For 22 years I had a partner, a lover, a best friend, a husband. He was my everything. We were high school sweethearts and started dating when we were 15. We married after college. He supported me during law school. During my breast cancer. I never doubted his love for me and trusted him completely. I loved being married. I loved having a partner to share it all with. I loved falling to sleep in his arms and waking up next to him every morning. All of that was shattered when he left me for my very dear friend and neighbor, who also happened to be named Kim (convenient for him). He just simply walked out.
I was left ALONE. Twenty-two years, and now ALONE. Yes, I had my son Brandon, who was nine at the time. But from a “team” perspective, it was just me. Yes, I had an army of support – family and friends who would do anything to help and did. But in the end, at night, lying in bed, it was just me. In the mornings, after Brandon went to school, it was just me. After work, at the end of the day, although my friends would listen to the mundane details about “my day,” he wasn’t there to simply ask how my day was – it was just me. I was no longer Kim Carlos or Kim and Scott. I was just Kim. Who was this Kim person? I wanted and needed to get to know her.
I remember the first time I went to get my annual mammogram. By myself. As a breast cancer survivor, this was always one of the most stressful times of year for me. But now no one was there with me. No one was there to provide support, or just hold my hand. I checked the “single” box on the medical form and listed my friend as my emergency contact. My biggest concern – who would I share the good or heaven forbid bad news with? My wasband had been there during my cancer, holding my hand, providing steadfast support. We had always been a team and dealt with whatever life handed us. But now what?
At times, the loneliness was more than I could bear. I was scared. I was distraught. I was a complete mess. I had never felt this emptiness, this loneliness, this gut-wrenching pain. I recall one night, I was lying in bed and couldn’t sleep. I started thinking about my wasband and my ex friend and what they might be doing. I felt the walls closing in. I couldn’t breathe. Like literally, couldn’t breathe. I called my friends. They came over in the middle of the night in their PJ’s. It was at that moment, sitting outside on my front steps, breathing through a paper sack, that I realized that I would never be lonely because I had friends and family.
Being on my own for the first time in my adult life, I also had a lot of firsts. The little things like buying my first tool set, eating sushi alone and refinancing the lake house in my name alone. But you know what, I did them. At times, I might have felt like throwing myself a pity party, but I survived. There were lots of tears, anger, hiding in the closet so Brandon wouldn’t see me cry and calling my friends at all hours of the night, but I did survive.
There were also some great perks about being on my own – me myself and I could control the thermostat! I could eat what I wanted. I could listen to whatever music I wanted and watch as many chick flicks as I wanted. I could have all the closet space to myself. And you know what, I did those things and it felt great.
But the more important realization came with time. I learned that I could be alone and yet not be lonely. Although I hated it when Brandon was gone, I learned that I could sit in the house and just be. It took a while to get there. There were nights where the house was eerily quiet and empty. I would reach over in bed and he wasn’t there. But over time, I learned to enjoy just being alone. I learned that I didn’t need a man to complete me. I loved me. For me. I became confident in my new self, comfortable with who I was, not the I that was a part of a couple, but me. Alone, but not lonely. The pic included with this article was taken during that "finding me" time. Although I was still scared, I was becoming more confident in who I was, and found my smile again. It took time, but was so worth it.
And now that I have found love again, I realize that learning to be alone was a needed part of my growth. I needed to learn to stand on my own two feet, to find ME again. I am extremely happy to be a part of a “we” again, but also know that I need the “me” part too. We all do.