Today is the sixth anniversary of leaving my marriage.
It was on August 1st that I told my then husband that I was leaving, and on this day, the first day of spring, the removalists came and moved each of us out into our seperate new lives. Telling him I was leaving was one of the most terrifying days of my life. I remember everything about it as I found more courage than I ever thought possible. Moving my things into my cottage on acreage was a day of mixed feelings, overwhelm, relief, trepidation and running through it all was a knowingness that I was being pulled by a deeper desire to survive and thrive.
Today I am sitting here reflecting on everything that has been created since that day. Everything that needed to fall apart for me to arrive here, in this skin, making uncompromising choices about how I live my life. Having only cheerleaders and heartfelt care in my life from those I love and are loved by. I am watching the beginning of this day awake through my window as it is pre dawn as I write. There is an internal pull to throw on my poncho and drive down to the headlands for my own blessing way and then a chai at my favourite cafe. I am a good listener and so I will go out soon and step into ritual by the sea.
But before I go I want to send out a light to any woman who is on the brink of leaving a loveless marriage or a marriage full of love that is untenable. I want you to know that I am with you in the circle of women that hold other women in time and space. I am with you at the end of a phone call if you need, as you journey in the direction of your hearts longing for release.
Is it easy to leave? For some it is easier. They stay friends, they navigate their way back to healing together. For me it has been the hardest work I will ever do. I won’t lie. It can be gut wrenching. The bottom of your world may up and disappear. Know it is supposed to. You may discover that prayer is your only rescue line in the middle of the night. You will discover that friends have bigger arms to hold you across the waters. For me it was listening to my baby breathing as he slept that was my anchor. To know that in that moment everything was ok, even if I had no guarantee for the future. The sound of him sleeping, dreaming, breathing was my nourishment.
“It is the wilderness in the mind,
the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger.
When one is astranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too.
If one is out of touch with oneself, then one
cannot touch others.”
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
The version of me that proclaimed her commitment to leave had no idea how hard the birthing from there to here would be. I don’t know if she would have believed she was capable of navigating such waters. Like any birth, it is a complete stepping off into the unknown, walking on vapours of trust that you can do it. And like birth, you are held by a lineage of women that expands all the way back, who have stepped off in faith. I had two children in my boat as I set off from shore. Some days I was terrified that I would fail them. I had to trust my inner knowingness. Some days I think I went crazy with the worry and stress, made myself sick. But there was this sweetness that grew and grew in moments, between the cracks of things and that sweetness grew into my life.
And then the real work begins. The work of sifting through the remains of the person you were, mourning her loss as you wait for the dawn to arrive. You wait patiently for there to be a moment of light. The dawn does come, inch by inch, creeping over your bones, breathing new life into your skeleton. Becoming lost is part of the initiation of finding your new home, your new skin, your new voice. It is enormous work. deep work. It is unavoidable so don’t think you can get out of it.
Can you do this whilst in the marriage I hear you ask? Yes you can. When held in the love of an equally courageous partner who is ready to have the marriage die and be resurrected. When both lovers are ready to find themselves standing in front of a very different creature and being changed themselves in the process, when both people are willing to let go of what you created together and change course together, then yes, beautiful magic arrises. A new marriage replaces the old. you can untangle each other and be free to love one another again. You will still need to do your own work. You will still need to go out away from the marriage from time to time to be able to hear yourself.
“eventually every woman away from her soul-home tires. this is as it should be.
Then she seeks her skin again in order to revive her knowing. “
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Sometimes staying gone is the only way to survive. That is what my sister did. She went away for the weekend and found that she could not bring herself to return so she stayed away. She got dragged over the coals, shamed, punished for it. When children are involved the stakes get real high real quick. Any romantic notions of it being easier evaporate. But it is better. I am still being dragged over the coals some six years on by a man who has taught me much about myself and what I hold more dear. I am in the midst of the third court case in two years so I am not willing to really unpack some of it publicly yet. Let me just say that I have had to learn resilience.
If you are scared to leave or even more scared to stay or you don’t know but you know it can’t be this way any longer and that you are just scared. If you are stuck, unmoved from the spot for fear that you will snap or disintegrate. If you feel weighed down by the armour of your good wife charade. If your life feels like it is running counter to your desire for life. Know I understand that place, that space you are in. I have stood there too. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish one medicine from another; to stay or to leave. Women stay far longer than is true to stay. They perform CPR on dying marriages frantically hoping that one last breath will bring it back to life. It requires bravery either way. It requires courage to listen deeply for the call of your soul-home and use it as your beacon, your true north star.
I want to share with you a beautiful poem that I share often with women as it speaks on so many many layers about what it means to save yourself. It is written by a wonderful contemporary poet called Mary Oliver. I am sure I have shared it before on my blog. It is one of my favourites. It is called The Journey. Before I do so, I want to finish by saying that I am grateful to the me that was courageous enough to walk away and I am in awe of the stamina I have accessed over these past six years of being wide awake in my own created world. It has taken me that long to find my solid ground.
I want every women who is feeling that they are at the end of a marriage, are in the process of leaving or have left and are on the road to somewhere else. Or if you have been walked out on, that there are beacons of light upon your journey from women who have trodden before you, from men who celebrate you and from your own soul-home. There is light and it will find you.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life that you could save.