It dates back to 2011 when I laced up my running shoes for the first time and hit the pavement for at-the-time an unheard of four mile run ("who can run four miles without stopping?" I remember musing as we lined up to start). It had been just over two months since my dad passed away, and I was desperate to feel normal again.
Was I running away from my grief? Running to some unknown out there? I had no idea. I only knew that I wanted normalcy in my life again, for the pain to subside, and to feel whole again.
In that small run, I found what I was looking for, and it has carried me through the last seven years.
That small decision altered the course of my life. I also had no idea that the choice would place me on a completely unexpected path. Running opened the door for so many great things; it has brought so many wonderful people, places and things into my life. Even more, the life lessons that running has given me are profound. Probably the lesson I think about the most, especially lately, is that there are no guarantees: no guarantees in running, no guarantees in life. When the unexpected happens, you need to figure out how to roll with it. Dig deep, and keep moving forward.
That said, this Labor Day now marks another life-changing moment. Simply put, Brian and I have decided to end our marriage. What started as a small question earlier this year (“Are you happy?”) led to the decision to dissolve of our marriage. Formal documents will be filed with the court in fall of this year.
I want to be clear: this is a joint decision. It was a devastatingly tough series of conversations between Brian and I that led to the mutual decision of where we are today. There was no wrong doing by either party. No one is beating anyone. No one is joining a cult, no infidelity, no addictions. (We are boring, lol). It simply was a result of two people growing apart over the years. Two very different set of core values and two contrasting dreams for the future. We reached a point where sure, we could go on for another 20 years if we wanted, but at what cost? To whom and why?
While the rationale seemed easy enough, the process has been anything but. In short, it has been devastating. I had no idea the emotional turmoil, the pain. Starting all over again is overwhelming. Going from a mostly-stay-at-home mom to a full-time working single mom was chaotic and dizzying. An uncertain financial future. The loss of friendships. Debilitating loneliness. And a deep sadness that has the potential to seep into each day's happy moments.
Divorce is really like a death - it’s the death of the dream you have of your family. And as one rather savvy, well-dressed attorney pointed out to me, the difference between death and divorce is easy. What do they recommend to a person dealing with the loss of a loved one? Make no changes for at least two years. In a divorce, however, you are expected to make thousands of decisions quickly, all having long-reaching, lasting consequences. It's mind-boggling. Emotionally paralyzing.
(This attorney requested a $15,000 retainer for his services.)
(I politely declined.)
I’m not sharing this news to elicit sympathy; I’m saying this to be honest. I want to be transparent with the situation in my life so I can be free of it. I need to be free so I can move on and heal. I need to be free of the fear that people will judge us for a failed marriage. I have felt like I’ve been hiding this news - lying by omission - for months now, out of shame and guilt. And I do feel like a failure. Brian and I failed. Even though we both know and accept that we are making the right decision in the long term, it's that social acceptance piece that kills me. People use a term like “broken home” and my blood boils. My home is not broken; my home is just fine. It may have less furniture in it, but it is certainly not broken. But use of that kind of language that makes me want to hide, to avoid situations, to avoid people. It feels so damaging and hurtful.
I have to remind myself: being divorced is not a recipe for unhappiness, just as happiness is not guaranteed in marriage.
I am a firm believer that the truth will set you free. Just like Labor Day 2011, I made the conscious decision to work through my grief by unknowingly making the decision to become a runner, today I’m using my run-I-versary to course-correct once more. Acceptance is very powerful and for me, I need to get this out there so I can begin to accept the new path my life is about to take yet again.
After all, I turn 40 in just under two weeks. Two days after my birthday, I will run one of the biggest marathons in the world - on (what feels like) the other side of the world. After going through a number of challenging months of doubt and anguish, I realized - it’s all about perspective.
I could see the Berlin Marathon and this milestone birthday as being far away from family and friends, being sad and feeling old.
- OR -
I could refocus my sights and declare all of these upcoming events to be a rebirth. A new beginning. A chance to own my current situation in my own words, just like I'm doing right now, in this blog. I have the chance that very few people do: I can recreate my life on my terms. Today. Now.
If there is any silver lining to this year, I will say this: while it’s challenges have been crushing, I have gotten an unwelcome-though-needed education on mental fortitude. I’m older, a little more wrinkled, a lot slower running-wise, but dammit if I’m not wiser. There have been many days when I thought, “I am not strong enough to get through this. There’s no way,” only to find an answer or solution in the most unlikely of places.
Each day I tell myself, “Get through it and do your best.” So far, it seems to be working. To the friends and family who have been amazingly supportive and listened to me cry, vent and panic - thank you. You have my eternal gratitude. To the people who I never saw coming, but offered their own stories of support and became new, close friends - thank God for people like you. Thank you for your candor and vulnerability; it has helped me begin the process of healing.
So now you know. Now it is no longer a secret - it never was, really. Our greatest concern, naturally, was Scott. We wanted to take our time to ensure that the right steps were in place so he would have the best and most seamless transition to this new part of his life. Scotty was informed of the decision in mid-May. While initially upset, I think he too now is relieved. He’s adjusting well to two houses and 5 pets (Guilt walks you straight to the pet store). Brian lives three minutes away. We are in daily communication with one another and have pledged to do the best we can by setting our differences aside to make sure Scott has the most stable upbringing possible. Scott sees both of us on a near-daily basis. As we told him, the only thing that changed is that he went from one house to two. Our love for him remains the same and while we are not a "traditional" family any longer, we will always be a family. Families come in all shapes, sizes and arrangements. And sometimes families even involved bearded dragons and hedgehogs.
Labor means work, and in 2011, I had no idea my Labor Day was going to morph into my life’s work, running. Labor Day 2018 is poised for a fresh start. Lots of hard work ahead, yes, but because of running, I know I’m a hard worker. I know that I can gut through tough situations. Hey - if I can run the Boston Marathon with a Grade I calf strain, I can get through a measly little divorce, right? Effort counts twice.
In light of the last 9 months, especially in the darkest moments, we always have a choice. Do you choose to remain hopeful, or let go of that hope? Some days, I'll be honest - it felt like it could go either way. But as a good friend likes to remind me, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.”
I will get through this because I am hopeful. If you are going through something painful and personal, please, hold on. Remain hopeful. Some days it may feel like all you have but I promise: it’s enough.
Happy Labor Day, and cheers to new beginnings.