alright, and that somehow none of the myriad issues that compiled and forced me to take action will even matter. In other words, my brain is a sneaky little asshole.
To be clear, I am fully cognizant that I’ve made the right decision, and that eventually I’ll be able to sit alone and I won’t even be forced to combat those thoughts. The in-between part is a little rougher than I’d anticipated, is I think what I’m getting at.
So, I am trying to be very, very patient with myself. I am forcing myself to recognize every single thing I feel, and I’m forcing myself to admit that some of these things will be irrational, and that I’ll have to just feel them anyway. It’s sort of part of the decision I made. I’m spending a lot of time with friends, but I’m also accepting that I’ll need to spend a lot of time alone, listening to The National and crying.
Great news, though! I am also going to spending a lot of time alone, not crying. I’ll be spending time alone finally, FINALLY learning to play my twelve-year-old guitar, and riding my bike, and drinking wine. I think I’ll be okay with the trade off – I am the only one who is going to be responsible for my own happiness, but I’m also the only one whose happiness I’m responsible for. I get to wake up every morning and ask “What, specifically, would make me happy today?” And then I get to answer that question very honestly, and very specifically – and here is the amazing part – I get to go and do that thing. No questions asked.
I’m working on balancing the melancholic thinking and the hopeful thinking, and I think that is going to come with time. Some days are just going to be better than others.
Eventually, I’ll look back and realize that my worst days living this life I actively chose are better than a lot of the “best” days I spent in the life I stumbled my way into. So I’ve got that to look forward to, and I think that is going to be pretty sweet.