Today I bought a slow cooker. This might not seem like a noteworthy event without context, so I’ll rephrase: today I faced a situation I’ve been avoiding for months, and I bought a slow cooker.
In December 2017 I learned the coupled life I was living wasn’t what I thought it was nor had it been for several years. With that new awareness starkly in front of me, I ended my marriage. It was a gut-wrenching and impossibly difficult time. Six months later it still can be, but I no longer throw up every day.
The following four weeks were a of whirlwind activity. I shoved my emotions as far down as possible, because I had to proceed with the business of detangling almost twenty years of cohabitation. What was once a life became a list of assets and liabilities awaiting division.
I hired a handy friend to help with unfinished renovation projects. I painted almost every room. I decluttered, depersonalized, and staged a blank slate with potential for new families or an easy turnkey for empty nesters starting to downsize. With lipstick on the pig we listed and sold the house in under a week.
For 38 long days I shared a living space in a home that was no longer a home. Despite the house sale closing in early March I secured my own place for February, because I could feel every buried emotion begin to leak through dam I had built.
Sitting in a rented one-bedroom apartment, surrounded by boxes and without much furniture, I felt ashamed. Weeks of self-doubt came pouring out, the weight of what transpired draping over me like a wet woolen blanket, smothering, robbing the air of oxygen.
I felt like a cliché. How could s/he not have known? When you’re in it, you don’t.
When faced with irreconcilable pictures of my life – the truth I thought I was living versus the reality – it was impossible not to question myself. I’m a smart person, and as a writer I’m somewhat observant. How could I have been that stupid? Enter the shame. Crippling, spiraling.
My retreat was all-encompassing as I navigated the new waters of insecurity in a life where nothing was familiar but my cat (Tippy rocks). I grabbed hold of a few close friends who became life rafts. I drowned, often, each time sputtering to the surface only to be pulled back under. I was unable to shake what was weighing me down: uncertainty of self, of my decisions, and of who I was when not in relation to another.
In May I was sidelined by emergency surgery and spent 12 days in hospital. For a few of those days the situation was dire. I had a lot of time to think about who I am, without the recent scarring and weight caused by the actions of another. When I pulled through I felt…lighter. And more myself.
I am my best self after emerging from the darkest places, buoyed by those I love and who love me. I’m my parents’ daughter: resilient, trusting, caring. I deserve to have my heart held with the same, and through all of this I emerged with my values intact.
There is no shame for me to carry after the end of my marriage. That weight is not mine.
Today I bought a new slow cooker, one that holds 6 quarts and has a timer. It’s Sunday, so there’s no real chance of running into one I have no appetite to see. But for the first time I had clarity of mind and strength of self to talk about what happened without feeling ashamed or any of the self-doubting emotions that buried me for so long.
When I saw a familiar face and was asked how I was doing, I spoke. Easily. Then I took the opportunity to set straight a few things. Like how I was the one who discovered a betrayal and had the strength to say “Do you have something to tell me?”. And I had the courage to hold to my values and make the difficult decisions. It was a relief to tell my story and bring light to the truth. Sharing this here is an example of that relief.
All of those messy emotions remain part of me as I work through them, but perspective is a wonderful thing that’s easily brought about through confronting one’s own mortality. So I shrug off (as best I can) that which isn’t mine to carry.
These last few months have taken more energy than usual and I’m not feeling particularly driven to create. I’ve committed to writing for the usual suspects (like my next article with Culinaire Magazine), but am not taking new assignments for a while. I’ll pop up on Longhand when inspired but largely remain focused on finding my place in my own story. The old and the new.
Plus, now I have a slow cooker large enough to make dinner for my friends to thank them for being most excellent life rafts.