“Do you remember when we bought our first dining table?”
“The white one on Craigslist?”
My husband and I were so excited. Neither of us had ever owned a dining table in our adult lives. It was a 22″ tripod leg round table from Crate and Barrel that we managed to haggle down to $30. We prepared a lavish dinner and opened a robust bottle of Malbec to celebrate. We clinked our glasses at the bar and laughed in the kitchen, dancing to music while mixing flavors. As I began to set the table, the corners of my mouth turned downward, followed by a deep sigh.
“What’s wrong baby?” he called out from the kitchen. A look of concern washed over his face as he walked into the room and began inspecting the table closer.
I picked up my wine glass and chuckled, plopping down on the sofa.
“We don’t have any chairs.”
For the first time since we had entered the courthouse, we both smiled, reminiscing over our eagerness and dedication. We had put together what should have been the perfect evening, but we got so caught up in the preparation of our space together that we neglected to have space for ourselves as individuals.
“Ma’am, can you please sign here?” the clerk said in a soft voice. Her eyes were full of compassion.
She motioned towards the line marked “Plaintiff”. As I scanned the document in its entirety, a knot started to form in my throat, making it hard to swallow. All I could see was the word “Divorce” screaming at me from the page. I turned towards him, placing my hand on top of his knee.
“I just want you to know that I still love you, and I know this is what we have to do for ourselves right now.”
Our eyes met and I felt my heart drop into my stomach, getting lost in his gaze. His eyes always reminded me of pond water, a greenish blue hue with unknown currents of emotion swirling underneath. He reached for my hand, his voice barely a whisper.
“I love you too.”
I tilted my head back slightly, feeling the tears roll down my cheeks as I scribbled my maiden name across the dotted line. He squeezed my hand and lowered his eyelids. I could feel his heartbeat pulsing through his wrist. My eyes danced around the room looking for a distraction, but for once there wasn’t one. I could feel the tectonic plates of my soul shifting. A crack spread down the middle, triggering the release of a powerful flow of salty water.
For as long as I can remember, there was always a big gaping hole in my heart. I had become an expert at using a shovel and sourcing fillers. I invested in slabs of blame, anger, depression and destructive behavior. There was plenty of relationship gravel to fill the cracks, but it was constantly shifting. When I met my now ex-husband, I knew it was time to upgrade to cement and seal the deal. We eloped and I thought the work was done.
Slowly over time, the foundation began to crack. All of the pain began to ooze out, unconsciously wreaking havoc on the life that I was building on top. Out of fear I continued to fill the cracks, oblivious to the pungent stench of self-neglect that was infecting all of my best intentions. I had no choice but to start removing the fillers, and with each layer the smell got stronger and the reality even more ugly.
The message became loud and clear: the healing I needed was lying dormant inside the hole. I had never taken the time to inspect it and clear out all the poison that was there from my childhood. I was constantly looking to outside sources for approval. No one could stop the underlying pain that I wanted so desperately to vanish. I had to look inward; my soul was starving for my attention. I had to explore my own path and accept my true self, not the “self” I was portraying.
My heart has been a construction site ever since. The hole is still there, but I’m taking the time to feel it instead of fill it. I have to be very gentle with myself and remember that being vulnerable is okay. I didn’t just let go of my relationship, I let go of my best friend. I see my therapist once a week, which helps me build awareness through this transition and not hinder my growth in fear. Some days I stay in bed crying and writing in my journal. Other days I need to be surrounded by friends that keep me laughing and uplifted.
The greatest gift that I gained from my ex-husband is the security of knowing and believing that I am enough, and now I have to give myself everything I have. I want to know how to love me first. My truth is emerging stronger each day, and I have dedicated the reconstruction of my heart to loving and cherishing the woman I was destined to be.