Sure I had my share of tears and grief over a pending separation and divorce, but I felt strong, prepared and ready to face the next chapter. Everyone was stunned at my grace, me keeping my chin up, my positive attitude. Especially me.
Then as I was on the phone with a girlfriend, the doorbell rang and I knew it was the movers. I opened the door thinking a “Hi!” would cross my lips. Instead, I bursted out into uncontrollable sobbing. And not the cute crying. Full on, ugly, snot-filled hysterics that require advil and a liter of wine to cure. That’s the moment it hit me that my marriage was really over.
I was broken.
I’d always been social, surrounded by a gaggle of girlfriends, but I withdrew because I was just too uncomfortable in my own skin to be around people and make small talk. I declined dinner invites, parties and even important social events. The overwhelming majority of my friends got it. They knew I just craved solitude so I could work this out and heal. I wasn’t looking for words of encouragement or even a hug, because frankly it made me feel worse.
I woke up every day with a game face on like it was the best day ever, for the sake of my young daughter. She didn’t choose this. This wasn’t her problem. And having been through my parent’s divorce, I wanted to alleviate every ounce of sadness and tension that could possibly come her way. So I would smile and laugh all day with her. And then put her to bed, sob in the shower, then in bed until I literally cried myself to sleep.
This little pity party became my new normal.
With divorce, there’s a grieving process you have to go through, an unfortunate rite of passage I wouldn’t wish on anyone. And I think it’s okay to have a little pity party. But at some point, you have to end that party, pick yourself up and hold your head high. Nobody envisions divorce as part of their life plan. But sometimes, shit happens.
After a few months, I started to breathe without that tightness in my chest, The tears were still there but in shorter spurts. I began to return calls to those who stayed by my side even when I ignored them. The others who didn’t, I wrote off. I cautiously began going out for lunches and dinners, then nights out with girlfriends. My smile started to come back and my chest finally felt like I got rid of the 5,000 lb gorilla who had been sitting on it. After a few more months, my friends suggested I start meeting people. “Relax, Rachel! Nothing serious. Just put yourself out there. You have to get your groove back…you know, like Stella!”
I tried to have an open mind, allowed people set me up, and eventually tried online dating. It was a whole new game out there and I was intimidated as hell! The creeps messaging me made me want to stay single. How is this my life? I gave myself a little pep talk, and promised to have an open mind. I engaged in some conversations to get my feet wet. Then it actually became, dare I say it…fun! And then, something happened.
This guy messaged me, he looked normal, and his email was an actual email with actual questions instead of the obligatory, “hey, you’re cute, wanna get a drink?” We started trading emails, like really long emails, which turned into texts, then into phone calls, and then a date. A really amazing date. Which led to another date, and another and another. And then about a year and a half later…an engagement.
A light at the end of a very dark tunnel.