I pulled the keys from the ignition of my rental car in the courthouse parking garage and took a deep breath, quietly savoring the last few minutes of my life as I’d known it for the past eleven years.
But my marriage ended long before that painful drive to the courthouse. I just hadn’t been willing to admit it. The truth is, our relationship had been on life support for years. We’d just pretended it was still alive, propping it up like a character in Weekend at Bernie’s and hoping things would get better. But hoping hadn’t helped. Things didn’t get better.
And that reality became clear during the unraveling, when the realization finally hit that pulling the plug was the only thing that would bring either of us peace. Denial was only delaying the inevitable. There were just too many broken pieces.
For a time when someone asked me the impossible question “What happened?” I’d stare blankly back at them and say something like “I overcooked the ham” or “He couldn’t play the violin” or whatever other absurd thought happened to pop into my head in that moment. I mean, how do you even begin to answer that question? How exactly do you explain the reality that our marriage ended because we were dicks to each other for a really long time? Because that’s what happened. We stopped being kind. We stopped respecting each other. We stopped trusting each other. And eventually we stopped loving each other, too.
But regardless of how we got there, that’s where we were — counting down the minutes until we’d get a stamped piece of paper saying we could finally go on with our lives.
It was emotionally draining, but thankfully I’d been preparing myself for weeks. My self-care survival plan was in full effect and I was ready. As ready as I’d ever be.
The night before, I spent the night at Salish Lodge & Spa, a chic boutique hotel overlooking Snoqualmie Falls. Before settling into my room I took a short walk, hoping the gentle mist of the falls would somehow help clear my head. As I stood behind the railing of the overlook I felt numb as I watched the water pour down over the rocky edge, softly at first, perhaps even a little unwillingly. But as it gained momentum I recognized the rush of the fall. I’d experienced something similar — the surge of intense energy, the complete relinquishment of control, the powerlessness of it all.
But on the other side of the falls the water was much calmer, flowing peacefully downstream and nourishing everything in its path. I recognized that, too.
It’s what we all do after we fall: We get back up and share our experience with others, enriching their lives with our stories of hope and resilience.
Later that night I had dinner delivered to my room, where I sat wrapped in a fuzzy robe, pouring my heart and thoughts out onto the pages of my journal. And I sobbed.
It was the emotional release I’d been suppressing over the past few months.
I tried writing a letter to him, hoping that it would bring some sort of closure and relieve some of the heaviness I’d been carrying. I wanted to tell him how he’d hurt me, how he was wrong. But when I stared back at the words I’d written, they felt gross. They were full of anger and blame.
So instead I wrote my future self a letter. Onto a blank page I spilled words of encouragement and strength and hope. I reminded myself how far I’d come, how important these lessons were for my growth, and how every moment — whether I perceived them as good or bad — was truly a gift.
After a night of restful sleep, a delightful breakfast overlooking the falls, and a soul-filling meditation, I headed toward the courthouse.
I sat in the car with the keys still in my hand, trying to will myself to get out and begin walking. And then it dawned on me: We hadn’t seen each other in over three months, not since that empty day in June when I watched his taillights disappear from the driveway.
I had no idea how I’d react when I saw him. Would I break down in tears? Would I feel angry? Would I feel heartbroken? What exactly would I feel?
But when that moment finally came, I felt nothing.
I didn’t recognize anything about the man who stood in front of me.
The next thing I knew we were standing before a judge and a room full of strangers, admitting publicly that our marriage was indeed irretrievably broken. And with the stroke of a pen and a couple of stamps, my name — my life — was forever changed.
Just like that.
It was the release I was hoping for.
I felt whole again.
While I hadn’t quite experienced the intense emotional meltdown that I’d prepared myself for, I did follow through with my original self-care plan, which included a trip to my favorite cold-pressed juice bar, and then onto Providencia Retreat Center, where I’d indulge in a 2-hour massage before drifting off into a restorative slumber.
It was exactly what I needed.
The next morning I felt an undeniable sense of hope about my future. True, my fall had been brutal, and my wounds were only just beginning to heal.
But I knew everything was going to be okay now that I’d finally made it to the other side.
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