There’s no easy way to get around it. I had to face my fear of being alone in order to separate from my husband of thirty-three years. I always imagined that I would be married forever, and when it came time for me to make a decision about whether or not to leave my husband, I panicked.
My chest tightened, my stomach cramped, and my pulse raced as if I were being dragged downstream by a raging river. I was frantic and honestly believed I couldn’t make it on my own. When we separated for a period of six months on a trial basis, my world shattered. I was miserable, depressed, and anxious all the time¾unable to eat or sleep.
Afraid to Divorce
During my time of personal struggle, I learned several valuable lessons. The first thing I learned was that my fear was not insurmountable. I could survive it, but in order to do that, I needed to feel it. I didn’t need to fix it or “overcome” it; I just had to live through the experience.
I had days when I simply held on for dear life. I was scared all the time. I would wake in the morning, sit out in my front garden, watch the hummingbirds at the feeder, and pray for help. My prayers were earnest and simple, “Help me make it through this day.” And much to my surprise, I did. Day after day, moment after moment, hour after hour. But not without a lot of help from friends, therapists, and support groups.
Faith and a Great Support System
I learned that my faith and my connections to other people were tantamount to my healing process. I would reach out to close friends who listened to me and validated my feelings. Mornings were the hardest time for me. I called one dear friend every morning at 8:30. She listened patiently as I cried my heart out. “What can you do to take care of yourself?” She would ask me. I just needed a plan to get through the next 30 minutes.
Connecting with people was really important to maintain peace of mind. I discovered a world full of people who listened and supported me through my grief, tears, and anger. They didn’t think I was crazy or strange; they simply stood by me.
I met with my therapist twice a week, a wonderful woman who kept reassuring me that I was strong, brave, and courageous. She assured me that I would get through this. The funny thing was I didn’t feel brave at the time. I thought my pain would never end, and all I wanted was for it to be over. She believed in me until I was able to believe in myself.
It Took Time and Belief in Myself
No one was more surprised than I was to discover that after six months had passed, I did calm down. I was clear for the first time in months. I knew in my heart that our marriage was over. In the thirty-three years, we had lived together, we simply changed. The truth was, we were both lonely in the marriage. Neither of us felt loved or cared for by the other. We had different interests and were moving in new directions.
In fact, once we separated, we became closer, no longer fighting, no longer alienated from one another. Now, we are good friends and talk on the phone several times a week. The glory of our friendship has been restored.
Fear Has to be Faced
I also learned that change is not inevitable; it happens through conscious choice. If I did not have the courage to cross the precipice of my fear and to ask for a divorce, I would never have arrived at the place I am now, peaceful and happy. I had to experience my fear and grieve my losses in order to embrace change.
Undoubtedly, what also helped through this process was my spiritual practice. I have a strong connection to my Thai Buddhist teacher, Venerable Dhammananda Bhikhhuni, a Thai Buddhist nun. I drew daily strength from her inspirations. She encouraged me to pray to Quan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion, and I did.
Dhammananda talked about change. “I tell women who feel trapped by their circumstances that they need the courage and determination to bring change. My message is, number one, the way out is possible. Number two, you have to take the first step. Number three, you have to start now because everyone is waiting around for someone else to start, so nothing happens. You can do it!”
People ask me what was the hardest thing about divorce, and I tell them learning to love myself. I get lonely sometimes but my life is filled with good friends, writing, and travel. I am blossoming in ways I never imagined. I am grateful for all I have gone through and for the gifts I have received along the way.