This Thursday will be one year to the day that my husband left. Fourteen years ago, I spent a good portion of October in a hospital waiting for my mother to die. The two biggest losses of my life, written on my mind’s October calendar page, separated by 14 squares and 13 years. October, the month when we’re surrounded by falling and dying leaves. Mother Nature wielding her metaphors with a sledgehammer.
I look back over the last year spent on my own, and I’ve accomplished nothing remarkable. I’d like to say that I’ve journeyed a lot, but maybe I’ve endlessly walked the perimeter of Square One. But I do give myself credit for one thing: I’m still here. I made it. I may not have conquered, but I survived.
I’ve survived my first year of paycheck-to-paycheck existence. I’ve endured months of fatigue and apathy, during which working took every ounce of willpower that I could muster. The phone still works, and the lights are on.
I’ve adjusted to the understanding that I never knew my husband. Expressions of love weren’t real. Times that I remember as happy weren’t. A timeline of events seen through one lens has been reprocessed in the harsh light of reality. For investing 115 percent into my marriage, I received a big tsunami of suck.
The word “unfair” doesn’t touch the experience of being ditched and then blamed for the breakup by my kids. But through it all, I haven’t spoken a single negative word about their father in front of them. I’ve lived through a constant onslaught from my youngest son during which I’ve heard that I’m not nice and that I’m a bad mommy. I’ve stayed the course through his countless temper tantrums that have included screaming, kicking and throwing nearby objects. I’m sure the blame will continue until they’re old enough to understand.
But I did something worth celebrating: I made it.
I hoped for a year of triumphant personal growth. I’m not sure that much growth happened, but I did survive. I did it with the help of friends and family that listened and did little things like remembering my birthday, writing me encouraging messages and taking me places. The energy to rebuild isn’t there yet, but if I keep showing up, then I have to believe that I’ll find it. The challenges aren’t going away, but I’ve learned that I have what it takes to survive.
Some people, like my mother did 14 years ago, face terrible circumstances in which survival isn’t a matter of will. But when I look at circumstances that can be controlled, I think that maybe survival isn’t necessarily for the fittest. Perhaps, in the end, it’s for the ones that want it most.
I want it, so I’ll watch the dead leaves fall. And as they drift down around me, I’ll count myself among the living.