You can’t see from the picture that, behind those ski goggles, I’m crying. I’m crying tears of joy, because this was the moment I finally emerged from a year’s worth of woes.
On February 10, 2016, I was crying for a very different reason – my husband was telling me he wanted a divorce. I sat across from him on our couch as he explained how our futures wouldn’t be shared – that the dreams I’d had, I’d have to seek alone.
I came home on a typical weeknight to find he’d waited up for me. Surprised, I sat down on the couch and began to ask him about his day. I didn’t get very far before he somberly turned off the TV and leaned forward in his seat.
With his hands folded, and eyes down, he told me he had something he needed to tell me. He had a different energy about him – I’d never seen him so serious. It was in that moment that he told me he wanted a divorce.
I could see, feel, and hear the difference in his being. He was finally taking charge and had made a non-negotiable choice for himself and his happiness. It was the first time he’d done that, especially in the time I had known him. Together for six years and married for six months, I was trying to understand what on earth could have caused this sudden decision and how divorce seemed like the only choice.
From where I sat on the other end of the couch, it seemed as though he had agreed his life away. It was clear that he felt resentment – it was coming off him like steam. So I let him go on, hoping he’d say something that would make more sense of this.
I felt small, rejected, and confused about what I did to make it go wrong. What made him fall out of love? Why did he not want what I had to offer? What did I do that chased him away?
In my attempts to ignore and overcome what was happening, I tripled my workload in an attempt to drown out the rushing thoughts and nagging questions. I self-medicated and rebound-dated. I partied and told everyone to keep their opinions about it to themselves. I slept in and avoided anything that required more than 30 minutes of my attention.
That nagging question wouldn’t go away: What am I doing wrong? 2016 was one of the most challenging years of my life, and my divorce dragged out every insecurity that I had.
I always thought I was a confident girl – it certainly felt and looked like I was. I was a leader on the court, in the classroom, at work, and in life. I’ve always loved taking the lead and creating excitement around me. Divorce made me question every bit of who I thought I was. I thought my husband loved me for the long haul. I felt naive for not seeing the subtle signs of him falling out of love and not wanting to be married.
I made the whole situation mean that I was out of touch. I felt unaware. I was working two jobs and flying around at lightning speed. I was moving so fast, but then divorce halted me in an instant. It broke my spirit. It uprooted my faith in myself. I had really only ever known success, and to me divorce meant I had failed in the most epic way. I wasn’t mad at him. I was mad at myself.
This phase revealed all my self-hate and criticism. My inner critic’s voice was put on loudspeaker. The athlete who felt never good enough. The daughter who wanted all the attention. The teacher who wanted to change education and felt powerless. They were all screamingly loud once divorce triggered all my disempowered identities.
I’ve spent the last three years learning how to love myself fully. I’d thought I already did, but when things got tough, I crumbled at edges I didn’t even know were soft. My seams had burst. I felt defeated.
“What am I doing wrong?” opened up beyond my marriage and I began to see most of my life as a failure. I judged myself for feeling like I had nothing to show for what felt like a lifetime’s worth of hard work.
My divorce triggered my fear of rejection. It brought up my insatiable thirst for validation from others. I saw the way I used titles to affirm my worth. I was living as a shell while I searched for answers outside of me. When I couldn’t find them, I’d stuff that shell with attention, appointments, achievements, sex, booze, smoke, caffeine, and Netflix binges.
I spiraled for months, rushing around and causing chaos outside of me to avoid the chaos within. That shifted when I began to ‘slow down.’
I pumped the brakes not so much because I wanted to but because I was tired. I was worn out by months of distracting myself. I was exhausted from trying to operate on empty. Burnout was showing up and I was running out of options. I wanted relief so badly and had absolutely no idea what would soothe the sting of all these raw wounds. I had to stop, slow down, and ask for help. It began with therapy and understanding how I used intimate relationships to fill my voids.
When I released my pattern of dating, I rebuilt my relationship with myself. I became more connected to who and what was important to me on a deeper level. That’s when I truly let go of my grip on the identity of wife and mom and decided to learn who I actually was. To truly understand my purpose.
A girls’ weekend trip to the Smokey Mountains and white water rapids woke me up. For one of the first times ever, the silence soothed me. I felt at home in the middle of the trees, and safer on a raft on the rushing waters than in my apartment back home. I felt held by the moonlight.
I felt safer still on an impromptu trip to Hawaii with only a backpack and no hotel booked, getting lost on a moped left and right. The palms pointed me in my direction. Turning on a mountain to to discover a giant, lush, thriving valley revealed the endless possibility for what was available to me in this life and world. My excitement was peaking.
Later, while learning to snowboard in the Mammoth Mountains in February 2017, I lay there crying at how my life was so different to 12 months prior. In a year, I’d gone from picking out houses and cribs to choosing flights and hotels. I was in touch with my love of adventure and was in an entirely new relationship I never knew was possible. I fell in love with myself.
I lay there laughing about all that worry and struggle as the freshly fallen snow on the mountains hugged me back. Thousands of people have trodden these mountains for thousands of years and yet they remain unmoved. Firm. Majestic. Steadfast. Monumental in their nature. Waiting for me in that moment, on that day, for that awakening.
I realized in that moment that even if I went back to my life, my worries, and sorrows back in Indiana, those mountains would stay waiting for me. The forest would wait for my return. Nature would wait, as it does, it would ‘be’, while I spun in my humanness until I found my way back to its beauty.
The mountains speak to me. The forests stand tall calling my name. The stars guide me. Water pulls me in. The rush of white water rapids shouts into the depths of my soul. I wasn’t meant to be a wife and a mom back in 2016. I’d forced my hand at the life I thought I wanted.
My ex didn’t break up with me, he stepped out of the way. I didn’t lose my husband; the universe ended a relationship that was preventing me from living out my fullest (and huge) purpose in life. I wanted to play a comfortable game I knew I could control and win. My highest self just wasn’t having it. I was meant for more. I was ready and willing to settle for being about 60% free, powerful, and self-expressed, but nature wouldn’t let that happen.
Because I wasn’t willing to see it, it was shown to me in such a way that I was forced to look. I have looked, and I have found. I have looked outside and found nothing; I’ve peered endlessly into books, programs, others, jobs, money, and more. None of what I was looking for existed outside of me, and the same is true for everyone else.
Quit looking outside of you for your answers and worth. You will never find it. Find your soul’s purpose and in it you will find everything you are here for.
Every bump and bruise is a blessing. Every scrape and scar is a story. Your life is yours. Live it. Love it. Share it.
- Without A Very Special Nurse, Neither I Nor My Daughter Would Be Alive Today – Her Actions Inspired Me To Change My Life