Everybody warned me about it. They said that once you get the final paperwork, it's like having it happen all over again. It's the gut punch of finality. Of knowing, once and for all that you can't go back. They said that I would cry. They said that no matter what, it would hurt. I was prepared.
So, on a Friday night, when I saw the letter in my mailbox, I said a silent prayer of thanks that the kids weren't home. I went in the house and fixed a Coke. I opened the envelope. I read the words. I put it in the fireproof box where important things go.
And then I turned on the TV.
I didn't feel any of the things I thought I'd feel. I didn't cry. I didn't have the air knocked out of me. I didn't mourn all over again or feel abandoned or alone or even lonely. I was fine.
And then I started to worry. Maybe I have a problem. Maybe there is something wrong with me that's preventing me from feeling everything I'm supposed to feel. Maybe I'm numb.
The thing is that I have walked through this whole year-long process waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting to be devastated.
And I'm just not. That's not to say that I'm happy it happened this way or that this was always the way I wanted things or even that I'm indifferent about this trajectory I've found myself on.
I've had bad nights. Nights when I sobbed myself to sleep, waking up puffy eyed and tired all over again. Nights when I've blamed myself for every fight. Nights when I've blamed him for every fight. When I was younger, I feared dying alone. Over the years, that fear has dwindled, but now I find myself waking up at night worried about it all over again. Like the ribbon of my youth doubling back on me.
I've fought my demons. Wondering who I am and who I've let myself become. Drawing ever inward and isolating myself, then finding that there weren't many people left waiting when I finally emerged. I didn't read for three months. That's the longest stretch I've ever gone without picking up a book. I currently haven't crocheted since Easter. It's like I need a break from myself.
I've wondered, more or less constantly, if I could do this. If I was cut out to do this and found that the resounding answer was yes.
So, yes, I've suffered. And I've mourned. And I've gotten so angry... So angry I saw red and felt my heart beat in my ears. I've done all the things that I was supposed to do.
But I've always found the blue sky. I've always walked out on the other side and realized that even though I didn't want this life, didn't ask for this, it is far and away better than what I was trying to do.
Years ago, when I was crying and hurt and sharing with a friend what was going on, she said, "Don't be miserable. Don't stay if staying makes you miserable. It's not good for you and it's not good for the kids. Get out and stay out if that will make you a happier person. You will be a better mom when you feel like you can breathe."
I just shook my head because while I was miserable right that second, I didn't think I was usually miserable. I didn't really believe that to be the state of my life. Now, I know that I was. Now, I know how truly bad things were and how much that affected every area of my life.
The relief I feel now is palpable. It's a constant lightness. It's like taking off a loaded backpack. I didn't realize how much weight there was until it was gone.
And sitting in my favorite chair, my big red chair, curled up with my favorite blanket, a Mason jar of Coke sweating next to me and my favorite show on the TV, I folded up the words that meant that it was really and truly over and, despite all the bad nights, the tears and angry screams, the half-baked revenge fantasies and headachey mornings, that was all I felt. The relief of knowing that it is truly, truly done. Forever done. Over.