Knowing What’s Already There

I’m not writing tonight because of a special lesson I’ve learned or because something significant has happened. I’m putting down these words, because it’s been a difficult day with a lot of shame and pain and sadness, and I feel the need to be accountable for what I’ve being struggling through today.

I’m waiting to hear if I’ll be able to move into an apartment. And waiting and waiting. It seems to me as if this apartment is the key to physically leaving my marriage, but it isn’t. It’s one more step, just one piece of everything that is about to change in my life.

I have gone through a lot of motions to get to this point of waiting: applications and verifications and signatures and phone call after phone call. But today I felt the reality of “leaving” sink a little deeper than it had before. It hurts. I’m sad. So are my kids.

I told them today we have to give up one of our dogs when we move. My soon-to-be-ex-husband has declared without hesitation that he doesn’t want our two dogs. They are sweet things. We’ve had both since they were puppies; they’re now eleven and nine. The elder weighs about 20 pounds and the other over 70. I’ve learned that apartment managers don’t like big dogs, so even though I’ve searched and asked and hoped, I haven’t found a place that will allow our big dog.

And so I’m rehoming him. It’s a process that involves interviews and evaluations and prayers that he’ll be accepted and find a place where he’ll be happy and safe for the rest of his life. It also involves shame that I wasn’t able to take care of this family member I promised to take care of and because I have had to hurt my children.

Nothing brings home the sharpness of the difficulties ahead more than watching your child cry for hurtful, unfair things they have no control over but you do. I’ve been thinking about separating from my husband for years … more seriously about it for months, but now that it’s maybe just a couple of weeks away, it has the power to overwhelm me. Today I was reminded that this is neither a fantasy nor a plan anymore. It’s real.

That’s when the shame and doubt settled in, hard: Can I really do this? Am I capable? Will I still be worthy? Am I serious? For a little while tonight, I sure felt as if the answer to each one of these questions must be “no.” It scared me and I wanted to reach out, tell someone I trust, ask for reassurance. But I didn’t. You see, I realized I have to stop doing that.

My friends are going to be there for me and be supportive no matter what—they’re amazing like that—but not a single one of them can take my hand and lead me out of my house on moving day. They can’t talk to my kids for me or give me the coping skills to handle the bad days. I need to do the most difficult things on my own. Which means, if I am serious about ending my marriage—and I am—I need to start thinking like I am, believing it. The strength needs to come from me.

That’s the truth about everything ahead, really, all the changes, all the hard things, all the sad things. I need to know I can get through all of these things; not think I can, know. It’s going to be painful and heartbreaking at times, and I’m going to feel happy, sad, angry, excited, ashamed, proud, embarrassed, afraid, and I need to accept this and then go forward.

It’s what I did this morning in telling my kids about our dog and then working with them to find good things to focus on in the future. It’s what I did tonight when I wouldn’t let myself reach out to a friend to be lifted out of my fears and shame, but instead turned inward to work through it alone. It’s what I’m doing now, putting down these words and determining that I will do what it takes get through the things ahead and declaring that I have the strength to do it.

Maybe I do have a point tonight: I know what I’m capable of and I know I need to use that at the times when things are difficult to face. What I need to survive is inside me. I just need to trust and believe this is true. No one can give it to me and—maybe more importantly—no one can take it away but me. I need to know I can do this, and I tonight, finally, I do.

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