As a public-ish person, I have grappled (especially in the aftermath of having a personal situation go viral) with just how much of myself to share. Yet there comes a point where we cannot divorce the personal from the public because for most of us, we bring our whole selves with us, no matter where we go. As I leap into this brave new world of change, it’s clear that the time for fuzzy language and dancing around the topic has come to an end.
We live in a culture where far too many girls are raised on fuzzy-lensed dreams of landing “The One.” A perfect-for-her, mythical being whom she will live with happily ever after in a world of nonstop joy and abundance. These dreams are so prevalent that they follow us through the years, where too often we measure our worth as humans based on whether or not we share this journey called life with another human. Often, this leaves those without partners feeling deficient because we wonder how can we truly be happy if we are alone? This dream is so popular that we have industries that support women in having their perfect day.
The problem with perfect is that there is no perfect; there are rarely (if ever) truly perfect days, so far less likely is the existence of any person who is perfect for us day in and day out. Most days, even the good ones, are comprised of near-perfect moments mingled with moments that make us want to pull our hair out. For all the energy our society expends in leading us on the quest to seek perfection through others, we spend little time on talking about navigating lives with others in the day-to-day minutia—in the raw moments that show us what we are really made of and those around us.
More importantly, in the quest to seek that other who will complete us, rarely do we give equal space to learning to complete ourselves. Yet in the end, all we have is ourselves. For those raising kids, the babies that demand so much of us in the early years eventually start to grow up and in the blink of an eye, yesterday’s toddler becomes today’s young adult off charting their own course. Parents grow old and eventually shed their bodies. Ideally, friends and partners will stay by our sides, but the reality is that such things are not a given because relationships come and go. Sometimes our shared journey becomes one where the path diverges and the next leg of the journey becomes solo.
After spending the last 20 years walking my path with a damn good man by my side, my next steps are to be solo. A little over a week ago, I signed a lease on a tiny 400-square-foot apartment on one of Maine’s barrier islands that I will share with my daughter when she is not with her dad. I knew that change was in the air this year but even I wasn’t quite sure exactly what that would look like. Now I do. It looks like a hidden garden and a tiny unit with sea breezes and plenty of windows. It’s literally starting over a few months shy of 43 and feeling scared, foolish and excited. It’s wondering if this is a midlife crisis. It’s wondering if you will ever be held again but knowing that you can hold yourself. It’s knowing that time is finite and that regrets are the one thing you never want to have. It’s knowing that the man who has been your partner for so many years is shifting into a new type of partnership with you. It’s knowing as my father told me: “In the end there is only one person who must be happy here,” and recognizing that everything ends at some point.
Change is learning that the dreams we are sold in our youth may not always be the dreams of midlife. Sometimes what we need is the thing society says we don’t want: to be alone, to hear ourselves and to focus the same energy we give to others to ourselves. To complete ourselves and in some cases to rebirth a new self. One that has put away childish fantasies but still retains some of that youthful wonder and isn’t afraid to meet life on life’s terms and not operate from a place of fear.
So that’s me and my personal happenings: marital separation after 20 years. It’s not a sad moment because we recognize that change is part of life and we are proud of the years we have had together and the fact that there is still love and friendship between us. We also recognize that in this moment the rest of our story still hasn’t been written but in this moment, a break is where we are. While I am not big on sharing personal details of my life in this space, increasingly it was clear that there really was no way to undergo such a huge shift without eventually talking about it directly. If you are inclined, I would ask that you keep our family in your thoughts and prayers as we navigate this pretty big shift.
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