A few weeks ago I found myself digging through a cedar chest, examining a trove of photographs from my past. One in particular startled me.
In the photo, I was seated around a table with my ex-husband (then husband) and his family. The date on the back told me the picture was taken about two weeks before we decided to separate.
I paused when I uncovered the memento, and stared for a few seconds. I was surprised because the woman who was me didn't look like me at all. At least, not that I believed. Her body was slightly thicker than mine while her eyebrows were much thinner. Her hair was shorter than mine and she was wearing more makeup than I typically slather on my face. Her teeth were different too. And I thought she looked older than me.
In the next twenty-four hours, I showed the image to multiple people. "Does this look like me?" I asked.
"Yes, I recognize you," my coworker insisted. Funny thing, as she said the words she was pointing to my ex-sister-in-law.
A few others covered parts of my face to show only my eyes. "I see you now," they told me.
Since unearthing that photo, I've spent some time comparing my life to the life of the woman in the picture. Was that me? You could say so, but I don't think so.
My ex-husband's wife lived about twenty miles away from where I reside. She drove a car that was much fancier than the one sitting outside my house. She watched cable TV, didn't read non-fiction books and had never set foot in a yoga class. She had different plans for herself and different dreams of the future. Perhaps the most obvious difference was our names. I feel like that woman disappeared a long time ago.
Is "disappeared" the right word? Perhaps I should say she evolved into the person typing these words.
When my marriage ended, I was filled with glee. The change was difficult, but my ex and I were able to work through it together and maintain a quasi-friendship throughout the process. After feeling stifled for so long, I was finally able to embrace and create my own life, and I set to work making changes right away.
One of the first steps in my journey was the purchase of The Good Divorce by Constance Ahrons. Because I was happy to end my marriage, I wanted to read about others who were as well. This book was the closest thing I could find, and it ignited a fire within me to continue studying the divorce process. One book lead to another and another and now I have shelves full of literature discussing the psychology of separation.
In an effort to save money while existing on my own, I downsized my car and bought a house that was much closer to my job. The house was also much smaller than the one I'd been living in, but I didn't mind at all. It was perfect for me and my dogs.
The following year I signed up for yoga classes and went back to school. After getting my degree, I got braces which straightened my teeth and shrunk the size of my mouth (only in the literal sense). I then began writing my blog, Relative Evolutions, and a few months later my travels took me south to study divorce coaching.
Four years after that, I'm a published author and a trained family mediator. I've upgraded from my downsized car and made some delightful changes to my post-divorce home. My ex and I are still friendly, and I'm grateful for the time we spent together. I'm grateful for it, but I'm glad it's over.
My overall satisfaction with my life has improved immensely in the past eight years and I'm now proud to tell people I'm divorced. Looking at that old photo, I don't feel much of a connection to the woman wearing my clothes. I do, however, wish I could tell her how much she has to look forward to.