The elderly guard smiled and waved me in, opening the gates. For the first time in months, I felt some sort of relief. Perhaps I could rest now. After months of hurt and pain and planning, I had just left everything behind. My entire life was in my rear view mirror. The future only held .. Uncertainty and fear. I drove the rest of the way numb, automatically and full of impending dread, tears streaming down my face.
What have I done?
I came to consciousness .. Hovering above my outstretched suitcase in the middle of an entryway that wasn’t mine.
Clothes and shoes that would fit into my single suitcase were strewn before me. Disorganized. Random. Packed in haste.
I fell to my knees.
The pain was palpable.
I sobbed into my hands.
It felt as if my vital organs had been sucked from my body. I couldn’t breathe. My chest hurt.
Tears poured down my face, through my hands and spilled onto my jeans.
What .. Am .. I .. Going .. To .. Do .. Now?
My head hurt. My heart hurt. I had known this was coming .. Why was it so hard now?
I stared at the empty walls around me. The cathedral ceilings bellowed darkness. I felt cold.
The only light was the entryway behind me. The family room was shrouded in darkness. The windows at the far side of the room glinted back at me in the dim glow. I could only see shadows of the kitchen.
I took a deep breath .. It ended in a sob.
A part of me had been stripped away .. My own doing.
A part of me was dying. My own choice.
The upheaval was just beginning.
Stunned, I assessed what I had hastily packed.
I don’t even know if I have enough underwear to last.
I giggled, irrationally. How had I not packed enough? The giggle turned into a grimace. The grimace turned to tears.
I had left my husband.
Walked out. That’s it. It’s over. Done. Finished.
It was the best decision I’d ever made.
I knew that, deep down, despite the current angst.
The pain of the last eight years circled my heart, ran through my veins and bled through my tears.
Slowly and unsteadily, I stood. My friends, who owned this home, were away on vacation. I padded, lightly touching the walls in the dim lighting, toward the guest wing and through the hallway. Just before the end of the hallway, on the left, was a guest room. It felt cold on this April night in the high desert, but I was grateful for a bed to sleep on.
At least it wasn’t my car and its glorious accommodations.
I flipped the light switch and, ironically, closed my eyes, almost afraid of what I might see. Opening my eyes, I saw a warm bed, a place to sleep. Covering my mouth, another sob emerged. I was so afraid, yet so grateful. Even if it was just for tonight, I was happy.
I left the light on and walked slowly back to the entryway. I stifled a sick-feeling giggle as I stared at my worldly belongings strewn across the Travertine floor. My possessions, now reduced to a 2X4 roll-away suitcase.
I was ashamed.
I felt myself start to shake. The pain and fear and anxiety mounted through my veins and languished in my body, my mind, my psyche. They rose through a pit in my stomach and bloomed through my soul, an ugly, painful fear creeping to my extremities.
Life as I knew it was gone. I had just left and lost all of my friends. I was sure of it. The friendships and bonds formed through my marriage would surely disappear. After all, I’d never shared our marital troubles with anyone. I was “respecting my marriage.” I was living true to my vows. I was protecting him, even when I learned the truth. Protecting, even through the dishonesty and unfaithfulness. Through the shoves to the floor .. and the couches .. and the walls. The neck grabs and the choking.
I could hear his voice, “You’ll never amount to anything. You won’t be able to do anything without me. I made you who you are. Go to the gym. Color your hair dark. Lose weight. You’ve really let yourself go.”
I had completely sacrificed my Soul and my Self.
I was truly alone. By my own design.
Kneeling by my bag, I slowly set aside clothes for the next day. I felt like I needed some sort of deliberate routine, something that made me feel like the sun would still rise in the east.
I needed equilibrium.
I needed something…
I needed… Wine.
Assessing the last bit of my hastily-packed suitcase, I managed to re-pack my items with some sort of organization. Having control of something so simple as my suitcase made me feel better.
Equipped with a deluxe wine opener, I rummaged through the wine rack in the butler’s area, I found the cheapest bottle – at least I thought – I could come up with. Wine glass, and…
Two sips in and I still felt like shit.
Tears began to stream down my cheeks. The gravity of the last eight months descended on my like a parade of zombies.
The silence in the home echoed on itself.
I felt the pain well through my soul, inking my tear ducts.
My sobs carried through the home, reverberating off the walls.
Unsteadily, I took another sip of wine. Despite my friend’s generosity, I knew I couldn’t stay here another night. I’d be gone in the morning.
Where would I go?
I had no idea.
The next morning, I scribbled a note to my friend and her husband: I owe you another bottle. Thank you for the digs.
A wan smile on my face and a little forced hope in my pocket, I locked up, packed my Jeep and headed off to work.
Little did I know that what would happen over the next nine months would fundamentally transform my life.
Some of the best things to happen to me, including my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, were fluttering in the wings, just waiting to take shape.
This was the beginning of my journey.
I don’t share the details of my first marriage salaciously, rather as a background of how I came to be the person I am today. Although I walked away from that marriage with deep emotional scars, I have since forgiven that person. I learned that holding hate, grudges or pain only takes away from my purpose in serving others.
Letting go of past hurt frees us to be the people we’re destined to be. It allows us to fulfill our purpose and make a difference in this life.