“I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive. Carved my name into his leather seats. I took a Louisville Slugger to both headlights. Slashed a hole in all four tires. Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.”
~ Before He Cheats, by Carrie Underwood
I turned off the music. Reminders of the past year were all around me. Even on the radio.
I couldn’t deny that pain was still lurking just beneath the surface, but the past few months had brought the distance, closure, and independence that I needed to heal.
I didn’t want to listen to the remainder of the song, but I couldn’t keep the corner of my mouth from turning up just a little at the thought of going all “Louisville Slugger” on his beloved car.
The hot tears of anguish, betrayal, and confusion used to happen more frequently, but they were occurring less and less. I could finally eat again, and I was starting to regain some of the 23 pounds I had lost with all of the stress on my body. My heart was no longer racing all of the time, and I was coming out of months of what had felt like being on continual high-alert.
Moments like this made me realize that my heart really was healing a little more each day. It was a small victory for myself, but I would take it.
“These are such fabulous shoes,” the saleswomen said, “that no husband will cheat on a wife that wears shoes like these. Men only cheat on women who wear Birkenstocks and no makeup.”
Her words caught me off guard. Rattled, I didn’t know what to say. I looked at my friend Joanne who was spending some girl time with me at the mall. Joanne caught my eye and turned to glare at the woman who had brought me the cute red sandals to try.
The saleswoman was a stranger, trying to make friendly conversation. She couldn’t have known my story, could she? Was it that obvious? I had never worn Birkenstocks. I wore makeup daily, and I had always tried to look nice. He had told me that all men know that it’s the wife’s fault if the husband cheats on her. Did I really exude the aura of a woman who had deserved to be cheated on? I could feel the months of struggle and healing hanging in the balance of how I handled this encounter.
“I, uh, I’ll take them.”
I was thankful for the excuse to lower my head and undo the sandal straps. My heart had been set on this pair for weeks, and I had finally saved up enough spending money to treat myself to new shoes. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole, but I wasn’t leaving without those beautiful sandals.
I was rather settled on the fact that I would live out my days alone, and while wearing pretty shoes. At least no one could hurt me in that way again.
“She should just bugger-off,” Joanne said as she flipped her mane of wild curls and walked out of the store with her chin held high.
That was exactly the comic relief that I needed.
And just like that, my smile returned.
A trip to the zoo, chores, playdough, library books, and baths. After a day of buzzing activity, the house was finally still.
I looked in on my sleeping little ones. I nuzzled their freshly washed hair and kissed their cheeks as I went from room to room, comforted by the sight of the peaceful looks on their little faces.
It was this time of night, in the quiet, that I most keenly felt alone. Even while I was married I was used to being by myself at night, but this was something new. My counselor had encouraged me to try and enjoy this time. Try to find ways to invest in yourself, try new things, and discover the Ginger that had been hidden for so long.
I had spent the last seven years searching for my identity in my marriage. I had been someone’s wife. I had allowed myself to become his doormat. Everything that I did was to please and submit to him – thinking that it would be for the good of the family. Over the years, I had set aside my dreams, my preferences, my sense of style, and even my core beliefs for a man. I had closed the last page of that book. So many parts of my life had been dictated for me, and now I was liberated. I never had to go back to living life to please a man. I was through with love. I would never give my heart away again. I could finally step out of the shadows, and become the woman that I was created to be.
While that realization was freeing, it was also daunting. When I looked into the mirror, I didn’t recognize the girl who stared back at me. I had lost myself along the way. Who was I really? And how could I find out?
I had read many helpful pieces of advice for women after divorce, and one of the interesting ideas was the concept of “dating” yourself. Because of my limited dating life before I was married, this was all so new to me.
I started by going out to coffee with friends. I ate at the restaurant where he wouldn’t take me. I started making new foods. I tried my first cocktail – a Cosmo, of course. I listened to new music – Muse, Beyoncé, Spring Awakening. I took up running. I brought home armloads of books from the library, and I discovered the power of feeding my mind. I no longer had to trust in something because someone told me it was so. I could learn all about it for myself. I felt myself growing daily. Even my laughter was back. Life was invigorating!
I smiled as my mind wandered back to my friend Amy’s Texas wedding. It had been the first time in longer than I could remember that I had felt the weight of the world lifted off of my shoulders. That beautiful time surrounded by friends who loved me had given me the strength to come home, face life alone with my three little boys, and to continue to walk this journey to healing.
(Amy, myself, & Amber relaxing on a boat the day after the wedding)
I felt free. I finally felt like me.
And Amy’s brother. Joe. He was such a nice guy. I couldn’t believe the hurt that he had gone through in his own life. Thinking about him was enough to bring back a fresh wave of my own heartache. Committed to defending his country, intelligent, thoughtful, quiet, loyal, and kind. If anyone deserved to heal and find happiness once more, it was my new friend.
(This picture gives me butterflies now – I had no idea Joe was looking at me!)
I sat down at my computer with a cup of tea, ready to unwind and see what my friends had been up to on Facebook that day. It was the perfect ending to a fulfilling day.
I smiled as I read my notification – it was a message from Joe…
* Linking up with the wonderful series – Coffee for Your Heart.
* The two last photos are courtesy of our wonderful friend Amber.
~ Parenting After Divorce ~
~ Our Story ~
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