Baggage comes in many shapes, sizes, colors, patterns and brands. I am not referring to the new colorful Vera Bradley duffel bag I adore or the Louis Vuitton satchel I have wanted for a dozen years. That kind of baggage is easy to tote around. I am referring to the kind that is harder to carry, impossible to see with the naked eye and nearly smothered me at the end of a terribly wounded marriage and equally painful divorce.
I was married for nearly 24 years and should not have been. When I finally decided I could no longer tolerate the unfaithful wandering husband and his drinking and pill habits, far too many years had passed, including the arrival of two fantastic kids. My baggage cart was so full I felt like I could not move, could not breathe. Deciding to end this failing partnership wasn’t even my choice.
The choice was made for me. In the spring of 2013, I returned home from work to find a spare bedroom emptied of furniture, bare hangers dangling from closets. My husband had moved out and I was the very last to know. Our marriage had been troubled for years, yet I was shocked he fled.
I had tolerated and enabled years of infidelity, a growing drinking problem, a new addiction to painkillers he “needed”, and a total lack of commitment and involvement with our family. I hardly recognized myself. I had become the very thing I despised in other unhappily married women. I was sad, angry, hateful, grumpy, and the life of the pity party. I did not like myself very much.
The baggage I accumulated along the way was crippling. Physical weight gain, dwindling self esteem, developing health issues, general lack of motivation, and many other things too numerous to mention. I lost myself in all the years of trying to fix something not worthy of repair. I was suffocating, or so I thought.
After he left, I took the expected steps. I filed for divorce, hired a lawyer, tried to assure my sweet kiddos that everything would be fine. Spewing that lie to my kids was so hard. I also did other expected things. I cried nearly all the time, yelled at my kids for trivial reasons, was grouchy to my friends and family, barely slept, ate junk food like a starving person, and played victim to anyone who would lend an ear. I grieved for something that should have been dead long before now.
I legally filed for divorce in March 2013, and tricked myself into thinking that I would soon be over this madness and back to normal. Boy, was I ever wrong. Completing the mounds of paperwork necessary to dissolve the business end of a marriage was a constant reminder of what I thought I had lost. Months passed, a few court dates came and went with very little progress. I was stumped. Why was this process such a tortured journey? Despite taking all the necessary steps to get divorced, why was I so emotionally crippled?
I moved out of the house in January 2014, uprooting my kids from their childhood home. I thought things would only get worse. Boy, was I wrong. Being in a home that had not been happy in years was just another piece of baggage smothering me. A new place and a blank slate was just what I needed. Moving was hard, separating possessions was quite painful but the end result was more peaceful than I had hoped. I cried less and less, smiled more and found myself less angry than I had been in months, even years. What an amazing feeling!
A few weeks after moving I made another major lifestyle change. My diet and exercise habits got a major overhaul and I started losing weight and gaining self confidence. Gym time became a great stress relief, and a way I could clear my head from the cobwebs lingering about the divorce.
Even though it sounds corny, every step I made on a treadmill or on a trail or track felt like a thousand steps in the right direction. I was changing what I looked like on the outside, but more importantly changing fundamentally who I was on the inside. The bitter and angry woman I once was was shrinking away. I was so happy she decided to leave. She should not have stayed nearly so long. Months passed, and in July 2014 my divorce was finalized.
My independence day came a few days before July 4th, appropriately enough. I am a work in progress. I log many steps each day to ensure that I do not backslide into those bad habits. I hope I am becoming the fun loving and spirited smart woman I’ve always striven to be , but who was lost for a little while. The detour on my journey and the baggage I have toted has been a great teacher. Great change takes time and effort and has definitely been worth the wait.