You're probably not going to believe this.
I didn't really believe it and I was there.
Two years ago yesterday, July 21st 2012, my husband and I came home from a dinner out to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary, which was to be the following day. But we weren't in a particularly celebratory mood. I could tell that something was wrong and I felt a conversation coming. I went to sit out on the back patio to collect my thoughts, and prepare for what I thought would be one of our usual "clear the air" type talks in which issues were voiced and put to bed. I thought we'd talk and go back to our regular scheduled programming. (The fact that this type of talk was a "usual" thing should probably have been a sign that things weren't right, but the universe was about to give me another.)
As I sat there on what was a gorgeous summer's evening, I looked up at the clouds and I noticed a cloud in the shape of a smiley face. A perfectly round smiling face. And, I kid you not, before my eyes I watched the smile turn into a frown. And I said, out loud, "Well that's a bad omen."
And not 45 seconds later, my husband came outside and told me our marriage was over.
This is not a post about airing dirty laundry. There is no dirty laundry to be aired. We built that marriage together and we were mutually responsible for letting it fall into disrepair. This is a post about the distance from there to here. About how much things can change in a single moment. And how much things can change in two years.
I was devastated. In hindsight, I can see all sorts of signs that things were going from bad to worse, but the girl that I was in that moment did not see it coming. And in that single moment my entire world changed. I hadn't only lost a husband and the future that I thought we were going to have together ("only", as if that wasn't enough on its own). I was a stay-at-home mum and I loved it (most days) and the plan had been for that to continue indefinitely, as long as it were financially possible. It was all I had ever known in my heart that I wanted, to be a stay-at-home mum, and in that moment I suddenly had to say goodbye to that dream, say goodbye to that time with my kids. I had to find work. I had to find a daycare for my kids and the thought of a stranger taking my place, taking my time with the kids, was heart-wrenching. I had to find a place to live because I couldn't fathom living with a ghost in the house we had shared for 11 years.
I've had some pretty low moments in my life but this was the lowest. Needless to say, I couldn't sleep that night. And finally at 5 a.m. I'd had enough. I had to get out of the house.
I had, a few months prior, created a list of goals, 101 things that I had hoped to accomplish in 1001 days, and one of those things was to watch the sun rise. So I decided that there was no time like the present, and I grabbed my camera and the car keys and left.
I drove around for awhile, uncertain of where the best vantage point might be for my task. My mind was still swimming but I had a momentary purpose that pulled me through some of the waves of grief and agony, enough to operate the car, anyway, and get me from point A to point B. I went through the drive-thru and bought a tea, like I was a normal person and it was a normal day. I pulled into the marina next to the penitentiary, and parked my car.
It was a beautiful morning, which seemed a little like an affront to my sorrow. The world was moving on without me. It was just another day, to the world. The sun began to rise and it shone down on the day not knowing that it was my wedding anniversary and I was bawling in a parking lot. I eventually got out of the car, camera in hand.
I took a few deep breaths. The lake was calm and the sun was painting the sky as it rose. I started snapping photos. Sometimes the beauty around you is so astounding that no amount of grief can hold it at bay. And then it happened.
A flock of birds flew right over my head and off to my left, above the penitentiary. As I watched them fly off into the sun-drenched clouds, a breathtaking sight, I was absolutely in awe. And in that moment, the moment you see in the photo above, I felt some hope. I knew in my heart that this was a sign that things would be okay. Even in my grief, I could see that this was, indeed, the dawn of a new day (and the comic metaphor of the birds flying free over the institution was not lost on me either).
So much can change in a moment.
And so much can change in two years. Despite this gift of hope from the universe, on that day in the marina and in the days and weeks to follow, I couldn't imagine what my future would hold and how I would feel anything but pain ever again. I couldn't see how I could get to point B. I couldn't even picture what would be there. But I had purpose to pull me through the waves of grief - two sweet, giggly purposes in fact - enough to get me in the driver's seat and my hands on the steering wheel even though the destination was unclear.
I found a job. I found a daycare for my girls. I found a new home. I found small amounts of strength and courage and gathered them up. I found love waiting for me in the arms and words of my friends and family. And I found a way forward.
I have not, by any means, completed the journey. I am not, by any means, living my ideal life. But I have reached a Point B. I am no longer in that pain. The waves have calmed. The future I couldn't picture came, regardless, and I'm still standing. And in the last month or so, I have felt the flip of a switch. There you go, I felt the universe say, you're no longer in survival mode. Now, go build your life.
I don't really believe it, and I am here.