Starting over is scary, but sometimes it’s necessary.
I can hear the whooshing sound of the trash bags rolling down the stairs as the plastic bounced and rolled gently, sliding down each of the 13 steps. At the bottom, they piled up one at a time. I counted ten bags in all. One at a time I carried them to the hatch of my Toyota, jamming all of them in, shutting the hatch. That’s it? No fanfare, no yelling, no one to say goodbye too, except the dog. Just ten bags containing all my clothes. I shut the garage door and pulled away. I’ll never sleep in my bed again. Twenty years, a failed marriage, now what?
We made it twenty years, not quite “until death do us part,” but it was a good stretch and I truly did not feel like a quitter. Many thought I was a quitter, but they weren’t living in my head, nor had they walked my miles. I did the best I could. I guess I did the best I could. How can we ever know if we are doing our best. We make decisions and we move on. I made this decision and I did exactly that, I moved on. Shit, what happens now?
The decision to leave was a challenge, by far the toughest choice I ever had to make. With two kids, a dog, a good life built with a partner for over two decades and all of the stuff accumulated over so many years, where was I going? I had no clue what I was walking into, I just turned my life upside down.
“Ken, how am I going to pay my bills and pay her bills too? Jesus Ken, what the fuck am I going to do?” Ken, one of my closest friends responded, “You are going to be ok Doug, you’re just scared right now. You have always been a worrier, you’ve got to know that you will get through this. Just take it one day at a time, one month at a time my brother.”
I was a worrier, he was right about that, but this went far beyond worrying, deep into fear. “My kids are going to hate me, God, don’t let my kids hate me.” Ken comforted me, “They won’t hate you, they love you. They may not understand it right now but they will once the dust settles. Just do what you always do, love them, talk to them and be available for them. They won’t hate you.”
Those first few months were a challenge. I admit I felt lost, totally out of place. The condo I rented was only a few miles from my old house, the territory felt familiar but still everything felt foreign to me. I’d never had to go grocery shopping before, I mean, I’d pick up stuff that we’d run out of, but now I needed to do it all. I never paid the bills before, done my own laundry, made plans with friends. That was all her thing. My thing was working, going out and making the money, she did the rest. I did my part well and she did her part well, it just worked out that way. Now it was all up to me, it was all my part.
I must admit, I lost some friends in the process and that hurt. Relationships shifted, people took sides. Everyone had an opinion and along the way; many shared with me how they felt. Some were supportive, some were not, but most people honestly did not know how to react. I don’t blame them, I wouldn’t know how to react either if my close friend and his wife got divorced. They used to be one unit. They are not two units now, they are each a half a unit. Being half a unit is not fun. I was building my life back so that I could be a whole unit again.
The first year was a tough one for me. Financially and emotionally it was hell. We fought a lot. It seemed like every conversation was a negotiation. We never fought when we were married, now that we were separated we fought every time we spoke. I think that is pretty normal, we were indirectly blaming each other for our failed partnership. No one else wanted to hear me bitch about it, so I fought with her. It never resulted in anything good, but it was a good mental enema for both of us. The yelling eventually became heated conversations, which later matured into disagreements. Eventually, even those mellowed into cooperative exchanges. Today we have lunch, we laugh and we have conversations. I’d call what we have now a friendship. That makes me happy. And my kids still love me, that really makes me happy too.
Four years ago I started a new life. It was a decision that only I could make. No one but you can make you stay and no one but you can make you leave. If you are happy, stay. If you are unhappy, either work it out or leave, but don’t do nothing. Doing nothing will make you a miserable person. The world does not need one more miserable person, it needs you to be happy. As long as you keep moving, you will find your way, you have nothing to worry about, Ken was right.
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